What is an Adapter Cord?

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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
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  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2019
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It is not unusual for electronics and technology devices to have some kind of cord, which may serve a variety of different purposes. Power adapter cords may be the most common. Adapter cords also connect peripherals to electronics. A third type of adapter cord changes the type of plug at the end of the device’s cord. A fourth type splits the cord from one plug into two or more separate cords. A fifth type of adapter cord allows a vehicle’s cigarette lighter to be used as a power source.

Many electronic devices have the capability to run on battery power. The power adapter cord allows the device to draw power from an electrical outlet rather than its battery. This both allows the battery to recharge and prevents draining the battery while running the device.

Peripherals for cameras use an adapter cord to link to the camera’s 10-pin accessory connector or other interface type. This type of attachment may be most commonly used for attaching a flash to the camera, but it can also be used to, for example, attach a GPS device to a camera. In the realm of computer peripherals, a male-to-female AC power adapter cord allows an external computer monitor to be plugged directly into a computer, taking up one less wall outlet.


Adapter cords that change plug type come in different varieties. Two main types are the ones that simply convert one type of plug to another and the ones that do the conversion but are also intended for a very specific product connection. An example of the first type is a cord that converts a 20A plug to 15A plug and can be used in any situation in which it is needed. An example of the second type is a camera adapter cord that converts the 10-pin built-in connector to a 2-pin system, but is specifically made to connect a Nikon® camera to its associated motor drive.

To split a single outlet’s capabilities, allowing it to be accessed by multiple plugs, a “multi-outlet adapter cord” can be used. This type of cord serves a similar function to the outlet strip, but instead of being configured in a rigid rectangular box, the outlets are at the ends of cords.

There are a number of devices that can draw power from a vehicle’s cigarette lighter, given the proper adapter cord. GPS locators, for example, may be both powered and charged this way, often with a 12V adapter. There are also adapter cords for laptop computers, iPods®, MP3 players, cell phones, radar detectors, portable cassette or CD players, and boom boxes. In addition, adapter splitters are made for vehicles.


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