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What Is a DIN Connector?

Meg Higa
Meg Higa

A DIN connector is an early type of electronic equipment cable characterized by having multiple pins within a protective circular sheath. First developed in Germany, it was a significant technology for many reasons, including its ability to carry many independent signals. One pin for a return signal allowed equipment to receive feedback or otherwise interactively communicate with other equipment. Around the 1990s, with the invention of better technologies, its use began to diminish.

DIN is the acronym for Germany’s long-standing national institute of standardization. In addition to designations for electronics, the acronym is the measurement for film speed in photography. With the mass production explosion of consumer electronics around the 1970s, the DIN connector became widely accepted as the standard for audio equipment. The first audio connector incorporated one flat-bladed pin for error-free orientation.

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

Shortly after, the three-pin DIN connector established it as the worldwide standard for nearly three decades. Its three pins were arranged at an isosceles triangle’s points, preventing their mistaken orientation. The male plug’s pins were protected and kept perfectly straight by a short tubular metal sleeve measuring 0.52 inches (13.2 mm) in diameter. The circular sleeve had a slight indentation on the bottom that additionally had to match a notched groove in the female plug built within the equipment. An additional benefit of the sleeve was that it fit within the female plug’s circular slot deeply and very securely.

This basic design remained mostly unchanged for the remainder of the lineage of DIN connectors. It was not until the five-pin version was developed that the connectors became broadly adopted for all types of consumer electronics. Manufacturers could configure the five signal channels according to their products’ needs. The center fifth pin which carried a return signal proved especially versatile for connected equipment to establish a two-way communication. It could also be a simple electrical ground jack, and was therefore sometimes used as a direct current power cord.

The five-pin connector came in several configurations. Its introduction coincided with such products as: integrated audiovisual equipment, musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) devices, and the first generations of personal home computers. Apple Computer® in particular enthusiastically adopted it as its standard for connecting peripherals, such as the newly invented mouse. As the home video game console’s graphics demand grew, early challengers of the Nintendo® platform employed the DIN connector to market success.

Although the DIN connector advanced technologically over subsequent years to six, eight and even more pins to connect increasingly complex electronic equipment, its basic design remain unchanged. The exception was the introduction of the mini-DIN, also called PS/2, connectors. They were developed in response to market demands. In addition to miniaturizing the plugs to 0.374 inches (9.5 mm) in diameter, slight changes in design were made to further safeguard their potential misalignment. By the mid 1990s, however, new technologies such as fiber optic cable and compressed digital video forced the DIN connector to become relegated as an uncommon and specialized electronic product.

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      Woman holding a disc