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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Levitin's Law of USB Flash Drives

I’d like to propose a variation on Murphy’s Law for USB flash drives: a flash drive will always be inserted into a USB port upside down on the first attempt.

I follow scientific naming conventions for any new species I discover to a punctillio of an honor the most sensitive. No autoeponymy for me when a new beetle or squid crosses my path. But, to my knowledge there is no such modesty required for rules of life, so I am claiming this as Levitin's Law of USB Flash Drives, planting my flag on this (apparently) terra nova. Now when you insert a USB flash drive upside down, you can groan about Levitin's Law.

What does this possibly have to do with law teaching? Well, just try using a flash drive when making a presentation, and you'll see.

Really, I don’t know why USB ports are designed with a distinct top and bottom, but this strikes me as one of the great failures of modern technology.

Posted by Adam Levitin on May 22, 2008 at 12:01 AM in Information and Technology | Permalink


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Some computers have the USB port "upside down", so the top of the flash drive will face down or away from you. I don't know why the connector wasn't designed so you can easily tell which way it is oriented.

Posted by: john | Jan 27, 2009 10:39:32 PM

Also, as I blogged here earlier, remember to use sub-folders on USB drives.


Maybe I should dub that "Boyden's USB Index Paradox".

Posted by: Bruce Boyden | May 22, 2008 4:57:52 PM

I seem to run into Levitinian problems more when trying to plug other peripherals and accessories into my USB drive than when trying to plug in flash drives. This is probably because all of my flash drives are retractable and the notch that retracts (and tracts?) them is always on top.

Posted by: Paul Washington | May 22, 2008 1:14:13 PM


You need to get a USB key with printing/a logo on it to solve your problem. Invariably, the printing side is always to face up when you insert the drive, thus creating an easy solution to Levitin's Law. The other alternative is to do what is often done with keys -- put a blob of coloured nail polish on the side you want to face up.

I bet you never thought you would get such a simple and straightforward solution from a fellow Prawf.

Posted by: Len Rotman | May 22, 2008 11:56:13 AM

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