USB: Wayward Gadgets Find a Port

The popularity of powering devices via computer has led to such products as USB-connecting toys, vacuums, paper shredderseven a lava lamp

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Hey, printer: Move over! There's a whole host of electronic devices lining up to take your place at the computer's USB port.

The USB port—or Universal Serial Bus, as it is formally known—is swiftly becoming the power source of choice for everything from toys to cleaning items. It's "a fast-growing category," says Jennifer Kuropkat, a merchandising specialist at, a seller of USB-related gadgets. "You would be hard-pressed to find a new computer without a couple of USB ports."

When those outlets aren't being used to transfer songs to an MP3 player or fill up an online photo album, they may find themselves powering up a productivity-sapping USB Missile Launcher. The toy's foam missiles can launch up to 16 feet, instilling fear into anybody in a nearby cubicle. Similarly, the USB Mini-Lava Lamp can add some fun—if not a little light—to the computer workspace.


  The growing popularity of devices that plug into USB ports is reflected in the emergence of Web sites like and in the last two years. pokes fun at the fascination with USB-inspired April Fool's Day gags, such as the USB Desktop Tanning Center, a George Foreman USB iGrill, and a desktop USB Fondue Set.

But for every silly or downright fake USB gadget there are a few that are useful, even genius. There's a USB vacuum cleaner, sold via sites including, that can be a great substitute for the compressed air duster. Not only does it clean crumbs from the keyboard, it can also lift the dust off the monitor. Heated USB gloves, also sold on, may work well for those who work in an office where air conditioning is always running, no matter the temperature outside.

Then, there are the USB Pencil Sharpener and USB Paper Shredder, both sold through, which make office supplies easily accessible. The USB-powered fan, flexible light, and air ionizer add comfort. Finally, for the overworked, Red Envelope sells the USB Beverage Chiller, which will keep a can of soda (or another beverage, if necessary) chilled all day and all night.

Whatever the desktop need, chances are there's a gadget on the market or in the works that can be powered thanks to a USB.

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