Cable identification methods

Q: It appears that the premise distribution marketplace has gone psychedelic, with cables, patch panels, distribution outlets, and patch cords now available in assorted colors. What happened to the old way of identifying with numbers?

Mar 1st, 1997

Q: It appears that the premise distribution marketplace has gone psychedelic, with cables, patch panels, distribution outlets, and patch cords now available in assorted colors. What happened to the old way of identifying with numbers?

I know that in parts of the United States, documentation must be in more than one language, for those who do not speak English. Are we also going to make some provision for those of us who are color blind? The "spaghetti" mess still exists in many installations, but now it is in color. I would like to see an easy way of identifying patch cords and the patch-panel ports they plug into. Color may be good for designating different local area networks or floors in a high-rise installation, but it has its limitations. Any ideas?

John Suter

Connections for Networks

Reno, NV

A: I like alphanumeric designators. This is one of the few things an installer can create more of without inflating the project`s bottom line. Cable-management software also works well with alphanumeric designators: Can you imagine trying to keystroke a unique color for each basic link in a building`s cabling system?

I do not, however, recommend labeling patch cords with the patch-panel designation. If you need to label the patch cords, then label each cord with the same unique alphanumeric designator at each end of the cable. The reason for this is that when the patch cords are moved and reused, the designators are rarely changed. Therefore, every disconnect, add, or move compounds the cable-management nightmare by increasing the number of incorrect labels on the patch cords.

Fiber patch cords are available with light tracers built into the cord. You shine a flashlight into the plastic tracer fiber and look for the glow at the far end. For copper patch cords, I find that chicken rings work well. (A chicken ring is a band that breeders put on chickens` legs to brand them.) Snap the chicken ring over the cable and slide it along the cable until it reaches the far end. Don`t forget to remove the chicken rings once you have traced the cord or jumper; otherwise, you will eventually have hundreds of these rings in the "spaghetti" jungle.

Donna Ballast is a communications analyst at the University of Texas at Austin and a bicsi registered communications distribution designer (rcdd). Questions can be sent to her at Cabling Installation & Maintenance or at PO Drawer 7580, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78713; tel: (512) 471-0112, fax: (512) 471-8883, e-mail: ballast@utexas.edu.

More in Cabling Installation