It’s a question many (including myself) have asked, and despite having written about these for years, haven’t been able to offer anything more than a vague explanation. The answer to this question unfortunately lives a long time in the past, perhaps 30 years ago, isn’t written down anywhere making it quite difficult to dig out.
I may now finally have connected the dots.
The company we have to start with is Berg Electronics, originally based in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. It was them who introduced the Mini-PV connector in the 1950s which looks very similar the connectors we call “DuPont” connectors, and is the first type of its kind. But they’re not the same. This page details the differences.
The vintage computing community often refers to Mini-PV connectors as “Berg” connectors. Fair point. They are. Why didn’t this name also become associated with the more modern clone type connectors?
To piece the story together, the easiest way is to look at the identification plates on historic crimp tools.
Enter Du Pont
In 1972 du Pont acquired Berg, from this point onwards all tooling and documentation carried the du Pont name, however still with Berg as the headline brand well into the 1980s.
For most of its existence, Berg was a division of du Pont, giving us the first (albeit cryptic) clue as to the origin of this term. Adding further confusion to the picture, “Berg connector” was already an established vernacular term by that point. It must be a matter of timing…
Enter the clones
In the early to mid 1990s someone, somewhere worked out that there was a market for a connector very much like Mini-PV, but cheaper. It appears to be around this time that the first “DuPont” clones appeared. I don’t have any proof of this date range, this is based purely on observation having dismantled copious amounts of vintage computer equipment. I’ve not been able to establish the first manufacturer the original copies of the Mini-PV design. Harwin M20 is a product line from a well known manufacturer – they may be the original creator however I’ve not confirmed it.
The design of the newer clones is quite different, with the contact being stamped from a single piece of brass. The contacts are enlarged to allow for cheaper and easier bending. Unfortunately this made contacts and housings incompatible with the original type.
In the early days it’s unlikely that anyone would have purchased clone connectors for end user consumption, indeed I recall fruitless attempts to try to source some 20 or more years ago, Mini-PV was obtainable, but too expensive for me at the time. More likely, clones were found inside of low cost consumer products like computers, and didn’t have any branding or identification numbers.
Today eBay has connected us en-masse with the typically far eastern manufacturers of these connectors, which to-date, still don’t have an official name. Irrespective of whether not they could be purchased by the average joe, the average joe was seeing an awful lot of them. A name was needed.
Once again, looking at serial numbers on Mini-PV crimp tool identification plates, we can see that around the time when clones seem to have first appeared, the Berg brand name is dumped, replaced with Du Pont. A historic news article tells us this change likely occurred in 1987, just before the first clones are seen.
This looks to be the story. The Du Pont name was adopted because at the time they were first seen, that is the brand the closest resembling connector was sold under, and clearly people who were discussing them were aware of it. Which people exactly is also an interesting question. It’s possible that it was likely Taiwanese manufacturers who adopted the term, and are now pushing it back into the west via eBay. Who knows.
In any case the term should be regarded as purely vernacular as du Pont did not have a hand in the creation of the clone type connectors this now refers to.
Exit Du Pont
In 1993 du Pont sold its connector division to HM Capital Parters who re-instated the Berg brand. The company was then flogged to FCI in 1998, after which point the brand ceased to exist entirely.
All of this tells us that du Pont had a finger in this particular pie for at least a couple of decades, but that du Pont branding for these connectors and tools only lasted for a decade or less. The very same decade that the “DuPont” clone connector rose to prominence.
I have a detailed page covering both original Mini-PV and clone types.
Another interesting article about the history of Berg and PV connectors.
Know something I haven’t mentioned here?
Please drop a comment!