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A ribbon cable is a flat, thin cable composed of multiple small-grade cables placed parallel to each other. With each core situated side by side, they form a wide-flat cable resembling a piece of ribbon, hence its name. This type of cable is mostly used in electronic systems that require multiple data buses to link internal peripherals, such as disk drives to their respective drive controllers.
Ribbon cables are also known as multiplanar cables.
The distinct multi-cable arrangement in a ribbon cable allows an insulation displacement connector (IDC) to be easily attached on its ends. Color coding is practiced and implemented in ribbon cables to avoid reverse connections, and, as a rule, the edge of the cable marked with a red stripe is connected to pin 1 on the connector. Also, different colored cables have been made available for easier identification of each conductor. They are often called hippie cables; conversely, they have remained specialized and comparatively pricey. The connectors at the ends of the cable are also specially notched so that they can only fit in a specific way, effectively preventing reverse connections.
Ribbon cables are typically used in computers with IDE interfaces for connecting IDE components and are also used for connecting moving components to controllers such as print heads.