Cables Unlimited recently introduced a family of nifty little retractable cords under the name Zip-Linq™. These will appeal to almost everyone who owns a laptop, palmtop, cell phone, digital camera, portable CD player, MP3 player, or any other portable device that uses cords. You can get cables for all sorts of devices that will provide charging, phone, ethernet, USB, firewire, PDA synchronization, earbuds, and headsets.
The heart of these devices is a little spool (roughly 50×40×12mm or 2"×1½"×½") that holds whatever wires are needed neatly and compactly. When you pull out on the ends, the spool pays out around three feet of cable under spring tension. There are a half-dozen "click points"" where the cable will hold its length without tension, so you can get only the length you need. When you're finished, just pull the cable out to full length and it will retract back onto the spool.
I own more than a handful of different Zip-Linq cables. Several months of regular use has not turned up problems with any of them. The mechanisms are simple enough to be reliable. The cables can be re-centered on the spools if necessary to insure full retraction. The cables are quite strong. Even the connectors seem to be solidly constructed.
It is amazing how convenient these little gadgets can be. The are far less bulky than traditional cables. They eliminate the inevitable tangles that occur whenever you have to store bunch of cables. Setup and takedown are simple and quick. The only downside is the cost and they are actually quite reasonably priced. Try them out and you will never look back.