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The History of USB

March 27, 2009

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 USB (Universal Serial Bus) was introduced in 1994 after a joint project by Intel, Microsoft, IBM, Compaq and others. Their aim was to create a serial bus which could be used to connect common devices to host computers, each other and together through hubs. Intel produce the UHCI host controller and open software, Microsoft manufactured the software to make it compatible with Windows while Phillips were responsible for USB Audio. Together they created what is today the most common connection port interface.

USB was produced to replace the amount of serial and parallel ports used on PCs, none of which were compatible with each other. USBs introduction meant devices could all connect using the same port. Its simplified software configuration and introduced a peripheral plug and port standard instead of the many incompatible ones which served the same functions. When introduced the transfer rate of USB 1.0 was 12Mbit/s.

Plug and play capability improved as devices could be connected and disconnected without rebooting or turning your computer off. USB is now used to connect most peripherals such as mice, MP3, audio, keyboards, digital camera etc. Although initially designed for use with PCs many devices now use USB as standard, with devices such as MP3 players using the USB cables with an AC adapter as a power supply.

With the need for a higher data transfer rate USB 2.0 was launched in 2000 and standardised a year later. At 480Mit/s it is over twenty times faster than the original 1.0 design. In 2008 the most recent specification, USB 3.0 was released onto the market and boasts a transfer rate ten times that of USB 2.0.

Unlike other connection interfaces USB is simple to extend. As standard USB cables  are 5m long connections often have to be extended to meet needs. Extension cables are the most common form of extending USB and are ideal for printers, scanners and other similar sized devices. Extenders extend devices over much longer distances using CAT5/6 bulk cable. Remote and local unit’s transmit signals up to 50m, or even an incredible 100m. Wireless USB allows connections to be sent at a rate of 110Mbit/s over a typical distance of around 10m.

The problem of too many plug interfaces, with compatibility issues, when one will suffice was solved. Devices are now less costly and confusing as standard USB cables can now be used to connect peripherals while standard USB hubs can link a number of devices into one single port.


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