FAQ & Section Info
The ubiquitous USB: the plug-and-play connection we have become accustomed for adding devices without any need for computer prowess or tools is a wonderful technology. And, it is getting better all the time. Getting data through a cable faster and faster is a continual technological challenge and the pipe seems to be getting bigger all the time. Being able to hot swap devices today is taken for granted. It should be. But, it hasn't always been this easy.
Before 1994, there were (and sometimes still is in select situations) serial cables, parallel cables, ESDI and many other ways of attaching devices to computers. Finally, a group of seven companies got together to figure out a way to connect external devices without having to shut everything down just to make a connection. The Universal Serial Bus was born. We were saved. Unlike older connection standards, the USB connection could also supply power and in some instances didn't even need a power source. Everything started to look rosy. But, like most things that start out simple, things quickly became complicated.
There were all sorts of connector types and speeds and cables and on and on. So, without boring everyone about all that went on, let's just get to the basics about what is happening today and what you need to know.
The current advancement in USB technology is SuperSpeed USB (USB 3.0). This new spec will deliver over 10x the speed (theoretically 4.8Gbits/s) of today's Hi-Speed USB 2.0 connections. USB 3.0 is still a backward-compatible standard with 2.0 and 1.1 with the same ease-of-use and plug-and play capabilities. Although the USB 3.0 cable is different, it uses the same type of connectors and plugs in the same way.
Six signals are carried on the USB 3.0 cable. Four signals are for a SuperSpeed data path and two are non-SuperSpeed. The USB 3.0 bus will provide 50 percent more power for non-configured devices and a whopping 80 percent more power for configured devices.
Make sure you have USB 3.0 compatible devices and operating system if you plan on benefiting from the new specification. There are many devices that support USB 3.0 on the market today. Motherboards, ExpressCards, controllers, external enclosures and more are available to take advantage of the increased SuperSpeed bus. You can detect the USB 3.0 connections by the color blue inside the connector which indicates it is USB 3.0.
Things keep getting faster and better. If you want the latest power in USB, you may just need USB 3.