The Ubiquitous USB port: Explained…

Every computer has a USB port.  Most have 2 or more.  You use them for everything from attaching your keyboard & mouse, to uploading files from your flash drive.  They’ve become commonplace and taken for granted.  But do you REALLY know what USB is?

What It Is…

USB ( Universal Serial Bus) is the most popular method to connect your computer to various devices and peripherals. USB technology is supported by most of the major operating systems (Windows, OSX, and Linux) and some mobile platforms such as Android.  USB is a hot-swappable technology, meaning that USB devices can be added and removed without having to restart the computer. USB is also “plug and play”. When you connect a USB device to your PC, Windows should detect the device, installing drivers if needed to use it, if your computer is connected to the Internet.

USB was designed to allow a variety of peripherals to be connected using a single port standard.  It’s an expandable, fast, bi-directional, low-cost, Plug and Play serial hardware interface that allows the user to connect a wide range of peripheral devices; such as keyboards, mice, printers, scanners, storage devices, telephones, modems, audio devices, digital still-image cameras, and video cameras to a computer.

Let’s Get Technical…

In the beginning, the original USB standard ( USB 1.0) only supported up to 11mps and was primarily used to connect keyboards & mice.  The next version, USB 2.0, was substantially faster-reaching speeds of up to 480mps.  This is the version you’ll find on most computers today.  The latest version, USB 3.0 is even faster!  It can reach speeds up to 5Gbs and is backwards compatible, meaning a USB 2.0 device will work in a 3.0 port!

USB 2.0 debuted in 2000 and became an official standard the following year.  USB 2.0 was capable of operating at two slower speeds: 12 megabits per second (USB 1.1 full speed) and 1.5 megabits per second (low speed for devices requiring less bandwidth). A USB 2.0 port will function with USB 1.1 devices, although a USB 1.1 port may not have the bandwidth capabilities to properly communicate with a 2.0 device.  2000 also introduced the USB flash drive.  The rewritable storage device initially sold by IBM. Originally it could hold up to 8MB of data. Over a decade later, capacities have exceeded 256GB for a single drive.

USB has the following key features:

  • Single connector type: USB replaces all the different legacy connectors with one well-defined, standardized USB connector for all USB peripheral devices, eliminating the need for different cables and connectors and thus simplifying the design of the USB devices. So all USB devices can be connected directly to a standard USB port on a computer.

  • Hot-swappable: USB devices can be safely plugged and unplugged as needed while the computer is running. So there is no need to reboot.

  • Plug and Play: Operating system software automatically identifies, configures, and loads the appropriate device driver when a user connects a USB device.

  • High performance: USB offers low speed (1.5 Mbit/s), full speed (12 Mbit/s) and high speed (up to 480 Mbit/s) transfer rates that can support a variety of USB peripherals. USB 3.0 (SuperSpeed USB) achieves the throughput up to 5.0 Gbit/s.

  • Expandability: Up to 127 different peripheral devices may theoretically be connected to a single bus at one time.

  • Power supplied from the bus: USB distributes the power to all connected devices eliminating the need for external power source for low-power devices. High-power devices can still require their own local power supply. USB also supports power saving suspend/resume modes.

  • Easy to use for end user: A single standard connector type for all USB devices simplifies the end user’s task at figuring out which plugs go into which sockets. The operating system automatically recognizes the USB device attachment and loads appropriate device drivers.

  • Low-cost implementation: Most of the complexity of the USB protocol is handled by the host, which along with low-cost connection for peripherals makes the design simple and low cost.

To Sum It Up..

The USB port is one of the best developments in computer technology.  It busted the doors of peripherals and expansion wide open!  Chips Computers carries many USB accessories for your computer.  Have questions?  Drop us an email or give us a call.  We want to make your technology easy!

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