Take a closer look at a protocol that we now rely on for virtually all peripheral connectivity
Some of us remember the hot-plugging ability we take for granted today, was not the case with peripherals of old, which required a reboot of the system upon attachment.
In its simplest form, a USB (universal serial bus) connection comprises the positive and ground of a 5VDC connection, as well as a data+ and data- terminal. Information is sent in a continuous (serial) stream via both data connections, with one stream exactly opposite to the other. So when a 1 is sent via d+, a 0 is sent via d-, which makes it very easy to subtract noise from the information being transferred.
But hot-swappability is only one of the reasons why USB has taken the world by storm.
It’s universal and standardised
The protocol is coded for compatibility with pretty much any peripheral, so only one connector is needed to replace serial and parallel ports, PS/2 ports and various proprietary jacks.
You have plenty of headroom
The universal bus can theoretically support up to 127 connected devices, although it would be wise to provide supplementary power if you’re using it to charge several phones!
It's great for storage
USB flash drives are arguably the most popular form of removable media currently available.
Power delivery is easy
From charging portable devices to powering light strips, USB provides a universal plug for 5VDC.
Check out these top 10 unique USB accessories.
‣ Use persistence of vision to send colourful messages with a programmable fan.
‣ Switch between control of two computers using the same mouse, keyboard, display and audio system.
‣ Connect an external sound card to boost your laptop's audio capabilities up to 7.1 channels.
‣ Easily use MIDI instruments with a DAW (digital audio workstation) on your computer.
‣ If you have an ultra-portable notebook without a LAN port, you can still plug in an Ethernet cable.
‣ Add an extra HDMI output for a second display or projector.
‣ Connect phono-level output from a turntable.
‣ Got something sentimental on a floppy disk? You can even convert an old-school serial connection!
‣ Transfer your VHS tapes to digital media.
‣ Separate a four-pole 3.5mm audio jack into separate mic and line sockets.
See below to learn more about USB Type-C, the most advanced incarnation of the USB protocol for now!
- October 2019
USB Type-C is the newest kid on the block in terms of USB connection types. It's the first USB connection capable of carrying video, power and data. The improved functionality minimises the need for different types of ports. Purists will appreciate that it's just one port and one cable - clean, simple and minimal. Others will like that it's totally reversible - the plug easily inserts into the port the right way every time. Everyone will enjoy its compact size - about 1/3 the size of an old USB Type-A plug - meaning smaller device designs can accommodate it. Probably the best feature of the USB platform as a whole is that all device designers have access to it. As USB Type-C is adopted universally, it will be challenging for brands to argue usage of their own connections - such as Apple® with their Lightning Cable.
Speed & versatility
In terms of performance, USB Type-C works with USB 2.0, 3.0 and 3.1 versions. How do you know what speed your USB connection is? Well, USB 2.0 ports and plugs are white, whilst USB 3.0 plugs and ports tend to be blue. Both versions work in the same manner, however USB 3.0 delivers speeds of up to 5Gbps and a maximum power output of 10 watts. The newer USB 3.1 vastly improves that capacity - up to a staggering 10Gbps of speed and a maximum power output of 100 watts. To put this into perspective, a USB 3.1 connection can comfortably charge both your smartphone and laptop via just one USB Type-C cable. When you're looking at USB specifications on your device or accessory, you need to look at both the type and the speed as one is not mutually exclusive with the other.
Is this the end of multiple ports and sockets?
USB Type-C connections allow for multiple data modes within the same port (depending of course on what modes the device designers have allowed for!). Examples of this include DisplayPort video, HDMI, DVI and VGA. USB Type-C is backwards compatible - with an appropriate adaptor - so you're not going to suddenly find your existing devices redundant. What will most likely happen is that small devices will migrate to a single USB Type-C port, whilst larger devices will still offer a variety of ports to accommodate users until the technology is more widely adopted. In the meantime, there's a number of converters, adaptors and hubs hitting the market that expand the connectivity of single USB Type-C ports.
We've got pretty much every kind of USB Type-C accessory you could possibly need. If you're not sure what to look out for, our staff will run you through the range to find the best fit for your needs!
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