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Thunderbolt: Beyond USB and eSATA


When I started in computing, we had two main peripheral interface choices: RS-232 serial and Centronics parallel ports. Neither was fast. RS-232, which was the more generally useful of the pair, topped out in early days at 20 kilobits per second (kbps). That was then. This is now.

Today, USB 3.0 can hit 625 MegaBytes per second (Mbps) and eSATA can handle up to 300 MBps. Intel’s creation and Apple’s newest darling interface technology, Thunderbolt can blast data along at 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps).

hat’s great news! If, that is, you have a PC and operating system that supports Thunderbolt and peripherals that can work with it. There aren’t many of any of these at the moment. Apple and Intel want that to change as fast as possible.

Indeed, one reason why USB 3.0 has so slow off the mark was because Intel still hasn’t built in support for it in its motherboards. Thunderbolt, though, is already available on some hardware, and will include this new technology, along with USB 3.0, on its 2012 Ivy Bridge motherboard architecture. In the meantime, Apple is already building Thunderbolt into its latest model MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac mini computers.

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