Practical Technology

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Everything You Wanted to Know About USB 3.0, But Were Afraid to Ask


If you’ve been in the computer business for a while, you can painfully remember when serial RS-232 ports could barely handle 28Kbps (kilobytes per second). The RS-232 serial port standard was loose enough that you could have “compatible” devices that you could never, ever physically connect with each other. How things have changed! Now, USB 3.0 can wheel and deal up to 625 Mbps. So, why is it so hard to find USB 3.0 ports and devices?

You already know that Universal Serial Bus (USB) is now the universal interface for computer peripherals, whether that’s a local printer or a USB-powered jellyfish mood lamp. Many devices only have USB ports.

The USB technology has come a long way since 1995, when USB 1.0 could only transfer 12 Megabits per second, and Windows NT lacked support for the new “standard.” It was only when USB 2.0 showed up in 2000, with its 480Mbps data transfer, that the days were numbered for other interfaces, including PS/2, serial, parallel, and even FireWire. Today, USB 3.0, also known as SuperSpeed USB, with its 5 Gigabits per second (Gbps), is finally catching on.

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