History and evolution of USB

Since its birth towards the middle of the last decade of the 20th century, and its absolute massification at the beginning of the new century,  USB technology has become the most widely used type of connector, by far, throughout the world, even going so far as to displace to other technologies, which after the success of USB sank into oblivion. In this sense, the possibility of  using a single type of standard connector instead of a specific cable and connector for each device was the key to the rapid and massive implementation of this protocol.

In addition to this obvious reason, there are also other reasons for the popularization of USB , including its ease of use and transparency, but above all, its standardization,  which allows us to connect all kinds of devices such as printers, digital cameras. , smartphones, external hard drives, pen drives, mice, MP3 players, tablets, scanners, keyboards, card readers and thousands of other examples, not only in the home environment, but also in the office and in the industry.

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In this post we will be able to know in detail the secrets of the USB standard, which will allow us to have a base that can be very useful in specific cases, since we will find abundant information about USB,   its operation and main technical characteristics.

A little history

Not many years ago, not everyone could open a PC and reach inside, since putting it into operation or changing some of its components required knowing a quantity of data such as  which jumpers had to be bridged to set the IRQ correctly  so that it was not It overlapped with the one used by another board, and in the case of the connectors, it was not very clear what each one was for. In addition, hardware manufacturers, each time they added a new model of board to the market, contemplated the use of a different connector, which further complicated the matter.

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That is why, in the mid-1990s, a consortium of companies made up of Northern Telecom, Microsoft, Intel, NEC, IBM and Apple, among others, launched the first specification of the USB standard, 1.0, to which It was followed by USB 1.1 in 1998, USB 2.0, launched in April 2000 and USB 3.0, landed in November 2008 and finally USB 3.1 in August 2013, this being the last version of the specification at the moment.

It could be said that the USB (Universal Serial Bus) standard was recently massively adopted by the main manufacturers thanks to the introduction in the market of the 1.1 specification, from then on the adoption and use by users was absolute, and It has become the most widespread and used communication protocol in the world, displacing older and less complete standards such as SCSI or Serial connections.

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This was precisely due to certain capabilities that the standard can offer, such as full compatibility between devices, which guarantees interoperability between the different devices that make up a chain, in addition to the not inconsiderable possibility of connecting different devices to the same port through one. of the so-called Hubs, likewise, the Plug and Play condition of this specification allows us to connect and disconnect them at will without having to restart the PC as we had to do with other connection systems.

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Main advantages of the USB standard

As we mentioned, the main reason that led to the creation of the USB standard was the need to facilitate the connection of devices to each other in a simple and transparent way  through the standardization of the connectors, which was superbly achieved, but also they obtained a series of very interesting advantages.

One of the most important is that using USB,  it is not necessary for the device plugged into the port to be connected to an external power source,  except in a few cases such as hard drives and other devices that consume a lot of energy. Likewise, it  allows us to charge the battery of tablets and phones while we have them connected to it.

Another great advantage of USB is that you can connect up to 127 devices simultaneously, although the transfer speed could suffer. They also offer “Plug & Play” capability   meaning that once connected to the port they are immediately recognized by the operating system, and in most cases, ready for use.

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The protocol also allows the use of cables up to 5 meters long, being able to increase the length by means of hubs or extenders, undoubtedly something especially useful when we have to cover large areas.

Finally,  another of the most significant characteristics of USB is that it is extremely compatible with multiple hardware platforms and operating systems,  since we can find implementations of USB devices in Windows, Mac or Linux,  but we can also observe them today on televisions , radios, and many other types of devices.

In case you want to obtain much more information about USB technology, you can do so by  consulting the Information Technology search engine,  where an excellent collection of articles on the subject awaits you.

Evolution of USB over the years

Like the other standards, USB had to evolve to adapt to the changes in the technology that was offered to the consumer,  increasingly fast and demanding of transmission capacity. That is why the different versions of the protocol have improved their transfer rates, the most important aspect at this point.

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In this sense, the data transmission speed in the first versions of USB was not particularly high, 1.5 Mb / s in the version of the 1.0 specification, reaching up to 12 Mb / s in the version 1.1. However, more speed at that time was not necessary, since the standard was used mostly in  HID (Human Interface Device) implementations,  that is, mice, keyboards and webcams, for example.

But as demand grew, and devices were getting faster and faster and needed more bandwidth to exchange data between them, a new version was required, more suited to modern times.

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That is why USB 2.0 saw the light, taking the transfer capacity up to 480 Mb / s, a figure substantially higher than what it had previously offered, which allowed users to have enough bandwidth for absolutely all applications. devices you possessed. In addition, it  is backwards compatible, which means that any device designed for USB 1.0 could also be used by other USB variants without problems, obviously respecting the lower transfer speed. This version of USB is so widespread that it is still the most widely used in the world, even though version 3.0 has already been implemented for a long time.

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Regarding USB 3.0, it is the version currently in use, released in 2008, it can reach up to 600 Mb / s, and it is backward compatible with versions 1.0 and 2.0. It also offers a higher power supply: 900 milliamps, which significantly improves the charging times of the devices that are connected to it. Currently the USB 3.0 standard is in full expansion, and more and more devices are taking advantage of all the data transmission speed that USB 3.0 is capable of offering, which we will talk more about later in this post.

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The latest revision of the protocol is 3.2, which can go up to an incredible 20 Gb / s throughput. Although it has not been launched on the market yet, one of its most interesting characteristics is that it will come equipped with reversible ports,  which means that we will not have to worry about making a mistake when plugging a device into them,  since it accepts both directions of the connector.

USB 3.0: What is it and how can it help us?

Just a couple of years ago, our greatest need when transferring files to an external storage unit was to  copy a movie or music album in WAV format to a pendrive or external disk,  which we could do more or less comfortable, but always taking a little time. Currently, this scenario has changed a lot, since any user of technology has in his possession a notebook, a smartphone or tablet, among many other devices, all of them capable of  r eproducir HD content like movies, videos and TV , in addition to processing tasks that involve working with really large files.

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This leads us to think about how to go about transporting so much information, and the answer we found is that every time, the storage units available on the market are bigger. Currently,  an external storage unit can reach up to 3 Tb. capacity in the case of disks, and up to 512 GB or more in the case of pendrives,  which leads us directly to a reflection:  How long is it necessary to wait for the system to finish transferring the amount of data?  The short answer is a lot, at least if we do this by interconnecting our devices through USB 2.0.

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USB 3.0 to the rescue

As the capacity of computing devices grows, and the quality of the data we process through them, it  is necessary to have more storage space,  this is easily verifiable with the difference in size between a DVD disc and a Blu- ray disc. Ray : 4.7 Gb the first against 25 Gb. Of the second, capacities that significantly increase the waiting times necessary to manipulate the data contained within.

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This is precisely why the USB 3.0 standard was created, which is capable of transferring data up to 10 times faster than previous versions of the specification.  While USB 2.0 is capable of transferring information at 60 Mb per second,  USB 3.0 achieves an impressive 600 Mb per second. It has also been learned that the implementation of an improvement to this standard is under study,  which would allow it to obtain a transfer speed of 1.25 Gb. Per second,  undoubtedly a quite impressive number.

Technical characteristics and types of connectors of the USB 3.0 standard

The USB 2.0 specification   requires that the cable that serves as the connection between the different devices has 4 internal wires or cables, one for power, ground, and the remaining two for data,  which allows it to achieve a data transfer speed of up to 60 Mb.  Per second. On the other hand, the USB 3.0 specification, in addition to these four cables,  incorporates 5 more, adding up to nine in total.

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This increase in the number of internal cables,  allows to increase the data transfer speed up to 600 Mb. Per second,  since  while two cables are used to send data, another two are used to receive, the fifth cable being in charge of supply power to the device. In this way the traffic is bidirectional, a technique known as  full duplex.

Types of USB 3.0 connectors

Before knowing what are  the most important differences between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 connectors,  we will first have to go over a bit about the anatomy of the specification in general. There are basically  only two types of USB connectors:  those that connect to the PC and those that connect to peripherals such as printers, cameras, smartphones or tablets,  mp3 players and others.

The connectors that plug into the PC are known as  Type A , and include both male and female connectors. Type B connectors  , also male and female, are those that plug into peripherals and gadgets. This last type of connector, B, has the particularity of having three subtypes of connector:  standard connection, Mini USB  (5 and 8-pin variants) and  Micro USB .

Now, the new USB 3.0 standard introduces some significant variants, of which the most important is that it is compatible with the Type A connector but not with the Type B, since these drastically change its physical form. USB 3.0 Type B introduces 5 additional pins, which have been arranged above the traditional pin placement. In the case of Type A connectors, they maintain their shape, thereby maintaining compatibility with previous standards, but also introducing 5 new pins to achieve the above-mentioned Full Duplex or continuous bidirectional traffic, the main player in increasing the speed of the norm.

While we can  bet that the USB 3.0 standard is the future of data transfer,  its adoption by manufacturers is slow, as the sheer number of devices that are still made and will be built around the USB 2.0 specification is just too important. as to end its life cycle so suddenly,  despite the unquestionable benefits of USB 3.0.

At the moment there  are few devices that we can find in the market that are compatible with USB 3.0 , some motherboards, external drives and backup systems for the most part, but with the passage of time we will surely be able to enjoy all the speed offered by USB 3.0 in each of our gadgets and devices.

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WUSB: The USB without cables

The USB standard has been providing us with valuable services for many years, and despite its multiple capabilities, and the evolution in terms of speed and stability that it has suffered over time,  the truth is that it still has a big problem, The need for cables to carry out a connection,  which perhaps for this super portable and convergent world of today is a problem, since nobody wants to transport anything that is not really useful at all times, and a USB cable is. when we are not using it.

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If we take into account how other connection technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are rapidly becoming popular thanks to their ability to communicate without the need for cables, we might think that USB has its days numbered, since except for the connection speed that it can offer , the aforementioned BT and Wi-Fi have all the necessary advantages so that we do not worry about data synchronization between all our devices. However, USB has a brilliant career ahead thanks to  WUSB, the wireless version of USB  that we will soon be able to enjoy on our devices.

Wireless Universal Serial Bus (WUSB): Wireless USB

Born from the ashes of the dissolved WiMedia Alliance’s Ultra-Wideband (UWB) consortium in 2004, wireless USB , that is, USB without cables, saw the light of the hand of the Wireless USB Promoter Group, an  association made up of important companies in the sector. such as HP, Intel, Microsoft, Agere Systems NEC, Philips and Samsung, among others, who worked together to launch the first specification of the standard in 2005.

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Basically, this group defined the specifications for the new wireless USB standard to offer a transfer speed of up to 480 Mbps within the 3 meter range, and from this limit, lower the transfer rate to 110 Mbps. The frequency range with which the standard will operate is between 3.1 Ghz and 10.6 Ghz, that is, it corresponds to the UWB (Ultra Wide Band) band.

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How WUSB Works and USB Backward Compatibility

With regard to the WUSB operating mode, the architecture  supports up to 127 devices directly connected to a host, just like USB,  but as the use of cables is not contemplated, and therefore ports to which to connect them, no longer there is a need to use hubs, which provides a further advantage in terms of comfort and flexibility of use.

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Fortunately, the launch of WUSB on the market does not mean the slow death of USB, since both standards can be used together thanks to adapters called “WUSB Hubs”,  which will allow equipments without wireless USB capacity to have this advantage. turning any existing USB 2.0 device wireless by connecting to a  WUSB host .

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Also, in the event that we want to  provide our computers with wireless USB capability,  we can easily do so by adding a host adapter (HWA). This adapter is basically a USB 2.0 device that can be connected to a desktop or laptop through a USB port, giving you the desired wireless USB capability. It should be noted that in the case of laptops we can connect it to the MiniCard interface   of the same to avoid the physical problem of having this device “hanging”, which can be dangerous.

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