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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

USB, What Is It And What Is It For?

USB, What Is It And What Is It For?

Here is the computer, and here is the keyboard. Nice to meet you. And eager to start working together. But how? It is not enough to introduce them. You have to connect them. And yes, the cables are still used in many cases. In the past, each of these computer accessories had a cable terminated in a different connection. The keyboard has a cable end. The mouse, another. The printer is your own. Fortunately, in 1996, 685 companies worldwide created a single type of connection for all peripherals (keyboard, mouse, printer, etc). The objective? is that they all connect to the same plug type. More than anything, because that way, you only have to place several identical entries on the computer. This is where the USB ( Universal Serial Bus ) standard was born, paraphrasing Alexandre Dumas, under the motto “One for all and all for one.”

Today USB connections have crossed the world of computing. TVs have USB inputs. So we can connect a hard drive or a memory stick with photos or music and play them on TV. The most advanced ones can also play movies or use those external hard drives and sticks to record TV shows. And, all, thanks to the fact that they are understood through a  USB connection. The latest living room DVD and Blu-Ray equipment cannot be understood without a USB connector. Thanks to these tickets, we expand the possibilities of current videos. This equipment also allows us to view and record video, play music, or watch on TV the photos that we carry on a memory stick.

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Like TVs or videos, many cameras are connected via USB to the TV or computer. Mobile phones and tablets have USB inputs to exchange files or to recharge the battery. USB inputs have also reached the car radio to listen to music, the video game console, or most technological toys.

USB is entering all household appliances. Perhaps for this reason, small memory sticks and external hard drives with a USB connection are the equipment we prefer today to take music, photos, or videos anywhere. They are like the CDs or DVDs we used in the last century but with much more capacity and the advantage that they can be connected to almost any screen in the home. According to  Jeff Ravencraft, an expert from Intel in USB, in 2008, there were more or less 6,000 million devices worldwide with USB connection; each year, 2,000 million more are sold.

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USB somehow reminds me of light socketsThey are everywhere and serve to connect almost everything. You could say that  USB is the plug for gadgets and devices. Today (almost), everyone ends up like this. With a rectangular block that has a little hole, ready to plug into the computer,  TV, video, console, camera, or mobile phone. And above all, with  USB, everything works instantly.

If we talk about a computer, it doesn’t matter if we plug in a  keyboard or a  mouse. A  printer or a  webcam for video conferencing. And it doesn’t matter if the computer is Windows or MacThe USB connection is already a universal standard and works like a charm.

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USB speed

With the first USB standard ( 1.0 ) approved in the 1990s, the connection was sufficient to connect a mousekeyboard, or simple camera to your computer, but it was too slow to exchange files or play high-quality video. Information moved at a maximum speed of  1.5 Mbps (192 KB/s)To get an idea, with this USB 1.0 connection, it took us almost six hours to transfer a high-definition movie (in Internet format) to the computer.

But USB did not stop at that point. Every few years, it is renewed with faster versions. Versions increase the speed at which data can travel through these USB cables. The 1.0 standard was followed by USB 1.1, which improved the speed up to  12 Mbps (1.5 MB/s). The six hours to spend the film ended up in just over 44 minutes.

Today, the most widespread standard is USB 2.0, a format that transmits data at 125Mbps (16MB/s) and allows, for example, to play a movie in high definition in  4 minutesThe next step in improving the speed of USB connections came last year with USB 3.0. It’s ten times faster than the current 2.0, reaches 4.8 Gbps (600 MB/s) speeds, and could set a record by transferring the same movie in just over six seconds. All these speed measurements are theoretical. In practice, they may vary.

In  2012, most computers already had the USB 3.0 port. A renewed version of this connection reduces the waiting time for any operation. Of course, when buying a gadget that has a  USB 3.0 output, we must assess whether we have a computer already adapted to the most current format. And in any case, a USB 3.0 cable also works on a USB 2.0 input on your computer. Although, of course, at the speed of 2.0 in that case.

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USB, mini USB, and micro USB, the three musketeers of digital connections

At the end of the cable, the end that must be connected to the computer is the USB we are discussing. But we can find two variants at the other end of the cable. The difference between the two is the size. One is called a mini USB; the other is quite similar and is known as a micro USB. Mini USB is commonly found in cameras, music players, external hard drives, and other small gadgets.

For its part, the micro USB appears in almost all smart mobile phones. Thanks to this connection, we can transfer a school project from the computer to the printer so that it can print it, for example. Or that the keys we gently press on the keyboard become words written in the email we are writing. And it is that this USB cable transmits data, which can be photos, videos, texts, or a drawing. But the USB cable is not only used for the devices we connect to the computer to work. The USB cable also passes a small electrical current to the device. In this way, the USB cable can be used to charge the battery.

This has been so practical that the European Union, at the end of 2010, approved a regulation that would force all mobile phones to have a micro USB port to charge the battery. In this way, since last year, all mobiles have a universal charger with this port, ending the problem of having a different power supply for each mobile.

Oh, by the way. In case anyone has been left in doubt. USB stands for Universal Serial Bus (in Spanish, Universal Serial Bus ). For all we care, it’s one of those inventions that makes our lives easier. One of those inventions allows us to take all kinds of digital files, including photos, videos, or music, anywhere and to any screen.

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