If you own a computer in this day and age, chances are that you’ve heard of USB connectors. They’re used to connect your computer to everything from MP3 players and mouses to external hard drives and flash drives.
Known by a symbol of three-prongs extending out of a circle (one prong ends in a circle, another in a square, and the center prong is an arrow), this connector was developed in 1994 and 1995. The goal of the seven companies involved (Compaq, DEC, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, NEC, and Nortel) was to create a product that made it easier to connect external devices to PCs and allowed for higher data rates. Clearly, they succeeded. The USB is now an industry standard.
Since its creation in the mid-1990s, the original USB connector has expanded into an entire family of connectors. There is the standard Type A, Type B, Mini-A, Mini-B, Micro-A, and Micro-B. Standard USB connectors are used with a variety of products, and minis and micros are useful in the design of smaller devices like cameras, cell phones, and tablets. Most electronics have continually shrunken as the years have passed, and those tiny micro USB connectors come in handy when space is limited. All connectors in the USB family can only be inserted one way and if they follow USB standard specifications, the three-pronged symbol is embossed on the topside of the plug.
The connector helps devices communicate through pipes, or connections from the host controller to the external device. The pipes are either message pipes (which are bi-directional and used for control transfers) or stream pipes (which are uni-directional and transfer data). The host controller controls the communication so that devices connected through a USB connector cannot transfer data without permission.
The USB standard has facilitated communication between electronic devices immensely. USB connectors are everywhere and they’re here to stay. Tune in later as we’ll discuss d-sub connectors and their impact on the computer industry.