USB port or Universal Serial Bus port is a standard cable connection that creates an interface between the personal computers and the peripherals for short-distance digital data communications. In addition, it also helps in supplying electric power through the cable to devices like your smartphone for charging. USB port uses industry standard called “USB” which is maintained by the “USB Implementers Forum”. USB3.2 is the latest generation of USBs.
Around tens of millions of USB cables are shipped across the world every year, speaking volume of its demand.
With the expansion of technology and the evolution of newer peripheral devices, the computer was no more a standalone device. And so there was an inherent need for interfacing several different peripherals with the main computer. This led to the advent of several ports like Serial Port, VGA, Audio port, HDMI and USB port.
Out of all these, USB port is most commonly used because of simplicity and varied types of device that it supports.
Whenever we talk of USB, we do think of USB port and cable. However, the wireless versions of USB also exist such as wireless mouse, wireless chargers, wireless jockeys/console but these don’t involve any use of USB ports and cables.
Simplistic Design yet so versatile
The USB port is an omnipresent part of the plugged-in world. It can connect almost every external device to the computer with “plug and play” feature without even switching off the computer.
It is compatible with the personal computer to the extent that just after connecting a USB device, the operating system automatically detects the device. In most cases, operating system installs the driver on its own.
The USB ports and cables are used to connect the computer hardware such as printers, scanners, keyboards, mouse, flash drives, external hard drives, joysticks, cameras, and more to computers of all kinds, including desktops, tablets, laptops, notebooks, etc.
In fact, USB has become so prevalent that all the electronic appliances ranging from gaming consoles to Home entertainment/music system to the automobile dashboards to the flight seats all have USB ports integrated into them.
The simplicity of USB devices lies in the fact that it is self-configuring and does not need any additional setting for its configuration. USB standard avoids the need for vendors and manufacturers to create own specification for developing peripherals.
This USB cable charging has revamped the adapter designs. These days, you will hardly find a charging device without USB compatibility.
Types of USB Port
USB cable is omnipresent now. As the newer technologies kept on developing, so the similar trends followed regarding USB cables as well. This resulted in various kind of USB cables. But unfortunately, most of them are incompatible with each other. Given that the names are synonymous, it further adds to the confusion.
Herewith are different types of USB connectors for your reference:
USB B (Type B)
This is square shaped with an extra notch on top. It is approximately 1.4 cm (9/16 in) length by 0.65 cm (1/4 in) height is commonly found on routers, computers, printers and game consoles. USB sticks usually feature USB-B connectors also.
USB A (Type A)
This is less common than type B, USB A devices are nearly square and are generally used for wired mice and keyboards.
So-called Micro USB versions of both USB-A and USB-B also exist – smaller versions than their base counterparts, famous on mobile devices. (Older but now obsolete “mini USB” versions can also be found on some old devices.)
This is rectangular with four rounded corners With dimensions of 0.84 cm by 0.26cm, this newer standard is designed to replace both A and B with smaller ports to support the thinner form factors of mobile devices better.
Due to its small size, it can comfortably fit even into the smallest of the peripheral devices that we use these days. One of the significant advantages of Type-C over other existing variants is that it allows for ‘reverse plug orientation,’ which means that you can plug in your USB cable correctly every time on the very first try.
The probability of every electronic device supporting Type-C USB is very high in near future.
Multiple USB devices can get connected to each other with the help of a USB hub. A USB hub plugs into one USB port and contains additional ports for other devices to connect subsequently. If using a USB hub, you need to plug a separate cable into each device and attach them to the hub individually.
Three Generations of USB
Since first USB standard release in 1996, USB has so far three generations now. There was a need for a faster data exchange interface regarding the USB cables and ports; thus, newer version came along to incorporate this change. Presently, USB devices and cables support multiple versions of the USB standard from version 1.1 up to the current version 3.2.
- USB 1.x – The original version of USB was USB 1.0 but later came with another variant 1.1. It only supported speeds up to 12 Mbps and was mostly used in connecting the keyboards and mice. This was released in Jan 1996.
- USB 2.0, with several updates and additions – Almost 4 years later, on Apr 2000, USB 2.0 came into existence with a maximum speed of 480Mbps. But due to several constraints, you can only effectively get up to 280 Mbit/s or 35 MB/s
- USB 3.x – Next release of USB 3.0 got released 8 years later in Nov 2008. It is also called Superspeed version where supported speed jumped to 5 Gbit/s (or 625 Mbyte/s).
- USB 3.2 is the latest in this series which further enhanced the speed to 20 Gbit/s (2500 MB/s). It got released in Sep 2017.
It is to be noted that whenever we talk of USB bandwidth or speed, we mention it in Mbps (Megabits per sec). But it is different than MBps (or MegaBytes per sec). You can convert Megabits to Megabytes by dividing Megabits by 8.
The USB port is one of the most commonly used port to connect computers/laptops with peripheral devices. It supports a broad range of devices; anything from flash drives and keyboard, to your music players and what not. USB can also send power to devices and also can help them charge their batteries.
With every release, USB is getting better and supporting higher data transfer speed. From 12Mbps to now 20Gbps, USB has come a long way. And it is still getting further enhanced. Given its wide use, simplicity and adoption by different vendors, and constant innovation, USB port can be considered a leader in cable interfaces for electronic devices.
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