The Universal Serial Bus (USB) is the most common connector used to hook up a keyboard, mouse, or some other peripheral device to a personal computer. It is also used to recharge a variety of portable devices, such as digital cameras and MP3 players. Every desktop and laptop computer has at least one USB port on the front or back, and each port can support up to 127 devices. USB is not the best connector for all situations due to its limitations, but it works brilliantly for what it was designed to do. Currently, data can be transferred at speeds of up to forty megabytes per second through a USB 2.0 cable, and there is an even faster version of USB on the horizon.
Back in the early days of personal computers, there were many different cables to deal with and just as many different ports. The keyboard and mouse were often connected by serial cables, while the printer was connected with a parallel cable. Later on, the PS/2 mini-DIN plug appeared and gradually became the preferred choice for the keyboard and mouse. Today, you are more likely to find USB 2.0 cable that any of the other types. It is used for nearly every peripheral devices that does not have wireless capability. It can even be use to hook up two computers over a very short distance, although this is rare because networking is normally done with Ethernet or wireless.
The first appearance of USB was in 1996, when Ajay Bhatt and his team at Intel announced it to the world. Since then, USB has gone on to become the unofficial standard for computer peripherals. The original version could transfer data at a glacial speed of one megabyte per second. Obviously, this needed to be improved if it was to compete with other connectors, like FireWire. The next version, USB 2.0, that arrived in 2000 was forty times faster that the original version. It is currently the most common connector used, with more than five billion devices supporting it. To get the most out of the current version, you need to use a USB 2.0 cable as well.
There are three main types of USB 2.0 cable that you will find in the stores. The most common type is the data transfer cable that normally has a type-A plug at one end and a type-B plug at the other. You can also get this type with a micro plug, but that is only useful if you are hooking up a small portable device to a computer. Another type is the extension cable that has a plug and receptor. You can extend the length of a USB 2.0 cable up to five meters before it needs to be plugged into a powered hub. The final type is the adapter cable that has a USB plug and non-USB plug. This type is used to hook up a device that lacks a USB cable, such as a really old keyboard.
When choosing a USB cable, make sure that you do not pick up a USB 1.0 cable by mistake. It would be rare to find one in the stores today, but they are still floating around storage rooms and second-hand markets. To achieve such high data transfer speeds, a USB 2.0 has extra shielding to stop electrical interference from degrading the signal. It is not possible to achieve that speed with an unshielded USB 1.0 cable. Telling the difference between the two types can be difficult. Look closely on the packaging for any sign of USB 2.0, such as the new logo. It looks similar to the original USB logo, but has a red streak above it with the words “Hi-Speed” in white lettering.