To USB or not to USB: Is that a question?

Dateline: 10/09/97

I've been remiss in my Mining Company duties so this article is actually a double header. This first one will be a brief article that goes into more detail about the Universal Serial Port and the second one will be a First Look at the new Power Computing PowerTrip (the link is at the bottom of this article). I was hoping to get a review for the Nimantics HS 14.2" notebook done but they have delayed shipping on my unit. Hopefully I will have it next week.

I know I covered Universal Serial Bus (from here on out shall be acronymically called USB) briefly before but more people are asking for more information. It is basically a new type of serial interface that supports Plug and Play and what is called "daisy-chaining", the ability to link multiple devices on one "cord". USB is also much faster than the standard serial port, it can deliver speeds from 4MB to 12MB per second while the old serial port tops out at 115KB per second. In addition to the higher transfer rate, it can also supply power to peripherals that can run on a limited amount of current.

How is this helpful? It allows mobile systems (and desktops for that matter) to run on one port and higher speeds than the existing serial or parallel ports. For notebooks this is a major advantage because you no longer need all the different PS/2 ports, MIDI/game ports etc. You can just run your mouse, joystick, keyboard and other input devices like digital cameras from just one port. And, you don't have to reboot the system to do it... it's true Plug and Play! There are not many USB devices available right now, but more vendors are gearing them up as Windows 98 has USB support built in. The newest update of Windows 95 also has USB support so systems can actually use it now. I've seen it in action and it works pretty nicely.

That's why most new notebooks now have USB as a standard port, and if I were looking for a new notebook, I wouldn't buy one without it. And for all of you who don't have one on your existing notebook, don't despair... there are companies that are making PC Card USB ports to use in your PCMCIA slots. There is another technology similar to USB and has much faster transfer rates but it probably won't find it's way into notebooks until early next year, it's called FireWire.

For more about USB please check out the following sites:

Now you can read the PowerTrip article.

Next Week: The XKE comprehensive review (or maybe the Nimantics 14.2")

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