Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Emergence of USB

In mid-1995, rumors were circulating in the 1394 world about a new serial bus being promoted by Intel called Universal Serial Bus.   It sounded very similar to 1394 which had 1394 insiders asking, “Why not just use 1394?”  There was a good reason for the similarity.  Years after USB emerged; a Chipzilla employee revealed that USB was actually based on the 1394 standard.  At the first USB planning meeting, the 1394 standard was brought out and the question asked, “What can we remove from this to get the cost down?”

So, why didn't they just use 1394? 

It has been suggested that “Not Invented Here” myopia was the culprit. 

A more sinister view was that 1394 was peer-to-peer and therefore put too little burden on the host.  USB burned CPU cycles.  The more USB devices that were connected, the slower the computer ran and the greater the demand for the next generation CPU.  

However, the most plausible reason came from a USB maven at Apple in 1999.  Since the goal of Intel was to remove all but one connector from the computer, the connector needed to be able to connect everything from mice to scanners.  “There will never be a 1394 mouse so it does not forward the Intel plan.”

Interestingly, back in 1995, Gary Hoffman, chairman of the 1394 Trade Association, proposed that work be started on developing a 1394 mouse. The idea never gained traction.

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