Like all examples of relatively modern technology, USB ports and cables have evolved rapidly within a very short space of time. Of course, the pace of technological growth continues to increase with every passing year too, which is why there have been multiple versions of the USB over time.
This is despite the term USB standing for ‘Universal Serial Bus’, and over the course of the last 18 years we have seen multiple iterations of this hardware and variable versions with alternative connection speeds.
In this post, we will appraise the history of the USB while asking how it has evolved since its inception.
Addressing the Early History of the USB
If you were using a computer any time before the design and launch of the USB during the Pentium and Pentium II eras, you will know that connecting any kind of accessory often required a large variety of ports.
When connecting a mouse to your PC, for example, you would probably have to use a PS/2 connector or a serial port, while keyboards may also require the former option or a DIN connector.
Printers and scanners would use large and cumbersome parallel ports, which at least had the advantage of being leveraged as external storage options if you didn’t want to use SCSI.
This created a myriad of trailing wires and dedicated expansion cards lying around the pace, and it should come as no surprise that computer manufacturers were already starting to design a couple of rudimentary USB ports in the late 90s. These were typically USB 1.1 ports, which were capable of 12Mbps speeds and connecting mice and keyboards seamlessly.
This prompted accessories to make a definitive switch and include USB ports as a viable option by the turn of the century, as designs became more sophisticated and compatible with a wider range of devices.
Addressing the Evolution of the USB
It was the USB 2.0 that led the evolution, when this became more widespread in the mid-noughties.
The reason for this is simple; as this versatile design was able to replace a wider range of ports and connections, with USB flash drives exacerbating the decline of the floppy disk and proprietary relatives such as the Zip drive.
Similarly, USB 2.0 and more recent iterations gradually began to supersede CDs and DVDs as the primary data storage option, thanks to their increased speeds, size and ability to do the job far quicker.
Of course, if you check out electrical suppliers such as RS Components, you’ll know that there are some ports and USB cables that don’t fit into traditional categories, and there’s no doubt that this technology has been unable to do away with more traditional connectors since its inception.
However, it has allowed for devices to connect seamlessly with Wi-Fi adaptors, optical drives and even Ethernet ports, all of which previously needed to be installed inside your computer.
In this respect, the humble USB is arguably one of the most impactful innovations of the digital age, and one that continues to evolve over time.