The 365 Commitment

Even USB has problems

So being a tech nerd growing up I was not very keen on letting my children have smart phones. Like I am going to give the entire Internet over to a 10 year old and say, Good Luck. I have noted that most of the big tech executives share my opinion, they very rarely will let their children have unfettered access to a smart phone with data coverage. My opinion here but I believe in 50 years from now we will look back and only then start to realize the negative effects this technology disruption had on your young people. At any rate, we got a smart phone for our son for graduation. I sort of told them that I would not allow them to have one until they became an adult themselves and could pay for it. Anyway, that is not the point of this blog. What is the point is that he has a phone now that requires a USB type C connector. Which leads me to an interesting concept.

USB (Universal Serial Bus) has been around for over 25 years. We owe this to Ajay Bhatt, who is the current patent holder for USB that came from Intel. USB is now the ubiquitous standard for peripheral and devices connectivity. We have Intel to thank for this. They decided to releases USB free to the tech community and make it royalty free from the very beginning. So since the 1990’s we have had USB around because it was pretty reliable, fast, easy to manufacturer and was royalty free. Contrast this to a technology like HDMI, which gained popularity but quickly fell out of favor precisely due to royalties charged for use of the patented technology. When both Mac and Windows machines started shipping with USB support in 1998, the rest was history. USB would become a ubiquitous heterogeneous technology.

We finally had the perfect industry standard so everyone could share connectivity, except we didn’t. Even USB has problems. There have been challenges along the way. Thus was born a myriad of different connectors. There have been a few interests, specifically of maintaining backwards compatibility where possible, and keep the connection as similar as possible. However even perfection has its problems. There are three areas of concern (do not worry, this will tie into the self-improvement motif shortly):

  1. The reliability of the connection – does the connection fit and stay connected.
  2. The size of the connector – is the connector adaptable to the number of wires required, the required transport speed and the size of the device.
  3. The speed transfer requirements – is the standard fast enough.

Intel and the rest of the industry have been struggling with this since the 1990s. New technologies have come to play. When USB was invented there was no concept that thee core of our computing needs would center on a handheld device. They did not think of streaming services to tablet devices that we watched from our easy chair. They did not consider adaptability of vehicles. They were trying to solve myriad of tangled, crazy connectors and cable types on the back of a personal computer. The needs changed and as a consequence the cabling, and the cable connector for USB. USB also carries power for devices now, that was also not expected.

So we have gone from a simple data transfer concept to a data, video, sound, and power delivery concept all in the last 20 years. We are connecting USB to wrist watches to SUVs. We have had about 12 connection interfaces and have gone from 12mbps to 20gbps. Welcome to type C, gen 2X2, USB 2.3, superspeed++ with 20gbps of throughput. A connection that has a decent size, yet stays securely seated into the device. Have we finally got there?

Nope, not on your life. USB will change again, as the demand and requirements change. In fact, USB will fall away to another standard, no doubt and we will be finding a whole new interface to grabble with.

The point is that if the perfect, best standard that the industry has fully embraced has problems and changes then you better believe anything you come up with will change. Last time I checked there were over 30,000 working members of the working group tied to USB development. If the group of some of the best engineering minds have to revise, change and reinvent their technology, then you are going to do the same with whatever you come up with.

If you think for a second that your plans, the way you like to do things, the way things “used to be” are not going to change, are not going to rapidly evolve into something completely new then you are…well…a complete fool. Change is the only concept, there never will be a perfect way. There will never be a way that is just right for you because you are constantly changing as well.

So what flavor of USB are you today? Where are you in the evolution of your revision? Are you stuck in 1.0 with slow speeds and poor connections with others? Maybe it is time to rethink you position. Time to upgrade your mental view and change. Get faster, get easier to connect with and become more compatible.

Guy Reams

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