A-Z of computing: U is for ubiquitous USB

USB: U is for Ubiquitous

That’s right. Not URL or Ubuntu. I’m expecting it not to be long now before I connect my kettle or fridge to a USB hub, as various other technologies that used to come with their own prong-to-3-pin-plug cable now come with USB connectivity instead. This is fantastically convenient, especially with universal standards applied to phone chargers. My phone charges from my laptop via USB, or via a cable attached to a USB hub, or via a USB plug that fits into the otherwise redundant cigarette lighter in my car. It’s becoming industry standard too, replacing a plethora of connectors with one simple, elegant device.

Universal Serial Bus

U. S. B.: Universal Serial Bus. Developed in 1995 and an instant success, it was designed to improve connectivity to plug and play devices, allowing easy connection of mice, keyboards, printers, webcams etc to computers, vastly simplifying a complex situation. Run out of USB ports to plug these into, and just bung in a USB hub, instantly supplying you with many more ports. What’s more you can ‘hot swap’, meaning you don’t need to reboot the computer for it to recognise the new device.

Powerful stuff

It’s not just connectivity to be had. Small amounts of power can be delivered via USB. This popular for charging low power devices such as lights and phone chargers.

USB sticks were a runaway success, and have come a long way from the boring black plastic and shiny chrome oblong to weird and wonderful shapes including plastic sushi, Mini cars, dead fingers and impaled Lego men. Never a dull moment. For more about the history of this indispensable little device, including Plugfest, read up on Wikipedia. My favourite line has to be:

It’s difficult to plug in a USB connector the wrong way.

Really, there’s no arguing with that.

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