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Trusted Answers to Developer Questions

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USB terminology in everyday life

Jamie Powell
  • USB stands for Universal Serial Bus. It is a data communication system within the components of a computer or between computers.

  • USB connector refers to the plug found on the cable and the receptacle that is located on the host device or extension cable. Examples are USB Type-C and Type-A.

  • USB devices refer to the peripherals, including, but not limited to, storage devices, smartphones, webcams, keyboards, scanners, and hubs.

  • USB hub expands the number of USB ports for peripheral devices to be connected simultaneously. It can be a stand-alone device or one that is built into the equipment.

  • USB port refers to the interface that allows devices to be connected through a cable.

  • USB version refers to the standards or releases of USB, for example, USB4, USB 3.0, and USB 1.1.

  • Backward compatibility refers to a product or technology’s property of being interoperable with older systems. For example, USB 3.0 is backward compatible with USB 2.0 and USB 1.1. The data transfer rate, however, will vary.

  • Hot swapping is a functionality of USB that allows a user to insert or remove storage devices, cameras, keyboards, and mice without turning off the computer. This feature is akin to the concept of plug and play.

  • Thunderbolt refers to a technology that supports fast data transfer and charging power. Its latest version is Thunderbolt 3, whose connector shape is that of USB-C.

  • USB Power Delivery (PD) is a specification that offers increased power levels of up to 100 watts. Exclusive to USB-C to Lightning and USB-C to C cables, the energy flow is bidirectional, so a host or a peripheral device can charge the other. One example is a monitor that is plugged into a wall socket that can charge a laptop and still display.

  • HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface. It is an audio and video standard found in television sets, computers, video projectors, and more.

  • DisplayPort refers to an audio and video standard that replaced Video Graphics Array (VGA) and Digital Video Interface (DVI).

  • USB-IF stands for “USB Implementers Forum Inc.” The nonprofit organization exists for the promotion, adoption, and compliance of USB technology. Members include Microsoft, Apple, Intel, and HP.

  • Alt-Mode refers to an interface that allows HDMI-enabled source devices, such as a laptop, to use a USB-C connector to connect to an HDMI-enabled display, like a PC monitor. For this standard, you will use a USB Type-C to HDMI cable.

  • FireWire or IEEE 1394, works in the same way as USB, being an interface that facilitates high-speed and real-time data transfer. The two standards differ in how they achieve the results. Apple​ developed this industry standard, which was launched in 1995.



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