When did USB get so complicated?

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What does USB stand for?

Posted on 11 September 2023 by Beaming Support

Whether in the form of stick, cable or port, most people will have come across a USB at some point when using a computer. Standing for Universal Serial Bus, USB was first introduced in 1996, with the goal of making it easier to plug devices into your computer.


What’s the difference between USB 1.0, 1.1, 2.0 and 3.0?

The initial version (USB 1.0) had a top speed of 12MBits/s, was limited in the length of the cable, and was not widely adopted.

Version 1.1 was rolled out in August 1998 and was much more widely adopted due to greater stability.  It was better, but still not perfect.


USB 2.0 arrived in 2001 and was a huge upgrade, sometimes referred to as ‘High Speed’ USB at 480MBits/s.  The connector stayed largely the same but ‘mini’ and ‘micro’ versions were introduced, mainly for use in devices where space was a concern, such as digital cameras and mobile phones.

USB 2.0 was fully ‘backwards-compatible’ with USB 1 (it was able to be used with it, without needing any adaptors), and saw a very quick uptake with motherboard and peripheral manufacturers quick to launch devices.


2008 saw the introduction the 3.0 version of USB, this again increased the speed available up to 5Gbit/s – a 10-fold increase in performance.  Again, this new standard was quickly adopted, and can be spotted on a device by the blue plastic piece inside the connector.


What is USB-C?

Throughout the lifetime of USB, the biggest complaint has always been that its quite tricky to plug connections into the standard socket. Many users will be familiar with the frustration of trying to connect a cable, to find the USB is upside down. The Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) took this complaint on board, and in 2014 finalized the specification for the new USB ‘Type-C’ connector.

This connector works with all previous (and is designed to also work with all future) versions of USB, including all the 3.x versions of USB 3 that have been launched, taking the maximum speed up to an impressive 40Gbits/s.

In addition to the usual power and data transmission capabilities of USB, the Type-C connector also introduced transmission of videos and also increased the power transfer capabilities of the connectors. This means that a laptop can now be equipped with a single Type-C port that would be capable of sending the display to an external monitor as well as its power, meaning much easier cable management.

This can lead to some issues, in that it’s easy to assume when you see a Type-C connector on a device that this means it’s able to do all the things Type-C can do (power delivery, data communications, display signal, network passthrough etc) but unfortunately that’s not the case – it’s always worth checking with the manufacturer before purchasing.

About Beaming

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From the resilient and secure network we’ve built, to the choice of tailormade products all supplied with expert service, we provide peace of mind that businesses require.

We know that your business is unique, so we take the time to get to know you and your specific needs. If you’re looking for a reliable ISP for your business, we’d love to chat.