USB interface covering basic fundamentals

Universal Serial Bus (USB) is a set of interface specifications for high speed wired communication between electronics systems peripherals and devices with or without PC/computer. The USB was originally developed in 1995 by many of the industry leading companies like Intel, Compaq, Microsoft, Digital, IBM, and Northern Telecom.

The major goal of USB was to define an external expansion bus to add peripherals to a PC in easy and simple manner. The new external expansion architecture, highlights,


1. PC host controller hardware and software
2. Robust connectors and cable assemblies
3. Peripheral friendly master-slave protocols
4. Expandable through multi-port hubs.


USB offers users simple connectivity. It eliminates the mix of different connectors for different devices like printers, keyboards, mice, and other peripherals. That means USB-bus allows many peripherals to be connected using a single standardized interface socket. Another main advantage is that, in USB environment, DIP-switches are not necessary for setting peripheral addresses and IRQs. It supports all kinds of data, from slow mouse inputs to digitized audio and compressed video.

USB also allows hot swapping. The “hot-swapping” means that the devices can be plugged and unplugged without rebooting the computer or turning off the device. That means, when plugged in, everything configures automatically. So the user needs not worry about terminations, terms such as IRQs and port addresses, or rebooting the computer. Once the user is finished, they can simply unplug the cable out, the host will detect its absence and automatically unload the driver. This makes the USB a plug-and-play interface between a computer and add-on devices.

The loading of the appropriate driver is done using a PID/VID (Product ID/Vendor ID) combination. The VID is supplied by the USB Implementer’s forum

The USB has already replaced the RS232 and other old parallel communications in many applications. USB is now the most used interface to connect devices like mouse, keyboards, PDAs, game-pads and joysticks, scanners, digital cameras, printers, personal media players, and flash drives to personal computers. Generally speaking, USB is the most successful interconnect in the history of personal computing and has migrated into consumer electronics and mobile products.
USB sends data in serial mode i.e. the parallel data is serialized before sends and de-serialized after receiving.

The benefits of USB are low cost, expandability, auto-configuration, hot-plugging and outstanding performance. It also provides power to the bus, enabling many peripherals to operate without the added need for an AC power adapter.
Various versions USB:
As USB technology advanced the new version of USB are unveiled with time. Let us now try to understand more about the different versions of the USB.
USB1.0: Version 0.7 of the USB interface definition was released in November 1994. But USB 1.0 is the original release of USB having the capability of transferring 12 Mbps, supporting up to 127 devices. And as we know it was a combined effort of some large players on the market to define a new general device interface for computers. This USB 1.0 specification model was introduced in January1996. The data transfer rate of this version can accommodate a wide range of devices, including MPEG video devices, data gloves, and digitizers. This version of USB is known as full-speed USB.
Since October-1996, the Windows operating systems have been equipped with USB drivers or special software designed to work with specific I/O device types. USB got integrated into Windows 98 and later versions. Today, most new computers and peripheral devices are equipped with USB.
USB1.1: USB 1.1 came out in September 1998 to help rectify the adoption problems that occurred with earlier versions, mostly those relating to hubs.
USB 1.1 is also known as full-speed USB. This version is similar to the original release of USB; however, there are minor modifications for the hardware and the specifications. USB version 1.1 supported two speeds, a full speed mode of 12Mbits/s and a low speed mode of 1.5Mbits/s. The 1.5Mbits/s mode is slower and less susceptible to EMI, thus reducing the cost of ferrite beads and quality components.
USB2.0: Hewlett-Packard, Intel, LSI Corporation, Microsoft, NEC, and Philips jointly led the initiative to develop a higher data transfer rate than the 1.1 specifications. The USB 2.0 specification was released in April 2000 and was standardized at the end of 2001. This standardization of the new device-specification made backward compatibility possible, meaning it is also capable of supporting USB 1.0 and 1.1 devices and cables.
Supporting three speed modes (1.5, 12 and 480 megabits per second), USB 2.0 supports low-bandwidth devices such as keyboards and mice, as well as high-bandwidth ones like high-resolution Web-cams, scanners, printers and high-capacity storage systems.
USB 2.0, also known as hi-speed USB. This hi-speed USB is capable of supporting a transfer rate of up to 480 Mbps, compared to 12 Mbps of USB 1.1. That’s about 40 times as fast! Wow!
USB3.0: USB 3.0 is the latest version of USB release. It is also called as Super-Speed USB having a data transfer rate of 4.8 Gbit/s (600 MB/s). That means it can deliver over 10x the speed of today’s Hi-Speed USB connections.
The USB 3.0 specification was released by Intel and its partners in August 2008. Products using the 3.0 specifications are likely to arrive in 2009 or 2010. The technology targets fast PC sync-and-go transfer of applications, to meet the demands of Consumer Electronics and mobile segments focused on high-density digital content and media.
USB 3.0 is also a backward-compatible standard with the same plug and play and other capabilities of previous USB technologies. The technology draws from the same architecture of wired USB. In addition, the USB 3.0 specification will be optimized for low power and improved protocol efficiency.

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Admin has over twenty years experience in the electronics industry, largely dedicated to embedded software. A frequent presenter at conferences and seminars and author of numerous technical articles. Working presently as Development Manager in India. A firm Believer in Knowledge grows when it shared.

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