Friday, February 25, 2011

This Thunderbolt won't hurt you

Standards are wonderful things but the problem is there are just too darn many of them.

Take a look at the humble PC for instance... over the years it's been littered with more sockets and connectors than you can shake a stick at and all so that it can connect to other bits of hi-tech gear.

In the beginning there was the humble RS232, a simple and slow connection that allowed the transfer of data between computers or between computer and peripheral. Unfortunately, RS232 was hardly plug and play.

To make devices with RS232 connections talk to each other you had to tweak around with all manner of settings such as baud rates, parity settings, stop-bits, DTR, CTS, CD and a host of other options, any one of which could turn an otherwise meaningful data interchange into garbage -- or just utter silence.

Other standards were also used. There was the VGA connection for your old colour monitor, the ISA bus inside the box and the Centronics parallel port for hooking up printers, and sometimes scanners.

Over the years, many new standards appeared and most of them have already long since vanished without trace. There was IBM's MCA, the VL-Bus, IDE, SCSI and many more that are hardly worth a mention.

Now we have USB and USB 2.0 as well as FireWire, ethernet, SATA etc, etc, bla, bla...

So do we really need yet another connector on our computers and another standard to add to the long list of here-today, gone-tomorrow acronyms and coded titles?

Well Intel thinks so.

They've just announced "Thunderbolt".

Woohoo... sounds exciting, doesn't it?

But do we really need it?

One of the key claims for Thunderbolt is its gobsmackingly high data-transfer rates. It's 20 times faster than USB 2.0 and 12 times faster than good old FireWire.

Apparently, using Thunderbolt you could transfer an entire HD movie in under 30 seconds -- if it weren't for the pesky DRM that would likely ankle-tap such an attempt before it even got started.

The system uses PCI Express and can operate as a daisy-chain, allowing for an almost unlimited number of peripherals to connect through a single port.

It is this daisy-chaining and multiplexing that makes Thunderbolt quite a cool connection. In theory, a computer would need only a single Thunderbolt connector to hook up every peripheral you could ever need. Display, keyboard, mouse, scanner, printer, network -- they could all be daisy-chained off that single little connector.

Right now, the latest MacBooks are among the first computers to offer a Thunderbolt port however, I expect it's only a matter of time before the back of your desktop and your laptop become a lot less cluttered -- as everyone jumps on the Thunderbolt bandwagon.

Yes, just what we needed -- yet another standard!

No comments:

Post a Comment