RT Cunningham


USB4 and USB-C - I Predict a Hardware Revolution Like No Other

USB4 and USB-CThe first USB specification was released in January 1996. The latest came out in August 2019. USB 1.0 moves data at a maximum speed of 12 megabits. USB4 moves data at a maximum speed of 40 gigabits, but it requires a compatible USB-C cable to take full advantage of the increased speed. I’m not aware of any new USB-C cables supporting anything over 20 gigabits.

There’s been a lot of noise about USB4 and naming conventions, exemplified by articles from Gizmodo and Lifehacker. I’m here to make some noise of my own, but for other reasons.

Will USB4 Something be the Last Specification?

Probably not and I can’t tell you why 40 gigabits isn’t fast enough. The USB specifications started out simple enough, but now they’ve gone and messed up all the names. It’s not just USB 3.0, 3.1 or 3.2. It’s now USB 3.2 something for all those in the “3” series. I expect USB4 to be treated the same way.

It’s becoming a challenge to figure out which cable goes with what port since they all look alike. The hardware, already in packaging and sitting on store shelves, isn’t going to magically rename itself to make things easier for us.

It’s going to be awhile, at least a couple of years, before USB-C cables are commonly seen.

USB Cables

I have one laptop computer, stored at my house in the Philippines, with two USB 2 ports and one USB 3 port. The laptop computer I’m using now has one USB 2 port and two USB 3 ports. Both are made by HP and I have no idea what they were thinking when they did things this way.

The only device that my wife, Josie, and I have that uses a newer cable is a Samsung Galaxy S10e. And I seriously doubt it’ll reach the maximum USB4 speed, even if I ever have anything to connect at that speed.

I need label tags for the USB cables I already have. Some transfer data and power, but most only transfer power. I don’t have any that transfer only data, even though I understand they exist.

The USB4 Hardware Revolution

I’m predicting a hardware revolution and I really hope it happens. Maybe not as dramatic as “like no other”, but still a revolution. You see, I like desktop computers more than laptop computers. Unfortunately, they don’t like me, especially in the humid and dusty climate of Olongapo, Philippines.

When a desktop computer’s motherboard fails, it usually takes other components with it. In the past, I always had to replace the motherboard, the CPU and the power supply at the same time. More often than not, I didn’t have the required memory modules for the new motherboard. Fixing a desktop computer started becoming more expensive than buying inexpensive laptop computers.

I already use USB peripherals with my laptops. I have external hard drives (only good for storage), flash drives (good for little more than storage), Bluetooth receivers and portable mouse receivers. With these laptops, I really can’t use any more (at least, not at the same time).

I would love for a desktop computer to only have the items I mentioned with the motherboards inside the case, with several USB4 (or greater) ports available (something like these, actually). That way, it would be almost as cheap to replace a desktop computer as it is with a laptop computer. Both of my laptop computers cost me less than $300 each, by the way.

I Hate Wires

If I had a desktop computer with the capabilities I dream of, every peripheral would be wireless. That includes the keyboard and the monitor. I don’t like wires protruding from any ports, not just the USB ports. It’s not that they’re messy. I’m clumsy and I can trip over my own feet.

As I rapidly approach my senior years, the last thing I need to do is fall down and not be able to get back up again.

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By RT Cunningham
September 17, 2019

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