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Analog Angle Article

When “universal” really is–almost

Among the words that induce severe skepticism into an engineering editor's heart are these: universal, complete, revolutionary, ideal, solution, and perfect. In reality, no product. service, or industry development meets all needs of the audience, under all circumstances, while consuming no power and costing nothing!

That's why I was impressed by some new numbers from In-Stat (www.instat.com) that shows that USB—Universal Serial Bus—is doing very, very well. Even if you discount their prediction of shipment growth to 2.8 billion units in 2010, the 2005 figure of 1.4 billion units shipped is impressive.

I have to admit, I never saw this coming. When USB first came out, it was designed for easier interface from the PC to keyboard, mouse, scanner, and printer, all low-speed applications. While USB proponents promised a faster version soon, it took a little longer than anticipated (no surprise there), and it was easy for some of us to be cynical. But, the USB 2.0 spec has really meshed with many applications. It has displaced the venerable RS-232 port on PCs, it's become the low-cost, reasonably high-speed interface in many applications, and it has even eliminated the IEEE-488 GPIB port on the latest Tektronix oscilloscope. That's impressive.

The lesson here is that sometimes our industry's promises do come true. While USB is not for every application, of course, it's impressive how the combination of performance, end-user simplicity, low cost, and support tools and software has really made it a non-universal winner.

Bill Schweber , Site Editor, Planet Analog
bschweber@cmp.com

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