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Benefits and limitations of USB

USB has come a long way since its conception in 1995. It was originally designed to simplify the way consumers controlled peripherals and transferred data. Before USB, the main interfaces used were parallel and serial connectors, both with different protocols for transferring data and controlling peripherals. These connectors were often awkward and required numerous pins to be aligned to fit into the holes on the female end connectors. Comparatively, they also offered slower transfer speeds than the USB connector.

The latest version of USB, USB 2.0, was created in 2000 and enabled a revolutionary transfer speed of 480 Mbps. It is an easy-to-plug interface, using a four-pin encased plastic tab to handle data transfer and electrical power. . It is impossible to insert the connector upside down, and even a child can insert and remove the cable.

When this interface was released, the major manufacturers saw the value in the connector, and the interface lived up to its name: Universal Serial Bus. Having one universal connector for many different applications greatly benefits the consumer by reducing cost. price of connectivity options across all products and brands, and also simplifies overall connectivity for different applications.

Unfortunately, one of the main drawbacks of USB is the distance limitation. USB can only travel up to 16 feet. While this doesn’t affect most consumers who use USB to transfer data from external drives or to sync their MP3 players, it does affect commercial and industrial environments that use the protocol in large-scale control situations.

Some of the products available to solve the length limitation are active extenders and Cat5 extenders. Active extenders essentially repeat the signal to allow you to travel an additional 16 feet using active electronics. The Cat5 extender uses a sender and receiver to send the USB signals over Cat5. This option is best for longer distance USBs, often sending the USB signal over Cat5 lengths of 150 feet. Cat5 is the medium of choice because it is inexpensive and easy to install in walls and data networks.

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