Hard Disks: FireWire Vs. USB

These two technologies are competing to be the best way to connect electronics together. They both began as a connection to your PC or Mac, but they have grown to be a form of data transfer between almost any electrical data storage device. See who is the winner in one of the biggest technological races of this century.

USB first showed up on the map to solve the problem of Plug N’ Play devices. Most devices were, at that time, connected to a computer via a serial port. Serial ports were not intended for such a wide application of uses and it is a relatively slow port. What USB set out to do was to create a standardized plug that can be duplicated easily with adapters and hubs. The result was the same standard port you see today. It is much faster now than its original version, but it has remained as unchanged as a wall socket. When it was introduced, you actually create 144 USB ports from just one source by duplicating it with hubs. Of course, the PC needs to able to handle the software load. USB started popping up on all types of devices from digital cameras to MP3 players. It is now used to even connect devices together with out even using a computer.

Firewire came about shortly after the release of USB. This severely hurt the spread of its use because USB had quickly become a standard for personal computers. It was developed by Apple and released in 1995 on its G3 Power Mac. Apple had the advantage of being the standard computer in the artistic community, so this was the edge that they had on USB. It took a couple of years, but consumer electronics began using Firewire to appeal to the industry that connected video and sound equipment to their Macs. It was also praised for its speed of data transfer. It was nearly impossible to transfer digitized video via USB because it was too slow. Firewire affected the entertainment industry in such a way it won the 2001 Primetime Emmy Engineering Award.

Which technology is better? With the release of USB 2.0, USB has dominated Firewire and almost made it disappear in the PC industry. Mac still embraces it; even cell phones have USB ports on them. USB is now fast, universal and you can actually charge devices like cell phones and iPods through a USB port. Firewire started out with the speed, but USB has pulled ahead in a dominating way.