Connecting Thunderbolt Devices

Connecting external devices to a computer has always suffered from two problems: speed (or lack thereof) and inconvenience. The speed issue is an ancient one, and interface designers have been slowly increasing the pace at which various technologies transfer data. For example, USB has gone from a pokey transfer rate of 12 megabits per second (Mbps) in version 1.0, to 480 Mbps in 2.0, and 5 gigabits per second (Gbps) in 3.0. Similarly, FireWire has gone from 400 Mbps in FireWire 400 to 800 Mbps in FireWire 800.

The convenience issue is more complex:

bullet.tif Compatibility. Although newer interface standards are usually backward-compatible with earlier standards, devices designed for the old standard often require an adapter. For example, adding a FireWire 400 device to a FireWire 800 port requires a FireWire 800-to-400 adapter cable.

bullet.tif Connections. Interface connections can be maddeningly inconsistent. USB is the main villain here, with legions of different device-side connectors, including Micro, Mini, Standard-A, Standard-B, and so on.

bullet.tif Driver support. Device driver support can be shaky, particularly with newer technologies. For example, USB 3.0 devices often lack ...

Get MacBook Air Portable Genius, 4th Edition now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.