The USB-C Tidal Wave
Monkey USB-C, Monkey Do!
This is the one goofy little connector-thingy you have got to know about. Out for a couple of years already, USB-C is still looking like the Game Changer we’ve all been waiting for!
Count yourself lucky if you can get the cable you need for a device without a coffee break spent untangling wires. “USB” stands for “Universal Something-or-other Bus” and shouldn’t we focus on the failed 20-year-old promise of “universal”?
At long last, USB-C seems to be seriously detangling the tech landscape. Already in use in phones and tablets, the first laptop implementation for the new plug came from Apple’s MacBook and Google’s Chromebook Pixel, but this is open-standard stuff spilling down the pipeline for everyone (and everything). The MacBook uses the new form factor plug for everything, including power.
USB has been evolving for decades, replacing bazillions of clunky plugs and connectors left and right, but every change seems to have come with the painful “Oh, no! My [device] doesn’t use that kind of plug!” or (even more fun) the pain brought by the printer on the other end that requires a wonky “USB Type B” plug. (You know; the one that isn’t in your drawer.)
More to the point, your phone connector is microscopically small compared to your laptop or desktop connections, so how can anyone call them a “universal” anything? And something truly universal ought to be more capable of A/V hookups and beefy power requirements.
Everything to Everyone
USB-C was designed to handle “everything”; small enough to put into phones and tablets, etc., but powerful enough to service big demands like laptops and more, which is why the new format is taking over the tech world. The new cable serves power to 100 watts (40 times more than a cell phone) while most laptops draw about 60 watts.
More than a new form factor, the USB-C format is also piggy-backing a few other upgrades into one package, since the new cable can even handle previously non-USB functions. To fascinate the nerd within you, the new cable also serves as a Thunderbolt 3 cable for Intel gadgetry, and even without added power (read: “cheap cable”), will be able to carry up to 40 gig data loads through short cords, including video or audio streams.
In non-nerd-speak, one day this thing will do whatever you need it to as long as your gizmo is new enough to have one. Gradually, you will begin to toss those old cords out the nearest window, and one day we will achieve the Pinnacle of All Technology: One Cord for Everything!
Where’d this thing come from?
It’s been all about the speed, baby. USB connections have been pushed hard for faster data since Day One, as the first USB connections topped out at just 12Mbps (megabits per second). USB 2.0 hit 480 Mbps in 2000 and in 2008 USB 3.0 got data rates into the Gbps (gigabits per second) range – up to 5Gbps. USB 3.1 got speeds up to 10Gbps in 2013, called SuperSpeed Plus.
So, how could anything be faster than “super speed plus”? Technobabble aside, USB-C simply has more wires in it – 24 to be precise. (USB 3.0 has 9 pins.) According to the USB Implementers Forum (the group in charge of the format), USB-C is set up with enough room to be “future proof”, at least to a degree. We should see speeds that bury “super-duper giga-lightning+ 10X” labels for years to come.
Caption/info: Apple’s USB-C Connector
By Maurizio Pesce from Milan, Italia (Apple MacBook's new USB-C (Type-C) port) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
License: Public domain
Caption/info: USB Connectors
By Techtonic (Edited from USB types.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
License: Public domain