USB IS one of the most important technologies in the entire tech industry. We use it for data transfer, we use it to power devices, we use it for security (all with varying degrees of success).
But here we are, 19.5 years into the millennium and we're still largely stuck using a connector that relies on being inserted the right way, which is usually the second way you try. How the heck did that happen?
Ajay Bhatt, who worked on Intel's implementation of the USB standard recently spoke to US public radio (NPR) about the invention of USB, and why the flip it wasn't reversible in the first place.
The short answer is cost. To create a reversible design would have needed twice the wiring, twice the engineering and would negate the low-cost criteria for the project.
"In hindsight, based on all the experiences that we all had, of course, it was not as easy as it should be," he explains, but it could have been worse - the rectangular design was deliberately employed so there was a 50/50 chance of getting it right, first time.
"Both as a user and a developer, I saw that at that time, available interfaces were complex and very user unfriendly."
In short, we don't know we're born - imagine a jack plug that only worked at 0 degrees? The loss of office productivity alone would have been phenomenal.
USB-C finally solved the problem with a reversible connector in 2014, but even that has been beset with problems relating to the various standards it combines - bus speed, power delivery and Thunderbolt support are making the whole thing a minefield.
As for Bhatt - you'd think he'd be kicking it on an island in the Caribbean for an invention like that, right?
Alas, it was not to be. Bhatt was on the Intel payroll, and Intel took the patent rights. Bhatt hasn't made a penny more from inventing USB than if he hadn't. But it's still something to tell the grandkids, eh? μ
A hard pill to swallow
Right on schedule, sort of
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