Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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The life and death of FireWire

Richard C. Moss has an interesting history of the high-speed protocol over at Ars Technica:

Despite rising Mac sales, Apple’s financial situation remained dire. The company needed more income. After being informed of IBM’s hundreds of millions in yearly patent revenue, CEO Steve Jobs authorized a change in FireWire’s licensing policy. Apple would now charge a fee of $1 per port. (So if a device has two ports, that’s $2 per unit.)

The consumer electronics industry was outraged. They saw it as untenable and unjustified. Intel sent its CTO to talk to Jobs about the change, but the meeting went badly. Intel decided to withdraw its support for FireWire–to pull the plug on efforts to build FireWire into its chipsets–and instead throw its weight behind USB 2.0, which would have a maximum speed of 480 megabits a second (more like 280, or 30 to 40 MB/s, in practice).

I remember how mind-blowing FireWire was back in my Blue & White PowerMac G3, back in 1999–not that I had much use for it at first. But I also remember the sharp divisions between Apple and Sony’s implementations making it confusing and frustrating, especially when trying to explain the virtues to others. But I still have fond memories of trying to find an enclosure for a portable hard drive that used the Oxford 911 chipset, which resulted in a really sweet little drive that I carried around for many years.

Apple has, of course, moved on to the much more versatile Thunderbolt protocol for high speed transfer and I’m looking forward to my new iMac’s use of the ports. (Even though I had to buy a Thunderbolt 3/USB-C to Thunderbolt 2 adapter).

—Linked by Dan Moren

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