Monday, March 31, 2008
Since so many of the gadgets that people enjoy these days are based on computer technology, they need to have a way to interface with those computers. In the past gadgets used bulky serial cables and even bulkier parallel cables to connect with computers, but now there's a whole new standard that's a lot more versatile: the USB connection.
USB ports are much smaller than either the parallel port or the serial port and can therefore be built into smaller gadgets. In fact, many USB cables have a standard connection on one end and a much slimmer connection on the other end in order to make plugging much smaller gadgets into computers possible. These allow compact devices like digital cameras and MP3 players to have full interface capabilities with computers, making for a great way to pass digital photos, videos, and audio back and forth between these gadgets and the computer.
One of the most ingenious uses for the USB cable is the MP3 player. In the case of most iPods, these popular gadgets come with docking stations that connect to the iPod through the same port that the earphones are plugged into. The docking station in turn, is attached to the computer via a USB cable. This allows both fresh musical content and power to recharge the battery to flow into the gadget simultaneously.
The ability that USB technology provides to have gadgets powered by a computer is also extremely useful. In addition to the case of the iPod, it's now possible to get various forms of USB gadgets that will charge batteries through their USB connections. In fact, there are even gadgets that will charge batteries for other gadgets through a USB cable. Another interesting development is a special mouse that connects to a computer through a USB interface and has built in heating elements in its body. The computer supplies power to the mouse that the mouse converts into heat to keep its user's hand warm!
The small size of the USB connection also makes it possible to build it into gadgets that previously weren't possible before. Combined with ultra compact flash memory, it's now possible to store large amounts of data on extremely small gadgets and access that data incredibly quickly when these gadgets are connected to a computer. In addition to MP3 players, there are a variety of USB based gadgets that are used exclusively for storage and transferring data between computers. Many of these are small enough to fit on key chains and are called thumb drives, pen drives, and many other similar names.
The small size of flash memory paired with USB technology has also produced a variety of gadgets that are meant to conceal data storage. For example, there are a variety of very inconspicuous looking- and completely functional- watches and pens that house flash memory and the USB connections that are allow the memory to be loaded with data that wasn't meant to leave a computer to begin with. Some models even have built in microphones that allow them to record possibly incriminating conversations and for eavesdropping.
There are definitely some fascinating applications for USB based gadgets.