A Look at FireWire Connectors
IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 1394 is an interface standard for serial bus high-speed communications and isochronous real-time data transfer. This standard was developed in the 1980s and 1990s through a joint effort led by Apple and supplemented by help from companies such as Sony and Panasonic. Aside from IEEE 1394, the interface has been given a number of names based on the company using it. For example, Sony called it i.Link, and Texas Instruments called it Lynx. However, its most recognizable name came from Apple, who called it the FireWire. In this blog, we will discuss the many types of FireWire connectors and their differences.
FireWire connectors come in many types that are generally identified by the number of pins they have or by their physical shape. Two of the most common versions of the IEEE 1394 standard connectors are the FireWire 400 and 800. Their numbers mainly refer to the connector’s transfer speeds, but each one also uses a different number of pins. Additionally, the FireWire 800 also uses a connector type that is significantly different from others. The connector is more square in shape while the previous models were flat with a notch or pointed end. Certain types of FireWire connectors use connections that differ from these, though they are not common.
Every type of the FireWire standard uses a different number of pins, provides varying transfer speeds, and, in some cases, makes use of differently-shaped connectors. Because of their different sizes, shapes, and pin configurations, these connectors are not always directly compatible, but the use of various adapters and cables will allow all versions of the FireWire standard to be used together.
When the first FireWire was introduced, the connectors used four pins. This version is still in use today, and is referred to as FireWire 400. Of all versions, the FireWire 400 uses the smallest connector. There is a variation of this connector that uses six pins rather than four, although the additional connections only provide power to external devices and do not provide additional transfer speed. Four and six pin FireWire connectors are both known as alpha connectors, and the version with six pins is significantly larger.
A third type of FireWire connector is the beta connector. This connector utilizes nine pins and is much bigger than both the four and six pin versions. Beta connectors are used in conjunction with FireWire 800 devices, though the proper adapters can make them compatible with any other standard devices. Despite this, it should be noted that when a FireWire 800 device, designed to be used with a beta connector, is plugged into a FireWire 400 device or port, it is likely that performance and transfer speeds will both suffer.
In addition to alpha and beta connectors, there are a few other types of FireWire connectors, such as proprietary connector types that use varying types of the IEEE 1394 standard. One such example is the IEEE 1394c, a different specification designed to use a traditional Ethernet connector and twisted pair cable. The IEEE 1394c allows one port to function as both an Ethernet connection and a FireWire connection simultaneously.
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