You may have heard the news recently that thanks to a European Union directive, Apple will be forced to ditch the Lightning port and use USB-C instead. (Opens in a new tab) in iPhones from 2024 onwards.
USB-C makes sense for many reasons. The fact that every different smartphone manufacturer can currently use their own proprietary standard for charging and connectivity means that the consumer suffers, as we have to buy additional adapters and new cables when it would be simpler if everyone used the same cables.
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However, Apple argues that if they had not ignored previous EU directives for the use of Micro USB cables, Lightning and USB-C cables would not exist today. But USB-C makes sense because it’s fast and widely supported, mostly by Apple itself, which has been a champion of the standard in many of its devices, just as it once was for FireWire, an old USB competitor that Apple thought was going to set the world on fire, but ended up with. It’s in the scrap heap of history, a monument to Steve Jobs’ arrogance.
thrown into the fire (wire)
FireWire was meant to be a moment where the industry came together and produced a collaborative piece of technology that made everyone’s life better. I’m old enough to remember connecting hard drives to my Mac using a SCSI (Small Computer Systems Interface) connector, which uses old, outdated sockets, but I can also remember the FireWire ports that suddenly appeared on everything from Apple.
FireWire was developed to replace such slow and cumbersome connectors as SCSI with something better, smaller, and faster. These days FireWire is all but forgotten, but the day is set to revolutionize computing, transmitting data at 400 Mbps, simultaneously in both directions, on networks of up to 63 hot-swap devices, using its own microSD. . -controllers, so it is not affected by CPU load. Starting in 1987, FireWire developed as a collaboration between arch-rivals Apple, IBM, and Sony and was much faster than the competing USB standard, which could only manage a paltry 12 megabits per second.
Apple quickly emerged as the driving force behind FireWire, but unfortunately, its need for income at a turbulent time in the company’s financial history improved its judgment and Steve Jobs made the decision to charge an exorbitant fee of $1 per port on any device that used FireWire. Dismayed by Apple’s demand, major backers like Intel have pulled out and switched their primary chipsets to USB. Realizing its mistake, Apple reduced its fee to 25 cents for a single end-user install, but the damage had already been done and Firewire fell into obscurity, as PC manufacturers of the time followed wherever Intel was.
Faster and better versions of FireWire were later released, introduced into the Mac in the form of FireWire 800, and FireWire even featured in the first few generations of the iPod. But the technology almost disappeared from PCs during the 2000s, and was eventually phased out from Macs between 2008 and 2012.
Apple is being forced to change their connectivity standards again with the drop of Lightning, it feels a bit like history repeating itself, and while it’s probably for the better, I still wonder, what’s up with millions of iPhone users like me (Opens in a new tab) You will do with all the Lightning Threads we’ve collected over the years? Burn them all?
A fitting end, perhaps, to the embers first kindled by FireWire.