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Basic Description:

IEEE 1394, more commonly known as FireWire, is a high-speed data and communications transfer device used by cameras, personal computers, image editing, mass storage devices, and audio applications. However it's two most common uses are mass external storage devices and professional audio applications. This connection is commonly known by different names, depending on the company that produced it. The term, and perhaps the most common name for the cable is FireWire, which is coined by Apple which was the original company that developed the technology. Sony's name for the connection is iLink, and Texas Instruments calls it Lynx. FireWire started development in the late 1980's, and finally completed in 1995. It has not caught on in the low end market becuase it costs much more than USB, and so companies cannot afford to purchase it. If money is no object, then Firewire would be preferred over USB because of its fast rate of transfer and because it does not require a computer host for a connection.

FireWire 400

There are two main types of FireWire cables, but there are many upgrades. The first generation of Firewire, Firewire 400, was released in 1995. It had a 6-circuit connecter, also commonly known as an alpha connector. FireWire 400 had the ability to transfer at three different speeds, 12, 25, 50 megabytes per second (roughly). This cable does have limitations, though, as it can only made into a 14 foot cord. In order to overcome this, however, the cable had the ability to be chained up to 16 times.
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FireWire 800

Firewire 800 a faster version of it's predecessor, Firewire 400, and was introduced in 2002. It has a 9-circuit connector which allows it to have a faster rate of transfer and was created to have a longer cord than FireWire 400. FireWire 800 is basically the same as 400, just a much quicker version of 400 with a few other modifications.It is backwards compatible to the slower rates and 6-circuit alpha connectors of FireWire 400. However, while the IEEE 1394a and IEEE 1394b standards are compatible, FireWire 800's connector, referred to as a beta connector, is different from FireWire 400's alpha connectors, making legacy cables incompatible.The full IEEE 1394b specification supports data rates up to 3200 Mbit/s over beta-mode or optical connections up to 100 metres (110 yd) in length. Standard Category 5e unshielded twisted pair supports 100 metres (330 ft) at S100. The original 1394 and 1394a standards used data/strobe (D/S) encoding (renamed to alpha mode) on the circuits, while 1394b adds a data encoding scheme called 8B10B referred to as beta mode.
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FireWire is faster than USB and uses less CPU resources. On the down side, though, it is much more expensive than USB and is not as widely accepted as USB.


One unique feature of FireWire is that is does not use any system memory or the CPU. FireWire can also be used to for peer to peer connections as well as operate up to 63 peripherals at one time. It is also used in many different places such as automobiles and aircrafts.

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