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Top 10 Epic Phail PC Technologies: Firewire

Updated on May 25, 2009

To apply the vernacular of the modern online PC enthusiast: Firewire is an Epic Phail. Why?

Firewire has massively disappointed the expectations of the techy crowd which just a few years ago fully expected it to be "the next big thing." At the time that the first Firewire standard was premiered, USB 1.0 was still the standard on most PCs and for a short time it seemed as if Firewire was going to dethrone SCSI for the segment of computer users which required peripheral connections which functioned at the highest possible bandwidth.

Apple was the first "true believer and evangelist" of Firewire as they incorporated ports into most of the higher end Macs with the expectation that Firewire was going to do darn near everything, including setting up RAID systems.

Then, USB 2.0 was introduced and it turned out that it was more than sufficient an interface for the currently existing cameras, portable hard drives, printers, and a nearly infinite range of just about everything else. For the higher bandwidth internal requirements, SATA established itself as the new standard, and Firewire was left as the exclusive domain of a handful of higher end video equipment and a few bits and bobs here and there.

Today the USB connection is about as universal as the audio port. I doubt you'd be able to find too many PCs on the market today which do not embrace USB technology. Even the most greenhorn neophyte computer user can plug in a USB connector into the right port, and thus it has become a part of the modern computing experience.

This is not to say that USB is a great system. The connector was designed by a committee of lobotomized vegetables. You have to look very carefully at the connector to determine which side is up, which is often nearly impossible when you're scrunched up underneath a desk trying to plug in a gaggle of connectors into the proper ports behind a case.

Would it have hurt them to make one side marked with a big yellow arrow, or to engineer the connector asymmetrically so that it was obvious which way it went in? It's very easy to push in the connector upside down with disastrous results and it could have so easily been designed in such a way that this common error would be next to impossible. Even if you get the connector in right side up, a good sideways yank on the cable will likely result in ruining the connector, the port, or both.

Firewire today is nothing more than an inconvenience. Unless you're very careful and proactive in doing your homework, you may find that you've just brought home a portable video recorder with a Firewire interface and then realize that your computer is not equipped to connect to it. Many new PCs do not incorporate Firewire, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Why saddle your PC with an expensive interface that is supported only by a few esoteric devices?

There is no disputing that Firewire is a considerably superior technology to USB 2.0, especially when it comes to considering high bandwidth requirements in an external peripheral interface. Then again, there are various other high bandwidth interfaces existing in the universe of computer technology which most PC users have never heard of and would have no use for even if they had. Fortunately or unfortunately, we have to place Firewire firmly within that constellation of completely pointless junk.

Continued in

Top 10 Epic Phail PC Technologies: Itanium

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