Universal Serial Bus or USB as it is more commonly known was designed and introduced in 1994 by after a joint project by major companies such as Intel, Microsoft, IBM, Compaq as well as others. Their aim was to create a serial bus which could be used to connect common devices to host computers, each other and together through hubs. The collaboration saw Intel produce the UHCI host controller and open software, Microsoft manufactured the software so USB was compatible with Windows while Phillips were responsible for USB Audio. Together they created what is today the most common, standard connection port interface.
The single connector was formed to replace the vast amounts of serial and parallel ports used on PCs, none of which were compatible with each other. The introduction of USB keyboards, mice and printers could all connect the same connection port. Its introduction simplified software configuration of communication devices and introduced one peripheral plug and port standard instead of many incompetent ones which essentially served the same functions. When introduced the transfer rate of USB 1.0 was 12Mbps.
Plug and play capability was improved as devices could be connected and discounted without the need for rebooting or turning a computer off. It is now used to connect many periphers such as mice, MP3, audio, keyboards, media players, external hard drives, digital camera etc. Although initially designed for use with personal computers many devices now use USB connection as standard, with many using the USB cables with an AC adapter for power supply.
With the need for an interface with a higher data transfer rate growing USB 2.0 was launched in 2000 and officially standardized a year later. At 480Mbps it is over twenty times faster than the original 1.0 design.
In 2008 the most recent specification, USB 3.0 was released onto the market and boasts a transfer rate ten times that of USB 2.0.
The problem of having too many plug interfaces, with compatibility issues, when one will suffice was solved. Devices are now less costly and confusing for customers and manufacturers. Standard USB cables can now be used to connect many peripherals while standard USB hubs can link a number of devices into one single port. Another unintended advantage of USB is its ability to power certain devices without the need for an AC adapter.