“The rise and fall of FireWire — IEEE 1394, an interface standard boasting high-speed communications and isochronous real-time data transfer — is one of the most tragic tales in the history of computer technology.,” Richard C. Moss writes for Ars Technica. “The standard was forged in the fires of collaboration. A joint effort from several competitors including Apple, IBM, and Sony, it was a triumph of design for the greater good. FireWire represented a unified standard across the whole industry, one serial bus to rule them all. Realized to the fullest, FireWire could replace SCSI and the unwieldy mess of ports and cables at the back of a desktop computer.”
“Yet FireWire’s principal creator, Apple, nearly killed it before it could appear in a single device. And eventually the Cupertino company effectively did kill FireWire, just as it seemed poised to dominate the industry,” Moss writes. “The story of how FireWire came to market and ultimately fell out of favor serves today as a fine reminder that no technology, however promising, well-engineered, or well-liked, is immune to inter- and intra-company politics or to our reluctance to step outside our comfort zone.”
“Not even faster, better versions of the technology (a more efficient version of FireWire 400 followed by FireWire 800, which made it into the Mac, and FireWire 1600 and 3200, which didn’t) could save it. Nor could Apple, which also used FireWire in the first few generations of the iPod. The technology all but disappeared from the PC during the 2000s,” Moss writes. “Today FireWire is fading into memory. Thunderbolt took its place at the high end of the market. And at the volume end, USB 2.0 has given way to the much faster USB 3.0, which is now being replaced by USB-C—a standard being led and championed by Apple…”
Tons more in the full article – recommended – here.
MacDailyNews Take: It’s all a distant memory now and we’re more than happy with the ports on our Macs, iPhones, and iPads today, but here’s what we wrote about FireWire at the beginning of its end (the last paragraph is particularly interesting in light of the Mac Pro fiasco we’re currently enduring):
Apple obviously seems to be morphing the iPod family’s connectivity from FireWire-centric to USB-centric. The newest member of the iPod lineup, the iPod shuffle connects via USB 1.1 and 2.0 through integrated USB connector. Today’s latest iPod mini and iPod photo connects via USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 (with FireWire cable, sold separately) through Dock connector.
Only the older iPod Special Edition and iPod models seem to still come with FireWire connectivity (FireWire cable) out-of-the-box, featuring both USB 2.0 and FireWire 400. One guess is all it should take to figure out that the next iPod revision will probably not ship with a FireWire Cable and rely upon USB 2.0 instead.
FireWire was the original iPod’s only connection. Apple invented FireWire. You’d think Apple would use its iPod platform to expand FireWire’s reach, not diminish it. Unfortunately, most Wintel PC’s do not come with FireWire standard while all Macs do. It’s ironic that Apple feels they have to knife their own baby in favor of Intel-developed USB, which many consider to be inferior for data transfer compared to FireWire. If the iPod shuffle is any indication, soon FireWire connectivity for all iPods will be discontinued.
So, Mac + iPod users are in the interesting position of being considered second class citizens by Apple, the maker of the Macintosh no less, as Mac users are being forced to pay extra for the superior FireWire connectivity that our iPods would naturally utilize to connect to our Macs. Because more Windows users buy iPods than Mac users, the iPod’s connectivity is being dumbed down to match Wintel PC’s second-rate “standards.” Enjoy!
What’s next, Apple, building Windows key support into iTunes and forcing Mac users to use a mapped function key on their Mac keyboards?
Note to Apple: be very careful with your Mac users. Do not force Mac users into substandard “solutions” just because that’s what the majority of Wintel PC users happen to be stuck with or “tax” Mac users an extra $20 because we want to use the better, Apple-invented connectivity solution that’s built into our better, Apple-invented Mac computers. Apple, you should allow users to choose between FireWire or USB 2.0 cables at the point of purchase, at least at your online store. We Mac users have been treated as second class citizens for years from most other tech companies, do we now have to endure being treated that way by Apple, too? Remember the people that kept your company going for many bleak years. Mac users are watching what you do and how you treat us now very, very closely. — MacDailyNews, February 23, 2005
1394 Trade Association trumpets FireWire’s advantages as ‘greenest’ interface – March 16, 2009
1394 Trade Association: FireWire’s strong presence in notebooks, storage, more points to growth – November 12, 2008
Online petition asks Apple to add FireWire port to MacBook – October 20, 2008
Apple MacBook’s lack of FireWire shouldn’t be considered a deal-breaker – October 17, 2008
Apple CEO Steve Jobs reportedly responds to Mac user’s outrage over new MacBook’s missing FireWire – October 17, 2008
Some Mac users rage over new MacBook’s missing FireWire – October 16, 2008
Wired claims that ‘Apple quietly kills FireWire 400’ when they haven’t – October 15, 2008
New version of IEEE 1394 standard approved; provides for FireWire speeds up to 3.2 Gigabit/second – July 31, 2008
FireWire to Apple: why have you forsaken me? (part II) – December 09, 2005
FireWire to Apple: why have you forsaken me? – September 09, 2005
Apple disrespects its own Mac users with iPod’s FireWire fiasco – February 24, 2005
Apple should include a combo FireWire and USB 2.0 cable in every iPod box – February 24, 2005
Apple knifing its own FireWire baby by pushing USB 2.0 as iPod’s primary connectivity option – February 23, 2005
Petition to Apple for iPod FireWire support posted online – February 23, 2005
TechWeb: Apple’s FireWire ‘has beat off USB and is poised to break out this year’ – March 19, 2004
FireWire faster than USB 2.0; newer FireWire 800 beats both handily – February 27, 2004