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Comdex coverage by CNN and

That's 111 (count 'em!) peripherals on one PC

Universal Serial Bus demonstration shows some enthusiasm for the plug-and-play connection.

November 17, 1998
Web posted at: 2:25 PM ET

by Nancy Weil

LAS VEGAS (IDG) -- As a world record-breaking "event," the hooking of 111 peripherals to a single PC was anticlimactic and corny. But beyond the goof quotient that seems to go along with such Comdex displays, the USB Implementers Forum here on Monday showed how broadly the plug-and-play Universal Serial Bus has been accepted.

Vendors are poised to release a flurry of USB-compatible peripherals within the next year. By 1999's end, a USB port will be entirely standard on PCs. Right now, there are more than 100 USB peripherals available, including mice, keyboards, joysticks, scanners, and digital cameras--a good representation of which were part of the latest record breaking.
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Another 100 or so USB peripherals will be out in coming months, according to Steve Whalley, the forum chair who also is connectivity initiatives manager at Intel. USB compatibility is central to Apple's splashy iMac, and native to Windows 98, the release of which has helped spark the market.

Science Guy plugs in

The beauty of USB was best described at the event by Bill Nye, the "Science Guy" who appears on a popular Public Broadcasting System show. "You just plug it in and fire it up," Nye said.

Nye was given the honorary duty of firing up the 111th peripheral hooked to a single PC. It was unclear that all of the peripherals actually were working, but a quick test of several by Nye, who seemed extremely excited, indicated that at least some were operable.

Theoretically, you can connect 127 peripherals, but forum officials were dodgy on the question of whether they would make a run at the theoretical limit during Comdex. The carpet on the show floor created enough static that Nye and others who plugged in peripherals sprinkled their shoes with bottled water to increase conductivity.

USB for all

USB "is a late starter that is now running well," DataQuest analyst Martin Reynolds said, declaring "1999 should be the year of USB." And if it isn't, he pledged to return next year and proclaim the same of 2000.

He might not have to make a repeat appearance. The market will hit nearly 400 million units by 2002, according to Cahners In-Stat Group research provided by the forum.

You may recall that early USB products had a common trait: "they didn't work," said Reynolds. He noted that older software was a barrier to USB's easy configuration, but that software, hardware, and peripherals are all now working companionably USB-wise.

As is common, the gamers are helping push the frenzy, wanting faster connectivity to enable force feedback devices like joysticks and steering wheels.

An even larger boost is expected when USB compatibility is offered in future versions of Windows CE, UNIX, and Linux, forum officials predicted.

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