Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Tragedy of FireWire

Richard C. Moss (Hacker News):

He noted that Nintendo’s Game Boy link cable was unlike anything else, and they could make it unique to their technology by swapping the polarization around. The connector could use exactly the same technology—same pins and everything—and it would look different. Better yet, the Game Boy link cable was the first major connector that put the fragile springy parts inside the cable. That way, when the springy bits wear out, you just have to buy a new cable rather than replace or repair the device.

The problem with the FireWire 400 connector was that it wasn’t asymmetrical enough to prevent it from being jammed in backwards.

FireWire’s innovations as a technology were drawing attention from the tech press—Byte magazine awarded it Most Significant Technology, for instance—but within Apple, Teener recalls that simply keeping the project alive required a conspiracy between FireWire’s Apple and IBM collaborators. Supporters kept the project funded by each telling their marketing guys the other companies were going to use it.

Getting funded and getting shipped is not the same thing, however. The decision-makers in the Mac engineering and marketing groups refused to add FireWire to the Mac. “Their argument was, ‘Well, show us that it’s being adopted in the industry, and we’ll put it in,’” explained Sirkin. It was their technology, but they didn’t want to be first to push it.


After being informed of IBM’s hundreds of millions in yearly patent revenue, CEO Steve Jobs authorized a change in FireWire’s licensing policy. Apple would now charge a fee of $1 per port. […] A month later, Apple lowered the fee to 25 cents per (end-user) system, with that money distributed between all patent holders. But it was too late. Intel wasn’t coming back to the table.

2 Comments RSS · Twitter

Interesting article.

Perhaps tangential to the points they were trying to make, but seems worth noting that FireWire on the Mac, along with it being the Sony DV native transfer is what was absolutely the core behind FCP massively taking over the NLE market from Avid around the turn of the century.

Ah, the good ol' days.

... and now we have to worry about DMA ports like FireWire and Thunderbolt being used to exploit the firmware of our computers. Good ol' days, indeed!

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