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What are IEEE-1394 connectors?

IEEE-1394 is a communication technology that was developed by Apple® in the early 1990s, at about the same time as USB. The original IEEE-1394 standard is known as FireWire, IEEE-1394a, DV or as i.Link® (Sony®'s implementation of the standard). Occasionally it is referenced as FireWire 400 due to its maximum data transfer speed of 400 Mbps. Because it was more costly to implement than USB, IEEE-1394 did not become as popular an interface for peripheral devices. However, its fast performance and stability have made it a popular choice for high-bandwidth applications such as digital video and portable storage. One of IEEE-1394's biggest advantages over USB is that it does not require a host controller. This means that two IEEE-1394 devices can communicate without the use of a computer. For example, video can be dubbed from one DV camcorder to another through the use of an IEEE-1394 connection. More recently, the development of FireWire 800 (IEEE-1394b) arose with the maximum data transfer speed of 800 Mbps. Remember that for adapter cables with one 4- or 6-pin connector and a FireWire 800 9-pin connector, the maximum transfer rate remains 400 Mbps.

4-Pin Connector

The 4-pin connector is rectangular in shape, with a small notch or indentation on the bottom edge of the connector shell. A 4-pin connector only carries data, and no power, so it is often found on peripherals that have their own power supplies. This connector type is also commonly found on laptop computers.

6-Pin Connector

The 6-pin connector is larger than the 4-pin, and is rectangular-shaped with beveled corners on one end. It has flattened contacts that withstand well the rigors of repeatedly connecting and disconnecting. A 6-pin interface provides DC power in addition to the data signals. These interfaces are often found on devices that can provide power, such as a desktop computer.

9-Pin Connector

9-pin connectors are part of a recent improvement to the IEEE-1394 technology, called FireWire 800 (or IEEE-1394b). The improvement to the specification allows transfer of data at up to twice the speed of the original IEEE-1394 standard. The 9-pin connector is a rectangle with square corners. It has 5 pin contacts on one side, and 4 pin contacts on the other. This new connector type can be adapted to the older 4-pin and 6-pin connector. However, when adapted, the maximum transfer rate will be 400 Mbps. This type of connector is commonly found on Apple® computers.