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USB devices are connected together using an inexpensive white jacketed four wire cable with a
characteristic impedance of 90 ohms. USB devices can be either self-powered (with their own
independent power supply) or bus powered. 3 




 . There are two classes
of bus-powered device. Low power devices may draw no more than 100mA of current, whilst high
power devices can draw up to 500mA once configured.


    - on pins two and three, is a twisted pair used to carry data.
The data wires use differential signalling: both carry a signal with respect to ground, and a transition
occurs when the two data lines reverse polarity with respect to one another. This gives better immunity
to noise than the conventional single ended logic signal.

Data is sent as a synchronous serial stream of bits, encoded using NRZI (a 0 is represented by a signal
transition and a 1 by no transition.) Bit stuffing is used to ensure that transitions occur often enough
that the receivers donƞt lose synchronisation. Clock signals are transmitted along with the data, and a
SYNC field precedes each data packet.

The USB operates at two distinct speeds. Full speed gives a bandwidth of 12Mbit/sec. At this speed,
shielded cable must be used to obtain adequate noise immunity and prevent electromagnetic
interference (EMI). Shielded cable is about 5mm. in diameter, and cable segments can have a maximum
length of 5m.

For applications that require a low bandwidth a lower speed operating mode is available. This allows
slightly thinner, cheaper unshielded cable to be used. Cable length is reduced for the unshielded cable
to a maximum 3m. To prevent the high speed signal being transmitted over unshielded cable (which
would cause EMI) and to avoid the risk of low speed devices misinterpreting full speed data as
commands to which they should respond, communication with low speed devices is disabled whilst full
speed signalling is being used.

Two types of plugs and sockets, known as series A and series B, are specified for USB. Series A plugs
and sockets are for use with devices to which the external cable is permanently attached, for example
keyboards, mice and hubs. Series B connectors are used when the USB cabling is detachable, as in the
case of printers, scanners and modems. The two types are not interchangeable.

The series B connectors are about 10.6mm x 12.0mm with the contacts recessed. The mating plug
provides a fully shielded connection. As the plugs and sockets are small it seems likely that USB ports
will appear on laptop as well as desktop PCs as the technology becomes more widespread. USB ports
will be designated by the graphical icon shown in Figure 1