When I look around for tech business related nuggets for myself, some of which I share in this series, my primary go to topics are related to software, SaaS and startups. Then super high level ideas that need pondering about or keeping them in the periphery of your vision lest they become a Tsunami behind your back. Time to time I come across a story which does not fit my normal scheme of things but are so compelling that I feel like sharing it with friends. One such came out just a few days back in Fast Company written by Joel Johnson. It is the story of how the USB port came about.
Remember pre USB days. Seems Ajay Bhat, the man behind the USB (not alone) though he evangelized it for months before his formidable team mates came on board – Bala Cadambi, Jim Pappas, Steve Whalley, Jim Morris and many more.
“It was probably in 1992—I had joined Intel in 1990—that I started looking at the PC. I always felt that they were too difficult to use. I based that on my observation with my family’s struggle with computers and doing a simple thing like printing a document.” says Ajay Bhatt.
It took him over 18 months and a change of boss to get a nod for creating a universal connector. They were able to get support and evolve into larger group with multiple subgroup focused on different disciplines like overall protocols, the organizing of bits, electromechanical issues like connectors and cables and business and adoption. And according to Bala – “Ajay was central to developing the spec itself. That’s where his passion was.”
How did the name come about? Apparently it was a ‘significant committee effort. They clearly wanted to avoid a number like 1394 (from IEEE 1394 which got eventually got labeled as FireWire). They considered consumerist names but abandoned the idea and eventually went for the well entrenched practice at Intel of forming acronyms. Universality was core to the idea and also became the starting point. Bus was the industry standard term. and while other interfaces were going parallel this team decided to go Serial. There, you have the Universal Serial Bus or USB.
There are side characters like Betsy Tanner of Microsoft who played a major role in making USB a reality. Ajay Bhatt and Bala Cadambi, Jeff Morriss, Shaun Knoll and Shelagh Callahan received the European Inventor Award ( Non-European Country) in 2013 for USB. And while folks laughed at their initial estimates of 100 million devices, within a few years after launch, Intel was shipping 2.2 billion units a year.
Link to the long read article: