Intel’s Thunderbolt Rumbles onto the Interconnect Scene

by Matt Klassen on February 25, 2011

Of interest to both tech/telecom junkies and everyone else who just wants their technology to go faster, yesterday morning Intel unveiled the next generation of data connection technology, codenamed “Thunderbolt”. Capturing the dynamism of lightning shooting across the sky and the bone rattling thunder clap that follows, Intel’s new Thunderbolt will make the current data connection options like USB 3.0 all but obsolete, as it will more than double current data transfer speeds.

Although Thunderbolt interconnect technology, formerly known as Light Peak, will begin its life with the PC, as many technologies before it have, it won’t be long till phones, tablets, and other peripheral devices will be hearing the sound of thunderously fast data transfer speeds in the distance.

But haven’t we heard this before? It’s become almost commonplace to hear companies boasting increased data transfer speeds only to discover that the real speeds are considerably lower. It happened with the much ballyhooed rollout of 3G wireless networks several years ago, I’m sure it’ll happen with the continuing rollout of 4G, and it’s a good bet it’ll happen with Thunderbolt.

Intel first unveiled its Thunderbolt technology back in 2009, claiming, as it still does, that it will transfer data between host devices and external devices at speeds ranging up to 10 gigabits per second. That means, simply put, that Thunderbolt will conceivably be able to transfer a full-length HD movie from an external storage device to a PC in a little under 30 seconds.

So how does it work? Intel’s goal throughout this process was to simplify your computer, reducing the number of ports and connectors that you need to attach all your essential peripherals. To that end, Thunderbolt uses both DisplayPort and PCI-Express data protocols, meaning that it’s compatible with whatever sort of device you’re looking to plug in, removing the headache of having to always find the right port.

Further, each Thunderbolt port has two data transmission channels, meaning that its bidirectional, sending and receiving data simultaneously, not to mention the fact that it can also transmit raw data and audio-video simultaneously as well.

All this, Intel claims, can be done at a blazingly fast rate of 10 GB/sec, more than double the speeds we currently enjoy with the highest end data transfer technology. It will be available first on Apple’s new line of MacBook Pros set for release later this year.

But just in case you thought the future had finally arrived, Intel did admit that it has changed the Thunderbolt technology significantly since it was first announced in 2009. Originally called Light Peak, Intel claimed that it would abolish conventional wires, using light instead to achieve those astronomically high rates of information transfer. Well, scrap that idea, Thunderbolt, as with all its predecessors, is a copper-based system, with Intel claiming that optical-based systems are simply too expensive at this time.

In the end, regardless of whether or not Intel’s Thunderbolt can deliver as advertised, it will be, as most technologies are these days, but a mere step towards something bigger and better as the advancement of technology continues to plod forward unabated.

Photo c/o CNET

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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