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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Light Peak - The Interface Of The Future

Transmission speed between devices has always been critical for computer audio and video recording and editing. The faster the communication between the computer, hard drive, and peripheral devices, the more higher resolution tracks can be comfortably worked on. But the number of different interface formats available have made it difficult for the average musician and engineer to keep up. 

In the not too distant past (2000), the finicky SCSI was a professional must, until replaced with Firewire, which was thought to be the answer to the dream of plug and play. But USB, then USB 2.0 was adopted by most of the computer world, even though it wasn't as fast as Firewire in real-world use. Then the double speed Firewire 800 was introduced, which only Apple seemed to offer, then eSATA became the choice of pros. For the last year, USB 3.0 has been touted as the interface format of the future, but it's been slow to be adopted by manufacturers.

That's why when I tell you that there's another interface format sitting behind the scenes, you'll probably wonder why you should care. The reason why you should is that faster is always better when it comes to computers, and every device in our electronic world has one inside it these days trying to talk to the outside world.

Word now comes that a new optical interface format by computer chip maker Intel called Light Peak has been endorsed by both Apple and Sony, which may begin to appear on computers as soon as 2011. Why is that important? Because Light Peak is 25 times faster than both Firewire and USB 2 that we're currently used to, with a speed of over 10 Gigabits per seconds in both directions simultaneously, and potentially as high as 100 Gig! This means that 32 tracks of 196kHz recording would be a breeze, making high-resolution audio recording a daily event, instead of the 48kHz that most of the world lives with. It would mean full backups of terabyte hard drives that would happen in minutes instead of hours. It would bring editing of multiple hi-definition video streams inexpensively to the average home videomaker.

All of this is also being offered by USB 3.0, but it's only 10 times faster than what we're currently using, and acceptance has been slow, mostly because Intel has not included it into their computer chipsets. Now we know why, since Intel stands to benefit from use of Light Peak, which was developed in-house.

So remember that you heard it here first - Light Peak could be coming to a computer near you, and your life will be better for it. For more info, check out the article at CNET.

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