Quick Overview of IEEE 1394

The IEEE 1394 high-speed serial bus promises to revolutionize the transport of digital data for computers and for professional and consumer electronics products. By providing an inexpensive non-proprietary high-speed method of interconnecting digital devices, a truly universal I/O connection has been created. Its scalable architecture and flexible peer-to-peer topology makes IEEE 1394 ideal for connecting devices ranging from printers and hard drives to digital audio and video hardware with real time processing requirements for on-time multimedia.

IEEE 1394 is a standard, platform-independent solution. Its features represent an evolutionary improvement over current I/O interfaces and provides connectivity solutions for many markets. Legacy I/O bridges attach serial and parallel interfaces to 1394. ASCII SCSI-3 provides a migration path for parallel SCSI to move to IEEE 1394.

IEEE 1394 can interface with the higher layers of the new parallel port standard, IEEE 1284. Although IEEE 1284's 4 to 32 Mbps transfer rate is lower than that of 1394, 1284 finds application in printer connectivity since it is backward compatible with the existing Centronics parallel port.

IEEE 1394 devices of differing transport rates may be interconnected, allowing backward compatibility with devices having slower transport rates. This feature allows 100 Mbps devices purchased today to operate properly in future bus configurations involving 200 and 400 Mbps devices.

The IEEE 1394 serial bus is:

a digital interface: there is no need to convert digital data into analog and tolerate a loss of data integrity

physically small: the thin serial cable can replace larger and more expensive interfaces

easy to use: there is no need for terminators, device IDs, or elaborate setup

hot pluggable: users can add or remove 1394 devices with the bus active,

inexpensive: priced for consumer products

scalable architecture: may mix 100, 200, and 400 Mbps devices on one bus

flexible topology: support of daisy chaining and branching for true peer-to-peer communication

fast: even multimedia data can be guaranteed its bandwidth for just-in-time delivery

Broad markets for IEEE 1394 digital data transport include:


audio, image, and video products for multimedia

printer and scanner products for imaging

hard disks, especially hard disk Raid arrays

digital video cameras, displays, and recorders

IEEE 1394 is currently defined by ANSI draft standard P1394. The IEEE Standards subgroup concerned with 1394 successfully closed its ballot on 1394 in December 1994 with formal 1394 approval anticipated in the second quarter of 1995.

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