Simplicity is over-rated, or at least, that’s what USB-IF appears to think. USB-IF is the industry body that defines USB nomenclature and specifications. For some reason that makes no sense to us mortals, they seem to have made it their mission to completely muddle up USB specifications in the consumer world.

See, things were much simpler before. You had USB 1.1, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. Clearly, the USB version with a higher number was better. Rather than continue that trend, USB-IF then introduced USB 3.1 and muddled things up. Then they decided that things weren’t confusing enough and introduced USB 3.2 and made everything worse.

But wait, am I going too fast? Let’s start at the beginning.

First, there was this:

  • USB 1.1 (Full Speed): 12 Mb/s
  • USB 2.0 (High Speed): 450 Mb/s
  • USB 3.0 (SuperSpeed): 5 Gb/s

Simple, straightforward and easy to understand.

This was then modified as follows:

  • USB 3.0 became USB 3.1 Gen 1: 5 Gb/s
  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 (SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps): 10 Gb/s

Uh, sure, but couldn’t they just have gone with USB 3.1 for 10 Gb/s?

And now it’s become:

  • USB 3.0, formerly USB 3.1 Gen 1, is now USB 3.2 Gen 1: 5 Gb/s
  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 is now USB 3.2 Gen 2: 10 Gb/s
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps): 20 Gb/s

Wha… ? Why? What purpose does this serve?

How about a simpler picture? Couldn’t USB-IF have just gone with this instead of sowing confusion?

  • USB 1.1: 12 Mb/s
  • USB 2.0: 450 Mb/s
  • USB 3.0: 5 Gb/s
  • USB 3.1: 10 Gb/s
  • USB 3.2: 20 Gb/s

This is neat, simple, poetic even.

To add to this confusion, you also have the issue of USB ports. The USB-A port is the port we’re all familiar with. This port, however, supports everything from USB 1.1 to USB 3.2 Gen 2×2.

Then there’s USB-C, which Apple loves, which phones are now embracing, and which is reversible. This port can also support everything from USB 1.1 to USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 and, as a bonus, Thunderbolt 3 (Either 10 Gbps or 20 Gbps). And if that wasn’t confusing enough, Thunderbolt 3 is not the same as USB 3.2 Gen 2 or USB 3.2 Gen 2×2.

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