Ajay V. Bhatt, Bala Sudarshan Cadambi, Jeff Morriss, Shaun Knoll, Shelagh Callahan

Universal Serial Bus (USB)

Non-European countries
Technical field
Intel Corporation, along with a consortium of six other companies
One of the most ubiquitous computer advances since the computer processor, Universal Serial Bus (USB) greatly simplified a previous maze of competing plug designs, allowing effortless plug-and-play functionality and simultaneous connection of many devices.

The invention in a nutshell

Prior to the invention of USB, computers relied on a number of drivers to communicate with peripheral devices, and the commands sent by these drivers were frequently in conflict with each other. Ajay Bhatt became frustrated with the process of reconfiguring and rebooting his computer and the maze of ports and plugs he had to negotiate on the back of the machine.

Bhatt took his inspiration from the common electrical wall outlet and decided to create a connection interface that would recognise and run new devices automatically when they were plugged into a computer. The USB interface works by ‘translating' the signals from peripherals and delivering them in a centralised message stream to the computer's operating system. 

Societal benefit

Now found in billions of computer products the world over, USB not only allows users to more easily connect devices ranging from webcams, smartphones and computers to complex scientific instruments, it also streamlines work for hardware and software developers.

Economic benefit

Attaching a price tag to this invention is nearly impossible because USB is not marketed and sold as a product but used as a standard in the computer industry. However, shipments of roughly 10 billion USB-equipped devices have helped it become one of the world's most important computer technologies.


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