Data is shuttled back and forth and in-between computers on a “bus.” Take the Universal Serial Bus, for example. USB is made up of a physical specification plus a virtual protocol for communication between digital devices. It was cooperatively developed beginning in 1994 by seven leading computer companies: Compaq, DEC, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, NEC, and Nortel. Prior to then, connecting a desktop personal computer to an external peripheral might require installing custom software drivers, flipping dip switches, even cutting and re-soldering wires. USB was designed to make the process simpler for the user and more compatible for manufacturers. It succeeded. This essay, conceived 22 years after USB, is about the intercourse between machines and why *how* they do it matters not only for them but also to us.
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