FireWire and IEEE 1394

Add some digital fire to your input / output connections

FireWire is the name for an input / output specification also known as IEEE 1394. This means it's a very fast data connection. Today, FireWire could be correctly summarized as a competitor to USB. Both Firewire and USB are generally used to hook your gadgets up to the computer, but can also be used to hook gadgets to each other. The attributes FireWire and USB have in common, making them competing formats, is that they're both high speed serial connection capable of providing limited power back to connected devices. However, FireWire is faster and can provide more power than USB 2.0.

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FireWire Connectors

In 1995, FireWire first became known as a connection for camcorders. Most computers today also have FireWire ports so they can communicate with your FireWire devices, including both the Macintosh and PC. The connection standard was actually invented by Apple Computers in the 90s. The format has since been embraced by many manufacturers, e.g. Sony has made FireWire ports standard on all its PCs. Almost all applicable Sony devices use Sony's own version of FireWire. Sony's iLink is a form of FireWire that doesn't use the power pins that provide voltage back to the device. Instead of using iLink power pins, Sony has opted for a separate power connection. It's a little ironic that Apple, FireWire's inventor, used FireWire as the standard connection on all iPods. Apple only recently stopped using FireWire in its current generation of iPods: the Nano and iPod Video. Now, Apple's iPod is connected to your PC or Mac using exclusively USB 2.0.

The main purpose for FireWire today is to connect data storage devices to anything from TVs to PCs or even professional video recording apparatus. Because of its high data transfer rate, it's perfect for transporting video and multi-channel audio from a digital playback device to a digital recording device. Many Personal Video Recorder [] set top boxes, especially ones that double as digital receivers for cable or satellite TV, have a FireWire output. These outputs should be able to port your recorded programming to a PC in its original Mpeg2 format. Unfortunately, as we've seen with content protection laws the way they are, this function is generally rendered impossible from the manufacturer. High definition TV shows and movies would be the perfect candidate to be passed over to the PC as an intact file for storage and playback, but this feature is disabled from most of the common PVR / digital cable box combos, such as the ones from Scientific Atlanta.

FireWire Ports

Here is an example of a FireWire port on a popular digital cable terminal used today. The word on the street is that these cannot be hacked reliably, but once the Gizmo Guy gets around to it we'll be sure to post a detailed how to guide on using FireWire to record TV shows onto your PC. Here is the first step: find the FireWire port on your cable box and connect it to your PC.