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A Fond Look at Some Obsolete Ports 528

StealMyWiFi writes "C-NET.co.uk has a lighthearted look at ten of the best obsolete ports. The biggest surprise is that C-NET claims Firewire is obsolete, which will come as a surprise to the millions of people worldwide who are still using it, especially in light of the story that Firewire is due to get a massive speed boost! The same could be said for their claims about SCSI, although from a consumer point of view I guess that's fairer."
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A Fond Look at Some Obsolete Ports

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  • by hcdejong ( 561314 ) <hobbes&xmsnet,nl> on Friday March 28, 2008 @05:56PM (#22899678)
    Without [next] the [next] stupid [next] clickthroughs [next] and [next] ads [next]:
    1. DB-25 parallel port
    2. PS/2
    3. FireWire
    4. SCSI
    5. SCART
    6. ISA
    7. AGP
    8. PCMCIA
    9. Kryten's groin (from Red Dwarf)
    10. game cartridge port
  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @06:03PM (#22899794) Journal
    Actually, it was this morning. I had trashed a colleague's external drive, and along with it 100GB of data. In a flat panic, I hauled my Firewire 800 RAID enclosure from Lacie, and together with the totally amazing Data Rescue II from Prosoft, I had almost all of his data back back by Lunch today. The sheer speed of a Firewire 800 drive compared to a USB 2.0 drive made it all worth the while. USB simply doesn't compare in terms of reliability and speed.
  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @06:11PM (#22899896)
    You can't get 15Krpm drives in SATA variants, and SAS will allow you to bond up to 4 3Gbps channels together into one bit 12Gbps channel. (Not that it does you much good unless you've got a fairly hefty array as otherwise there's no way a disk subsystem will sustain 3Gbps in random access usage).
  • Missing from List (Score:1, Informative)

    by surata ( 958203 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @06:13PM (#22899928)
    My RS232 serial connectors in 25 and 9 pin incarnations are just as functional and now obsolete as any parallel port. AT Keyboard connectors are even more obsolete than the ps/2 connectors that replaced them Are Game ports obsolete? I have not looked at joysticks lately, but look that they would be fine with USB Technology - except of course in terms of backwards computability. Those silly audio in/out ports ought to be obsolete IDE connectors are pretty much obsolete: I won't buy a pc without SATA any more. VGA has been replaced with HDMI The only connectors on the back of a PC that are not obsolete are Power, USB, Network, and HDMI. Well we still need the audio.
  • by asuffield ( 111848 ) <asuffield@suffields.me.uk> on Friday March 28, 2008 @06:16PM (#22899976)

    SATA is SCSI over a special serial cable. Meaning - only obsolete PATA disks are non-SCSI. All CD drives are SCSI this or another way.

    Really isn't. The SATA and SCSI protocols are similar, but there is a real SCSI over serial cable, and it's called SAS (Serial-Attached SCSI). It's the same connectors and cables as SATA, running the real SCSI protocol. The drives are the same good old SCSI drives, costing ten times and much and running ten times as fast as their SATA cousins. It has replaced Ultra-640 SCSI as the system of choice for high-end RAID cages.

    USB Storage (pendrives, external drives etc) are all SCSI

    Not even close. USB mass storage is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike SCSI.

    ATAPI is SCSI over ATA

    That one's true though.
  • by LaminatorX ( 410794 ) <sabotage.praecantator@com> on Friday March 28, 2008 @06:20PM (#22900032) Homepage
    USB can never "flat out beat" Firewire for one reason: isochronas transfers. Firewire controllers have their own integrated timing/synch control, while USB lets the CPU play traffic cop and uses a buffer to make up the difference. That's fine for copying files or for low-quality streams, but when moving lots of high quality audio or video data, the buffer can run dry while the CPU is working on processing said data for output/playback, resulting in loss of synch, droped frames, and audio pops.
  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @06:51PM (#22900386) Homepage Journal
    Not even close. USB mass storage is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike SCSI.

    They support SCSI Primary Command (SPC) Set and SCSI Block Command (SBC) Set. That makes them very much compatible with SCSI ...on certain abstraction layer. There's of course USB architecture below and the filesystem above, but right there what makes them mass storage and not, say, printers or webcams from the OS point of view, is SCSI. The OS sees them as "removable SCSI drives".

    The SATA and SCSI protocols are similar

    SAS is a next revision, extension of SCSI - THE new SCSI standard. And SAS supports SATA devices. Meaning that SATA, being a subset of SAS is a subset of nowadays SCSI. Even though SATA protocol is only -similar- to SCSI of the old, it is a part of -current- SCSI standard (SAS).
  • Re:A few more (Score:3, Informative)

    by CSMatt ( 1175471 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @06:54PM (#22900408)
    VGA isn't dead. I see it all the time on modern laptops.
  • Re:Missing from List (Score:3, Informative)

    by jmauro ( 32523 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @06:55PM (#22900432)
    Hmm... I really like RS-232 and it's distant cousin RS-422. I still buy notebooks with at least one of those ports since the USB/RS-232 converters just don't cut it when your trying to connect to routers, switches, camera controllers, and other random devices which will never have USB ports, but always have a RS-232 port somewhere. Also the complete lack of drivers needed to connect to the devices with RS-232 gives them a big win over any of the silly usb whippersnapper upstarts.
  • SCSI is faaaar from dead
    Try to pay attention. They're saying the SCSI port is dead, not SCSI. Why? Because no SCSI connection has used anything but an SATA port for years.

    ATAPI is SCSI over ATA
    No, it isn't. It's EIDE/2.

    SATA is SCSI over a special serial cable
    ... which should help you understand why the SCSI port is obsolete.

    USB Storage (pendrives, external drives etc) are all SCSI.
    Number one, no they aren't. Number two, that has nothing to do with the SCSI port.

    Essentially mostly every mass storage device you connect to the computer is SCSI nowadays.
    Not only do you live in a fantasy world, but you don't seem to understand that the phrases "The SCSI port is dead" and "SCSI is dead" aren't even close to exchangeable. Every example you gave, all of which were wrong, were SCSI over a not-SCSI port.

    Your logic is fail.
  • by TavisJohn ( 961472 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @06:59PM (#22900460) Homepage
    I had a TurboGrafx(16) with the CD Drive attachment well BEFORE Sega ever released their CD device!

    Why does everyone continue to give Sega credit for the CD-Drive on consoles, when the TG(16) did it first!
  • and uses the same connectors as SATA
    ... which is why SCSI ports are obsolete.
  • by Fneb ( 1181615 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @07:06PM (#22900516) Homepage
    Care to state why MIDI is 'god-awful'? The hardware involved in MIDI isn't your crappy consumer synthesizer that you hear when you play a .mid file on your computer. That's a crappy consumer MIDI synthesizer. Hardware MIDI is a superb standard that has been around for a long time, allowing connections between keyboards, synths, samplers, computers and sequencers with (next to?) no delay. At least, no delay that I've ever noticed. If you're going to call something 'god-awful', try to know what you're talking about.
  • by Swampash ( 1131503 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @07:10PM (#22900554)
    In my experience (and I use both interfaces quite a bit) USB 2.0 doesn't compare in terms of reliability and speed with Firewire 400.
  • by asuffield ( 111848 ) <asuffield@suffields.me.uk> on Friday March 28, 2008 @07:16PM (#22900624)

    They support SCSI Primary Command (SPC) Set and SCSI Block Command (SBC) Set. That makes them very much compatible with SCSI

    No. It means that they copied a chunk of text out of the SCSI spec because it was as good a way as any. SCSI is a whole lot more than just the parts they copied, and they added some stuff of their own. USB mass storage devices are not compatible with SCSI in any way.

    The OS sees them as "removable SCSI drives"

    You're thinking of Linux, and that was purely a design decision based on the relative cruftiness of different parts of the kernel. It has nothing to do with the underlying protocol.

    And SAS supports SATA devices.

    No. They have the same connectors and you can build a multi-mode controller that accepts either, but the wire protocol and even line voltages are different. If you plug an SATA drive into a regular SAS controller then it will flag an error and do nothing.

    Meaning that SATA, being a subset of SAS

    No. SATA is not a subset of SCSI. SATA has features that SCSI does not. SCSI has features that SATA does not. They have very little in common except that the protocols look vaguely similar.

    Even though SATA protocol is only -similar- to SCSI of the old, it is a part of -current- SCSI standard (SAS)

    The SATA protocol is specified by SATA-IO. The SCSI protocol is specified by INCITS. They are completely different organisations, and the documents that specify them are entirely separate. The only thing they really have in common is the connectors and cabling.

    Please don't just make stuff up. You could have learned all of this from Wikipedia if you had bothered.
  • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @07:18PM (#22900642)

    I haven't purchased a SCSI part in nearly 10 years.
    That would be because SCSI is so darn reliable. My Mylex 1164 and 9 and 18 GB drives are still running fine, except I chunked the drives in favor of 36GB drives about 6 years ago.... what was I saying about reliability again?

    Once SATA became relatively commonplace and 3Ware was shown to be reliable, I just never looked back. On the highest of the high end where budget isn't a constraint I guess it might still be useful. Otherwise, stick a fork in it.
    SCSI is still faster, and last time I checked, it was very very difficult to make a 200+ drive RAID tower out of SATA drives. (It's been a few years...)
  • PCMCIA (Score:2, Informative)

    by NotFamous ( 827147 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @07:22PM (#22900678) Homepage Journal
    PCMCIA is being replaced by ExpressCard, not USB. This was not a deep article.
  • Re:FCC mandate (Score:3, Informative)

    by m85476585 ( 884822 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @07:34PM (#22900776)
    But good luck using the firewire port. I have a Comcast DVR, and it was a huge pain to get video off it.
    1. Drivers came from a random third party website, and they are not that great. There are no drivers from Comcast or Motorola (the manufacturer).
    2. Recorded TV had to be played in realtime
    3. The output was a .TS file, and I had a hard time finding free programs that could convert it to standard mpg files.
    4. If I fast-forwarded while copying a recording, the output file would not play
    They also have 2 USB ports, an eithernet port, and an eSATA port on the back, all of which are disabled by firmware. From what I have read, the hard drive uses a nonstandard file system, so I can't take it out and copy everything that way.
  • Firewire Trumps USB2 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Joe Burnett ( 1264046 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @07:35PM (#22900788) Homepage
    IMHO, firewire is still the best for external disk storage, especially if you're using it for activities such as virtual machine images. Here's an article I authored when I was benchmarking Firewire against USB2 performance: http://www.joeburnett.net/2008/01/30/firewire-vs-usb2-performance-for-external-disk-storage/ [joeburnett.net]
  • Re:C-Net (Score:5, Informative)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @07:38PM (#22900810)
    That and I think they missed some Big ones.
    Serial 9 pin and 15 pin,
    CGA Video,
    ATA Keyboard,
    DIP Switches,
    Many Generations of Memory Slots

    But what I mess most is Serial and Parallel. It was great easy to make hardware and have it interact with your computer. And most OS's even good old DOS had easy to use ways of accessing the Com Port information. USB often adds an extra level of complexity for home job hardware.
  • Re:obsolete (Score:5, Informative)

    by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @07:46PM (#22900874)
    From the dictionary:

    1 a: no longer in use or no longer useful. b: of a kind or style no longer current : old-fashioned.
    Dialup modems are not obsolete in the first sense at all. The second sense is entirely subjective. Fashion is always subjective.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 28, 2008 @08:08PM (#22901078)
    Most hardware implementations now will allow firewire to access just one virtual memory mapping so you can't play the old tricks.
  • Re:This cracks me up (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dever ( 564514 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @08:11PM (#22901092) Journal
    nobody ever ever gets the 'jane, you ignorant slut.' jokes though. invariably some has to to do this:

    regarding Saturday Night Live and its Weekend Update skits:

    A frequent feature of Update during this time was Point-Counterpoint, in which Curtin and Aykroyd made vicious and humorously inappropriate ad hominem attacks on each other's positions on a variety of topics, in a parody of the 60 Minutes segment of the same name ...

    Aykroyd regularly began his reply with "Jane, you ignorant slut," which became another of the many SNL catch phrases. (Curtin frequently began her reply with, "Dan, you pompous ass".)

    there, now i have passed the torch to someone else who will explain this joke to the slash audience in a year or two again...

  • Re:modem port? (Score:2, Informative)

    by socsoc ( 1116769 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @08:21PM (#22901172)
    I know plenty of people who live somewhere between suburbia and rural who are only now beginning to receive cable(Internet, not TV) or DSL service availability to their homes. It's quite unfortunate, but there are service deprived pockets in populated areas.
  • by Ephemeriis ( 315124 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @08:32PM (#22901232)
    These days SCSI is serial, just like ATA. Modern drives use SAS, or Serial Attached SCSI, and they'll still blow the doors off SATA drives. If you absolutely, positively, have to connect massive numbers of very fast drives - SAS is the way to go. Far more bandwidth available than anything SATA has to offer.

    And...I still use good ol' parallel SCSI all the time. Lots of tape drives still use it. I just installed a new server last month with an external LTO drive connected with SCSI.

    SCSI is about as far from "obsolete" as you can get when it comes to servers.
  • Re:C-Net (Score:5, Informative)

    by hattig ( 47930 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @08:45PM (#22901334) Journal
    No one in Europe would buy a TV that didn't have at least one SCART socket today, and two would be desirable. It's not obsolete in any way, shape or form (although HDMI will replace it in about 5 years, so it doesn't have a future). Lots of people have extensive SCART switching equipment to get all their AV gear connected to the limited number of ports on their TV. I bet most people a few years ago would have said that about 5 SCART inputs on a TV would be ideal. The RGB support, even if limited to a single SCART socket on the TV, has meant that usually at least the satellite TV or DVD player had a really decent connection to the home TV, which along with PAL has probably explained the slower uptake of HDTV over here.

    ADB is an example of an obsolete connector. Why is this article talking about active, popular ports as being obsolete, or did it travel backwards in time 10 years?
  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @08:56PM (#22901424)
    RS232 is 'good enough' for text and therefore has remained the console of choice in the datacenter for many servers and any remotely serious networking equipment.

    Any decent admin has to have at least a half-dozen serial cables and adapters to plug from arbitrary DB9, RJ45, RJ11, Mini-USB, and who knows what else form factors carrying nothing more than the RS232 signals in various random pinouts. Yes, I've even seen a USB form-factor that wasn't used for USB signalling.
  • Another one: DB15 (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @09:35PM (#22901652) Journal
    For YEARS Apple refused to get on with the VGA thing, and Apple users had to pay a premium for a monitor that sported a DB15 port. Nasty. I still don't understand why they did that... there were Adaptor plugs for DB15 > VGA all over the place, and eventually Apple dumped DB15, about 10 years too late.


  • Re:modem port? (Score:2, Informative)

    by glitch23 ( 557124 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @10:00PM (#22901808)

    if you think dial up modems are obsolete, you evidently have never lived in a rural area in north america.

    Obsolete does not necessarily mean that it is no longer in use at all. From dictionary.com:

    1. no longer in general use; fallen into disuse

    In the case of dial-up modems, they are just no longer in general use given the proliferation of DSL and cable modem service for the majority of the U.S. population.

  • Re:modem port? (Score:2, Informative)

    by suso ( 153703 ) * on Friday March 28, 2008 @10:28PM (#22901962) Homepage Journal
    This joke shows ignorance. There are actually more people living in rural America than in urban areas.
  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @10:36PM (#22902004) Journal
    As one of those engineers let me say: it still takes less fiddling than supporting all of the HTML and browser/version "standards". :)
  • by thesupraman ( 179040 ) on Friday March 28, 2008 @11:21PM (#22902238)
    SAS bandwidth, 1.5 or 3.0 GBit/second, SATA bandwidth, 1.5 or 3.0 GBit/second
    SAS has TCQ, SATA has NCQ for command overlapping.
    SAS has multipath IO, SATA has port multipliers
    SAS cables are rated to 8m, SATA at 1m, hmm an actual difference!
    Try to learn something before you start spouting crap.
    SAS is available with lower latency drives (15krpm), SATA can easy match it in bandwidth.

    Anyone serious uses FC for big arrays anyway, go look at a TPC-C lead benchmark some time.

  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @12:38AM (#22902654) Journal
    SCSI always pushed the limits of what you could do with the technology of the day, and parallel busses are hard to begin with. The impedance of the wires had to be right, the correct pairs of wires had to be twisted together, and you *really* couldn't get away with using a single shared ground wire.

    Each doubling of speed on the SCSI cable was sufficiently hard to pull off that cables which were fine for the previous generation simply wouldn't cut it for the new generation, but you can't tell by looking at a cable what speed it was made for.

    I think the final SCSI parallel standard didn't even support cables, it was only for backplanes in RAID cabinets.

    Well, that's all fixed with SAS. Parallel is just too hard to go forward with.
  • Re:modem port? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Tuidjy ( 321055 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @03:03AM (#22903150)
    Serial ports are not obsolete. I work at a company with quite a few million dollars
    worth of CNC machine tools, robotic cells, and assembly lines, and all of the equipment
    is controlled or updated through DB9 or DB25 serial ports. Yes, the modern stuff comes
    with RJ45 (Ethernet) ports. But the serial is always there, and as usually there is one PC
    per building controlling all the equipment, it's always the serial that gets used.

    Furthermore, all the scanning equipment, and all the heavy duty label printers use
    serial ports. Once again, we could buy USB ones, but we do not want to change anything
    that we do not have to. So we keep buying RS232 scanners, modems, printers, you name it.

    At least two of the plants next to ours are doing the same thing. Manufacturing in the
    US is hurting. Changing for the sake of changing is not happening where I can see it.
  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @07:06AM (#22903772)
    No. They have the same connectors and you can build a multi-mode controller that accepts either, but the wire protocol and even line voltages are different. If you plug an SATA drive into a regular SAS controller then it will flag an error and do nothing.

    Then your controller is faulty. Part of the SAS specification is that you can plug SATA drives into the controller and they work.

    Note that this doesn't work the other way around.

    Please don't just make stuff up. You could have learned all of this from Wikipedia if you had bothered.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_ATA#Features [wikipedia.org]
  • by slashbart ( 316113 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:16AM (#22903966) Homepage
    When apple had this custom display connector, pc users were very often struggling just to get any kind of image on a monitor; it was a pain in the ass to figure out the correct frequencies.
    The Apple connectors told the computer what kind of resolution and refresh frequency they needed (with simple wiring, no protocol whatsoever), so as usual, the Apples were plug-and-play, whereas the pc's were plug-and-fiddle and then plug-and-pray.

    Then NEC invented the multisync monitor, which had as its main purpose to ease the hassles for pc's. This worked very well, the whole industry shifted, and the vga connector became a very useful standard, which was eventually also used by Apple.


  • Re:C-Net (Score:3, Informative)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @12:10PM (#22905278) Homepage Journal
    There's a good argument to having a PS/2 port, and that is that it runs on its own IRQ with low-level drivers. If you have a runaway app, it's nice to have a working CTRL-ALT-DELETE that won't be delayed two minutes because USB is slowed down with the rest of the system.
  • Re:C-Net (Score:3, Informative)

    by MikeBabcock ( 65886 ) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:32PM (#22908364) Homepage Journal
    The D-Link models are no better. A straight motherboard RS-232 port works so much better when connecting to a modem or serial printer.

    Yes, I use serial printers with work.

    Lava's PCI serial cards were at the top of my recommendation list back when they worked with most computers, but now I find a lot of machines (Dell!) won't even boot with them installed.

    Digi makes intelligent I/O cards that work quite well up to 19200 but their Linux drivers are incredibly bad and there's a lot of glitches at 38400 and above.

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."