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April 2, 1996

COMPAQ, TEXAS TAKE LEAD IN ADOPTING FIREWIRE INTERFACE FOR LINKING CONSUMER ELECTRONICS TO COMPUTERS

By CBR Staff Writer

Computer companies with an eye on the consumer electronics market are taking time to learn the new FireWire standard, those learning fastest being Compaq Computer Corp and Texas Instruments Inc. The two companies hope to marry computers with television sets and other electronic items, using a recently accepted technology specification called FireWire. Trying to connect these devices at present is extremely unwieldy and involves juggling various proprietary systems. The FireWire standard will mean devices such as digital camcorders and digital video cassette recorders may be plugged directly into personal computers. FireWire, or IEEE 1394 as the specification is catchily known, has been around for some time and is an Apple Computer Inc invention, which most recently rolled it out at the birth of the company’s New Media division. Microsoft Corp said it will support FireWire in future releases of Windows: IEEE 1394 enables high- performance multimedia connections with camcorders, televisions, stereos, CD changers, set-top boxes, mixing consoles and music keyboards, as well as traditional personal computer devices, the company said in a white paper on the technology. FireWire is plug-and-play, so any device will be automatically configured when it is plugged in – so the claim goes. Sony Corp has also shown some enthusiasm for the technology by developing digital camcorders with a 1394 interface, although most devices are not expected to take advantage of the technology at reasonable prices until next year. Texas Instruments is moving the fastest of all, by making chips that implement the technology and the firm plans to build a 1394-compatible notebook personal computer later on in the year. Compaq has said that the 1394 technology will be the enabling technology for multi-bay designs in notebooks. Future notebooks, the company said, will have two open bays that can interchangeably accept hot-pluggable CD-ROM drives, floppy drives, hard disk drives and batteries.

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