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Microphone Month 5

What FireWire Cable Do I Need?

The emergence of digital video and multimedia applications has brought with it the need to move large amounts of data-quickly-between peripherals and PCs. And as audio/video products migrate to digital technology, both consumers and professionals alike stood to benefit from a simple high-speed connection that would make this transmission more efficient. Enter 1394: the digital cable we now know as FireWire. The IEEE 1394 Serial Bus is the industry-standard implementation of Apple Computer, Inc.’s 1394 digital I/O system. It’s a versatile, high-speed, low-cost method of interconnecting a variety of personal computer peripherals and consumer electronics devices. Developed by the industry’s leading technology companies, the specification was accepted as an industry standard by the IEEE Standards Board on December 12, 1995, with succeeding revisions since then.

1394 offers several advantages over other technologies. These benefits include:

1. Guaranteed delivery of multiple data streams through isochronous data transport.
2. The ability to connect up to 63 devices without the need for additional hardware, such as hubs.
3. A flexible, six-wire cable.
4. Complete plug-and-play operation, including the hot swapping of live devices.
5. Acceptance by over 40 leading manufacturers in the computer and electronics consumer industries.

The standard for a FireWire connector is 6 pins. The pins are assigned as 1 = Power (+12v), 2 = Ground, 3 thru 6 = Data. The 4-pin connectors are missing pins 1 & 2, so they just have pins 3 thru 6. As you can see, with the 4-pin connector you will need an alternate power supply for external devices.

Q: How do I know which cable I need?

A: There are several types of cables available.
6-pin to 6-pin cable: This cable draws power from the FireWire bus and is most commonly used for connecting to devices such as FireWire Hard Drives, FireWire CD-RWs and other 1394 computer peripherals.

6-pin to 4-pin cable: This cable does NOT draw power from the FireWire bus it is connected to and is usually used to connect to DV Cameras or other self powered devices such as audio interfaces.

15-pin to 6-pin adapter: Used to connect to a PCMCIA Cardbus card. The other end of the cable is a standard 6-pin (male) connector for connecting to typical FireWire devices including hard drives and other storage peripherals. Cardbus cards DO NOT provide power to FireWire devices.

15-pin to 4-pin adapter: Used to connect to a PCMCIA Cardbus card. The other end of the cable is a standard 4-pin (male) connector, most often used to connect to a video camera. Cardbus cards DO NOT provide power to FireWire devices.

Q: What is the maximum length a FireWire cable can be?
A: The maximum cable length for connecting device to device is 4.5-meters (14.85ft). A 10-meter (32ft) cable may be used in conjunction with a hub/repeater when it is necessary to extend FireWire cables over long distances. You must however have a hub/repeater for every 10 meters (32ft) of FireWire cable.

To disconnect FireWire devices from your computer and from each other:

1. If you’re using files and applications on a FireWire device, save and close the files, then quit all open applications.
If you don’t do this before you disconnect the device, you may damage the files on that device.
2. Drag the device’s icon to the Trash.
If you don’t do this before you disconnect the device, you may damage the files on that device.
3. Unplug the connector from the FireWire port. Pull the connector, not the cable.

Note: Many devices have a power-on indicator light which lights up to show that the device is properly connected and receiving power. Disconnecting a FireWire device Note: Don’t disconnect a FireWire device while the device is being used by an application or you may damage the files on that and other FireWire devices.

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