A USB socket, also known as a USB port, is a type of interface used primarily by personal computers, but also by smartphones, digital music players and other digital devices. The letters stand for universal serial bus and, in 2011 USB sockets are present on nearly every personal computer that is made. They can be used to connect any standard computer peripherals such as a keyboard, mouse, or external hard drive. A USB socket is designed to accept USB plugs, and this configuration has become the industry standard for many digital devices and computer peripherals.
Near the end of the 20th century, a standard for connecting digital devices and peripherals to personal computers was needed. A group of leading companies in the computing industry began work on the standard in 1994, and the first USB devices were introduced in 1996. A second generation USB standard, USB 2.0, was introduced in 2000, and the third generation became available in 2010. The USB standard quickly crowded out other types of interfaces for connecting digital devices and peripherals. In 2011, several sizes and variants of the standard USB socket exist.
The design of a USB socket is intended to allow for a number of uses. The interface allows a computer or other digital device to communicate with other digital devices or peripherals. Devices such as printers and scanners as well as input devices like keyboards, a mouse, and microphones can all use standard USB sockets. USB sockets allow for digital data transfer as well, and each generation has increased the speed of these transfers.
An additional feature of USB sockets is the ability to provide electric power to any device through the interface. This means that most USB equipped devices will not require an external power source when connected to a computer or other powered device. Many devices designed to use the USB interface, such as digital music players, have internal batteries that can be recharged by connecting them to a computer.
Portable data storage devices, like flash drives and external hard drives, allow for quick and easy transfer of files and other data to and from almost any computer. In a matter of minutes, one can use such a device to transfer data from one computer to another when a standard network is unavailable. Multiple USB devices can be connected to each other or to a computer through a USB hub, which is essentially a device with several USB sockets designed to allow other devices to communicate.