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2011-12-5 16:20:00 Thunderbolt (interface)  

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Thunderbolt (originally codenamed Light Peak[1]) is an interface for connecting peripheral devices to a computer via an expansion bus. Thunderbolt was developed by Intel and brought to market with technical collaboration from Apple Inc. It was introduced commercially on Apple's updated MacBook Pro lineup on February 24, 2011, using the same port and connector as Mini DisplayPort. Though initially registered with Apple Inc., full rights of the Thunderbolt technology trademark belong to Intel Corp., and subsequently led to the transfer of the registration.[4]

Thunderbolt combines PCI Express and DisplayPort into a serial data interface that can be carried over longer and less costly cables. Because PCI Express is widely supported by device vendors and built into most of Intel's modern chipsets, Thunderbolt can be added to existing products with relative ease. Thunderbolt driver chips fold the data from these two sources together, and split them back apart again for consumption within the devices. This makes the system backward compatible with existing DisplayPort hardware upstream of the driver.

The interface was originally intended to run on an optical physical layer using components and flexible optical fiber cabling developed by Intel partners and at Intel's Silicon Photonics lab. The Intel technology at the time was marketed under the name Light Peak,[5] today (2011) referred to as Silicon Photonics Link.[6] However, it turned out that conventional copper wiring could furnish the desired 10 Gbit/s Thunderbolt bandwidth per channel at lower cost. Later versions of Thunderbolt are still planned to introduce an optical physical layer based on Intel silicon photonics technology.

The Intel and Apple implementation of the port adapter integrates PCI Express data and DisplayPort data, allowing them to be carried over the same cable simultaneously. A single Thunderbolt port supports hubs as well as a daisy chain of up to seven Thunderbolt devices; up to two of these devices may be high-resolution displays using DisplayPort.[7]

Apple sells existing DisplayPort adapters for DVI, dual-link DVI, HDMI, and VGA output from the Thunderbolt port, showing broad compatibility. maiwo information technology
Thunderbolt logo.svg
Type Dual-protocol I/O[1]
Designer Intel
Manufacturer Various
Produced February 2011–present
Length 3 meters maximum (copper)[2]
Width 7.4 mm male (8.3 mm female)
Height 4.5 mm male (5.4 mm female)
Hot pluggable Yes
Daisy chain Yes, up to 7 devices[2]
External Yes
Connector Mini DisplayPort
Signal 10 W[2]
Data signal Yes
Bitrate 20 Gbit/s PCIe and DisplayPort bi-directional
100 Gbit/s (over next decade)[3]
Protocol PCI Express, DisplayPort v1.1a[2]


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