Geek Trivia

The Design of Apple’s FireWire Cable Was Influenced By What Unlikely Source?

Porcelain Insulator Bells
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Game Boy Link Cables
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Game Boy Link Cable with sturdy connectors visible

Answer: Game Boy Link Cables

FireWire is Apple’s incarnation of the IEEE 1394 interface (the interface standard was also commercialized by Sony under the name i.LINK and Texas Instruments under the name Lynx). Apple initiated the research into developing the high-speed serial bus connection and accompanying cable in 1987; FireWire was unveiled to the public in 1995.

The most prominent feature on FireWire cables is the beefy connectors terminating each end of the cable. Apple wanted a sturdy cable with a sturdy connection that could withstand repeated use and abuse in both commercial and personal computing applications.

To that end, they studied the connectors for the Game Boy Link Cables—cables designed to be stepped on, jammed into ports, and otherwise thoroughly abused by children. If it was sturdy enough to withstand the abuse of elementary school children, then it was sturdy enough to withstand anything adult users would throw at it. The stout 6-conductor connector from the Game Boy Link Cable was elongated slightly and the actual connection points recessed further into the connector, but the basic design remained unchanged.