What Is a Computer Hub?

by Steve Tuffill

A hub is used to join computing equipment together in the most basic way. We will explore four different types of hub used for networking and attaching external devices like printers and thumb drives.

USB Hubs

Multi-function 4-port USB Hub

USB Hubs can be used to hook up several devices such as external storage like thumb drives and miniature drives, memory cards, earphones, microphones and headphones, printers, and scanners. The computer "discovers" them as external devices.

Network Ethernet Hubs

Dynex 4-Port Network Hub

Network Ethernet Hubs join networked devices together in a parallel equal configuration splitting bandwidth between users. Also, the network address is transparent to the hub. Broadcasts can travel through them.

Special Hubs

Micro Innovations PCMCIA 4-port USB Hub

Some hubs are convenient devices which serve a special purpose. If, for example, there are no more USB ports available on a laptop, a PCMCIA cardbus hub can add four ports to the laptop. It can either be powered by an external 5v current source, or it can take the power from the system.

Purpose-Built Hubs

Belkin

Some hubs are built to serve a special purpose. The Belkin stackable 7-port USB hub can accommodate another hub right on top of it. If another hub is stacked on top, you will be effectively adding another 7 ports, making 14 usable ports with a very low footprint. This is useful if you have many devices which all need to be hooked up at once. It provides rapid, easy access for temporary device connections like thumb drives, card readers, lamps, and fans.

Future of Hubs

Belkin IEEE 1394 (FireWire) and USB 4-Port Hub

Hubs are here to stay and are unlikely to get bigger in size. They will likely shrink in size and become faster, more efficient and capable of driving more and more easily configurable external devices!

History

A few years ago, the only hubs in use were network hubs which ran on ethernet cable. Since the advent of Windows XP and Macintosh computers, the use of USB and IEEE 1394 (FireWire) has grown enormously because the host computers have now been able to leverage this new technology.

About the Author

Steve Tuffill has been writing professionally since 1998. He is an experienced technical writer who has worked in computer technology for many years. He also has experience with PCs, Macs and UNIX. Tuffill started writing in school, and continued his lifelong education by traveling around the world. He holds an Associate of the Arts degree in English.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera All images by Steve Tuffill