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back to article Apple Thunderbolt Macs have chips for optical links

Got a new Mac with a Thunderbolt port? Then it is compatible with upcoming optical cables, Intel has revealed. According to a spokesman from the chip giant, which devised Thunderbolt, a technology originally codenamed 'Light Peak', the circuitry in the latest Macs will support optical connections, Macworld reports. But, we …

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Presumably it will be an active cable with the electronic to optical converters inline (similar to optical DVI cables you tend to see in AV installs, eg: http://www.networktechinc.com/dvi-fiber-cable.html).

My understanding was that the copper thunderbolt cables were already (fairly expensive) active cables with significant processing happening in the connectors.

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Go-go active cabling!

I was under the impression that Thunderbolt cables were "active" (see http://www.ifixit.com/blog/blog/2011/06/29/what-makes-the-thunderbolt-cable-lightning-fast/ ) - i.e. they contain processing circuitry in the plugs themselves. Thus, the potential is there for the optical interconnect bits to be *in the cable themselves*, meaning you don't need different ports for optical and copper links. It's make the cables more expensive, but, then again, they're hardly cheap to begin with.

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Isn't the optical circuitry going to be located in the cable end?

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There's no great mystery here

Apple and Intel made it clear when Thunderbolt first came to market that, in order to get it into products, they'd decided to stick with non-optical connections for the time being, and then they'd move the technology into using optical connections once it was possible to do so.

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There is a lot of active circuitary in the present Thunderbolt cables. There's more to them than dumb cabling which accounts for much of the $50 price tag. Chances are that the optical transceivers will be in the cables themselves rather than in the ports.

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Boffin

Additional

In addition to the correct points above (the optical conversion will be done in the cable for some reason, so nothing to see in the ports), the cables will also be required to carry power as well, so presumably will look very similar to existing cables.

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FAIL

Optical

How is this different from most switches, which do not actually contain any optical interfaces, but have an electrical socket into which you plug a media converter?

OK, so the difference here is that the media converter will be outside the Mac, but apart from that it is the same.

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USB 3.0

On the subject of its bandwidth far exceeding that of hard drives, I'm looking forward to portable SSDs becoming common place once the ports are.

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Definitely all in the cable

The story - http://www.tekgoblin.com/2011/09/27/thunderbolt-technology-to-become-faster-with-new-cables/

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