FireWire 400 reaches the end of the line

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Awaking from a winter’s slumber, Apple released a slew of new products Tuesday, covering everything from Time Capsule and AirPort Extreme to the Mac mini, iMac, and Mac Pro lines. The updates also include a silent MacBook Pro speed boost and a new wired keyboard.

In the past, such a flurry of activity may have been saved for Macworld Expo, or at least a special Apple event. This time, however, the release was marked by a couple of Apple press releases, and the usual We’ll be back soon! status at the Apple Store. The times, they are a-changing indeed.

As I looked through the specs for the new Mac Pro, iMac, and Mac mini lineup, one thing struck me: FireWire 400 appears to be essentially dead—at least as far as Apple is concerned. With the release of these new Macs, Apple sells just one machine with a FireWire 400 port—the low-end white MacBook. Otherwise, it’s either FireWire 800 or (in the case of the unibody MacBook and MacBook Air) no FireWire at all.

From Apple’s perspective, this move makes a lot of sense—the company saves a lot of case space on laptops by only including one FireWire port, and production costs are lowered on all machines. Given the speed advantages of FireWire 800, it also makes sense on the technical front.

So clearly, this is evolution at work…but it’s still an evolutionary step that may cause some hiccups for upgraders. In my case, I still have a fair number of FireWire 400 devices, everything from our ancient-but-still-very-usable Sony video camera to my numerous portable FireWire hard drives. If I want to continue using these devices with a new Mac, I’ll have to add something like Sonnet’s FireWire 400-to-800 Adapter to my toolkit, at least in the short term.

In the long term, I’ll make sure that any FireWire devices I purchase in the future include FireWire 800 support, as it’s clear that the days of FireWire 400 have now passed. I’m just glad that the days of FireWire itself haven’t passed—its ease of connectivity (and speed) make it a joy (occasional cable-related issues excepted) to use. So rest in peace, FireWire 400, and thanks for the many years of great service!

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