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The Complete List of Computer Ports - Computer Ports Explained

In the digital tapestry of our lives, computer ports often play a behind-the-scenes role, quietly ensuring our devices communicate, charge, and function seamlessly.

These tiny gateways, ranging from the familiar USB to the nostalgic VGA, act as bridges, connecting the vast world of technology.

Published: October 27, 2023.

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A Brief History of Computer Ports

The history of computer ports is a journey that traces back to the earliest days of computing.

In the nascent stages of computer development, there was a pressing need for mechanisms that could enable devices to communicate with each other. The solution? Ports. Computer Ports.

These provided a physical interface for data exchange between devices. The earliest ports were rudimentary, serving specific functions like connecting teletypes to mainframes.

As computers evolved and personal computers entered the scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s, so did the variety and complexity of ports.

From the serial and parallel ports of the "old days" to the multi-purpose USB ports of today, computer ports have evolved in tandem with the technological advancements of their times, providing faster, more versatile, and often more compact ways to connect our devices.

Understanding the Different Types of Ports

With the technological evolution of computers came a diverse array of ports, each designed for specific tasks and devices. Broadly, computer ports can be categorized into:

  • Data Transfer Ports: These are designed primarily for transferring data. Examples include USB (Universal Serial Bus), Thunderbolt, and eSATA.
  • Display Ports: Aimed at transmitting video (and sometimes audio) signals. Common ones include VGA, HDMI, and DisplayPort.
  • Audio Ports: Specifically for audio-related tasks. The most common example would be the 3.5mm audio jack, but there are also ports like optical audio out.
  • Networking Ports: Designed for internet and local network connections. Ethernet (RJ-45) is the most recognizable.
  • Legacy Ports: Older ports that have largely been replaced by newer standards but might still be found on some older equipment. Examples include Serial and Parallel ports.

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How to Identify Computer Ports by Sight

Identifying computer ports by sight might seem daunting, especially with the myriad of options available. But with a bit of knowledge and practice, it becomes easier. Here are some quick tips:

  • Shape and Size: Each port usually has a unique shape and size. For instance, USB ports are rectangular, while HDMI ports are wider and flatter.
  • Number of Pins: Look inside the port. VGA, for instance, has 15 pins in three rows. Ethernet ports are larger and have a distinct wide slot.
  • Color Coding: Some ports, especially audio ones, are color-coded. Green often denotes speakers, while blue can indicate a line-in.
  • Icons: Often, ports come with adjacent icons indicating their function. A headphone icon for audio, a monitor for display ports, and so on.
  • Location: Ports designed for similar functions often group together. For instance, on many computers, display-related ports are often clustered.

To truly master the art of identifying ports, having a reference guide with images can be invaluable. As you familiarize yourself with different ports, identifying them will become second nature.

The Evolution of Data Transfer Speeds

The story of computer ports is not just about shapes, sizes, and functionalities—it's also about speed. As our hunger for data grew, so did the need for faster data transfer rates. Let's take a trip down memory lane:

  • Serial and Parallel Ports: In the early days of personal computers, serial and parallel ports were common. Serial ports transferred data bit by bit, while parallel ports transferred multiple bits simultaneously. Still, these were considerably slow by today's standards.
  • USB Evolution: Introduced in the mid-90s, the USB (Universal Serial Bus) port became a game-changer. USB 1.0 started with a modest 12 Mbps, but USB 2.0 elevated this to 480 Mbps. USB 3.0 (later renamed 3.1 Gen 1) skyrocketed speeds to 5 Gbps, and USB 3.1 Gen 2 doubled it to 10 Gbps. The latest USB4 can achieve a whopping 40 Gbps!
  • Thunderbolt: Another giant leap in data transfer rates. Thunderbolt 3, for instance, matches USB4's 40 Gbps, and Thunderbolt 4 further refines its capabilities, ensuring a consistent performance and enhanced features.

The drive for faster data transfer rates has never ceased, and with emerging technologies like fiber optics and quantum computing, who knows what the future holds?

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Ports for Display: From VGA to HDMI

Display ports have also witnessed significant evolution, adapting to the demands of higher resolutions, color accuracies, and refresh rates.

  • VGA (Video Graphics Array): Introduced in 1987 by IBM, VGA ports became the standard for PC graphics. Though it served us well for years, VGA is analog and has limitations in today's digital age.
  • DVI (Digital Visual Interface): Marking the transition from analog to digital, DVI can support both analog and digital signals. It became popular in the early 2000s.
  • HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface): Launched in 2003, HDMI combined audio and video into one port. Supporting ultra-high resolutions and multiple audio channels, HDMI is the go-to port for many modern TVs, monitors, and gaming consoles.

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) has seen various types and iterations since its introduction. Here's a list of HDMI port types with brief descriptions:

HDMI Type A (Standard HDMI): The most common type found on TVs, monitors, projectors, and most home consumer electronics. It has 19 pins and is designed to handle most home applications.

HDMI Type B (Dual Link HDMI): This type has been defined in the HDMI standard but hasn't been used in products yet. It has 29 pins and offers extended bandwidth for future needs, potentially catering to very high resolutions and faster refresh rates.

HDMI Type C (Mini HDMI): Smaller than the standard HDMI, the Mini HDMI is often found on tablets, some laptops, and digital cameras. It keeps the 19 pins of Type A but in a smaller form factor.

HDMI Type D (Micro HDMI): Even smaller than Mini HDMI, Micro HDMI is used on some tablets and smartphones. It still maintains the 19-pin configuration, offering the same capabilities as the standard HDMI but in a much more compact design.

HDMI Type E (Automotive Connection System): Specifically designed for automotive video systems, this type has a locking mechanism to ensure connections don't get loose due to the vehicle's movement. It's used in cars for entertainment and navigation systems.

In addition to these types, it's worth noting that HDMI technology itself has evolved over the years, with versions like HDMI 1.4, 2.0, and 2.1 introducing enhanced capabilities such as higher resolutions, faster refresh rates, and improved audio formats.

  • DisplayPort: A competitor to HDMI, it's often found on computer monitors and offers advantages like daisy-chaining multiple displays.

Each port transition has catered to our ever-growing desire for better visual experiences, and the industry continues to innovate.

Data Transfer Ports: USB, Thunderbolt, and Beyond

While we've touched on USB and Thunderbolt earlier, it's worth diving deeper:

  • USB (Universal Serial Bus): A true universal port, USB is found on almost every device today, from computers to kitchen appliances. With various form factors like USB-A, USB-C, and USB Micro-B, it's incredibly versatile.
  • Thunderbolt: Developed by Intel and Apple, it's not just about speed. Thunderbolt supports data, video, audio, and power, making it a comprehensive port solution. Particularly, Thunderbolt's ability to daisy chain up to six devices through a single port sets it apart.
  • eSATA: Specifically designed for external storage devices, eSATA offers faster data transfer rates than traditional USB ports but hasn't gained as much widespread adoption.
  • FireWire: Introduced by Apple as an alternative to USB, it gained some traction, especially in the audio-video industry, but eventually was overshadowed by the ubiquity and evolution of USB.

These ports, each in their own way, have revolutionized how we transfer data, stream media, and power our devices. And as tech continues its relentless march forward, we can expect to see even more innovative solutions on the horizon.

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Audio and Multimedia Ports Explained

When it comes to conveying sound or multimedia content, specific ports have been crafted to deliver the best auditory and visual experiences:

  • 3.5mm Audio Jack: Perhaps the most recognized audio port, the 3.5mm jack (often called a headphone jack) has been ubiquitous in audio devices from Walkmans to smartphones. It's versatile, supporting both stereo audio output and microphone input.
  • Optical Audio (TOSLINK): Using light to transmit audio data, optical audio ports offer a clear signal transmission that's especially valued in home theaters and high-end audio systems.
  • RCA: These are the colorful (often red, white, and yellow) ports found on many audio and video devices. While they've been largely replaced by digital interfaces, they were standard on televisions and stereos for years.
  • MIDI: Essential for digital music creation, MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) ports allow electronic musical instruments to communicate with computers and each other.

The world of audio and multimedia is vast, and these ports have played a significant role in shaping our multimedia experiences throughout the years. Obviously 3.5mm audio jack is the most common, and it is found on almost every computer, laptop, and tablet.

Also, many smartphones have 3.5mm audio jacks, but those that don't either rely on Bluetooth or USB-to-3.5mm Audio Jack adapters.

Multimedia Card Ports (MMC)

Once a prevalent format for portable storage, MMC ports can still be found on some computers, especially older models. They were primarily used for expanding storage or transferring data.

Types of MMCs for Computers:

  • Standard MMC: The initial version introduced, suitable for basic data storage and transfer needs.
  • RS-MMC (Reduced Size MMC): A compact variant, it could be used with standard MMC ports using an adapter.
  • MMCplus and MMCmobile: Faster, enhanced versions that provided quicker data transfer rates.

MMC Port Design on Computers:

  • Push-Push Mechanism: A common design, especially in port expanders, where the card is pushed to insert or eject it.
  • Push-Pull Mechanism: A direct insertion or removal process without the use of springs.

mmc port

SD Card Ports

SD cards, derivatives of the MMC standard, have become the de facto choice for portable storage. Many computers and laptops come equipped with SD card ports, facilitating easy data transfers and storage expansion.

Types of SD Card Ports on Computers:

  • Standard SD: Found in many older computers, this port accommodates the original SD card size.
  • MiniSD and MicroSD: While MiniSD is less common, MicroSD ports (or adaptable standard SD ports) are widespread in modern laptops due to the card's compact size and large storage capacities.

SD Card Port Design on Computers:

  • Spring-Ejection Mechanism: A popular design where the card clicks into place when inserted and is ejected using a spring when pressed again.
  • Direct Insertion: Some computers, especially older models, may use a simple slot design without spring mechanisms.

These ports, while primarily associated with other devices like phones or cameras, have found their place in the computer world. They provide users with expanded storage options and data transfer capabilities.

And like many similar ports, they are being slowly phased out in favor of USB-C and similar USB ports.

Networking Ports: From Ethernet to Wi-Fi and More

Connecting to networks, whether local or the vast expanse of the internet, requires specialized ports:

  • Ethernet (RJ45): The cornerstone of wired networking, Ethernet ports provide a stable and fast connection to local networks and the internet. They use the RJ45 connector and can support speeds from 10 Mbps (in older standards) to 10 Gbps and beyond in newer implementations.
  • Wi-Fi: While not a physical "port" in the traditional sense, Wi-Fi technology is worth mentioning. It has revolutionized how we connect to networks, offering wireless convenience. From the early days of 802.11a/b/g to the faster 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6), Wi-Fi continues to evolve.

Wi-Fi 1 (IEEE 802.11b, 1999): Frequency: 2.4 GHz; Maximum Data Rate: 11 Mbps; The first widely-adopted Wi-Fi standard, it set the foundation for wireless networking in homes and businesses. While relatively slow by modern standards, it was a game-changer at the time.

Wi-Fi 2 (IEEE 802.11a, 1999): Frequency: 5 GHz; Maximum Data Rate: 54 Mbps; Released simultaneously with 802.11b, this standard offered faster speeds but at the expense of shorter range due to its higher frequency.

Wi-Fi 3 (IEEE 802.11g, 2003): Frequency: 2.4 GHz; Maximum Data Rate: 54 Mbps; It combined the best of the previous two generations, offering speeds similar to 802.11a but with the longer range of 802.11b, making it popular for home networking.

Wi-Fi 4 (IEEE 802.11n, 2009): Frequency: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz; Maximum Data Rate: Up to 600 Mbps (with multiple antennas); A major advancement, it introduced MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) technology, allowing for multiple antennas to boost speed and reliability. The dual-band capability catered to devices new and old.

Wi-Fi 5 (IEEE 802.11ac, 2013): Frequency: 5 GHz; Maximum Data Rate: Over 3 Gbps (with multiple antennas and channels); A leap in speed and efficiency, it was designed for high-traffic networks. MU-MIMO (Multi-User MIMO) allowed routers to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously, optimizing bandwidth.

Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax, 2019): Frequency: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz; Maximum Data Rate: Up to 10 Gbps; Built for modern devices and applications, it introduced OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) for more efficient channel use. It also enhanced security with WPA3 encryption.

Wi-Fi 6E: Frequency: 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz; An extension of Wi-Fi 6, the inclusion of the 6 GHz band offers more channels and significantly reduces congestion. This is especially beneficial in areas with a dense concentration of Wi-Fi networks.

Wi-Fi 7 (IEEE 802.11be, Expected in the 2024): Frequency:2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz; Still in development; it's expected to push the boundaries of speed further (up to 46 Gb/s, realistically much lower, of course), efficiency, and capabilities, including enhanced support for real-time applications like VR and AR.

  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard primarily designed for short-range communications between devices. While not a "port" in the traditional sense, its purpose serves the same: to connect and transfer data. It's prevalent in headphones, speakers, smartphones, and many other gadgets.

    Bluetooth 1.x: The original series that started it all, offering data transfer rates up to 1 Mbps.

    Bluetooth 2.x: Introduced Enhanced Data Rate (EDR), boosting the speed to 2-3 Mbps, improving the range and making connections more robust.

    Bluetooth 3.0 + HS: Added the High-Speed (HS) feature, theoretically allowing for data transfer speeds up to 24 Mbps by using the 802.11 Wi-Fi standard for actual data transfer.

    Bluetooth 4.x: Brought in the Low Energy (LE) profile, enhancing the technology's power efficiency, making it suitable for wearables and other battery-sensitive devices.

    Bluetooth 5.x: Doubled the data rate and increased the range fourfold compared to Bluetooth 4.2, while continuing to improve on power efficiency. It also enhanced its ability to transmit data-rich content, proving essential for IoT (Internet of Things) devices.

    Bluetooth 5.2: Introduced LE Audio, which is a new architecture to improve audio experiences with features like Audio Sharing and better power efficiency.

    Each generation of Bluetooth has refined the technology's capabilities, ensuring more reliable connections, faster data transfers, and enhanced power efficiencies.

  • DSL/Cable: For many, these are the entry points to the internet. DSL uses your phone line, while cable modems utilize the same coaxial cable that brings TV to your home.
  • SIM Card Ports: In the realm of computers, particularly laptops with cellular connectivity capabilities, SIM card ports play a crucial role. These ports allow users to access cellular networks, providing internet connectivity even without Wi-Fi.

    Types of SIM Card Ports on Computers

    Standard SIM (1FF): The original, large-sized SIM, although rare, might be found in some older computer models.

    Mini-SIM (2FF): While primarily popular in early mobile phones, some older laptop models with built-in cellular capabilities utilized these.

    Micro-SIM (3FF) & Nano-SIM (4FF): More modern laptops with LTE or cellular capabilities may have ports designed for these smaller SIM sizes.

    Port Design for SIM Cards

    Tray-based: Laptops or port expanders may use a tray mechanism where the SIM is securely housed. This sleek design ensures the SIM stays protected and in place.

    Slot-based: Typically found in older models, this design involves a dedicated slot, often at the side of the device, for direct SIM insertion.

As our world becomes ever more interconnected, the importance of these networking interfaces cannot be understated.

Legacy Ports: A Nostalgic Look Back

As technology advances, certain ports, once considered cutting-edge, fade into the annals of tech history. Let's take a nostalgic trip:

  • Serial Ports (RS-232): Once the standard for connections, especially for mice and modems, these ports are now rarely found on modern devices.
  • Parallel Ports: Best remembered as the primary means to connect printers in the '90s, their larger size and slower speeds compared to USB led to their decline.

I am sure that those people who like home DIY robotic projects remember EPP (Enhanced Printer Port) printer ports and how easy was in the "old days" to connect home-built devices to any desktop or laptop computer - USB ports replaced printer ports, even in that role...

printer port

Printer and Serial ports are nowadays replaced with USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and RJ-45 (LAN) ports, allowing users to connect to printers with various devices, ranging from smartphones to computers.

  • ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment): Originally known as IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) and EIDE (Enhanced Integrated Drive Electronics) ATA is an interface standard used to connect storage devices like hard drives and CD-ROM drives to the computer's motherboard. The connector typically has a 40-pin layout, and the data cable often features a ribbon-like design.

hdd eide port

  • Parallel ATA (PATA): This is the original standard for ATA, which uses parallel signaling. Over the years, it went through various revisions that improved data transfer speeds, but the technology was eventually surpassed by the more advanced SATA (Serial ATA).
  • UATA (Ultra Advanced Technology Attachment): UATA is essentially an enhancement of the older PATA technology. The "Ultra" prefix indicates versions of PATA that achieved faster transfer speeds than earlier iterations.

UATA/33 (Ultra ATA/33): Also known as Ultra DMA mode 2, this version doubled the peak data transfer rate of the previous ATA interface to 33.3 MB/s.

UATA/66 (Ultra ATA/66): This iteration, also known as Ultra DMA mode 4, doubled the transfer rate again to 66.6 MB/s by improving the data cable and reducing electrical interference.

UATA/100 (Ultra ATA/100): Pushing the boundaries further, this version (Ultra DMA mode 5) achieved a data transfer rate of 100 MB/s.

UATA/133 (Ultra ATA/133): The last major update in the PATA series pushed the data transfer rate to 133 MB/s (Ultra DMA mode 6).

While ATA and UATA played significant roles in early personal computers, the industry eventually shifted towards the more efficient SATA standard for internal storage connections.

  • PS/2: Named after IBM's Personal System/2 series, these colorful ports (usually green and purple) were used for keyboards and mice.
  • SCSI: Pronounced "scuzzy," this port was used for hard drives and scanners, offering faster data transfer speeds in its time. However, it was eventually overshadowed by USB and SATA.

5.25" and 3.5" Floppy Computer Ports

Before USB drives, CDs, and cloud storage, there were floppy disks.

The 5.25-inch floppy drives primarily used the Floppy Disk Controller (FDC) for communication with a computer. The FDC wasn't directly about "ports" in the same way modern computers use USB or HDMI ports, but rather about a specific controller interface on the computer's motherboard.

5 25 inch floppy

Here are some details:

  • Data Interface: The floppy drive connected to the motherboard via a 34-pin ribbon cable. This cable transmitted data, control signals, and power for the drive motor.
  • Power Connector: A separate 4-pin power connector provided the electrical power required for the floppy drive's operation.
  • Jumper Settings: Some floppy drives had jumper settings to designate the drive as the primary (Drive A) or secondary (Drive B) drive.
  • Controller: The FDC was often a separate card installed in one of the computer's expansion slots, especially in earlier PCs. Later on, this controller functionality was integrated into motherboards. The operating system communicated with the floppy drive through this controller using specific I/O port addresses.

It's worth noting that while the physical medium (the 5.25-inch floppy disk) changed over time in terms of storage capacity (from 160 KB to 1.2 MB), the basic interface and connection to the computer remained consistent.

The 3.5-inch floppy drives used essentially the same interface and connections as their 5.25-inch predecessors.

The primary difference between the two was the physical size of the disk and the protective hard plastic casing of the 3.5-inch floppy, but the way they connected and communicated with the computer remained largely consistent.

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While many of these ports have been replaced by more efficient, faster, and smaller alternatives, they are a testament to the innovative spirit of their times. They laid the groundwork for the advanced tech we enjoy today.

Future Trends: What's Coming Next in Computer Port Technology?

The realm of computer ports is always in flux, adapting to the ever-evolving needs of technology and consumers alike. So, what might the future hold for us in this domain?

  • Universal Ports: The dream of many tech enthusiasts is a single, universal port type that can handle all tasks — data transfer, display output, power delivery, and more. USB-C and Thunderbolt are steps in this direction, but further integration and acceptance across devices and manufacturers could make this dream a reality.
  • Faster Data Transfer Rates: As technology progresses, so does our need for speed. Future iterations of USB and Thunderbolt will likely focus on increasing data transfer rates, ensuring rapid exchanges of vast amounts of data, vital for tasks like 8K video editing or VR content creation.
  • Wireless Advancements: While physical ports offer stability, the convenience of wireless connectivity is undeniable. We could see a move towards advanced wireless technologies that offer the stability and speed of wired connections but without the cables. With technologies like WiGig (Wireless Gigabit Alliance) aiming to achieve multi-gigabit speeds wirelessly, the future looks promising.
  • Optical Ports: Light-based data transfer, using technologies like fiber optics, promises incredible speeds and reduced interference. Incorporating optical data transfer into consumer-grade ports could be a game-changer.
  • Eco-friendly Ports: As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, there could be a push towards ports and connectors made from sustainable materials or designed for longer lifespans to reduce electronic waste.
  • Enhanced Power Delivery: As our devices become more powerful, so does their energy requirement. Future ports might not only focus on data transfer but also on delivering higher power outputs safely and efficiently, potentially reducing the need for bulky chargers or multiple cables.
  • Smarter Ports with AI Integration: Imagine a port that auto-detects the connected device and optimizes data transfer rates, power delivery, and other settings based on the device's needs, using embedded AI.

In essence, the future of port technology will be guided by a blend of user convenience, technological advancements, and ecological considerations.

As always, adaptability will be key, with new ports and standards emerging while others fade away, all in the quest for seamless connectivity.

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Most Popular TCP/IP Network Ports

Here is a short list of some of the most common TCP&UDP networking ports. These are NOT physical ports.

  • Port 20 & 21 (TCP) - FTP: Used by File Transfer Protocol (FTP) for data (20) and command control (21).
  • Port 22 (TCP/UDP) - SSH: Secure Shell (SSH) for secure logins and file transfers.
  • Port 23 (TCP) - Telnet: Telnet protocol for unencrypted text communications.
  • Port 25 (TCP) - SMTP: Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) for email routing between mail servers.
  • Port 53 (TCP/UDP) - DNS: Domain Name System (DNS) translates domain names to IP addresses.
  • Port 67 & 68 (UDP) - DHCP: Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) assigns IP addresses to devices in a network.
  • Port 80 (TCP) - HTTP: HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) for standard web communication.
  • Port 110 (TCP) - POP3: Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) used by email clients to retrieve emails from a server.
  • Port 119 (TCP) - NNTP: Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) for the distribution, inquiry, retrieval, and posting of Usenet news articles.
  • Port 123 (UDP) - NTP: Network Time Protocol (NTP) for clock synchronization between computer systems.
  • Port 143 (TCP) - IMAP: Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) retrieves emails from a server; it allows multiple devices to access the same mailbox.
  • Port 161 & 162 (TCP/UDP) - SNMP: Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) used for managing devices on IP networks.
  • Port 443 (TCP) - HTTPS: Secure version of HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure).
  • Port 445 (TCP) - Microsoft-DS: Microsoft Directory Services for SMB file sharing.
  • Port 465 (TCP) - SMTPS: SMTP over SSL.
  • Port 514 (TCP/UDP) - Syslog: System logging service.
  • Port 993 (TCP) - IMAPS: Secure version of IMAP.
  • Port 995 (TCP) - POP3S: Secure version of POP3.
  • Port 3389 (TCP/UDP) - RDP: Remote Desktop Protocol for Windows remote desktop sessions.

telnet to ms rdp

  • Port 5060 & 5061 (TCP/UDP) - SIP: Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) used for voice over IP (VoIP) communications.

This list represents a mixture of the more historically well-known and widely utilized network ports in the world of TCP/IP networking. For more info about this topic, start with the OSI Model article on Wikipedia (external link, opens in the new window).

Remember that while these ports have standard uses, actual traffic can vary based on the configurations of particular networks and systems.

TCP vs. UDP: What's the difference?

TCP (Transmission Control Protocol): At its core, TCP is about reliability. When data packets are sent via TCP, the protocol ensures that these packets are delivered to their destination without error and in the same order they were transmitted.

It does this by establishing a connection, performing handshakes, and continuously checking and acknowledging the receipt of packets. If any packet gets lost in transit, TCP detects this and resends the lost data. It also implements flow control, ensuring that data senders aren't overwhelming data receivers.

Key Features of TCP

  • Connection-oriented: Before any data exchange, a connection is established through a three-way handshake.
  • Reliable: Ensures data integrity through acknowledgments, retransmissions, and error-checking mechanisms.
  • Ordered Delivery: Data is received in the sequence it was sent.
  • Flow Control: Adjusts the rate of data transmission based on network conditions.

UDP (User Datagram Protocol): UDP, on the other hand, is all about speed and efficiency. Unlike TCP, it doesn't establish a connection before sending data, nor does it guarantee the order of packet delivery. It simply transmits data without ensuring whether it's received on the other end.

This might sound reckless, but there are applications where speed is more critical than the perfect delivery. For instance, in live broadcasts or online gaming, a missed packet (or slightly out-of-order packet) won't matter much compared to the need for real-time data transmission.

Key Features of UDP

  • Connectionless: No connection setup is required before data transmission.
  • Fast and Efficient: Without the overhead of acknowledgments and error-checking, data transmission can be quicker.
  • No Guaranteed Delivery: It's a "best effort" protocol without guarantees for packet delivery or order.
  • Lightweight: With fewer built-in mechanisms, it’s less resource-intensive.

Choosing between TCP and UDP depends largely on the nature of the application. If you need reliability and data integrity – for applications like web browsing, file transfer, or email – TCP is the way to go.

But if speed and efficiency are paramount, as in streaming services or online gaming, UDP might be the better choice. Both protocols have their strengths and play crucial roles in the vast landscape of Internet communication.

Few Final Words

Regardless of whether they are physical or not, computer ports are essential for connecting devices and apps in one meaningful whole.

These days, most people are aware of USB, 3.5mm, HDMI, and a few more physical ports, but in the last few decades, both computers and their ports have traveled a long way.

Although there is rarely an actual need to know old, legacy ports, it is good to know them just to appreciate more the simplicity of universal ports like USB, for example.