IEEE stands for Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers
which is (among other things) a standards body that develops
communication standards used in computers and peripherals.
I think the easiest way to understand communication standards is to
think of them as Languages that the computer speaks. A language is just
a set of pre-defined vocabulary and grammar/word order and usage. A
standards committee helps to set the vocabulary and grammar of
communication. So a Linux server can talk to a Macintosh and a computer
running Windows 98. All the computers understand exactly what is
happening, because they are all speaking the same language.
While in actuality it really does just boil down to a bunch of 1's
and 0's. think of how people talk on 2 way radios. You can't speak and
listen at the same time, so people developed a type of "standard" where
they would say a lot of "Over's and "Roger's". Assume that some one
misinterpreted the standard, they might keep flipping the radio "over"
or ignore the entire conversation because it is obviously intended for
someone named Roger. The communication standards save us from a
technological tower of Babel.
The most common IEEE standards that consumers run into are IEEE
1284, IEEE 1394, and IEEE 802.11.
IEEE 1284 is the standard used for communication to
Parallel devices. (The other option would be to communicate directly
with another computer… and that uses a different type of cable) IEEE
compliant cables are used to connect parallel Printers, scanners,
zip drives, and other devices. They generally come with three kinds of
- There is the basic DB25, which matches the 25 pin port on the
back of most desktop computers.
- There is the 36 pin Centronics port, which is about 2″ wide and
acually uses a tongue and groove type interface rather than independent
- HP developed another port that they put on some of their printers
and all-in-one devices. We call it the Mini Centronics but it is also
called “Centronics C” sometimes. It looks generally the same as the
standard Centronics port, (36 pins or contacts and the tongue and
groove type interface) but it is about half the width, only about 1
IEEE 1394 is most commonly known as Firewire
and is sometimes also called ilink or lynx It can be used to connect
Hard drives, digital cameras and seems to be the connection of choice
now for Digital Camcorders. Again there are three common connections.
- 6 pin is about a half inch wide and kind of bullet shaped, with 3
contacts on each side.
- The 4 pin connector is a small rectangle with one concave side.
The 4 pins actually sit on the concave side.
- There is now also a 9 pin connector that supports the Firewire
800 (IEEE 1394b) specification. The 9 pin connection kind of has a
picture frame look, a rectangle inside a rectangle, with 9 contacts on
802.11 is a standard used for wireless
internet. First there was 802.11a, it was problematic and never gained
wide acceptance. 802.11b is also known as WiFi, and virtually created
the market for wireless networking. Most of the access points that you
find in Hotels, Airports and Cafe’s use 802.11b. There is also IEEE
802.11g, which is backward compatible with 802.11b so it can use all of
the WiFi access points. The “G” cards support a highter transfer rate
(54 Mbps compared to 11 Mbps for WiFi transfers) and has better range.
So if you are buying… look for 802.11g and you will likely be happy.
So that’s the basic rundown. If a User Manual or product description
mentions IEEE, in any of it’s variations, hopefully you’ll have a feel
for what they are talking about.