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Nov 18, 1996

November 18, 1996 -- At the COMDEX/Fall '96 electronics trade show here today, National Semiconductor Corporation® demonstrated its Universal Serial Bus (USB) technology. Shown were both hub and host technologies, which the company said would be embodied in products to be introduced in the first quarter of 1997.

USB is an industry standard in which a thin cable and small connecters allow non-technical users to quickly and easily add external components and peripherals, such as mice, keyboards, printers, scanners, cameras and digital speakers to their PC systems. USB-based PCs, which are beginning to appear on the market, have a "host controller" that provides multiple USB ports for connecting "hub" peripherals, such as a monitor or keyboard. This hub typically has several USB ports to accommodate other peripherals, referred to as "nodes." Any of these ports can also be connected to hubs. This enables a single PC to have as many as 127 USB peripherals.

The technology demonstrated by National features both host controller and monitor-resident hub capabilities. The host controller technology used in the demonstration is fully compliant with both the Open Host Controller Interface (OpenHCI) and the USB specifications. The OpenHCI specification was jointly developed by National, Microsoft and Compaq as an open standard that can be adopted by any USB provider to encourage the spread of the technology.

According to Harry Inia, product marketing manager for National's Monitors Group, "We're focusing our initial USB hub activity on the monitor, primarily because we believe that this is the part of the PC that is most readily available to the user for connecting peripherals. The CPU is frequently under a desk, while the monitor is right there on the desktop, so it makes sense to put the downstream connectors in the monitor."

Inia also noted that this focus is a logical step for National because it is already a leader in supplying video preamps, CRT drivers, and deflection circuits to the monitor market. "Adding our monitor competence to the new USB standard will result in a product optimized for monitors," he said.

National's demonstration takes advantage of new software from Computer Access Technology Corporation (CATC) that enables bi-directional monitor control using the USB. The software, which was also introduced at the COMDEX trade show, allows Display Data Channel (DDC) monitors to communicate with a USB host computer, and also provides comprehensive control of either USB or DDC monitors. Dan Wilnai, president of CATC, said, "The USB standard promises to revolutionize the way PCs are interconnected, and CATC is leading the industry in providing software connectivity tools to make it a reality. We're very pleased to participate with and support National in its hardware development activities, which can only result in even greater market acceptance for USB."

Echoing the support of CATC, Bill Veghte, Microsoft's Group Manager of Windows Platform, said, "This demonstration reinforces the broad industry support of the OpenHCI standard. We're looking forward to the introduction of National's USB products in early 1997, in support of the Simply Interactive PC initiative."

Unlike the Universal Host Controller Interface (UHCI) standard, which seeks to reduce hardware complexity by increasing CPU software complexity, the OpenHCI specification strikes a balance between software and hardware complexity. The result is an interface that has significant performance advantages over UHCI, while maintaining full compatibility with the other elements in a USB-based PC system.

For additional information on National's USB hub technology contact Harry Inia at 408-721-8762.

National Semiconductor Corporation produces analog and mixed-signal silicon solutions for the information highway, communications, consumer and industrial markets. National Semiconductor is headquartered in Santa Clara, California, and has 19,000 employees worldwide. In fiscal 1996, the company reported sales of $2.6 billion.