Infrared Data Association

The Infrared Data Association, also known as IrDA, allows you to transfer files with infrared.

History of IrDA

This technology was used in the late 1990s and early 2000s, particularly to transfer files between laptops, mobile phones and personal computers. IrDA is now gradually being replaced by radio wave technologies such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, which make it possible to avoid a direct sight between the two communicating devices. This technology was hardly integrated into mobile phones from 2006 onwards. However, it is still used in environments where interference prevents radio wave technologies from operating properly.

IrDA Uses

IrDA, Infrared Data Association, is the standard used in TV, DVD,... remote controls to send orders. But we can do more than that: we can receive and send files for almost no hardware cost, and infrared interfaces have long been implemented on PCs and mobile phones, but this technology is becoming obsolete, replaced by Bluetooth and other WiFi. IrDA is a technology that was widely used in the 1990s and early 2000s, especially on phones, PDAs and laptops. The IrDA uses an infrared signal, in the same way as television remote controls, for example, to make transfers between two devices. The operation is simple: a lamp emits infrared radiation (invisible to humans) with a frequency that allows it to work in binary. Infrared has several defects: the range is limited (between 5 and 1 meter), it is necessary to align the peripherals (in a cone of about 15°) and no obstacle must separate the two devices.

Internet access point for PDA

IrDA was very common on early GPRS phones, in addition to Bluetooth. The T68i, for example, was equipped with an IrDA port and was used to connect an old PC and PDA to the Internet, using the telephone (GPRS) as a modem. Of course, it's a little easier now with 4G smartphones that turn into Wi-Fi access points.

Infrared in Mac

Apple offered infrared in some of its machines in the late 1990s. First, the PowerBook 190, 1400, 5300, 2400 and 3400 offered an infrared port. Apple has also integrated infrared dd into the PowerBook G3 and the first PowerBook G4 (the first and Gigabit Ethernet). Finally, Apple has also integrated infrared into the first iMacs, the Bondi Blue. Apple used two standards: IRTalk, a homemade implementation of AppleTalk on an infrared link, and IrDA, the standard. The PowerBook 190, 1400 and 5300 only support IRTalk, the PowerBook G3 (except Kanga), the PowerBook G4 and the iMac only support IrDA. Finally, the PowerBook 3400, 2400 and PowerBook G3 "Kanga" support both technologies. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was actually the only wireless technology available!

Current uses

Currently, computer use has almost completely disappeared, but many companies still use infrared for their remote controls (infrared is omnipresent in the audio/video world). The reason is simple: the technology is well mastered, efficient and consumes little. Source

Advantages of IrDA (also some of its disadvantages)

Speed of IrDA

From 9,600 bits/s to 16 megabits/s The IrDA is available in several versions, with a variable flow rate. The classic version, SIR (Serial InfraRed) works by emulating an RS-232 (serial) connector. In practice, we have the same speed as the serial port (115 kilobits/s) and many motherboards allow to use an infrared port directly as a COM port. MIR and FIR (Medium and Fast) accelerate throughput and FIR can reach 16 megabits per second. Note that transfers can only be made in one direction at a time (half duplex), the use of lamps posing problems: a receiver can be parasitic by its own lamp.

IrDA, increasingly rare

In practice, IrDA is becoming increasingly rare. While all phones and PDAs of the early 2000s had this technology, very convenient to exchange files (and even play in a network) and to use a phone as a modem on the GSM network. Currently, Bluetooth perfectly replaces IrDA in the vast majority of uses, some of the Bluetooth Profiles (especially the one used to transfer virtual business cards) being directly recovered on the IrDA standard software functions. Finally, it should be noted that even if the IrDA connector is basically intended for professional use, it has also been used a lot in home PCs to use a remote control with a PC. A simple infrared receiver, to be connected to a connector on the motherboard, allows you to control a PC from a television remote control (provided that a suitable program is installed).