Thunderbolt (codenamed Light Peak) is a hardware interface that allows for the connection of external peripherals to a computer. It uses the same connector as Mini DisplayPort (MDP). It was released in its finished state on February 24, 2011.
Thunderbolt combines PCI Express (PCIe) and DisplayPort (DP) into one serial signal alongside a DC connection for electric power, transmitted over one cable. Up to six peripherals may be supported by one connector through various topologies.
Thunderbolt was developed by Intel. It was commercially introduced on Apple's 2011 MacBook Pro, using the same Apple-developed connector as Mini DisplayPort, which is electrically identical to DisplayPort, but uses a smaller, non-locking connector. Though the Thunderbolt trademark was registered by Apple, full rights belong to Intel which subsequently led to the transfer of the registration from Apple to Intel.
Thunderbolt controllers multiplex one or more individual data lanes from connected PCIe and DisplayPort devices for transmission via one duplex Thunderbolt lane, then de-multiplex them for consumption by PCIe and DisplayPort devices on the other end. A single Thunderbolt port supports up to six Thunderbolt devices via hubs or daisy chains; as many of these as the host has DP sources may be Thunderbolt monitors.
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