A little bit more Thunderbolt history.
USB Type-A, or USB Standard-A, is the original design for the USB standard and uses a flat rectangular shape.
On a typical USB cable, the Type A connector male connector is the end that goes into a host, like a laptop computer.
Different USB versions including USB 1.1, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 share the same USB Type-A design. That means a Type-A connector is always compatible with a Type-A port even if the device and host use different USB versions.
For example, a USB 3.0 external hard drive also works with a USB 2.0 port, and vice versa.
In the same vein, small devices such as a mouse, keyboard or network adapter that have hard-wired USB cables commonly use Type-A connectors. That's also true for peripherals without cables, such as thumb drives.
USB 3.0's connectors and ports have more pins than USB 2.0. This enables faster speeds and higher power output. However, these pins are organized in a way that doesn't prevent them from physically working with the previous USB versions. There were also smaller Type-A plugs and connectors. These included Mini Type-A and Micro Type-A, but these connectors had limited take up.
Intel has continued its development of USB with USB4. Like Thunderbolt 4, USB4 will connect to both Thunderbolt 3 and 4 and is also backwardly compatible with earlier USB-C devices.
USB4 is very similar to and fully compatible with Thunderbolt 4, bar a few exceptions but has been completely overshadowed by Thunderbolt 4. With USB4, Intel requires USB-C to have a minimum 20 Gbps of throughput.
Perhaps it's only a matter of time before Intel simply drops the USB name.
To muddy the waters just a little bit more, in October 2021, Apple has released a 140w GaN charger around the newly ratified USB-C PD R3.1. However, this is a standard for power delivery rather than data connectivity and is not a Thunderbolt product as such.
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