About 1998, 1394a wa the modification to the 1394 spec that fixes the hotswap/reset problems of the original
It is unlikely you can find non "a" items. Certainly would have no impact on cables... Since the change was minor, not everyone may note it.
I am going to be buying a laptop soon. I have heard that firewire is a good way to quickly and easily transfer data between a desktop and laptop because it acts as a direct network connection without a hub. I don't understand the standards though. I know that there is a newer more expensive standard 1394b, but I think I'll stick with the slower 1394a version. I was looking on the internet at firewire cards for my desktop and came across some that are IEEE 1394 and IEEE 1394a. Is there a difference or are they the same thing? If they aren't the same what is the difference?