Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Electronic data communications between elements will generally fall into two broad categories: single-ended and differential. RS232 (single-ended) was introduced in 1962, and despite rumors for its early demise, has remained widely used through the industry. The specification allows for data transmission from one transmitter to one receiver at relatively slow data rates (up to 20K bits/second) and short distances (up to 50Ft. @ the maximum data rate). Independent channels are established for two-way (full-duplex) communications. The RS232 signals are represented by voltage levels with respect to a system common (power / logic ground). The "idle" state (MARK) has the signal level negative with respect to common, and the "active" state (SPACE) has the signal level positive with respect to common. RS232 has numerous handshaking lines (primarily used with modems), and also specifies a communications protocol. In general if you are not connected to a modem the handshaking lines can present a lot of problems if not disabled in software or accounted for in the hardware (loop-back or pulled-up). RTS (Request to send) does have some utility in certain applications. RS423 is another single ended specification with enhanced operation over RS232; however, it has not been widely used in the industry.

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