Dear Professor Phil,
One of our video encoders has a connector on the back that is a serial port. The device was donated to the school and I would like to configure it. I managed to find a manual on the web that describes the setup using Hyperterminal and the RS-232 interface. This is new to me. Would you supply some explanation about what all of this means?
Bill, Columbus, OH
Let’s consider RS-232 first. It’s a very old specification, published by the EIA (Electronics Industry Association), for an interface between computers and modems. It provided a method to control a modem, which in turn sent signals over telephone links. There have been several versions of the standard, but all versions share some common features. The key feature that keeps this standard popular is that it can be implemented using only four pins or wires: power in, power out, data in, data out. While it often uses the 25-pin D-shaped connector, it can use the 9-pin D-shaped connector or even the common RJ-45 connector. Also, it also often requires the use of a null modem cable, which simply crosses the data-in and data-out wires.
Contemporary Research’s 232-STS Stereo S-Video TunerHyperterminal was Microsoft’s modem control or terminal emulation program for Windows 2000 through Windows XP. It allowed the configuration of the modem or modem emulating device by using a set of windows rather than forcing the user to use the command line. Windows 7 and Windows 8 will not include Hyperterminal, so techs will likely turn to the open source software product PuTTY, which provides essentially the same functionality.
Physical level standards such as RS-232 have a way of lasting for very long periods. The common RJ-45 connector has been around for more than half a century.
Dr. Phil Hippensteel has spent more than 40 years in higher education and now teaches at Penn State Harrisburg. Send your technical question to firstname.lastname@example.org.