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No other interface has been so constant since the PC was introduced in 1981. Originally implemented to
provide a "high speed" interface to the latest generation of dot matrix and daisy wheel printers, the parallel
port has become the most common interface used to connect a wide variety of peripherals.
For many years, up until around 1989, printers were the only peripheral that took advantage of the parallel port. The port was viewed primarily as a "printer" port and other types of peripherals did not use it. Then companies such as Microsolutions and Xircom got the idea that you could actually use the port to get information back into the computer, and therefore use it as a bi-directional communication port. Being parallel, you could get much higher performance than using the PC's serial port, with greater simplicity.
The old parallel port became an easy-to-use interface for connecting peripherals. With a very simple register
model, it is easy to get information into and out of the PC. The only drawback was that it was relatively
slow. The CPU and platform performance was increasing at a tremendous rate, but the I/O capability of the
PC stayed the same. While the CPU increased 100 fold, the parallel port remained stagnant.
This all changed with the formation of the IEEE 1284 Committee in 1992. This committee, sponsored by the
Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, had the charter to develop new, advanced parallel port
modes that would enable high speed bi-directional data transfer through the parallel port. The requirements
was to do this and still be 100% compatible with "standard" parallel port. Working with industry groups and
individuals, the IEEE 1284 committee produced its new standard in 1994. This standard, IEEE St. 1284-
1994, defined new ways of using the parallel port for high speed communication.
Two of these new modes are the EPP and ECP modes. Now, rather than being limited to a software-
intensive, 50Kb-per-second port, you can get simple data transfer at rates approaching 2Mb per second. This
40 fold improvement in throughput is even more remarkable considering that the modes also remain
backwards compatible with existing devices and interfaces.
This standard has enabled a wide range of peripherals that take advantage of the parallel port. Almost all new peripherals provide support via the parallel port. This includes the traditional uses such as printers, scanners, CD-ROM, hard drive, port sharing, and tape, as well as some non-traditional uses.
One of the most popular, non-traditional uses of the 1284 parallel port has been as a scientific and data
acquisition interface. The past few years has seen tremendous growth in the use of this port for attaching
control devices and for use as a simple interface for data acquisition instruments. The ability to have the
same PC interface in the lab and on every portable computer makes this the ideal port to attach this type of
In this book, Interfacing to the PC using the Parallel Port, Dhananjay provides a clear introduction and
model on how to use the parallel port for these types of applications. This is the ideal reference book for
anyone wishing to use the PC for interfacing to external devices. Dhananjay presents a step-by-step
approach to the subject. Starting with the basic, "What is the Parallel Port?" and "What is Data Acquisition",
he leads you up the path to designing peripheral interfaces and writing the software drivers necessary to
control and communicate with your devices.
the IEE 1284 standard and served as chair of the EPP Committee. He is currently Vice-President of Warp
Nine Engineering and is the chief architect of the Warp Nine interface cards and IEEE 1284 Peripheral
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