In computing, a serial port is a serial communication physical interface through which information transfers in or out one bit at a time (contrast parallel port). Throughout most of the history of personal computers, data transfer through serial ports connected the computer to devices such as terminals and various peripherals.
While such interfaces as Ethernet, FireWire, and USB all send data as a serial stream, the term "serial port" usually identifies hardware more or less compliant to the RS-232 standard, intended to interface with a modem or with a similar communication device.
In modern personal computers the serial port has largely been replaced by USB and Firewire for connections to peripheral devices. Many modern personal computers do not have a serial port since this legacy port has been superseded for most uses. Serial ports are commonly still used in applications such as industrial automation systems, scientific analysis, shop till systems and some industrial and consumer products. Server computers may use a serial port as a control console for diagnostics. Network equipment (such as routers and switches) often use serial console for configuration. Serial ports are still used in these areas as they are simple, cheap and their console functions are highly standardized and widespread. A serial port requires very little supporting software from the host system.
Some computers, such as the IBM PC, used an integrated circuit called a UART, that converted characters to (and from) asynchronous serial form, and automatically looked after the timing and framing of data. Very low-cost systems, such as some early home computers, would instead use the CPU to send the data through an output pin, using the so-called bit-banging technique. Before large-scale integration (LSI) UART integrated circuits were common, a minicomputer or microcomputer would have a serial port made of multiple small-scale integrated circuits to implement shift registers, logic gates, counters, and all the other logic for a serial port.
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