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Appendix I, Terminals and Terminal Emulators


VT Terminals

Serial communications

Serial Modems


PC Terminals

X Terminals




Serial Communications

At its simplest, a serial communication cable has only three wires, one to send and one to receive, and a ground for reference. The two signal wires are crossed so that the send wire is connected to the receive wire at the other end and visaversa. Such a cable with the send/receive wires crossed is the simplest case of what is called a "null modem" cable. The name "null modem" originated from the fact that it is wired to emulate the signaling lines of a modem. This is opposite to aserial cable used to connect a modem to a serial port. Modem cables are wired "straight through" meaning that their wires are not crossed as the wires in a null modem cable would be.

Data bits or "ones and zeros," are sent in a serial stream at a certain rate called the baud rate. It the early days of serial terminals baud rates were excruciatingly slow, about 300 baud or less, such that one could read faster than the text printed on the screen. Now days the typical baud rate for a terminal had gone beyond the needs of human terminal operators. Any baud rate over 9600 is sufficient for human use and most serial ports on computers support at least 19,200 baud now.

Sometimes the serial data flow is so fast that the device receiving must stop the flow or else lose data. It sends what is called an "XOFF" signal to the sending device and the sending device stops sending. When the receiving device send and "XON" signal then data flow is resumed. You can send real XON/XOFF signals from your terminal by pressing the F1, hold screen, key on a standard VT220 keyboard. Each stroke of the F1 key will toggle or XON/XOFF the flow of data to and from your terminal. The Control-S key stroke will XOFF the data flow and the Control-Q will XON the data also. Control-S & -Q are interchangeable with the F1, hold screen, key. The use of XON/XOFF to control data flow is SOFTWARE FLOW CONTROL. Software flow control is very popular because it:

  1. supports speeds up to 19,200 baud
  2. only requires two signal wires in a serial cable.

Sometimes baud rates higher than 19,200 are required for print devices or for network connections. Also, there are times when the XON/XOFF characters will interfere with the correct function of a modem connection. In these circumstances, the addition of a number of wires to the serial cable are used to control data flow. This type of data flow is called HARDWARE FLOW CONTROL. Each of the additional wires in the serial cable must be connect to the appropriate wire on the receiving device. The additional wires can also be used to transmit the status of devices, (on, off, etc.)



© 2000 - 2008 -- CCSS, William A. Pedersen

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