Parallel Port Background
(Now available in Bulgarian translation)
IBM introduced the PC, in 1981, the parallel printer port was included
as an alternative to the slower serial port as a means for driving
the latest high performance dot matrix printers. The parallel port
had the capability to transfer 8 bits of data at time whereas the
serial port transmitted one bit at a time. When the PC was introduced,
dot matrix printers were the main peripheral that used the parallel
port. As technology progressed and the need for greater external
connectivity increased, the parallel port became the means by which
you could connect higher performance peripherals. These peripherals
now range from printer sharing devices, portable disk drives and
tape backup to local area network adapters and CD ROM players.
problems faced by developers and customers of these peripherals
fall into three categories. First, although the performance of the
PC has increased dramatically, there has been virtually no change
in the parallel port performance or architecture. The maximum data
transfer rate achievable with this architecture is around 150 kilobytes
per second and is extremely software intensive. Second, there is
no standard for the electrical interface. This causes many problems
when attempting to guarantee operation across various platforms.
Finally, the lack of design standards forced a distance limitation
of only 6 feet for external cables.
1991 there was a meeting of printer manufacturers to start discussions
on developing a new standard for the intelligent control of printers
over a network. These manufacturers, which included Lexmark, IBM,
Texas Instruments and others, formed the Network Printing Alliance.
The NPA defined a set of parameters that, when implemented in the
printer and host, will allow for the complete control of printer
applications and jobs.
this work was in progress it became apparent that to fully implement
this standard would require a high performance bi-directional connection
to the PC. The usual means of connection, the ordinary PC parallel
port, did not have the capabilities required to meet the full requirements
or abilities of this standard.
NPA submitted a proposal to the IEEE for the creation of a committee
to develop a new standard for a high speed bi-directional parallel
port for the PC. It was a requirement that this new standard would
remain fully compatible with the original parallel port software
and peripherals, but would increase the data rate capability to
greater than 1M bytes per second, both in and out of the computer.
This committee became the IEEE 1284 committee.
IEEE 1284 standard, "Standard Signaling Method for a Bi-directional
Parallel Peripheral Interface for Personal Computers", was
approved for final release in March of 1994.
Parallel Port -- an Overview
parallel port, as implemented on the PC, consists of a connector
with 17 signal lines and 8 ground lines. The signal lines are divided
into three groups:
originally designed, the Control lines are used as interface control
and handshaking signals from the PC to the printer. The Status lines
are used for handshake signals and as status indicators for such
things as paper empty, busy indication and interface or peripheral
errors. The data lines are used to provide data from the PC to the
printer, in that direction only. Later implementations of the parallel
port allowed for data to be driven from the peripheral to the PC.
1 identifies each of these signals and gives their Standard Parallel
Port (SPP) definitions. The signals within these groups are assigned
to specific bits within the registers that make up the hardware/software
interface to the parallel port. The parallel port is mapped into
the I/O space of the PC. The registers consist as a contiguous block
of 3 registers starting from the parallel port's base address. These
ports are commonly referred to as the LPT ports and have the familiar
I/O base addresses of 3BCh, 378h and 278h. Newer implementations
of the parallel port, that support the advanced modes of the 1284
standard, use 8 to 16 registers and are located at I/O addresses
378h or 278h, or are re-locatable, as in the case of a Plug and
Play compliant parallel adapter.
2 identifies the registers for the standard parallel port. The basic
method of transferring data to the printer using this port is described
in the section entitled "Compatibility Mode."
1 -- SPP Signal Definitions (1)
low. Indicates valid data is on the data lines.
low. Instructs the printer to automatically insert a line
feed for each carriage return
low. Used to indicate to the printer that it is selected.
low. Used to reset the printer.
asserted pulse used to indicate that the last character was
signal asserted by the printer to indicate that it is busy
and cannot take data.
high to indicate that the printer is online.
low to indicate that some error condition exists
lines- output only in older SPP
(Note 1) The signal usage described in this and all following
tables define the usage while in the described data transfer mode.
Many of these signals are used for mode transitions and for additional
status information. Please refer to the IEEE 1284-1994 standard
for the complete definition and usage of these signals. This is
meant as an introduction only.
2 -- SPP Register Definition
port to read or write data
to set control signals
differently by various implementations
2) This is the offset from the base address of the port.
1284 Data Transfer Modes
use of the various 1284 data transfer modes provide the capability
to create a forward and reverse channel connection between the host
computer and an attached peripheral. Since there is only one set
of data lines the connection is half duplex, data is transferred
in one direction at a time.
Compatibility and Nibble modes of operation can be implemented in
any existing parallel port in order to create a complete bi-directional
communication path between the host and peripheral. The Compatibility
and Byte modes can also be used create a bi-directional communication
path, but the the parallel port must support the Byte mode capability.
The Byte mode requires that an entire byte of data can be read from
the external data lines. This is usually implemented by the addition
of a direction bit in the parallel port's Control register. This
type of port is generally called a "bi-directional" parallel
EPP and ECP modes have bi-directional capability as part of their
protocol. These modes require that the hardware implement a state
machine that is capable of automatically generating the control
strobes that are necessary for these high performance data transfer
of the operating modes, other than Compatibility, rename the control
and status signals to have meaning within the mode being used. The
discussions for each mode will use the names consistent with the
mode being discussed.