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ZigBee is the set of specs built around the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless protocol. The IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering technology involving electronics and electronic devices. The 802 group is the section of the IEEE involved in network operations and technologies, including mid-sized networks and local networks. Group 15 deals specifically withwireless networking technologies, and includes the now ubiquitous 802.15.1 working group, which is also known as Bluetooth®. The standard itself is regulated by a group known as the ZigBee Alliance, with over 150 members worldwide. While Bluetooth® focuses on connectivity between large packet user devices, such as laptops, phones, and major peripherals,ZigBee is designed to provide highly efficient connectivity between small packet devices. As a result of its simplified operations, which are one to two full orders of magnitude less complex than a comparable Bluetooth® device, pricing for ZigBee devices is extremely competitive, with full nodes available for a fraction of the cost of a Bluetooth® node. ZigBee devices are actively limited to a through-rate of 250 Kbps, compared to Bluetooth®'s much larger pipeline of 1Mbps, operating on the 2.4 GHz ISM band, which is available throughout most of the world. ZigBee has been developed to meet the growing demand for capable wireless networking between numerous low-power devices. In industry ZigBee is being used for next generation automated manufacturing, with small transmitters in every device on the floor, allowing for communication between devices to a central computer. This new level of communication permits finely-tuned remote monitoring and manipulation. In the consumer market ZigBee is being explored for everything from linking low-power household devices such as smoke alarms to a central housing control unit, to centralized light controls. The specified maximum range of operation for ZigBee devices is 250 feet (76m), substantially further than that used by Bluetooth® capable devices, although security concerns raised over "sniping" Bluetooth® devices remotely, may prove to hold true for ZigBee devices as well.


Due to its low power output, ZigBee devices can sustain themselves on a small battery for many months, or even years, making them ideal for install-and-forget purposes, such as most small household systems. Predictions of ZigBee installation for the future, most based on the explosive use of ZigBee in automated household tasks in China, look to a near future when upwards of 60 ZigBee devices may be found in an average American home, all communicating with one another freely and regulating common tasks seamlessly. We¶re beginning to hear more and more about this wireless technology called ZigBee. A catchy name for sure, but what is it and who needs it? We already have Bluetooth- and Wi-Fienabled devices, and WiMAX and Wireless USB proliferation are at the doorstep. Who needs another wireless standard? First, let¶s understand that each wireless technology that makes it to market serves a special purpose or function. Bluetooth and wireless USB provide short-range connectivity in what is called a personal-area network (PAN). Bluetooth serves a short-range, moderate-speed, wire replacer, and wireless USB provides short-range, high-speed device connectivity. Wi-Fi is for local-area networks (LANs) and WiMAX is designed to provide wide-area networking (WAN) or metropolitan-area networking (MAN). ZigBee fills yet another nitch. It is a PAN technology based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. Unlike Bluetooth or wireless USB devices, ZigBee devices have the ability to form a mesh network between nodes. Meshing is a type of daisy chaining from one device to another. This technique allows the short range of an individual node to be expanded and multiplied, covering a much larger area. One ZigBee network can contain more than 65,000 nodes (active devices). The network they form in cooperation with each other may take the shape of a star, a branching tree or a net (mesh). What¶s more, each device can operate for years off of a AA cell. That means that each node uses little power. What might be perceived as a disadvantage is the low data rate of ZigBee devices, typically less than 100 kbps, depending on the selected frequency band. Is slow bad? That depends on the function or service the technology is intended to provide. That brings us to the opening question: Who needs ZigBee?

If you are looking for wireless monitoring and remote control solutions, ZigBee may be the answer. Those are the functions for which ZigBee was designed. ZigBee nodes can be used to tie an entire home, office or factory together for safety, security and control. Nodes are embedded in hundreds of sensors and controls that are built into large infrastructures for home automation, industrial automation, remote metering, automotives, medical equipment, patient monitoring, asset tracking systems, security systems, lighting and temperature control systems, and even toys. There are three categories of ZigBee devices:

ZigBee Network Coordinator. Smart node that automatically initiates the formation of the network.


ZigBee Router. Another smart node that links groups together and provides multi-hoping for messages. It associates with other routers and end-devices.


ZigBee End Devices. Where the rubber hits the road²sensors, actuators, monitors, switches, dimmers and other controllers.

Electronic data communications between elements will generally fall into two broad categories: single-ended and differential. RS232 (single-ended) was introduced in 1962, and despite rumors for its early demise, has remained widely used through the industry. Independent channels are established for two-way (full-duplex) communications. The RS232 signals are represented by voltage levels with respect to a system common (power / logic ground). The "idle" state (MARK) has the signal level negative with respect to common, and the "active" state (SPACE) has the signal level positive with respect to common. RS232 has numerous handshaking lines (primarily used with modems), and also specifies a communications protocol. The RS-232 interface presupposes a common ground between the DTE and DCE. This is a reasonable assumption when a short cable connects the DTE to the DCE, but with longer lines and connections between devices that may be on different electrical busses with different grounds, this may not be true.

RS232 data is bi-polar.... +3 TO +12 volts indicates an "ON or 0-state (SPACE) condition" while A -3 to -12 volts indicates an "OFF" 1-state (MARK) condition.... Modern computer equipment ignores the negative level and accepts a zero voltage level as the "OFF" state. In fact, the "ON" state may be achieved with lesser positive potential. This means circuits powered by 5 VDC are capable of driving RS232 circuits directly, however, the overall range that the RS232 signal may be transmitted/received may be dramatically reduced. The output signal level usually swings between +12V and -12V. The "dead area" between +3v and -3v is designed to absorb line noise. In the various RS-232-like definitions this dead area may vary. For instance, the definition for V.10 has a dead area from +0.3v to -0.3v. Many receivers designed for RS-232 are sensitive to differentials of 1v or less. This can cause problems when using pin powered widgets - line drivers, converters, modems etc. These type of units need enough voltage & current to power them self's up. Typical URART (the RS-232 I/O chip) allows up to 50ma per output pin - so if the device needs 70ma to run we would need to use at least 2 pins for power. Some devices are very efficient and only require one pin (some times the Transmit or DTR pin) to be high - in the "SPACE" state while idle. An RS-232 port can supply only limited power to another device. The number of output lines, the type of interface driver IC, and the state of the output lines are important considerations. The types of driver ICs used in serial ports can be divided into three general categories:

Drivers which require plus (+) and minus (-) voltage power supplies such as the 1488 series of interface integrated circuits. (Most desktop and tower PCs use this type of driver.)


Low power drivers which require one +5 volt power supply. This type of driver has an internal charge pump for voltage conversion. (Many industrial microprocessor controls use this type of driver.)


Low voltage (3.3 v) and low power drivers which meet the EIA-562 Standard. (Used on notebooks and laptops.)


Data is transmitted and received on pins 2 and 3 respectively. Data Set Ready (DSR) is an indication from the Data Set (i.e., the modem or DSU/CSU) that it is on. Similarly, DTR indicates to the Data Set that the DTE is on. Data Carrier Detect (DCD) indicates that a good carrier is being received from the remote modem. Pins 4 RTS (Request To Send - from the transmitting computer) and 5 CTS (Clear To Send - from the Data set) are used to control. In most Asynchronous situations, RTS and CTS are constantly on throughout the communication session. However where the DTE is connected to a multipoint line, RTS is used to turn carrier on the modem on and off. On a multipoint line, it's imperative that only one station is transmitting at a time (because they share the return phone pair). When a station wants to transmit, it raises RTS. The modem turns on carrier, typically waits a few milliseconds for carrier to stabilize, and then raises CTS. The DTE transmits when it sees CTS up. When the station has finished its transmission, it drops RTS and the modem drops CTS and carrier together. Clock signals (pins 15, 17, & 24) are only used for synchronous communications. The modem or DSU extracts the clock from the data stream and provides a steady clock signal to the DTE. Note that the transmit and receive clock signals do not have to be the same, or even at the same baud rate. Note: Transmit and receive leads (2 or 3) can be reversed depending on the use of the equipment - DCE Data Communications Equipment or a DTE Data Terminal Equipment.

Glossary of Abbreviations etc. CTS DCD DCE DSR DSRS Clear To Send [DCE --> DTE]

Data Carrier Detected (Tone from a modem) [DCE --> DTE] Data Data Communications Set Ready Equipment [DCE eg. --> modem DTE]

Data Signal Rate Selector [DCE --> DTE] (Not commonly


used) DTE DTR FG NC RCk RI RTS RxD SG SCTS SDCD Secondary Clear Receiver Ring Request Received Indicator To Data Data Frame Terminal Terminal Ground No (external) (ringing Send Data Signal To Send [DCE --> [DTE [DCE Clock tone --> --> Equipment Ready eg. computer, --> or printer DCE] chassis) Connection input detected) DCE] DTE] Ground DTE]



Secondary Data Carrier Detected (Tone from a modem) [DCE --> To Send Data Data [DTE [DCE [DTE --> --> --> DTE] DCE] DTE] DCE]


Secondary Secondary Secondary

Request Received


Transmitted Data [DTE --> DCE]

Is Your Interface a DTE or a DCE?

One of the stickiest areas of confusion in datacom is over the terms "transmit" and "receive" as they pertain to DTE (data terminal equipment) and DCE (data communication equipment). In synchronous communication, this confusion is particularly acute, because more signals are involved. So why is it that you sometimes send data on TD, and other times you send data on RD? Is this just a cruel form of mental torture? Not really. The secret lies in adopting the proper perspective. In data-com, the proper perspective is always from the point of view of the DTE. When you sit at a PC, terminal or workstation (DTE) and transmit data to somewhere far away, you naturally do so on the TD (transmit data) line. When your modem or CSU/DSU (DCE) receives this


incoming data, it receives the data on the TD line as well. Why? Because the only perspective that counts in data-com is the perspective of the DTE. It does not matter that the DCE thinks it is receiving data; the line is still called "TD". Conversely, when the modem or CSU/DSU receives data from the outside world and sends it to the DTE, it sends it on the RD line. Why? Because from the perspective of the DTE, the data is being received! So when wondering, "Is this line TD or RD? Is it TC or RC?" Ask yourself, "What would the DTE say?"

Find out by following these steps: The point of reference for all signals is the terminal (or PC). 1 ) Measure the DC voltages between (DB25) pins 2 & 7 and between pins 3 & 7. Be sure the black lead is connected to pin 7 (Signal Ground) and the red lead to whichever pin you are measuring. 2) If the voltage on pin 2 is more negative than -3 Volts, then it is a DTE, otherwise it should be near zero volts. 3) If the voltage on pin 3 is more negative than -3 Volts, then it is a DCE. 4) If both pins 2 & 3 have a voltage of at least 3 volts, then either you are measuring incorrectly, or your device is not a standard EIA-232 device. Call technical support. 5) In general, a DTE provides a voltage on TD, RTS, & DTR, whereas a DCE provides voltage on RD, CTS, DSR, & CD.


X.21 interface on a DB 15 connector

also see X.21 write up also see end of page for more info X.21 General

Voltages: +/- 0.3Vdc Max. 100Kbps (X.26) Speeds: Max. 10Mbps (X.27)

he X.21 interface was recommended by the CCITT in 1976. It is defined as a digital signaling interface between customers (DTE) equipment and carrier's equipment (DCE). And thus primarily used for telecom equipment. All signals are balanced. Meaning there is always a pair (+/-) for each signal, like used in RS422. The X.21 signals are the same as RS422, so please refer to RS422 for the exact details. Pinning according to ISO 4903


Sub-D15 Male

Sub-D15 Female

Pin Signal 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Shield Transmit (A) Control (A) Receive (A) Indication (A) Signal Timing (A) Unassigned Ground Transmit (B)

abbr. DTE DCE -

Out In Out In In In In Out Out Out



Out In Out In In Out

10 Control (B) 11 Receive (B)


12 Indication (B) 13 Signal Timing (B) 14 Unassigned 15 Unassigned

In In

Out Out



As can be seen from the pinning specifications, the Signal Element Timing (clock) is provided by the DCE. This means that your provider (local telco office) is responsible for the correct clocking and that X.21 is a synchronous interface. Hardware handshaking is done by the Control and Indication lines. The Control is used by the DTE and the Indication is the DCE one.

X.21 Cross Cable X.21 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 X.21 1 4 5 2 3 7 6




8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

8 11 12 9 10 14 13







(similar to telephone connectors)

Pin No. Signal Description 1 2 3 4 DCE Ready, Ring Indicator

Abbr. DSR/RI


Received Line Signal Detector DCD DTE Ready Signal Ground DTR SG


5 6 7 8

Received Data Transmitted Data Clear To Send Request To Send


This is a standard 9 to 25 pin cable layout for async data on a PC AT serial cable



9-pin DTE 1 2 3

25-pin DCE 8 3 2 20 7 6 4 5 22

Source DTE or DCE

Carrier Detect Receive Data Transmit Data Data Terminal Ready Signal Ground Data Set Ready Request to Send Clear to Send Ring Indicator


from Modem from Modem from Terminal/Computer from Terminal/Computer from Modem from Modem from Terminal/Computer from Modem from Modem

DTR 4 SG DSR RTS CTS RI 5 6 7 8 9


This a DTE port as on the back of a PC Com Port EIA-574 RS-232/V.24 pin out on a DB-9 pin used for Asynchronous Data







commonly used for Async. data PIN SIGNAL DESCRIPTION

1 2 3 4 5 6


Protective Transmit Receive RequestTo Clear Data To Set

Ground Data Data Send Send Ready

7 8 20


Signal Carrier Terminal

Ground Detect Ready

22 RI Ring Indicator Some applications require more pins than a simple async. configurations.


Pins used for Synchronous data jump to Other Connector pages

RS-232 Specs.





Mode of Operation

Total Number of Drivers and Receivers on One Line

1 RECVR 50 FT. 20kb/s +/-25V Loaded Unloaded +/-5V to +/-15V +/-25V 3k to 7k Power On Power Off N/A +/-6mA @ +/-2v 30V/uS +/-15V +/-3V 3k to 7k

10 RECVR 4000 FT. 100kb/s +/-6V +/-3.6V +/-6V >=450 N/A +/-100uA Adjustable +/-12V +/-200mV 4k min.

Maximum Cable Length Maximum Data Rate Maximum Driver Output Voltage Driver Output Signal Level (Loaded Min.) Driver Output Signal Level (Unloaded Max) Driver Load Impedance (Ohms) Max. Driver Current in High Z State Max. Driver Current in High Z State Slew Rate (Max.) Receiver Input Voltage Range Receiver Input Sensitivity Receiver Input Resistance (Ohms)

One byte of async data


Cabling considerations - you should use cabling made for RS-232 data but I have seen low speed data go over 250' on 2 pair phone cable. Level 5 cable can also be used but for best distance use a low capacitance data grade cable. The standard maxim length is 50' but if data is async you can increase that distance to as much as 500' with a good grade of cable. The RS-232 signal on a single cable is impossible to screen effectively for noise. By screening the entire cable we can reduce the influence of outside noise, but internally generated noise remains a problem. As the baud rate and line length increase, the effect of capacitance between the different lines introduces serious crosstalk (this especially true on synchronous data - because of the clock lines) until a point is reached where the data itself is unreadable. Signal Crosstalk can be reduced by using low capacitance cable and shielding each pair


Using a high grade cable (individually shield low capacitance pairs) the distance can be extended to 4000' At higher frequencies a new problem comes to light. The high frequency component of the data signal is lost as the cable gets longer resulting in a rounded, rather than square wave signal. The maxim distance will depend on the speed and noise level around the cable run. On longer runs a line driver is needed. This is a simple modem used to increase the maxim distance you can run RS-232 data. Making sense of the specifications

Selecting data cable isn't difficult, but often gets lost in the shuffle of larger system issues. Care should be taken. however, because intermittent problems caused by marginal cable can be very difficult to troubleshoot.

Beyond the obvious traits such as number of conductors and wire gauge, cable specifications include a handful of less intuitive terms.

Characteristic Impedance (Ohms): A value based on the inherent conductance, resistance, capacitance and inductance of a cable that represents the impedance of an infinitely long cable. When the cable is out to any length and terminated with this Characteristic Impedance, measurements of the cable will be identical to values obtained from the infinite length cable. That is to say that the termination of the cable with this impedance gives the cable the appearance of being infinite length, allowing no reflections of the transmitted signal. If termination is required in a system, the termination impedance value should match the Characteristic Impedance of the cable.

Shunt Capacitance (pF/ft): The amount of equivalent capacitive load of the cable, typically listed in a per foot basis One of the factors limiting total cable length is the capacitive load. Systems with long lengths benefits from using low capacitance cable.

Propagation velocity (% of c): The speed at which an electrical signal travels in the cable. The value given typically must be multiplied by the speed of light (c) to obtain units of meters per second. For example, a cable that lists a propagation velocity of 78% gives a velocity of 0.78 X 300 X 106 234 X 106 meters per second.



Plenum rated cable is fire resistant and less toxic when burning than non-plenum rated cable. Check building and fire codes for requirements. Plenum cable is generally more expensive due to the sheathing material used.

The specification recommends 24AWG twisted pair cable with a shunt capacitance of 16 pF per foot and 100 ohm characteristic impedance. It can be difficult to qualify whether shielding is required in a particular system or not, until problems arise. We recommend erring on the safe side and using shielded cable. Shielded cable is only slightly more expensive than unshielded.

There are many cables available meeting the recommendations of RS-422 and RS-485, made specifically for that application. Another choice is the same cable commonly used in the Twisted pair Ethernet cabling. This cable, commonly referred to as Category 5 cable, is defined by the ElA/TIA/ANSI 568 specification The extremely high volume of Category 5 cable used makes it widely available and very inexpensive, often less than half the price of specialty RS422/485 cabling. The cable has a maximum capacitance of 17 pF/ft (14.5 pF typical) and characteristic impedance of 100 ohms.

Category 5 cable is available as shielded twisted pair (STP) as well as unshielded twisted pair (UTP) and generally exceeds the recommendations making it an excellent choice for RS232 systems.













X.21 bis (for Sync) General In this document the term RS232 will be used when refered to this serial interface. The description of RS232 is an EIA/TIA norm and is identical to CCITT V.24/V.28, X.20bis/X.21bis and ISO IS2110. The only difference is that CCITT has split the interface into its electrical description (V.28) and a mechanical part (V.24) or Asynchronous (X.20 bis) and Synchronous (X.21 bis) where the EIA/TIA describes everything under RS232. As said before RS232 is a serial interface. It can be found in many different applications where the most common ones are modems and Personal Computers. All pinning specifications are writen for the DTE side. All DTE-DCE cables are straight through meaning the pins are connected one on one. DTE-DTE and DCE-DCE cables are cross cables. To make a destiction between all different types of cables we DTE DTE have to use DCE: DTE: a naming Straight Null-Modem convention. Cable Cable

DCE - DCE: Tail Circuit Cable Interface Mechanical RS232 can be found on different connectors. There are special specifications for this. The CCITT only defines a Sub-D 25 pins version where the EIA/TIA has two versions RS232C and RS232D which are resp. on a Sub-D25 and a RJ45. Next to this IBM has added a Sub-D 9 version which is found an almost all Personal Computers and is described in TIA 457.


Male Pinnings


RS232-C Description

Circuit Circuit EIA AA AB BA BB CA CB CC CD CE CF Select 102 103 104 105 106 107 108.2 125 109 CCITT

RJ45 TIA 457

1 7 2 3 4 5 6 20 22 8

Shield Ground Signal Ground Transmitted Data Received Data Request To Send Clear To Send DCE Ready DTE Ready Ring Indicator Received Line Signal Detector Data Signal Rate

4 6 5 8 7 1 3 1 2

5 3 2 7 8 6 4 9 1


(DTE/DCE Source>

CH/CI 111/112







(DTE Source) Transmitter (DCE Source) Receiver Signal Element Timing Signal Element Timing








(DCE Source) Local Loopback / Quality Detector Remote Loopback Secondary Transmitted Data Secondary Received Data Secondary Request To Send Secondary Clear To Send Secondary Received Line Signal Detector/ Data signal Rate Select (DCE Source) Test Mode Reserved for Testing Reserved for Testing Unassigned LL


18 21 14 16 19 13


RL/CG 140/110 SBA SBB SCA SCB 118 119 120 121


SCF/CI 122/112

25 9 10 11




Interface Electrical All signals are measured in reference to a common ground, which is called the signal ground (AB). A positive voltage between 3 and 15 Vdc represents a logical 0 and a negative voltage between 3 and 15 Vdc represents a logical 1.

This switching between positive and negative is called bipolar. The zero state is not defined in RS232 and is considered a fault condition (this happens when a device is turned off). According to the above a maximum distance of 50 ft or 15 m. can be reached at a maximum speed of 20k bps. This is according to the official specifications, the distance can be exceeded with the use of Line Drivers. Functional description Description Circuit Function Also known as protective ground. This is the chassis ground connection between DTE and DCE. The reference ground between a DTE and a DCE. Has the value 0 Vdc. Data send by the DTE. Data received by the DTE. Originated by the DTE to initiate transmission by the DCE. Send by the DCE as a reply on the RTS after a delay in ms, which Clear To Send CB gives the DCEs enough time to energize their circuits and synchronize on basic modulation patterns. DCE Ready CC Known as DSR. Originated by the DCE indicating that it is

Shield Ground


Signal Ground


Transmitted Data Received Data Request To Send



basically operating (power on, and in functional mode). Known as DTR. Originated by the DTE to instruct the DCE to DTE Ready CD setup a connection. Actually it means that the DTE is up and running and ready to communicate. A signal from the DCE to the DTE that there is an incomming call (telephone is ringing). Only used on switched circuit connections. Known as DCD. A signal send from DCE to its DTE to indicate that it has received a basic carrier signal from a (remote) DCE.

Ring Indicator


Received Signal Detector



Data Signal Rate Select (DTE/DCE Source> Transmit Element Signal Timing DA CH/CI A control signal that can be used to change the transmission speed.

Timing signals used by the DTE for transmission, where the clock is originated by the DTE and the DCE is the slave.

(DTE Source) Transmitter Signal Element Timing DB

Timing signals used by the DTE for transmission.

(DCE Source) Receiver Element Signal Timing DD Timing signals used by the DTE when receiving data.

(DCE Source) Local Loopback / Quality Detector


Remote Loopback


Originated by the DCE that changes state when the analog signal received from the (remote) DCE becomes marginal.


Straight Cable

DB25 DB25


modem DB25


circuit DB25 to DB9 DTE - DCE

or cross over cable or cross over cable cable cable (Async) Test Mode Reserved Testing for TM (Sync)

The secondary signals are used on some DCE's. Those units have the possibility to transmit and/or receive on a secondary channel. Those secondary channels are mostly of a lower speed than the normal ones and are mainly used for administrative functions.



Here are some cable pinning that might be useful. Not all applications are covered, it is just a help:


Pin Pin 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Pin Pin 1 2 3 4 5 6, 8 7 1 3 2 5 4

Pin Pin 1 2 3 4 6 7 8 1 3 2 8 20 7 4

Pin Pin 1 3 2 7 8 6 5 1 4 9 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 20 22


7 17 24 6, 8 20 6 24 17

8 9 20

10 10 11 11 12 12 13 13 14 14 15 15 16 16 17 17 1,6 4 2 3 </ DB9 modem cross cable Nullor over


18 18 19 19 20 20 21 21 22 22 23 23 24 24 25 25

3 4 5 7 8

2 1,6 5 8 7


This cable should be used for DTE to DCE (for instance computer to modem) connections with hardware handshaking.



(To Modem). 9 PIN D-SUB FEMALE to the Computer

25 PIN D-SUB MALE to the Modem Female Male Dir Shield Transmit Data Receive Data Request to Send Clear to Send Data Set Ready System Ground Carrier Detect 3 2 7 8 6 5 1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 20 22

Data Terminal Ready 4 Ring Indicator 9

Nullmodem (25-25) Cable

Use this cable between two DTE devices (for instance two computers).




(To Computer 2). 25 PIN D-SUB FEMALE to Computer 1.

25 PIN D-SUB FEMALE to Computer 2. D-Sub 1 D-Sub 2 Recieve Data Transmit Data Data Terminal Ready System Ground 3 2 20 7 2 3 6+8 7 20 5 4 Transmit Data Receive Data Data Set Ready + Carrier Detect System Ground Data Terminal Ready Clear to Send Request to Send

Data Set Ready + Carrier Detect 6+8 Request to Send Clear to Send 4 5

Note: DSR & CD are jumpered to fool the programs to think that their online. RS232 (25 pin) Tail Circuit Cable


Null Modem cable diagrams
y y y

Nullmodem (9p to 9p) Nullmodem (9p to 25p) Nullmodem (25p to 25p)

Cross Pinned cables for Async data.

Pin out for local Async Data transfer



Serial Programming/MAX232 Driver Receiver < Serial Programming Serial Programming: Introduction and OSI Network Model -- RS-232 Wiring and Connections -- Typical RS232 Hardware Configuration -- 8250 UART -- DOS -- MAX232 Driver/Receiver Family -- TAPI Communications In Windows -- Linux and Unix -- Java -Hayes-compatible Modems and AT Commands -- Universal Serial Bus (USB) -- Forming Data Packets -- Error Correction Methods -- Two Way Communication -- Packet Recovery Methods - Serial Data Networks -- Practical Application Development -- IP Over Serial Connections

MAX232 Driver/Receiver

Applicability This module is primary of interest for people building their own electronics with an RS232 interface. Off-the-shelf computers with RS-232 interfaces already contain the necessary electronics, and there is no need to add the circuitry as described here. Introduction Logic Signal Voltage Serial RS-232 (V.24) communication works with voltages (between -15V ... -3V are used to transmit a binary '1' and +3V ... +15V to transmit a binary '0') which are not compatible with today's computer logic voltages. On the other hand, classic TTL computer logic operates between 0V ... +5V (roughly 0V ... +0.8V referred to as low for binary '0', +2V ... +5V for high binary '1' ). Modern low-power logic operates in the range of 0V ... +3.3V or even lower. So, the maximum RS-232 signal levels are far too high for today's computer logic electronics, and the negative RS-232 voltage can't be grokked at all by the computer logic. Therefore, to receive serial data from an RS-232 interface the voltage has to be reduced, and the 0 and 1 voltage levels inverted. In the other direction (sending data from some logic over RS232) the low logic voltage has to be "bumped up", and a negative voltage has to be generated, too. RS-232 TTL Logic

-----------------------------------------------15V ... -3V <-> +2V ... +5V <-> 1 +3V ... +15V <-> 0V ... +0.8V <-> 0 All this can be done with conventional analog electronics, e.g. a particular power supply and a couple of transistors or the once popular 1488 (transmitter) and 1489 (receiver) ICs. However, since more than a decade it has become standard in amateur electronics to do the necessary signal level conversion with an integrated circuit (IC) from the MAX232 family

(typically a MAX232A or some clone). In fact, it is hard to find some RS-232 circuitry in amateur electronics without a MAX232A or some clone. The MAX232 & MAX232A

A MAX232 integrated circuit The MAX232 from Maxim was the first IC which in one package contains the necessary drivers (two) and receivers (also two), to adapt the RS-232 signal voltage levels to TTL logic. It became popular, because it just needs one voltage (+5V) and generates the necessary RS-232 voltage levels (approx. -10V and +10V) internally. This greatly simplified the design of circuitry. Circuitry designers no longer need to design and build a power supply with three voltages (e.g. 12V, +5V, and +12V), but could just provide one +5V power supply, e.g. with the help of a simple 78x05 voltage converter. The MAX232 has a successor, the MAX232A. The ICs are almost identical, however, the MAX232A is much more often used (and easier to get) than the original MAX232, and the MAX232A only needs external capacitors 1/10th the capacity of what the original MAX232 needs. It should be noted that the MAX232(A) is just a driver/receiver. It does not generate the necessary RS-232 sequence of marks and spaces with the right timing, it does not decode the RS232 signal, it does not provide a serial/parallel conversion. All it does is to convert signal voltage levels. Generating serial data with the right timing and decoding serial data has to be done by additional circuitry, e.g. by a 16550 UART or one of these small micro controllers (e.g. Atmel AVR, Microchip PIC) getting more and more popular.

The MAX232 and MAX232A were once rather expensive ICs, but today they are cheap. It has also helped that many companies now produce clones (ie. Sipex). These clones sometimes need different external circuitry, e.g. the capacities of the external capacitors vary. It is recommended to check the data sheet of the particular manufacturer of an IC instead of relying on Maxim's original data sheet. The original manufacturer (and now some clone manufacturers, too) offers a large series of similar ICs, with different numbers of receivers and drivers, voltages, built-in or external capacitors, etc. E.g. The MAX232 and MAX232A need external capacitors for the internal voltage pump, while the MAX233 has these capacitors built-in. The MAX233 is also between three and ten times more expensive in electronic shops than the MAX232A because of its internal capacitors. It is also more difficult to get the MAX233 than the garden variety MAX232A. A similar IC, the MAX3232 is nowadays available for low-power 3V logic. MAX232(A) DIP Package +---v---+ C1+ -|1 V+ -|2 16|- Vcc 15|- GND

C1- -|3 14|- T1out C2+ -|4 13|- R1in

C2- -|5 12|- R1out V- -|6 11|- T1in 10|- T2in 9|- R2out

T2out -|7 R2in -|8



MAX232(A) DIP Package Pin Layout Capacitor Value Capacitor MAX232 MAX232A Value

Nbr Name Purpose

Signal Voltage





for capacitor should stand at least 16V +10V, capacitor

capacitor C1





output of voltage pump

should stand at least 1µF to VCC 16V

100nF to VCC





for capacitor should stand at least 16V for capacitor should stand at least 16V for capacitor should stand at least 16V

capacitor C1 + connector





capacitor C2 connector





capacitor C2





output of voltage -10V, capacitor should pump / inverter stand at least 16V RS-232 RS-232 TTL

1µF to GND

100nF to GND

7 8 9

T2out Driver 2 output R2in Receiver 2 input

R2out Receiver 2 output


10 11 12 13 14 15 16

T2in T1in

Driver 2 input Driver 1 input

TTL TTL TTL RS-232 RS-232 0V +5V 1µF to VCC see above 100nF to VCC see above

R1out Receiver 1 output R1in Receiver 1 input

T1out Driver 1 output GND VCC Ground Power supply

V+(2) is also connected to VCC via a capacitor (C3). V-(6) is connected to GND via a capacitor (C4). And GND(15) and VCC(16) are also connected by a capacitor (C5), as close as possible to the pins. A Typical Application The MAX232(A) has two receivers (converts from RS-232 to TTL voltage levels) and two drivers (converts from TTL logic to RS-232 voltage levels). This means only two of the RS232 signals can be converted in each direction. The old MC1488/1498 combo provided four drivers and receivers. Typically a pair of a driver/receiver of the MAX232 is used for 

TX and RX

and the second one for 

CTS and RTS.


There are not enough drivers/receivers in the MAX232 to also connect the DTR, DSR, and DCD signals. Usually these signals can be omitted when e.g. communicating with a PC's serial interface. If the DTE really requires these signals either a second MAX232 is needed, or some other IC from the MAX232 family can be used (if it can be found in consumer electronic shops at all). An alternative for DTR/DSR is also given below. Maxim's data sheet explains the MAX232 family in great detail, including the pin configuration and how to connect such an IC to external circuitry. This information can be used as-is in own design to get a working RS-232 interface. Maxim's data just misses one critical piece of information: How exactly to connect the RS-232 signals to the IC. So here is one possible example: MAX232 to RS232 DB9 Connection as a DCE MAX232 Pin Nbr. MAX232 Pin Name Signal Voltage DB9 Pin 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 T2out R2in R2out T2in T1in R1out R1in T1out RTS CTS CTS RTS TX RX TX RX RS-232 8 RS-232 7 TTL TTL TTL TTL n/a n/a n/a n/a

RS-232 3 RS-232 2







In addition one can directly wire DTR (DB9 pin 4) to DSR (DB9 pin 6) without going through any circuitry. This gives automatic (brain dead) DSR acknowledgment of an incoming DTR signal. Sometimes pin 6 of the MAX232 is hard wired to DCD (DB9 pin 1). This is not recommended. Pin 6 is the raw output of the voltage pump and inverter for the -10V voltage. Drawing currents from the pin leads to a rapid breakdown of the voltage, and as a consequence to a breakdown of the output voltage of the two RS-232 drivers. It is better to use software which doesn't care about DCD, but does hardware-handshaking via CTS/RTS only. The circuitry is completed by connecting five capacitors to the IC as it follows. The MAX232 needs 1.0µF capacitors, the MAX232A needs 0.1µF capacitors. MAX232 clones show similar differences. It is recommended to consult the corresponding data sheet. At least 16V capacitor types should be used. If electrolytic or tantalic capacitors are used, the polarity has to be observed. The first pin as listed in the following table is always where the plus pole of the capacitor should be connected to. MAX232(A) external Capacitors Capacitor + Pin - Pin C1 C2 C3 1 4 2 3 5 16 This looks non-intuitive, but because pin 6 is on -10V, GND gets the + connector, and not the Remark







The 5V power supply is connected to 

+5V: Pin 16 GND: Pin 15

Alternatives Data Cables With the rise of mobile phones so called data cables for these phones have also become popular. These are cables to connect the mobile phone to a serial interface of a computer[1]. The interesting thing is that modern mobile phones work with 3.3V logic, and older phones with 5V logic on their data buses. So these data cables must and do convert the phone logic voltage levels to and from RS232 voltage levels. No-name data cables have become rather cheap (as opposite to original phone-brand data cables). The cheap cables with their voltage converters can be used as an alternative to homemade MAX232-based circuitry. The advantage is that the cables occupy much less space (the converter is usually inside the RS232 plug). Such a cable also saves the effort to solder a circuitry board. Another advantage, which can also be a disadvantage of such a data cable is that they usually take their power from the RS232 connector. This saves an external power supply, but can also cause problems, because the RS232 interface is not designed to power some logic and the DTE might not provide enough power[2]. Another disadvantage is that many of these cables just support RX and TX (one receiver, one driver), and not two drivers/receivers as the MAX232. So there is no hardware handshake possible. Finally, when using such a cable it should be made sure that they convert to the desired voltage (3.3V or 5V).


1. ^ There are also data cables for USB ports, but these are of no interest here. 2. ^ Some data cables are powered by the phone and not via the RS232 interface. In such a case an external power supply is still needed, to replace the one from the phone.

Ab)using a USB <-> RS-232 Converter USB to Serial interface cables often have two components: a USB transciever that outputs serial data; and a voltage shifter to produce standards-compliant RS-232 voltages. It is often possible to throw away (ignore, desolder, cut-out) the USB part of these cables, connect an external 5V power source (or abuse the RS-232 interface) to replace the power coming from the USB bus and to just use the RS-232 level-shifter. All this is probably as much work as using a MAX232A, although you get one RS-232 connector for free. If you consider a USB cable, it is also worthwhile to consider using USB directly, instead of RS-232. Many USB transceiver chips can be integrated directly into circuits, eliminating the need for voltage-shifting components. Parts such as the FTDI FT232BM even have an input allowing designers to select 5V or 3.3V output levels. Most of these USB transceiver chips are available as surface-mount components only. But some vendors offer DIP-sized preassembled modules, often at competitive prices, and often with free or cheap drivers or driver development environments. MAX232N A Texas Instruments MAX232 (not A) second-source. The N indicates the package (plastic dip), and not any special electric characteristics. This is a non-A MAX232, therefore it needs at least 1µF capacitors. In can sometimes be found rather cheap. TI also offers MAX3232s and a number of other RS-232 drivers/receivers, like MC148x.


Linear Technology LT1181A The LT1181A from Linear Technology is very similar to the MAX232A. It has the exact same pin-layout, also uses 0.1µF capacitors, and can in general replace a MAX232A. However, for the hobbyist it is typically a little bit more difficult to get one, and they tend to be slightly more expensive than the original Maxim MAX232A. Intersil HIN202 The Intersil HIN202 is yet another IC very similar to the MAX232A. It also has the same pin-layout (DIL package), uses 0.1 µF capacitors and can replace a MAX232A. The HIN202 is especially interesting when more I/O lines are needed (four pairs), since the manufacturer specifies that two HIN202's can share a single V+ and a single V- capacitor. So the resulting circuit saves two capacitors. MC148x The MC1488/MC1489 ICs have already been mentioned. However, they are no real alternative to a MAX232 these days. A combo of these ICs has twice as many drivers/receivers, but the MC1488 driver requires a +12V, -12V power supply, and the MC1489 receiver a +5V power supply. That makes three power supplies instead of one for the MAX232. It is recommended to either use several MAX232s, or another IC from the MAX family if more drivers/receivers are needed, like the MAX238.


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