Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

No RS-232 ports on new PCs. Where to get a PC with RS-232 ports?

  1. Nov 14, 2007 #1
    RS-232 seems to have gone out the window on new PCs. However, in the industrial world many things still use RS-232. Plus, there is alot of older equipment around, and there will continue to be, that uses RS-232. Are any new PCs sold with an actual RS-232 port? I know there are adapters for USB, but I have heard they are at best a compromise. Any thoughts and opinions?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 14, 2007 #2

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    It's a pain - all the industrial control stuff we build is rs232.
    It can go 50ft over regular cable vs 5ft for usb, or 5000ft with differential versions.
    It's easy to use with no drivers.
    It's easy to debug the data by tapping in a terminal or scope.

    We use USB-serial adaptors but although they are all basically the same, the drivers all differ slightly so you have to either buy a huge stock or keep track of which no-name driver went with which no-name adaptor.

    Even on rugged industrial tablet PCs you can't get serial but Usb connectors don't last in an industrial enviroment.
    You can't even change the connector for rugged plugs because they rely on the pins connecting in order to initialise the device.
    We are generally replacing RS-232 with bluetooth using SPP over bluetooth.
    It gets you a whole new set of driver issues but at least you don't need to make cables!
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2007
  4. Nov 15, 2007 #3

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    No kidding!!! Almost everyone who does what I do has a Dell D810 or similar because as of about two years ago, it was one of the only computers that still has a 232 port. I did work side by side with another programer who was using a USB to RS 232 converter, and it wouldn't work properly with the Mitsubishi software.

    The problem isn't XP, the problem is the third-party software. This is horrible!!!! I have enough trouble with crap that doesn't work like it's supposed to without introducing yet another link in the chain. And even if Allen Bradley et al all convert to USB tomorrow, there will be equipment out there for at least a decade or two that needs 232.

    For those who know AB, I had to work on a PLC 2 a couple of years ago! I even had to set up multiple bootable partitions and install DOS 6.0 in order to run the software needed to work on the system. So that's how long this stuff can last, and someone has to be able to access these systems.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2007
  5. Nov 15, 2007 #4

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    It's certainly bad enough having to deal with OS/apps and other software incompatibilites, but to through in software/hardware issues because the hardware is obsolete . . . . :grumpy:

    This is a recurrent problem.

    Many companies have to struggle with downtime to deal with this nonsense.
     
  6. Nov 15, 2007 #5

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Can you spell "legacy"? We use ~300 itron meters with software that requires a RS232 uplink. We run DOS 5.0 on a Pentium box. The problem is the handhelds are not all that old, just the upload download software.

    On that subject my company runs it's business on software with underlying routines largely written by part time college student programmers back before 1990. Try to maintain it, I double-dog dare you. (It's getting close to time for 'Christmas Story')
     
  7. Nov 15, 2007 #6

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    :rofl: :yuck: :grumpy: :mad:

    Dilbert!
     
  8. Nov 15, 2007 #7
    At my old machine shop we had to use rs-232 for transferring programs to the Fadal and Mazak milling and turning centers. Rather than having to run the cable to each machine every time you needed to upload a program, I bought an old, cheap rs-232 4-port switch box off Ebay for $20 and ran permanent lines to each machine. I've seen PCMCIA adapters but haven't talked to anyone that's used them before.

    The typical PCI cards are still available though... http://www.alancomputech.com/374928-001.html
     
  9. Nov 15, 2007 #8

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Switching to USB isn't a solution for industrial stuff.

    The max cable length is too short
    It doesn't have a robust differential version for noisy enviroments or long distance.
    The connectors are too flimsy and impossible to rewire/repair.
    You need extra driver chips, whereas every little micro/pic has a uart.
    You have to write/test/support driver software.
    It's difficult to test/debug a USB data link without very specialised gear.
     
  10. Nov 15, 2007 #9
    Motherboard manufacturers still make MBs with legacy ports on them. In a Tom's Hardware article from this past summer looking at 8 new motherboards with Intel's P35 chipset, half of the motherboards they looked at included a a serial port.

    Might be tough to find a pre-assembled computer from the more well known companies that has legacy ports on them though, but that just means you might have to build your own or buy a PCI or PCIe serial port add-on card.
     
  11. Nov 15, 2007 #10

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    The main problem is laptops handhelds that you need in the field with industrial stuff.
    A few companies make rugged winCE machines with a serial port but windows laptops/tablets are hard to find.
     
  12. Nov 15, 2007 #11

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I don't see this as an issue for the industrial networks that I work with since most companies are using either ethernet, or proprietary networks like Devicenet. For me the entire issue is connectivity for programming. It is the nature of the business that third-party software often has compatibility issues, so anytime I get a significant upgrade from Microsoft, I hold my breath because it may well cause critical third-party software to stop working; effectively putting me out of business until the problem can be resolved. The use of USB to 232 converters, or even using PCI cards, is certain to be a nightmare for years to come.

    Astronuc, I could tell you horror stories for hours!
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2007
  13. Nov 15, 2007 #12

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    It's not so much of a problem for permanently installed process control, you have ethernet, CANbus etc.
    It's more to be able to go upto a sensor somewhere and download logged data or upload new firmware or run diagnostics. Adding an ethernet controller into a device that uses a 8051 just to allow you to occasionally load firmware is a bit overkill.

    Ethernet isn't an ideal solution - we have in-field sensors that output on ethernet. But the connectors don't survive very long. You can replace them with mil-spec type plugs but then you have to make special cables/adaptors, even then the ethernet socket on a PC isn't robust / doesn't lock, isn't waterproof.
    Wifi means you don't have cables and everything is sealed but isn't always reliable in extreme enviroments.
     
  14. Nov 15, 2007 #13

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Cripes Pete - installing fault tolerant systems on bare ice at the South Pole? maybe in a stable L1 orbit?

    We have some stuff in really nasty places - scada if you know that. We use phone lines or radio frequencies to chat with our boxes out in Never-never land. We cannot have extended failures or people on life support go byebye. Aside from the moral/ethical aspects of this imagine the press and the freakin' lawyers! We'd need miles of Bounty paper towels to slurp up their slobbering drool when they sense billion dollar lawsuits....
     
  15. Nov 15, 2007 #14

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I saw mostly stupid stuff. :rolleyes:

    One of my colleagues from the ********** program tells some pretty hilarious stories, like some guy welding a dial gauge to a multi-million dollar piece that became trash as a result that snafu.

    Egads and cripes Pete! You think they'd have figured this stuff out by now. How long have we been doing this? I took a course on protective relaying 20 years ago. Sheesh.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2007
  16. Nov 15, 2007 #15

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Yes if you are putting a scada network in permanent steel conduits it's easy.
    But if you need to temporarily mount a vibration sensor on a rock crusher or a theodolite on a tunnel boring machine and have a laptop in the cab showing the data, anything else other than a heavy duty cable with locking plugs on the ruggedised computer and mil-spec AMP connectors on the kit won't last a shift.
     
  17. Nov 16, 2007 #16
    Ok so it seems I am not the only one disgusted with the disappearance of RS-232 on computers. I imagine the reason is simply that it is no longer needed on the majority of computers sold. RS-232 is an easy way to offer a customer upgrades to firmware in an embedded device. Many microcontrollers come with RS-232 built in but what good does it do when there isn't an easy and inexpensive way to hook it to anything?
     
  18. Nov 16, 2007 #17

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Basically computers are built for the office market.
    Extra connectors are; expensive, take up space on small laptops, spoil the sleek 'iPhone' look and confuse users.

    Why people like itronix / panasonic don't fit them to rugged machines is just crazy.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: No RS-232 ports on new PCs. Where to get a PC with RS-232 ports?
  1. Help with port (Replies: 4)

  2. Usb port (Replies: 1)

  3. Port Forwarding (Replies: 7)

  4. Port Forwarding (Replies: 5)

  5. Port forwarding (Replies: 3)

Loading...