Parallel Port - History

History

The Centronics Model 101 printer was introduced in 1970 and included the first parallel interface for printers. The interface was developed by Robert Howard and Prentice Robinson at Centronics. The Centronics parallel interface quickly became a de facto industry standard; manufacturers of the time tended to use various connectors on the system side, so a variety of cables were required. For example, early VAX systems used a DC-37 connector, NCR used the 36-pin micro ribbon connector, Texas Instruments used a 25-pin card edge connector and Data General used a 50-pin micro ribbon connector.

Dataproducts introduced a very different implementation of the parallel interface for their printers. It used a DC-37 connector on the host side and a 50 pin connector on the printer side—either a DD-50 (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a "DB50") or the block shaped M-50 connector; the M-50 was also referred to as Winchester. Dataproducts parallel was available in a short-line for connections up to 50 feet (15 m) and a long-line version for connections from 50 feet (15 m) to 500 feet (150 m). The Dataproducts interface was found on many mainframe systems up through the 1990s, and many printer manufacturers offered the Dataproducts interface as an option.

IBM released the IBM Personal Computer in 1981 and included a variant of the Centronics interface— only IBM logo printers (rebranded from Epson) could be used with the IBM PC. IBM standardized the parallel cable with a DB25F connector on the PC side and the Centronics connector on the printer side. Vendors soon released printers compatible with both standard Centronics and the IBM implementation.

IBM implemented an early form of bidirectional interface in 1987. HP introduced their version of bidirectional, known as Bitronics, on the LaserJet 4 in 1992. The Bitronics and Centronics interfaces were superseded by the IEEE 1284 standard in 1994.

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