A parallel port is a type of interface found on computers (personal and otherwise) for connecting various peripherals. It is also known as a printer port or Centronics port . The IEEE 1284 standard defines the bi-directional version of the port.
The Centronics Model 101 printer was introduced in 1970 and included the first parallel interface for printers. The interface was developed by Dr. An Wang, Robert Howard and Prentice Robinson at Wang Laboratories. The now-familiar connector was selected because Wang had a surplus stock of 20,000 Amphenol 36-pin micro ribbon connectors that were originally used for one of their early calculators. 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 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 The Bitronics and Centronics interfaces were superseded by the IEEE 1284 standard in 1994.
At the consumer level, the USB interface—and in some cases Ethernet—has effectively replaced the parallel printer port. Many manufacturers of personal computers and laptops consider parallel to be a legacy port and no longer include the parallel interface. USB to parallel adapters are available to use parallel-only printers with USB-only systems.
Implementation on IBM personal computers
Traditionally IBM PC systems have allocated their first three parallel ports according to the configuration in the table below.
PORT NAME: Interrupt #Starting I/O Ending I/O
LPT1: IRQ 7 0x378
LPT2: IRQ 7 0x278
LPT3: IRQ 5 0x3bc