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by Neil MacLeod

A brief guide to the different types of serial connection which are commonly used by computers and computer networks.

Straight Through Cables.
These are normally used for a serial to serial connection. Before the days of networking this was one of the best ways to connect computers together and is still used on unix machines as a primary method of connecting to the console. Toslink and Optical Cables.
These are a new standard of transmitting audio down a fibre optic cable. Mainly used by dolby surround sound systems and new laptops.

USB Cables
Primarily used for the new standard of printing. Now used in many different applications such as Cameras, phones and even playstations. One can even do USB to USB LAN Connections. There are currently two versions, USB1 and USB2. USB1 being 12MBps transfer speed whereas USB2 runs at 480MBps (MBps is the Mega Bits per second transfer speed).

Internal PC Cables
Internal PC cables connect devices within the actual computer to the main board (motherboard). The slowest connection speed being used by the floppy cable then the IDE cable which connects the hard drive. SATA (Serial ATA) cables have now overtaken the IDE cable as the primary method of connecting a hard drive to a motherboard. SCSI cables generally are only used in servers for connecting the SCSI hard drives.

Network Cables
There are two standards of Network cables, Cat5e and Cat6e. Within these two standards there are two formats, straight through (standard) and crossed. The difference being that straight through s used in general networks throughout companies and is used for connecting computers to network wall sockets and from network patch panels to network switches (hubs). For smaller networks, i.e. two computers, a cross over cable is used between two computers which have network cards to allow them to talk to each other. Difference of speed between Cat5e and Cat6e is generally thought to be 100MBps for Cat5e and 1000MBps for Cat6e network cables. Although in reality Cat5e can run at 1000MBps but is not correctly shielded to do so.

ADSL and Modem Cables
The modem cable connects the telephone socket to a router or modem. The socket for connection to the modem or router is known as an RJ11 cable, which is the American telephone standard. There are two types of modem cable, one being the standard telephone wire being used by BT and other telephone suppliers. The other type being a Cat5e cable shielded to allow faster connection for fast broadband lines.

Null Modem Cables
These allow two computers to talk to each other directly through their serial (RS232) ports. The null modem cables are useful for allowing portable computers to connect to larger systems.

Firewire Cables
Firewire is the next step on from USB cables commonly used in digital cameras, phones, laptops etc. The latest firewire cables now reach speeds of 800MBps. They also give serial ATA a run for its money as a lot of hard drive caddies are now firewire compliant.

KVM Cables
KVM stands for Keyboard, Video and Mouse. They are used normally in server rooms where space is limited. For example, you may have four servers but only enough room for one keyboard , mouse and monitor each server would have KVM cables plugging directly into a box near the keyboard mouse and monitor (KVM switch box). This would then allow the user to control all four servers at the flick of a switch or key press whilst still only using one keyboard, mouse and monitor.
About the Author

For more information about Cables you can visit MK Cables, the online cable store selling all types of cables direct to the public at trade prices. Included on the site is also a wealth of knowledge which will ensure that you get the right cable for the job.

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