Serial ports are 9-pin connectors that transmit incoming and outgoing information - one bit at a time. Throughout most of the history of personal computers serial ports were used to transfer the data from computers to various devices. Before internal modems, there were external ones and they were connected to computers via serial ports, aka communication or COM ports. The same with mice and keyboards.

Serial ports are controlled by a special chip - UART (Universal Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter). UARTs are serial chips on the computer's motherboard (or on an internal modem card). On older computers like many 486's, the chips were on the disk IO controller card.

When all computers had parallel bus architecture, the UART's role was to convert bytes from the PC's parallel bus to a serial bit-stream.

As USB ports are much more spread at the moment, modern computers are widely manufactured without serial ports. Such computers may require serial-to-USB converters to allow compatibility with RS-232 devices, because serial ports are still used in industrial automation systems, some scientific instruments and so on.

Virtual serial ports:

A virtual serial port is an emulation of real serial port. Such port can be created by a software which enables extra serial ports in a system without the need to install additional hardware. Any name can be assigned to a virtual port and it is possible to create a large number of such ports in one computer. The only limitation is the amount of available resources, such as operating memory and computing power.

Some historical facts about serial ports:

Previously, serial ports were widely used with such devices as printers, computer terminal, teletype, dial-up modems, older digital cameras, networking (Macintosh AppleTalk using RS-422 at 230.4 kbit/s), serial mouse, older Joysticks, older GSM mobile phones.

Did you know?

Serial to Ethernet Connector allows you to share hundreds of local real or virtual serial ports over network.

Serial to Ethernet Connector

Requirements for Windows (32-bit and 64-bit): XP/2003/2008/ Vista/7/8/10, Windows Server 2012
Requirements for Linux: Kubuntu 9.10 “Karmic Koala”, openSUSE 11.2 , 4.66MB size
Version 7.1.876 (27th Jan, 2017) Release notes
Category: Serial Port Software