Two serial ports on the back of a PC

Considered to be one of the most basic external connections to a computer, the serial port has been an integral part of most computers for more than 20 years. Although many of the newer systems have done away with the serial port completely in favor of USB connections, most modems still use the serial port, as do some printers, PDAs and digital cameras. Few computers have more than two serial ports.

Essentially, serial ports provide a standard connector and protocol to let you attach devices, such as modems, to your computer. In this edition of How Stuff Works, you will learn about the difference between a parallel port and a serial port, what each pin does and what flow control is.