It seems that every time I think it’s safe to ditch content from my CompTIA A+ classes, CompTIA resurrects a zinger. One of my students recently (on the 801 exam) got a question on parallel ports, or more specifically, on LPT1. Here’s the scoop on these long-dead ports.
Early PCs offered only one built-in port, a round DIN connector for a keyboard. All other expansion devices (mouse, printer, joystick, speakers, etc.) plugged into ports of various types installed via expansion cards. The two most common ports were serial ports and parallel ports.
We used serial ports for mice and modems, primarily, and parallel ports for just about everything else. Both types of ports required assignment of specific system resources that were standardized throughout the IBM PC universe and thus got names associated with them.
It was assumed that each PC would have up to two serial and two parallel ports that would get assigned resources as COM1 and COM2, and LPT1 and LPT2, respectively. Most technicians and users called the serial ports and parallel ports by their resource names, so “serial port 1” was “COM1,” for example.
Both serial ports and parallel ports have gone away from modern PCs, but a few old devices that need them refuse to die. My office still has an HP LaserJet 4, for example, that was made before printer companies realized the money was in toner and ink. It just keeps working. And it connects to a parallel port.
If you find yourself with a legacy device that needs a parallel port, you can find a few expansion cards at my favorite store, Newegg.com. Chances are you’ll assign LPT1 resources for the port. (Just in case you get asked about such things on a CompTIA exam in your near future.)
• Parallel port = 25 pin female D-sub
• LPT1 = I/O address 378 and IRQ 7
CompTIA announced today that they would be adding questions covering Microsoft’s famed Disk Operating System, released in 1981. “After much internal deliberation, we at CompTIA decided that the way forward is backwards. There are literally twos or threes of situations where an extensive knowledge of DOS would be vital for a modern PC technician.”
The spokesperson then continued, “For example, what if an A+ technician fell into a wormhole in the time/space continuum and had to find work fixing computers in the mid-80s? We at CompTIA strive to prepare our students for the unpredictable temporal topology that they’ll have to deal with every day as a certified technician.”
CompTIA also pointed out that DOS, a command-line operating system, is still used today in many businesses that have been cut off from communication with the outside world for the past 30 years. “It may surprise you, but a significant portion of our client base is in what we like to call ‘chronologically isolated communities,’ such as North Korea and Alaskan fishing villages surrounded by impassable glaciers. Also: survivalists who have been living in underground bunkers since the Cold War.”
This move, in addition to affecting current A+ students, may point the way towards a shift in CompTIA’s future plans for A+. At the press conference, CompTIA stated that they were also working closely with the Amish community to see how their technology needs could be addressed. Again, the CompTIA spokesperson, “We feel that an important part of studying technology is learning that technology is viewed by many as an immoral conceit condemned by God. While it’s impossible to know whether or not using technology is a sin, we at CompTIA are increasingly of the opinion that the chance is not worth taking. Future A+ updates will reflect this changing philosophy.”
One of my students ran into a question on the CompTIA A+ Certification 801 exam the other day that had me scrambling for a Web search. The question asked about the type of memory used on a SIMM. What? SIMM? I haven’t talked about SIMMs in class or in print for a decade.
Historical scoop: We used single inline memory modules (SIMMs) back in the days when the fastest processor was an Intel 486 running at a whopping 66 MHz. Seriously. Today (read: since Intel came out with the Pentium CPU) every computer uses some kind of dual inline memory module (DIMM). A SIMM has identical electrical contacts on both sides of the stick; a DIMM has contacts that are unique on each side.
When my student mentioned the SIMM question, my response was historical: fast page mode (FPM) or extended data out (EDO). Those were the two memory technologies used on SIMMs. He just shook his head.
The SIMM question gave as possible answers only modern RAM types, like DDR or RDRAM.
An extensive Google session later revealed an obscure (to me) printer-only memory module on a SIMM . . . and it uses SDRAM. Here’s a link, in case you’re curious:
Don’t miss this question when you take the CompTIA A+ exams!