DCE and DTE Devices

Two terms you should be familiar with are DTE and DCE. DTE stands for Data Terminal Equipment, and DCE stands for Data Communications Equipment. These terms are used to indicate the pin-out for the connectors on a device and the direction of the signals on the pins. Your computer is a DTE device, while most other devices are usually DCE devices.

If you have trouble keeping the two straight then replace the term "DTE device" with "your PC" and the term "DCE device" with "remote device" in the following discussion.

The RS-232 standard states that DTE devices use a 25-pin male connector, and DCE devices use a 25-pin female connector. You can therefore connect a DTE device to a DCE using a straight pin-for-pin connection. However, to connect two like devices, you must instead use a null modem cable. Null modem cables cross the transmit and receive lines in the cable, and are discussed later in this chapter. The listing below shows the connections and signal directions for both 25 and 9-pin connectors.