ScoreKeeper News: Volume 13 - March 17, 2006

Connecting to Scoreboards

ScoreKeeper supports a seral port (RS-232) interface to display scoreboards. Unfortunately, many new computers, especially laptop computers, are being shipped with no serial port. With most desktop computers, it's easy to add a serial port with an inexpensive and easy-to-install serial port card. Laptop computers don't have expansion card slots so another solution is necessary.

Docking Stations and Port Replicators

Most laptop computers have add-on docking stations and/or port replicators available that will add a variety of input or output connections that are missing from the laptop computer itself. One of the connections added is almost always a serial port that will work just fine with ScoreKeeper and display scoreboards. These add-on devices can cost from one to several hundred dollars. If you already have one, that's great. If you have to purchase one, well, it's cheaper than another computer but hardly an ideal solution. Kensington makes a Portable Universal Docking Station that lists for $129.99 but can be found for $90 or so on the internet. It supports serial, parallel printer, ethernet, keyboard, and mouse ports and connects to your computer with a USB cable. It supports both USB 1.1 and 2.0. This is a really useful device, especially if your laptop is also lacking a printer port and an ethernet connection. If you will be using this docking station for multiple connections at the same time, USB 1.1 might not be up to the task. The only downsides to this product are that it requires Windows XP with Service Pack 1 and needs electrical power.

USB to Serial Adapters

Another class of devices are the USB to serial port adapters. Street prices range from $10 to $30. We have tested one such device made by IOGEAR. This is a short cable with a USB connector on the end that attaches to your computer and a standard 9-pin serial connector on the other. It is powered by your computer through the USB port. It works with Windows 98SE, ME, NT, 2000, and XP. In our testing we installed the driver that added COM4 (serial port number 4). Then we told ScoreKeeper to send scoreboard information to this port and it worked perfectly the first time.

Summary

Computers with no serial port can still be used by ScoreKeeper to control display scoreboards. Serial ports can be added with a variety of devices throuogh the computer's USB port. Some software from other companies may or may not be able to communicate with these new serial ports if they attempt to do so by accessing the hardware directly. ScoreKeeper, however, communicates through the software drivers and should work with any of the hardware devices described above.