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From its origin as a simple printer interface, the personal computer's parallel port has evolved into a place to plug in just about anything you might want to hook to a computer. The parallel port is popular because it's versatile-you can use it for output, input, or bidirectional links-and because it's available-every PC has one.
Printers are still the most common devices connected to the port, but other popular options include external tape and disk drives and scanners. Laptop computers may use a parallel-port-based network interface or joystick. For special applications, there are dozens of parallel-port devices for use in data collection, testing, and control systems. And the parallel port is the interface of choice for many one-of-a-kind and small-scale projects that require communications between a computer and an external device.