Centronics Interface

Definition of Centronics Interface

The Centronics Interface is a parallel data communication standard originally developed by Centronics Data Computer Corporation in the early 1970s. It was widely used for connecting printers to computers, with the most common version being the Centronics 36-pin connector. The interface has largely been replaced by newer and more efficient standards such as USB and Ethernet.


The phonetics for the keyword “Centronics Interface” are:Centronics: sɛnˈtrɒnɪksInterface: ˈɪntərfeɪs

Key Takeaways

  1. The Centronics Interface is a type of parallel communications interface that was widely adopted for connecting printers and other peripherals to computers in the 1970s and 1980s.
  2. It uses a 36-pin connector with 8 signal lines for data, several control lines, and return pins to provide reliable and relatively fast data transfer between devices, with typical data rates ranging from 150 Kbps to 500 Kbps.
  3. Though Centronics interfaces have largely been replaced by more modern alternatives, such as USB and Ethernet, they still hold historical significance as one of the first widely-used standards for peripheral attachments, and compatibility remains in some applications and legacy equipment.

Importance of Centronics Interface

The Centronics Interface is significant in the history of technology because it revolutionized the way computers and peripherals communicate with each other.

Introduced in the 1970s by Centronics Data Computer Corporation, it became the first widely adopted, standardized parallel interface for connecting printers and other devices to computers.

Its innovative design, combining multiple data lines into a parallel bus, allowed for faster data transfer rates compared to previous serial connections.

As a result, the Centronics Interface played a crucial role in the rapid expansion and adoption of computers in various industries and laid the foundation for the development of modern parallel and USB interfaces.


The Centronics Interface, developed by Centronics Data Computer Corporation in the early 1970s, serves as an essential communication channel between computers and peripheral devices, particularly printers. Its primary purpose is to provide a standardized parallel data transfer protocol, enabling electronic devices to exchange data efficiently. Over the years, the Centronics Interface has revolutionized the computing landscape by providing a reliable, fast, and efficient data transfer mechanism that has become an invaluable asset to the computing world.

Though initially used for printers, this interface has extended its scope to include other peripherals like scanners and storage devices. With its ability to transmit multiple data bits simultaneously, the Centronics Interface marked a significant improvement in data transfer rates compared to its serial counterpart. As a result, it has become one of the critical factors influencing computing and printing performance.

The most prevalent type of its implementation is the IEEE-1284 standard, which governs a majority of parallel interfaces used in desktop computers and printers. Despite the emergence of novel and faster interfaces like USB and Ethernet in recent times, the Centronics Interface still finds its application in specific older devices or equipment where compatibility or legacy support is a key factor. Overall, the Centronics Interface has left an indelible mark in the realm of computing and peripheral data communication.

Examples of Centronics Interface

The Centronics Interface was a parallel data communication system introduced by Centronics Data Computer Corporation in the early 1970s. It was primarily used to connect printers and other peripheral devices to computers. Here are three real-world examples of the technology:

Dot-matrix Printers: The Centronics Interface was originally developed for Centronics 101, a dot-matrix printer that was widely used in businesses and homes in the 1970s and 1980s. The interface allowed the computer to send data to the printer to print characters, numbers, and graphics. Many other dot-matrix printer manufacturers, such as Epson and Panasonic, adopted this interface.

IBM Personal Computer (PC): The first IBM PC, released in 1981, featured a Centronics-compatible parallel printer port to connect printers and other peripheral devices. It utilized a 36-pin connector, similar to the original Centronics Interface, which was eventually standardized as the IEEE 1284 parallel port. This port remained a standard interface for printers until USB ports became widely adopted.

Daisy-wheel Printers: Daisy-wheel printers, like the Diablo 630, were popular during the late 1970s and early 1980s for their ability to produce high-quality, near-typeset documents. These printers also used the Centronics Interface to communicate with computers. The Daisy-wheel printing mechanism consisted of a rotating wheel with molded characters which struck an inked ribbon to print text on paper, similar to a typewriter.

Centronics Interface FAQ

What is a Centronics Interface?

A Centronics Interface is a type of parallel interface commonly used for computer peripherals, such as printers, to transmit data. It was initially developed by the Centronics Data Computer Corporation in the 1970s and became a standardized interface known as the IEEE 1284.

How does the Centronics Interface work?

The Centronics Interface works by transmitting data in parallel, meaning it sends multiple bits of data at once through separate wires. This makes communication between devices faster compared to serial interfaces where data would be sent one bit at a time. The interface typically consists of a 36-pin connector with a combination of input and output lines.

What devices commonly use the Centronics Interface?

Centronics Interface was prominently used in printers during the 1980s and 1990s, particularly dot matrix printers. It can also be found in some external storage devices, as well as scanners. However, newer interfaces like USB have largely replaced the Centronics Interface in modern devices.

What are the advantages of using a Centronics Interface?

In its time, the Centronics Interface provided a faster data transmission compared to serial interfaces. It was also relatively easy to implement and widely adopted by various manufacturers, making it a standardized way of connecting devices. This allowed for broad compatibility between numerous peripherals and computers.

What are the disadvantages of using a Centronics Interface?

One of the significant disadvantages of the Centronics Interface is that it requires a higher number of cables compared to serial interfaces, which adds to complexity and cost. It is also bulky and susceptible to electromagnetic interference. Additionally, the data transfer rate of the Centronics Interface is lower compared to modern interfaces like USB and FireWire.

Related Technology Terms

  • Parallel Communication
  • IEEE 1284
  • Printer Interface
  • Data Transfer
  • Connector Pins

Sources for More Information

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