Null modem, also called crossover, is a term associated with serial (RS-232) cables. A standard serial cable, also called an AT cable, has the wires inside the cable running straight through. Take a DB9 cable as an example. Pin 1 on one end of the cable would be connected to Pin 1 on the other end. Then Pin 2 to 2, 3 to 3, and so on. Null modem cables are serial cables that use an alternative pinout for different functionality.



A standard DB9 AT cable pinout (non-null modem)

Originally, all serial cables were AT cables and could not connect two devices (such as two computers) directly. They required a modem or similar equipment as a go-between. Null modem cables changed that old standard, allowing devices to be linked up directly with no middleman equipment. This allows older computers and other machines with serial ports to transfer data between each other directly, similar to more modern ethernet crossover cables.

Null modem cables work by switching around wire pairs when going from one end of the cable to the other. Returning to the DB9 example, a null modem cable would have Pin 2 on one side connected to Pin 3 on the other side. Then Pin 4 would be connected to Pin 6 and Pin 7 to Pin 8. Pins 1 and 9 are unused while Pin 5 still connects to itself, acting as the ground wire.

This type of null modem cable

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