6.a. Communicating via the Serial Control Lines

Firmware version 1.04 (released on April 29th, 2011) fixes a problem with the RTS and DTR control signal outputs. If you want to use those outputs, you should upgrade your firmware to version 1.04. Please see Section 9 for information about upgrading your firmware.

Firmware version 1.03 (released on December 22nd, 2010) inverts the TTL serial port’s control signals so that 0 V corresponds to 1 and 5 V corresponds to 0, making it consistent with other USB-to-TTL-serial adapters. Prior to version 1.03, the opposite convention was used.

In addition to transmitting bytes on the TX line and receiving bytes on the RX line, the USB-to-TTL-serial adapter can use programmer pins A and B as serial handshaking lines of your choosing. Each pin can be configured as an input or an output by identifying it with a serial handshaking line. The table below shows which handshaking lines are available (CTS is not available because there is no provision for it in the USB CDC ACM subclass).

Direction Name .NET System.IO.Ports.SerialPort member
Output DTR DtrEnable
Output RTS RtsEnable
Input CD CDHolding
Input DSR DsrHolding
Input RI N/A

By default, pins A and B are high-impedance inputs that are not identified with any handshaking line. To use pins A and/or B, you must configure them to be serial handshaking lines using the Pololu USB AVR Programmer Configuration Utility (see Section 3.e). The programmer stores the configuration in persistent memory.

Pins A and B can be identified with serial handshaking lines using the Pololu USB AVR Programmer Configuration Utility.

After your have associated pins A and/or B with serial handshaking lines, you can take advantage of the I/O capabilities of A and B. For input lines, this means you can get a digital reading of the voltage on the line over USB. For output lines, this means you can set the voltage on the line over USB. A voltage of 0 V corresponds to a logical 1, while a voltage of 1 V corresponds to a logical 0.

For example, if you wanted to connect your Pololu USB AVR Programmer to an AVR running the Arduino bootloader, you could configure pin A to be DTR and then connect pin A to the AVR’s reset line. When the Arduino software sets DTR to 1, the programmer will drive the line A low, which puts the AVR in reset mode.

You can read input lines and/or set output lines by either using a terminal program that supports control signals (such as Br@y Terminal) or by writing a computer program. The Microsoft .NET framework is free to use and it contains a SerialPort class that makes it easy to read and write bytes from a serial port as well as set and read the control signals. Here is some example C# .NET code that uses a serial port in this way:

// Choose the port name and the baud rate.  
System.IO.Ports.SerialPort port = new System.IO.Ports.SerialPort("COM4", 115200);  
// Connect to the port.  

// Assuming that line A is identified with RTS, and your firmware version is 1.04
// or greater, this drives line A low (0 V).
port.RtsEnable = true;

// Assuming that line B is identified with DSR, and your firmware version is 1.03
// or greater, this takes an inverted digital reading of line B.
if (port.DsrHolding)
    MessageBox.Show("Line B is low.");
    MessageBox.Show("Line B is high.");

// Disconnect from the port so that other programs can use it.  

When the SLO-scope feature is enabled, it assumes control of pins A and B and uses them as analog inputs (or digital outputs controlled by the SLO-scope application). Pins A and B temporarily lose their serial handshaking line associations while the SLO-scope is active, but these associations are restored once the SLO-scope is disabled. You can disable the SLO-scope via the SLO-scope application or by unplugging the programmer and plugging it back in.