The strobeedge trick

How can the controller know which of the bytes is the first and which the second? Counting is one option, but not a very reliable one: a single transmission error and all successive commands will be wrongly interpreted. The error must be detected and the controller reset. Alternatively, the data bytes could include further information to allow the controller to identify which is which.

However, this also has its disadvantages. The marker bits naturally reduce the amount of real information transferred, and so we have fewer bits available for commands.

For this reason we distinguish the bytes externally using a means already provided within the Centronics interface. Take a look at the protocol as shown in Figure 1. First consider normal operation, described at the top of the figure. The interface, however, will let us transfer two bytes at a time without modification. How that is achieved is described at the bottom of the figure.

The handshaking process is unchanged: we have simply changed the meaning of the signals. Two bytes are coalesced into a single packet, where the falling edge of the STROBE signal marks the first byte, and the rising edge, the second.

If an error occurs when the first byte is already in the process of being sent, STROBE will eventually rise, if only because of the pull-up resistor fitted to the controller board. The transfer is then terminated, and the pair of bytes remains together. Synchronisation problems are therefore impossible, even though the contents of the two bytes will be in error. If on the other hand we had simply counted bytes, then all subsequent bytes would be interpreted wrongly, as they would all be interchanged. If we were to continue in this manner, the controller would cease operating correctly hence the system would have to be re-initialised.

At start-up the control software sends a RESET command, which causes the controller to clear its FIFOs and bring to a halt all movements in progress in the system.

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