What's going on: Creating a loop with a paper clip may seem silly, but it's actually a great troubleshooting tool. By looping the transmit and receive pins, you can test serial cable port communication by checking if the serial ports connections transmit and receive valid information. This is called a loopback test and can be used to test rs232 communication.
You don't need a port testing software. Loopback is a good RS-232 check tester method.
When you're setting up any kind of communication serial device, you'll probably have to troubleshoot data ports activity at some point. In our work with remote monitoring and control systems, DPS Tech Support reps frequently help our clients use loopback testing to troubleshoot RTUs that aren't reporting alarms correctly. Shorting pins can confirm that your device and its data port are working properly. With that established, you can move on to testing cables, protocols, and other equipment in your system.
A screwdriver is the right tool when you have an open connector with pins on 2 sides. A slot/flat screwdriver head will usually be the right width to bridge pins. You can even achieve a slight diagonal if you need to connect 2 pins that are not directly across from one another.
The classic example of this kind of port in remote monitoring is the Amphenol connector. It has 50 pins, and each discrete alarm (contact closure) input is a pair of contact pins across from one another. It's very simple to use a screwdriver to short a pair of pins together to test your RTU's inputs during diagnostics.
A paper clip takes more time than a screwdriver, but it has much more versatility because it can be bent. You can use a screwdriver to short 2 female pin sockets on a DB9 serial port. You can connect virtually any 2 pins on a 50-pin Amphenol connector. You'll simply need to shape the paper clip into an appropriate shape and insulate it from your hands with a napkin or some other insulator.
These tips are intended to be used only on data ports, where the electrical flow is minimal. You should always use industry-standard safety procedures when working with any electrical equipment. This is never more important than when you're operating on power-input circuits. Discussion of electrical safety techniques is beyond the scope of this article, but understand that there are risks whenever you work with electricity.
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