Much like the floppy drive and the RS-232 serial port, parallel ports are quickly becoming a rarity on new computers. On the other hand, USB ports are becoming more and more popular.
Unfortunately, many of the older printers on your network probably only have parallel connectors. If the printers that you want to connect to your system only have parallel connectors on them, you may think that your only option is to purchase an LPT card and install it in the system you're connecting your printer to. However, that's not actually your only option.
You can connect your parallel printer to a USB port via a USB-to-parallel printer adapter, such as the one from Keyspan. This six-foot cable has a USB connector on one end and a Centronics connector on the other. Furthermore, it's IEEE-1284 1994 compatible, which means that it provides a bi-directional interface. You should be able to find the Keyspan USB-to-parallel printer adapter online or at local computer store for around $30. CNET Labs also offers a side-by-side comparison of various other USB-to-parallel adapters.
A final benefit for a USB-to-parallel printer adapter is this: Even when a system does have an old LPT port on the back, normally there's only one. So, if you want to connect multiple printers, you'll have to purchase and install multiple LPT expansion cards.
When a system has USB ports, there are usually at least two. Plus, with a USB hub, you have even more ports available. The USB-to-parallel adapter will allow you to connect multiple printers without ever having to crack the computer's case.
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.