The acronym bps stands for bits per second, which is a measurement of how fast information (data) travels between two devices. When two modems converse via the telephone line, the speed of modem communications is measured in bps. (When people talk about modems, they often use the word “baud” to mean the same thing as bps, though technically the two terms are not synonymous.
The modems most commonly used with personal computers run at 1200 and 2400 bits per second. At 1200 bps a modem can send about 1600 words through the phones lines per minute. At 2400 bps, it can send roughly 3200 words per minute.
Many vendors sell modems that run at 9600 bps, which is close to the maximum that standard metal phone wires can handle reliably. Much faster modems are available, however, and the newer fiber optic phone cables allow transmission rates of more than 500,000 bps. But no matter how good the phone line, be careful about buying a modem any faster than 2400 bps. It can only use the higher speeds if it’s communicating with another modem that’s equally fast, and if both modems use the same protocol, or system for communicating. (Watch out-many faster modems don’t adhere to the “standard” protocols for high-speed communications.) Don’t even think about installing a 300 bps modem, even if someone gives it to you for free. These things are obsolete now that you can buy 2400 bps models for well under $100.
You may also use a serial connection to link your printer to your computer, especially if you have a Macintosh (most PC printers are connected via the parallel port, but speed ratings for parallel connections aren’t usually quoted). Typically, a computer communicates with a serial printer at 9600 or 19,200bps. Under the right conditions, the serial ports on your computer can usually handle much higher speeds-57,600 bps for the Mac and 115,200 bps for the Pc.