Many of us use general purpose laptop PC and PC navigation software like Maptech Chart Navigator Pro, Tiki Navigator Pro, BoatCruiser Pro, Nobeltec Admiral, MaxSea, Fugawi ENC or other for navigation. For better navigation its vital to link navigation computer not only to GPS, but also to anemometer, gyro compass, depth sonar and AIS system. NMEA 0183 unified protocol makes it possible. Most of marine equipment talk NMEA 0183 and navigation software can understand it. But there the problem arises. Most of sea equipment rely on old-school serial interface, called RS-232. New computers have one or non of these, but plenty of USB connectors. How to connect RS-232 interfaced sailing processor like B&G Hydra 3000 or Hercules 2000 to PC? I used two Prolific RS-232 to USB adapters to convert all inputs to USB. Windows software and Prolific driver map all USB’s to COM ports, so it’s easy to configure devices in navigation software.
There are many different adapters on market. I believe, they all work fine, cause technologically USB is also serial communication port. I used Prolific chipset adapter and it works flawlessly. In some applications it’s good idea to use one-to-many adapter. For example B&G H2000 sytem has 2 NMEA 0183 outputs and it’s impossible to get all data from one port onlt. So, I had to use 2 adapters and 2 USB ports.
You need also to configure port speeds to 4800 or 9600 bauds on both ends and configure correct COM port numbers in navigation software. But this will be another topic.