What Is a Framing Error?

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Digital communication and communication channels are the lifeblood of networked computing. Without the reliability of digital communication, the foundations of the Internet would not hold up the infrastructure of the World Wide Web. Protocols for digital communication, such as serial communication, allow computers to communicate with a sense of regularity and reliability. However, due to physical malfunctions or software incompatibility, serial communication errors can occur in which the structure or a serial communication, known as a "frame," gets lost or mangled during translation.

Serial Communication

  • Serial communication is a communication standard used in transmitting data between and within computers. Serial communication devices transmit data one bit at a time. While slower than parallel port communication, which can transmit multiple bits concurrently, serial ports can transit data over longer distances. A serial port, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, can transmit data over 1200 meters of cable between two devices. This makes serial communication a slow but powerful method of message transmission.

Serial Frames

  • When transmitting this data, the bits must share some sort of organization. Otherwise, the receiving computer would have no way to make sense of the stream of incoming bits. Therefore, serial communication protocols use the concept of a "serial frame," with each frame containing a piece of information. Depending on the protocol, the frame organization might differ from one program to the next. However, the sender and the receiver should share the same framing information.

Serial Frame Errors

  • Serial framing errors are errors that occur in the framing of a serial communication. For example, if a serial frame specified by a serial communication protocol defines a frame as having a start and stop bit, with no parity bit, and eight bits of information, then the sending client program should send 10 bits per frame. The receiving client should be able to read these bits in order to determine their data: First, a start bit, then the data, then the stop bit. If the receiving client receives a frame of more or less than ten bits, a framing error occurs.

Causes

  • A few aspects of digital communication can cause serial frame errors. An obvious one results from a mismatch of protocols between the sending and receiving computers. A sending computer might send an 11-bit frame serial communication while a receiving client expects a 10-bit frame. Bad physical connections can also cause a mistake in framing, as well as a mismatch in clocking speeds between the two computers. If the receiving computer cannot read the frame as fast as the sender sends the bits, then information, and thus the structure of the frame, will be lost.

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