Linux Serial How-To
Multiport serial cards install in slots in a PC on the ISA or PCI bus. They are also called "... adapters" or "... boards". Each such card provides you with many serial ports. Today they are commonly used for the control of external devices (including automation for both industry and the home). They can connect to computer servers for the purpose of monitoring/controlling the server from a remote location.
They were once mainly used for connecting up many dumb terminals and/or modems to serial ports. Today, use of dumb terminals is rare and several modems (or digital modems) can now be built into an internal card. So multiport serial cards are not very significant anymore.
Each multiport card has a number of external connecters (DB-25 or RJ45) so that one may connect up a number of devices (modems, terminals, etc.). Each such physical device would then be connected to its own serial port. Since the space on the external-facing part of the card is limited there is often not enough room for all the serial port connectors. To solve this problem, the connectors may be on the ends of cables which come out (externally) from the card (octopus cable). Or they may be on an external box (possibly rack mountable) which is connected by a cable to a multiport card.
* Linux Serial How-To Index