How to get started with hardware interface programming

hardware

I have been doing desktop programming for a while but want to get started with interfacing with hardware. Specifically, I would like to learn how to use serial ports to take an external event and alert my application (so for example, I can turn on a camera when motion is detected by an external sensor).
Please tell me how to get started, what type of sensors, what books (or online resources) are available. I tried Bing and Google but I need more pointers.

Best Solution

Serial interfaces are fairly simple to work with. But they do require some sort of a decoder on the other end (such as a UART.) Another option would be using the parellel port. The advantage of using a parallel port is you start with a break out of the I/O pins. You can typically control 8 devices with a very simple to build interface.

Most platforms gave a simple way to gain access to the LPT ports without too much effort and again they are very easy to interface.

Quick results for tutorials...

LPT Port Info...

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