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Is anyone still using serial interface? (eTrex Legend)

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I've recently dug out my eTrex "original" Legend, that uses a serial interface. I have a USB to serial cord that I've used numerous times in the past, but today I'm unable to send/receive data. I started by attempting to use ExpertGPS (my preferred tool), but current versions no longer support serial gps units.

I've also tried Garmin Express, an old version of EasyGPS that *should* work with serial connections and the current version of GPSBabel. The computer chimes when I connect, and the cord will power the unit with no batteries, but ExpertGPS tells me "the serial port could not be opened" and GPSBabel tells me "A device which does not exist was specified. GARMIN:Can't init COM9."

Other than a mouse, there are no other USB devices connected or used that would be holding the port captive and I have confirmed that the handheld is set to "Garmin" data protocol.

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3 hours ago, gnbrotz said:

It's not my primary unit, but as it also has topo maps loaded for my home area, it's still quite useful and often robust enough to meet my needs. Even if I can't resolve this problem, it will be a fine addition to a vehicle readiness kit or B.O.B.

There are perfectly good topo maps for your area over at www.gpsfiledepot.com that you can install on a newer GPS. I'm going to agree with @Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hide that life is too short. These old units may be functional, but they are far too limited and far too frustrating compared with the "modern" era units (Colorado and later, 2008 +) that simply connect via standard USB with mass storage mode.

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4 hours ago, gnbrotz said:

So you're using that and then a regular serial cable to connect to the GPS? Mine is USB on one end and eTrex connector on the other - just one cable between handheld and laptop.

That does not sound like original equipment.


I use the OE Garmin serial cable with the adapter listed above, which has the best software support of any I have seen.

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18 hours ago, Atlas Cached said:

That does not sound like original equipment.


I use the OE Garmin serial cable with the adapter listed above, which has the best software support of any I have seen.

I went back to my box of old accessories and did find a Belkin USB to serial adapter and an original Garmin brand etrex serial cord. A Google search turned up a Windows 7/8 driver that was reported to word for Win10 as well. Once that was downloaded, I was able to successfully exchange the data as desired, though the difference in speed was definitely a reminder how much the tech has improved!

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I'm the creator of one of the software titles mentioned and there was a time I could recite the bytes in each packet during a waypoint exchange. I generally agree that the serial units are simply too aggravating to try to use in modern times. The operating system and driver issues will just drive you mad.  +1 to "LIfe's too short"

A lot of the hardware - as you apparently just discovered - is so old that it's just dying of old age from metals separating or mechanical fatigue. GPSBabel still "supports" this era of Garmins but it's not like I test every model on every release on every OS any more. Several of the serial-era GPS units have serious issues with the GPS week rollover from last year and are just terribly confused about life after April, 2019. I had several people fume at me about this like somehow GPSBabel was supposed to fix their firmware issues.

I have given serious thought to removing the Garmin serial support. The reality is that it's deeply entwined with the Garmin USB protocol support and I'm not quite sure that all of the 60C/76C/60Cx/60CSx are out of circulation yet. The Magellan serial support is still there because it's dead simple, but I'd bet that it's not been used in years. That code has tentacles from the Explorist 400/500/600 which are USB, but I'm skeptical that they are in use, either.

Somewhat ironically, my other hobby is small electronics and in that world, USB/Serial adapters are _also_ the bane of my existence. Instead of spending a quarter for a "real" USB device that runs at a reasonable speed and is self-identifying, the preference is to build the CPU with a serial port and then spend a nickel on a USB/Serial adapter. This is why your new gizmo is indistinguishable from a Palm Pilot; they all just look like a serial port to the computer. :-/

Still, thanx for bringing closure to the conversation. So many people start these discussions and then don't post the final findings, even when that involves $25 to Ebay for a better GPS.

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7 hours ago, Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hide said:


I remember those. You'd dial your rotary phone, listen for the screech, then pop it onto the acoustic cradle. Oh, those were the days. Not.

The first one I used was built into the computer (Kaypro 4) so it wasn't acoustic, but still slow enough to read as it scrolled up the screen.  I remember how amazed I was when I finally got a 2400 baud modem!  I had to limit my use as it tied up the business phone line (only one we had).  I still have that old Kaypro hanging around (plus a big brother, a Kaypro 10 with a 10 megabyte hard drive).



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On 12/27/2020 at 1:40 PM, Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hide said:

Life is too short to waste it on an eTrex Legend... I gave away the one I had. 


To each their own. I find the simplicity of the older GPSrs refreshing. I still prefer my old PN-40 and Legend over my 64st.


More to the OPs point, I am able to connect my old legend to MapSource using the serial cable connected through a serial-USB converter. I can transfer topo maps, waypoints, etc. I can't speak for EasyGPS or GPS Babel as I don't use either of them. I will say that the old Legend is not the greatest geocaching GPSr due to the lack of PQ support. I tend to use this GPS only for hiking, and the PN-40 for geocaching (as it natively supports PQs).

Edited by Tahoe Skier5000
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