Asynchronous serial line
Asynchronous serial lines were the most common interface to computers for many decades; originally they connected printing terminals like the Teletype, and later video terminals such as the VT100. In general, asynchronous serial interface were bi-directional, using separate wires for transmit and receive (although there are counter-examples, such as printers).
There were two different common electrical interface specifications, 20mA current loop serial line interface, and later EIA RS-232 serial line interface, but they both used the same logical interface protocol at a higher layer. EIA supported operation through modems, but 20ma was strictly for local devices.
The asynchronous serial line protocol requires two signal levels: idle (mark, high), and asserted (space, low). (The polarity is a legacy from telegraphy, where the line was held high in order to show that the line was not broken, and that the transmitter was functional.)
Characters are sent as sequence of 3 fields: a 1-bit start marker; 5-8 data bits; and a stop marker of 1/1.5/2 bits. The speed, data size, and stop width must be externally configured into the transmitter and receiver.
The line starts at idle; when a character is ready to be sent, one 'start' bit of space (confusingly, on an EIA interface, high voltage) marks the start of a character. The data is then sent, one bit at a time, least-significant-bit first. Finally, the appropriate number of 'stop' bits are sent as mark (low on an EIA interface). If no other characters are ready to be sent, the line is then left at idle (mark), otherwise the sending of the next character starts immediately, with another start bit.