Laptop docking port tutorial

Greetings and salutations.
I am a senior at DeVry University, in their EET program. I, as part of a team of three, have a project to complete which will require
us to control several pager motors with a laptop computer. This is a design project, not an assigned project. That is, the team decided what the project would be, the assignment was to come up with a device that shows our skills and build it before graduation... so any help will be fair game.
The motors will not just be on/off, they will be sent a four-bit value which will then be fed to a DAC, and the resulting voltage will run the motor. The idea is to have a range of vibration intensities/frequencies for each motor.
The laptop to be used has one free USB port, (the second USB port will have a camera attached to it,) an unused PCMCIA slot, and its docking port available to me for this communication.
We've pretty much decided that the best choice to control these motors would be through the docking port, via an interface board that we will build. The interface board will essentially be a bunch of latches and a D/A converter multiplexed to the motors. The DAC will poll each latch, convert the four bit value it is holding to a voltage, and charge a cap with that voltage. Alternately, we may just use an R2R network for each motor instead of a DAC and do away with the multiplexing. My task is to get the four-bit values into the latches.
My difficulty is that I know very little about the docking1 port, and a few quick searches using google did not turn up any information sources. Could anyone point me to a website that will give pinouts, and maybe some information about programming for devices that use the port?
Is this port simply straight access to the system busses? (like the slots on a desktop computer's motherboard) If so, the only information I would lack would be the pinout. If it requires a special software routine like a USB port does, on the other hand, I would need a rundown on that routine as well. Also, sources for the connector would help me out, although I'm sure with more searching I could probably find that at an online store. :)
If any of you disagree that the docking port would be the best choice for controlling the motors, I'd like to know that too, and what you think the best choice in that case would be.
Thanks in advance for any responses.
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It would help to know the make and model of the laptop. Docking ports for most model laptops are usually one off custom SCIC ports. I'd contact the manufacturer for white-papers or manuals on your laptop before messing with it.

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"Robert Davidson"

I second that suggestion. Maybe using the remaining USB port to attach a custom made device or even a USB DAC would be better. Nowadays it is pretty easy to make a USB device with those USB ready PIC's. But that's just my opinion.
Cheers
Padu
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snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net says...

Try something like this: www.usbmicro.com on your free USB port.
-Rob
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On Wed, 19 Jul 2006 21:31:36 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net (SumGie) wrote:

If you are running win98 or above, get a USB to serial adapter like below and you probably can control most anything. There are a lot of serial controlled I/O gizmos to work with and more than enough how-to info on the net.
http://tinyurl.com/rwxy9
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Ok. Four responses, all saying the same thing. I'm convinced. I'll use some other port. The computer is a Dell Inspiron, and an hour and a half of trying to get them to send me the info I need only resulted in several attempts by them to sell me a docking station, lol. That leaves buying a PCMCIA-to-parallel adapter or using the free USB port as possibilities. I'll have to talk to the team to determine which they would rather do.
Thanks once again for the help.
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SumGie wrote:

I would use half an H-Bridge for the motor control rather than a DAC.
Of course, you'd probably then need to add a simple microcontroller...

I would strongly suggest going through USB rather than the docking port. The docking port is likely to be very specific to that computer. USB is easy to use with the FTDI chips converting USB to serial for a microcontroller to interpret.
This makes the project more useful by more people.
--
D. Jay Newman ! Author of:
snipped-for-privacy@sprucegrove.com ! _Linux Robotics: Programming Smarter Robots_
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