UART (Universal Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter) or USART (Universal Synchronous Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter) are one of the basic interface which you will find in almost all the controllers available in the market till date. This interface provides a cost effective simple and reliable communication between one controller to another controller or between a controller and PC.
RS-232 (Recommended Standard 232) is a standard for serial binary data signals connecting between a DTE (Data terminal equipment) and a DCE (Data Circuit-terminating Equipment).
RS-232 Level Converters
Usually all the digial ICs works on TTL or CMOS voltage levels which cannot be used to communicate over RS-232 protocol. So a voltage or level converter is needed which can convert TTL to RS232 and RS232 to TTL voltage levels. The most commonly used RS-232 level converter is MAX232. This IC includes charge pump which can generate RS232 voltage levels (-10V and +10V) from 5V power supply. It also includes two receiver and two transmitters and is capable of full-duplex UART/USART communication.
MAX232 Pin Description
MAX232 Typical Connection Circuit
FIG 3.28 MAX232
MAX232 Interfacing with Microcontrollers
To communicate over UART or USART, we just need three basic signals which are namely, RXD (receive), TXD (transmit), GND (common ground). So to interface MAX232 with any microcontroller (AVR, ARM, 8051, PIC etc..) we just need the basic signals. A simple schematic diagram of connections between a microcontroller and MAX232 is shown below