1817, "composed of two parts," from Latin duplex, from duo "two" (see two) + -plex, from Greek plax (genitive plakos) "flat surface." The noun sense of "house for two families; two-story apartment" is American English, 1922.
communications Used to describe a communications channel that can carry signals in both directions, in contrast to a simplex channel which only ever carries a signal in one direction. If signals can only flow in one direction at a time the communications is "half-duplex", like a single-lane road with traffic lights at each end. Walkie-talkies with a "press-to-talk" button provide half-duplex communications. If signals can flow in both directions simultaneously the communications is "full-duplex", like a normal two-lane road. Telephones provide full-duplex communications. The term "duplex" was first used in wireless, telegraph, and telephone communications. Nearly all communications circuits used by computers are two-way, so the term is seldom used. (http://cit.ac.nz/smac/dc100www/dc_014.htm). (2001-07-21)