Datasheet Directories

PC/104 Boards

Written by Jeff Child

Legacy That Stacks Up

With roots that grew from the ISA-bus era, PC/104 has grown into an embedded board-level form factor suited to the PCI Express landscape. For space-constrained applications, PC/104 and all its follow-on variants continue to meet system design needs.

Since its creation over 25 ago, PC/104 has enjoyed one of the greatest success stories in terms of leveraging technologies from the PC infrastructure. The well-established PC/104 standard is remarkable for opening the door to the embedded stackable computing concept. It began with the ISA bus and over the years has grown to include the latest innovations in desktop computing technologies with PCI and PCI Express. PC/104 evolved through the era of PCI and PCI Express by spinning off its wider family of follow on versions including PC/104-Plus, PCI-104, PCIe/104 and PCI/104-Express.

The PC/104 architecture demonstrates that it’s possible to successfully implement quickly evolving PC technology into embedded computing products by taking advantage of PC market adoption, performance, scalability and growing silicon availability worldwide. PC/104 was designed to be simple in design, but rugged in performance. As a result, PC/104 products have permeated many industries. A PC/104 board provides the computing inside Klein’s UUV-3500 high resolution side scan sonar for unmanned underwater vehicles. The system is used on OceanServer Technology’s Iver3 AUV (Figure 1).

Figure 1
PC/104 technology provides the computing inside Klein’s UUV-3500 high resolution side-scan sonar system. The system is aboard OceanServer’s Iver3 AUV shown here.

A couple years ago the PC/104 Consortium made a revision to PCI/104-Express and PCIe/104 that provides an additional option called “OneBank”. The PCIe/104 OneBank utilizes a smaller, lower-cost bus connector which is compatible to the full size PCIe/104 connector currently in use today. It allows designers to stack boards using a complimentary format that frees up PCB real estate for additional components as well as potential cost savings. The OneBank connector concept consists of removing two of the three “banks” of the standard PCIe/104 connector, resulting in a 52-pin connector as opposed to the full-size 156-pin connector.

Among the more recent trends in PC/104 has been roll out of boards that include Mini PCIe sockets. Mini PCIe lets system designers mix and match add-on functions, leveraging the emerging ecosystem of Mini PCIe peripheral cards as they become available. The product gallery on the next couple pages shows a mix of board designs upgraded to sport the latest processor and memory technologies. Because most of these boards are based on Intel processors, most all of these boards run the Linux operating system. These are representative examples of PC/104, PC/104-Plus and PCI/104-Express board-level products.


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Editor-in-Chief at Circuit Cellar | Website | + posts

Jeff Child has more than 28 years of experience in the technology magazine business—including editing and writing technical content, and engaging in all aspects of magazine leadership and production. He joined the Circuit Cellar after serving as Editor-in-Chief of COTS Journal for over 10 years. Over his career Jeff held senior editorial positions at several of leading electronic engineering publications, including EE Times and Electronic Design and RTC Magazine. Before entering the world of technology journalism, Jeff worked as a design engineer in the data acquisition market.

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PC/104 Boards

by Jeff Child time to read: 2 min