New PCI-only version of PC/104 form factor enables increased functionality

MARCH 24--The PC/104 Embedded Consortium (San Francisco, CA; www.pc104.org) has introduced the PCI-104 specification.

MARCH 24--The PC/104 Embedded Consortium (San Francisco, CA; www.pc104.org) has introduced the PCI-104 specification. PCI-104 is identical to the popular PC/104-Plus combined ISA + PCI embedded standard except that the PC/104 ISA expansion connector is removed. By eliminating the large ISA bus connector, PCI-104 yields an additional 10% of board area for larger CPU chipsets, higher levels of integration, and/or I/O connectors. The PCI-104 specification still maintains the small 3.550 x 3.775-in. size, rugged design, and self-stacking architecture for embedded applications set by the PC/104 and PC/104-Plus standards.

While the current PC/104 and PC/104-Plus standard will maintain the ISA bus and support the large existing base of ISA-only PC/104 add-on modules, the PCI-104 specification defines a standard with PCI-compatible I/O features such as video, audio, Ethernet, and communications. In addition, all major FPGA vendors offer PCI bus cores to simplify development and speed up time to market for custom PCI peripheral designs.

"The adoption of the PCI-104 specification supports the continuous evolution of embedded computing technology," said Jim Blazer, president of the PC/104 Embedded Consortium. "The ISA-free industry standard form factor allows engineers to develop the even more rugged and reliable CPU and I/O boards using PCI technology required for today's complex embedded systems."

Another benefit of the new PCI-only format is processor independence. While ISA and PCI are primarily used as x86 expansion buses in PC compatible systems, PCI can be used with other processor families, including PowerPC, ARM, X-Scale, and others. Vendors of boards using these processors can now create new designs using PCI-104, offering their customers more compact alternatives to existing larger formats. By migrating to PCI-104, vendors and customers utilizing any PCI-compatible processor can now achieve the same benefits of small size, rugged design, and easy expandability that x86 users have obtained for more than a decade with PC/104.

The PC/104 Consortium and standard were established in 1992. PC/104, in use since 1987, is a small-form-factor, embedded PC physical and electrical interface standard. It provides embedded system designers with an architecture that is dense, cost effective and based on proven, practical technology. PC/104-Plus, an extension that was added to the standard in 1995, incorporates PCI technology.

Longevity is one of the hallmarks of the PC/104 technology. Because customers require stable, long-term supply, PC/104 module vendors typically offer products that do not change specifications as fast as commercial PC vendors. PC/104's proven reliability is valued by thousands of OEMs in application areas such as industrial control and instrumentation, military and aerospace, and medical.


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