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PC/104 Keeps Space-Constrained Systems on Course

Perfectly suited for a variety of space-constrained applications, PC/104 and all its follow on variants continue to shine. MiniPCIe enhances PC/104 as way to mix and match functionality.


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Ever since the birth of the PC/104 specification in March of 1992, the technology's open design provides the power and flexibility of a PC compatible computer in a size ideally suited for embedding. PC/104-along with its wider family of follow on versions including PC/104-Plus, PCI-104, PCIe/104, PCI/104-Express and EPIC-provide a mix of functionality and low, With over 20 years of success, the PC/104 form factor and its follow-on variants remain staples for both legacy and new military embedded systems. A PC/104 board provides the computing inside Klein's UUV-3500 high resolution side scan sonar for unmanned underwater vehicle. The system is used on OceanServer Technology's Iver3 AUV (Figure 1).

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

As can been seen in the roundup on the next couple of pages there's a good representative mix of examples of PC/104, PC/104-Plus, PCIe/104 and PCI/104-Express board products. There are new designs along with legacy products upgraded to sport the latest processor and memory technologies. A recent trend is PC/104 family boards that include Mini PCIe sockets. MiniPCIe acts as a ling of small mezzanine function, and leverages the emerging ecosystem of Mini PCIe peripheral cards that have become available.

Last year saw the PC/104 Consortium making its latest revision of the PCI/104-Express and PCIe/104 Specification, Revision 3.0, 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. The OneBank connector is positioned so that it will plug into the bank 1 of the standard PCIe/104 connector. Thus, the signals of the OneBank include the same four x1 PCI Express Links, Two USB 2.0, ATX power and control signals: +5V Standby, Power supply on, Power Good, Power: +3.3V, +5V (reduced current) as found on the first bank of the standard PCIe/104 bus making them plug in compatible. This preserves the stackability and compatibility of PCI/104-Express and PCIe/104 modules along with the new OneBank modules. By removing two of the banks, 0.513 in2 of PCB real estate on each side is freed up. And with speed scales up to PCIe Gen 3 on the PCIe/104 bus, developers are given plenty of bandwidth for the future even with just four x1 PCIe links.

The PC/104 and PC/104-family Boards Roundup and Links to the full data sheets for each product are posted on the roundup part of this section. Click here for the roundup.