PC/104: The original COM module

PC/104 is well known as a rugged, stackable PC. Its modular design allows it to be easily adapted to many applications and makes field repairs and upgrades simple. What could be simpler than a computer where designers can pick and choose boards from many suppliers and have confidence that everything will work together nicely? Designers can build stacks as tall or as short as needed to get necessary features, knowing that if a new function must be added later, they will not be “boxed in.”

Rethinking PC/104 applications

Whether it is computer-on-module or component-on-module, COM is on many engineers’ minds today. But what about using PC/104 as a COM module? PC/104 was the original COM module adopted as an open standard in March 1992 by the PC/104 Consortium. Its small 96 mm x 90 mm size coupled with standard bus connectors makes it a perfect mezzanine module for any size motherboard. An x86 CPU can take over a year to develop and is a highly complex mixture of hardware, BIOS, and software. However, if designers choose one of the many commercially available PC/104 CPUs on the market, standard ISA, PCI, USB, or PCI Express bus expansion is included with processors ranging from low-power 486s to high-performance multicores. PCIe/104 Type 2 that was approved by the PC/104 Consortium March 21, 2011 adds USB 3.0, SATA, and LPC connectivity.

What if Ethernet, serial I/O, digital I/O, or some other function is needed? Many CPUs have these features and can be cabled directly to the CPU using its onboard connectors for these functions or even have the I/O connectors made to stack to the motherboard for virtually unlimited “user I/O.”

Already building a custom CPU on the motherboard, but worried about being asked to put an Ethernet switch, CAN controller or opto-isolated I/O later? Put a PC/104, PCI-104, or PCIe/104 bus on the motherboard and the ability to expand the system becomes limitless. If designers cannot find the expansion module they need from the many already on the market, a custom module can be built for specific applications. For a broad selection of PC/104 products visit www.pc104.org and see what the PC/104 Consortium members have to offer. It is the place for everything PC/104.

Meet the new board (of directors)

The PC/104 Consortium maintains the specifications for PC/104, PC/104-Plus, PCI-104, PCI/104-Express, and PCIe/104 connector configurations as well as 104, EPIC, and EBX form factors. The specifications are open and free to members and non-members alike.

The PC/104 Consortium recently seated its new board of directors and officers for the year after the annual meeting held in conjunction with ESC Silicon Valley in May. They are:

  • Jeff Milde, PC/104 Consortium – Executive Director
  • Len Crane, VersaLogic – Chairman and President
  • Matthias Fellhauer, LiPPERT Embedded Computers GmbH – Director and Vice President
  • Alexander Buravlev, Fastwel – Director and Secretary/Treasurer
  • Lee Foss, Advanced Micro Peripherals – Director
  • Christine Van De Graaf, Kontron – Director
  • Jim Blazer, RTD Embedded Technologies – Director and Technical Committee Chair
  • Flemming Christensen, Sundance Multiprocessor Technology – Director

It is critical for the PC/104 Embedded Consortium to present a clear and focused presence of PC/104 technology to avoid confusion in the marketplace. We must protect the Consortium’s trademarks, copyrights, and IP to safeguard members’ investments, and we will continue monitoring technological advancements for possible inclusion into the PC/104 architecture.

Figure 1: PC/104 is most often viewed as just a stackable option, but when designers face a mezzanine requirement it works just as well.
(Click graphic to zoom)

PC/104 Consortium 916-270-2016 info@pc104.org www.pc104.org