PC/104 and the Rogers Adoption Curve

I’m certain that there were some project managers in the early 1990s who were hesitant to design with PC/104. “We’ll stick to the older, proven specifications, thank you very much.” Thankfully, there were plenty of early adopters – engineers and designers who saw the value of a stackable architecture, the elimination of the backplane, and the potential for a multivendor ecosystem of compatible products.

Everett Rogers first introduced the idea of diffusion of innovations in his 1962 book of the same name. The concept was initially rooted in agriculture (yes, I just did that) but has been widely applied to advances in technology. The curve has five stages: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. (Figure 1.)

Figure 1: The Rogers Adoption Curve describes how new innovations and ideas are accepted and adopted by groups and cultures.

Let’s extrapolate this concept to PC/104: In its early days, the PC/104 architecture was gladly embraced by the innovators and early adopters – the people who always want to dance with the very latest technologies. The ecosystem began to grow, and the technology gained traction as more manufacturers began building to the form factor.

PC/104 has evolved over its many years of existence, from ISA through to PCI Express. So, through the lens of the adoption curve, how do we understand PC/104 today?

I’ll offer two ways of thinking about it.

In one sense, PC/104 suits the early and late majority. These risk-averse groups require a proven history, broad vendor support, and widespread market adoption. They’re looking for mountains of data and application case studies that show reliability. With PC/104, they have these things. Countless long-running embedded programs have used PC/104-based systems for years. Program managers trust PC/104 technology to function as critical components within longstanding, multibillion dollar programs. These systems have been exposed to environments across the globe, at the bottom of the sea, and out in space.

But typically, the term “PC/104” calls to mind only the stackable buses and compact footprint. It does not immediately point to all the latest technologies that have been spun onto the architecture. It’s similar to how the word “cars” describes the mode of transportation, but it doesn’t highlight the breakthrough technological advancements in today’s vehicles.

This brings us to a second way of thinking about the Rogers Curve and PC/104: Let’s get back to the innovators and early adopters. Single-board computer manufacturers and peripheral module designers continue to bring new technologies to the PC/104 form factor. As new hardware interface and networking standards are developed and released to the consumer market, PC/104 engineers and designers are right there at the front of the line, spinning new boards to address the pressing demands of today’s aerospace, defense, industrial, transportation, research, and manufacturing markets.

Whether you need new or are dealing with long-deployed, PC/104 manufacturers and system integrators will be able to take you where you need to go. Our member companies employ some of the brightest minds in the embedded industry, carrying the depth of experience that brings smart solutions while avoiding costly errors.

The Consortium will be exhibiting within the OpenSystems Media pavilion at 2019 (see us at Booth 3A-528). We’re thrilled to be participating – we’re looking forward to seeing you there.

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