Why PC/104? The Need for an Embedded-PC Standard
Over the past decade, the PC architecture has become an accepted platform for far more than desktop applications. Dedicated and embedded applications for PCs are used as controllers within laboratory instruments, communications devices, and medical equipment, to name just a few examples.
By standardizing hardware and software around the broadly supported PC architecture, embedded system designers can substantially reduce development costs, risks, and time. This means faster time-to-market and the ability to hit critical market windows with timely product introductions. Another important advantage of using the PC architecture is that its hardware and software standardized components are widely available. These components are also significantly more economical than traditional non-PC bus architectures such as STD, VME, and Multibus. This means lower product costs.
For these reasons, companies that embed microcomputers as controllers within their products seek ways to reap the benefits of using the PC architecture. However, the standard PC bus form-factor (12.4" x 4.8") and its associated card cages and backplanes are too bulky (and expensive) for most embedded control applications.
The only practical way to embed the PC architecture in space and power sensitive applications has been to design a PC - chip-by-chip - directly into the product. But this runs counter to the growing trend away from "reinventing the wheel." Wherever possible, top management now encourages out-sourcing of components and technologies, to reduce development costs and accelerate product design cycles.
A need therefore arose for a more compact implementation of the PC bus, satisfying the reduced space and power constraints of embedded control applications. Yet these goals had to be realized without sacrificing full hardware and software compatibility with the popular PC bus standard. This would allow the PC's hardware, software, development tools, and system design knowledge to be fully leveraged. In other words, the PC bus had to be standardized while capturing all of the benefits the design engineer wanted from the PC bus.
PC/104 was developed in response to this need. It offers full architecture, hardware, and software compatibility with the PC bus, but in ultra-compact (3.6" x 3.8") stackable modules. PC/104 is therefore ideally suited to the unique requirements of embedded control applications - including full standardization by an international group of companies who manufacture products based on our PC/104 standard.
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