PC104 Standard Boards

PC104 is an embedded computer standard. The boards tend to be around 3.6" x 3.8" x 0.9" with connectors that allow you to stack them up or across lego-style. It's ISA-based and there are 50+ manufacturers, some of them indexed at Arrick Robotics and PC Controller Magazine . This is a good environment for home-brew wearable computing. For more information, here is an excerpt on The Need for an Embedded-PC Standard, Controller Magazine's PC/104 page., and Eg3's Buyer's index

Board set manufacturers:

Specialty boards:


Haven't played with Comark's boards yet, but they have the highest end processor at a 133Mhz Pentium with 32M RAM. However, this .75" height board has to be the top in the stack due to cooling: 8-9W without RAM I believe. Unfortunately, these CPU modules ONLY include the CPU and keyboard....serial, parallel, etc. you need another board.

Megatel tends to be more sophisticated in its technology, but research what you are getting before you buy. Definitely worth keeping an eye on. Supposedly the base Megatel board, which includes Ethernet, can be used with Linux if you recompile with Intel Ether Express Pro support turned on. However, we've had flakiness with this code, so this still seems not to be an option. More when we get one to eval. For the most part, only CPU modules. Tend to be slightly bigger (4"x4") than normal PC104's (3.6"x3.8")

Ampro tends to be reliable with moderate sophistication. Generally good experiences with these products. Definitely the way to start out, because they are so fast to prototype. Runs Linux no problem. Full line.

Arize tends be a bit slower on the new tech but cheaper. CPU modules and some support.

Advantech has a full line, but is really lacking on the CPU. Highest end as of 2/6/96 was a 33Mhz 386 with 4M RAM. However, they do make some nice support modules. For example, they keep a 1M VRAM SVGA board in stock (Ampro is a special order only) so that you can do 640x480x24 bits. Also, they have a 4 serial port board and a floppy, IDE, and 2 serial board.

RTD has a nice full line, with some additional features on their CPU board that Ampro does not have, but these features are at the cost of system RAM-only 4M. The maximum these systems have is 8M. However, if memory is not a problem for you, this is probably the way to go. Interesting data acquisition and control modules.

PC/104 Consortium

Get their book.
990 Almanor Ave.
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Ph: (408) 245-9348
Fax: (408) 720-1322
A warning about PC104: While we haven't had any troubles, supposedly most companies are only 90% compatible with the written spec. This is the same problem PCMCIA is having right now. Insist on good specs! Also, some of the PC104 cards can only be at the top or bottom of the stack, they do not contain the pass through connectors. Be particularly aware of Megatel CPU boards and Private Eye driver boards for this. When ordering, be explicit that you are interested in a board for a PC104 16 bit (some only do 8...earlier standard) stack-through system.

Take a look at some PC104 system boards:
pc104 486 core module
pc104 VGA board
pc104 floppy and IDE controller board

Take a look at a PC104 system being assembled

Last modified: Thu Jan 11 17:45:40 1996