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6: Expansion Bus
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In the late 1980s, several new expansion buses designed to address these shortcomings appeared on the market Three in particular IBM s Micro Channel Architecture (MCA), the open standard Extended ISA (EISA), and the Video Electronics Standards Association s VESA Local Bus (VL-Bus) all had a few years of modest popularity from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s Although all of these alternative buses worked well, they each had shortcomings that made them less than optimal replacements for ISA IBM charged a heavy licensing fee for MCA, EISA was expensive to make, and VL-Bus only worked in tandem with the ISA bus By 1993, the PC world was eager for a big name to come forward with a fast, wide, easy-to-configure, and cheap new expansion bus Intel saw the need and stepped up to the plate with the now famous PCI bus
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Intel introduced the peripheral component interconnect (PCI) bus architecture (Figure 68) in the early 1990s, and the PC expansion bus was never again the same Intel made many smart moves with PCI, not the least of which was releasing PCI to the public domain to make PCI very attractive to manufacturers PCI provided a wider, faster, more flexible alternative than any previous expansion bus The exceptional technology of the new bus, combined with the lack of a price tag, made manufacturers quickly drop ISA and the other alternatives and adopt PCI PCI really shook up the PC world with its capabilities The original PCI bus was 32 bits wide and ran at 33 MHz, which was superb, but these features were expected and not earth-shattering The coolness of PCI came from its capability to coexist with other expansion buses When PCI first came out, you could buy a motherboard with both PCI and ISA slots This was important because it enabled users to keep their old ISA cards and slowly migrate to PCI Equally impressive was that PCI devices were (and still are) self-configuring, a feature that led to the industry standard that became known as plug and play Finally, PCI had a powerful burst mode feature that enabled very efficient data transfers PCI Bus
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Figure 68
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Before PCI, it was rare to see more than one type of expansion slot on a motherboard Today, this is not only common it s expected!
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32 bits wide 33-MHz speed Self-configuring
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There was a 64-bit version of the original PCI standard, but it was quite rare
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The original PCI expansion bus has soldiered on in PCs for over ten years Recently PCI has begun to be replaced by more advanced forms of PCI Although these new PCI expansion buses are faster than the original PCI, they re only improvements to PCI, not entirely new expansion buses The original PCI might be fading away, but PCI in its many new forms is still King of the Motherboard
One of the big reasons for ISA s demise was video cards When video started going graphical with the introduction of Windows, ISA buses were too slow and graphics looked terrible PCI certainly improved graphics at the time it came out, but Intel was thinking ahead Shortly after Intel invented PCI, they presented a specialized, video-only version of PCI called the accelerated graphics port (AGP) An AGP slot is a PCI slot, but one with a direct connection to the Northbridge AGP slots are only for video cards don t try to snap a sound card or modem into one You ll learn much more about this fascinating technology in 17, Video Figure 69 shows a typical AGP slot
The AGP slot is almost universally brown in color, making it easy to spot
PCI-X
PCI-X , already available in systems such as the Macintosh G5, is a huge enhancement to current PCI that is Figure 69 AGP slot also fully backward compatible, in terms of both hardware and software PCI-X is a 64-bit-wide bus (see Figure 610) Its slots will accept regular PCI cards The real bonus of PCI-X is its much enhanced speed The PCI-X 20 standard features four speed grades (measured in Figure 610 PCI-X slot MHz): PCI-X 66, PCI-X 133, PCI-X 266, and PCI-X 533 The obvious candidates for PCI-X are businesses using workstations and servers, because they have the need for speed and also the need for backward compatibility Large vendors, especially in the high-end market, are already on board HP, Dell, and Intel server products, for example, support PCI-X A quick online shopping trip reveals tons of PCI-X stuff for sale: gigabit NICs, Fibre Channel cards, video adapters, and more
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