How a motherboard works


Background

The original IBM PC contained the original PC motherboard. In this design, which premiered in 1982, the motherboard itself was a large printed circuit card that contained the 8088 microprocessor , the BIOS, sockets for the CPU's RAM and a collection of slots that auxiliary cards could plug into. If you wanted to add a floppy disk drive or a parallel port or a joystick , you bought a separate card and plugged it into one of the slots. This approach was pioneered in the mass market by the Apple II machine. By making it easy to add cards, Apple and IBM accomplished two huge things:

  • They made it easy to add new features to the machine over time.
  • They opened the computer to creative opportunities for third-party vendors.

    Different motherboards of different vintages typically have different form factors . The form factor is essentially the size, shape and design of the actual motherboard. There are more than a half-dozen form factors for motherboards -- check out PC Guide's Motherboard Form Factors to find out about the various designations.

    The motherboard, by enabling pluggable components, allows users to personalize a computer system depending on their applications and needs.

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Table of Contents:
Introduction to How Motherboards Work
Background
On the Motherboard
Data Bus Width
Chipsets
Fans