History of the Motherboard

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These days just adding a CPU a stick of RAM a storage device and a power supply to a mini ITX motherboard will give you a small and fully functional computer in a matter of minutes.

History of the Motherboard

This is possible because of how many different functions the average motherboard combines into one little slab of like fiberglass metal and silicon.
But it wasn’t always like this in fact.
Early electronics didn’t have anything resembling the lovely green boards with black integrated circuits that were used today.
Instead it was common to see individual full-sized wires linking every capacitor resistor and other components.
Unsurprisingly this approach took up tons of space added a bunch of weight
It was relatively fragile meaning that the printed circuit board took off in popularity pretty quickly starting in the 1950s.
It should be noted however that these early PCBs were still a far cry from the RGB motherboard that you might have sitting in your computer right now.
While back then a simple device like a radio,
Might have gotten away with using just one PCB full-fledged computers needed many circuit boards to handle different functions connected by a backplane that you might consider to be a forerunner of the modern motherboard.
Unlike true motherboards though these backplanes tended to be dumb connections with no actual logic that consisted of little more than a bunch of slots lined up in a row.
So that other expansion cards could be plugged in.
For example, the Altair 8800 used one slot to insert a processor another for memory, and so on.

It wasn’t until 1981 that we got a big upgrade the planar board in the original IBM PC featured an Intel 8088 CPU built-in memory and actual external IO.

So it was far more than just a glorified bundle of wire-like smooshed together.
All you could connect directly to it was a keyboard and a cassette drive.
But it also included a handful of expansion slots that didn’t look too different from what we’re used to today.
And those slots were important because motherboards were still so simple that they didn’t have features that we consider basic now like drive headers for example.
So, if you wanted to load up your copy of flight simulator 1.0 you would need a standalone disk interface card.
We didn’t see modern memory modules that fit into RAM slots until the mid-1980s either
by the late 80s though engineers had fully embraced the goal of integrating more and more functions onto the motherboard.
So little ICS called super i/o chips were becoming more common.

These functioned like rudimentary versions of a modern chipset.

They provided drive controllers ports for printers mice keyboards and other devices and the systems bios.

Now that all doesn’t sound like a huge deal today.
But super i/o chips took up less space and they were much more cost-effective than expansion cards setting the stage for full-featured modern motherboards.
Around the same time in 1987,
Specifically we’ve got the first-ever integrated VGA graphics chips when IBM released model 50 of their almost famous personal system.
Unlike modern integrated GPUs though this was a chip that was affixed to the motherboard instead of being built into the CPU itself a paradigm that we saw again starting in the mid-1990s.
Though GPUs that were soldered onto motherboards began to disappear in favor of ones built into CPUs by mid-2010.
Speaking of CPUs let’s jump back again to 1989,
When the first CPU socket with a vaguely modern look socket 1 appeared alongside Intel’s wildly popular 486 processor.
while earlier designs involved soldering the CPU directly to the board or significant force on the part of the user to insert or remove them.
Socket one had a simple mechanism based around a pin grid array very similar to modern AMD sockets though with a mere 169 pins.

But it wasn’t just CPU sockets that were getting a facelift.

Expansion slots were also changing at that time and it was about time.
As the ancient is a standard had been used since the days of the original IBM PC.
In 1994 PCI started becoming popular in consumer pcs followed by the short-lived AGP for graphics cards in 1997 and PCI Express which is still with us today in 2004.
But what about onboard networking in audio?
Well in the mid-1980s there were a number of proprietary networking protocols.
But since the now-familiar Ethernet was a relatively simple standard with easy physical construction.
It became the go-to for networking in the late 80s and again its simplicity meant that,
It quickly spread to PC motherboards in the early 1990s.

And although sound cards also started appearing on the market.

In the late 80s and early 90s and we had little internal speakers that could emit beeps and bleeps for a while.

We didn’t see true fully-functional onboard digital sound hit the mainstream until 1999.
When Intel included the AC 97 standard in its 810 chipset which incidentally was also the first Intel chipset to include integrated graphics meaning,
It was no longer necessary to have a separate chip for video processing be it on the motherboard or on an adapter card.
So now that all of these innovations had a clear home on the PC motherboard.
The stage was set for refinements made possible by decreasing costs and the continued miniaturization of components.
Not to mention,
An increase in processing capacity to handle lots of different features.
Meaning that these days even small form-factor motherboards feature RGB headers premium power delivery and Wi-Fi.
And of course by lear the 2010 manufacturers also realized that,
All those bells and whistles are meaningless without some vaguely threatening heatsinks to show all comers.
So, this was all about the History of the Motherboard.
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