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Dated: Feb. 07, 2010
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The motherboard represents the logical foundation of the computer. In other words, everything that makes a computer a computer must be attached to the motherboard. From the CPU to storage devices, from RAM to printer ports, the motherboard provides the connections that help them work together.
The motherboard is essential to computer operation in large part because of the two major buses it contains: the system bus and the I/O bus. Together, these buses carry all the information between the different parts of the computer.
Note: A typical ATX motherboard with support for Nvidia’s scalable link interface (SLI) technology.
1. Socket 775 processor socket
2. Dual-channel DDR2 memory slots
3. Heat sink over North Bridge
4. 24-pin ATX v2.0 power connector
5. South Bridge chip
6. PCI slot (2)
7. PCI Express x16 slot (2)
8. PCI Express x1 slot
9. CMOS battery
10. Port cluster
11. SATA host adapter (4)
12. Floppy drive controller
13. PATA host adapter (2)
14. 4-pix ATX12 power connector
15. Mounting holes
The System Bus and I/O Bus
The system bus carries four different types of signals throughout the computer:
To help you understand this concept, let's take an imaginary trip to Chicago and compare the city to a typical motherboard. If you were on the Willis Tower observation deck overlooking downtown Chicago one evening, you would first notice the endless stream of cars, trucks, and trains carrying people and goods from everywhere to everywhere else along well-defined surface routes (the expressways and tollways, commuter railroads, Amtrak, and airports). You can compare these routes to the data bus portion of the system bus, which carries information between RAM and the CPU. If you've ever listened to the traffic reports on a radio station such as Chicago's WBBM (760 AM), you've heard how traffic slows down when expressway lanes are blocked by construction or stalled traffic. In your computer, wider data buses that enable more "lanes" of data to flow at the same time promote faster system performance.
Now, imagine that you've descended to street level, and you've met with a local utility worker for a tour of underground Chicago. On your tour, you will find an elaborate network of electric and gas lines beneath the street carrying the energy needed to power the city. You can compare these to the power lines in the system bus, which transfer power from the motherboard's connection to the power supply to the integrated circuits (ICs or chips) and expansion boards connected to the motherboard.
Go back to street level, and notice the traffic lights used both on city streets and on the entrance ramps to busy expressways, such as the Eisenhower and the Dan Ryan. Traffic stops and starts in response to the signals. Look at the elevated trains or at the Metra commuter trains and Amtrak intercity trains; they also move as directed by signal lights. These signals, which control the movement of road and rail traffic, can be compared to the control lines in the system bus, which control the transmission and movement of information between devices connected to the motherboard.
Finally, as you look around downtown, take a close look at the men and women toting blue bags around their shoulders or driving electric vans and Jeeps around the city. As these mail carriers deliver parcels and letters, they must verify the correct street and suite addresses for the mail they deliver. They correspond to the address bus, which is used to "pick up" information from the correct memory location among the gigabytes of RAM in computer systems and "deliver" new programs and changes back to the correct memory locations.
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