Will Old Tech Ever Go Away?

Dec. 9, 2010
Did you know that motherboard vendors will likely have products without VGA and LVDS connections in the next few years?

VersaLogic Sidewinder SBC

WinSystems EBX-Z5xx SBC

It's the same old story. Out with the old and in with the new. It is just that in the embedded world the old and new tend to coexist a lot longer. Sometimes it seems that nothing ever disappears although when was the last time you handled a floppy disk?

So did you know that motherboard vendors will likely have products without VGA and LVDS connections in the next few years?

That is what the likes of AMD, Dell, Intel Corporation, Lenovo, Samsung Electronics LCD Business and LG Display are saying. They announced that DisplayPort and High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) will be the display connections of choice on the PC (see Leading PC Companies Move to All Digital Display Technology, Phasing out Analog). LVDS disappears in 2013 and VGA disappears in 2015. This is not surprising and it will be happening sooner for portable devices like laptops, netbooks and tablets. In fact, many of the mobile devices will only have a DisplayPort or HDMI interface. It is interesting to read the essentially, non-embedded feedback on the topic (See Goodbye-VGA).

So what does all this have to do with embedded developers especially with a longer list of concerns?

  Old New
Display VGA, LVDS DisplayPort, HDMI
Bus ISA, PCI PCI Express
Backplane ISA, PCI
PCI Express
Network 10/100 Ethernet 1G/10G/100G Ethernet
Operating Sytems DOS, Window 95/98/Me/XP/Vista Linux, Windows 7

Most embedded developers will tend to continue in the same fashion as before. Complaining about the lack of support for new standards and having to maintain compatibility with the old while supporting both.

VersaLogic's Sidewinder 1.2 GHz VIA Eden-based single board computer (Fig. 1) is a typical example that include PC/104-Plus support for PCI and ISA expansion. VersaLogic also adds their own SPX expansion sites on the board that daisy chain SPI. WinSystems' EBC-Z5xx (Fig. 2) blends ISA with SUMIT. SUMIT, from the Small Form Factor-SIG is one way of bringing PCI Express to stackable expansion. You only need to look at a small collection of available hardware (see Buy Your Own Small Form-Factor Boards And Modules) to see the variety of configurations that mix old and new.

Keeping abreast of these changes tends to be a more long term availability issue. Getting replacement parts is always a challenge as is finding workarounds. The RoHS issue is effectively behind us but developers and purchasing agents were running in circles trying to determine whether many parts or there alternatives were going to be available to build the latest boards.

It is already getting hard to find IDE hard drives and displays with VGA connectors are going to be harder to find. It is not that these parts are going to disappear completely but the choices are going to decrease to the point where finding a replacement is either too costly or ineffective. Just making a connector available on a motherboard can be a support issue in the future.

So we give our Electronic Design 2010 Best Of Awards to the new old and highlight the future in our January forecast issue. Here we salute the old that will be keeping us company for a long time to come.

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