Part A: System Architecture

The picture below is of an Intel “D2700DC” small form-factor PC motherboard, and its rear port panel. The questions in this part refer to this board and the labelled components. See image.

Answer the following questions in your own words, and in the context of this specific motherboard make and model. Where explanations are required as part of an answer, they need not be longer than a paragraph (3-6 sentences).

1. You may consider answering this question in a table. For the four items labelled A, B, C, D:

  • What is the name of that connector?
  • Consider its use in expanding the functionality of the system.
    • What is it for? Provide an example of a typical peripheral that connects to it.
    • Which standard(s) are supported by that connector? Provide all relevant details, including speeds and/or other metrics of capability.
  • Consider where the connectors lead to.
    • Which core component (CPU/chipset) of the motherboard does it connect to?
    • How does it connect to this core component – a direct connection, or through a bus or common expansion interface (what sort of bus)? Is there another component sitting in between it and the core component?

2. The item labelled E is for memory expansion.

  • How many memory modules can be installed? What form factor is required?
  • Which memory speeds are supported by the motherboard?
  • What is the maximum memory capacity supported by the motherboard? Is this limited by something on the motherboard itself (and if so, what?), or the capacity of memory modules that are commercially available?

3. Items F and G are PCI and mini PCI Express slots respectively

  • For F, why do you think it is still there / Give examples for the use of the PCI slot.
  • G, the mini PCI Express slots can support a variety of electrical interfaces. Which peripheral interfaces does this slot support?
  • Consider a SATA-based solid state disk in a mini PCI express form factor.
    • Can this solid state disk be installed into this slot? If so, explain
    • If both Serial ATA ports (D) are in use, is this still the case? Why / why not?

4. The item labelled H is an internal audio connector.

  • What is this connector meant to connect to?
  • The technical documentation mentions support for both “AC 97” and “HD Audio”. What’s the difference between these two connector standards? Are they interchangeable?

5. Are there any “legacy” interfaces on the motherboard? If so, which ones?

6. Connector I is for a fan.

  • Identify the full model number of the CPU and chipset. What are their Thermal Design Power?
  • The CPU doesn’t seem to have a fan – why is there a fan connector on the motherboard?
  • Consider the connector itself.
    • Fans only need two wires (power and ground) to operate. Determine how many pins this fan connector has.. If there is a third pin what is it used for, what is its purpose as part of the overall cooling solution?
    • Some motherboards have four-pin fan connectors. What is the fourth pin for?

7. Consider how the CPU is installed on this motherboard.

  • What is the full name of the CPU socket interface used on this motherboard? Which processor family(ies) are available for this socket type?
  • Unlike other CPU socket types that use a “PGA” or “LGA” socket interface, this has a “BGA”interface. What is a BGA socket? Is the CPU upgradable? Why/why not?
  • What is one common failure mode of BGA chip installation? Is it repairable?

Part B: Junk Yard Special

One weekend you visit a local computer swap meet. While rummaging through a “junk box” at a vendor’s stall, you find a few very old expansion cards; each with chunky looking connectors, lots of discrete electrical components, and big banks of pins highlighted in the picture below: See image.

8. The expansion card has an identifier, “CT1350B”.

  • What is this card, and what does it do?
  • Which expansion card interface is it designed for?

9. The stallholder explains that the pins in the corner are to set the card’s “memory address”. Why would a piece of hardware have a memory address?

10. He further explains that the pins next to the edge-card are to set the “IRQ”. What is an IRQ, and what purpose does it have?

11. Why was it necessary for the expansion cards of this era to have manual control over the memory address and IRQ settings? What would happen if the system builder paid no attention to these settings when building or expanding the computer?

12. Modern expansion cards have no such memory address or interrupt request settings on their circuit boards. Why not?

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