Texas Instruments demos split-chassis PC

Texas Instruments has found a solution to the problem of hot and noisy computers by splitting them in two and moving the hottest...

Texas Instruments has found a solution to the problem of hot and noisy computers by splitting them in two and moving the hottest and loudest components off the desktop and away from the user.

Hewlett-Packard and Intel developed a concept PC in 2001 that consisted of two components - a computing component and an end-user interface - linked by a USB 2.0 cable up to 5m.

However, the split-chassis design demonstrated by Texas Instruments at the Computex 2004 exhibition in Taipei uses a PCI Express connection up to 4.3m which offers greater throughput than a USB 2.0 link, said John Byrum, an applications engineer at Texas Instruments.

"The big advantage is PCI Express is mainly software," Byrum said, noting that Windows XP and other operating systems see the cabled PCI Express connection as an internal bridge between two PCI Express controllers.

"There's no extra drivers you need," he said.

By comparison, a USB 2.0 link would require the installation of special drivers.

Texas Instruments' split-chassis design would allow a supplier to produce a PC with two main parts: the computing component and a smaller I/O (input/output) component.

The I/O component would contain memory card readers, an optical disc drive such as a DVD-Rom drive, a hard-disc, IEEE 1394 ports and USB ports for a mouse, keyboard and other peripherals.

The split-chassis concept shown at the show is still new and requires further development, said Byrum, but the fundamental design is sound, noting that suppliers such as HP have shown an interest in the concept.

Sumner Lemon writes for IDG News Service

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