The Birth Of ATX

Many of you may not be aware, but there has been a subtle change in some of the most basic parts of a PC. Recently, motherboard manufacturers agreed to use a new style of motherboard, which required a change in case design.

When Intel designed its new "Pentium II" processor, they were looking for a design that would be difficult if not impossible for other CPU manufacturers such as AMD and Cyrix to duplicate. They also knew that as their CPUs grew larger and larger, together with the larger heat sinks and cooling fans they required, the CPU was starting to block the expansion slots and to prevent larger expansion cards from fitting into the computer case. To make their new CPU unique, Intel designed the Pentium II as a plug in card, which only made the problem worse.

A new motherboard and case design was needed that moved the CPU out of the way of the expansion slots. Thus the ATX style of motherboard and case was born. The new ATX case is similar to the older AT style (so named after the original IBM PC AT model). The new case also incorporates several ports, such as the USB, serial, printer, and mouse ports, onto the motherboard. These ports now fit through openings in the back of the case rather than onto plates that can end up covering expansion slots. In addition, ATX cases allow for automatic shutoff of the PC.

While this is nothing new for consumers used to mass-produced PCs, most of which are custom-designed by the manufacturer, it is a welcome change to smaller manufacturers and resellers. ATX cases allow consumers to have these benefits while still being able to upgrade their motherboard at a later date, something not always possible with mass-produced PCs.

August 1998

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