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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who is the governing body for the PC Card Standard?

    PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) and JEIDA (Japan Electronic Industry Development Association) jointly defined the current PC Card standard which is administered by the PCMCIA Board of Directors. The latest specification was released in March 1997, commonly referred to as the PC Card '97 specification.

  2. What does the PC Card Standard specify?

    The PC Card Standard defines a 68-pin interface between the peripheral card and the PC Card socket into which it gets inserted. It also defines three standard PC Card Sizes, called Type I, Type II, and Type III. The PC Card standard also specifies a software architecture to provide Plug and Play capability.

  3. What are the differences between Type I, Type II, and Type III PC Cards?

    The difference between Type I, II, and III cards are the mechanical dimensions of the PC Card. All PC Cards measure the same length and width, roughly the size of a credit card. Where they differ is in thickness. Type I, the smallest form factor, often used for memory cards, measures 3.3mm in thickness. Type II, available for those peripherals requiring taller components such as LAN cards and modems, measures 5mm thick. Type III is the tallest form factor and measures 10.5 mm thick. Type III PC Cards can support small rotating disks and other tall components. Smaller size cards can always fit into larger sockets but the reverse is not always true.

  4. Why were PC Cards originally introduced?

    PCMCIA's 16-bit PC Cards were introduced primarily for the mobile computing environment to provide a small form-factor, low-power alternative to the much larger and power hungry ISA peripheral devices employed in most PCs. Memory card support was defined first, followed by I/O Cards. The PC Card Standard, developed by PCMCIA & JEIDA, provided a universal, non-proprietary expansion capability for notebook platform.

  5. What do the terms PCMCIA, CardBus, R2, and PC Card mean?

    The original PC Card standard covered Memory Cards first, then I/O card support was added with release 2.x. These cards were defined around a 16-bit architecture that resembles the ISA architecture. Many of the installed base of PC Cards were designed around the release 2.x PC Card standard and therefore many people will refer to the 16-bit PC Cards as PCMCIA, or R2 (Release 2.x) cards.

    CardBus cards were defined as a new interface to the PC Card standard to address performance and lower power. As PC architecture moved from the ISA-style local bus to the PCI local bus, CardBus was defined to allow PC Cards to utilize the bandwidth available on the PCI bus (132 MB/sec). CardBus cards are defined around a 32-bit bus which resembles the PCI bus architecture.

    Today, PCMCIA and CardBus cards are collectively referred to as PC Cards. In some cases, you will see cards referred to as PC Card 16 (PCMCIA) and PC Card 32 (CardBus).

  6. What are Card & Socket Services?

    Socket Services is a BIOS level interface that masks the hardware implementation from card vendors' drivers. It identifies how many sockets are in the host and when a card is inserted or removed from a socket. It prevents the card driver from having to talk directly to a specific chip.

    Card Services interface to the Socket Services and automatically provide management of system resources, such as interrupt assignments and memory windows, for cards as they become active in the system.

  7. Who are the common Card & Socket Service (C&SS) vendors? Does TI develop their own C&SS drivers?

    TI does not develop C&SS drivers for the TI PC Card Controllers. These drivers are supported currently by Microsoft in Windows '95 OSR2. In addition, third-party vendors have developed a significant amount of C&SS driver support for TI controllers. See PCIbus Market Information and Industry Links for a list of software vendors.

  8. Do the TI Controllers have the Microsoft Logo and what does this mean?

    As of October 97, the PCI1131, PCI1250, PCI1220, and PCI2030 all have different versions of the Microsoft Logo Program. The PC97 (Win 95/NT) logo is the latest logo requirement. The PCI1131, PCI1250, and the PCI1220 have received the PC97 logo. The PCI1131 and PCI1250 also have the PC95a logo.

    Receiving a logo allows TI to display the "Designed for Microsoft Windows" logo with the device name. In addition, it informs developers that the device will not hinder a platform from receiving the Microsoft "Designed for Microsoft Windows" logo PROVIDED the platform implements the device correctly. This is not a guarantee for a logo.

    See the Microsoft Hardware Test page for the latest information. Enter "Texas Instruments" as the COMPANY NAME from the pull-down menu and select "Miscellaneous/All" as the CATEGORY, then hit search to see the TI devices with logo specifications.

  9. What is ACPI, OnNow, and PCI Power Management?

    Microsoft began an initiative called OnNow to shorten the PC's "power-up" time in order to allow the PC to begin interacting with a user's environment. Basically, if a user turns a PC off, then that PC cannot monitor the thermostat, answer the telephone, turn lights on and off, etc. Microsoft then began defining a PC which was "green" friendly and could wake up from a "sleep" state very quickly.

    As Microsoft moved the concept of OnNow into a specification they defined the ACPI (Advanced Configuration Power Interface) specification. The ACPI specification deals with the concepts of OnNow on a high level, but begins to define device level requirements by defining new specifications which must be adhered to in future designs.

    For the TI PC Card Controller family, the relevant device specification was the PCI Bus Power Management specification, which defines the ACPI requirements for devices which have a PCI bus interface. In the future, PC Card Controllers will also need to be compliant to the CardBus Device Class specification.

  10. What is Zoomed Video?

    Zoomed Video is a protocol which allows a device to send graphics and sound data directly to the VGA and audio sub-system controllers. For the PC Card Controller, some PC Cards support Zoomed Video, primarily MPEG I decoder PC Cards.

    For an MPEG Decoder PC Card, the undecoded MPEG stream is read from a CD-ROM which is on the PCI bus. This data is transferred through the PC Card Controller to the PC Card. Twenty-three lines on the PC Card interface are tri-stated during ZV Playback and are routed on the system board to the VGA controller and audio sub-system. The PC Card decodes the data from the PC Card Controller and then sends the decoded video/audio stream directly to the Video/Audio sub-systems.

    The benefit of ZV is the ability to reduce bandwidth traffic on the PCI bus by sending the audio/graphics data directly to the subsystems, thereby bypassing the PCI bus.

    ZV can also be supported from other sources, beyond the PC Card. In this case, the platform will typically need to provide a MUX circuit to switch the ZV data between multiple platforms. TI provides the PCI930 ZV Switch chip to support muxing ZV data between the PC Card Controller and a different external source.

  11. What is the difference between TI's PCI1131, PCI1250A, and PCI1220 controllers?

    The PCI1131 was TI's second generation PC Card controller, supports two PC Card slots and either PCMCIA (16-bit) or CardBus (32-bit) in either slot. The PCI1131 has the PC95a and PC97 Microsoft Logos and is considered PC 97 ready. Once Microsoft requires support for the registers required in the PCI Power Management specification, the PCI1131 will no longer be able to receive new logos. The PCI1131 also uses a store & forward FIFO architecture which provides approximately 45 MB/sec maximum performance. The PCI1131 is a bridge between the PCI system bus and two PC Card sockets.

    The PCI1220, and PCI1250A are TI's third-generation PC Card controllers. The 12xx series controllers all support the PCI Power Management 1.0 specification and are PC 97 compliant. The PCI1250A and the PCI1220 have the PC97 logo. The 12xx series devices also use a Pipelined FIFO architecture which allows the devices to achieve a maximum performance equivalent to the PCI bus performance (132 MB/sec). In order to achieve this performance, the 12xx devices must have control of the PCI bus and the PC Card interface. Once this connection is established, the 12xx devices can accept data at one interface (loading the FIFO) and drive data on the other interface (unloading the FIFO) at the same time, allowing for burst data transactions which approach 132 MB/sec.

    In addition, the 12xx series devices offer more flexibility in configuration of the devices than the PCI1131 offered.

    The PCI1250A differs from the PCI1220 by providing internal Zoomed Video buffers. The PCI1220 requires the system implementation to mux the ZV lines externally if the system implements multiple ZV sources on the board.

  12. What is the performance difference between PCMCIA and CardBus PC Cards?

    PCMCIA (16-bit) PC Cards can typically operate at speeds less than 10 MB/sec. CardBus PC Cards can run as fast as the PCI bus (132 MB/sec), but in realistic systems today the performance is limited by the burst performance of other devices on the PCI bus. TI's PCI12xx series controllers are capable of bursting data up to the 132 MB/sec performance of the PCI Bus. TI's competitors have, up to now, only released controllers which support burst performance between 5-60 MB/sec based on initial evaluations.

  13. Does TI perform Compatibility Testing with TI's PC Card Controllers?

    TI performs extensive compatibility testing with over 200 different PC Cards on various operating systems and using various Card & Socket Services drivers. In addition, TI is developing a compatibility testing program where TI's customers can submit prototype systems for compatibility testing in TI's lab.

  14. What CardBus PC Cards has TI tested?

    Intel Video Capture Card, SMC 100 Mb Ethernet, TDK 100 Mb Ethernet,Xircom 100 Mb Ethernet, Madge Token Ring, Adaptec SCSI, Sycard CardBus Socket Tester, and Yenta CardBus Emulator Card.

  15. What is Win 95 OSR2, Memphis, and Win 95 Gold?

    The original release of Windows 95 is called the "Gold" release. This is the only version available on the store shelves. The OSR1 and OSR2 are OEM Service Releases and basically include bug fixes plus some additional support. The OSRx releases are only available from an OEM that installs them on a new PC. Memphis is the code name for the follow on platform to Windows 95, now referred to as Windows 98.

  16. Are there any other end-equipment platforms interested in PC Card technology?

    TI's PC Card controllers have been designed into Net PCs, Riser Cards, and Servers. Other applications are Set Top boxes, Secure PCs, Small Form Factor/Sealed PCs, and PDAs/sub-notebooks.

  17. Does TI support the Win NT platform?

    Microsoft does not offer support for Card & Socket Services for Win NT 4.x, but does plan to add support for NT 5.x. TI's third-party Card & Socket Service vendors (Award, SystemSoft, Phoenix) do have support for the NT 4.x platform.

  18. Are TI's PC Card Controllers compliant to the PCI 2.1 specification?

    Yes, the PCI1131, PCI1220, and PCI1250A are compliant to the PCI 2.1 specification.