Home / Computer / What Are Embedded Single-Board Computers?


Single board computers have been around for forty years; essentially, they comprise a complete computer on a single circuit board. So, on that board, you will find at the very least the chip or microprocessor, memory and I/O (input/output facilities).

A single board computer might have expansion slots but doesn’t have to (and an embedded single board computer will not) and in some instances were themselves designed to fit into a computer’s backplane to expand a system.

DUAL_PENTIUM_SINGLE_BOARD_COMPUTEREarly home computers were often single board devices and other early uses were for demonstration, educational systems or as embedded controllers. Hobbyists often build their own computers with low-cost 8 or 16 bit processors and static RAM, while at the other extreme it’s possible to find blade servers that deliver demanding memory and processor performance from a single board.

As components have become smaller, so the possibilities offered by single board computers have multiplied. One recent development that has opened new development pathways for the single board computer has been the ready availability of SSD (Solid Storage Devices) instead of the more traditional hard disk drive. An SSD can give 256 MB of rapid retrieval data storage in a very small space.

Increasing density of integrated circuits (ICs) made single board computers possible and the benefits were soon apparent. One of the commonest causes of problems in early computing was found in connections between boards; if there is only one board there are no connectors and that source of problems disappears.

The very first single board computer was the “dyna-micro” developed in 1976 using the Intel C8080A processor and an Intel EPROM (Electronically Programmable Read Only Memory), the C1702A. The Acorn Electron and the BBC Micro were other early examples of single board computers.

An embedded single board computer has no ability to take plug-in cards so all the I/O is provided on the board. Typically, these are used for machine control or for gaming machines.

Since 1979, GMS has shipped more SBC products than any other supplier.