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Backplanes are a group of linked electrical connectors that join printed circuit boards together to make a computer system. Backplanes contain connection slots for expansion cards and can use printed circuit boards or be wire-wrapped.

There are two different types of backplane systems, active and passive. Active backplanes have slots and circuitry to control communication between the slots. Passive backplanes only have bus connectors with very little or no additional circuitry and the communication between the slots is handled by one or more of the expansion boards that are connected to the backplane.

Traditionally, most PCs have active backplanes and they are also used in disc arrays and disc enclosures for power disc drives. Backplanes are preferred over cables because there is no flexing, as with cables, that can degrade the connection over time.

Bus type:
  • Industry-standard architecture (ISA) are I/O devices that are capable of 16-bit data transfers at 8 MHz.
  • Extended ISA (EISA) can handle 32-bit data transfers at 8 MHz
  • Peripheral component interconnect (PCI) is used for high-end computers and can handle 32 or 64 bits of data at 33 MHz
  • Compact PCI (cPCI) has the same electrical standards as the PCI bus but is packaged in a rugged Versal Module Eurocard (VME) bus.
  • VME bus (VMEbus) is used for industrial, commercial, and military applications. It is a 32-bit device.
Backplane standards:
  • ARINC 659
  • DIS-MISC-8106
  • EIA-616

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