Plug and play

A third-party serial interface card for the Apple II that required cutting and soldering to reconfigure. The user would cut the wire traces between the thinly connected ⧓ triangles at X1 and X3 and solder across the unconnected ◀▶ pads at X2 and X4 located at the center of the card. Once done, reverting the modification was more difficult.
A NuBus expansion card without jumpers or DIP switches
An MCA expansion card without jumpers or DIP switches
An example of an ISA interface card with extremely limited interrupt selection options, a common problem on PC ISA interfaces. Kouwell KW-524J dual serial, dual parallel port, 8-bit ISA, manufactured in 1992: * Serial 1: IRQ 3/4/9 * Serial 2: IRQ 3/4/9 * Parallel 1: IRQ 5/7 * Parallel 2: IRQ 5/7 (There is no technical reason why 3,4,5,7,9 cannot all be selectable choices for each port.)

One with a specification that facilitates the discovery of a hardware component in a system without the need for physical device configuration or user intervention in resolving resource conflicts.

- Plug and play

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Industry standard that establishes specifications for cables, connectors and protocols for connection, communication and power supply (interfacing) between computers, peripherals and other computers.

Certified logo and USB connector: USB Type-A, 2 USB Type-B connectors, Mini B connector, Micro B connector.
Certified logo and USB connector: USB Type-A, 2 USB Type-B connectors, Mini B connector, Micro B connector.
The basic USB trident logo
The USB4 40Gbps trident logo
USB logo on the head of a standard USB-A plug
The Hi-Speed USB logo
A USB 2.0 PCI expansion card
The SuperSpeed USB logo
USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 (formerly known as USB 3.0; later renamed USB 3.2 Gen 1x1) ports
The certified USB4 40Gbps logo
USB endpoints reside on the connected device: the channels to the host are referred to as pipes.
Two USB 3.0 Standard-A receptacles (left) and two USB 2.0 Standard-A receptacles (right) on a computer's front panel
A flash drive, a typical USB mass-storage device
An M.2 (2242) solid-state-drive (SSD) connected into USB 3.0 adapter and connected to computer.
The standard USB Type-A plug. This is one of many types of USB connector.
A variety of USB cables for sale in Hong Kong
The Wireless USB logo

The goal was to make it fundamentally easier to connect external devices to PCs by replacing the multitude of connectors at the back of PCs, addressing the usability issues of existing interfaces, and simplifying software configuration of all devices connected to USB, as well as permitting greater data transfer rates for external devices and Plug and Play features.

Windows 95

Consumer-oriented operating system developed by Microsoft as part of its Windows 9x family of operating systems.

Windows 95 desktop, showing its icons, taskbar and welcome screen
Windows 95 desktop, showing its icons, taskbar and welcome screen
Architectural diagram running in a Windows console on Windows 95 (MS-DOS Prompt)

Windows 95 merged Microsoft's formerly separate MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows products, and featured significant improvements over its predecessor, most notably in the graphical user interface (GUI) and in its simplified "plug-and-play" features.

Interrupt request (PC architecture)

Interrupt request is a hardware signal sent to the processor that temporarily stops a running program and allows a special program, an interrupt handler, to run instead.

A human computer, with microscope and calculator, 1952

With the introduction of plug and play devices this has been alleviated through automatic configuration.

Industry Standard Architecture

16-bit internal bus of IBM PC/AT and similar computers based on the Intel 80286 and its immediate successors during the 1980s.

One 8-bit and five 16-bit ISA slots on a motherboard
8-bit XT, 16-bit ISA, EISA (top to bottom)
8-bit XT: Adlib FM Sound card
16-bit ISA: Madge 4/16 Mbps Token Ring NIC
16-bit ISA: Ethernet 10Base-5/2 NIC
8-bit XT: US Robotics 56k Modem

While a handful of devices were essentially "plug-n-play", this was rare.

IEEE 1394

Interface standard for a serial bus for high-speed communications and isochronous real-time data transfer.

The 6-conductor and 4-conductor alpha FireWire 400 socket
A 9-pin FireWire 800 connector
The alternative Ethernet-style cabling used by 1394c
4-conductor (left) and 6-conductor (right) FireWire 400 alpha connectors
A PCI expansion card that contains four FireWire 400 connectors.
FireWire 800 port (center)
A 9-conductor bilingual connector

It is designed to support plug and play and hot swapping.

Expansion card

Expansion card is a printed circuit board that can be inserted into an electrical connector, or expansion slot (also referred to as a bus slot) on a computer's motherboard (see also backplane) to add functionality to a computer system.

Example of a PCI digital I/O expansion card using a large square chip from PLX Technology to handle the PCI bus interface
PCI expansion slot
Altair 8800b from March 1976 with an 18-slot S-100 backplane which housed both the Intel 8080 mainboard and many expansion boards
Rack of IBM Standard Modular System expansion cards in an IBM 1401 computer using a 16-pin gold plated edge connector first introduced in 1959
Configuration DIP switches in a 16-pin through-hole package as often found in ISA expansion cards from the 1980s
Modern EEPROM chip suitable for storing expansion card configuration electronically
Thunderbolt 3 connector introduced by Intel in December 2015 multiplexes up to 4-lanes of PCIe 3.0 and 8-lanes of DisplayPort 1.2 and can support an external docking station housing one or more expansion cards with enough bandwidth to drive a mid-range GPU
A sound card with a MIDI daughterboard attached
A daughterboard for Inventec server platform that acts as a RAID controller based on LSI 1078 chipset
Raspberry PI 4B single-board computer with "TV Hat" card (for DVB-T/T2 television reception) attached.

Both Zorro II and NuBus were plug and play, requiring no hardware configuration by the user.

Advanced Configuration and Power Interface

Example of ACPI tables of a Lenovo laptop.
This screen was seen until Microsoft required ACPI. Outside of a few anomalies, this screen is not seen by default since Windows 2000, although renderings for it still exist as of Windows 11

In a computer, the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) provides an open standard that operating systems can use to discover and configure computer hardware components, to perform power management (e.g. putting unused hardware components to sleep), to perform auto configuration (e.g. Plug and Play and hot swapping), and to perform status monitoring.


IBM's second generation of personal computers.

An assortment of PS/2s in various form factors
An assortment of PS/2s in various form factors
The original IBM PS/2 mouse
PS/2 connection ports (later colored purple for keyboard and green for mouse, according to PC 97) were once commonly used for connecting input devices.
MCA IBM XGA-2 Graphics Card
Some PS/2 models used a quick-attachment socket on the back of the floppy drive which is incompatible with a standard 5.25" floppy connector.
Close-up of unusual 72-pin MCA internal hard drive connector
3.5" DD and HD floppies
Case badge on model 25-SX 386-20 8525-L41
IBM Personal System/2 Model 25
The externally very similar Models 60 and 80 next to each other
IBM Model 70 (case open over case closed)
PS/2 N33SX laptop (1992)

Bus mastering capability, bus arbitration, and a primitive form of plug-and-play management of hardware were all benefits of MCA.


NuBus (pron.

The Macintosh II motherboard with its six NuBus slots visible on the left.
Example of a NuBus graphics card, a Radius PrecisionColor Pro 8/24xj. This is a "half-length" card, with a maximum length of 7 inches. The maximum length for full-size NuBus cards is 12 inches.

NuBus required no such configuration, making it one of the first examples of plug-and-play architecture.

Microsoft Windows

Group of several proprietary graphical operating system families developed and marketed by Microsoft.

Windows 1.0, the first version, released in 1985
Windows 3.0, released in 1990
Previous Windows logo (2012–2021)

While still remaining MS-DOS-based, Windows 95 introduced support for native 32-bit applications, plug and play hardware, preemptive multitasking, long file names of up to 255 characters, and provided increased stability over its predecessors.