The motherboard of a computer is typically located in the bottom of the computer housing. The motherboard is a piece of plastic or fiberglass that holds various circuits, switches and electronic components. Among other functions, the motherboard allocates memory and processor capacity to various functions of the computer. It also connects to various hardware, such as sound cards and network cards, to allow them to communicate.
Motherboards came into use in personal computers in the late 1980s and 1990s as the hardware improved and became more economical to use. By the late 1990s, motherboards supported many functions, including audio, video and storage, without the requirement of additional expansion cards in the computer. As of 2014, motherboards come in a range of sizes and shapes to fit various computers. Laptops typically use small, highly customized motherboards, which are expensive to repair or upgrade.
Motherboards are typically cooled by fans within the computer. Insufficient cooling can damage computer components and cause crashes. Some computers designed for quiet use do not incorporate fans and require a low-power processor and specific placement of components to avoid overheating. As of 2014, researchers for American computer processor maker Intel note that motherboards fail at a high rate in China and India. They attribute the failure to air pollution generated by burning coal causing corrosion to computer circuits.