What's Inside Your Laptop?

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 What's Inside Your Laptop?

By Dylan Tweney

Here at PC Magazine, we've been prying open notebooks ever since
notebooks existed. We can't help it-we're just curious. But this kind
of curiosity is hard on the computers themselves. (To the many
manufacturers whose fine products we've destroyed over the years:
We're sorry. Really.) If you're curious too, put down your screwdriver
and take a look at the following pages. By focusing our attention on
one small part of your computer, we aim to show you what's inside a
typical notebook, where all those parts come from, and what materials
they're made of. And we look at the hazards some of those components
may present. The big picture is one of a strikingly global production

This is the story of how quartz becomes a computer, and it's a story
that-for the typical notebook computer-stretches across nearly every
continent, dozens of countries, and literally hundreds of different

At its center is the heart of every computer, the microprocessor-a
tiny flake of silicon whose millions of microscopic, precision-
engineered circuits do computational work that would have been
unthinkable just 30 years ago. But before it becomes a microchip, that
little bit of silicon starts out the same way a gravel road does: as a
pile of rock chips, hammered out of an open-pit quarry by dynamite and
heavy machinery.

Just who ultimately transforms that silicon into a PC might surprise
you. "HP or Dell computers basically don't have anything HP or Dell
inside them," says Eric Williams, an assistant professor of civil
engineering at Arizona State University who has done extensive
research into the PC supply chain. "[Those companies are] designers of
computers, purchasers of components, and assemblers. They may even
contract out the assembly."

It would be impossible to trace in a magazine article the origin of
every single component in your notebook, because it contains hundreds
of parts, including microchips, the hard drive, the battery pack, the
LCD, circuit boards, resistors, capacitors, wires, and even the pieces
of metal and plastic that make up the casing. But we can take a look
at the web of production leading up to one component-the CPU-and use
that to shed some light on just how global the PC industry has become.
- next: Birth of a Microchip
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