Kragen Javier Sitaker | 15 Feb 03:28 2012

recycling laptop parts

I have some old laptops that I stopped using partly because some parts failed
(especially the battery) but mostly because they were increasingly slow
compared to the state of the art: the parts subject to Moore's Law or the even
faster pace of disk densification are hopelessly obsolete.  

But there seems to be a floor of something around US$200 on the price of a new
laptop, despite the best efforts of the OLPC program and the various hardware
manufacturers who cloned it as "netbooks" and "MacBook Air".  

Presumably a substantial part of this price is the display.  But mainstream
laptop displays haven't gotten denser or better in a lot of years.  They've
just become shiny, making them hard to read.  (At some point, maybe the
ultrahard glass Corning developed for the iPhone will make its way into laptop
displays, making them still shiny but at least less prone to scratching; and
maybe they'll get past 150dpi or so.)  So it ought to be feasible to reuse
displays on a massive scale.

Similarly, keyboards should be quite reusable.  I just took a keyboard out of a
T20 by removing two screws.  Our kitchen scale is out of batteries, and a
makeshift balance involving some thread and two plastic coke bottles full of
lentils ended in the sort of failure that requires a broom, but I estimate that
it's somewhere around 200g.  Surely keyboards salvaged from smaller laptops
(not including separate F1 through F12, PrtSc, ScrLk, Pause, Insert, Delete,
Home, End, PgUp, PgDn, volume up, volume down, power on, and "ThinkPad" keys,
or the clitmouse and mouse buttons) would weigh even less.  A couple of US$5
ATMega 28-pin AVR microcontrollers would probably suffice to decode whatever
its 42-pin unpublished pinout is.

Even a full-size keyboard like that one could be pretty ultraportable.  It's
290mm wide, about 145mm high (disregarding the mouse buttons, which stick out
an additional 40mm in the middle), and about 6mm thick.  The "main" part of the
keyboard, from 12345 to CtrlAltSpace, is only 96mm high.  (Our 9" netbook is
only 230mm wide.)  You could build a fairly comfortable writing-oriented
ultraportable computing device around that keyboard and, say, the battery,
charger, and display of an old cellphone.

Or you could use the keyboard, display, and chassis of old laptops, along with
new CPUs, memory, storage devices, and batteries, to build new laptops.


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