Monthly Archives: December 2015

What Are Fabric PCs?

Although they’re not much more than concepts, fabric PCs may occupy a revolutionary space in the future of computing.

Fujitsu, Inc has created a concept design for a personal computer that is encased in a touch but pliable fabric frame. The screen will be bendable and foldable with a flexibility and thickness similar to that of a laminated sheet of paper.This may sound completely different from anything you’ve heard of or are used to, but it’s actually not a technology that is that far off, according to Fujitsu. They believe they’ll be able to crank out fabric computers within the next two to ten years.

You’re likely wondering how a computer could be designed to fit into fabric instead of a bulky steel frame. First off, it’s important to wonder why laptops are built in bulky steel frames in the first place. Even though it’s normalized, it’s not actually the way things necessarily have to be. It’s just been the first response to a recurring problem, which is that people only know how to make the components of your PC out of rigid, inflexible, bulky and fragile materials. From hard disk drives to screen displays, computers are made out of extremely vulnerable materials.

fabric pc2How will fabric PCs escape this issue? It starts with e-paper, a cutting-edge technology that allows the display screen to be paper-thin and bendable. Once the screen itself can bend, you free up a lot of the design to be flexible. The PC can be made with a pliable fabric backbone rather than a metal frame, and the components can remain rigid but at least be spread apart within the fabric, allowing for more flexibility within the larger object as a whole. The fabric PC also necessitates extremely straight-forward engineering that allows for individual components to be as small and lightweight as possible and omits non-essential components entirely. That means swapping hard disk drives for flash memory and removing CD/DVD capabilities completely (since you can download or stream audio/video files anyway, who really needs them?).

Let’s rewind for a second; how do you make a flexible display screen? You may not have heard of e-paper before this article, but you definitely will at some point. The technology was actually pioneered back in the 1970s by a man named Nick Sheridan at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and has been developing ever since.

electronic inkA huge aspect of e-paper technology is E ink, which is created by putting millions of tiny plastic wells into two sheets of flexible plastic. Each well contains both white and place particles that are suspended within a clear fluid. Because the white and black particles have opposite charges, if you apply electric voltage to individual wells using an underlying circuit board, the black and white particles can be separated to opposite sides of the plastic. This allows each well to operate as a separate pixel.

Using this design, e-paper can be curled or even folded like a sheet of laminated paper while suffering no damage. This is the technology that Fujitsu hopes to use for its fabric PC.

What Makes Up Your Computer?

Everyone uses them, very few understand how they work. Here’s the basics so you can bring your device to a repair shop without sounding like a total idiot.

cpuThe CPU (central processing unit) acts as the brain of your computer. It actually processes the binary instructions that makeup software.

Often these instructions involve storing data, a task for which the hard drive is responsible. A hard drive uses patterns of magnetized and demagnetized microscopic areas of metal on a spinning disk to store binary code. It’s also possible that your device stores information on a solid-state drive, which does not use a spinning disk and instead conveys binary information via the presence and absence of electric current. On a smaller device such as a smartphone, it’s likely that data is stored on flash memory chips like those used for storing images on digital cameras.

RAM, or random access memory, is another type of data storage that’s more short-term and has a smaller overall storage capacity. It takes less time to access RAM than a hard drive, so it’s used for the purposes of overall system speed and multi-tasking.

If the CPU is the brain, the motherboard is more like the human central nervous system. It connects all of the different components of a computer and allows for them to function harmoniously. This circuit board connects every electrical component together.

cpu in factoryOk so those are all the most fundamental parts, but where do they come from? Your computer’s components are made up of all kinds of different things including silica sand, iron ore, gold, steel, glass, bauxite and a lot of other substances you’ve never even heard of. The raw materials are gathered in factories specialized for the production of particular components, be they RAM chips, hard drive platters, or high-end CPUs.

Here’s a little summary of what it takes just to create a CPU: They’re made almost entirely of a crystalline silicon that starts out as sand but is eventually purified, melted, and shaped into a wafer upon which lines and imprints are etched. Transistors and circuits are then placed along the board accordingly and the wafers are cut into the individual CPU chips that provide the processing power of your device.

When all the components are manufactured, they must be fitted together. This can either be done in the exact same way in mass, or perhaps you might have the option of ordering which components you would like and having your computer assembled accordingly. Either way, a technician must build the computer by hand, scanning the serial number of each individual part so that it is associated with the service tag on your machine. This information is stored in the assembler’s company’s database and makes it easier for said company to offer you technical assistance if and when your machine fails.

After it has been assembled, your device travels to the software installation area where an operating system is generally preloaded onto it. It is tested and so long as everything is working properly, it is shipped to its destination!