How Printed Circuit Boards Changed History

A printed circuit board is usually called a pcb. It’s considered one of the basic building blocks for most current electronic technology. Most pcbs are manufactured from reinforced plastic and/or fiberglass, with trace amounts of copper, magnesium, and molecular-thin strips of any material that is good at conducting current. These stripes are what carries coded information from one pcb to another at speeds so fast they can barely be measured with modern instruments. The more complex an electrical device becomes, the more layers of pcbs it will require.

If pcbs had not been developed we would find ourselves without much of the modern technology we have come to depend on for communication, computer science, entertainment, marketing, manufacturing, medicine, and transportation — to name just a few. Pcbs continue to grow faster and smarter at a rate that is astonishing even the most experienced scientists and researchers. Is there no limit to how microscopic and powerful a pcb design can become? Each year scientists think they have reached the very limits of micro-processing the pcb — but then another technological breakthrough occurs and it back to the drawing board for more inspiration!

Here are just a few examples of how pcbs have impacted everyday technology and quality of life:

The personal device

For anyone under sixty, hardly a moment goes by during the waking hours when they are not using their personal devices of one kind or another. These include, but are not limited to, tablets, cell phone, and a host of motherboard components like GPUs. None of this marvelous technology would be available, or would be too bulky to carry around in anything but a truck, if it were not for pcbs.

Take, for instance, the plain old cell phone. At one time all it could do was send and receive calls. But now, thanks to miniaturized pcbs, it functions as a hand-held computer. As recently as ten years ago this kind of technology was deemed too fabulous to ever be practical because pcbs were not yet compact and powerful enough to bring about this Lilliputian dream.

Refrigerators that think

One of the least glamorous of all household appliances, and yet certainly one of the most necessary, the fridge has seen some astounding changes in its technology in the last few years — and all because of pcbs. If you own a recent model it is probably connected to the internet. It probably knows what food items are stored inside of itself. Therefore it can warn you when you are running low on an item, such as milk or eggs. Refrigerator doors now feature touch screens so you can look up a handy recipe, order groceries online, or even watch a television show or catch a movie on Netflix! It’s also great as a calendar and for reminders. And now you can scan your kids’ artwork and still display it, in HD, on the fridge door!

Because of pcbs it is now possible to give your refrigerator voice commands. You can tell it to lower its thermostat or bring it up. You can order it to begin defrosting whenever it suits you — or you can put all these things on an automatic timer without ever having to touch the refrigerator itself!

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.