In the 2008 Pixar movie Wall-E, there was one scene where the highly advanced robot “Eve” was trying to replace Wall-E’s printed circuit board. Of course, it wasn’t an easy task, as there was a need to find the right PCB among many differently-colored printed circuit boards. Does a PCB’s color define its purpose? Truth be told, it doesn’t. While most of the printed circuit boards available today are green, such components can be made in a variety of colors – red, white, violet, or blue.
What then is a printed circuit board?
A printed circuit board is a slim plate which contains electronic components that are found in most devices. It is considered as the backbone of electronic devices. All processes, algorithms, and memory functions all happen in the printed circuit board. So, it’s not only Wall-E that has a printed circuit board, cutting-edge toys, mobile phones, computers, televisions, and even cars are equipped with PCBs. The circuit wires on the board appear as if they were printed on the soldermask, hence the name “printed circuit board”.
The electronic components such as the diode, capacitor, resistor, are all attached and soldered in place usually beneath the “printed” circuit. The electronic signals make their way from one component to the other through the “printed” circuit to perform the task that is required. With the rapid progress of technology, printed circuit boards have now become much smaller and yet can perform more functions and accommodate more components than ever.
One common example of a printed circuit board is the motherboard, which can be found in all computers and laptops. Physical hardware, such as USB connectors and DVD drives, should all be connected to the printed circuit board to work.
With that in mind, it should not be surprising that the printed circuit board is also one of the most important parts of a smartphone.
The printed circuit board, being the backbone, is responsible for facilitating the entire system. Some components that can be found attached on it are the RAM and ROM chips, processors, the antenna, and microphone. Both RAM and ROM are responsible for storing and reading the phone’s operating system. Without the two, it will be impossible to switch the phone on, view saved photos and videos, or listen to music. The computer chip converts analog to digital (and vice versa) within the printed circuit board. This is where the audio and radio signals are converted rapidly for the smart phone to function.
Do you remember the days when a single computer is so huge that it occupies a single room? Do you remember the first mobile phone? It was so heavy and big. The printed circuit boards inside the first computer and the first mobile phone were already complex yet can only perform simple operations such as a phone calls or basic computing. As technology progresses, the printed circuit boards evolve too. Take mobile phones for example, from being bulky and heavy, they now come in sizes as small as a wristwatch. You can’t expect that the same printed circuit board from the bulky model will be used on the newer ones. The size of the printed circuit board has decreased greatly, and the electronic components have become more complex as more functions need to be performed.
As time goes by, you can expect more advances in technology. Of course, to make these advances possible, it’s necessary to achieve breakthroughs in making PCBs. Are today’s technological experts up to the challenge? Well, given how quickly things are becoming obsolete nowadays, it’s safe to say that the answer is yes.
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