How are computers made?

In short: it's very complicated and involves many stages and specialised tools and machinery. Computers in the late 20th and early 21st centuries depend on numerous components that are often manufactured by numerous organisations and ultimately assembled by another. By the 21st century, production became largely automated, so circuit boards (PCB's) and such were routinely assembled and even tested by machinery - also built in stages and with increasingly advanced tools. However, each stage, production line, device, etc has to be thoroughly planned, designed, tested, maintained, optimised, etc by people, often specialists. Designing and producing microchips is particularly difficult.

Components can vary vastly in how they're made, such as Hard Disk Drives compared to Solid States and RAM chips, despite all three used to store significant amounts of data. Some organisations specialise in a very limited range of hardware, while very few make most; some even just design hardware and outsource fabrication to other companies.

Production of microchips, from memory chips to processors, have one thing in common - they typically rely on refined and modified semiconductors and micro-photolithography (a method of etching microscopic metallic components and circuitry by using focused light or ultraviolet). By using photomasks (similar to photographic negatives), electromagnetic radiation (typically UV light), lenses and photosensitive materials, one can essentially "laser print" onto the layer of a chip. Further substances are applied, by liquids or gasses, some removed, etc, until the die (chip) is all but complete. Typically multiple chips are made together onto one plate, called a "wafer", then later separated (cut) and then packaged, often with protective coating and a case, then soldered up onto a circuit board or numerous connectors. Each "package" would be tested before being shipped. Sometimes processors with unstable or unusable cores are modified to disable the defective core (and perhaps another one to keep the core count even), or limited in clock speeds, then shipped as a lower-end processor of the same tier or family - such a process is called "binning", which reduces wastage and helps make cheaper processors.

Very primitive computers can be built by hand, but such devices are more of a novelty than useful. Remember that modern computers like desktops and servers are often assembled by hand, but the components (CPU's, memory, drives, etc and their components) are still manufactured mainly by specialised machines and skilled workers.

Last update on 2023-05-13 by DNC admin.

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