Electron city

Copper coil, capacitors, resistor, wires

Taking things apart is a great way to get an idea of how they work. Of course, it would be nice to take them apart, fix them, and put them back together. But before that level of ability, and in the cases where it isn’t fixable anyway, it is still a valuable use of dead appliances – just to have a bit of a look.

Old computers, ancient irons, dodgy calculators…all make good fodder for this activity. Some components are useful as is (e.g. magnets out of computer drives) and others are just interesting to look at. We even have ‘electron city’ at our house, where computer boards get re-imagined as city blocks.

Grain stores, houses, wells, roads. Or, capacitors, surface-mounted capacitors and resistors, chips etc.

What can you learn?

  • How such appliances are made of components – they are not actually magic.
  • Many have similar components. What is an initially bewildering array of components becomes more familiar the more gadgets you inspect. And if you can take apart several similar items, the common components become even more apparent.
  • You can look up explanations of how each appliance works using books/internet/YouTube. These descriptions tend to make more sense with an example of the item in front of you. You can also look up information about the individual components by searching for the codes printed on them.

Some of the commonly occurring components

What can you do with the parts?

  • Your may be able to repair (or improve) the item. Which changes you from a consumer to a contributor.
  • You could build something yourself – e.g. wire up some LEDs so that they light up, practice soldering, or re-purpose motors and combine them with something else like Lego or Fischer-Technik.
  • Components can also be useful in art projects. Franco Recchia is an Italian artist who uses components to make mixed-media sculptures.
Resistors etc

Resistors, chip, diodes

What do you need?

  • Screwdrivers of various sorts and sizes will get you into most appliances.
  • Pliers/wire cutters may be useful.
  • A hammer and safety glasses…..but before actually smashing parts to get into them, you should have  some idea of what you are cracking open – you don’t want to encounter the mercury in your LCD screen for instance.

And remember, Safety First!………Don’t plug wires into the mains. Wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Use your common sense. Don’t eat components. Etc.

Audio amplifier valve

Audio amplifier valve