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aidan’s deconstruction project #1

Well, after watching Gever Tulley’s talk on “Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do,” I thought it might worth giving one of them a try. So, we dug out an old relic computer that was sitting on a shelf in the basement and we asked Aidan if he wanted to see what was inside. Of course, he did not hesitate. Armed with only a screwdriver, he set to work on the big mysterious putty-colored box.

He started by removing the outside panels. Not just the main access panel used to get inside the tower, but every one of the plastic surface panels, leaving only the cold steel box to contend with.

Next, he set to work on removing the on-board floppy drive and the DVD drive. He [singlepic=257,200,200]
disconnected each from the motherboard, disconnected them from the power supply and removed the screws that held them in place. As he set them aside, he made a special point that he would see what was inside each one of those separate components once he was done taking everything out of the tower.

He moved on to the hard drive, the memory modules, the video, modem, and network cards. All that was left now was the motherboard, so we thought, but there was a large black component protruding from the board that was blocking our access to the screws holding the board in. This is when we discovered that the Pentium II processor in this computer is actually a cartridge-like module that plugs into the motherboard. (Incidentally, a little research taught us–ok, taught me–that they don’t make processors in this format any more. An antique?) After digging out a star-head drive from the toolbox, we safely removed the cover from the processor cartridge and snapped it out. Thirty seconds later, we had the motherboard out too.

It was neat to see Aidan systematically deconstruct the computer piece by piece, examine the circuit boards, run his finger over the transistors. Every few minutes he would hypothesize about what each little soldered bump across the green and black boards was responsible for in making this machine “think.” Perhaps we’ll learn a bit more about such things tomorrow during our bi-weekly homeschool meeting. One of the families is planning something on electronic circuitry. Aidan’s excited. Although, I’m a little worried. He’s been eying our toaster. It just might be bread for breakfast. All in the spirit of demystifying the world…

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