Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

BLOG: Where did I come from? The origin(s) of my MacBook Pro

Josh Fruhlinger | May 8, 2012
I remember when I bought my first new Mac. The label on the box read something like "Assembled for Apple in California." Famously, that has now changed: Apple computers (and iPhones, and iPads) are assembled in China, and the conditions of the workers there came under scrutiny when Mike Daisey's one-man show about his trip to Foxconn factories there was featured on NPR's This American Life -- scrutiny that continued despite revelations that Daisey fabricated some of the incidents he described.

My display, it turns out, is built by LG Display, which like Samsung is a South Korean company. My screen was probably built in South Korea, although the company also has module assembly plants in China and Poland.

Hard drive

System Profiler tells me that my hard drive is made by Hitachi, a century-old Japanese company, and has the model number HTS545032B9SA02. This raises an important question: how much information does the serial number need to encode? 11 digits seems a bit excessive, don't you think? We are very curious about what all the numbers mean.

Perhaps they'd help us track down the exact factory (or even the exact portion of the factory?) where the hard drive was built, though in the end that level of sleuthing turned out to be unnecessary. Plugging that model number into Google brought me to an eBay auction that helpfully includes a photo of the hard drive, complete with legible label that informs me that the drive was made in Thailand. I'm going to go ahead and assume the one in my computer's guts has the same provenance, since my IT department would probably not appreciate my poking around inside my laptop just for curiosity (or even research).

A lot of hard drive manufacturing from a slew of companies has moved to Thailand in the past few years, in one of those odd quirks of global capitalist specialization. One upshot of this is that last year's devastating floods in the country, which have affected Hitachi among other companies, have resulted in a global hard drive shortage.

RAM

The RAM industry has its own cast of manufacturing characters, some of which you've heard of (Mitsubishi, IBM) and some of which you haven't (Eurotechnique, Zilog). OS X's System Profiler app will give you the manufacturer code for your RAM DIMMs; see if you can match the last two digits against the Hex column in this PDF list.

My computer's RAM was built by Micron Technology, a company with a high-tech name so awesomely generic it sounds like it should be the corporation that the villain runs in a early '90s techno-thriller. Micron's original manufacturing facility is located in Boise and that may be where my RAM was manufactured. However, in the last several years the company has expanded its production to Japan and Singapore.

Wireless card

The wireless card inside my laptop -- dubbed "AirPort Extreme" by Apple in a bit of branding that might have seemed vaguely hip in 2007 but seems embarrassing today -- is really just a run-of-the-mill 802.11n card from Broadcom. Broadcom's boring, low-slung corporate headquarters are in Irvine, California, and that's where this wireless chipset was born.

 

Previous Page  1  2  3  Next Page 

Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.