Build Your Own PC

Build your own laptop

Make your own laptop backpack

Copyright by Morris Rosenthal, 2004, 2011

Build Your Own Laptop - An Impractical Guide to Building a Laptop Computer

Copyright 2011 by Morris Rosenthal - All Rights Reserved

People are always asking me if it's possible to build a laptop computer from scratch. I always say, "Sure, same way it's possible to build a car with parts from the autoparts store. You'll pay several times as much as buying a car from a factory, but you can do it." However, the idea of building my own laptop has been stuck in my brain for a while, and I've started collecting junk laptops, not for repair, but to tear them apart and reverse engineer the basic assembly technology. A great engineer (or maybe it was Newton) once said, "If I have seen farther than others, it's because I stand on the shoulders of giants." So I'm starting at square one and building my first laptop with the technology I already know.
The two basic components required to build a laptop computer are obviously a lap and a computer. Being blessed with both, I dove right in, but it quickly became apparent my computer didn't have a battery, so I plugged it into a wall. One possible enhancement would be to carry around a car battery and an inverter, but we'll get to mobility later. The next challenge was building a laptop with user friendly interface devices. I've wanted a laptop with a full size keyboard and I always use an external mouse, problem solved.
People who talk about building laptops in discussion groups go on at length about the difficulties of procuring LCD screens and what to do with them. I decided to build my laptop with a genuine 15" computing friendly Samsung LCD, not one of those letterbox things intended for watching DVDs. If I wanted to watch DVDs on my lap, I'd be sitting here with a DVD player and a TV. Having solved the power issue early on by using a wall socket, it's just a matter of making the connections.
Now I seriously considered building wireless into my laptop just to be fashionable, but the truth is I don't trust the security on wireless networks, and the real range (through walls and such) of my router can drop as low as 50 ft. I decided that since I'll usually be using my laptop in one spot, I could afford to go with the proven laplink technology to sync my laptop with my desktop. I wonder if plugging both ends of the laplink cable into the same motherboard will confuse the software?
A laptop wouldn't be complete without a shoulder bag. Since the laptop I'm building won't fit in a shoulder bag, I found a better use for it. This patented technology, which I'm calling "Extension Cord" gives my laptop a 50 ft roving range, a little longer if you count the power strip. I worry that it may set off alarm bells at airports, but you can't expect everything in a prototype built from scratch. BTW, you can make your own laptop backpack from a Targus bag in two seconds.
So, here's my homemade laptop solution. It has all the power of my desktop, and is fully expandable and upgradeable with standard ATX and PCI components. I can use it anywhere in the house, and with the extension cord technology, I have capability of operating throughout the front and back yards. Note how the design allows easy operation of a standard mouse, though the keyboard position is a little to close to the body for my taste. Still, it worked the first time I plugged it in, so I'm calling it a success and moving on to building a lunchbox computer.
I'm cranking up to reverse engineer a few laptops, down to weighing the components and studying the mechanical interfaces. I even have a PowerBook to chew on, first time I've ever looked inside an Apple laptop. I'm also going to get some car computer parts in here for a look, and I'm pretty impressed with the mini-ITX form factor as an alternative to mini-ATX for non-gaming applications. All joking aside, battery life and whether or not to even include batteries will be a major decision, and if I go with ATX components rather than cannibalized laptop parts, batteries will definitely be out the window. There's also the trade-off between heat dissipation and fan noise to consider when you start using higher end components, particularly in laptops when the whole thing is sitting right in front of your face. One solution would be a completely detachable screen, so the body of the laptop can sit on the floor like a PC.

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