January 18, 2009

How to Dismantle a HDD

Owing to my father's paranoia, I spent this morning with a driver set, disassembling hard disk drives from three different computers and scratching them up so the information inside would be rendered unreadable. It was every bit as tedious as you would expect, but also unexpectedly complicated. (IBM, you should be proud of yourself. Your parts were the most meticulously put together.)
This whole process made me think of electronic waste, more specifically of the people whose jobs involve disassembling computers, cell phones, and other electronics. Most exported e-waste is sent to China, where people risk their health in so many different ways to collect the often toxic metals inside. This work is done by hand, and I can't imagine that they would have all the different-sized Phillips screwdrivers and Torx drivers that would make it a tiny bit easier.
When I finally managed to pry open the lid covering the HDD, I was startled to see this needle and disc, which clearly reminds one of a record player. It functions similarly, with the needle reading the memory in the disc. The disc rotates courtesy of a tiny motor, another major invention of the past. Though quite obvious in retrospect, it struck me that the computer is the distilled result of all the technology humans have accumulated thus far. I now have more empathy for science nerds.

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