Serendipity: What Recycling a Broken 17″ Laptop Brought Me by @djstomp

I love technology, and I love the internet. The internet is one big playground if you’re looking for inspiration. Nerds like me – OK I’ll admit again: I consider myself a kind of a hybrid, parttime nerd – find inspiration and ideas in the most awkward stuff. I’m going to share a story about how I recycled my broken laptop, made it into a very useful portable item and doing so (re)discovered a ton of valuable services on the internet.

How things started
Last year my late 2008 MacBook Pro 17″ died, or the logic board did actually. Frustrating part of that story was that it had just passed the extended warranty service for a manufacturing error that Apple had applied to this specific type of logic boards. Replacement of the logic board would almost cost as much as a new Macbook. So I said goodbye to my faithful companion and left it in my office waiting for me until I had decided what to do with it. But before that I unmounted the harddrive and placed it in a $15 enclosure (something like this) to turn it into an external 250GB portable USB drive. Via eBay I kept searching for a replacement logic board, but couldn’t find a cheap one that I found trustworthy.

Easy as 1,2,3 (4,5)
One day I performed a Google search for ‘things to do with a broken laptop’. What struck me was once again the enormous power of the internet. Countless blogposts, tutorials, youtube video’s just with ideas about fixing and reusing old or broken laptops, and of course funny ones …. I stumbled upon a tutorial on how to demount your laptop screen and turn it into a standalone, portable second screen.That was really exciting because I saw immediate potential. I’m all mobile so having an ultra thin second screen would be an awesome solution to always have a second screen with me.

Essentially it turned out to be pretty simple:
Step 1: unmount your screen and detach it from the laptop;
Step 2: get an external LCD screen controller board from eBay;
Step 3: connect the controller to the screen;
Step 4: keep it portable;
Step 5: make it look good and you’re finished!

As with almost everything it was easier said that done. Step 1, 2 and 3 were in fact relatively easy. Unmounting the screen was a bit tricky, because a Macbook contains a lot of vulnerable parts. And getting the screen actually to work was a piece of cake. But then came step 4 and 5 ….

The finishing touch
To keep it portable it was necessary to add some smaller parts than shipped with the original LCD screen controller board (i.e. smaller adapter and DVI cable). Furthermore I needed an ultralight, foldable and strong enough stand. That required some in depth web searching and ‘Social Media asking around’. Finally I wanted it to look good so I searched the web to find a matching enclosure. Which of course wasn’t available anywhere…..

That’s when the concept of 3D printing struck me. Instead of looking for a standard enclosure, I could design my own case! To make a long story short, 3D printing is amazing. I found a service that is amazingly simple for drawing your 3D objects and transfer them into 3D printable format. Via (yes yet another great Dutch concept where people can share their personal 3D printer capacity with others) I managed to locate a 3D printer near me that could print my case in a very high quality at an astounding low price.


My takeaways
So as you can see from the result I’m very happy with my newly created, custom and portable 2nd laptop screen, which together with the peripherals fits into a 17″ laptop sleeve. Not only has it tickled my imagination and creativity, I also have a good feeling about not throwing away useful and otherwise polluting materials.

My other takeaways:
– Youtube is still king for learning anything, beyond imagination
– eBay is again in my favourite bookmarks, most amazing stuff to find there
– nailed the simplicity in 3D drawing
– which makes 3D printing affordable for everyone, through a smart concept of sharing

And oh, for those who’re thinking: what the *bleeb* is that second monitor thing about ….  you’d better read this. Second screen monitor can definitely improve your productivity, unless you (mis)use the second screen to display your e-mail or social media….

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