If you were to open up an Apple MacBook’s power charger, inside you will find a microchip which is faster than the CPU powering the entire first Apple Mac computer.
Let that sink in for a moment.
In a brilliant component teardown article from 2015 by Ken Shirriff, he opened up the Magsafe charger which powered Apple’s laptop at the time.
While we would expect a power adapter to primarily include wires and capacitors, this one also included a Texas Instruments MSP430 microcontroller to act as a safety monitor.
This is a 16bit chip working at about 16 MHz.
As a comparison, the 68000 microprocessor in the original 1984 Apple Macintosh worked at a frequency of about 7.6 MHz.
Now, this does not mean that the chip in the charger was more powerful than the original Mac. Even though higher frequencies usually equate to faster speeds, the charger chip is designed to operate at very low power levels (requiring less than 1% of the power of the 68000 chip) and they have completely different architectures and functions.
But as we spoke about recently on the blog, it is a fascinating demonstration of exponential technology and how fast the microchip industry has managed to innovate.
What used to power a whole computer is now just a cheap extra feature for power delivery.
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