Rocks, Minerals and Your Computer


Many minerals have unique properties. Fortunately, we have discovered ways to put them to use in improving our standard of living. Without rocks and minerals, many of the gadgets and gizmos you depend on every day - including the computer you are using to visit our website - could not exist. Recent information from Handy and Harman Electronic Materials Corp. states that a typical desktop computer system - primarily the CPU and monitor - weighs about 70 pounds.

Recycling is an important environmental tool and although technology to recycle most components used in the construction of a computer exists, only a few have much monetary value. The few that do are generally precious metals. An article in the June, 1999 issue of Wired Magazine examined the salvage value of a few of the metals used in the high tech world in which we live.

According to the article, a company from Rhode Island recently melted down 2,500 tons of obsolete equipment. Although more than 35 minerals and metals are used in the construction of telephones and computers, only precious metals such as gold, silver and palladium are currently valuable enough to make recycling efforts profitable.

The following graphic illustration shows how much of each of the three precious metals (in Troy ounces) was recovered from (1) a 486 PC, (2) a 586 microprocessor, (3) a cellular telephone and (4) an outdated external modem. It also shows the dollar value recovered from each based on the value of each of the metals at the time the operation took place. But be aware that prices for precious metals change almost daily.

As a class exercise, recalculate the value of the gold, silver and palladium based on current prices. You can find the latest updated precious metals prices by visiting the website of precious metals dealer Monex. The number you will want is listed under the column titled "Last" which is the last price paid for a purchase. Remember: Although we still use the Avoirdupois system in the US and most other countries use the Metric system, the weight of a precious metal is nearly always given in Troy ounces. As a part of the exercise, why not learn how Troy weight compares to Avoirdupois weight - also known as Apothecary weight. For a quick conversion, check out our converter at the bottom of this page.


Mass Equivalent Converter
Step 1: Enter the number you wish converted here (no commas)
Step 2: Click radio buttons for desired conversion.
From: Kilograms

Grains

Troy Ounces
Avoirdupois Ounces*
Troy Pounds
Avoirdupois Pounds*
Short Tons
Long Tons
Metric Tons
To: Kilograms

Grains

Troy Ounces
Avoirdupois Ounces*
Troy Pounds
Avoirdupois Pounds*
Short Tons
Long Tons
Metric Tons


* Also known as Apothecary Ounces and Pounds

Page last updated on 03/01/01