Most users don’t realize that electronic products labeled as ‘green’ aren’t all that green. For example; Today’s personal computers have RAM-memory of 1 to 4 gigabyte modules that typically consist of 36 to 64 two-gram-microchips. This equates to 2500 to 5000 megajoules of embodied energy for the computer memory alone, or 500000 to 1000000 Watt-hour. Enough to power a 30 watt laptop non-stop for 3 to 5 years!
Microprocessors (the “brains” of all digital devices) are more advanced than memory chips and thus contain at least as much embodied energy. One trend in recent years is the introduction of “multicore processors” and “multi-CPU systems”. Personal computers can now contain 4 or 8 microprocessors. Servers, game consoles and embedded systems can have many more. Each of these “cores” is capable of handling its own task independently of the others. This makes it possible to run several CPU-intensive processes (like running a virus scan, searching folders or burning a DVD) all at the same time, without a hitch. But with every extra chip (or chip surface) comes more embodied energy. At the same time people consider their computers ‘old’ after only 2 years of usage. Some put them with the garbage within 6 years of owning the products.