Disposable laptop design

recyclelaptop.jpg Disposable cameras have been around for quite some time now. So why not disposable laptops? That's the question designer Je Sung Park is asking with the Recyclable Paper Laptop, which he imagines could be layers of materials and chips that can be easily replaced. It seems like a long shot (or does it?), but I'm digging its brown paper look. Yanko Design has a few more images of this proposed design.


  1. Mice and keyboards have been at disposable prices for years. There are System-on-a-Chips that are pretty cheap. It’s the display that will still be pricey. Oh, and those dang overpriced batteries!

  2. So why not disposable laptops?

    I can name a very few pieces of electronic gear that I’ve had for 15+ years. A reciever, some nice speakers, a stand mixer, a lamp.

    None of those are computers, because computers are already disposable. They die or are obsolete inside of 2 years.

  3. Disposable cameras only made sense because the physical film (a single use item) was the most expensive part of the device.

    Still, I like the incorporation of paper in a digital device. Reminds me of the sandbender laptops from the novel idoru.

  4. I love the concept, but heat needs to become a lot less of a problem before paper is workable. I can see the YouTube videos of combusting laptops now…

  5. Here’s a revolutionary idea: instead of making more things disposable, why not focus ur collective creative genius on building things that you aren’t expected to replace every other year.

    Oh, right. Because that’s not how it works.

    1. exactly. this “disposable” culture… it’s crazy. and already things are built to be disposed of. If this person is trying to greenify something or whatever, the minute “disposable” entered the headline, that intention was null and void. We don’t need things built so they break more quickly or we feel ok about tossing them.

      I call this: DESIGN FAIL.

  6. Old computer problems:

    Emerging computer problems:
    *Translucent grease stains from when you ate that pizza while surfing the web that one time

  7. How about making laptops upgradeable instead of “disposable”?

    I’ve replaced the motherboard, cpu, ram, graphics card, power supply, etc. in my desktop several times over the past 5 years. But in a laptop? Forget it! The parts aren’t reusable and in many cases can’t even be opened.

  8. I’m all for recycle-ability; but this seems to be going at it entirely the wrong way.

    The frame/chassis of a laptop is already among the most recyclable of its parts. Big chunks of homogeneous metal or plastic material, easy to disassemble, and often reusable to repair other laptops with damaged components. Metals can be melted down, as can plastics if you choose the right ones. Paper, actually, degrades badly with each recycling step, having to be used in lower grade materials each time.

    The real trick, in any case, is the internal components. PCBs, solder, chips, connectors, wiring harnesses, etc. That is where you find all sorts of annoying material mixtures that are hard to recycle efficiently. Coating those in paper just means that they’ll be damaged more easily and have to be replaced faster.

  9. i’d prefer recyclable to disposable, and for it to be made of something not completely hydrophilic and incendiary. and as long as the components themselves are still made of toxic and caustic materials, id much rather it be disposed of PROPERLY.

  10. Disposable cameras are a special case. They work because of a secret: they aren’t disposable. You buy the single-use camera, take your photos, return it to the store. They extract and develop the film, and give you your photos. They then put a new film in the camera, replace the cardboard wrapper, and sell it to the next guy.

    This goes double for the new single-use digital cameras, where all they do is erase the memory and sell it to the next guy.

  11. this was going to done years ago, I don’t remember the company’s name. They had made disposable cellphones, using circuits printed on cardboard with special ink and were working on a laptop. This was shortly before 9-11. I wonder what took so long for someone else to pick up the idea.

  12. Phisrow @ 10

    I was thinking the same thing. Aside from some over-molds, coatings, and composite materials, the case is already the friendliest part of a laptop.

    Most of the environmental impact comes from the stuff inside. Batteries and circuit boards are orders of magnitude more damaging than molded thermoplastics and stamped metal. Anything that reduces their impacts (probably by reducing by decreasing volume or increasing longevity) is a far better option.

    No denying those paper laptops are sexy. The renderings may be the best part. But they don’t have a lot of substance.

  13. By the time they’ve fully developed this, iPhones and the like will probably function more like computers and be a lot more affordable.

    Also, recycling paper may actually be bad for the environment.

  14. WHat a tremendous Idea. This is really something not expected. and I agree with the first comment that the display and battery would be the big issue, But I look forward to the day that when those two materials aren’t so pricey becuase I would love to be able to have a disposable laptop.

    Something to travel with or let the kids play with without worrying of it being damaged.

    And yes the design of this proposed disposable laptop looks tremendous I would buy them even if I didn’t need them

    Thanks and Regards


  15. Back in 2001 I read an article by Robert Cringely that convinced me that (1) the day was coming when there would be no technical barrier to making a $10 computer with the capability of a 1980-ish workstation and (2) it would almost certainly be used primarily to make money for people who already had a lot of it. I ended up starting a charity, in Hong Kong, to help figure out how to use an ultracheap computer to help the world’s poor. We never ended up building an actual device — Nick Negroponte and others did that better than we could have — but we did end up spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to use ultracheap devices to help the 40% of the world’s population that lives on $2 a day or less. There’s a lot of knowledge out there, and not very much of it ends up making much of a difference to the people who most need it. Having a whole library full of such knowledge on a device that fit into a pocket proved to be really transformational to the impoverished communities that we worked with during those years.

    Our own work has moved on to actually putting appropriate and sustainable technology into practice, and offering that to the needy. But I’ve never given up the idea that a really cheap computer could be an important tool in alleviating poverty. I wonder what might happen if somebody took the ideas behind a “disposable laptop” and started thinking instead about how to build a $10 laptop that might help two or three billion people of the world’s poorest people to live better lives?

    Scott Deerwester
    Wildcat Center

  16. @ 24, 28

    These things haven’t been invented or brought to market because it is the opposite of what is being taught at any design school in the world. The notion of disposability, tear-off or single use are thought of as almost illegal in any design mind. Succumbing to materialism & consumption is only seen as viable to dinosaur-age capitalist board directors, who are dead in the water without groups of clever design departments. Even obsolescence tools that prey on narrow-minded consumers such as, no personal insult, you noel4nopun, are on the way out.

    This is not positively addressing any of the real problems – current laptops & computers that are useless after a year, and consumption ideologies that prey on narrow-sighted consumers.

  17. Haha. It’s showing a concept running windows. It really is Disposable then, isn’t it?

    On a serious note, I wouldn’t like to see a disposable computer, but instead recycled computers. I think that it would add to the eco problem we have now if there were disposable computers.

  18. I can actually see where this would work, in the laptop itself you would only house the keyboard/touchpad, display, and procesor. power could be supplied from outside via wall wart or battery at the USB level (most phones and portable electronics now use this) and all memory and programs you would supply on a thumb drive, I already carry thumb drives that run open office and most programs I use on windows machines and I have another that will boot with Linux if the bios allows it. Use something like the SheevaPlug and all you would remove the processor so this would become a thin client that would be disposable. Buy it at a vending machine when you need it away from home and attach you components then return it and get half your price credited and the vendor can reuse most of the modular parts.

  19. you could use an organic led display. they are cheap
    because the simple versions don’t last that long(+/- 2,3 weeks)

  20. If you are really rich, then a brand new Alienware could also be a disposable one !!! :)

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