You probably have a cell phone in your pocket or somewhere around. Think about how you feel when you accidentally leave it at home. You tap into your pocket, instantly aware that something is not right and the realization is made – “I forgot my phone.” However, imagine a world where this phone may not exist. It takes a lot to make a phone, but that there is no electronic manufacturing services – none of this would be possible.
When surface mount technology came into existence, it allowed electronic components to be mounted to the surface of printed circuit boards, or PCBs. This eventually made manufacturers able to quickly assemble electronic components, making them widely available to the general public. For example, when you interact with your computer, an electrical charge is sent from one point to another using the copper paths (or traces) placed on the surface of the printed circuit board, providing a complete circuit. When a load is sent along that circuit, it normally interacts with the parts of the circuit board that do the actual work, such as a diode, microchip, or switch.
Although printed circuit boards are not all electrical connections, they certainly make it very possible, allowing smaller devices, miniature components, and much smaller space requirements. Before PCBs were the standard, a standard electronic device such as a television was powered not by a circuit board, but by a clutter of cables, all connected individually to a power source. So, while we may have some of the things we know, imagine a much more outdated version. Your cell phone would not fit in your pocket, it would fit into a briefcase and your television would not be mounted on your wall, you would need a 4ft deep entertainment center.