May 03, 2012, 11:18 AM —
I remember when I bought my first new Mac. The label on the box read something like "Assembled for Apple in California." Famously, that has now changed: Apple computers (and iPhones, and iPads) are assembled in China, and the conditions of the workers there came under scrutiny when Mike Daisey's one-man show about his trip to Foxconn factories there was featured on NPR's This American Life -- scrutiny that continued despite revelations that Daisey fabricated some of the incidents he described.
But take a minute to contemplate that word "assembled." Those Chinese factory workers aren't making Apple products from scratch; they're putting them together from pre-existing components -- components that weren't built in the same factory, or even in the same country. Curious about how the family tree of a typically complex piece of computer equipment, I decided to try to track down the origins of the major components in that computer -- a mid-2010 13" MacBook Pro model. Where did it come from before it got to me? How many parents did it have? The journey travels over much of Asia, of course, but there are also components that come from right here in the U.S.A.