Key Takeaways:

  • Capacitors have been a crucial component in electronic devices for over a century.
  • Printed circuit boards (PCBs) emerged in the mid-20th century as a revolutionary advancement in electronics manufacturing.
  • Capacitors continued to be widely used on PCBs for decades, but advancements in surface-mount technology (SMT) led to a gradual shift away from through-hole components.


The miniaturization of electronic devices has been a driving force in technological progress for decades. One of the key components that enabled this shrinking size was the advent of printed circuit boards (PCBs). PCBs revolutionized the electronics industry by providing a compact and reliable way to connect electronic components. However, one question that often arises is: when did capacitors stop using PCBs? This article delves into the history of capacitors and PCBs to provide insights into this transition.

Capacitors: A Historical Perspective

Capacitors are passive electronic components that store electrical energy in an electric field. They have been used in electronic devices for over a century, with early applications in telegraphy and radio equipment. Initially, capacitors were constructed using various materials, including paper, mica, and ceramic.

The Rise of PCBs

PCBs emerged in the mid-20th century as a transformative technology in electronics manufacturing. PCBs consist of a non-conductive substrate, typically made of fiberglass or epoxy, with conductive copper traces printed on its surface. These copper traces provide electrical connections between electronic components mounted on the board.

Capacitors on PCBs

In the early days of PCBs, through-hole components, including capacitors, were the dominant mounting style. Through-hole components have leads that are inserted into holes in the PCB and then soldered to connect them to the copper traces. Capacitors were commonly used on PCBs in various applications, such as filtering, smoothing, and energy storage.

The Shift to Surface-Mount Technology

In the late 1960s, surface-mount technology (SMT) emerged as a more compact and efficient way to mount electronic components on PCBs. SMT components have solderable pads on their bottom surface, which allows them to be placed directly on the copper traces of the PCB.

The adoption of SMT led to a gradual shift away from through-hole components, including capacitors. SMT capacitors offered several advantages over through-hole capacitors, including:

  • Smaller size and reduced weight
  • Lower manufacturing costs
  • Improved reliability due to reduced board stress

Current State of Capacitors in Electronics

Today, SMT capacitors are the primary type used in electronic devices. They are available in various sizes, capacitances, and voltage ratings to meet the diverse requirements of electronic circuits. Through-hole capacitors are still used in some applications, such as high-power circuits or where space constraints are not a significant concern.


Capacitors have played a vital role in the electronics industry for over a century. While they were initially used on PCBs with through-hole mounting, the advent of surface-mount technology led to a gradual shift towards SMT capacitors. Today, SMT capacitors are the primary type used in electronic devices, offering advantages such as smaller size, lower cost, and improved reliability.

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