Take a larger look at the image on the right (from a MakeZine post). See that inset picture of water being poured over an Atari 2600 console? My, oh my, how that brings back memories. I was ten years old at the time, sitting alone in the living room, waggling my joystick (before comments ensue, did you hear me say ten?), when suddenly a wasp flew into the room and disturbed my happiness. I quickly grabbed the TV guide and rolled it up into a tube, ready to do battle. The wasp landed on my Atari 2600 woodgrain console. I seized my chance. Slap! Wasp-guts on my pretty games machine. So, I went into the kitchen, got a damp cloth, and proceeded to wipe old waspy’s corpse away. Then I took a closer look at the ribbed plastic section on the top of the console. It had always appeared solid, but if you looked at an acute angle you could see a circular air vent. Oh dear. Better switch it on quick and make sure it’s still working. Big mistake. My ten-year-old brain didn’t know that if I had waited until the console dried out, it would have been fine. As it was, my precious Atari was dead, killed by my hand as soon as I flicked the on switch.
Of course, that wasn’t the only electronic mishap I’ve had. When computers are a big part of your life, it’s unavoidable. Actually, some of what I’m about to tell was avoidable, if only I’d had more sense.
The next mishap I remember was Christmas Day, when I was fifteen. I’d been given a shiny new Sinclair ZX Spectrum +3 computer. I quickly attached a tape recorder to it, so that I could load my games (as you did in those days). But the games wouldn’t load. After a bit, I got a little miffed and wiggled the connecting lead in the socket. It seemed way too loose. I’d like to think it was that way straight out of the box, but I have to confess it’s more likely that I broke it. Man, that Christmas Day really sucked!
I don’t recall anything bad happening for a long time after that, not until I started my job as ICT technician, aged 27. Now I’m about to talk about The Curse of the Trailing Lead, which has no doubt caught many a person. I wasn’t in the job more than a few weeks when I was setting up the internet connection. I had the router (a couple of hundred pounds worth of kit) sitting up on the desk with its lead trailing across the floor. At one point I stepped away from the desk, and the router decided to come with me; it had little choice, since its lead was around my ankle. Crash! My eyes almost popped out of their socket, because I was now looking at bare circuitry on the floor. The casing had split open and spilled the router’s guts. I panicked. How am I going to tell this to my boss when I’ve only worked here for a few weeks? Calmly, I put the router back together again. And you know what? I worked a treat! I got off lucky.
You’d think I would have learned my lesson: Don’t leave trailing cables. Well, I did learn my lesson. The trouble is, not every member of staff in the school has learned it. One day, several years later, I happened to be in the art room. There was a laptop on the teacher’s desk with its power lead running across the floor to the wall socket. Well, when I went to leave the room, the laptop decided to go walkies with me. Crash! Unbeliebably, aside from one small crack on the screen’s hinge, the laptop survived.
Sadly my luck would run out. Ah heck, what am I saying? My next mishap had nothing to do with luck; it was all my fault. I was using a school laptop at home. Unfortunately, there was an existing problem with one of the mouse-buttons below the touchpad: it would refuse to work intermittently. One day, I was in the middle of something important, and the button’s erratic behaviour riled me so much that I slapped the touchpad – quite hard. The noise that ensued sounded something like shhhhhh-click, shhhhhh-click. It was the sound of hard drive death. My heart sank. I thought, How do I get out of this without telling my boss? Aside from the shame of admitting I had done something like that, I didn’t want him suspecting me of vandalism every time a piece of equipment failed for legitimate reasons. And I’m just not the sort of guy who can tell an outright lie, such as, “Hey, my hard drive’s busted. Can we order a new one?” Anyway, I opened up the laptop. Lo and behold, the hard drive was mounted directly below the touchpad. I scoured eBay for the same model and size, and I found one. Phew! £50 got me the replacement hard drive, and all was well once again. A costly mistake.
There are times when I’d love to get away from IT and be a postman or something.