Confessions of a computer rage sufferer and other "accidents"

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.

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15 thoughts on “Confessions of a computer rage sufferer and other "accidents"

  1. Anonymous says:

    I remember that time when the laptop fell off the table, but it wasn’t really your fault as the cables barely reached where the laptop was sitting, if i remember correctly, you tried to step over them but instead took them with you.

    It was only Ronnie’s anyway and he didn’t realise the hinge was broke until months after it had happened and when he came in to tell us about the hinge being broke, I found it very hard not to laugh out.

    I don’t remember you telling me about the router, your lucky it worked again.

  2. Michael Reed says:

    I can remember an occasion when I really did feel a bit sorry for myself.

    Kneeling down on the floor, I accidentally pulled out the wrong plug. Ooops, computer goes off. Plugging it back in, I found that it wouldn’t power back up again. After a bit off prodding and experimenting, I decided that I had blown the power supply.

    Unfortunately, I had just moved over to ATX so I didn’t have a spare with which to test my hypothesis. The next day I went out, bought a new ATX PSU and fitted it. Nothing.

    To cut a long story short, I eventually discovered that I had blown the MB, the HD and the CDROM drive! To this day, I have never heard of anyone causing as much damage as that in one go. As I couldn’t afford to replace it all with new parts, I had to use the 486 to locate some second hand parts.

    I’m a bit more careful when pulling plugs out now.

  3. Darryl Sloan says:

    Adam,

    You might have a better memory than I have of the event. In my mind, I see myself blindly walking through the cable, not realising it’s there, then hearing the crash behind me. Funny how we can remember things differently after time passes.

    Yeah, I remember telling Ronnie. I admitted it because I didn’t want him assuming the other teacher in his department had done it. But it wasn’t really a big deal. The laptop worked, and that was the main thing.

  4. Darryl Sloan says:

    Michael,

    Man, that’s weird. I’ve heard of frying hardware by plugging things in, but not out.

    Your story reminds me of a couple of other mishaps – one’s that were done to me.

    I remember when I was about seventeen, letting my fried Jason sit at my Commodore Amiga and read a short story of mine. It was freshly written, not even saved (you can tell where this is going). If you remember the Amiga computer, it had this massive brick-like external power supply sitting on the end of a two-metre lead. Well, I recall Jason finishing the story, then leaning back in the seat and stretching his legs out. His toe clipped the switch on the power supply, any my story went to oblivion.

    I also remember sitting in one of the computer suites at college, at the close of an evening class. I was standing up, putting my coat on while the computer (one of those old RM Nimbuses) saved my work to floppy disc (a slow process). When the teacher, who was standing behind my monitor, saw me donning my coat, he assumed I had already shut the computer down. So he flicked the whole room’s power off, not knowing that the computer was in the middle of a save process. I lost my whole evening’s work. Grr.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Oh Darryl… I worry about you. You realise that being driven to the postal service is just one step up from being driven to suicide or attacking old people with a samurai sword at the local day center? I know… I’ve been there (I was delivering the mail to the day center).

    If you ever feel like that again then talk to me…

    …I know a guy who can get cheap samurai swords.

  6. Darryl Sloan says:

    LOL! I think I like the idea of being a postman because I have fond (rose-tinted) memories of my days as a paperboy, working for 1p per paper. If I actally were a postman, I’d probably be sick of it within a month. It’s just the idea of change that’s appealing. But the trouble with a need for change is that you’ll soon need another change.

  7. James Maxon says:

    Wireless technology, isn’t it grand? 😉

  8. James Maxon says:

    > So he flicked the whole room’s power off, not knowing that the computer was in the middle of a save process. I lost my whole evening’s work. Grr.

    Think that’s bad, in college I was finishing up a two week project when the computer ate my .zip drive. No problem, I had a backup, “yumm,” said the computer, “seconds!”. So not only did I lose $25 or so of .zip disks, I also lost two weeks of work. What makes it even better; is that it was my Final for the class, which just so happened to be due the very next day. Let’s just say I had a late night at the school, and to this day I suffer from unpleasant memories of Macromedia Director and .zip drives 😉

  9. Chris says:

    This was a brilliant post, Darryl. I’ve been sitting here laughing for five minutes straight, with my wife looking at me as though I were a mad man.

    I remember coming round to your house just after the laptop fiasco. Man, was that ever funny.

    Ahhh, good times!

  10. Darryl Sloan says:

    James,

    When I was fourteen, I was programming my first ever computer game on my ZX Spectrum, a text adventure called Alien Complex. In those days you had to save to audio cassette, and foolishly I was using the same tape over and over again each day, with no backup. I spent two months programming the game, and after the final save, it failed to reload.

    I remember swallowing a terrible flood of rage that rose up inside me. Instead, right there and then, I calmly loaded up the programming language, and began all over again.

    And I got it done. Unfortunately, the next foolish thing I did was submit the game to software companies, without keeping a backup, assuming they would return the cassette. Hence, I don’t have it today. Sigh! Fourteen-year-old brains leave a lot to be desired.

  11. Darryl Sloan says:

    Chris,

    I’m glad all my anxiety and distress has given somebody some pleasure. 😉

  12. Jeffrey Allen Davis says:

    Try having a two-year-old thinking that your computer is “hungry” and feeding it animal crackers through the floppy drive. Fortunately, it was an old computer and we replaced it a couple of months later.

  13. Darryl Sloan says:

    Jeff,

    Maybe it’s a good job I don’t have children … I don’t really mean that. Thankfully my computer rage problem has never extended to violence against small humans (or large humans).

  14. Chris says:

    “Thankfully my computer rage problem has never extended to violence against small humans (or large humans).”

    Yes, Darryl, but you and I both know you have the rage when it comes to canines crapping in your garden, and young children having vigorous thoroughfare with footballs over your lawn.

    If it weren’t for the law, a few young boys and a dog would have mysteriously disappeared from your old neighbourhood… 🙂

  15. Darryl Sloan says:

    Hey, there’s still time. Every one of ’em will be passing through Clounagh Junior High (except the dog). And then they’ll be on my turf. Moahahahahhhhhh!

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