punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

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Tech - Worst hardware abuse

At Slashdot, they are talking about worst-case hardware abuse that still worked afterwards. I was reminded of my Atari days, when a ARMUDIC member named Scott showed off his hard drives.

Scott was a guy who custom made hard drives for military and paramilitary operations. This was back in 1990 or so, when 20mb hard drives were standards. He had just gotten a set of new 40mb drives, and was showing how tough they were. They came with external cases, and he picked up a new one that was still plugged into the computer by the cable (this was back when you had to park your drives before shutting down the computer) and swung it around his head while he talked about how these are supposed to survive parachute drops. Then he let go, and like a bolo cord, it pulled out of the back of the computer, flew across the room into a cement wall, and fell onto the cement floor. He then started stomping on it, talking about the external case and such, and then he kicked it around like a football.

When he was done, he plugged back into the computer, rebooted it, and sure enough, the drive worked and all the data was intact.

I wish I was so lucky....

I was repairing a friend's computer, a 286, back in the early 1990s. I had another 286 he gave me that I was using for parts to try and repair and "upgrade" what I could. I encountered a lot of problems, but when I was done, I had taken one old computer, one broken computer, and made the best out of parts with them. By the time I was done, it was late, and I left everything open on the kitchen table at the DOS prompt.

The next day, I went to work, discussed my success with my friend, and he was really happy about it. When I got home, I found that both systems were totally shredded. My son, age 4, had taken my power screwdriver to both machines, and all day, in the presence of the in-home daycare sitter, removed everything, and I mean everything. Diodes, chips, transistors... if it was 3-D on a board, my son had pried or ripped it off. The kitchen was littered with broken ISA cards and my son had sorted everything according to color and shape (roughly... he was 4). He proudly showed me the "bowl of chips" he saved for me.

I was livid. My son did not expect this reaction of horror and anger. I asked the babysitter why she didn't stop him.

She faced my enraged face with a classic, "Who me?" look and said (I am not kidding) "He told me you said it was okay..."

Screaming, "HE'S FOUR!!!!" didn't bring my computers back. Asking, "If he said I told him he could play with the f**king blender, would you let him do that?" gained me no fixed systems. She was so totally calm about it, and wondered what the big deal was. "You're a computer guy, you can fix it..." She even offered to buy the glue herself.

She was so fired (there were other issues as well, like letting her brothers and sisters come over, hang out, and eat our food and this was the last straw).

I was terrified to tell my friend. I spent hours rehearsing how I would break the news to him. I initially said, "Your new machine died, and I am not sure how to bring it back." Luckily, my friend took it really well. He said after he went home, he reconsidered and decided to buy one of those new Pentium machines. I breathed the biggest sigh of relief when he added, "Oh, and you can throw away those other machines. I don't need anything off of them..."

[later I told him what really happened, and we had a good laugh]
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