A geek story: Taking things apart has it benefits

By John Toth

I have to make a confession. I am a geek: Always have been and will be until the day I die.

I noticed as a freshman in high school that I was different from my friends. For example, I took apart our brand new touch-tone phone one day because I was bored and laid it out on the dining room table, each piece individually displayed.

This was no ordinary phone. It was a rental from the phone company, and we just had it installed a few days earlier. Back in those days, phones still had to be installed.

My mother came home from work that night, and I could feel the anger building after she saw the phone. There it lay in dozens of little pieces. I was watching TV and didn’t think about it much, but the anger was there, although she was really good at controlling it.

Thirty minutes later, the phone was back in one piece, just as good as new. I was just joking, but she didn’t get it. A lot of people don’t get the geek technical humor, but that’s OK. I thought it was hilarious.

It was better than scaring her by knocking on the door wearing a rubber monster mask I bought at the amusement park. I did that too, and she didn’t think that was funny, either. She told me so after she regained her composure.

I bring all this up because I want to share with you a geek success story. This is not funny or scary, just interesting.

Last July I saw a pretty good used laptop computer being sold on eBay for $200. I put an offer in for $150. The seller rejected it and came back with a counter offer of $175, so I bought it.

A few days later, the laptop was delivered, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. At first everything seemed to be alright, and then the battery warning message came on. I wondered why, since it was plugged in. The battery should have been charging all that time.

Then I realized that the seller set the battery screen brightness level to the same as when the laptop is plugged into the wall, and I started jiggling the plug. It came on, then went off again. I got it to stay on for a while, and the battery charged up all the way, Then the laptop switched back to battery while it was still plugged in.

I wrote the seller, and he told me to push on the plug really hard. That didn’t help. I got on the Internet and learned that this laptop brand has had a chronic problem of running down the battery. With time, the AC plug that is attached to the motherboard wears out and does not make a solid connection.

So, I wrote the seller again asking for a refund, and he said no way. Then I filed a complaint with eBay and was told to ship the laptop back to the seller, and when he picks it up, I would get a full refund, including shipping, from eBay.

He never picked it up, but after contacting eBay several times, I got the promised refund. Two months later, the laptop landed back at my post office. I picked it up after paying a $20 return postage fee.

Then I started messing with it, since now the laptop only cost $20.

A couple of weeks ago I took it apart, just like I did my phone, but there were more pieces this time – many more, and lots of screws. I re-soldered the broken contacts and put it back together. When I turned it on, though, nothing happened.

I must have missed something, I thought, so I took the laptop apart again. Everything was where it was supposed to be. The motherboard must have let me down.

I got back on eBay and found a used one for $60, including shipping. A few days later it arrived, and this time I hit the jackpot. The seller included the power supply and frame with the motherboard. That was a nice surprise.

Here we go again, except this time I could do it in my sleep. I have taken this laptop apart and put it back together twice now.

A half hour later, the big moment arrived – the pushing of the “on” button. It was reward time, as the laptop began loading the operating system.

This moment was a geek’s dream. Tears started swelling in my eyes. I ran to my children and hugged them, wildly screaming that I have achieved total domination over this machine. Success is wonderful.

I was exaggerating in the previous paragraph. My kids could not care less about stuff like that. If it’s any more complicated than Facebook, they are lost. But it was a great feeling, I must admit.

So, I have this creation of mine now sitting around. It cost a total of $80 so far, soon to be $100. I ordered a little more RAM for it as reward for coming back to life.

That’s my geek success story of the week. If you are a fellow geek, you are now probably crying profusely, feeling the joy. Just don’t let those tears short -circuit the keyboard.

Join me next week again when I’ll write about how I once disassembled a house and put it back together. Or was it a car?