Sunday 11 January 2009

I had had a bit of a nerdy night in this evening scouring the news sites of the Web for potential targets to harpoon with lampoon over at KTAB News. It wasn’t until about midnight that the shit hit the CPU fan.

It had reached the point in the evening when there was no choice but to do the bins. When I came back, bins done, and there was the whiff of burnt electronics in the air. A nerd will be familiar with the smell: a throat-stinging combination of burnt plastic, burnt solder and possibly a little bit of brimstone. I noticed that my computer was no longer on. In spite of a long evening’s uneventful, normal use, it seemed to have chosen the only two minutes I wasn’t in the room to commit computer suicide. I took another sniff and decided to turn it off at the wall.

I took off the side and sniffed around the interior. It was a strange type of technological detective-work, leaving me less like the debonair hacker of popular culture and more like a a slightly incompetent bloodhound...with a cold, wearing a face mask. The human sense of smell stinks.

The smell seemed to be coming from everywhere and was, if anything, stronger on the other side of the room than it was near the computer. I ventured to turn it back on the wall, having lied myself into hypothesising that the burning smell could have been some dust on a hideously overheated component which would now have cooled down again. I pressed the power button. The CPU fan juddered intermittently, as though it were having a slo-mo fit. I tried switching it on and off a few more times. The juddering fan occasionally developed what an X-Factor contestant might mistake for a sense of rhythm, but didn’t seem to want to spin. Then, the game changed: off, on, huge plume of acrid blue smoke!!! Off, off off!!

Finally, a clue! And one which appealed to my vision as well as my sense of smell. It seemed to come from somewhere around the bottom of the motherboard. You might think that would have been enough to convince me that not all was well. I’m not sure what possessed me to have a final try.

With a crackle, a tongue of flame licked up from just below the IDE connector, flicking a ribbon of acrid blue smoke into my face. I decided that this might be an off-at-the-wall moment. The flame receded as fast as it had appeared. It was hardly a chip pan fire. I didn’t even singe any of my hair off. In fact, the only possible health and safety implication is that another lungful of thick smoke has slightly increased my chance of developing some kind of cancer. However, I think that it’s fair to say that my computer did catch fire. I have finally passed through the nerd rite of passage where something you build ends up going pyrotechnic. So, in a way, the tragedy was tinged with a strange, geeky satisfaction. Tick!

My computer wasn’t so lucky. It now doesn’t respond to the power button at all, meaning it scores a mighty zero on the Glasgow computer coma scale.

I contemplated ringing technical support, but then I imagined what was likely to happen. A helpful young woman would ask me to list all the components in my computer, and describe the problem. After five minutes of forensic reconstruction, she would helpfully ask ‘Have you tried turning it off and turning it on again?’

‘Yes, I tried turning it off and turning it on again,’ I would retort, gritting my teeth, ‘And it caught fire. I am not going to do it again.’

And then, I would shed a tear. RIP PC. You shall never be turned off and on again again.

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