Great moments in computer hardware user stupidity

I have fond memories of the 3dfx click.

I helped a friend in Australia build a pc and while troubleshooting it I touched the 110v-240v switch on the back of the PSU for the first time ever (I was just curious as to why it was there). The flash, crack and smoke pouring from the motherboard told me in vivid detail.

When I did my last full build I was lazy. I built the pc, tested everything, then began moving my watercooling unit from the old pc. Couldn’t be bothered actually emptying everything when moving it from the old pc. Soaked the entire motherboard and even after days of drying before switching it on, it was dead.

At the old job we had a computer acting up in that enervating way we all know, the one that could be the motherboard, or the cpu or the memory or the goddam tides.

So we opened it and after a shocking while it was quite obvious that the PSU was involved as anyone except me was quite pale after receiving at least one hard zap from touching random parts of the thing.

So as we were all standing aback from the murderous heap of components someone, still shaking, wondered why I had been spared. Easy, I told him: Let someone else try first.

But the stupidest user I’ve ever seen was a guy that hired me and a friend to do some networking stuff for his business back in the Windows 3.1 heyday. He used the mouse by moving it around with his right hand while clicking the buttons with the left fingers. In fact, as we painfully discovered later, it was a character defining flaw: he was on the whole as stupid as his mousing.

I can’t remember the details but one time I wanted to upgrade one of the daycare computers and I ordered a socket cpu for a slotted motherboard. I got so far as to install the motherboard and removed the cpu from its packaging before I noticed it wasn’t going to work.

I’ve done this more than once, sadly.

Back when JPL was working on the Galileo satellite, a project manager walked onto the floor of the engineering area, picked up a box and shook it to see what it was. Before he shook it, it was a $5 million dollar key component to the satellite. After he shook it, it was a box of junk.

I hope you kept the receipt.

I put an SD card into my iMac’s DVD drive slot the day after I bought it.

That was a fun 10 minutes of panic.

Many years ago one of my responsibilities was taking a high-end Mac system we had for running demos to locations and setting it up. The first time I did it was for some fancy thing down in DC, so I tore it down, put everything into Anvil cases and met the movers on site. Once we’d gotten everything to where it was supposed to be, I started working on getting everything connected again. When I hit the power button, the Mac booted just fine, but the external SCSI drives (where the demo software and media files lived) weren’t coming up.

So I start checking everything and after about 15 minutes of this I’m starting to panic a bit. I was really trying to make a good impression here, and the demo not working at important function wasn’t going to help. Fortunately a friend and co-worker, who was also very familiar with these systems came over, took one look and started laughing.

Now I’d worked with Macs plenty of times, but didn’t have much experience with external SCSI devices. In my ignorance, I’d assumed the extra bits I had for hooking these up were adapters, but as my friend was fixing what I’d done, he explained they were actually terminators, and having them in-line with the cable (Computer-Cable-Terminator-Drive) wasn’t quite correct.

So this is the new “folded 5.25” floppy in a 3.5" floppy drive" story! Thanks for the update!

Just the other day we had an important meeting here in our boardroom where a bunch of people from outside the company were coming to see a presentation. The presenter was a professional from another company who gives these types of presentations fairly often. Minutes before the big show I was called in to troubleshoot the projector/laptop that was not displaying anything on screen. I went through all the usual suspects, checking to make sure it was using the external video output, switching screen resolutions on the laptop, powering everything off and back on, and finally tracing the connection from the laptop back to the projector’s … monitor out port.

Another story. Year’s ago when I was just starting out in professional IT laptops didn’t have built-in touchpads and USB mice were still a pipe dream there used to be little external trackball mice you clipped to the side of the laptop. One day I’m called into the office of one of the senior execs at the company who just got his brand new state of the art laptop. “I can’t make this damn mouse work right!” he insisted, as he held the clip-on trackball mouse upside down in his hand while rolling it all over his old mousepad. It took me a couple of minutes to even work up the courage to show him the proper way to use the trackball, thinking “oh man, I’m so screwed” the whole time. He took it well though, laughing it off before dismissing me from his office.

He must have shook it real hard. Aren’t space bits built to handle rocky rocketing during liftoff?

Floppy power connector off by a pin. POOF as the insulation burns and makes a nice mushroom cloud.

Oh yeah, in the middle of a populated computer lab. That I was in charge of.

Then there was the day that 2 power supplies exploded. For no apparent reason.

I cannot describe how much I love that you wrote this.

Armando’s story cracked me up, since I’ve done that more than once myself.

The $750,000 restocking fee is a killer.

They’re both right next to each other on the side of the computer, and the screen’s so big that you can’t see the slots when sitting in front.

Not defending my stupidity but it’s a surprisingly easy mistake to make! I got the card out by propping the computer up on its side and wiggling a sheet of paper inside.

A long long time ago i bought my first video card, and after i plugged it, it didnt seem to be working.

Half hour later i noticed i had to plug my monitor to the video card instead of the onboard one.

My dad had had a few beers and was cobbling together a computer for a friend using older parts. The ram really wasn’t fitting into the motherboard, and he had to jam it in. It really hadn’t ever been a problem before, and he was wondering why it wasn’t as easy at it used to be.

Then he turned it on and the sparks and smoke came out. After unplugging it and examining the components, he realized why RAM has a notch slightly further up one end. It’s so you don’t put it in backwards. He told me, “That’s the last time I drink beer before working on computers.”

Not all components of a satellite are exposed to the elements on liftoff. The parts that are exposed are subject to stress tests that are different than the stress tests that the internal parts get. Shaking anything that goes on a satellite is not smart but at that time security for the satellite assembly floor was a lot more lax than it is now.