Once upon a time, if you had a hard drive at all, you probably had a Seagate ST-225, 25.6 megabytes unformatted (like it was any use to you unformatted), 21.6 MB formatted, which everyone described as a "twenty-meg" drive. The ST-225 had a reputation for developing stiction problems, but then rather a lot of drives suffered from this back then. And I'm willing to bet that none of the manufacturers had the temerity to suggest, at least for public consumption, the solution given to me by an actual Seagate tech: whack it just so with a rubber mallet.

Our new IT tech at 42nd and Treadmill, upon encountering some of our more dubious hardware, expressed the desire for one new tool for the office: a large hammer. I was duly impressed by this display of spirit, and sent her nine seconds of Trini Lopez' "If I Had a Hammer" for use in a Windows sound scheme, preferably for "Critical Stop." I'll sing her praises some other time; for now, I want to single out some equipment, not all computer stuff, which over the years has made me want to call Gallagher and ask him to bring the Sledge-O-Matic.

  • GF4A-EL 4-speed automatic transmission, in 1993 Mazda 626.
    It didn't leak or anything, but the sealing was all wrong, or something: every time it rained and fortunately, we were in a period of moderate drought at the time the slushbox would come up with some new way to annoy the engine computer, which resulted in error codes, which resulted in expense. I eventually traded this car for a newer Mazda with what the experts (myself included) said was an inferior-quality transmission; it never gave me a lick of trouble in five and a half years.

  • Deservedly-unbranded 5x86-133 CPU chip.
    I think this might have been made by Cyrix, though I don't remember it bearing a Cyrix logo. Notable because when it finally melted down, it retained a tiny amount of actual functionality: the system would still boot into Windows 95, although it would take twenty-seven minutes (literally) to do so. Personally, I think a dead chip should act dead.

  • Sony SL-V40 VCR.
    This 1988 box, Sony's first-ever VHS machine Beta wasn't dead yet, but was clearly coughing up blood was actually pretty reliable, and it had a fifteen-year clock, in case you wanted to record something in 2003. It had, however, one of the more ghastly on-screen displays, and you couldn't avoid seeing it: if you set something to record via the timer, it recorded an actual time stamp at the very beginning. Once or twice, this was way cool; about the tenth time, you never wanted to see it again. My own unit also had a questionable eject button, which occasionally took a second, even a third press, before it would deign to unload the tape.

  • Decision Data 6614 printer.
    This was the office workhorse for many years, and toward the end of those years it apparently learned how to get out of work: it would burn up its own circuit boards on a regular basis. The record, I think, was four in one month, and the only reason it was that few was tech support's inability to locate more boards; I am absolutely convinced that towards the end, every board we got was one we'd already seen melt down at least once before. It's about the size of a Kenmore dryer, and if you look very carefully at the back panel, there's a faint footprint halfway up. Size 14 double E. You need not wonder why.

  • Toro electric-powered string trimmer.
    The string breaks about every twenty seconds. I at first assumed this was operator error, due to my failure to thread the spool correctly. Accordingly, I purchased Toro-branded pre-threaded spools, and now the string breaks about every twenty seconds.

  • Hewlett-Packard DeskJet 960C.
    Like all recent DeskJets, this thing uses genuine HP cartridges with low ink capacity and high price; this one had been taken out of service and dropped into the Big Stack O' Crap in the far corner. The IT tech was over there yesterday morning and noticed that it was leaking ink: there was a sizable blotch on the top of a nearby monitor, another on its side, and yet another on the floor. Well, okay, fine, this is an easy fix. She opened up the top of the DeskJet and discovered that there were no ink cartridges installed, yet somehow the thing had been hemorrhaging black ink. We cleaned up the mess, and a few minutes later found that the blotch on the monitor was coming back; it's like mold was growing on it or something.

Like rather a lot of topics in this section lately, this one is open-ended; I have no doubt that at some point there will be a sequel.

The Vent

  24 October 2006

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 Copyright © 2006 by Charles G. Hill