Sunday, April 10, 2011

The wrong, but effective, way to learn computer repair

I'm a language guy. I've always been a language guy. Test scores and aptitude tests never vary when it comes to my language ability--highest marks every time.

Those same aptitude tests agree on one more thing as well, and it's funny because it's true: mathematically (I call it math-e-magic), and mechanically, I am in the wording of most of those tests: "IMPAIRED." I'm the wrong guy to ask to put the chain back on the bicycle, the wrong guy to ask for help changing your tire, and unless you have tape rolling for America's Funniest Home Videos...I'm the wrong guy to put in a new light fixture.

Having said that truth and saying it with a grin on my face of the bashed unabashed, I can say... I've been building a computer. Not by choice, really, but I'm having fun with it. I have experience with putting computers together because I've blown several of them up over the years.

Computers aren't like other machines. They work more like language, at least in this writer's opinion. There isn't much mechanical about a computer. Very few moving parts. There are connectors that go from one thing to another thing and if they're not hooked up, the computer doesn't spit, sputter, putter or hiss (usually.) And if it does spit, sputter, putter, or hiss, one only needs to yank the plug out and pick one's eyebrows off the ceiling.

I worked for a long time for the Boy Scouts of America, back in the day when if you didn't get a technician to donate his or her time, you were the computer guy if you weren't afraid to take the lid off the box and tinker a bit. The first computer I bought had a grounded plug (they all do) but my apartment had only 2-wire outlets. Undaunted and cocky as hell, I lopped the offending 3-prong plug off and used Scotch tape to tape the wires together on the extension cord I cut off so I could plug the computer into the wall.

I don't recommend that to my friends. It's neither safe nor pretty.

Over the years I've had to replace hard drives and install memory chips, take out floppy drives and put in new floppy drives. Never knowing exactly what I was doing...just getting stubborn about it and not giving up until the damn thing did what it was supposed to do.

So, when my old Compaq (purchased in 1999) running a super-tricked out version of Windows 98 died three weeks ago, I bought a new case. Took the old mother board (the thing in the box into which all the other stuff plugs) and fired the machine up. Got nowhere. Got a used mother board and hooked it up. Got nowhere. Took the whole kit and kaboodle (a highly technical term) back to the computer repair shop and the owner stuck another used mother board in there and got it to Safe mode.

Long story short, I got all my hardware into the machine...but couldn't get past safe mode. The reason was simple and easily denied. I did not want to believe I blew the hard drive up. I did blow it up, as I came to realize eventually. Dead. The data wasn't lost. I didn't fall of f the potato truck yesterday, ya know. Safe mode allowed me to copy all my books, book covers, drafts, ideas, etc. onto a jump drive. Therefore, I still have all the important stuff.

My folks have sent me a computer they're no longer using. I'll be able to get that one running and use that hard drive in the case with the motherboard I just bought (I'll find a way) and reload all the stuff I saved to the Sacred Jump Drive I have named "Ralph" in honor of the muse who helped me create it.

And then, my friends, I'll be able to finish Sexton Sand.

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