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Adventures in Laptop Repair

Let me back up a bit before I even start this story. Late in '99 I made my first major purchase with my own money that I had earned myself: a Compaq Presario 1200 series laptop computer. It was already a little out of date when I bought it, but it was on sale for an even thousand bucks. Hey, how could I resist? You might as well have flashed a holographic-foil Bulbasaur card in the face of a nerdy 10 year-old... or a nerdy 30 year-old.

But I digress. I brought the thing home and after the comedy known as "Getting Used to a Touch Pad Instead of a Mouse" I settled happily in to the laptop lifestyle. I would lie on the couch all hours of the day with the thing perched on my lap (hence "laptop") merrily plunking away on it. I put on a Powerpuff Girls desktop wallpaper picture, some Pokemon icons, and the opening song it played when it started-up was the "boss introduction" music from Mega Man 2. I named it Raichu. I wrote my first Novella, "Resolving Equations," on it. I designed Fools Play Island on it. Sure, it wasn't the shiny new porsche of laptops, but I was very happy with my little Volvo of a computer. Boxy but good.

My laptop during better days

Then in the spring of '01, almost a year ago, I actually had enough money to get up the gumption to buy my own big-ass computer. I ordered a state-of-the-art Dell with all the bells and whistles that poor Riachu never had.

It think it was offended, because just a few days before the Dell arrived, Raichu promptly broke. Dont look at me like that! Just becasue I got a big shiny new computer didn't mean that I would have abandoned Raichu like someone who made their pikachu evolve into a raichu only to realize that he should have stuck with the pikachu because raichu can't learn the quick attack. I couldn't take the big Dell to bed with me (to write on! Write!) or laze on the couch in front of the TV and watch Rikishi jam his ass into his opponents' faces. If only Raichu had given me the chance, I would have explained it all to him.

But Raichu had to overreact and break. But not just break: it found perhaps one of the funnier ways to break. The place on the back of the machine where you plugged the power transformer into it (not Optimus Prime, don't make me say it) broke, so that it was impossible to get any power into it. Naturally when it broke Carrie and I weren't aware of it, and it was still on at the time, so the battery happily drained away until it too ran out of juice. So I had a dead battery with no way to recharge it. No way to recharge, no way to get everything I had created on Riachu out of it and onto the Dell.

After rushing around for a few days trying to see if anybody could fix Raichu (Compaq didn't want to touch it; it was past warranty and horribly out of date), the best offer I got was someone agreed to take a look for $50, without any guarantee of being able to actually fix it. I had just spent all my money on shiny new Dell, so I wasn't about to shell out fifty bucks for anythign but a guarantee of success. Fortunately Carrie's mom worked for a company that let her use a compaq laptop at the time. So a plan was devised wherein we would charge the battery on that machine, then once it was full we would stick it back up Raichu, network Raichu with the Dell, and dump everything over to the big computer before the battery drained again. Simple, huh?

Well, like in all movies where you see the details of a plan, it didn't work at all like it was supposed to. This time, however, the weakest link was big ol' Dell. We couldn't install the networking program that Raichu had. The idea of putting everythign in Raichu onto floppy discs and moving them over to the Dell that way was unappealing. It would take several recharges and probably a couple of weeks of painstaking work for that to happen. Fortunately my friend Geoff had the network program on his big ol' computer. And he had a CD burner! So he dragged the whole mess over to my apartment one day (I still don't know why he thought that was better than my bringing my tiny laptop to his place) and the race was on: would I be able to get everythign off Raichu before his battery was gone again?

Fortunately, the answer was yes. Raichu gave me a few extra minutes for the sake of old times, and it all ended up on Geoff's hard drive. A while later, it all ended up on a CD. And a shot time after that, it ended up in the DVD drive in the new Dell. All was saved, and Raichu went quietly back to sleep. He was placed in his little carrying case and after a few months of thinking about shelling out that $50 bucks to see if it was even possible to fix him, life adjusted around the Dell, and Raichu was quietly forgotten.

Boy, this is coming out a lot sadder than I thought it would. But fear not. It's not all bad. Because Mr. Dell just wasn't working out the way I wanted it to. He was great for web design, but for the life of me I couldn't write on it. I don't know why, but in the year and some months that Raichu was active, I wrote two short stories, one Novella, and some 65 pages of a novel. On Mr. Dell? In about a year I had written about 15 pages of crap.

I missed Raichu.

So on Friday, my day off, as if in a fever, I grabbed the sleeping Raichu out of his case and the big manly toolcase I got for christmans, and I took a couple of screwdrivers to him. The results were impressive.

And difficult to achieve! Hoo, boy, it was like opening a Chinese puzzle box getting inside of that machine. I knew that getting a big tool kit would come in handy some time. Of course, I only used two pieces of the fifty-piece set. Oh, well. Soon, I spotted the broken part:

I know that's an horrible picture. That's why I circled the part! It turns out the part wasn't broken, just entirely dislodged. A pair of tweezers and several cuss-filled minutes later, and I had gotten the piece back where it belonged. I could now plug the plug into the back of the machine. But it still wasn't getting any power. There was a tiny piece of gold-plated metal that was supposed to be attached to the newly relocated part. It was bent all out at a wierd angle, most likely from when the part got dilodged in the first place. I don't like calling the part "the part." From now on it is Linda Joe. So this thin strip of metal had been bent weirdly when Linda Joe was dislocated. Linda Joe was back where it belonged. Now I just had to bend the thin, tiny stip of metal back into place. Working at an awfully awkward angle, I managed to grasp the offending metal. I bent it towards Linda Joe very carefully... and it promptly snapped off. Shit.

Well, I'd be damned if ruining the whole thing would stop me from fixing it. I grabbed the broken-off piece and after several more cuss-filled minutes I had jammed it into Linda Joe where it belonged, even though it was no longer attached to Raichu itself. You know, I really didn't cuss at all. It just sounds better when written that way. Anyway. I bent the metal piece in Linda Joe until it touched the part that was still attached to Raichu. Good enough for me! I plugged that mother in, and wouldn't you konw it? A light came on! Raichu lives!

But hoo, boy, is Raichu delicate! What we're going to have to do is very, very carefully unplug it and use it until the battery runs out, and then very, very carefully plug it back in. I don't want to have to unscrew a double-dozen screws in a very specific order again. Actually, I got lazy and didn't screw them all back in. Raichu seems sturdy enough without them, and it'll make my job easier if Linda Joe gets dislodged again.

So I am really looking forward to cuddling up in bed with Carrie and Raichu tonight, tapping away on the keyboard to my heart's content. Take that however you want to.

As a kind of P.S. to this story, I now can't get floppy discs out of Raichu. I put one in, and it ain't comin' out. Looks like I'll have to break out the manly toolkit again!

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