The Computer Whisperer – Part 1

Red Button CartoonA couple of days ago I mentioned that I had to help a friend with a very sick computer. I’d run into him in Dublin, and he’d told me he wanted to add the drive from his old PC into his new one. I assured him that as someone with mechanical skills, he should have no problem. These things are quite straightforward.

How naïve I can be.

A day or two later he texted me. Something was wrong, the screen had gone mad and he couldn’t read it. I thought at the time he just meant that there was an error message he didn’t understand. When I saw it later I couldn’t believe it: Neat vertical stripes like a butcher’s apron making everything – including an error message – completely unreadable. Weirdest way I’ve ever seen a screen go awry.

But that only came later. First, while investigating the screen problem, he’d found a switch. A red switch. Red-for-a-reason red.

That’s right.

Just about any PC can work on the two most common voltages used worldwide: 110v (US etc.) and 230v (Europe etc.). Most switch between them automatically, but older and/or cheaper ones have – you guessed it – a red switch, on the back of the power supply. Throw this in the US and your PC shudders to a half-powered halt. Throw it in Europe…

Bang.

You know, I can’t be annoyed with him. Sure, they made the switch red so that people would know it’s not something you can just throw. And in most cases that works. But there’s another kind of person that it has a completely opposite effect on.

I like the people who can’t resist red switches.

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