Snow Day: Downton Abbey, Engineers, and a Chest ColdBy Bobby Neal Winters
You may recall the Multimedia PC I built one piece at a time. I made a big deal about it. I didn’t make such a big deal out of the fact that it suddenly stopped working. (I now believe the power supply went out, but the truth of that remains to be seen.) It turns out that building a video recorder isn’t such a big need when you’ve got Netflix.
In any case, it went out and I wasn’t in any hurry to get it fixed until a friend who’d loaned me the second season of Downton Abbey on DVD--before we discovered it was on Netflix--wanted his discs back. It was then I remembered they were stuck in the Multimedia PC which couldn’t be opened because it was broken and which couldn’t be fixed because I didn’t have the time. The solution at that point was to buy my friend a replacement set of DVDs and to wait until I had time to fix my Multimedia PC.
Summer came and went. The wind whipped in flipping the days on my calendar. Children dressed first in Halloween costumes and then as pilgrims came by. A large man in a red suit struggled down a chimney and a naked baby in a top hat crawled by.
Then we got a snow day and I finally had time to mess with the computer.
It actually took less than half an hour to get the DVD out. All I had to do was take the DVD-Drive out of one and put it into another. I pressed a button and out it popped. I walked around the house with the DVD on my finger saying “Donna Noble has been saved.” (It’s an obscure Dr. Who reference, okay, and not particularly germane to the event, but its obscurity covers that.)
Anyway, on the heels of that victory, I thought I would try to fix the Multimedia PC. If I get it started, I think I might put Debian Linux on it so it can talk to my little Raspberry Pis. The symptom that the PC exhibits is that you press the button and it won’t come on. To me that suggests the power supply. The reason I think this isn’t so much because I know a lot but because that would be the easiest and cheapest thing to fix.
In order to test this hypothesis, I thought I ought to plug it in. (Hey, I got a PhD, folks. The brilliance just flows.) I needed a power cord for that. (That PhD just keeps giving and giving.) I’d used the Multimedia PCs cord on another computer, so I borrowed one from my coffee pot.
Yes, you read that correctly. A computer uses the same power cord as a coffee pot. This is because good engineers, like Scotty said, are always just a wee bit conservative. Wee bit, hell, once they have something that works they never change it.
I am old enough to remember the first printers for PCs. You needed a screw-driver to hook them to the back of your computer. It never occurred to the engineers who designed them that there would be offices without screwdrivers.
Eventually we got the aptly named thumbscrews and those were around for years until they were replaced by USB printers. This is because, like the coffee pot power cord, they worked.
I am sitting now at my Itty-bitty Ubuntu box tapping out this article after having fought with a chest cold for several days. I am exhausted but my mind is somehow clear. I am being battered by images around me. USB printers, USB hard drives, USB thumb drives, my Arduino connected to the USB port, and a USB chargeable flashlight.
The future is becoming clear to me. I see it all.
One day I will awake to perk my coffee to a USB coffee pot.