Fun_People Archive
2 May
The PowerBook That Leaked

Content-Type: text/plain
Mime-Version: 1.0 (NeXT Mail 3.3 v118.2)
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu,  2 May 96 13:56:06 -0700
To: Fun_People
Subject: The PowerBook That Leaked

Forwarded-by: Keith Bostic <>
Forwarded-by: (Dawn {bob} Haynes)
From: Greg Owen {gowen} <>

The PowerBook That Leaked
	-- (a true story)

In 1993, sometime in December, a customer walks in with a dead PowerBook
165. Fault description: hangs on startup. An additional symptom provided
was: whilst being carried from the customer's site to our service center,
a 'sloshing' noise was heard within the machine.

"Has anything been split on this computer?" I inquired, but no, nothing
of the sort had happened, protested the client vehemently. Taking this
with a grain of salt (no-one's going to admit doing something that totally
invalidates their warranty and effectively wrecks their computer) I went
about filling in the repair order.

Back on the bench, I started the PowerBook up. Sure enough, an address
error on startup, just after 'Welcome to Macintosh'. I lowered my ear to
the keyboard, at which point I heard a crackling noise (couldn't hear any
sloshing noise though) and became aware of a rather 'sharp' odor which
seemed to emanate from the inside of the machine.  Flicking the computer
off and unplugging the adapter, I removed the battery from it's
compartment, only to observe that the entire battery casing was soaked in
a fluid which appear to have a rainbow-like sheen (kind of like what a
puddle of soapy water would look like - oily and colorful).  I also
noticed that the same fluid was leaking out of the battery compartment
onto the static mat, but appeared clear rather than multi-colored.

My first thoughts were that the battery had somehow leaked acid out into
the guts of the PowerBook, which would account for the sharp smell (which
reminded me of ammonia), yet the battery terminals were about the one part
of the battery that was dry. No, upon closer examination, I ruled the acid
theory out. The battery was wet, but not leaking.

Tipping the machine on it's side, I watched more fluid run out and
coagulate on the bench in a puddle about the size of a compact disc. It
was definitely clear, and I observed that the 'rainbow' effect had been
caused by the reaction of the plastic battery casing to this 'mystery
liquid'. I then unscrewed the computer and separated the two parts of the

The smell suddenly became a LOT stronger. The hard disk looked like a
solid lump of rust, and the daughterboard appeared to have about three
barbecued chips. Although I was quickly forming my own opinions on what
had happened, I invited several of my workmates in to take a sniff and
offer an opinion. We were unanimous in our decision. I rang the customer,
who seemed surprised when I asked the question: "Do you have a cat?"

As it turned out, he didn't have a cat, but he *did* have a lovely fluffy
bunny rabbit who was seen in the vicinity of the PowerBook only the day
before. Yes, there was no doubt about it, little fluffy had hopped up onto
the keyboard and downloaded some incompatible data. I checked the warranty
form, but there was no provision for failure due to rabbit urine anywhere.
I advised the customer to get in touch with his insurance company.

In the end, the PowerBook was biffed and the customer upgraded to a 180c.
I cleaned up the static mat and sprayed the service department with a
healthy dosage of "Fresh Field of Flowers". I checked in with the customer
about a week later, asked how was he enjoying the 180c, asked if he'd
managed to restore his data, and, of course, asked how was his rabbit?

"Delicious." he said.

prev [=] prev © 1996 Peter Langston []