Airport Security

Back during the Gulf War, in the name of Security, in an attempt to prevent another Pan-Am style bombing, airport security was having people turn on their laptops and demonstrate that it was a fully functional machine, not a hollowed out bomb. We won't spend much time talking about this being the days of HUGE laptops, the machine in question here could have been packed with several times the amount of explosive as took down the Pan-Am flight over Scotland.

One day, I got a panic call from a customer:

"I'm here trying to get through airport security, they need me to turn on my laptop"
"And it won't boot up, right?", I said.
"Yes, how did you know?"
Well, it turned out this particular machine was prone to a problem that would start happing shortly after warranty -- the ROMs in the machine were in sockets which would work loose with time. The design was the type of parts that the textbooks said you should use in that application, but the provider shipped bad parts. The sockets would get so loose with age you could extract the ROMs with fingers only -- that is very bad, esp. for a laptop!
"They won't let me on the plane with my laptop like this, and I need to get on the plane, and I need the data that is on my computer!"
"I can get you on the plane, but you need to follow what I say carefully."
"Ok, what do I do?"
"Do you have a table in front of you?"
"Yes", he responded
"Turn your computer off, pick it up, and hold it about two inches above the table"
"Now, drop it on the table"
"do it"
"Turn it on" I said.
"Bring it in when you get back in town, we'll get you fixed up properly"
Picking up and dropping the laptop would reseat the ROMs well enough to get the machine booted. The machine was at no risk, I often demonstrated the durability of our computers by dropping them, and it was my OWN laptop I used for these demos, not a store machine. Zenith fiddled with a bunch of official fixes, but the best was probably just adding a dab of solder to each pin and soldering them in place. Yes, upgrading the ROMs would be pretty difficult, but that wasn't a common issue anyway.

Copyright 2002, Nick Holland
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