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 modified in such a way to pack over a pound of explosives in and still pass the power-on test. As it was, without modification, the machine could have packed many times the amount of explosive as took down the Pan-Am flight over Scotland.

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

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! 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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