HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
June 25, 2007, Herald Journal

Vintage Bits and Bytes

By MARK OLLIG

I was recently e-mailed by a reader who inquired about one of the first columns I wrote for the Herald-Journal.

This latest “adventure-in-computing” column was the day someone (me) spilled cappuccino all over my (then brand new) HP OmniBook laptop.

The column was published on December 15, 1997 and was entitled “A Personal Experience.”

I found the column in the online archives at the Herald-Journal.

Here is that column (which I needed to edit for correct word count).

My first thought was “I can’t believe I did this!”

I am referring to about a week ago when I was doing some work with my laptop computer and sipping cappuccino.

I usually set the cup on the table away from the computer.

This time I didn’t. I set it next to my computer.

Getting back to the cappuccino. Yes, it was sitting there on the desk next to my computer, and over the course of an hour I had expertly handled it with great care making sure I didn’t commit the cardinal sin of all computer users: Spilling something on the computer.

Reaching for the cup again, I did it.

“I don’t believe I actually did this,” I said out loud, with no one but the cat looking at me.

The first thing I did was to shut down the computer and get it off the desk.

But it was too late.

Hazel Nut cappuccino had done its deed all over my Hewlett Packard OmniBook.

I did the normal, rational thing. I turned off the computer and went crazy getting a towel. . . and trying to wipe off the desk and computer.

Oh, yes, the cat was still in the room, no doubt laughing its little feline head off at me.

After I calmed down, I assessed the situation.

I opened up the laptop and pressed the power button.

Nothing happened.

You know that sinking feeling you get in your stomach when you realize that something terrible has occurred?

“It is still under warranty!” I exclaimed. I can just drop it off where I bought it and have them open it up and take a look.

As I walked in the show room, the salesman smiled and asked if I needed anything.

Yes, I know why he was smiling.

“Well, I had an accident and spilled cappuccino on this,” I said to him. “But it still should be under warranty.”

He went over to his computer (by the way, I noticed he had no cups near his computer) and looked up my computer and warranty information.

“The good news is that the computer is still under warranty.” He said. “The bad news is that the warranty doesn’t cover spills.”

Well, I was there so I let them look at it anyway.

“They seem to put the screws on these computers in the hardest to find places,” the technician said nervously.

I started thinking that maybe I should leave.

“Well, I know how it feels to have someone staring over your shoulder while you’re trying to work on something, so I have a few things I can do and I will stop by in a half hour and see how you’re coming along.”

“Thanks,” the technician said with some relief.

While I was in my car driving, I thought, I should have taken the laptop battery out and then see if it would turn on with only the AC running it. Maybe the battery is shorting out.”

Thinking I had found the answer and could save time, I called the technician on my car phone and asked him to try that and see if it would power up.

Nope.

“Nice idea though,” the technician told me.

After awhile, I went back to the store and asked how it was going.

“It is working now!” the salesman beamed.

They had opened up the computer and used compressed air to dry it out.

“Shouldn’t be long now; there is just one thing that we are checking,” the salesman said.

Twenty minutes went by and I was wondering what was taking so long.

“We can’t seem to get the mouse to work,” he told me.

“What mouse? I didn’t bring it in with my mouse,” I said.

They had connected one of their mice to my computer to check it out and their mouse wasn’t working on it so they thought there was another problem.

“You have to use the HP mouse that uses the HP mouse driver,” I said.

Silence.

I got home and turned on the computer, plugged in the HP mouse (which worked) and made sure the ol’ OmniBook computer was OK.

The experience made me realize an important object lesson for all of us.

Keep the beverages away from the computer.