The Powerbook that Leaked


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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 its 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 its 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 PowerBook. 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.





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