I’ve been working in electronics for a long long time. In that time, I’ve seen some funny things and heard some great stories.
Way back when the Tandy (maybe Realistic for Americans) TRS-80 model 1 was really something ( it was a computer), I used to work at the Sydney repair center. At that time there were 3 computer tech’s, including myself. We each had a cubicle where we toiled. One particular day I was working in a different area and was facing the low dividing panel behind which colleague was working… let’s call him Manuel. Manuel was working on an electronic project for home, in his own time of course. I heard a pop, bang, and a sizzling sound. Looking up I saw a cloud of white and grey smoke rising from Manuels area. Slowly, as he stood up, his bald head rose through the smoke with the most quizzical look on his face. He’d done something that didn’t work out too well.
Years later I was working on a 300 watt open frame power supply. Lots of exposed electronic components with nasty high voltages just waiting to bite. I had found a simple fault, replaced a component but not tested much further than that. When I switched the power on, things got really ugly. A large 2 watt carbon resistor decided to turn into a roman candle. It didn’t just burn out and die quickly… it put on 2 minutes of fireworks spitting hot bits of itself left, right and center. The power switch was behind the power supply so I had to reach over it. That was easier said than done with Mount Vesuvius erupting in front of me. It was then that I heard my colleague John laughing his head off. He had seen the whole thing and what was even more embarrassing was that he had heard the stream of expletives I had blurted out. Looking back on it now I can see the amusement value, although I am still really skittish when it comes to working on power supplies or nasty voltages.
At another time I used to work with some Germans at the importer of a very expensive (German, not surprisingly) TV brand. I don’t know whether a tough breed or maybe some of them a little crazy, but one of them told me how back in the FatherLand they had an odd use for the workshop Variac. A Variac is a variable transformer. It is generally used to vary the AC mains voltage up and down to see if that can cause an intermittent electronic device to show its symptom. Apparently it can also be used to test your manhood by seeing how high you will let your mate wind it up. He told me another story concerning techs working on TV’s that had remote control problems. Their colleagues would walk up behind them with a remote control in their pocket and press buttons at random thus sending the ‘malfunctioning’ TV, and the tech working on it, crazy.
At another electronics company I was feeling a little kookie one day. I used to work with an Engineer who had the silly idea to leave his desk unattended while he went to lunch. I couldn’t help myself. I got to work with a roll of clean Sellotape (sticky tape as we call it). I taped his pen to his desk. That was obvious. I taped his drawer shut. That wasn’t. I taped his clear plastic ruler to his desk and that wasn’t so obvious either. But the coup de gras… ah, that was a masterpiece. On the way home, stuck in traffic he fancied a cigarette. You know I taped his cigarette packet up don’t you? The next day he gave me a bit of a serve, but we shared some laughs too.
And you thought computer techo’s were a serious lot.