Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Panic Week! Day Three

Hoo boy! After the last two days of fun and games, today was actually pleasant.

One of yesterday's questions involved electro-static discharge. It's a serious problem in electronics because static electricity can degrade or destroy components. It's become more serious as devices become smaller. Those memory chips in your cellular phone have more capacity than most early desktop computers, for instance, and a static discharge into one leaves a microscopic crater behind. When the active components are only a few molecules thick, this can kill the device.

So repair areas are designed to minimize any static electricity and allow it to dissipate. Surfaces are mildly conductive to let any charge bleed off.

One problem revolves around having electronic devices like cellular phones, radios, or laptops on the bench. Their plastic cases can produce ESD. I use a netbook to track information on the units I work. I won't mention the name, but they used to have a tagline in their ads, "Dude! You're going to Hell!" Or something like that.

Now, if I were the engineer designing a laptop, I'd see that the case was slightly conductive so that any static charge could go through it to ground rather than through the internal circuitry.

I went to the manufacturer's website to see if any technical information was available. No dice. I tried tech support via an on-line chat with 'Peggy.' It wasn't very helpful. Then I tried calling tech support from the telephone in the shop. Not surprisingly, 'Peggy' answered. I described the problem and the information I needed, and Peggy said he'd get back to me.

That was 12 hours ago. I'm patient, but I'm beginning to suspect that Peggy lied. Hell, indeed.


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