Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Low Tech Solution for High Tech Problem

Before I had a blog, I had a column.  Actually, I had friends who humored me and said that I should partake of this new fad called "web logging".  Blogging was still too unchartered waters and I didn't think it would take off the way it has.  Missed that boat more than the passengers of the Speedwell missed America.  I did get a chance to write during the SINS Project put together by Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune.  SIN stood for "someday is now" and the concept was simple - all those things you were going to do "someday" (run a marathon, write a book) you should do now.  This is something I put together in 2002 for that endeavor:

For the last four months, the sound on my TV hasn’t worked.  It mysteriously stopped working one evening while I was playing back an important episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  It was the episode where Buffy saves the world by kicking demon butt while cracking witty retorts.  One minute I had sound, the next minute I did not.  Because I really, really needed to watch the end of Buffy, I needed a work around.  I discovered I could get sound if I watched TV through my VCR with my stereo receiver also in the mix.  This was such a good work around that I’ve managed to avoid the problem for the better half of 2002.

Not my TV but I had to snap a photo of what
 happens now that HDTVs are taking over the world
Alas there are drawbacks to this workaround.  I have to have the VCR on and thus cannot record other stations (rumor has it, the original purpose of a VCR), I decided to address my silent TV on Saturday.  I really had set out to merely dust the entertainment center.  Of course once I started removing items from it, the next natural step was to try and fix the problem (rather than actually dust the center and put everything back together). 

I freed the TV from its entangled web of cables, wires and assorted power cords and was going to take it to a nearby TV repair shop.  But being a guy, it is genetically impossible for me to do that without first at least attempting to fix the TV myself.  Never mind that I have relatively little electrical appliance training whatsoever.  I have the essentials no guy should be without:  free time and power tools.

My attempt at fixing the problem amounted to me removing the plastic paneling on the back of the TV and checking to make sure that there were wires connected to the speakers and checking their connections.  I also removed some of the dusk that had accumulated within.  After that, I really didn’t know what else to do so I put the TV back together and walked over to a nearby TV repair shop to inquire how much it would cost to have them “look at my TV” in order to be able to tell me how much it will cost to actually fix my TV.

The nice Polish lady who appeared to run the shop told me it would be $30 to take a look at it and that would be applied toward any work done on the TV.  This sounded very fair so I naturally assumed I had misunderstood her.  She repeated the deal and I figured I should get my TV over here as fast as possible before she comes to her senses.  However, as we were talking about my silent TV problem, she pointed out that if the TV, not connected to any receiver, didn’t have sound, it was probably something to do with the speakers. 

When I got home, for grins and giggles, I decided to plug in my TV, which was no longer connected to its VCR lover or stereo receiver best friend.  Lo and behold, the television emitted an annoying static sound.  It emitted said sound because once you disconnect a modern day TV from its power source, it loses all it’s programmed information such as where the television channels are so I had to add them back.  But the point is, it had sound.

I would love to believe that the resolution was my opening the TV up and eyeballing the wiring even though I barely touched let alone shifted any wires.  Or even wiping off a layer of dust somehow allowed the electrons responsible for sound to somehow find their way to the lost speaker.  Alas, it was neither of these “advanced trouble-shooting techniques.”  It was the nice Polish lady at the TV shop unintended suggestion.

Her simple idea of setting up the TV in stand-alone mode demonstrated that the problem wasn’t with the television, but as it turned out, a cable that connected it to my VCR.  The irony is I employ this idea – isolating the problem – almost every day in my employment as a tech support engineer for  the No-Name Software Company.  I’m tempted to suggest we hire this Polish lady to come work for us.  But then I might be replaced and have to look for a new job.  Then when would I have time to watch Buffy!

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