Blast from the Past 1 (Computer related injury)


Storage? I am Storage!
Jan 15, 2002
Huon Valley, Tasmania
Thanks to Sulo Kallas for sending me this little post from the old SR, which he saved before the MBF. The thread was on the topic "most unusual computer-related injury", or something similar. If you feel inspired, add your own tales below.


Quite a few years ago, when Red Hill was just a baby, I used to work from home. I sold a new system to a guy, top of the range thing, a 286-12 I think it was. All the goodies: 640 x 480 14 inch VGA screen, twin floppy drives, 40MB hard drive, 24-pin dot matrix printer, the works. He liked it, recommended that his brother in Canbera buy one too. (Canbera is maybe 400 miles from here.)

So his brother, on his next trip back to Victoria to visit his family, arranged to pop into my place on Sunday morning to pick up the new machine. I didn't usually work on Sundays but made an exception since the guy was travelling so far. Built the thing on Saturday afternoon, just had a couple of loose ends to tie up.

Got up early on Sunday, did this and that, was nearly ready to bolt the lid on and put it in the shipping carton. I used to work on the floor in those days, hated benches. (Still do, as a matter of fact, at least when I work at home. At the office I have become old and conventional.) Anyway, I brushed my bare foot just a little to close to the mini-tower case as I stepped past it, felt a slight contact, no pain at all. I don't think I even said a rude word, which seeing as I was alone in the room, should indicate the triviality of the contact.

So I glanced down, thought "Oh, I've cut my toe" and then "hello, what's this?" It was a flap of skin sitting on the carpet six inches or so from my foot. "Oh - it's a piece of my toe." The sharp case edge had done me in.

This, however, was only the start of my saga. Not wanting to stain the carpet, I looked around for a bandage. Couldn't find one. Looked everywhere. None to be found. Closest I could find was, of all things, a packet of my girlfriend's sanitary pads.

Oh well, I thought, that ought to do. Blood is blood after all. The napkin won't know it's on my toe instead of the other place it was designed for.
So, seeing as I was bleeding like a stuck pig, I fastened that around my toe with some sticky tape and then tied a clean tea-towel around the lot.
Dressed in that rather unusual style, I handed over the computer, then returned my attention to my injury.

The bit of left-over skin, I discovered, was rather larger than I would have expected, quite thick. I threw it away and examined my foot. The tea-towel was leaking. I was getting blood all over the floor. I unwrapped it and pondered. The sanitary napkin, I realised, was designed to absorb blood, not to staunch the flow of it, and it had absorbed so much that it was leaking through into the cloth.

Figuring that it would stop sooner or later, I replaced the napkin with a fresh one, bound it up as tight as I could, wrapped a fresh tea-towel around it, got on with my day.

Come about 5 or 6 o'clock that night, it was still bleeding. Damn it, I thought, I can't go to bed like this, guess I better do something about it.
So I hopped into the car and drove around to my girlfriend's place, having some difficulty operating the pedals with the wrong foot. (That was the only automatic I've ever owned - couldn't have done it in a manual.)

"Hi Louise, can you put a bandaid on this for me please?" I asked her.

She unwrapped it, giggling at my improvised bandage. Then: "No way! I'm not touching that. You go straight to hospital!"

"It's only a cut."

"It's a bloody big one! You need a doctor. Get into the car, I'm taking you
to casualty."

"But ... Oh ... OK then."

When I got to see the doctor, he straight away asked for the other half of
my toe.

"What for?"

"So I can graft it back on again."


I explained that I already threw it away about eight hours ago. No dice.

Once he cleaned it up and stopped the bleeding I could see that I had taken the entire top half of my little toe off, clean as a whistle, and right down to the bone.

I had to go back and have the dressing changed several times, and to my girlfriends great delight, the first time the nurse unwrapped it ready for the doctor to inspect and re-wrap, I looked down at it for a while, just curious really, and ....


Just like that. Only time in my life I have ever fainted. Don't know why. Just ... out. I was sitting in a chair looking at my toe and then ... first
thing I knew I was on top of a hospital bed with all these people looking at me. Very embarrassing.

Anyway, it healed up after a few weeks and now I have a funny flat spot on my right little toe: the other one is more or less conical, this one is sort
of semi-circular. And the really silly thing is that I never had one single moment of pain from it, not from the moment I did it until today, maybe 11 or 12 years later. Not even so much as a mosquito bite. But I'll never live down that moment when I fainted in the hospital.

Vlad The Impaler

Learning Storage Performance
Jan 27, 2002
Oh my god!!!

It makes dropping monitors on feet or being buried by a teetering mound of cardboard boxes look a bit sad really.

Has anyone else noticed that the cuts you get from the insides of any computer always get infected and leave scars?


Fatwah on Western Digital
Jan 17, 2002
I am omnipresent
When working on PCs that might be "sharp", I learned a long time ago to wear painter's gloves (used in auto plants by the people who handle newly-painted parts) and to keep neosporin nearby.

My worst injury: While modding a standard case with a powerdrill to accept a proprietary V-Tech (yes, the company that makes children's toys) motherboard, I sliced clear through the case and right into the top of my thigh. Very, very deep cut. Probably two inches or better.

The cut was so painless I didn't even realize I had done it at first - I distinctly recall finishing the work I had set out to do, but that was rapidly followed by a great deal of whining and cursing when I finally tried to stand up.

... not that any story of mine is going to compete with that one from Tannin.


Storage? I am Storage!
Jan 25, 2002
Flushing, New York
Nothing can probably compare to Tannin's story, but I have an interesting one of my own. It's not computer related, but it is electronics related.

First the prelude:

I used to work at a place mainly repairing taximeters for about two years. They closed the New York office and laid everyone off. One of the bosses bought the place and has been running it as his own business ever since. I've been repairing taximeters and doing electronic design work for him at home for the last ten years. I work in my basement in a small 7' x 11' utility room that I made into an electronics workshop.

When repairing the taximeters you eventually end up with alot of replaced parts that are useable for projects, such as relays, LED backlights, batteries, and old harness wires. I noticed that I had several dozen 1/2 AA Lithium cells that had been removed. As a matter of course, they are replaced when the voltage falls below 3.6V, even though they may have plenty of life left, because this is a fairly mission critical application. Even though the cells have "DO NOT RECHARGE" written on the side, I was able to bring some weak ones back up to 3.7 V by recharging them through a resistor to limit current to a few tens of mA. Some cells were completely dead and/or would refuse to recharge. Since I had experience with Nicad batteries I applied a simliar line of thought here. Sometimes Nicads develop internal whiskers which short the cell, and by pulsing the cell with high current intermittent discharges from a capacitor you can restore the cell to good health. I decided to try this with the dead lithium cells. It seemed to work in the beginning. The first few cells were able to get back to 3.7V after pulsing with the capacitor for a few minutes, and then recharging normally. I did not know until after the event that this was all pointless since the cells would not hold their charge for more than a few days.

The event:

I had pulsed several cells by holding them in my hand while touching them with the positive wire from a capacitor. By holding them, I was able to keep a close eye on their temperature, and would moderate the pulses if they appeared to be getting too warm. Everything appeared to be going normally with one cell when suddenly a red glow appeared at the space between the positive plate and the cylindrical cell casing. About two or three tenths of a second later the cell exploded, but I had enough time to turn my head away. My ears were ringing. The explosion was as loud as a large firecracker and filled the room with a white smoke. At first when I couldn't see anything I thought that I was blind. I got out of the room maybe 30 seconds later. I'm not religious, but the sight of the remainder of the basement was like the second coming to me. I was ecstatic that I could see, so I ran into the laundry room, washed my eyes, and then opened all the windows and doors in the basement to clear the smoke out. It didn't even occur to me to look at my hand since I had just confronted the possibility of being permanently blind. After I had cleaned up a bit, the thought finally did occur, and to be honest, I was hesitant. To my surprise, no missing fingers, no cuts, not even any burns.

The aftermath:

After a hour, the smoke had cleared enough to go into my workroom to assess the damage. I had expected to find splattered bits of the innards of the cell everywhere. It turned out that there were a few small black spots on the ceiling immediately above where I had been holding the cell, and nothing else, not even the cell casing. I was puzzled. How could the entire cell have disintegrated so completely without causing severe bodily harm to myself? A few days later, I found the remnants of the cell under some furniture while cleaning. The cylinder was completely intact! It turned out that the explosion pushing the positive plate out, and since I had somehow managed to get it pointed towards the ceiling before the explosion, the explosion went entirely up. The cylinder had protected my hand from the explosion entirely. Apparently, the cell failed exactly as it was designed to, but a bit of luck had prevented the explosion from going straight into my face. I had been very lucky, and decided I would never, ever do this again. I remembered that there had actually been incident while I was working at the meter shop where some idiot from the company's main plant had accidentally soldered a 12V trace to the battery terminal when repairing a meter. The battery later exploded after the meter was back in the customer's cab, took out the windshield, and pretty much destroyed the meter. Knowing this, I knew I had just gotten off really easy, and would never push my luck again. All the other dead cells went into the garbage from that point onwards. Unless it was designed to be rechargeable, I wouldn't bother recharging it.

Other interesting anecdotes:

In the course of repairing, designing, and troubleshooting electronics for the last fifteen years there has been the usual burns from soldering irons, hands cut on sharp edges, and so forth, but nothing as eventful as that incident. Of course, playing with thermoelectric modules, and actually building a chamber to test electronics that can go under -55° F has resulted in a few other interesting things. I have had a few floods in the room when the water hoses cooling the modules slipped off(I now use hose clamps), and I got frostbite once while touching an aluminum plate at around -85° F. In case anyone doesn't know already, -55° F is brutally cold as I discovered when placing objects into the chamber.

Strangely enough, the battery incident didn't really shake me up that much. I've been confronted with similar close calls on a fairly regular basis in the last 20 years and 53,000 miles of bicycling in New York. I even tried bike messengering in Manhattan for a few days while in college, but the pay was lousy. The worst incident I had in my 20 or so years of cycling was hitting a pothole at night while doing 37 mph. I slid about 100 feet on the pavement, and wiped something wet off my forehead. I had expected it to be blood but it had just turned out to be sweat. I escaped with a few cuts and bruises, and a totaled rear wheel. Lucky for me there were no cars behind me, and no glass on the street. It was one of those sneaky potholes that looks small until you're too close to do anything about it. From that point onwards, I don't do high speeds on roads that I haven't been on for a few weeks since potholes have a nasty habit of appearing fairly quicky, especially in the winter months. If anyone is curious, I've broken 60 mph a few times on long downhills, so the 37 mph that I was doing wasn't excessively fast for me. On a bike 25 mph feels like 80 mph in a car. You do the math. :)