Monday, May 24, 2010

Put the Smack Down...

Snake was standing on the porch the other day with his MP3 player in hand. The player decided it wanted to be a bad, recalcitrant player and it froze up on him.

He tried pushing all of the buttons in sequence, then all at once. He tried yelling at his MP3 player (surprisingly to no avail). He did nearly everything short of holding the power button down for an extended period (which I know for a fact works on this particular player).

Then he smacked it.

It's human nature I guess, that when something does not work as desired, one should smack the living shit out of it until it either DOES work properly, or in the case of Snake's player, ceases to work at all.

We've all done it.

If the computer mouse freezes up, what do you do? You smack it on the mouse pad, right?

Car won't start? First response is usually to utter some soothing words to the effect of "Come on honey. Just start for me this once and I promise I'll get you a new battery." When that fails, you cuss at it while you hit the dash. (You're only laughing because you've done this too.)

Back in the days of analog televisions and rabbit ears (I'm dating myself, I know), what did grandpa do when the picture got fuzzy? He walked over and walloped the top of the television. I'm still not sure why, but this nearly ALWAYS worked for my grandpa.

In the modern age the sequence of events is not terribly different, only now we smack the remote instead of the television.

Any copper who carries a Streamlight or Mag-Lite flashlight is well versed in the art of whacking the thing on the palm of their hand or the sole of their shoe when the light fails to turn on with a simple press of the switch.

I suppose smacking the crap out of something to make it behave properly must be our instinctual reaction because it sometimes works.

Now, if only it worked on my kids...


Ann T. said...

Dear Officer Smith,
My grand-dad used to carry a retired wood golf club in his car to whack the engine of his very boring beige Buick.

Apparently there was a point of perfect impact that would re-start the darned thing.

He was an engineer. This was the only drama he ever enacted--but it did get stares.

Ann T.

Carteach0 said...

At school, we call it 'impact therapy'. Sadly, I have been ordered to limit it to machines, and not use it on students.

Although.... one student DOES owe his new inspection license to a very quiet, and very timely smack in the back of the head.

Sister Copinherhair said...

Ha ha! Good post. I smacked my old laptop and crashed. Yup, I killed the hard drive with the palm of my hand.

Tony said...

That's referred to as "Engineering 101".

I had a hard drive based MP3 player, from a company that no longer exists, with a known issue where the hard drive would not "park" itself properly when the device was turned off. The solution, provided by technical support in the knowledgebase, hold the device in one hand and firmly smack it against your other palm.

2 wheel terror said...

It doesn't work on criminals either.

Officer "Smith" said...


Dammit, I was afraid of that.

BehindTheDishes said...

Ah, the joys of percussive maintenance. Surprising how often it works.

I've also found that shouting at my equipment works surprisingly often.

W1KAS said...

In the computer industry we call it "percussive debugging." I've actually had it work... loose connections are a real pain to find!

As for the kids... should have named them Control, Alt, and Delete. Then you could just hit them all twice and the problem would go away.

JohnMXL said...

I call it 'percussive maintenance' or 'impact adjustment'.

In the case of Grampa's TV it was likely a vacuum tube loose in its socket (warm up / cool down cycles can cause socketed components to work themselves loose.)

When I first started baling hay with an Allis-Chalmers Roto-Baler my father told me to always carry a blacksmith's hammer in the tractor tool box. If I had trouble with the baler, rather than start tweaking the various control adjustments I should shut off the tractor, take the hammer and go pound on the steel frame rail of the baler for about 20 minutes.

The rationale was that it would let me let off steam, it wouldn't upset the Rube Goldberg-like arrangement of the linkages, AND IT WOULD LET THE DEW FINISH EVAPORATING OFF THE HAY.

Some times the proper application of impact works!

Moose said...

Old Skool computer professionals can tell you about how some of the 5" and smaller disk drives from the mid-to-late '80s used to get stuck [the arms controlling the heads would wedge]. The best way to fix one was to hold it about 6" from a hard, flat surface and let it drop. BLAM! Drive unstuck.

Recently a friend's iPod got stuck. The iShrine said it needed a new disk drive. On a whim she tried the 6" drop. BLAM! Fixed iPod. Surprised the crap outta the iGeeks.

And, many many years ago, I had a friend with a late '60s Chevy LandYacht with a sticky starter motor. Before starting you had to smack it a good half-dozen times with a hammer. It was the "fix" for a good 2-3 years.

Dispatcher Sassy Pants said...

I smack my radio console more than I care to admit. Mostly because I can't reach through the radio and smack the cops!

Loren Pechtel said...

As some others have said, there's sometimes a reason behind it. My favorite percussive repair:

This was long ago when PCs had only a single cooling fan. The machine in question was also booted from the network, there was no hard drive in it.

The guy at the desk told me it was making a racket--something I had already noted. I pretended to not hear the guy and walk on past towards another desk. I happened to have a paperback book in my hand at the time. As I walked past the guy's desk I gave his machine a whap with the book--and it promptly shut up.

After everyone's jaws were scooped off the floor (hitting the machine was very uncharacteristic behavior for me) I explained what was going on so they wouldn't try it in the wrong situation.

I knew the machine had no hard drive, thus I couldn't crash a head with the shock. The most likely cause of the noise was gunk built up on the fan blades causing it to be out of balance. I hit the machine squarely on the cage protecting the fan, the shock of the impact knocked the dust off the blades, putting it back in balance and making it quiet again.

(While the problem remains today I wouldn't recommend the fix I applied. For most fans, fold up a piece of paper towel and poke at the spinning fan with it, you can knock most of the dust off without having to take the machine apart.)