Master of the Mechanical Things

Chaos in Print

I’ve always had a fascination with all things technological. Give me a screwdriver, and I’ll have a fun afternoon tearing stuff apart. At my old job at Extra Foods, one of the turntables on one of the tills would always let out a dreadful squeak. While all the other cashiers would complain to the store manager to get it fixed, I took a screwdriver in hand with the idea that I could fix it myself. A few removed panels and half-a-can of WD-40 later, I stopped the squeak. With such a mentality, I’m sure you would understand that it spreads to computers. Long have I desired to just buy the raw parts and build my own Teletran-1. Darmok, my go-to guy for computers, has continuously offered to walk me through the process. So, when my parents bought a new computer, my eyes lit up. I might finally get my chance.

With every purchase of a new computer, there is always a transference. You sit down at your old computer with a few dozen blank floppy discs (or blank CD’s, if your old computer has a burner) and you copy all of your vital files onto these discs. Then, you set up the new computer, and spend the rest of the afternoon loading the old files onto your new computer. It’s the computer world’s answer to reincarnation. When my parents bought their new computer, I knew that such an afternoon would be on the horizon. In the grand tradition of many technological advances, I thought to myself, “There has to be an easier way.” As I began coming up with ideas involving my brother coming up for the weekend and wiring a network into my house, a much simpler solution soon presented itself. Why don’t I just remove the old hard drive from the old computer and install it in the new one? Then, the transference from the old hard drive to the new hard drive would be a matter of points and clicks. Hell, I wouldn’t even have to do that. All of the old files would be there, at the click of a mouse.

I had convinced my parents to buy their new computer from Darmok, who now runs a computer store in Camrose. When I was picking up the new machine, I ran my plan by Darmok, to know if such a thing were feasible. Darmok said that such a procedure is becoming routine, but that there is one tricky part. In computers, you have your “master” hard drive, which is the main one, and your “slave” hard drives, which just sit there and store stuff. If I were to do this, I would have to switch the old hard drive (which we’ll call “Jadzia”) over to slave, so the new hard drive (which we’ll call “Ezri”) would be the master. Darmok said that it’s just a little switch on the back of the drive itself, and all I’d have to do is flip it. He even opened up my parents new machine and showed me where I’d plug in Jadzia. I was ready to try this, and I drove home with my parents new computer, knowing that there were only three things stopping me from trying this: Mom, Dad, and my own self-doubts.

A couple of days later, when Ezri was up and running and my parents were pleased with their purchase, I knew it was time to remove my first two obstacles. If it were me who had just shelled out $1600 for a new computer, I’d have no problem trying this, as it would be me mucking around inside of my machine and it would be me who would be out the $1600. But this was Mom and Dad’s machine. I ran my proposal by them, making them fully aware of the risks. Worst case scenario: I screw up monumentally and kill both Jadzia and Ezri. Most likely scenario: I just kill Jadzia. Best case scenario: I actually pull this off. My parents felt that the best case scenario would win out. But, just in case, I fired up Jadzia one last time and backed-up my parents’s vital files. It has become my nature to be cautiously pessimistic. With my parents’s blessing, I shut down Jadzia’s final session as a free hard drive.

I took my screwdriver in hand and began to open up the old computer. Somewhere in that tin box sat Jadzia. I had removed all the screws, but the casing just wouldn’t budge. How did IBM slap this on the first place? I lifted. I pushed. I tugged. That’s what did it. With a stronger tug, the whole casing slid off of the front, and I was looking at the inside of the old computer. I coughed slightly, as it was incredibly dusty inside. I began looking around for something that resembled a hard drive. It wasn’t long before I found Jadzia, lying naked and exposed on top of the assembly. With the hands of surgeon, I removed her lifelines to the old computer. I took Jadzia in my hands, and gently pulled. She wasn’t coming. A quick examination showed me that she was screwed in place. I took my screwdriver and removed two of the screws with ease, but the other two weren’t budging. It would take the strongest man in the world to remove those screws, and like most little boys, I am convinced that the strongest man in the world is my Dad.

I summoned Dad back to the office, which had become my surgical bay for the day. I showed him the screws, explained my dilemma, and gave him the screwdriver with one simple request: “Give it a shot.” Dad put the screwdriver in place, and with a few groans of effort, he got them to budge. I sat there watching him as he removed those screws. This is how I learned most of my mechanical skills. When the screws were removed, Dad gave them to me with the screwdriver and left. The student was once again the master.

I plucked Jadzia from the tin box that had been her home for the past five years. I took a close look at this small grey box. Most of the information of the world is stored on little gray boxes like this. I turned to the Jadzia’s back, and that’s where I saw the switch. I was hoping that it would be a simple switch, saying “master” and “slave,” but that was not the case. I was presented with six little pins, and a small white plastic cap covering two of them. Surely, flipping the switch meant covering two different pins with the plastic cap. But which two pins? Time to go to my go-to guy. I picked up the phone and called Darmok. I explained my situation and asked which two pins I had to cover. “Don’t you remember what I told you?” said Darmok. “It should be printed right there on top of [Jadzia].”

I took a look at Jadzia’s topside. “It doesn’t say anything.”

“What?” Darmok blurted in disbelief.

I took an even closer look. “Oh, wait,” I said. “Here it is.” Right on top of Jadzia was a rather large diagram showing me which two pins I had to cover. What do you know, I thought to myself. It is a simple switch saying “master” and “slave.” Darmok wished me well, and I was once again on my own.

I carefully clutched the plastic cap with my fingernails and began pulling. The cap moved slowly, slowly, then got a quick burst of speed. My heart skipped a beat as the cap gave way, slipped from my fingernails and flew through the air. My heart sank as the white plastic cap landed with a “click” on the white linoleum. I got down on my hands and knees and began groping for the plastic cap. Believe it or not, the 20 minutes I spent on the floor was the most labour-intensive part of this whole ordeal. As I began thinking as to what I could use to make a new cap, my hand came down on something on the floor. I had found it. I breathed a sigh of relief and kicked myself for not using tweezers to remove it in the first place. I took the cap in hand, and once again consulted the diagram. With the simple insertion of a plastic cap, I sold Jadzia into slavery.

Now, from what Darmok had shown me a few days earlier, this was to be the easy part. The new computer was designed to be personally customized, so the casing opened up with the removal of one screw. I looked through the insides to find Ezri, so new, snug in a nest of wires and steel. Luckily, there was room in this nest for two, and I slid Jadzia in right above Ezri. Screwdriver in hand, I secured Jadzia in place. I did some rearranging of wires, and soon Jadzia was chained to her new master. I put the covers back in place, and hooked the new computer back up. I held my breath as I turned it back on.

I started breathing again when the computer started showing Ezri’s Windows 98, and not Jadzia’s Windows 95. Ezri was the master. But, I was concerned. Darmok had told me that, as soon as I started up the computer, Ezri’s Windows 98 should detect Jadzia, and the “plug and play has detected new hardware” window should pop right up. No such window popped up. When Ezri had finished loading Windows 98, I went to the “My Computer” window. Only one hard drive was listed: Ezri. I felt a brief flash of worry as, for a moment, I felt as though I had killed Jadzia. I quickly regained hope, though. Maybe I just connected Jadzia incorrectly! One person would know for sure. It was time to go to my go-to guy again.

Darmok answered his phone and I explained the situation. Darmok was also puzzled. It should have just popped up, he explained. He suggested we go into the computer’s BIOS and see if the computer itself knew about Jadzia. I restarted the computer and hit the key to get into the BIOS. I went to the screens that Darmok told me to go to and read the numbers that Darmok wanted to hear. Darmok was even more puzzled when he told me what the numbers meant: the computer knew that Jadzia was there, but Windows 98 didn’t. We continued with booting up the computer, and when Windows 98 was online, Darmok had me check out hardware configuration. I told him what I saw in the window, and again he was perplexed. It was saying that Jadzia was there. Finally, out of curiosity, Darmok said, “Go to ‘My Computer.'” I opened up the window, and my jaw dropped. There was Ezri and Jadzia, side by side, as they were supposed to be. I asked Darmok what went wrong the first time, and Darmok could only suggest that maybe it didn’t boot up properly. I thanked Darmok for his help, and he simply said, “I did nothing, Scarecrow. It was all you.” He was right. I did it. I was elated as I began going through Jadzia to make sure she was still whole.

My parents have decided to keep Jadzia in our new computer. With all the vital files still accessible, I have begun mass deletions of programs I’ve installed on Ezri. Within another few days, Jadzia will be stripped down to her bare essentials; a veritable blank slate. And you know what? It wasn’t that much harder than greasing a squeaky turntable. I’m fairly certain now that, with a screwdriver in hand, I can do anything. While Teletran-1 might still be a ways off, I am just that much closer. And it all begins with the fascination.

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