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July 26, 2010

My Computer Asploded!

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

A long time ago, way back when I built my first PC, I experienced something that I have since wrote about will never happen. My computer blew up. Literally.

It was 1986. I had purchased an old IBM PC, the original model 5150, from my employer.

The PC was barebones. It had a floppy drive, but no hard drive. I also had a cassette tape port, because that was the PC’s original storage device. In fact, I tested that computer using it’s cassette tape interface.

The computer was sold with 64K of RAM, which wasn’t the bare minimum; you could buy a PC with only 16K of RAM installed.

My first task with the new computer was to upgrade it.

I bought a 384K memory expansion card, which included a clock battery, printer and serial ports, plus whatever else I forget.

I also bought a whopping 20MB hard drive.

For a monitor, I purchased a very nice Amdek Amber 13″ monitor. I was a thing of beauty. And I bought a Hercules Graphics card to do monochrome graphics.

I was set.

The one thing I didn’t upgrade was the PC’s power supply.

The PC originally shipped with a puny 63W power supply. That was enough for the single floppy drive, the 64K of RAM, and perhaps a peripheral card or two. It was not enough for all the power I packed into my PC.

Well, yeah: “power.” But back in the day, that was a pretty nice system.

One night I was playing around and I heard a pop. It was loud, like a firecracker.

Then I saw a puff of smoke rise up from behind the PC. I was blue, I swear! Blue smoke curling up behind the computer.

I laughed.

Instantly, I knew that I had blown the power supply. I phoned up a PC-savvy friend and described to him my PC’s hardware stats. Then I asked, “Can a 63W power supply handle all that?”

He laughed. “Blue smoke?” he asked. I laughed and told him, Yes, I’d seen the blue smoke.

My friend gave me the name of an outfit that sold PC power supplies. I drove by and picked up a 250W job the next day. Installed it. And my PC ran normally every since then.

Eventually I added a second hard drive and a CGA graphics adapter so that I could play Load Runner in beautiful four-bit color. The power supply never blew up again.


  1. Haha, this reminds me of the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I was probably 8 – 10 years old. (I can barely remember). And I had completely ripped apart an old Windows 95 computer, until nothing was intact except for the power supply. Then my friend and I (he was a year younger than me) ripped all of the colored wires out of the 4 pin connectors. (the ones that are supposed to plug in to the HD or the CD-drive and what not.) Then (in a stroke of genius) plugged it in and turned the switch on. Nothing happened for a good 30 second, then when one of us went to turn it off: A GIGANTIC spark flew up into the air. I guess you could almost call it a fireball because it was too big. It was about the size of a basketball and it almost hit the ceiling before it disappeared. We were terrified and unplugged it immediately. So anyways, that’s my story of my genius idea.

    Comment by gamerguy473 — July 26, 2010 @ 8:40 am

  2. Cool creation. I would have tried to do it again.

    I’ve not seen a ball that big, but at the theater once I held a ball of electricity in my hand that was about the size of a softball. It hurt, too. Turned out that whoever built the instrument before wired it backwards.

    Comment by admin — July 26, 2010 @ 9:46 am

  3. By the way, those old motherboards had two power connectors, both pretty much looking the same. It was easy to plug the MB in backwards and fry everything. Eventually they came up with “idiot proof” connectors, but it took them a while.

    Comment by admin — July 26, 2010 @ 9:47 am

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