My First Inside the Computer Experience

I already owned a computer, but the ones at work were better and more functional. I, essentially owned a toy. I worked with computers for several years before having a good one of my very own. My dream was to eventually own an “IBM Compatible Personal Computer” that I could use at home.  I once expressed that to one of the officers I worked for while in Korea.  He told me that there would never be a practical use for a computer at home.  Good thing I didn’t listen.

My first computer was a TRS 80.  That computer was okay to start with but if I could do it over again, it would not have been my first choice.  Who am I kidding?  That’s the only computer I could afford at the time!  Of course I would buy it again.  I remember paying $750.00 for the Radio Shack computer.  The one I really wanted was $2,500 – a lot of money for a private in the Army.

I finally bought a computer in 1992 for home use.  The price was down to around $1,200 and the post exchange, we call it a PX, had a deferred payment plan (a credit card). The computer was a Hewlett Packard that had 2MB RAM, a 28k modem, a huge 20 MB hard drive and a 386 processor, a color monitor, keyboard, and a mouse.  It had the new windows system, but I preferred using the DOS.  I still took advantage and learned more about the new operating system, but I liked creating batch files and menus and all kinds of interesting things in DOS.  I learned about more DOS versions of software and started using QuickBooks for the Upholstery business.  I used LOTUS 123 to do estimates.  I was really relying on this computer for work.

I had been using the computer only a couple of years, when the worse best thing happened.  One day, I turned it on and nothing. I checked everything I could and determined there was something wrong with the computer.  I usually try to fix things myself, but this is a $1,200 computer less than 3 years old.  The most complicated thing I ever fixed was a VCR.  I wasn’t ready to attempt fixing a computer.  However, I still need the computer for work, so I dropped it off at a local computer shop.  They called later that day and said the power supply was bad.  It was going to be $250 to fix.  Well, I didn’t have $250 and that sounded a little expensive anyway. I picked up the computer and took it home.  It sat for a few days. 

Then I was thinking.  Power Supply?  I should have known that. But how hard will replacing a power supply be?  This is a computer, a highly sophisticated piece of technology.

I decided to try my hand at fixing the computer.  I thought, if it was too complicated, I’ll stop and let the professionals handle it.  I wouldn’t go too far. I’ll be careful.  I didn’t know where the power supply would be in the computer, but I knew part of it will be where the power cord was connected. I decided to see if I could buy one first.  I’m hoping I can at least afford that.  If replacing the power supply was going to be $250, then the part had to be around $120 to $150. I tried Radio Shack first – no luck.  Then I tried an electronic repair shop.  They said no, but suggested a computer shop.  They gave me the number for the same shop I took the computer to.  I called and asked if I could get a power supply. The answer was yes.   They had one – for $22.00, I thought What? I went to buy it!  I was expecting a little box with a small part.  What I got was a big box with a large part.  I asked, Is this the power supply for the Hewlett Packard?  They said it could be used on several models including mine.  At first look, it seemed like a lot of wires, but a closer look reveals only five or six connectors.  Unbelievably, this would be hard to mess up. 

The bigger surprise came when I took the computer apart. The surprisingly small number of parts found inside the computer.  There was absolutely nothing to it.  It was all modular, so the Phillips screwdriver was the only tool I needed.  Although I didn’t need to take it completely apart, but I had to.  I mean, I just had to for my own curiosity. It only took about 10 minutes before I had every part laid out on the kitchen table.

Case, Power Supply, Case Fans, motherboard, RAM, Hard drive, Floppy drives, cables, and Expansion Cards –  I discovered, there is absolutely nothing to a computer!!!

Donna freaked [a little] when she saw all the parts on the table – just a little, she trusted me . . .

I put it back together with the new power supply, fired it up and it worked normally.  I was ecstatic.  I was hoping something else in the computer would break.  I started doing more research, but that was hard.  Not much information at the library, but I found some good literature at the bookstore!

Ever since then, I would never consider taking my computer to a repair shop.  I actually started repairing other folk’s computers, mostly for fun, not for profit. 

I tried doing it as a business, but I found the challenge of troubleshooting and repairing PCs too enjoyable and relaxing to charge for it.   A computer (in my opinion) is easier to work on than a VCR. 

I save thousands by building, maintaining, and repairing my own PC’s.


vcrVCRs, I'd rather throw away than fix. 



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