First-Hand:How to Fix a Broken Computer

Submitted by Sam Gibbs

A Hewlett-Packard employee told us that Nabla Corporation was the first to haul a mini-computer in a truck to perform on-site computations. At the time, their computers had been placed in planes, but never ground vehicles. We did not know that we were pioneers when we committed to installing a computer in a truck to haul it to the oil field over bouncy roads.

We were apprehensive at first, not knowing how durable the computer would be. As it turned out, the computer was the toughest item in the system. We had our share of flat tires, worn-out engines, and other vehicular breakdowns, but the computer performed in fine fashion over long periods of time.

On the rare occasion when it broke down, we would haul it to the nearest HP repair point, which was about 350 miles from our office. After a couple of breakdown trips, an HP technician asked, ‘Do you boys want to know how to fix this computer?’ We eagerly accepted his offer to help. He told us to take the lid off and remove all of the plug-in components. Then he told us to turn the enclosure upside down and to pour the sand out of it. When we reassembled the components, he promised that the machine would work.

It did. The ubiquitous West Texas sand caused the internal circuits to mal-perform until the sand was removed using the procedure described. We performed this repair technique several times in the future and the method worked as our technician friend promised. One of our computers was hauled over 300,000 miles in a truck before it was scrapped because of obsolescence.