Friday, October 9, 2009

Strange Computer Stories

The following is a true story. My Commodore VIC-20 suddenly stopped working. Somehow I figured out that the power supply (one of those black bricks) was at fault. I told my boss Mr. Alessi about it. I needed to order a new one. He made an interesting proposal. He happened to be an electrical engineer specializing in power supplies. He had a novel idea. He would make me a new power supply for my computer himself at no charge, for fun.

Okay, I accepted. He explained that he wanted to build me a very special power supply. It would have a standard lightbulb socket on top, into which would be screwed a standard 60 watt bulb. The purpose of this strange addition? It would act as part of a surge protection mechanism. If there was a surge, the filament in the bulb would become hotter and its resistance would go up. A kind of thermistor (look that up). This was useful for regulating the voltage.

The end result was a very plain looking black project box with a two prong power cord going in on one side, and power cable going to the VIC-20 on the other end. On top, to one side was a dimly orange glowing Sylvania lightbulb. The brightness (dimness really) would remain fairly steady. Here and there it would suddenly glow a little brighter, or dimmer. No lie.

Did it work? Seemed to.

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