It dawned on me the other day that my house guest had the tools required for me to be able to dismantle my laptop. Yes, a torx T-8 is to Cassius what a towel was to Douglas Adams. It also occurred to me that since I could make the screen work when I stood on one foot and whistled “The Star-Spangled Banner” through a carrot that the problem might be something as mundane as a loose connector. (This realization was accelerated by Cassius pointing out the obvious.)
I opened up my old Road Warrior and tried not to think too much about the little pieces of plastic that fell out. I’m sure they were simply for cosmetic purposes. Right there at the corner of the case where I found I improve reliability by wedging a matchbox under the power plug (later I found that a stack of two beer coasters under that corner was similarly effective), there was the tiny little connector for the backlight power. Bingo! I thought.
With my computer running, up on its side with its insides right there for everyone to see, I fiddled and futzed with the connector for over an hour. Things got steadily worse. Then they got better. Then they got worse again. Finally I realized that in fact my futzing had become completely superstitious and the connector was not the problem.
One clue was the faint sizzling sound I could hear when the screen was flickering, rather than going out. With ear to electronics I moved to a different corner of the box and took up poking and prodding there. That’s when, back behind a little circuit board, I saw the sparks.
I expect that car mechanics and heart surgeons get used to removing parts labled “not user serviceable” and “warranty will be voided”, but I imagine it was with some trepidation that Joe Cardiologist, M.D. sliced open his first sternum. So it was with me. I liberated the piece in question so that I could play with it in isolation while the computer ran. (More like a neurosurgeon, then, who needs the patient conscious to ask “what did that feel like?” when he prods the brain in question with a pointy thing.)
The little circuit board was wrapped in a plastic film, presumably to prevent it from touching other parts, which could lead to sparks and other bad things. At the edge, where the plastic wrapped around, there was a enough to bulge outwards and press against neighboring components. After yet more gentle torture I found the exact direction of force on the plastic to cause instant screen death. (Luckily I had a second monitor so I could bring the screen back to life by switching screen modes.)
So there it was. And I fixed it using some ancient medical advice: “Doc, it hurts when I do this.” “Then don’t do that.” I pushed the plastic around so that the pressure would not exert the wrong way and I wedged the piece back in so the plastic could not shift back. Ultimately, that is a mechanical solution to an electrical problem (there’s still a potential short circuit on that board), but it’s good enough for me. Better, in fact, because it’s both cheaper than replacing the broken part and has that old-school getting-the-most-out-of-everything feel to it.
I’m back in business, reliably so, and itching to go mobile.