Laptops, Water and Me

Last week, as I was up on the podium having my talk at XIV CNEIS introduced to a packed room of something like 1,500 people, I opened a bottle of water and placed it on the the cloth-covered row of tables between my laptop and another workstation. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I had in fact placed the bottle precariously on the gap between two tables. Immediately, the water bottle tipped and began to slowly empty its contents into my laptop’s keyboard.

As quickly as possible, I picked the bottle up and tried to right it. It immediately fell the other direction to dump what water remained into the keyboard of the other computer.

I beckoned to someone for a cloth, ignored what was going on as best as I could, and began to speak. I explained that my laptop might catch fire, explode, or simply stop working during the talk. Many people thought I was joking. I wasn’t.

I guess the fact that they thought I was joking is a testament to my ability to act cool under pressure. My laptop — at least it’s keyboard — is not doing as cool.

I wish I could say that last week saw my worst laptop and water related incident. However, last week is in competition with several occasions when I justified the extra price paid for a Panasonic Toughbook CF-25.

On the second most spectacular occasion, I came home late and tip-toed into a room I shared with my girlfriend at the time who was already asleep, I plugged the laptop into its AC adapter and then I proceeded to drop the machine into a square laptop-shaped plastic bucket that I found lying conveniently next to the bed.

It was the bucket of my water my girlfriend had been soaking her feet in and I winced as I heard the splash of my laptop hitting the water and the thud of it hitting the bottom of the bucket.

Due to the toughbook’s water resistant design, last week’s relatively minor incident will almost certainly end up costing me more money to fix than the incident with the Toughbook. On the bright side, the workstation’s keyboard I also nailed last week seems to be fine.

5 Replies to “Laptops, Water and Me”

  1. I have related this story many times, as I find it highly amusing, but many people seem confused as to why you thought it was a good idea to put your laptop in a strange bucket on the floor in the first place.  I wouldn’t put my laptop in a strange bucket on the floor for exactly this reason.  Then again, I have always had your warning story to recall.

    This was the same laptop you dropped down a few flights of stairs, wasn’t it?

  2. The bucket was the perfect shape and size. I felt lucky to have found such an appropriate bucket on my floor in which to store my laptop! It just fit, so I put my laptop in it.

    And yes, this was the same laptop I dropped down a flight of stairs. I slipped on leaves and it was more like “threw” than dropped. It cleared most of the stairs.

    The was the first most spectacular way I justified the extra price for the laptop.

  3. Heh, thanks for the entertaining post.  A note about water on keyboards:

    Water on keyboards usually doesn’t have drastic results.  The thing is that pure water is actually a poor conductor of electricity – some expensive electronics are actually put in glorified dishwashers for a cleaning as part of their maintenance.  What makes water a good conductor is impurities in the water.  Adding salt to water causes it to conduct electricity much better.  If you really want to wreck a keyboard, pour coffee on it.  Especially coffee with cream and sugar in it.  That way, if it doesn’t get shorted out, the cream and sugar will make the keys stick, making it really annoying to use. :)

    I have spilled soft drinks on my keyboards before.  My procedure is to pull out the connector as soon as possible, then use a garden hose on the keyboard and leave it dry out for a week.  It has worked every time so far. :)

  4. Jerry,

    My major mistake was inaction. I was seconds away from starting a talk and I decided to just do it. I think that while I was talking, things were shorting out in nasty ways. :(

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