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Friday, September 11, 2009

Ya wins some, Ya loses some

We've had a couple failures recently that one may not consider critical pieces of equipment, until they're gone.

First the tape player on the stereo gave out. Now this surely has got to be insignificant, right? You're probably wondering how we even noticed the tape player stopped working. I mean, who plays cassette tapes anymore? Well, we use the tape player as a method for hooking the iPod to the stereo. There's a special 'tape' that has a wire coming out of it that plugs into the iPod. The stereo thinks it's playing a tape but in reality the music is coming from the iPod. Now you may come to understand the seriousness of the situation. Without the iPod we're forced to listen to music from our CD collection. Not only that, our morning routine is not complete without listening to 'Fresh Air' and/or 'Talk of the Nation' via podcast.

The second failure was the saloon clock. One day it stopped, which usually means the battery needs to be changed in the cheap plastic movement (it actually says 'zero jewels' inside). But on applying a new AA battery the thing still refused to run. So I put a piece of tape over the face to remind us that it's not really 3:52 and tried to figure out how we were going to get a new clock.

After a while I figured I should give fixing these things a try. After all, I couldn't break the clock any more than it was already broken and as for the tape player I thought I could limit any new damage done to the non-functional tape player. So I got my tool box out (I have one especially for electrical work labeled 'Elect.' surprisingly enough) and set to work. It took a good hour to dismantle the tape player, where I found that the drive belt had jumped it's pulley because a rubber roller was jammed. I applied a little dry lubricant to the roller, re-routed the belt, and put everything back together. A quick test showed that it could actually work again so I re-installed it and sure enough we can once again hear Terry Gross in the AM. 'I'm the man'! I said to myself. Now time to work on time.

I took the cheap plastic movement out of the clock and dismantled it. This was a little harder. Inside is a small printed circuit (PC) board with a few components. Somewhere in there I figured there must be a bad connection. I probed and prodded, and found nothing. Finally decided I had to remove the PC board from the rest of the movement. Boing! out popped the board and Snap! went the two wires that drive the little motor that turns the clock. Having worked on things I don't totally understand for most of my life (I used to take all kinds of things apart when I was a kid just to put them back together; some of them even worked afterword) the 'boing-snap' is the most dreaded result of the disassembly process. 'OK, no problem,' I say to myself, 'I'm the man'. I'll just have to re-solder these two wires, don't worry that they're about the size and strength of a the hair from the head of a one week old infant, I am the man. As I prepared for the soldering process I noticed that the end of one of the wires was green, an indication of corrosion. This must have been the problem all along. Then, just as I'm set to apply the soldering iron, Boing-Snap, the PC board popped out again and this time the wires broke off at a point where they can never be re-soldered. So much for the clock, at least now it's 12:00 instead of 3:52.

I guess I should have said, 'I have been the man.'