Bad eggs in the Apple barrel
Small beads of perspiration began to appear on my forehead. Beads gathered to form droplets, droplets flowed into streams, which fell from my brow on to the lenses of my glasses.
It was hot and humid and the climb up the mountain had been hard. My legs were burning and my parched lips tasted of salt. As I reached the peak, the grade slackened. Through the thick green leaves of banana trees a small house appeared.
One final push as I trudged up the stairs and there it was, sitting silently in the corner of a large living room, looking worn, filthy and neglected. Two of its keys lay limply, crookedly, on the extended keyboard, having long since been broken loose by the fingers of some heavy-handed typist.
My girlfriend's computer has been lying in this forlorn state of disuse for several months. She bought the machine from a friend, who bought it from a friend.
Its history was questionable. Unable to get the machine to boot up, she was prepared to pitch it on the trash heap. 'No problem,' I said, as I flashed my best your-knight-in-shiny-techno-armour grin, 'I can fix it.' 'It' is a vintage Macintosh SE, circa 1989, which bears a small label on the back proudly declaring the machine's specifications: 800KB floppy drive, 20 megabyte hard disk and a whopping one megabyte of Ram.
My chest swelled to Schwarzenegger-esque proportions as I tucked the beast under my arm. I gave my girlfriend my final nod and a wave and headed back down the slopes of Pak She to catch the next ferry for Central.
That nod and wave wasn't just any nod and wave, mind you. That was an, 'I'm-yer-man' kind of wave and nod that was meant to reassure her that not only could I handle any basic carpentry, wiring or other household maintenance, open jars, sharpen knives and program VCRs, but as an educated man of the 1990s and fully qualified computer geek, I could keep her humming down the information superhighway.
As I sat on the ferry staring at this oversized pocket calculator, my chest shrivelled to its normal size.
I was thinking about how I was going to maintain my image of this redhead's little Swiss-Army-knife of love. I was faced with the rather daunting task of repairing a simple problem on a computer that had been out of production for years. I was trying to remember if I even had an 800KB floppy disk, let alone something that I could boot the computer with.
The problem was simple. The disk driver had been zapped. The driver is a little piece of software on the hard disk that lets the disk and the computer interact. If you know how to do it, it is a five-minute job to fix it.
Unfortunately for me, that's five minutes if you have a new computer. I won't bore you with the problems that I faced in getting the thing to run. Suffice to say that it is damned tough trying to fix a machine when it and everything in it has been out of production for about five years, aeons in computer years.
I eventually resolved to crack the computer open, take out the hard disk, attach it to my computer and use my machine to fix it. Not even that was easy. While modern Macs open with the push of a button or two, this machine was not meant to be user friendly when it came to repairs.
You need a special 12-inch number 10 Torex screwdriver to open it and in Hong Kong, you can only get those by ordering them directly from Apple.
After about two weeks of researching on the Net, making phone calls and trying every thing I could think of, I managed to borrow a 10-T screwdriver and crack the monster open. It was full of egg shells.
They were small and white. A hummingbird or maybe a gecko thought it would be a good place to make a home.
After all of my research, trying to figure out what version of the operating system the computer used, what version of the hard disk setup software I could use etc etc etc, the damned thing was full of egg shells. And it stank! As I removed the logic board to get at the disk, the acrid smell of ammonia assaulted my nostrils. The logic board wasn't too bad, only a couple of bird droppings, nothing major.
My girlfriend's Mac is up and humming again. It has had a bit of a polish and the hard disk has been cleaned.
After all of my high-brow speculations, it turned out that a combination of humidity and animal debris had corroded the contacts on the hard disk connections.
A quick cleaning and the little dinosaur jumped to life.
It's back on the mountain now, among the cats and the geckos and hummingbirds and all of the other beasts that frequent my girlfriend's home among the banana trees on Cheung Chau.