Exit Motherboard

exitmoboOne fine afternoon a fortnight ago my desktop Titan slipped into a deep sleep, ignoring all attempts to power it on. Having mulled over the lull, the wilting grey lump in my balding skull concluded a malfunction in the circuitry of the cabinet. It had to be that, what with the power button erring, fans whirring, LED’s shimmering and the optical drives flashing in and out like a reptile’s tongue, but the monitor failing to flicker and register even the initial post.

Since the suo motu keepers of all in-house gadgetry, except my personal laptop which I guard like a Horcrux, are my daughters who don’t give a rat’s tail to all impending acts of decay and devastation, I was unaware of the warning signs if there were any.  But, in pursuit of my ardent belief that retaining a faulty electrical system is the next worst thing to taking a leap of faith into the Niagara, I lost no time in getting a modular, slate black hunk of a chassis form Cooler Master, with a sophisticated system of air intake and exhaust. In a dark corner of my heart though, I was happy to see the old casing go, it had started chipping and emitting a faint whine from indeterminate points, at least to my mind.

I was dismayed however when having assembled the innards into the new ‘HAF 912 Combat Mid Tower Cabinet’, I found myself faced with an impassive box of metal that didn’t even wink. The computer that had earlier wagged its tale and twitched its limbs, now stood resolutely comatose, renouncing every link to the netherworld of humans.

Surely then, whispered the air between my ears, it was the pricey PSU (power supply unit) from ‘Antec’ I had bought the year before the last. Maybe it was still within that hoax called warranty but, as the wizards of the Internet warned, impossible to get serviced in these longitudes.  Trust me, there is no beauty in a PSU except the contentment of having sunk a fortune on a cold cuboid with wires and connectors dangling from its side like the limbs of an octopus. However, it could well have been the motherboard or the processor or the memory sticks or the graphic card, or all of them gone kaput at the same time. Being someone who is hopelessly sceptical of technical support on hire, I chose to grapple with the exigency with my own two hands, unit by unit, component by component.

So the GPU and memory modules were uprooted and replanted, their contact points wiped sparkling clean. No signs of life, Nada! Next came the paper clip test for the PSU where you touch the green wire of the ATX plug with its black sibling. Any hale unit worth its salt sets its fan spinning at the instant of contact, if it has any juice left in it.  How my heart danced as the PSU swirled to life –I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive! Don’t mistake me, more than the life of the PSU, I was thrilled by the possible end of the motherboard, and with luck the processor too, albeit the latter are the hardest to conk off!  The wheel of fortune had come to a halt.

For the next two days, a dewy-eyed man was seen loitering in the stores of Lamington Road, the hardware Mecca of Mumbai, enquiring about the latest and the best of Haswell motherboards. As he moved about, he summoned the Extreme and beckoned the Force. Booth after booth, he rubbed fingers with Maximus, Sabertooth, Killer and Sniper, more motherships than motherboards, armed to the teeth like nuclear warships, their decks stacked with rows after rows of weaponry. At times he snickered and at times he despaired, at times he threatened to purchase an entire frigate complete with a fourth generation i7 processor. Each night he returned to his bed perturbed, dreaming of Princes and Assassins rampaging in mip-mapped worlds a million frames per minute. Now I swear by the hallowed name of Charles Babbage I have no links with that dingbat, save the lone fact that my credit cards too have been similarly impounded, either by the issuers or the wary homemaker.

Thus, after a wordless week fraught with the risks of a holocaust, I announced I was a man of honour after all, whose humble wallet, famished though it was, could buy a motherboard or two and still hold its ground. By the turn of the week, I returned home one evening with a dull green mainboard and firmly addressed the casual vacancy. The desktop tweeted back to life to everyone’s joy and who was to tell what lay within the cabinet’s heart? A Maximus, a Sabertooth, a Sniper, a Hero or a minimus, gap-toothed, fangless scarecrow?


  1. Uma, you lost me in the first paragraph with your mention of LED’s and optical drives, since these terms do not register in my technologically-phobic brain. However, I continued reading until the end, since, as always, I enjoy your inimitable style and love taking the ride..

    1. I am sorry about the tech terms, Marty, but they were inevitable and I badly wanted to tell the story. I am happy you enjoyed it nevertheless.

  2. Alas US,
    There are many out here who do care a rat’s tale, & are relieved you are back online – haha, the fabric of your literary prose as alluring as ever!
    Cheers, ic

  3. Hahaha! Uma! When you set out to do it, you give a poor wannabe humorist like me a serious inferiority complex 🙂 And, by the way, my black box has now become a black hole too AND I treat it as one – not to be ventured near since what ventures too close shall be swallowed whole and spit out as gamma rays. Problem is that the guys who purport to do this for a living also seem to have acquired a similar phobia and do not venture near my house for that purpose 🙂 SO – I am stuck with using the laptop messy though it is to type on the keyboard and navigate the mouse with that ultra-sensitive touch-pad – and, even more ultra-sensitive wrist 🙂

  4. That was an amazing piece of humor. Real fun reading it. I am inclined to think best humor comes out of the most painful of experiences.

  5. I once burned my motherboard.. and I remember shouting to every other member in my house for buying a new one on the same day 😛
    poor souls.. I got the new by evening.

    Now I am a proud owner of a personal laptop.. ohh the joy of having one which I didn’t have to share with my brother 😀
    Could relate very well with what your girls went through..

    Awesome read.. you know how to make a literary gem out of ordinary situations.

    1. You are one lucky girl, Jyoti! And hey, there are no ordinary situations, only ordinary reactions. 😉 Many thanks for the precious compliment.

  6. You posts always inspires me with its high verbal fluency. A well told tale of motherboards and getting it repaired!

  7. ah woe betide! this marvelously captured hunt sends me thinking about my week with my newly bought PC and how it just won’t follow my instructions. Lovely post as always Uma!

    1. Amit, these things can knock the wind out of your belly. However, I did try to make the most of the incident by getting drunk on high-end technology. Thanks for enjoying!

  8. That was a delightful read, Mr.Pandey 😀 Only you can re-create such a stressful experience into a literary masterpiece. 🙂 I am also the owner of an 8-year-old Desktop, miraculously still functional but has had its share of problems, to put it mildly. So, I can totally empathize with your situation. Apologies for my long absence on your blog, I shall try to keep up in future. 🙂

      1. lol!

        Read1Q84 , the whole trilogy in one go, was as clueless what the story was about, at end as I was in the beginning, but just couldn’t put the book down.

        This post reminded me of that, I run far from anything technical, but absolutely loved your language

        1. Every time I rummage through my creaking bookcase, Wind-up Bird Chronicle beckons me. Maybe I’ll take a plunge in 1Q84 too someday and we’ll see where we stand then. 🙂 Thanks again!

  9. Err… I am supposed to know what you wrote about. But I was so lost in the music of your words that the technical jargon just got surpassed. I am glad you got your motherboard replaced. 🙂 I have given up on towers and PCs a long time ago! 🙂

    1. Jyothi, although I also while away my time mostly on a laptop, there is no replacing the modularity and joy of a desktop tower, especially if you are a gamer. Thanks for your kind words.

  10. Computer problems, oh I have had them! Sometimes it’s maddening trying to pinpoint the exact area where the problem is. Your line about the PSU “still within that hoax called warranty” gave me a good chuckle and hoax it surely is. Enjoyed the saga of how you realized it was the motherboard and the decision on which one to buy. Umashankar, I’m glad that problem motherboard is now replaced and you have a happy household again!

    1. Madilyn, I have seen people battling little problems and at times paying through the nose to the so-called company executives or engineers and still struggling with it. Yes, ‘warranty’ is a huge hoax. Fortunately, I can still figure out the quirks most of the times. I am happy you enjoyed my travails.

  11. Oh, Uma, I feel your pain. Hopefully, you had everything backed up in the Cloud or an external hard drive? My MacBook crashed about 3 years ago when my son was replacing the hard drive, presumably due to static discharge. Of course, it was just out of warranty. It is still resting in peace inside my closet. I suppose I could sell it back to Apple, but I just haven’t done it. The MacBook I got to replace it is already outdated, and I had to add RAM a few months back. Ain’t technology grand? Great post!

    1. No fear on that count, Kris -I keep multiple backups. Many years ago back in the late Nineties I had lost a load of precious data and that was lesson enough. I was only trying to stage an upgrade through the back door but I succeeded only partly.

  12. It appears, your motherboard is a feminist with a mind of her own, See how stubbornly it rejected all your tender loving and care and came to life only after you left her alone!

    1. Those are two things, Purba: one, my desktop is a feminist, two, feminists have a mind of their own. Now I have no problems with either of them as long as they don’t take me for granted just because I am a hobbit!

  13. Anything technical and you can catch me miles away! But your post had me grinning. I have always had a suspicion that gadgets have a mind of their own…

  14. This is the advantage that a Desktop has over a Laptop. The laptop’s with their integrated motherboards are difficult to upgrade and expensive to repair. Whereas desktops tend to be more tolerant creatures. But you are lucky, it could easily have been a ‘kambakth’ disk or a case of ‘RAM naam satya hai’….

    1. I know that, Subroto, having battled with an IBM and now an MSI (who refuse to take up paid service for their own products!) laptop. I pre-empt disk failures with multiple backups and am never afraid of RAM failures. However, motherboards and processors can get painful due to increasingly diminishing lives allotted to them by GOD, aka Intel.

  15. My sister who is a virus propagator has killed my desktop twice leaving my father in a state of permanent shock. Things stand at such a point that he believes that every day is his beloved desktop’s last day. He even bought her a notebook so that she leaves his beloved piece of machinery alone.
    Your post somehow reminded me of the cold war in my own home.

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