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The other day my son announced that one of the controllers for his video game system was dead. I interpreted that to indicate that it was no longer functioning. I asked him what was wrong with it. He responded that what was wrong with it was that it was dead. With truculent teenagers it is often necessary to be very specific in your statements and questions or they tend to respond in the most wretchedly sarcastic way possible. With that in mind, I controlled my impulse to throw a cushion at him and asked him to explain in detail how he knew it was dead. He rolled his eyes, (another annoying teenage response), and told me that it would not turn on and was therefore, dead, kaput, no more. He then went on to declare that it would be necessary to buy another one. When I inquired as to the price of a new one, he quoted me a number that caused me to choke on my tea. It has come to my attention that his generation is extremely quick to decide that there is nothing to be done with anything that stops working except to throw it out and buy another one. They are, most definitely, the throw-away generation. They won't even entertain the notion that it might be possible to repair anything and they have no desire to explore the possibility by giving it a try. I, however, am made of more intrepid stuff and I told him that I was going to see if I could fix it. That made him snort rudely and shake his head.
The first thing I needed to do was go online and see if anyone had any experience with their controller dying and what they had to say about it. I found all sorts of people with all sorts of controller malfunctions with oodles of advice on what to do about it. One person directed me to a site where I could download a schematic for the controller, which I did, and another advised me to watch a video of someone taking apart the controller and cleaning it. I was armed and ready.
I studied the schematics, which seemed far more basic than I would have thought, and then put on the video, which promised to show me exactly how to take it apart, find the problem, and hopefully, fix it. I had all my tools for the job lined up neatly beside me; tiny screwdrivers, a dental pick, a small paintbrush, rubbing alcohol and Q-Tips for the cleaning, and my lighted, magnifying head visor, which I possess for reasons that I may explain in another column in the future. I started up the video and went to it. Taking it apart was easy enough; screws, after all and no matter how tiny, are just screws. I ran into a little hitch taking the plastic shell apart and had to pause the video while I went and found an exacto blade to slip between the seems. Once it was apart, the video went through a nice piece by piece location and explanation of all the various parts, including the two tiny boards, the battery, the shock pads and all the buttons, connections, and other excruciatingly tiny electronic parts. This would have been fine except I was trying to watch the video while simultaneously looking through the magnifier at the parts, which proved rather difficult since every time I looked up at the computer monitor it went completely out of focus. I couldn't move the visor fast enough and I found myself becoming rather nauseated. I stopped the video and went and got my magnifying lamp instead.
Then the video began the business of cleaning the parts and looking for problems. Whoever had filmed the thing kept getting their hands in the way of whatever it was I was supposed to be cleaning or checking, which made me so frustrated that I began to yell at the video.
“Move your hand, you idiot,” I screamed. “I can't see the stupid chip!” The guy in the video completely ignored me.
At one point the hands in the video removed a pad around some buttons and the disembodied voice started to explain the function of what was underneath while completely obscuring my view of it.
“What is wrong with you?” I yelled. “Didn't you bother to watch this video before you posted it?”
I could tell that my son was becoming somewhat alarmed. “Mom, you aren't going to have a stroke, are you?” He asked.
I told him that I was in no danger but the guy who made the video was because I was going to track him down and cram his camera up his left nostril. I finally stopped looking at the video and just listened to it while working on the controller, which seemed to work much better. I cleaned all the components, discovered that there was a loose connection from the battery to the power source, which I fixed, and had the whole thing nicely back together in an hour. Then I took the sharp end of the paintbrush, pushed the reset button as instructed on the back of the controller and handed it to my son. “It won't work,” he said, plugging it into the system. It worked.
I took the opportunity to deliver a short lecture on the 'can't do' attitude of his generation and their spoiled propensity to just throw things away without even attempting to fix them. I think I also mentioned something about laziness and a lack of any intrepid spirit. I was feeling rather proud of myself and felt perfectly justified in my smugness. My son, however, was not paying a lot of attention because he was already playing his game. He just smiled and told me that he always knew I could do it. Liar.
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