Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Nobody warned me about this

I wish I'd taken pictures throughout the day of the electronic detritus spread across my kitchen table and family room floor, bits and pieces of a PlayStation 2 spread between multiple cell phones in various states of operation, more phone handsets and a desktop and laptop in operation.

What an irradiating, irritating mess. Nobody warned me about this when I became a mom.

My son's little buddy who came and stayed overnight last night managed to trip on the PS2 remote cable, pulling the PS2 onto the floor. My son and his buddy didn't fess up right away, telling me only that the buddy's game DVD was stuck in the PS2. I figured it was not a big deal, that we'd handle it when I got around to it.

Unfortunately, the PS2 is community property, a joint present from "Santa" to both my son and his older sister. And the older sister was PISSED OFF. She showed me the damage after the friend left this morning, explained that the machine might be shot because it landed face forward on the disk drive...and then proceeded to take it apart. When she got frustrated from time to time, I encouraged her to look on the internet for sites where others discussed similar accidents with PS2 equipment, and found her other tools when her dad's tools proved to be too large.

There were a few bumps in the road; I had to step in and do some coaching and consolation at a few points in the dissection process when she got too aggravated by the challenge. I was in the middle of nursing a few phone calls and trying to deal with annoying customer service reps about a couple of failed cell phones at the same time, juggling SIM cards and handsets. Good thing we weren't hormonally challenged today or a few pieces of equipment would have been jettisoned off the deck between us.

We ran into problems with two screws that we couldn't get back into the system; they weren't mission critical since the system powered up on test without them (we'd been worried they may not have completed a circuit per se, but might have been required for other components to make contact). On last pass before the last screws were replaced, everything seemed to run fine -- the problematic disk tray popped out smoothly and returned to its position. My daughter took it to the television to hook it up and test its playability.

It wouldn't power up; something changed or broke in the space and time between the last power up test on the kitchen table and the twelve-foot distance to the television. She tried every possible arrangement to rule out the power cord, the outlet, the television. She was close to tears.

We took it apart again, me unscrewing everything we just screwed back together while she combed the internet for someone else's experience with systems that wouldn't power up.

Did you know that there are FIFTEEN "fuses" on the motherboard? That's far more information than we bargained for, and far more frustration than we were willing to entertain. Some sage on the internet suggested taking the PS2 to RadioShack for this kind of repair, which seemed puzzling since I didn't they actually did repairs in their retail facility. Another veteran of PS2 repairs more helpfully said that the fuses could be bought at RadioShack, which made more sense. However, some of the fuses were extremely small -- and I drew the line at what might be required to test and unseat and reseat fuses on a board.

She began to shop eBay for another older PS2 like this one now torn asunder, at my request; there was no point in bothering with trying to replace systematically 15 fuses at an expense that would surely exceed 50 dollars, if we could simply buy a previously owned system for that much or less.

We'd now spent 5 hours working on this electronic debris field, with only a tantalizing tease to show for it, and were beginning to consider the terms of our defeat.

My daughter was still stewing, extremely angry about the loss of her PS2 to damage caused by careless younger boys, and now angrier for the investment of time and effort for naught. It drove her; while waiting for several of the earmarked eBay auctions to end in order to determine the likely price we would have to pay for a replacement, she went and reconsidered the gutted PS2 for the likely cause of this newest failure.

It was right there, the most likely suspect: a rather tender bit of ribbon cable that looked like it was unplugged from its seat. Even though we had no idea whether we could reseat it, we had nothing to lose by stripping the system down even further than before to plug in the cable. She held the upper and lower portions of the casing in place while I picked apart the innards, tugging gently on this or that until I found and unscrewed the last screws holding the controller ports in place and the DVD player to the inner frame. There it was, the ribbon cable loose, and then pushed into place with a tiny slot-head screw driver that I use on my sewing machines. It appeared to be reseated; we partially reassembled the system, now old hands after stripping it down four times during the course of our investigation and repair. Like a transplant surgeon, my daughter applied the power cord as if paddles on a new heart; she stood back and held her breath as the heart of the system powered up again.

Ah, success!

We carefully and hastily put the last of the carcass back into place, rescrewed everything yet again. She carried it tenderly back to the television to give it another go, hoping for much better results than last time. And it worked, even a game DVD responded properly this time.

She owns it, it's now completely hers, this bit of electronics. My daughter no longer feels intimidated at all by its once forbidding black enclosure; she said afterwards that she should invent a new and better gaming system, now that she'd seen how the entire guts of the PS2 worked or didn't work. And her brother now thinks she's a rock star-heroine.

Before she angrily broke down the PS2 today, I wouldn't have bothered with it; my own kid re-taught me to use anger righteously directed to achieve an end. And I pushed the envelope a little further because of it, knowing that if she'd come this far she should have encouragement to go a bit further even if I had no clue what I was doing. We wouldn't have been defeated by this box of parts even if it didn't start again.

What would it cost us, anyhow, I said to her; we already had a dead PS2, it wouldn't get any deader if we took it apart one last time to plug in the ribbon cable. We'd only learn more and that certainly couldn't hurt us if we were going to buy a replacement. And it paid off.

Nobody told me that being a mother would require electronics repair courses. I guess I should have read the manual more closely. But on-the-job training has additional perks; know anybody who needs their PS2 fixed? I bet we can do it -- or find a nice replacement machine for them if we can't.

Comments:
Living with a 6'3, 230-lb teenager with the motor skills of a newborn colt -- and only a dozen game systems, usually all in one room -- I have BEEN THERE AND DONE THAT. I smiled all the way through this, just knowing it had a happy ending. Good for you both.

Nice to find you again, Rayne.
 
So nice to see you, Chuck!! Wow, 6'3" and 230#?? amazing how they grow, yes??

The PS2 is clicking along nicely, just a little fuzziness during boot up. Think it's more sensitive to dirt on the game disks, so the kids are going to have to clean them and do a better job of keeping them that way. I'm shopping for a used backup system so that we have one for parts, or to assuage the older child if it happens again.

Very happy she feels so capable, too; she's been thinking about med school, and she needs to feel more assured of her ability to tackle it. Fixing something like this PS2 certainly goes a long way towards building self-confidence; I know I feel better myself!
 
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