VGA blues

I specified, purchased, installed and configured every piece of equipment in the place. My undoing came in the form of a blue monitor. I started my career as MIS Manager in a very small shop. We manufactured, sold, and installed demountable, reconfigurable partition walls. We also sold all of the related products including; lock sets, art glass, electrical outlets, and a variety of magnetic accessories like coat

I specified, purchased, installed and configured every piece of equipment in the place. My undoing came in the form of a blue monitor.

I started my career as MIS Manager in a very small shop. We manufactured, sold, and installed demountable, reconfigurable partition walls. We also sold all of the related products including; lock sets, art glass, electrical outlets, and a variety of magnetic accessories like coat hooks and picture hooks.

I wasn't a big fish in a little pond; more like a goldfish in a Dixie cup. I was very proud of my accomplishments at this company. We were a new startup and I was expected to do everything. I specified, purchased, installed and configured every piece of equipment in the place. It was my petty fiefdom and I liked it.

You would expect me, then, to have problems with the complicated things. But no. My undoing came in the form of a blue monitor.

After months of perfectly ordinary days, the receptionist called me, frantic. When she started her system that morning, the monitor had a horrible blue tinge to it. I immediately came down to reception to investigate. The monitor was indeed a sickly blue. These were relatively new CRT monitors; I was certainly aware of their basic construction and realized that one of the electron guns most probably was shooting blanks.

I called the manufacturer and described the problem in detail. We ran through all of the possible operating system settings and reloaded the driver, all to no avail. The technician then had me download a small utility program that displayed a color test pattern. I described the colors it displayed in detail. Everything was tinged a very vivid blue color. The technician said he had never seen this particular failure mode before but authorized a replacement monitor to be sent out next day air.

The new monitor arrived and I quickly unpacked it and set it up in place of the bad monitor. The new monitor powered up and you can imagine my surprise when I see exactly the same shade of vivid blue. Obviously the monitor was not the problem. What was the next most obvious mode of failure? Two monitors plugged into the same PC exhibit the exact same problem. It's not the OS or Drivers and it's not the monitor. It must be the video card!

The video card was a much more plausible explanation anyway. Didn't the monitor technician say he had never seen a monitor fail with those symptoms? It was so obvious I was kicking myself for not starting with the video card to begin with. A quick call to the PC manufacturer and a brief recap of my adventures so far was all that was needed to get a replacement video card winging its way to me via Air Express. We could still see everything after all, even if it was blue. One more day of inconvenience certainly would not do any harm.

The replacement video card arrived and I had the computer torn down and the card installed in record time. This time a small crowd had gathered around to see the results. Unfortunately the result was still a blue tinged monitor! This suddenly reminded me of a juggling performance I had seen where the performer claimed to have the actual hatchet used by George Washington to cut down the cherry tree -- of course he had to replace the handle and the head, but it occupied the same space. I'd replaced both ends in this situation, so what else could it be?

While I was thinking about some mechanism that could systematically damage specific pins in the cable connectors, the president of the company walked by. As he passed the long counter that comprised the front of the receptionist's desk he scooted a box along it that had been sitting there for the past couple of days. The monitor virtually exploded in a burst of psychedelic colors as he said, "When are we shipping this box of magnetic picture hooks to Puerto Rico?"

The box weighed about 40 pounds and was solid-packed with powerful rare earth magnets. The magnetic field was so powerful it tinted the entire screen one color. I spent the rest of the day explaining to our president why I couldn't ship the package via air freight: The magnets are considered hazardous materials. Now I know why.

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