Being involved with the information and communications technology business is great. There’s all the gadgets and gizmos to try out, plenty of geeky yet impressive people to talk to, events, innovations, money, power – it has got the lot.
That’s the upside. There is a downside, however. Family and friends tend to assume that whenever there’s a tech problem, I should know how to fix it. Now there are tech problems and there are tech problems – I can plug in a computer, fiddle with memory and email settings, delete and re-install software and generally tinker around a bit. But if the gadget’s buggered (ie it needs some serious fixing, like bits being replaced) there ain’t a lot I can do. Ditto VCRs, printers, camcorders, mobiles, and especially Sky bloody television.
Anyhow, one evening my neighbour called. He was having a bit of ‘tech trouble’. He was preparing for a birthday bash on Saturday night and had borrowed a friend’s iPod to provide 8GB of musical accompaniment. With a couple of days to go, he’d planned to have a trial run with the sound system… but it wasn’t working. Could I come and help?
The thought did cross my mind that I could claim I was washing my hair and, by not helping, somehow avoid an evening of Abba and the Stones blaring out across the fence. But I was sure there’d be a back-up, so in the best traditions of neighbourly spirit, I popped on my slippers, set Flight of the Concords to record and set off next door.
I found my neighbour kneeling in front of the TV system – I guessed things were bad but I hoped we hadn’t got the point where we needed divine help from Plasma, the God of the flat screen. Turns out, he was just checking the cables. Nevertheless, I made a note to remember the prayer option as a last resort.
His frustrated and expletive-ridden report of the situation seemed to suggest the problem boiled down this: the iPod looked to be working okay; the TV’s sound system (into which the iPod was plugged and through which it should be heard) looked to be working okay… but together they weren’t.
Could I help?
Of course… maybe.
I had a quick look at the iPod. It was playing all right as far as I could tell. It said REM’s ‘Bad Day’ – and as much as I fancied a quick rendition, my ears were not able to verify the fact. I turned it off… and turned it back on. Nothing.
Then came the cables. Again, as far I could tell, it was all ‘A OK’. Everything looked to be plugged in where it should. Colours matched. No empty connections or stray wires. But, just to be sure, I pulled out each one and re-plugged it back in. Still no sound.
Next the sound system itself. I switched it back to the TV… yep, working fine. Back to the iPod… nada, zip, SFA.
At this point a third person joined in the investigation – my neighbour’s nine-year-old son. He obviously has a keen and finely-honed technical mind. He took one look, flicked the pinwheel a couple of times… and we had sound.
The volume was down. Enough said.