Computing Myth #1: Software cannot damage hardware
Posted by Jim Leonard on February 2, 2006
Oh yes it can. Here’s a story for you: In my teens, I had a friend who got the IBM 5155 (the Portable Computer — you know, the heavy luggable one with the monochrome CRT monitor inside it) from a Computerland. He was screwing around with POKE in BASIC and POKE’d a value somewhere into CGA-land, saw some pretty squiggles for about 3 seconds, then poof and we smell the familiar smell of ozone. We went back to Computerland, but they told him that there was no way that software could have damaged hardware and they weren’t going to repair it (thinking that he had dropped it or something). So my friend, with salesman watching with one eye from across the room, walks over to another one on display, takes the diskette out, boots into BASIC, writes a 1-line program, and poof, ozone, and no more monitor. Salesman didn’t quite know what had happened, so my friend walked over to another one on display and does it again, but steps aside so that the salesman can see it this time.
Let me tell you, I’ve never seen an overweight, balding, 50+yr old move so fast. He sprang like a gazelle toward us and for a second I thought I was going to get the crap beaten out of me. Thankfully, all he did was yell, about how we were going to have to pay for that, etc. This got the attention of the manager, who came out and said they’d honor the warranty and fix his machine if the kid would stop blowing up all the IBM 5155 monitors in the store.