Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Something for the Weekend

Fused 'Lectric in KSAFused 'Lectric in KSA
It had become my habit to wheel my computer across the hall from the office to the apartment at weekends. This was not so that I could do work without entering those hallowed halls, it was so that I could play with it. I was mastering AutoCAD and 3D Studio. Oh and maybe playing some games. Maybe.

One week it actually happened – Bongo had got me a new PC with more RAM than anyone had ever thought possible, a whole 20Mb. And it was a 486! I was immensely pleased with it.

Come Thursday afternoon I trundled it across the hallway, plugged it in, switched it on and BANG! A big bang, a plume of smoke out of the back of the machine, and absolute panic from yours truly.

Saudi Arabia, for some utterly bizarre and inexplicable reason, has two flavours of electricity. Some sockets operate at 110 Volts, others at 220 or 240 Volts. The plugs and sockets are, however, exactly the same. Frequently you will get a few of each inside one house. These voltages are for guidance only though, the actual stuff coming out of the walls can be 15% more or less than what you expect. To counter this, all computer users in KSA are connected via a brown and beige box that stabilises the voltage. All computers sold in the Kingdom can operate at 110 or 220, and some can automatically detect what voltage they are being fed on. As it happens, my new PC did not have this auto-detection feature, and it was not switched to whatever the voltage was in the apartment. So the power supply in the computer blew up.

I waited anxiously until early evening, when the computer soukh opened, and took the PC to a shop to be fixed. The guy laughed, he’d seen a lot of these. Come back in half an hour and it will be working. And it was, for maybe 30 Riyals. Was I relieved or what?!