You may think that this is just a movie, but OH NO.
Let me tell you about the day the Earth stood still. Gather 'round now, I'll dim the lights and start a fire.
I went to a computer show today. Lots of new and used stuff, most of it pretty cool. I went with two friends, just browsing. They were unsuccessful in their search for a 21" monitor, so they bailed. I stayed to get a better look at the vendors and their wares.
And lo, I come to a memory booth. My primary computer at home is a home built Pentium III 500 cranking on 128 Megs of RAM. I had been planning to upgrade it to 256, but memory prices had not previously lent themselves to this plan.
Until today. This day. The day the Earth stood still.
I buy myself a Micron 128MB PC100 DIMM for around $50. Good to go, I peruse the floor one last time, and head home - good fortune in hand. I arrive at my apartment, eager to install my new silicon toy.
I snap the DIMM into the second slot on my motherboard, plug the computer in, and boot it up. I smile as the memory test hits 256. Excellent!
The box boots, and I ponder what to test. I play a few Quicktime movies, no difference really. I grab my 'American Beauty' DVD off the shelf, and pop it in. I start up the DVD player software, and...
The computer locks up.
I suspect the memory, but rather than jumping to an immediate decision, I reboot the box and decide to give it another try. Again, the DVD software locks up the machine.
The Earth begins to slow.
I shut down the computer, remove the new DIMM, and fire it back up. I start the DVD software, and it immediately starts playing the movie. Interesting. I shut down the computer, remove my old DIMM, install the new DIMM, and boot it back up. I start the DVD software, and the movie begins playing.
Again, I load the computer back up with both my original DIMM, as well as the new one. I boot it up and start the DVD software, just to see it lock up the machine once more.
The Earth slows further.
Very strange. Both chips are PC100 128MB DIMM modules. They should work with one another. I shut down the system, leave the new chip in, and boot it back up. The system turns on, however nothing is displayed on the screen. I attempt to turn the system off, but the power button is not responding. I pull the plug, and it finally powers down. I plug it back in, and press the power button to turn it back on and...
I start pressing the power button repeatedly, but the computer refuses to power up. I check the connections on all cables, and everything seems fine. I try a few more times to power on the system, to no avail.
The Earth stops moving.
I arrive at the first stages of grief as I realize my computer has quite possibly died on me. I pull the plug on the power supply for ten minutes or so, in case it went into overload, and tried again - and again, my computer greeted me with a cold silence.
I figured this was a good time to head back to the dealer who sold me the memory, and inform him that my computer was now a boat anchor. I bring back the chip, and tell him what happened. He tells me that it's absolutely impossible that memory can destroy a system. (Unlikely, perhaps. Not impossible.) I tell him that I'll go back and see if I can get my computer back up, and he agrees to let me return the chip if it's of no use to me.
I went back home, and eyed my dying friend. I decide to check every connection on the board, so I start with the ATX connector. I pull it off the board, and - WOW - that sure came off quite easily. I plug the ATX connector back on to the board, and wonder if the problem was really that simple. Absolutely not. I've been working with computers for years. Hell, I built this very system myself! That can't be the problem.
That was the problem.
The Earth shudders.
Mind you, that's not why the new memory chip failed, but at least my computer was alive and well once more. Delighted that I had ressurected the box, I powered it down and pulled my memory chip. I brought both chips to the memory vendor at the show, and told him that they most definitely were not compatible with one another.
He tested them both, and they both tested good. I knew my module was good, as it has been serving me flawlessly for about two years. He suggested a situation that I had never assumed to be an issue. Apparently, if you have one DIMM with chips on both sides, and one with chips on one side, it can cause problems in very rare instances. My original DIMM had chips on both sides, and the new one had chips on one side. Hmmm, a possible solution?
So I swapped the DIMM for another with chips on both sides of the module, and brought it home, hoping that's what the problem was. I went to the computer, installed the new chip, and fired it up. The memory counted to 256 once again, and the computer booted fine. One final time, I started the DVD software, silently praying to the computer gods. This had to work. There was nothing left to do but wave a dead chicken, and I didn't have one handy.
Behold. The DVD began playing. Woah. Could it be true? I start running lots of applications. I run Quicktime movies, while playing mp3s, while 2 instances of mIRC are running, along with Internet Explorer, AIM, ICQ, and distributed.net. I open several windows, start some more Quicktime movies while I play my DVD, and everything runs smoothly.
The Earth jerks, and resumes its previous movement.
I called the memory guy to let him know that everything seems to be okay, and I thank him. I do realize that my computer is fine, but when I thought it had died, it drained me. I thought that buying that DIMM was the stupidest thing I had ever done, and my computer paid the price. The relief I felt when it came back to life was wonderful. Today didn't suck so bad in the end after all.
I then logged into Everything2, and I began writing about The Day the Earth Stood Still.