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Keyboard + Coffee != Success

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I was having a great morning this morning. I had managed to catch up on some code that I was behind on for work (through no fault of my own, it’s a huge project) and everything was going well. Then, just after lunch, I went to grab my coffee cup and caught it with the side of my hand instead… in slow-mo style, not dissimilar to a replay from an action movie, the coffee cup tipped up and emptied its contents onto my laptop.

I’ll be honest, at the time I ran to the loo to grab a wad of tissue screaming “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!”. However, it didn’t seem like a major thing because the cup had been virtually empty and the liquid didn’t seem to seep down anywhere… how bloody wrong could I be?

I didn’t use the laptop immediately after that because I went to do some work in the other room. It was a few hours later that I went back through and… hold on a minute! I’m pressing the keys “<?php” and all I’m getting is “<? h “. Not good — how the hell do you code PHP without the p key? Uh-oh, my backspace isn’t working.. 7, 3, tab.. what the crapper?!

So, here I am typing on an external USB keyboard that my Mum kindly made an emergency dash to PC World to buy for me. My laptop keyboard has been cleaned and cleaned again, still no joy. It’s even been blow-dryed and left next to a heater for about two hours. Still nothing. My laptop is sat a foot away looking very naked without its faded, beat-up keyboard sat on top.

I know I’ve said that I wanted to think about replacing my laptop some time this year, but I wasn’t thinking in the middle of a major project for work..

Update: Laptop keyboard still dead. As replacement VAIO keyboards are rarely cheap and I was thinking about buying a new one anyway, I’m shopping around. If you’ve got any laptop recommendations let me know. Ideally I’m looking for something with semi-decent graphics for playing games like RCT1/2 and Age of Empires. I would like something that is capable of higher screen resolutions (I currently work at 1400×1050) and with a minimum of 512Mb RAM. I do NOT want bloody Vista. I’m an AMD fangirl, so don’t even think of mentioning Intel unless you think the laptop is fan-frickin-tastic.

Update (7th Feb): All may not be lost. I finally found a compatible keyboard for less than the price of a new laptop, heh. After shipping it’s around £80 but it’d be worth it to get my laptop up and running again :)

Jem Turner jem@jemjabella.co.uk +44(0)7521056376

47 comments so far

  1. Vixx said:

    Aw, love you. There’s no good time for something like that to happen, but I’m not sure that it could’ve been much worse, either. Can your employer be persuaded to help you out . . . ? V xx

  2. Riitta said:

    Eep! Coffee is the root of all evil, may I just say. I’ve been wondering how much longer it’s going to take until I manage to spill something over my laptop – so far I’ve been lucky. I wouldn’t want to start replacing this one just yet, I’ve only had my humming little friend for about 5 months only. I hope your laptop works its magic over night and all will be well. :)

  3. Amber said:

    If I had a laptop I suppose I would be able to empathise with the way you are feeling right now. However I hope the rest of your job goes absolutely spiffingly and no more coffee on keyboard disasters happen!

  4. Jem said:

    Can your employer be persuaded to help you out . . . ? He offered to lend me the spare at work, but Apache/all of my work is on this. It’s going to be an arse, either way.

  5. Gemma said:

    At least it was only the keyboard that was affected – I knew someone who shorted out her whole system by spilling tea on a laptop keyboard. And at least external keyboards are cheap (I have one for my laptop too). What a pain, though. I presume your laptop isn’t under warranty anymore? Perhaps it wouldn’t be prohibitively expensice to repair, anyway, if it is just the keyboard and not the internals.

  6. Jem said:

    @Gemma: yeah, I’m grateful my HDD is unaffected otherwise I’d be screwed. The problem with an external keyboard is having to cart it around with me everywhere. I’ve had the laptop over 3 years and it was second hand to me, I don’t think Sony do extended warranties that long! Replacement keyboards for this are quite pricely, I could probably get a new second hand laptop for less! :|

  7. Katie said:

    Oh bummer :( Coffee and electronics don’t get along. I spilled chai latte on my blackberry and the whole phone went on the fritz.. it sucked.

  8. Stephanie said:

    My aunt spilled split pea soup all over her laptop once. Fried the whole thing. We now call the recipe spilt pea soup ;P Good luck getting a new computer. If you’re sticking with windows, I would recommend a Lenovo. I’m actually buying one because the university I’m going to requires you to have a Lenovo to even go. But it’s cool, because there is 24 hour on-scene support, so if you’re up at three in the morning finishing your homework that’s due for your 8 o’clock class, someone will come down to fix your computer for you :) Or you can stick with VAIOs, which I do love, even though everyone else I’ve known didn’t like them because something went wrong. Maybe we’re just lucky? ;)

  9. Amelie said:

    Been there, done that (though not with coffee – a jug of water. Twice!) and my laptop reacted the same way… It took weeks for all the keys to come back again, and some of them are still dodgy even now – scroll/num lock tend to have a mind of their own for some reason.

  10. Han said:

    We had customers with this problem a lot. The first thing you should have done was to turn the laptop upside down. With a keyboard you would have rinsed it with water but I wouldn’t recommend that for a laptop! Its the sugar in the drink that does the damage, your best bet would be to replace the keyboard, if you have a dell laptop it’d be cheaper to buy a new laptop lol!

  11. Jem said:

    @Han: the first thing I should have done was turn it off! I don’t know why I didn’t think of this at the time, mind. I have a VAIO, but Karl’s got a Dell and replaced his keyboard for £14 – shipped over from Singapore.

  12. Grant Mc said:

    things like that always happen at they times, one Saturday at work someone came in with a PC and said Ive lost all my work and they had this meeting tomorrow to get a promotion and this projects was the decider so luckily we got it back! just luck the laptop works jem! I’m thinking of getting a laptop like anybody got any suggestions?

  13. HannaPai said:

    I don’t drink coffee so that can’t happen to me, but I waite the day when I pour tea instead of mug on my keyboard… I have done it with water already. Well keyboard is still alive. I hope your laptop will survive.

  14. Daz said:

    I think this week is coffee spilling week – there I was minding my own business at work, and newguy came up to me to ask how to give himself an avatar on the internal forum. He then somehow decided to spill my coffee uponst one’s groin. SPLENDIDO! :( Hope you get your laptop problems sorted! My external keyboard of my old laptop died too, meaning I couldn’t do colons in CSS! Grr.

  15. Sara said:

    Ouch, that really sucks! I came pretty close to doing that yesterday, so now I’m terrified of bringing liquids anywhere near my computer. Maybe the keyboard will mysteriously start working again in a few days… You can always hope, right?

  16. Chans said:

    I’ll be honest, at the time I ran to the loo to grab a wad of tissue screaming “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!” I can just imagine you doing that. I know I would react the same if it ever happened to me! If laptops are as strong as mobile phones yours might be working again after a day or so. My father dropped his phone down the well more than once, the keys didn’t work properly anymore either, we left the phone to dry for a day or so and it works fine again. Maybe that will work for your laptop too..

  17. Jordan said:

    Jem, you’re going to have a hard time finding a new laptop that won’t have Vista on it. Your best bet is to look around on ebay for your country, to see what’s available up there. Or you can always go for a barebones laptop kit, and install whatever OS you want on it (though I’m sure you don’t want to pay for a Windows license, so unless you plan on just running linux, then maybe that route won’t be the best.) Good luck on your laptop hunting.

  18. Dan said:

    Aww bugger. It happens to the best of us. That keyboard looking sorry for itself in the bookcase behind you at work? Yeah. That was me :( I expect Tom has given you the MacBook hard sell ;) While I was shopping around for my current notebook (ASUS F3J) I found it really hard to find a latest spec one that was higher than 1280 x 800 (WS) without paying a stupid amount for it. I’d second what Jordan said, have a look on eBay. You might find a successor to your dead VAIO.

  19. Melissa said:

    Can you not get a OEM keyboard that would fit your laptop model? I need a new LCD screen for my laptop (the screen is cracked up the right hand side right where the hinge is but Dell insist it’s *my* fault) and they’re about £150 cheaper buying a non-Dell one that will fit my Inspiron. I seriously think that getting a laptop with XP and not Vista might be a bit hard, since computer shops seem to think that everyone wants the new shiny stuff and not the old, reliable stuff! Only thing I can think of is either building your own or eBaying it for a second hand or refurbished laptop.

  20. Jacky said:

    Hi! That’s terrible about your keyboard laptop. That’s why I always keep my drinks far, far, FAR away from my electronics because I’m horrifically klutzy. Luckily it isn’t brand new or something, and if you were thinking of upgrading, now you have the reason and drive to do it! As for recommendations, I must say I am very much in love with my MacBook Pro. You can run Windows on it as well, via BootCamp or Parallel, which I’m sure you’re already aware of. This was huge for me, since I would be devastated if I had to give up my Sims 2 game! I haven’t installed any of my other games on it, as of now, because I don’t think I need anymore distractions! But I will say that Sims 2 runs beautifully on it, and that’s including all the features of all the expansion packs and tons of custom content and hacks. But if you DO consider getting a MacBook Pro or a desktop Mac, I’d choose one with the most space so when you do make room for a Windows installation you have sufficient space to share between them. (I got the 80 GB MacBook Pro and they load tons of programs onto your computer from the factory [they’re all very good, but I felt a little cheated] but it only really leaves you with 40 GB of space for your files. AND then I had to divide that up for my Windows installation — *sigh*) Hm, yea. But if you’re dead-set on an Windows only machine, my computer-tech/expert friends recommend a IBM or Toshiba.

  21. Shannon said:

    I need a new laptop, too. But it’s just because my laptop is slowly dying, with its parts kerplunking one-by-one. Though, I once spilled some Gatorade near my laptop. And I ran like hell trying to get some paper towels before the liquid reached the outlets and cords. I’m going to get a new laptop when that coupon from Costco becomes valid. I just need something that works.

  22. Montoya said:

    Jem, I hate to break it to you but an Intel Core Duo with Windows Vista is the best thing on the market right now. You could go for an AMD chip but the current AMD offerings are far behind the Core Duo in performance… trust me, I’m an Electrical Engineer and this is a topic we talk about all the time. AMD won’t be back in the lead for a few years at least. As for Vista versus XP, Vista has a lot of improvements over XP and with a decent setup Vista outperforms XP… I haven’t heard any complaints from anyone who upgraded and I plan on upgrading very soon too. You can ignore my advice here but then you are just being stubborn!

  23. Amanda said:

    Geez Jem, quit complaining. :p My laptop is getting old, so I’m sorry I’m not able to offer any suggestions. And I completely agree about the Vista – I had a hard time switching to XP, might as well have someone force me getting used to Vista. Nobody I know has complained, except the fact that the overall “feel” is different, although I’ve been told that you can change that. To be honest, I don’t even know what the differences are…

  24. Tracey said:

    At the moment I am drinking a bottle of soft drink, and making sure that I screw the lid back on very tightly and keeping it away from the keyboard! Good luck looking for a laptop (I don’t want one with Vista either!)

  25. Mumblies said:

    I’m sorry to hear that the keys still don’t work even after a night on the heater Jem :( Hope you can get some new keys for it, I know how much you love your laptop.

  26. Nan said:

    My Alt Gr button doesn’t work either – same reason… Good luck on finding a new laptop. I don’t have much experience with different ones since the one I have is ancient (from HP) and I am not sure a laptop is supposed to cough either…

  27. Jem said:

    @Montoya: I really don’t care about spiffing performance and the latest and greatest, I want what I know. This is why I’m keen to stick with AMD; not because I’m under the impression that they’re automatically faster/better/whatever. I have also played with Vista and I really don’t like it. Far too Mac-esque, and I can’t stand them either. I know it’s going to be hard finding something I like with all the “right” specs, but if I do have to buy a new laptop I’ll be replacing more than a tool. It’s been with me for over 3 years, I use it for ~12 hours a day

  28. Rhys said:

    Acer laptops are the ones we use at work, and they seem to do everything pretty good and are fairly cheap. Once, I had an urge to blog, and went into a internet cafe in Liverpool. The “e” key wasn’t working (which was lucky, as “admin” and my WP password didn’t have an “e” in it. It was going to be a mahoosive post on the weight lifted from my shoulders after finding out I didn’t have heart disease, and the palputations I had three months earlier were just something that happened and be done with it. In the end I only managed two words. “I’m okay”. Fucking keyboards stifling my creativity!

  29. Karl said:

    I still say that HP NX6325 looks good. The Radeon 1150 is a mediocre card..Doom3 might push it, but..well..it’s better than the ATI M1 we’re both stuck with right now! Core Duo IS good, but I’m an AMD fan as well (as you know). Sempron or Turion work nicely. As far as gaming goes, remember..there is always the building of a cube PC that could do that..:) I still stand by what I said – if my Inspiron ever dies and I can’t rebuild it (again), I’ll go for a Dell Latitude or an HP.

  30. Stephanie said:

    @Karl: My family has had nothing but trouble with HP laptops. The place where you insert the charger always went on the fritz. Mom bought an HP computer once, had it for a month, and blue sparks started shooting out of it. Obviously, it was faulty, like the other five HPs we’ve had in the company. Of course, this was back in 2003-2004. It’s entirely possible they’ve (finally) fixed the problem. And Jem — ALA just did a post on elastic, equal-height columns! Here: http://alistapart.com/articles/multicolumnlayouts Haven’t read through it completely, but he says it’s like Position Is Everything but cleaner and not so nested. Check it out.

  31. Nellie said:

    Is it just me or is February THE month for clumsiness involving hot beverages? You’re person #3 to spill a coffee/tea/hot chocolate etc on your keyboard and around person #20 to spill a cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate etc in general. I have yet to spill anything myself, but I’m willing to bet I will by the end of the month. In fact, it was last February I spilled a glass of Coke on my keyboard. Aside from a little key stickiness, it was fine. Luckily. Good luck with the replacement keyboard!

  32. Ian said:

    What kind of VAIO do you have? I have a dead (motherboard) VAIO pcg-grz 630. If my laptop’s keyboard is compatible with yours you can have it. My comp is definetly dead and it’s not comming back. :/

  33. Karl said:

    Ah, yes. I know of the HP/Compaq laptops you mean I think…the older generation to the turion sat opposite me. Yes, I’ve seen those go as well in the way you describe.. I’ve got a dismantled samsung next to me with that issue as well. At least Dell use (or do on mine) a seperate power board that plugs into the main one. That’s the good bit..my Dell is ancient, but even a new screen is only about £50.

  34. Anne said:

    Ugh! That happened to this computer’s ex-keyboard a few days ago! Whenever I hit 3, it would print 38, and the backspace, shift, space, and win keys wouldn’t work! Was very frustrating until I kiped a keyboard from an unused computer downstairs. ;)

  35. Stephen said:

    Um, this may be a stupid question but have you actually opened the laptop up, removed the keyboard, and washed it under the tap? You can then blow-dry it and leave it for a day and it should be fine. I spilled coke in mine, which was sticky as well as non-functional, but this fixed it up with no problem. Removing the keyboard is a bit of a hassle (the small ribbon cable is fiddly) but it’s better than having to buy a new laptop.

  36. Jem said:

    @Stephen: yep. Karl took it apart completely, separating the keyboard ‘layers’ and the damage was clearly visible. Parts of the circuitry are fried.

  37. Stephanie said:

    @Karl: I had a Latitude x200 with what you’re talking about, one of the itty-bitty ones. Dell power supplies have never failed me. Except for when I mangled the cord, but that doesn’t count, heh. Unfortunately, Dell’s starting to suck (we’ve had three fail within the past year, even with shipping back for fixing), which is why I recommended a Lenovo. (And actually, the new Mac power connector with the magnetic pull off is really nifty.) And I’m personally for AMD too, Jem… I’ve never heard of Intel being better quality than them, but I could be out of the loop.

  38. Sonya said:

    I’ve heard that Asus notebook computers are really reliable, and my friend just bought one for university but it is specifically designed to run games. I’m getting an Asus for uni too, but the “economy” version of my friend’s. It’s $1688,00 Australian – I’m not sure how much that is in pounds.

  39. Melissa said:

    Ooh, my previous laptop was a Vaio and it’s keyboard died too. :( Well…it technically died after a “techie friend” ripped open the entire thing trying to figure out how to replace the memory cards for me. Big mistake on my part, letting some random person do it…but oh well. =/ Good luck on your laptop search or on getting that new keyboard! By the way, Jem…I was sifting through the Qbee BBS looking at posts people have made about their site hosts and was wondering how much you would recommend your host, Site5? I’ve been with Netrillium for almost 5 or so years…150mb for $35 a year, but it does come with a lot of features (unlimited databases, etc). I saw that Site5 has a special for 55GB for $5 a month. Wow to me! Seems to have everything I would want too. Wouldn’t mind paying a bit more each year for all of that. I trust your judgement…is it really a good deal? :D

  40. Kai said:

    Always buy a keyboard cover or skin when ever you bought ur laptop, it won’t cost you a lot but will keep you no worry!

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