salvaged switch dome
Sunday, March 3 2019
Since getting back from Costa Rica, I've been feeling a little between things and adrift. Part of this is due to the fact that i'm finally out of the worst part of working on the Electron app I've been building during the hours spent at my day job. And part of it is just the change of being home, overwhelmed by all the things I could now be doing. For whatever reason, I chose to pretty much squander the day, eating home-made banh mi sandwiches (whole-wheat bread, bacon-flavored tempeh, kimchi, jalapeño, and mayonnaise) and leftover soup, and drinking kratom tea almost continually. The weather since returning from Costa Rica had been pretty much the same as it had been when we'd left in late January, with temperatures more typical of late January than late February, but today temperatures were more seasonable, and I didn't have to pay as much attention to feeding the woodstove.
This evening while Gretchen and I were watching two back-to-back episodes of Shark Tank off the DVR, I took apart my old Compaq N410c, a computer I've barely used since 2010. The goal was to fix, once and for all, the trackpad's left clicker button, whose unreliability eventually forced me to abandon the entire machine. The mechanism for this button consists of one of those brass domes that collapses with with a sudden satisfying click when pressed. These are referred to as "dome switches," and I'd never had one go bad before. Fortunately, it turns out that they're fairly easy to fix. All I needed was a replacement dome and some clear tape to secure it in place. I could've sworn I had plenty of junked equipment with dome-switch control panels, but when looking through my junk boxes, I couldn't find any. I managed to find some dome switches on a couple old junked digital cameras, but they were too small. Further searching led me into an old grapefruit jar full of dead MP3 players (which are crammed with useful parts and small enough to hoard forever). Happily, I found a row of domes on one of those. They looked a little small, but it was worth trying; searching eBay, I'd been unable to find any vendors of small quantities of replacement domes. The new dome worked perfectly on the very first try. It was a little stiffer than I would've preferred, but every physical click resulted in a click action, and that was all I really wanted. There are few things less frustrating than getting haptic feedback for an action that did not occur. The opposite is also true; this is why I always try to turn off "tapping" on any laptop I use (and if I cannot, I consider the laptop useless unless equipped with a mouse).
It might seem odd to be repairing a laptop as old as a Compaq N410c (it came out in 2002 as a premium business ultraportable). But it's so small and thin and (aside from that one dome switch) so rugged and durable, it compels me to care for it, kind of like Clarence the Cat does. I'm even thinking of getting a small SSD for it; it has a 30 GB mechanical drive inside it, and a 120 GB SSD is only $20.
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