Open Hack London : The soldering iron incident

June 24th, 2009 by Alistair MacDonald Leave a reply »

I thought I would mention the “Soldering iron incident” and the Open Hack Day London power cut that I kind of accidentally caused.

Stupidly I thought it would be one of those things that would just get forgotten about, but I was wrong, so I might as well say what happened.

So, there was less than two hours of hacking time remaining at Open Hack and we had a working prototype. We just needed to tidy some things up and prepare the presentation. Our hardware hack was using an Arduino with a borrowed LCD display shield, but this was being powered by a laptop. Rather than plug the device in to a laptop, that would not look impressive, we decided to knock up a battery adapter for it.

While Nigel went to practice with the iphone orchestra for there upcoming performance I nipped down to Maplin and purchased a few components and a battery. I borrowed a soldering iron and went back to our base to plug it in.

When I plugged in the soldering iron the plug lit up white, there was a poof like sound, and everyone’s power went off. Most people did not notice straight away as they were using laptops with batteries. It turned out that everyone who was plugged in to this distribution point, that was most people, were affected. Fortunately the wifi was unaffected so I was not killed dead by fellow hackers.

I still maintain that this was not really my fault. Soldering irons use around 40W and most are none inductive loads, while the average laptop uses 75W and is an inductive load. After further investigation the fuse in the soldering iron was dust and we suspect there was a short in the device it’s self.

Anyway, I am now getting presents from fictional ducks and competition rules are being amended for me. In short I don’t think it matters if it was my fault or nit, it is a fun memory to have a laugh at and I see the funny side.

Photograph above was taken by James Broad and kindly licensed under creative commons.

i love Quidco GreenWhite

1 comment

  1. Pete Hindle says:

    I'm not sure I'll believe your 'fine' with the whole thing until I see a special soldering-iron theme on this website. Or, alternatively, a fifth horseman of the apocalypse wielding a soldering iron.

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