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Monday, July 30, 2012

Why Did My Laptop Just Electrocute Me?

Posted by on Mon, Jul 30, 2012 at 3:53 PM

Five minutes ago, while I was typing away on some theater stuff for this week's paper, a bolt of electricity shot through my body, shooting me back in my rolling chair. The electric crack was so loud, it startled everyone in the office.

I asked Erin Resso, one of our tech-savvy, at-risk youth, who said it sounded like an electrical grounding issue ("the electricity was using you") and noticed that the plug attached to my power strip was half hanging out of the wall socket. Google says it might have been a static-electricity discharge from my battery.

I'm not sure I believe either of them. My teeth are still tingling from the first shock and I keep expecting another. "If you die at your keyboard," Paul said, "I'm definitely going to Slog it."

 

Comments (25) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
yelahneb 1
I'm as shocked as you are that this happened, but I know you'll power through this.
Posted by yelahneb http://www.strangebutharmless.com on July 30, 2012 at 3:55 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 2
The laptop can only operate on converted, low voltage DC power which is what comes out of the adapter.

Whether the plug is half in the socket or soaking in rainwater really shouldn't matter as the A/C 120 doesn't directly "go into" the laptop in any way.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on July 30, 2012 at 3:57 PM · Report this
3
Ugh. You are not dead, therefore you were not electrocuted. One of my pet peeves.
Posted by Mike in Olympia on July 30, 2012 at 4:00 PM · Report this
4
@3, not the first time a comment to Brendan has begun with "Ugh. You are not dead," but among the best.
Posted by gloomy gus on July 30, 2012 at 4:09 PM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 5
Impossible. City Light's electricity gives at most a tingle that some describe as erotic.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay http://www.danlangdon.com on July 30, 2012 at 4:14 PM · Report this
6
@2 You are correct, the entire laptop runs internally on a 12V electrical system. However, the fluorescent tube backlight runs off an inverter that steps up the voltage to a potentially shock-inducing magnitude. The way you describe it as being audible makes me suspect static discharge, as it takes many thousands of volts to create an arc that is audible.
Posted by automg on July 30, 2012 at 4:15 PM · Report this
tainte 7
well, i just watched final destination 5, so i can only assume that you have somehow cheated death.

and death HATES being cheated.
Posted by tainte on July 30, 2012 at 4:32 PM · Report this
8
An electric shock strong enough to convulse your muscles is strong enough to harm you. I'd recommend a doctor's visit. It was at work, and presumably a work-provided computer, so it will be worker's comp and a workplace injury write up for L&l.
Posted by OrganizedLightning on July 30, 2012 at 4:38 PM · Report this
9
Would this be the same Erin who was pranked earlier today?

Just asking.
Posted by gnossos on July 30, 2012 at 4:45 PM · Report this
Simone 10
I've been shocked from my powerbook's power cord plug when inserting it. After inspecting it I had found the plug's metal stripped and exposed wires/things were visible. I'm sure that's not your problem.
Posted by Simone on July 30, 2012 at 5:04 PM · Report this
Beetlecat 11
@1 Oh come on!! some golf claps for @1 please!
Posted by Beetlecat on July 30, 2012 at 5:05 PM · Report this
12
The real question is: What has it been waiting for?
Posted by RonK, Seattle on July 30, 2012 at 5:14 PM · Report this
13
Um is this tech-savvy Erin the same Erin that was pranked earlier today? Cause...you know...maybe she rigged something ...payback???
Posted by stuck in boston http://www.nothing.com on July 30, 2012 at 5:15 PM · Report this
14
If your laptop still works, then it was possible either the backlight power source as @6 said, or it was not the laptop itself at all. Maybe the power adapter wire is frayed or worn through and shocked you through your desk?

Are you sure the force of the shock is what sent you rolling back, or the instinctive recoiling of being surprised at something?
Posted by K on July 30, 2012 at 5:15 PM · Report this
15
A properly grounded laptop should not pass electrical shocks on to you, whether they're from the mains or the laptop's backlight inverter. Check the outlet and power strip for faulty wiring (e.g., no ground, faulty ground, faulty neutral, hot-neutral reversal), using an outlet tester or multimeter. Check if your laptop's power brick is performing up to spec using a multimeter. If the outlet, power strip, and power brick are all up to snuff, the problem is in your laptop. Google the brand and model number for reports of electrical shocks, like this one here:

Dell Inspiron 15R gives electric shocks - Super User
http://superuser.com/questions/421017/de…

and go from there.

If the shock was that strong, I wouldn't continue using that particular laptop until the problem has been diagnosed and fixed.
Posted by PCM on July 30, 2012 at 5:20 PM · Report this
lizlemon 16
to be honest, it was probably all of the above. You're doomed.
Posted by lizlemon on July 30, 2012 at 5:52 PM · Report this
TVDinner 17
Since none of us go outside anymore, God has to get creative about smiting.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on July 30, 2012 at 6:26 PM · Report this
18
For starters, there's no such thing as battery static. Batteries shorting out and catching fire, yes; enormous high-voltage shocks, no. The dinky fluourescent backlight tube, may or may not even exist in your computer. Many flat panels are now using LEDs for the purpose, instead. Even if it's there, it's pretty impossible for it to shock you without burning out something in the computer, like the little high-voltage inverter, which might put out a watt or two, tops.

Were there any bad smells accompanying this little lightning bolt of yours? Fried hair, burning electrical stuff (phenolics)? If not, you're kind of left with plain old static discharge, like from wearing a polyester shirt squirming around in a dacron-upholstered chair on a carpeted floor with rubber underlayment in a dehumidified office.

Either that, or... has anyone in the office purchased a stun gun lately?
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on July 30, 2012 at 6:36 PM · Report this
19
I just want to know what happens when you put a laptop in the dryer with fabric softener. Does it get all soft and fluffy like in the ads with the creepy teddy bear?
Posted by Nitidiuscula on July 30, 2012 at 6:48 PM · Report this
Aaron 20
A crack and no burns? Definitely high voltage/low amperage discharge. Nothing more than tingling? What'd be cool is if you could make it happen on que, or to unsuspecting victims! Keep up your research.
Posted by Aaron on July 30, 2012 at 7:07 PM · Report this
long-time reader 21
The thing is, no current should even flow to the ground wire unless something is broken. Plug it into an outlet with one of these (in a bathroom, most likely) and see if the outlet trips: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GFCI
Posted by long-time reader on July 30, 2012 at 8:33 PM · Report this
22
You were not electrocuted, damn it, because you are still alive. You were shocked. Get it right.
Posted by Lack Thereof on July 31, 2012 at 12:12 AM · Report this
Allyn 23
@8 Haven't you seen the pics from their office? A little electrical shock is the LEAST of the dangers their office presents. They don't want to involve L&I; they'd be fined out of existence.

Better to keep mum until the whole building collapses on itself poltergeist-style.
Posted by Allyn on July 31, 2012 at 8:14 AM · Report this
24
Admit it, Brendan. You said the name of The Scottish Play out loud.
Posted by Mr. Happy Sunshine on July 31, 2012 at 9:08 AM · Report this
25
No option referring to the accumulated filth that we all know exists on the gear of Stranger staffers?
Posted by suddenlyorcas on July 31, 2012 at 9:13 AM · Report this

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