About a year or so ago, my here-to-fore perfectly working Samsung 225BW computer monitor started taking a very long time to turn on. At first it was only a few minutes and I could live with it. Eventually, a few minutes became up to a half hour and the situation became unworkable. I was learning about electronics and specifically capacitors at that time. My gut told me that the problem, slow warming up, might have to do with a faulty capacitor.
I contacted the service folks at Samsung and they informed me that the repairs might cost a couple of hundred dollars. At that point, it made more fiscal sense to just purchase a new monitor and I did. I got a Dell 2208WFP from NewEgg for a reasonable price and I was happy again. Well, pretty happy. It still bothered me to throw away what was an otherwise perfect monitor.
The electronics we use and throw away so easily now-a-days often contain toxic substances like lead and even the plastic that makes up so much of them requires petroleum AND will probably outlast our civilization. In my own life I’ve owned maybe 20 computers and eight or nine cellphones, not to mention VCRs, stereos and tons of other things that are sitting in a landfill rotting as we speak. More than that, I’m a die hard packrat and hate to throw anything useful away.
So, the monitor sat in our hallway gathering dust.
In the last few weeks Sarah and I have been making a real effort to clean up our apartment. We’ve got about ten things sitting in our apartment with no real purpose. We’ve talked about throwing these things out, or finding the right place to recycle them, or finding a place to donate them, but it’s never progressed beyond the point of talking. Then, yesterday, I decided to put the monitor on craigslist. I figured that it would be better to give it away for free to someone who might have the skills to fix it, rather than letting it go to waste.
Then it hit me. Maybe I could fix it myself! A quick web search for “Samsung power problem” brought up 13 million results. Obviously, this was a pretty common design flaw with many Samsung monitors. One particular article on the Earth Info site really made me think that this was a fix that I was capable of doing myself. I haven’t done much soldering, but I’ve been tinkering for about a year and this seemed within the range of my skillset. Anyway, what did I have to lose?
The biggest mental obstacle for me was opening the monitor’s case. I’ve been building computers since I was eighteen or so, but I’d never even seen the inside of a monitor. Like a lot of people, I tend to treat electronic things as sealed magic boxes. It was a little daunting opening up what could have been a Pandora’s box.
I needn’t have worried. Opening the case required only loosening a few screws and prying off the front with a butter knife. I took pictures as I went along in order to make sure I’d be able to put things back together. Unfortunately, I deleted the pictures from my camera before I realized how useful they may have been for the future. In fifteen minutes the monitor was in pieces on my coffee table. I was surprised at how simple the monitor actually was. Just a case and two pcb boards, really.
There were three blown capacitors on the power supply board just as I had seen in the articles and YouTube videos. It took about five minutes for me to de-solder them. Only at that point did I remember that I would actually need need replacements for the capacitors I removed. Some engineer I am! I contacted RadioShack near my house, but RadioShack isn’t really the same hobbyist friendly place that it used to be. I also contacted a place called Leeds Radio that was near my house. The curt person who answered the phone seemed completely uninterested in talking to me. He indicated that he didn’t have the appropriate capacitors and quickly hung up on me.
Note to business owners: Even if you don’t have the item I’m looking for today, you may have the item I’m looking for tomorrow. I’ve you’re not interested in talking to a potential customer, why are you even in business?
You can imagine how frustrated I was. How could it be so hard to find electronic components in NYC? I could have ordered the capacitors online, but I was heart set on completing the task that same day. I also wasn’t looking forward to explaining to Sarah why our mission to clean out our apartment had instead led to me having monitor components strewn all over the place. After some additional digging on the web, I found a place at 269 Canal Street called, imaginatively enough, 269 Electronics. They confirmed that they did have the appropriate caps. A quick subway ride to Chinatown and back and I was in business. I bought one extra of each type of capacitor and the grand total was $12.00. It took about fifteen minutes for me to install the new caps and a few more minutes to re-assemble the case.
I evidently forgot to take at least one picture, because I wound up with a small metal piece which I wasn’t sure where or how it re-attach. So, I just threw it in my junk drawer and crossed my fingers. I reconnected the monitor to my computer and I was back in business!
All in all, the repair cost me $12.00 and a few hours of easy work. The only tools needed were my soldering setup, a screwdriver and a butter knife. In the end, I feel incredibly satisfied to have been able to DIY it. I have a much better idea of what I’m actually capable of doing with electronics and I am even more interested in hardware hacking. I feel like the mental veil that I’d had towards electronic devices was lifted a little bit. Most of all, I feel like I contributed some small bit to fight the overwhelming air of disposability that’s infected our world these days.
America! Let’s get our hands dirty again.
p.s. Samsung, you should probably fix this. It’s pretty embarrassing.