Static Electricity isn’t good for electronics

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Static electricity is bad for electronics.

When you were a kid, did you ever deliberately drag your feet along the carpet to build up static electricity and then touch a doorknob in the dark to see the little blue spark?  The cool-factor justifies the tiny shock for a good half-dozen light shows before it gets less interesting, and that’s where siblings come in.  You can’t see the spark unless they happen to be in a dark room at the time, but suddenly you’re armed with the magical power to shoot teeny, tiny lightning bolts that zap and leave no trace—no mark, no weapon.  I have no idea what he’s talking about, mom.

If not, you missed out.  Go drag your feet along the carpet for a little bit, like back and forth twice along your hallway if you live in a small place, while wearing socks.  Then, touch something metal in the dark and you’ll feel the little jolt and see a spark.  It only takes a few seconds.  Go head—we’ll wait.

Now that we all have the same point of reference, that little lighting bolt is the transfer of electrons you basically scraped off of yourself while dragging your feet, because the carpet is too bound to its electrons to be a fair sharer in the exchange, leaving you positively charged.  When you touch something metal, which has more of an open-relationship with its electrons, loose negatively-charged electrons leap from the doorknob to your positively-charged finger so that you can be in balance again, and it makes a spark.  Real lightning is the same thing, but between clouds, surrounding air currents and the earth instead of feet, carpet and doorknobs, and it’s much, much bigger.

When you plug a lamp into the wall and turn it on, it lights up the bulb.  That same amount of energy powers your whole computer.  My screen alone is brighter than the lamp next to me so the whole thing is a little magical, if you ask me.  

Each of the tiny components inside electronics need only a fraction of the incoming power to work.  In fact, too much will destroy them, like sending enough power to light the Eiffel Tower through a single bulb.  Record that in slo-mo because the bulb will be a fine powder of glass-dust flying around a dramatic flash of fire before leaving you standing in a dark room with the strong oder of burned filament.  Shrink that down a whole lot and you can see what might happen to a specific component on the Motherboard of a computer designed to run on 1/100 of the power it takes to light a lightbulb.

Because electronics are finicky like that, serge protectors are built in to the power supply of systems to absorb the expected fluctuations in the regular supply, and we have power strips with serge protectors to absorb the unexpected fluctuations.  We try.

If you’ve never seen electronics being built, look it up.  Everyone is dressed like they work in a sterile environment because dust is the enemy and no one can accidentally conduct electricity.  If you have a shock in your socks and you’re on the assembly line, that component is toast.

There’s a magic to technology to those of us who don’t really understand, and to the Engineers among us it is a language, a science, and a lifestyle.  Thank you, Engineers, for keeping my world running.

If you don’t have a maintenance contract with a SkyTech Engineer to keep your system running safely, you might be a stupid spark away from frying something and not know it.  These things are sensitive, and a maintenance contract is more professional than an office-wide no-sock rule.

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