Sunday, May 17, 2009

Clear Thinking Can Solve Personal Problems

Understanding a problem incorrectly can lead us into all sorts of side tracks, wasting enormous amounts of time, effort and money.

I will narrate an experience that illustrates the various errors that can happen in analysing a problem. A proper analysis can present a simple solution that was right there under your nose all the while.

The incident happened around my mini stereo system. It developed a snag. It had two small speakers and one big speaker. The big speaker was fixed in a cabin. One of the small speakers stopped producing any sound. Well. Not totally silent. It would come on and off, with just some hissing noises in between.

For a long time I thought the speaker was gone, and blamed the company for robbing me. I tried to pry open the speaker, naively hoping that the problem was with some wire connection and that I could set it right myself.(I was no electronics engineer and had no experience with repairing gadgets.) The speaker frame was a molded whole and there was no way to open it. I thought I would have to buy a new one. But would a single speaker be available ? Would the company insist on my buying a new set ?

Then I happened to switch the speaker channels, just to test and found that there was nothing wrong with the speaker. It was only one channel that was not responding. If I connected the speaker to the other channel, it did produce sound. That was a relief. Now I did not have to change the small speaker.

But the channel came out of the Main speaker cabin(It housed the amplifier). Now I had to open the cabin. I resolved to make an attempt, before showing it to an expert. In fact, one of my acquaintances, a cd shop owner, had offered to service it. But I hated to lug the big box across the street to his shop.

Opening the cabin was easy. I used a pocket knife, improvised as a screwdriver. Peering inside, I could see a PCB( Printed Circuit Board) with a lot of small devices on it. Capacitors, transistors, ICs…? what the heck was all that ? I have’nt had to deal with them ever, since college. I strained my eyes to find a piece of wire pulling on which, the sound would come back. Nope. Everything was screwed and soldered properly; there were no loose ends in sight.

I guessed I had no option but to take it to my friend for his expert opinion. He should have. All day he sits around DVD players, TVs and Stereo systems.

Then the break came which was a sort of Aha moment for me.(I seriously believe I might have awakened to “The Zen of speaker tweaking.”)

The speaker had been coming to life off and on while I moved the cable which carried the signals from my computer to the speaker system.There! That meant the channels were being seperated in that cable itself. Otherwise it would not have affected a single channel. It would have affected both channels.

Now I knew that the problem lay in this cable. It was broken at some point along its one and a half metre length. All that I had to do was get a new cable.

Moral : Before attempting to repair audio equipment, do check the various connecting cables. Do it safe. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Bigger moral: Often a problem is not as complicated as it seems to be. Just relax and observe. The solution will show itself.

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