Electronic Horror Stories

Halloween may have already passed, but as we all are painfully aware, electronics horror stories know no single season. So gather round (if you dare!) and prepare to hear some of the most fear-inducing, warranty-losing tales from Digilent itself.

Additionally, the holidays are just around the corner and we imagine you might be regaling the relatives with these as well as some of your own stories. So in order to accommodate for a diverse audience, we have included two versions below: The author’s direct account as well as the Steven King style “Campfire” interpretation for dramatic retelling. 

“A Twisted Tale” by James

We (Larissa and I) were testing out the big 900 LED board as our major trade show piece back in 2015 and we got the big 75 amp power supply all hooked up and then plugged our little jumper wires to the uC32 to get its program started. Then the power and ground wires immediately started smoking. Freaking out, we yanked power cord on the power supply from the wall; after all, this was a $1000 demo so we couldn’t exactly afford to let it burn out. But hey, we’re competent engineers, we’ll get it right the next time. We got a new set of wires, made them a twisted pair, got it connected, and plugged the power supply back in…only to watch the twisted pair start melting. We unplugged it yet again. Figuring that it would happen a third time, but curious to see how badly wrong this was going, we got an external current sensor, hooked up a new set of wires and plugged it in again to observed that a healthy 20 amps was being supplied to the uC32… nevermind the fact that it would probably only needed about 0.5 amps to run. Yikes. We got it successfully running (with much trepidation) with a new uC32 that didn’t have a dead regulator, but we were definitely nervous every time we turned it on.

The rehabilitated LED Board running Giant Snake with score keeping!
The rehabilitated LED Board up and running!

Campfire Version:

Once there was man named James. James was tasked with testing out the new 900 LED demo, however his efforts resulted in the smoking and almost-destruction of the demo. He and his team continued troubleshooting only to discover… The uC32 regulator had been dead all along. After recoiling in abject horror, we replaced it with a new, actually functional uC32. But alas, the fear and the memory live on.

A suddenly ominous image.

“Risky Business” by Austin

I should start this story by mentioning that if you use a LiPi battery below 3v per cell they become unstable. They can refuse to charge, or they can also explode. So I took this information and decided to see if there was a way that I could revive my unstable LiPo for a demo I was working on. I needed it to work so we could showcase the companies products, and I had read on the wildly reliable source that is the internet that if I slowly bring the battery back up to charge under the right conditions it would be fine. So I put in on the charger as if it was a different type of battery and started charging it… until I noticed it smelling and smoking. So I quickly unhooked the battery and tossed it across the room in case it exploded. Which it didn’t… but it also did not work anymore.


Campfire Version:

The LiPo battery had been officially pronounced dead but Austin had an idea. Despite having been warned of the dangers of attempting to bring a LiPo battery back to life, caution was ignored in favor of curiosity. After all, what can stop the determined heart and resolved will of man? So he set about his task, only to be met with a face full of smoke and smelly electronics.

“Up in Flames” by Austin again

Another LiPo adventure of mine, I once accidentally attached an 11V LiPo battery to a BeagleBone Black, which was only set up to take 7 volts. Long story short, it caught the board on fire.


Campfire Version:

Ever since Austin was a little boy he very much enjoyed having his toys not on fire. But one fateful day, he went to go play with one of his favorite devices, the BeagleBone Black. It was looking a little lifeless, just laying on his desk without any source of power, so he went and grabbed it a nice LiPo battery for it to play with. However as soon as he connected the two, he knew something was wrong. It may have been the audible popping or possibly the actual sparks in front of him that tipped him off, but regardless he knew that he had to act quickly. He seized the board and disconnected the two as quickly as possible, but it was too late. The damage was done.

We hope you enjoyed our scary tales and feel free to share any of your own in the comments below!

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About Miranda Hansen

I enjoy creative writing, engineering, thinking, building, exploring and sharing with people. Huge aficionado of spending time thinking about things that “don’t matter.” I am very interested in unconstrained creativity. I love cross-discipline ideas and all of their integration into complete original systems. And I like things that do things.

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