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Broken Calculator + Balloon + Benton’s Brain = Entertainment on a Dreary Day

Date January 11, 2009

We’ve had yucky-but-not-really-miserable weather for the past few days — a mix of rain and snow, with temperatures drifting back and forth around freezing. In short — not enough snow to make for good sledding, too much wetness to make it pleasant to be outside, and just enough freezing to make it less than advisable to drive around too much.

Earlier today, Carson showed up with three calculators and a book of calculator “tricks” — riddles and jokes that you read, then punch in an equation, and then turn the calculator upside down to read the punchline. Of the three calculators he had, two were large format calculators, and one of those didn’t work at all. As he was punching in formulas on one of the functioning calculators, I took the back off the broken calculator to see if there was a battery that could be replaced. Instead, I found that the main circuit board, which attached to both the keypad and the LCD screen with some sort of conductive plastic, was totally detached on both sides. There really was no hope of reconnecting it. Carson quickly tired of the calculator riddles and drifted off to play with Legos.

I asked Benton if we should take the broken calculator apart.

He was pretty bored after being stuck inside for the weekend thanks to the weather.. We commenced with our disassembly.

We got the LCD screen completely removed. We tried connecting the battery from the calculator to various contacts…and nothing happened. We found that, at times, if we ran our fingers over the contacts, some of the screen would turn on. Benton hypothesized that a magnet would make the particles align and “turn on” some of the elements, so he ran off to get one. No luck with that, either.

My attention span was sufficiently exhausted, so I wandered off.

A couple of hours later, Benton tracked me down. He had the LCD display:

Static Electricity and an LCD

He had a balloon:

Static Electricity and an LCD

He showed me that he could rub the balloon on his hair:

Static Electricity and an LCD

And then touch the balloon to the contacts on the LCD, and it would consistently light up the elements (trust me, that’s what happened — the photo just doesn’t capture it):

Static Electricity and an LCD

He’s not done yet, as he’s figured out ways to get one side of the display or the other to light up. And, he’s now trying to figure out how to selectively turn off different pieces, and how to explain that there are way fewer contacts going into the display than the number of unique elements that can be turned on or off.

I suspect he’s got a grandfather reading this who has a very big grin on his face at this point…

I, for one, think that calculator, which we’ve had for several years, got more use in pieces than it did in its entire life as a functioning math machine!

5 Responses to “Broken Calculator + Balloon + Benton’s Brain = Entertainment on a Dreary Day”

  1. Mom said:

    I am getting creepy feelings about what it was like to have you (and Shawn, etc.) as kids in our house. My, oh my.

    How can we get Benton out of that camouflage fleece that he is wearing in EVERY photograph? Coud we replace it with a burnt orange, UT fleece? I’m ready to pay whatever it takes.

  2. Tim said:

    Grandma Pam — the guilty party for the camouflage fleece — tried to coax the beast back into the cage by giving Benton a different fleece (dark blue, sports-themed, but in a way that makes it look somewhat like camouflage) for Christmas. No dice. Apparently, now, the new fleece is “too soft.” It’s the same brand, same style as the old one. I have visions of Benton rejecting other new fleeces ten years hence because the “sleeves are too long” (they go past his wrists) and “there aren’t enough holes in them.”

  3. Mom said:

    Actually, I not only have to confess to liking the fleece, but I am sympathetic to anyone who keeps wearing the same thing because it is so comfortable. My college roommate pointed out to me that I was alternating two outfits, wearing them all week, but that I was wearing the same denim jumper to the same classes every week – MWF – and whatever the other outfit was to the same TTS classes…and that maybe I ought to switch that around a bit.

    It is uncanny, however, that the few photos that Benton allows you to take seem always to catch him in the same fleece. Grandma Pam has good taste (and knows boys)! One day Benton will not be able to get it over his head.

  4. Ariston Awitan said:

    Hey, its me Ariston. How did you break the calculator? It was pretty cool how you figured out how to get the LCD to light up. Alana’s getting big. How’s Carson doing? He’s getting big too. All of you are getting big. How are the dogs? I am sort of sick right now. You know my bother Matthew?, well, he’s sick too. I miss you. I wish you or I could come to either of our houses.

    You’re freind,
    Ariston

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