No, I’m not talking about the David Byrne song today. I’m going to write about something that happened here in my office a couple of days ago — that might have resulted in a real disaster. I’m feeling very fortunate that my office, my studios, and my building didn’t burn to the ground when the DVD-ROM drive in one of my PCs caught fire in the middle of the night. I would never have imagined that a single space optical disc drive could spontaneously erupt in flames. But it happened. You might think twice about leaving your equipment running when you’re not around.
Figure 1 – The back of the DVD-ROM drive that burst into flames inside my Sony Vaio computer.
My office is not large. It’s in the front of the building and provides a view of the McLaren repair shop across the street and my driveway. But it’s got a couple of windows and I like having the light. I have three computers located in strategic places. I have an aging Mac tower under my desk that feeds two large displays on my main desktop and there are two PCs on another desk behind me. I use these machines to edit and process audio files (in Nuendo), prepare and upload soundfiles to iTrax, and encode and author Blu-ray discs.
The authoring system was custom made by my former engineer and still functions quite well for a 6-year-old machine. Then there’s the Sony Vaio machine — another older machine with a couple of DVD drives and a few hard drives mounted inside. After all of the dust from the recent studio construction, I decided to organize and clean the desk with the PCs, which I did. It’s always nice to work in an area that’s organized and uncluttered. However, anyone that has viewed my office knows that I’m not a neat-nick. I like to be organized but there never seems to be enough time to find a place for everything and put everything in its place. It’s a problem — especially when I’ve had to downsize a lot to make room for the new studios.
I’ve never made a habit of turning off my computers or audio equipment when I leave the office or studio. I don’t subscribe to the whole “burning-in” idea; I just find it easier to start the next day from where I left off the previous day. And I’ve never had an issue until two days ago.
I had been editing the demonstration tracks for the “Music and Audio: A User Guide To Better Sound” at the close of Friday. When I opened the door to my office on Saturday morning, I smelled a very familiar odor — the smell of burned electronic components. It was quite strong but I didn’t notice any obvious problems until I returned to my Vaio to continue editing. The machine was dead.
After disconnecting all of the external connections, I pulled the case off of the machine and was shocked to see the DVD-ROM drive and power supply severely burned. Take a look at the image at the top of this article — this is not a simply fried cable or two. The whole unit was toast.
And the inside of the computer case showed a large amount of burning as well. There was a major flame up inside of the computer. Something must have shorted out inside the DVD-ROM drive and the dust inside the unit accelerated a brief fire. Thankfully, there damage was contained inside of the computer. But I shutter to think how close I came to losing the whole place.
So I turn off all of my computers when I leave the office now. The audio equipment (amplifiers, console, outboard processors, and interfaces) all stay on, but the computers get rebooted every morning. I thought you might like to know. Fire inside of computer or electronic component can happen — it happened to me.