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(A True Story)

In 1993, sometime in December, a customer walks in with a dead 
PowerBook 165. Fault description: hangs on startup. An 
additional symptom provided was: whilst being carried from the 
customer's site  to our service center, a 'sloshing' noise was 
heard within the machine. 

"Has anything been split on this computer?" I inquired, but no, 
nothing of the sort had happened, protested the client 
vehemently. Taking this with a grain of salt (no-one's going to 
admit doing something that totally invalidates their warranty 
and effectively wrecks their computer) I went about filling in 
the repair order. 

Back on the bench, I started the PowerBook up. Sure enough, an 
address error on startup, just after 'Welcome to Macintosh'. I 
lowered my ear to the keyboard, at which point I heard a 
crackling noise (couldn't hear any sloshing noise though) 
and became aware of a rather 'sharp' odor which seemed to 
emanate from the inside of the machine. Flicking the computer 
off and unplugging the adapter, I removed the battery from 
its compartment, only to observe that the entire battery 
casing was soaked in a fluid which appear to have a rainbow-
like sheen (kind of like what a puddle of soapy water would 
look like -- oily and colorful). I also noticed that the 
same fluid was leaking out of the battery compartment onto 
the static mat, but appeared clear rather than multi-colored. 
My first thoughts were that the battery had somehow leaked 
acid out into the guts of the PowerBook, which would account 
for the sharp smell (which reminded me of ammonia), yet the 
battery terminals were about the one part of the battery that 
was dry. No, upon closer examination, I ruled the acid theory
out. The battery was wet, but not leaking. 

Tipping the machine on its side, I watched more fluid run out 
and coagulate on the bench in a puddle about the size of a 
compact disc. It was definitely clear, and I observed that 
the 'rainbow' effect had been caused by the reaction of the 
plastic battery casing to this 'mystery liquid'. I then 
unscrewed the computer and separated the two parts of the 
PowerBook. The smell suddenly became a LOT stronger. The hard 
disk looked like a solid lump of rust, and the daughterboard 
appeared to have about three barbecued chips. Although I was 
quickly forming my own opinions on what had happened, I 
invited several of my workmates in to take a sniff and offer 
an opinion.

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