Twenty Keyboards, Thirty Five Computers; or How to Straighten Pins on a PS/2 Connector

Geek Culture

Mini-DIN connectorMini-DIN connector

Image via Wikipedia

This is a guest post by GeekWife/Mom and Teacher, Travlyn Russell.

In the midst of a the largest budget crisis in California since the
1970′s, when most teachers are facing cuts in supplies and materials, I teach in a classroom with millions of resources at my command. Yep! I teach in a computer lab. Specifically, I teach World History and American Government/Economics. Overnight,
I went from being a woman who was suspicious of the function keys (what are those for anyway?), to a woman who was managing hundreds of bits of hardware and suddenly supplying tech support to my coworkers. (It’s a strange truism in education that your personality is instantly associated with the room in which you teach. I
once moved into a new room of a retired teacher and everyone called me by her name for two weeks—even after I had worked at the school for four years.) 

However, one snag in my cool new classroom was that my keyboards were strangely incompatible with my computers, so they only worked intermittently. When one wouldn’t work, the students would yank the keyboards out of the CPU’s . After screaming in agonized frustration, I would then calmly explain to the students that they bent the pins in the PS/2 connector, rendering the keyboard into a lifeless mass of cheap plastic. (This confused many children, and they began to look for Sony Playstations attached to their computers.)

In a matter of three weeks I went from 35 to 20 keyboards. I had to rotate students around the computers like they were playing musical chairs. Finally, I got paid and bought ten new USB keyboards for the classroom. Still, the old-fashioned keyboards were causing students to throw up their hands in frustration! Whenever I had extra money, I would go out and buy an extra keyboard. However, my paycheck could not keep up with demand. I
finally resorted to teaching my students to straighten the pins in the connectors with ball point pens, and essentially engaged them in sweat-shop style labor to rescue the husks of keyboards that were stacked in the corner of my classroom. Hey, at least they were learning valuable job skills! 

The story has a happy ending, however. Logitech donated 35 brand new USB keyboards to our lab, once again making learning possible in my room. I
donated my less nifty USB keyboards to the rest of the school, in an effort to eradicate the dreaded PS/2 pin connectors from our environs forever. 

How to straighten pins in a PS/2 connector:

1. Remove dust and particles from the PS/2 port on your device.

2. Find a ball point pen (a large paper clip works as well).

3. Use the ball point pen to bend back pins in the connector so they look straight and the pin heads are all equidistant from each other.

4. Attempt to put the connector into the computer. If it doesn’t quite fit. Jiggle it gently, sometimes that helps. This motion also helps identify which pins are not quite straight.

5. Repeat until you succeed or drive to Fry’s in desperation and just get a new one.

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