Once upon a time, if you had a hard drive at all, you probably had a Seagate ST-225, 25.6 megabytes unformatted (like it was any use to you unformatted), 21.6 MB formatted, which everyone described as a "twenty-meg" drive. The ST-225 had a reputation for developing stiction problems, but then rather a lot of drives suffered from this back then. And I'm willing to bet that none of the manufacturers had the temerity to suggest, at least for public consumption, the solution given to me by an actual Seagate tech: whack it just so with a rubber mallet.

Our new IT tech at 42nd and Treadmill, upon encountering some of our more dubious hardware, expressed the desire for one new tool for the office: a large hammer. I was duly impressed by this display of spirit, and sent her nine seconds of Trini Lopez' "If I Had a Hammer" for use in a Windows sound scheme, preferably for "Critical Stop." I'll sing her praises some other time; for now, I want to single out some equipment, not all computer stuff, which over the years has made me want to call Gallagher and ask him to bring the Sledge-O-Matic.

  • GF4A-EL 4-speed automatic transmission, in 1993 Mazda 626.
    It didn't leak or anything, but the sealing was all wrong, or something: every time it rained — and fortunately, we were in a period of moderate drought at the time — the slushbox would come up with some new way to annoy the engine computer, which resulted in error codes, which resulted in expense. I eventually traded this car for a newer Mazda with what the experts (myself included) said was an inferior-quality transmission; it never gave me a lick of trouble in five and a half years.

  • Deservedly-unbranded 5x86-133 CPU chip.
    I think this might have been made by Cyrix, though I don't remember it bearing a Cyrix logo. Notable because when it finally melted down, it retained a tiny amount of actual functionality: the system would still boot into Windows 95, although it would take twenty-seven minutes (literally) to do so. Personally, I think a dead chip should act dead.

  • Sony SL-V40 VCR.
    This 1988 box, Sony's first-ever VHS machine — Beta wasn't dead yet, but was clearly coughing up blood — was actually pretty reliable, and it had a fifteen-year clock, in case you wanted to record something in 2003. It had, however, one of the more ghastly on-screen displays, and you couldn't avoid seeing it: if you set something to record via the timer, it recorded an actual time stamp at the very beginning. Once or twice, this was way cool; about the tenth time, you never wanted to see it again. My own unit also had a questionable eject button, which