October 22, 2009, 11:26 AM — Let's face it: Technology seems made to stop working. Screens crack, circuits short, and power supplies abruptly conk out. It's all part of the complex and confounding ecosystem of electronics.
The worst, though, is when something really is built to break--and in the most extreme way. I'm talking fiery explosions, flying components, and acid-leaking compartments, all courtesy of bugs built right into ill-fated devices.
Sound far-fetched? Hey, we've seen some crazy stuff happen over the years. Some of it is astonishing; some of it is merely annoying. But all of it is extreme--and entirely too real.
We start with some good old-fashioned spontaneous combustion.
Nothing screams "tech disaster" like a laptop on fire. Due to the intricacies of modern-day electronics, it takes only a minor manufacturing error to send your system up in flames--and not the kind generated by the jerks of online forums, either.
The most extreme example of fire-related fallout may be the massive series of recalls brought about by bad Sony batteries in 2006. Small shards of nickel made their way into the batteries' cells during production, causing numerous systems to overheat and sometimes catch fire. The recalls affected laptops sold by Dell, Hitachi, IBM, Lenovo, Toshiba, and even Apple.
By the end, a staggering 9.6 million laptop owners had been burned (figuratively speaking) by the failure, and Sony had spent nearly $430 million to replace all the defective units.
Lest you think I'm just blowing smoke up your ash, let me assure you that this danger was far from hypothetical. (Watch PC Pitstop simulate a laptop battery explosion where the temperatures soared to 1000 degrees.) A Sony-battery-powered laptop famously exploded and caught fire at the Los Angeles International Airport in 2007, and a traveler managed to catch the entire incident on tape.