VOGONS


First post, by data9791

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

Has anyone here actually ever had a part damaged by static shock? A friend recently came by and was a bit surprised how I store my stuff. I rarely keep parts in static bags. Mostly I just stack them gently on top of one another inside cardboard boxes, usually seperated by a piece of cut cardboard. The ones that might be really delicate I might sandwich between a bit of packing foam and put inside a paper bag. In the 26 years I've been working on computers I've only ever had stuff fail because caps blew up from age, mosfets/cpus blew up from abusive overclocking, and here and there I've scratched a trace off with a screw driver. I've never just had something fail from a bit of static in the environment. I always thought it was just old school hard drives and eproms that were problematic in this regard.

Reply 1 of 24, by Warlord

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t

yes the risk is overblown, but it could happen. I have never shocked anything, I always ground and discharge myself before I touch anything. It's possibly more of an issue in extremely dry places and conditions like a desert.

Last edited by Warlord on 2019-11-02, 16:39. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 2 of 24, by Tiido

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t

I have killed a Play Station 2 with static one time and one other device I no longer remember, and a logic chip by purposefully zapping one pin of it with a spark thingy from a fire lighter. The pin I zapped stopped working, rest of the chip continued to work 🤣.
Vast majority of the devices have ESD protection diodes and for the most part they do their job very well. Things start to matter a lot with individul transistors etc. where there are no such protections and some ESD can dramatically alter the part's performance.

T-04YBSC, a new YMF71x based sound card & Official VOGONS thread about it
Newly made 4MB 60ns 30pin SIMMs ~
mida sa loed ? nagunii aru ei saa 😜

Reply 3 of 24, by snickersnack

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

I've never noticed that I've destroyed anything with a static discharge. Unseen damage is certainly possible. I have made it a habit to try an touch an exposed pipe or power outlet screw before handling electronics so really strong discharges are rare for me.

I seem to recall reading that early CMOS chips were unprotected and very sensitive.

Reply 4 of 24, by BeginnerGuy

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

Since this is vogons I'd say not so much, old hardware is far more prone to damage from ESD. I would suggest not rubbing your socks on the carpet and then touching your 286 board.. :p... Still not easy to pull off, but if you're tinkering with hardware every day, eventually you could break something with a stroke of bad luck and a finger zap.

Modern hardware is quite esd resistant. I'd be surprised to hear of a part frying just because somebody built their PC while wearing their slippers.

Sup. I like computers. Are you a computer?

Reply 5 of 24, by derSammler

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
BeginnerGuy wrote:

Since this is vogons I'd say not so much, old hardware is far more prone to damage from ESD.

Very true. Touch the SID chip of a C64 without ESD protection and you'll fry it with a 99% chance.

Reply 6 of 24, by Big Pink

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

Given the price of many vintage components these days, I wouldn't take the risk of handling components without my ESD wriststrap on. But then half the time I realise I've forgotten to reattach the alligator clip to the case and nothing's ever come of it.

I did install a graphics card last year clad only in boxer shorts. I briefly thought about taking it further in homage to https://megatokyo.com/strip/70 🤣

I thought IBM was born with the world

Reply 7 of 24, by dionb

User metadata
Rank l33t++
Rank
l33t++
BeginnerGuy wrote:

[...]

Modern hardware is quite esd resistant.

Er no, vulnerability to ESD depends mainly on how closely packed the components are, the smaller the more vulnerable, as it's all about the breakdown voltage for arcing, which increases with distance. Additionally, the delta between operating voltage and static spikes plays a part, although as static discharges are generally hundreds or even thousands of volts, the difference between a 5V part and a 1.2V part is negligible.

The reason old hardware seems more vulnerable is that the damage is cumulative. Decades of unsafe handling will lead to more failures than a short period, even if the new stuff is fundamentally more easily damaged.

As for actually seeing ESD damage in action... the problem is that anything short of instantaneously catastrophic ESD just weakens further whatever point is electrically the weakest in a component. Something that might otherwise fail in decades is set up to fail in years instead. So chances are that that RAM chip that suddenly dies on a video card was hit by ESD, just not necessarily recently. I have seen hundreds of cases that can't be explained other than by ESD, but I can't establish an exact cause-effect relationship to any one incident of mishandling.

However the SEM micrographs of what the damage looks like are enough to convince me to do my best to be careful:
3-Figure3-1.png4-Figure4-1.png

In practice I'd say it's about the same as STDs - if you are sexually very active with multiple partners and don't take precautions, odds are sooner or later you end up with something undesirable. Does that mean that any given intercourse is very likely to infect you? Nope. But it makes sense to take precautions all the time regardless.

Really doing the whole official ESD-safe stuff is excessive, but you can reduce risk massively with a few simple precautions:
- always wear non-static (cotton/linen) clothes when messing with computers. Jeans & t-shirt are fine.
- work on a surface that is very, very weakly conductive, such as an unopened newspaper. It won't short-circuit anything, but will bleed away static charges.
- touch non-sensitive parts of systems or components before handling (hand on metal case), so as to equalize charges.

That won't be 100% safe, but beats the hell out of messing around with components on a synthetic carpet wearing a woolly jumper 😉

Reply 8 of 24, by pentiumspeed

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t

Had a Pentium computer desktop, I was groping around, reaching down to the bottom part0 from front and touched parallel port (pop! and felt the jolt) and blew the multi-i/o chipset soldered to the motherboard's (Asus). Had to get board back to living by replacing it hard way. Back then it was around just 1 year old.

And killed a motherboard by handling it too much for Dell D810 too. Static charge again.

Cheers, Jason

Great Northern aka Canada.

Reply 9 of 24, by badmojo

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
derSammler wrote:

Very true. Touch the SID chip of a C64 without ESD protection and you'll fry it with a 99% chance.

I’ve done a lot of handling SIDs without ESD protection and live in a very static prone environment - never had one die on me. Pretty sure you’re just making shit up - wouldn’t be the first time.

Life? Don't talk to me about life.

Reply 10 of 24, by PTherapist

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

I've never had anything damaged from static, but like others have said they do also, I ground myself on something metal before poking around with hardware.

derSammler wrote:

Very true. Touch the SID chip of a C64 without ESD protection and you'll fry it with a 99% chance.

You must be extremely unlucky then, because I did that many times over the years and the only failed SID I ever encountered was one that was already dead before I got it in my possession - I replaced the dead chip with a working one, again all without any ESD protection at all.

Reply 12 of 24, by Repo Man11

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

The real issue is how do you know? How do you know if that flaky motherboard might not be that way because you were a little careless? Behavior that you can get away with sometimes might get you into trouble at others. When the humidity is so low that you cannot pet your cat without both of you getting shocked, you'd be best off using the wrist strap, stowing your electrical parts in anti static bags immediately on removing them, etc. To borrow from epidemiology, just because there are some people who have smoked cigarettes for many years with little to no significant health penalty doesn't mean that smoking is safe. Outliers don't disprove the peak of the bell curve.

"A lot of times when you first start out on a project you think, This is never going to be finished. But then it is, and you think, Wow, it wasn't even worth it." - Jack Handey

Reply 14 of 24, by imi

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t

I usually always at least touch something earthed before handling stuff... I try to be careful, but I don't wear full ESD protection gear, I have a ESD workmat that I use for things I really cherish though.

Reply 15 of 24, by Windows9566

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

i mainly touch the psu and the chassis before doing stuff in any of my PCs, no matter if its my main rig or if it's one of my retro rigs. I eventually need to get a ESD wristband since they are very cheap.

Reply 16 of 24, by wiretap

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

Touching something to "ground" yourself beforehand doesn't really do anything, since just brushing up against your own clothing or handling items generates static buildup. Plus, people usually think just touching a piece of metal will ground you.. it does not, since all you're doing is transferring voltage potential between objects. The next time you touch a component, you will still not be at earth ground levels. By the same token, your component could be at a higher voltage potential than you, and when you touch it, the fast transfer of electricity damages it. It is best just to buy a $3 wrist strap with a high resistance drain (slow discharge to prevent damage) and a grounded mat for less than $20.

ESD damage isn't always apparent and flat out kills something -- it usually does slight damage to junctions inside microchips which manifests/weakens over time, then fails later on.

Modern components do have ESD protection with shunts, but it is only effective to a few thousand volts.. meant to protect while you're already on an ESD mat with wrist strap if you accidentally come briefly ungrounded. Also, this protection is only on certain paths. If you touch the wrong area, it will directly zap a component. As mentioned already, the smaller the nanometer construction, the more sensitive it is to damage.

There's a reason companies spend all the money they do on ESD protection in everything from training to assembly to shipping. It's science based, not overblown.

I send dozens of components out for failure analysis per year at work, and I can tell when one of our techs handles something improperly, because the electron microscope and x-ray images don't lie.

My Github
Circuit Board Repair Manuals

Reply 17 of 24, by HanJammer

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

It's not overblown. I would say ESD is number one cause of computer components dying right after overheating (and maybe in case of retro machines - NiCd battery leaks).

I keep all my stuff in ESD shielding bags and handle it like dionb described. I also use ESD-safe tools whenever I can.

Good video about what the bags really do is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imdtXcnywb8

New items (October/November 2022) -> My Items for Sale
I8v8PGb.jpg

Reply 18 of 24, by Jo22

User metadata
Rank l33t++
Rank
l33t++

Personally, I think that ESD should continue to remain in our heads so we stay cautious, but..
Unlike ancient parts (early CMOS etc), modern ICs are build with the awareness of false use in mind.

Whereas ICs used to be a domain of professionals and (educated) electronics amateurs, it's mainstream stuff now.
- In pratice, in electronics stores, you can/have to grab them by using your bare hands (they are stored in little boxes in shelves).
Hence, I suppose modern ICs do contain simple counter measurements, at least, in order to widstand little shocks.

That being said, some very old resistor-resistor logic, Diode logic, transistor-transistor logic (TTL) or NMOS design
might be less prone to be killed by static discharge than a semi-modern parts, due to being based on a more primitive, rugged design..

Edit: Sorry for my poor English. :(

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 19 of 24, by dionb

User metadata
Rank l33t++
Rank
l33t++
wiretap wrote:

Touching something to "ground" yourself beforehand doesn't really do anything, since just brushing up against your own clothing or handling items generates static buildup. Plus, people usually think just touching a piece of metal will ground you.. it does not, since all you're doing is transferring voltage potential between objects. The next time you touch a component, you will still not be at earth ground levels. By the same token, your component could be at a higher voltage potential than you, and when you touch it, the fast transfer of electricity damages it. It is best just to buy a $3 wrist strap with a high resistance drain (slow discharge to prevent damage) and a grounded mat for less than $20.

Agreed that that is best practice, but touching the casing does make sense. What's relevant is not that everything is at perfect ground level (which is by no means uniform or constant itself, 'ground' on one side of a building could be significantly different to 'ground' on the other), but that there is no voltage difference between the system you are working on, the component you intend to handle and your hand. If you are holding the antistatic bag the component is in, it will bleed charge so that the contents is at same voltage as your hand, and touching the metal chassis will equalize your hand with the system. So unless you add new charge from somewhere else, no sparks will fly. If you're wearing clothes that generate static, you're wearing the wrong clothes for messing with computers.

[...]

I send dozens of components out for failure analysis per year at work, and I can tell when one of our techs handles something improperly, because the electron microscope and x-ray images don't lie.

Would love to have those kind of resources 😀