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$5 Lesson & Repurposed Technology


Last week, I was able to stop in for a few minutes at one of my favorite places to shop, STD Flea Market. Out of all the flea markets in town, STD is my favorite. It has a strange name, I admit, though an innocent one. The acronym stands for Springfield Tool & Die. The story goes that the owner of Springfield Tool & Die retired and turned the two buildings he still owned into flea markets since they weren't much good for anything else.

I love both stores. I've found some really good items over the years for myself and have even resold some items bought there for a quick and nice profit. Jodi had a booth in the downtown location for a brief stint, but it didn't do all that well. After the cost of booth rent, we showed that we were pretty much just breaking even which means we were going to an awful lot of trouble to just give stuff away.

Anyway, back to last week. I stopped in and was eventually drawn like a fly to a booth that was full of electronics. I mean full! There was everything from VCRs to DVD players to computers, to laptops, to digital TV converters, etc. It was cool. I spotted a stash of LCD monitors all of which were priced at $5. Of course, there was no way to test them immediately available, but after a search through the store I found a computer in another booth that had a power cord. I swiped it, grabbed the biggest monitor (a 22-inch), found an outlet, then a ladder to reach the outlet and was finally in business. The monitor powered on and showed a "no signal" message at which I took to be a good sign that the monitor worked fine. I knew, however, that chances were that it had issues that I wouldn't find out till later. I figured $5 was worth the gamble.

Upon fully testing it later, I found that it didn't work. It would come on for about 2 seconds and then the screen would go dark. I did some research online and found it to be a very common problem with LCD monitors. It's just a backlighting issue. I was able to confirm that the LCD part was still functioning from being barely visible when looking very closely. You just can't see it because the lights that light up the screen aren't on.

Usually this is the cause of the inverters going bad. It's so common, in fact, that there are several different companies that sell kits to fix this issue. I took the entire monitor apart and really became acquainted with how they work. I tossed around the idea of buying the replacement parts to fix the monitor at about a cost of $30, but decided that even a 22" LCD monitor wasn't worth $35 to me. And, I shouldn't spend $30 to justify the $5.

It was hardly a total loss, though. I now know how to repair the most common problem found in LCD monitors as well as LCD TVs. That lesson is definitely worth $5. So, I'll keep my eye out for people selling "broken" LCD televisions on Craigslist. I've seen them been given away for this reason. So, maybe I'll be able to find and repair such a score.

Also, rather than toss out the monitor, I had the idea to repurpose it. It's now a $5 picture frame in my office at work. Have you ever bought something that turned out to be junk? Have you ever repurposed junk into something useful or unique?

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