How to fix your keyboard with a red hot needle and willpower

Nov 10, 2020, 10:53 AM

Once upon a time, not so long ago, a software developer engaged in a quest to fix his keyboard...

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It all started on a Sunday evening. My Nitor jacket was finally breaking apart after many years of faithfully keeping me warm and dry, so I ordered a new jacket online. When I completed the order, the left ctrl-key of my Logitech G513 keyboard popped out. I don't know why it chose to do that at that exact moment, but anyway. It had happened a couple of times recently, but this time I could not reattach it.

Closer inspection revealed that out of the four studs that keep the key cap attached to its base, two were completely broken and stuck on their sockets. The dimensions of those sockets are approximately 1 mm by 2 mm.

I desperately need my left ctrl, so I figured I could move the less-used one from right on to the left until I figure a more permanent solution. I only needed to get those little broken legs out of their sockets first.

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Fortunately, I own a pair of really sharp tweezers, originally designed to get ticks off of your skin. Unfortunately, there was absolutely zero gap between the tiny plastic broken legs and their base, so after a while I had to give up on that plan.

At this point I googled "g513 broken ctrl", finding out that it's actually a very typical failure for these keyboards. But lo and behold, Reddit did not fail me. It was suggested that one should heat up a sharp needle, stick it into the broken piece of plastic, let it cool down, and then use that to get the piece of plastic out. OK, makes sense.

First, I raided my wife's sewing kit for the needle.

That was easy enough. The needles were in the second compartment I looked into, and I found them the second time I looked there, after checking every other compartment first.

I do not, however, own a lighter, so I decided to light up a candle, because I thought you could not get a needle hot enough during the time it takes for one match to burn out, and anyway it would be much more tedious if I had to light up a new match every time I needed to retry the operation. I also knew where we keep our candles: they are in a plastic bag in the tool cabinet. Except that they weren't.

Rummaging through the cabinet I finally found the candles, conveniently with a box of matches, right next to the original place where I was searching for them, but in a cardboard box, instead of a plastic bag. The said box also had a clear "CANDLES" text on its side – but that side was the one against the back wall.

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Now I had all the tools I needed, so I went to light up the candle next to my keyboard. Turns out, for whatever reason, the surface against which you are supposed to scratch the matches just did not work: the matches would not light up. At this point I had to ask my wife, who immediately knew that of course we have another box of matches, and of course it's located in the spice cabinet in the kitchen.

So I completed my occult altar next to my keyboard with the lit candle.

The first try was doomed because I got too hasty: I tried to pull the broken piece of plastic out before the needle had cooled down. Luckily the next try worked perfectly. Unluckily, the final broken piece of plastic was not going to give up so easily.

I needed to remove all the surrounding key caps and also use the aforementioned tweezers as a leverage point when applying force on to the needle, and then I just rage-pulled the damn thing out, leaving the socket with surprisingly minor collateral damage.

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And now I, again, have a fully functional left ctrl-key (and a spare “1” key sideways in the place of the right ctrl), and I'm just sitting here dumbfounded at where this line of profession can take you.


Read also our keyboard related blog series:

Keyboard is the Medium of the Developer 3 - Codito ergo some!
Keyboard is the Medium of the Developer 2 - a Switch Statement!
Keyboard is the Medium of the Developer!


Author

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Ville Saalo is a father of two boys. He developed a chatbot with QBasic at the lower elementary school and has been deeply invested in programming ever since. He has been a Nitorean for eight short years already.