Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Volume 2, Number 14: Frankenstein Strikes Again!

(Note: This is a re-posting of an entry I made around May 23, 2007, on a Yahoo! GeoCities blog.)

I have a hobby: Take two similar broken or useless things and make them into something whole and usable.

Almost five years ago, I had my first PDA, a Palm IIIe. Well, not long afterwards, I found out that it was easy to upgrade it to a Palm IIIxe, which has four times the memory of the IIIe (8 MB to 2 MB). All that anyone has to do is to replace the motherboard and voila! (Note: Removing the screen from the motherboard of a Palm III series PDA is tricky, so I don't recommend it unless you're inclined to tinker with stuff and you're careful when doing so.) So I subsequently bought a IIIxe with a bad screen, and mated its motherboard with the screen from the IIIe. In essence, I built my IIIxe for just under $60, at a time when most IIIxe's were selling for a higher price.

Recently, I took to another mission: Try to build a SanDisk Sansa e260 MP3 player using parts from two similar, broken players.

I thought it would be simple: I bought an e260 with a broken screen thinking all I'd need to do is look for another e200 series that had a good screen (which I could then transplant into the e260).

Well, it turns out that I can't do that. The screen is soldered onto the logic board, so removing it is impossible unless you're adept with a soldering iron (which I am not). So I resigned myself to buying another Sansa e200 series MP3 player that needed parts from my e260--an e250 with paint all over its faceplate and dust inside it. I cleaned out the e250 and swapped the faceplates, and voilĂ ! Now I had a color MP3/video player with 2GB of memory. I was satisfied for the time being, as I had cut my losses from the failed e260 gamble...

But then, just for the heck of it, I took the e260 apart one more time, to see if it had anything else--anything at all--that the e250 could use. And to make a long story short, I was surprised to see that the memory could be removed from the logic board! This was a "Eureka!" moment for me because it meant I could put it into working MP3 player. I quickly re-dismantled the e250 to see if I could also remove its memory and put the e260's memory chip in its place. And I could. And I did. And I turned it on, and verified that it now had 4GB of memory, and that it worked, you can bet I wanted to yell, "IT'S ALIVE!!!!" The paint-spattered and dusty e250 had become a clean, fully-functional e260; the e260 with the broken screen became, well, an e250 with a broken screen and some paint on it (although I have since scraped off most of the paint).

Total cost for the Frankensteined e260: $96.44 (the combined cost of the two Sansa players, both of which I purchased on eBay). The e260 typically sells for around $150 at most stores nowadays.

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