The Lite Side

At the Genius Bar with Bit and Byte

With apologies to Car Talk

- 2001.12.03

I sauntered into the new Mac Store in East Waukegan Shopping Center* to check out how the locals were keeping the Mac Genius busy. The guy behind the counter was wearing a blue lab coat (over a requisite turtleneck) and had hair as if Beakman had just gotten a trim at a Osterizer convention. His name tag reads "Bit," and a lapel pin commands, "Ask me anything."

"So," I says, "how's it going?"

"Not too bad," he says. "Kinda busy today. Can I help you?"

"Well, we'll see," I says. It's always fun teasing the Mac Genius. "Do you sell Windows here?"

The Mac Genius is stunned for a moment, then decides to play along. "We have Windows 2015," he says, grinning, "or what they'll have in 2015 when they get done copying our OS."

Then I know I'm going to have a good time.

"I've got an old Mac Centris that won't boot," I says.

"Did it start yesterday?" he asks. I allow that it did. "Let me get my brother."

His brother turns out to be a short guy with a beard. Now I notice that both of them have this sort of Bostonian accent. The Genius brings the brother up to speed, and they reintroduce themselves to me.

"We're Bit and Byte, the Partition brothers," the Genius says. "Of course, that's not our real names, but it's what we tell people."

"I'm Byte, and let me start off by telling you one thing. Don't listen to a word this idiot has to say," says the Brother. "Let me tell you what's wrong here. The Centris was a fine computer."

"Fine computer," echoes his brother.

"But it had one egregious flaw: It wouldn't start if the onboard battery was dead. Your battery is dead as a doornail."

"That's not it," I said. "I yanked the battery, and it started fine, except it didn't know what time it was."

"I knew it!" cried Bit, the Genius. "Don't listen to him, he's never even seen a Centris," he continued. "The problem is a bad power supply cable. Have you swapped out the power supply cable?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Could you be any more wrong?" says Byte. "I don't think so. Listen," he says to me, "Do you get a startup Bong?" He then says, attempting to imitate computer's startup chime, "Choonnnng..."

"Yes," I reply.

"There you have it!" he triumphantly declared. "He gets the bong, then nothing's wrong," he declares, which sends him and his brother into a lung-collapsing conniption fit of choking laughter that lasts nearly two minutes. When lungs and throats are clear, he continues, "That bong - that bong means the motherboard is good. The battery is probably good."

"Probably," says Bit.

"Your problem is definitely in the power supply. Now, let me ask you another question. Why in heck are you using a Centris?"

"It suits my needs," I say, quickly adding, "when it runs."

"Aha!" says the Genius. "So it's been giving you problems for a while? Let me guess. Sometimes it starts, and sometimes it doesn't. Right?"

"Right," I reply.

"I used to own a Centris," says the Genius. "Nice little computer. Came out when - back in what, '92? They kept that form factor right up till the iMac. Too bad they only used the name for like a year. "

"It was '93," his brother said. "And they discontinued the name within the same year. When did you own a Centris?" he asked. "I never saw you use a Centris."

"It's in the basement," replied the Genius. "I don't use it much anymore; I used to keep my taxes on it, you know, the real taxes..."

"...as opposed to the fake ones you show the tax man," quips Byte. This sends them into another paroxysm of laughter dragging on for another minute.

"Anyway," the Genius continues, wiping his eyes, "your problem is so simple, you are going to die when I tell you. You are going to fall on floor and spin around like Curly in the Three Stooges. You are going to drop whatever you're holding, so put it down. Was it a 610 or a 650?"

"A 650, I think." I replied.

"A 650! Who cares if it's a 650! I already told him what the problem was," said the brother.

"And you were wrong!" said the Genius. "It takes someone with more experience in these older machines to know what is happening here. You, sir, have a loose ADB cable."

That hadn't occurred to me, so I said, "Could be."

"There is no could! There is only is!" the Genius roars, and that sends him into yet again another choking laughing fit.

I left the brothers as they debated the relative merits of the slot-loading vs. tray loading iMacs with another customer.

Just another day at the Genius Bar.


This Lite Side was brought to you by our fine staff:
  • I. M. Kidding, humor technician
  • Greg Calgon, the limo driver who takes us away
  • U. B. Good, daycare supervisor
  • Colin Powell, director of security
  • Wile E. Coyote, super genius
  • and our fine legal staff, Winken, Blinken, and Nod.

*East Waukegan, as far as we know, is not a real Mac store location or even a real town. It sounds vaguely Wisconsinish, and if we had ever been to Wisconsin, we would definitely know. But since we haven't, we hope we haven't offended any real or imaginary East Waukeganites.

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