16 July 2007
While dumpster-diving a few years ago I resurfaced with the power supply from a Wang mainframe. It produces 5 volts DC at somewhere in excess of 100 amps. It is an awesome power supply, but it scares me. I once accidentally shorted it out and a 10cm section of wire vanished instantly leaving nothing more than a puff of smoke and an oily spot on the floor. Impressive as it is, I would prefer to have a somewhat less ... enthusiastic power supply.
A few months ago I purchased a standard PC power supply and rewired it to power my faulty Macintosh. As it turned out there was nothing wrong with the original Mac power supply (it was a motherboard issue), so the PC supply became surplus. But not for long. Add some banana jacks, some status LEDs, a switch and some feet and one gets a high-quality experimental power supply. 5 volts and 12 volts at 30 amps. Perfect.
Well, almost perfect. Apparently I voided the warranty during this process. Darnit, that always happens to my stuff.
Like any self-respecting geek, I name the power supplies I build. Darlington, Pickering, Chernobyl, Praxis, etc. I'm naming this one ITER (pronounced 'eater'). The ITER project is an international effort to build an experimental fusion device which will finally validate whether the fifty year old dream of tokamak fusion is viable. If it works, we'll have a totally unlimited, clean power source. Canada was one of the founding members of the ITER project and was in the running to host the device. Unfortunately an organization called the Sierra Club published a mixture of lies and distortions to convince Parliament to terminate funding. Why a so-called environmental group would mobilize to oppose research into clean energy is something of a mystery. One suggestion is that ITER's success would pose a threat to the group's existence. When the chips are down, self-preservation often wins. Fortunately the ITER project is still on track. Canada may have dropped out, but Kazakhstan is stepping up to fill the missing spot.
The moral is to research charities very carefully before making donations. Some charities are more interested in power and money than their stated goals.