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A cracking good repair guide

With a broken PDA in one hand and a maxed-out credit card in the other a cash-strapped techno-dad finds a reasonably priced way around the problem.

Any father who’s trying to sound reasonable will recite the mantra “It doesn’t matter how it got broken, the important thing is getting it repaired.” Whether it’s a cracked window with a tell-tale baseball lying nearby or a PDA lying on the floor with a shattered screen, the important detail isn’t how it got broken. The important detail is a number. A number with a dollar sign in front of it. A number with a dollar sign in front of it that somebody’s going to have to pay. And the important thing about this number is that it be as small as possible.

Like most fathers, I’ve called a glazier with a child’s baseball in my free hand, blanched at the cost of replacing a 6-by-9 inch pane of glass, and done it myself. And like most fathers, I’ve saved myself more than $50 in the process, and torn my fingertips to ribbons.

PDAs are another issue. You void warranties by taking a screwdriver to a broken iPaq or Palm device, and no amount of caulk and putty will cover up sloppy workmanship. And yet the screen of a PDA is made of glass, and will shatter when hit by a baseball or dropped at just the wrong angle. And taking them in for repair is not only expensive, it’s horribly time-consuming.

So with a broken PDA in one hand and a maxed-out credit card in the other, what’s a cash-strapped techno-dad to do? Fortunately, there’s a reasonably priced way around the woes of shattered PDA screens, dud PDA batteries, and other handheld horrors. It’s a fast-turnaround service from that ships out replacement parts so you to repair your own damage. Instead of getting a new iPaq screen and digitizer installed for upwards of $300 over the space of a week, PDAparts will ship you one by courier for $199 and provide the repair instructions for you to do it yourself at your own pace. Older Palm screens (like the one I needed to repair) go for $25. That’s my kind of price tag.

However, my fingertips were still sore from repairing the last broken window, so at this stage in the narrative, 14-year-old Chris Lake takes over. Handing over the broken Palm and the box from PDAparts, I washed my hands of the affair and went in search of Band-Aids.

Chris takes control

Chris: Starting with the broken screen, a replacement screen, and a star-headed screwdriver, I went in search of instructions that would show me how to repair this PDA. I had no written instructions to go by, which could challenge non-computer repair person. Following a link at, I found the correct PDA model after a minute, and discovered downloadable video instructions.

A few seconds later, the .ZIP file was on my computer, the .AVI file was loaded into Media Player, and I was ready to begin repairs. The PDAparts video began with a confidence-building notice that this repair will void any warranty you may have on the item. By this stage in the proceedings, it seems too late to go back. As the video proceeds, you get a fairly detailed step-by-step process to dismantling the PDA played in around a minute and a half.

There were some minor snags. For example, disassembling the strip that connects the screen to the motherboard took some effort, but nothing too frustrating or difficult. At last, my damaged screen lay in front of me, and this time out of the plastic confines it previously rested. did not offer a video showing how to reassemble the PDA, but I felt reversing the order of disassembling should do the trick. Winging the repair seemed to work, the fully functional PDA lay in my palm within five minutes. Now my PDA was fully functional.

Or was it? When I turned it on, the screen was abnormally dark. The text onscreen was almost completely indiscernible. I checked my repairs. Finding nothing, I noticed the small brightness dial on the left-hand side. A quick twiddle and the problem was rectified. Somewhere during the repair, I must have turned down the brightness. My repairs were successful, thanks to the excellent instructions from…and a little ingenuity.


Matt: When I got the PDA back from my in-house repair shop, it was as good as new. Incidentally, I should point out that Chris wasn’t responsible for the damage to the PDA. He’s less likely than I am to wreak havoc on the inside of a handheld with the screwdriver, true, but the real reason he did the repair job is that he’s a complete novice at it. The fact that a first-timer could do this job in less than half an hour is a testament to the clarity of’s instructions. Thanks to them, I now have some trained help for those little repair jobs.

Now…about the garage door that keeps sticking…

Chris: Dream on, Dad…

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