Archive for October 17th, 2009


Disable Device: A Brief Communication to the ACS

Good fellows of the Amateur Cartography Society,

Although it does not involve a map in the usual sense, I thought the following findings from my recent attempt to disable a device might be of interest.

In 2 minutes 27 seconds I, a commoner with no special training in mechanical or electrical lore, successfully de-activated a digital stopwatch that was cheaply mass-produced in Thailand sometime in the first decade of the third millennium. The device was not harmed by the attempt, and I expect that it will take me approximately as long to re-activate it later using the same tools (but a new battery).

Figure 1: Chronological Diagram of the Device-Disabling Process

Disabling a device

Disabling a device

I estimate that it took me thirty seconds – what D&D would call three segments in the Advanced edition or three rounds in the Third and Fourth editions – to either remove two screws, or figure out what I was doing and remove one screw. It took me a little more than two minutes (or AD&D rounds) to disable this particular device using masterwork thieves’ tools (a stainless-steel screwdriver with a tiny head, taken from an eyeglass repair kit probably also cheaply mass-produced somewhere in East Asia earlier this millennium). In ten minutes (an AD&D turn) I could probably have disabled four such devices.

Note that this two-minute time is similar to what the 3E System Reference Document would call taking 20 on a Disable Device check, assuming this was a simple device. It is not clear to me that even the most skillful rogue could have reversibly disabled this particular device in six seconds, but I look forward to being surprised by further investigations by my brothers and sisters of the Society.

Figure 2: Materials Used

Components of the device, and the tool used to disable it

Components of the device, and the tool used to disable it

Pictured: front of the device, back of the device, screwdriver, screws, battery that was removed to disable the device. I felt like the dudes fromĀ The Hurt Locker as I did this, except that I had very little expectation that I would be killed or wounded in the attempt to disable this device, and I was listening to Beau Jocque and Parliament instead of heavy metal.

Past Adventures of the Mule

October 2009

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