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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Keyboard Problems
In the future, a group of resistance fighters send me back in time with instructions to find the Skynet prototype and try to upgrade it.
Title text: In the future, a group of resistance fighters send me back in time with instructions to find the Skynet prototype and try to upgrade it.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: First draft. Characters from The Terminator could be explained better. Is there a "comics with Terminator" category? Anything else you can think of

This comic is about how computer problems appear with no obvious cause. Even technically skilled people often find themselves powerless to diagnose the problem, and resort to tricks and quirks to solve or circumvent the problem without really understanding how or why the trick should work.

In the comic, Cueball complains that some keys in his keyboard don't work. Generally speaking, this could be due either to a software problem (i.e. the keyboard driver not working properly, or some program ignoring keypresses) or to a hardware problem (the keyboard is physically damaged, typically because of dirt under the keys).

If the problem is in software, booting from a different operating system (e.g. an external recovery disk) should solve it, as the computer would not be using the faulty software. Conversely, if the problem is in hardware, changing the keyboard should solve the problem as the new keyboard is not physically damaged and has no dirt under the keys.

However, the problem stays there after booting from an external recovery disk (so it's not a software problem) and it has "followed Cueball since his last computer" (i.e. persists after changing the keyboard and even the whole computer, so it's not a hardware problem). Cueball is reasonably puzzled.

Megan seems to be used to Cueball's computer behaving strangely, and she doesn't even attempt to explain or solve the problem. The only explanation she needs for the problem is that "it's Cueball's computer". The characters in this comic are probably the same as in 1084: Server Problem and 1316: Inexplicable.

The last panel is a reference to The Terminator, a 1984 movie often referenced in xkcd. In the movie, a robot (visually indistinguishable from a human) from the future travels through time to the present to kill Sarah Connor. This robot proves to be really hard to stop. Megan suggests that if such a robot ever comes to haunt her, she'll hide in Cueball's house, as the robot won't work there since Cueball's computers can't seem to ever work properly.


[Cueball] sits between two laptops. Megan stands behind him.]
Cueball: Keys on my keyboard keep failing, even when I boot from an external recovery disk.
Megan: Sounds like it's hardware, then.
[Cueball moves over to the laptop behind him.]
Cueball: Yeah... except the problem followed me from my last computer.
Megan: You have the most bizarre tech issues.
[Cueball picks up the keyboard from the rear computer and plugs it into the one in front of him.]
Cueball: It must be spreading via keyboards. This one won't work with any computer now.
Megan: When the robot apocalypse happens, I'm hiding out in your house. Any Skynet drones that come near will develop inexplicable firmware problems and crash.

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