Main Page

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 00:41, 4 March 2013 by Davidy22 (Talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have collaboratively explained 5 xkcd comics, and only 1581 (31620%) remain. Add yours while there's a chance!

Latest comic

Go to this comic explanation

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, the artificial intelligence named Skynet initiates a nuclear war, destroying most of humanity, then it sends killing machines to finish the rest. These include flying drones - Megan suggests that if such robots come to Cueball's vicinity, they will (physically) crash since computers around Cueball can't seem to ever work properly, and so hiding in Cueball's house she should be safe from the robots.

The title text refers to main plot of the movie, or rather it's sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day - as Skynet's army is losing the battle against human Resistance movement, it finds a way how to send a humanoid robot T800 back in time to kill the mother of the Resistance's leader. The Resistance in turn sends a soldier back in time to protect her. In the sequel, the situation repeats with more advanced T-1000 being the killer and T-800 being the protector of the kid - future leader. Along the way, they manage to destroy research lab where future Skynet hardware is to be born. The title suggest alternative mission into the past, using Cueball's power to cause Skynet's malfunction instead of destroying it physically (as Skynet got created later anyways, despite the destruction of the research lab).


[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.

Is this out of date? Clicking here will fix that.

New here?

You can read a brief introduction about this wiki at explain xkcd. Feel free to sign up for an account and contribute to the wiki! We need explanations for comics, characters, themes, memes and everything in between. If it is referenced in an xkcd web comic, it should be here.

  • List of all comics contains a complete table of all xkcd comics so far and the corresponding explanations. The red links (like this) are missing explanations. Feel free to help out by creating them! Here's how.


Don't be a jerk. There are a lot of comics that don't have set in stone explanations; feel free to put multiple interpretations in the wiki page for each comic.

If you want to talk about a specific comic, use its discussion page.

Please only submit material directly related to —and helping everyone better understand— xkcd... and of course only submit material that can legally be posted (and freely edited.) Off-topic or other inappropriate content is subject to removal or modification at admin discretion, and users who repeatedly post such content will be blocked.

If you need assistance from an admin, feel free to leave a message on their personal discussion page. The list of admins is here.

Personal tools


It seems you are using noscript, which is stopping our project wonderful ads from working. Explain xkcd uses ads to pay for bandwidth, and we manually approve all our advertisers, and our ads are restricted to unobtrusive images and slow animated GIFs. If you found this site helpful, please consider whitelisting us.

Want to advertise with us, or donate to us with Paypal?