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The key to success
Written by Daniel Gladys — 5th July 2017

TheGaz_March2017_DanKeyboard_02

I spilt coffee all over my MacBook. It was the second time I’d done it, but this time was worse. I acted quickly, flipping the keyboard upside down above my head. After the last drip fell, I saw to drying it out. I laid the computer keyboard-down on a face washer atop a milk crate. Inside the milk crate I positioned my housemate’s hair dryer so it would shoot warm air upwards. ‘Genius,’ I congratulated myself, certain my MacBook was soon to be working again.

After an amount of time that I thought was the right amount, I shut down the hair dryer and exhaled. ‘Maybe I’ll watch another True Detective episode—Carcooosssssa.’ As I lifted the laptop, little grey blobs with disfigured white painted letters, which looked more Comic Sans and less Vag Rounded, fell to the face washer.

Most people would have paid someone to fix it, but I was totally broke. So this brings me to how I fixed my laptop’s keyboard and turned a tidy profit. This is not a Silicon Valley story. This is a Preston story. I asked my girlfriend, Jenna, to interview me about all the ‘fun’ she missed.

Jenna: So what happened?
Daniel: I melted all the middle keys off my MacBook keyboard while drying it with a hair dryer. Like, from S to K and from 6 down to the space bar. Key keys.

Did your computer still work?
Yeah, but the tiny buttons under the missing keys were hard to hit. I can’t even touch-type so I had no hope.

What did you do?
Fretted.

I remember; you called me at the time. But how did you fix it? You did something on eBay.
I actually looked on eBay for a new keyboard and found a seller just up the road in Preston. Their keyboards were $49. I figured I’d go up there and see what they said. It turns out that keyboards are sold as one whole unit, and for my particular MacBook you need to remove a whole lot of stuff to fit a new one. The labour bill was expensive—like, three times the cost of the keyboard. I’m a tight-arse so I didn’t want to do that.

What did you do?
When I was googling ‘how to fix a MacBook keyboard’ I found videos on how to replace individual keys. It does require a technique, and a small flathead screwdriver, but it isn’t too hard. Even better, while I was eBaying I saw that some sellers were selling individual keys for as much as $9.95, if not more …

Now I remember! You started selling keys.
I only needed to replace about 14 keys. I did the maths: There are something like 78 keys on a keyboard. Seventy-eight minus 14 is 64. Sixty-four times, let’s say, $10 is $640. In the end I undercut my eBay rivals by half, selling my keys with the necessary hinge and the promise of on-call installation instructions for $5 each. For a second there I thought I would buy a bunch of stock, sell at my cheap rate, destroy the other businesses and reap the profits, before restocking, upping my prices, and becoming richer and fatter than Clive Palmer. It’s kind of like how Bunnings has destroyed independent hardware stores, I think, but I’m no Bunnings.

That seems like a good deal. What do you mean by ‘on-call installation instructions’?
In my eBay copy I wrote that, over the internet, I would help instruct purchasers on how to fit the keys.

Did that happen?
Not exactly. I would send them links to YouTube videos I’d watched but I did get an interesting request once: a guy asked to meet me to collect the key and hinge.

Did he want to save on postage?
For a moment I thought so, but I was posting for FREE with regular post—a single stamp for 70 cents. But I soon found out what he really wanted: free installation. I met him outside the IGA on High Street, purposely public, and he pulled out his laptop while telling me a sob story about how his young son keeps pulling keys off it. I felt for the guy, so I fitted the key.

How much money did you make and are you still in the game?
My new keyboard paid for itself and I made maybe $150 on top of that. But with the postage, handling and installation it didn’t seem worth it to continue. It was a lot of work. Every now and then I take a look at what’s happening on eBay. Right now prices are through the floor—like, $4 per key—and I’m pretty sure I found a listing that has the exact same copy I wrote in my listing. Maybe they stole my idea.

The end.

This true story was written on a 2011 MacBook Pro with 14 replacement keys.