I had my earphones plugged into a (grounded) audio distribution system mounted on the treadmills at the local gym (so we could select and hear television audio from various overhead monitors). I was electrically isolated, in intimate contact with a hard rubber belt, moving and rubbing against another surface. I felt a periodic sharp pain in my head while walking. As a static charge built up on me, the thousands of volts eventually had enough pressure to jump the gap between the grounded earphones and my ear canal. I didn't hear it beacuse the audio was louder, but I sure felt it. It took me a few moments to analyse what was going on. On my next visit, I grounded myself to the treadmill handrail using a standard ESD wrist strap/wire. Problem went away. No wonder noboby was listening to the TVs at the treadmill station. I told manangement and they bought a bag of wired wrist straps for their clients to use.
We had an ESD problem with Si wafer fork robot. Not only did the computer occasionally re-boot, but spark damage occurred on wafers withdrawn and/or inserted into their plastic cassettes. The solution: Isolate the fork and connect to ground through a giga Ohm resistor.
Years ago I worked with a SW engineer who just couldn't (or wouldn't) take ESD seriously. One of his habits that drove me up the wall was he would put an IC on his plastic notebook and just slide the chip around in a circle on the notebook (a good way to zap the chip).
We could never get him to wear ESD straps. The final straw was when he walked into a lab I was working in. We had operational equipment set up on an ESD safe bench with the covers off. He walked over to one of my modules and touched an accessible board. I heard the zap from over 10' away. He destroyed the module. He also found new opportunities elsewhere not long after (probably unrelated to the ESD event).
It amazes me how so many people (many smart Engineers) just don't understand how little static electricity it takes to destroy electronics. Probably because often the induced failures are not catastrophic (the device will even appear to continue to work). Many of the real failures are manifest as weird or mysterious problems that cannot be pinned down. Because they don't see a ZAP and then a truly dead device, they assume they've done no real damage. I'll continue to be paranoid and minimize such problems.
Before you completely give up on the camera, try something:
Remove the batteries for a week or two and then replace them. The microcontroller may have jumped to a nonvalid program location. It may be jumping around in the program. Once the internal capacitor discharges, it will reset. I have had that happen with cameras and other comsumer products.
Unfortunately adequate ESD protection does not add to the "features" of a product, and it's lack will not be obvious until after the product is purchased and used a bit. And the very short warranty period has expired. So a bargain thing will usually have inadequate protection.
Of course, the story sounds like a really large charge was delivered, probably far beyond the typical one that a minimal system would be protected against.
Remarkable, I would have thought that with modern products and the amount of ESD testing that is supposed to be done that this would be a thing of the past. I've been involved in product development for the last 30 years and we zap thing repeatedly (30 times in development and then in compliance testing another 30) with 8kV positive and negative to all metal accessible parts and we don't even see a reset let alone damage. I wonder what went wrong here?
Dwight, you write very well – great article. Your descriptions of 'back then' vs today are hauntingly familiar to me as I was right there with you both times. The various companies I've served over the years learned the same lessons you've described, and ESD prevention has steadily gained prominence to become a standard initiative in the electronics industry. But because of that, I am very surprised the new camera you bought suffered a catastrophic failure from an ESD shock. It seemed to me that EVERYBODY was designing for prevention these days.
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