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my shattered laptop by Kanokwan T. '25

in the midst of pre-finals season

Yesterday, what was an unfortunate event turned into something kinda funny…

During lecture for MAS.863 How To Make (Almost) Anything at the Media Lab, a classmate accidentally shattered my laptop screen.

While I was with my group presenting our project, I left my coat on a chair, backpack to the side, and laptop on the ground. I didn’t expect anyone to sit there. When I returned, I was surprised to see someone in my seat. I pointed out my items and asked if I could have my seat back, and he responded with “I have some bad news for you…” to which I felt some concern. In the process of him sitting in my chair, the seat flipped down and crushed my laptop. He showed me my computer, apologized very sincerely for breaking it, and offered helping in any way he could. I was baffled by the audacity to sit in a seat that’s clearly someone else’s, but could sympathize a bit since he came in late and was just scrambling for somewhere to settle. I also understood that he didn’t do it maliciously, rather, it was just an unfortunate accident. Still really sucked, though.

drawing of a laptop under a chair

i quickly drew this scene up so you can get a sense of what it was like

I examined the damage and had a hunch that only my display was broken. I wasn’t sure if that was the case and needed it fixed ASAP, so I left class during our break (we have a 15 minute break halfway through our long 3-hour lecture) to test out my hunch on an office external display. Before I left, I contacted a few different student channels asking if anyone had a portable monitor I could borrow for awhile:

  1. [email protected], which is a mailing list that contacts primarily East Campus (my previous dorm) residents about niche issues
  2. #simmons-bartering-system in the Simmons (my current dorm) Discord, which is a channel used for trading goods
  3. #help in the The Chaos Table Discord, which is a channel my friend group uses to send calls for help

My message:

email that reads: A few minutes ago, someone in my lecture accidentally shattered my laptop screen. Can I borrow someone’s external monitor for a little while? (will return it once my laptop is fixed/replaced) I offer you luna bars and a homemade matcha latte and eternal gratitude 🙏🏼

Then, I biked over to MIT Admissions and Jeremy kindly let me use his office, which had a monitor.

laptop next to an external monitor

During this short bike ride, a toooon of people responded. Like, 16 people reached out for all sorts of reasons—to express concern, offer a monitor, and share ideas for solutions. It was really heartwarming. The issue was resolved within the hour. Here’s the recap email I sent out:

email that reads:resolved thank you to everyone who reached out! i am constantly amazed by how people are so willing to help people here <3 ultimately, someone roller skated from the complete opposite side of campus to where i was, like a fuckin hero, and delivered a really good external monitor. if you're curious, this was the timeline of events today:

fun fact: Both Petey and Audrey told me to post this email as a blog!

Below is the aforementioned timeline and the remainder of the email (which I’ve pasted below so you can see the photos and video better):

  • 2:10pm: laptop gets accidentally destroyed by a classmate

shattered laptop screen

a bent laptop screen

out of curiosity, i just walked to Metropolis (my primary maker space) and used the calipers to measure the buckle of my display. the max displacement is 7.72 mm!

it was actually kind of… beautiful? here is a video of me playing with it:

  • 2:16pm: i reached out to people via email and Discord asking for a monitor
  • 2:21pm: first email rolls in
  • 2:24pm: i text the person who emailed
  • 2:57pm: the person roller skates over with the monitor
  • 3-4pm: i set up the monitor with my laptop and deal with horrible, horrible tech issues but miraculously worked through it just in-time for a remote interview

laptop screen showing a cat

  • 4-5pm: interview
  • 5-6pm: blogger hangout meeting (which we dub blogaholics anonymous)
  • now: i am sending this email!

the end


In addition to the swift move of the selfless roller skater, I was also fortunate that this laptop was not my own, rather, it was one I was loaning from MIT. I contacted IS&T (Information Systems & Technology), the organization that runs the university laptop loaner program, and asked if I could get a replacement. One has been shipped to my dorm and should arrive tonight or tomorrow.

I just got out of 2.001 Mechanics and Materials recitation and showed the professor my laptop because I thought this would make an excellent problem in the class! Like, one of my first thoughts when I saw my bent laptop was “wow, the display yielded (when a solid permanently changes shape) before the body!” Questions I thought of:

  • What’s the maximum force that could’ve been applied before it yielded?
  • How does the location of the applied force mathematically relate to the yield point?
  • What variables change if a point load was applied instead of a distributed load?
  • How does the displacement between the display and the solid body change?
  • How would you measure the buckle of the display?

In essence, how can you model the deformation of the material? Anyways. That’s my little mechanical engineering major nerd moment.

All is resolved now. In the end, this experience gave me back some hope in humanity as a whole. I feel supported here. I’m honestly not surprised that people reached out so fast—knowing the community here, it only made sense. Despite all the chaos coursing through campus, people are so willing to help other people.

Thanks for tuning into this unfortunate, but funny and ultimately heartwarming episode.