Solving The Black Screen Laptop Mystery


There are few worse things for anyone working on a laptop than for the screen to suddenly turn black, especially when there is no immediately obvious cause.

For those working on something highly important, this can seem like a catastrophe, with the fear that vital unsaved work might be lost. The question is, what is the cause and what can be done about it?

Why is this happening?

The first and obvious problem could be a low battery. But all too often it is nothing of the sort; the battery will have been charged up enough, leaving no warning of impending trouble. That, of course, is exactly when you might be caught with unsaved work.

For this reason, it is wise to be backing your work up so you can’t lose it. But that in itself will not solve the screen issue. The key is to understand what has happened and how it can be fixed, by bringing in expert help if needed.

Often it can be that the battery itself is faulty, or that there is a problem with the power outlets or cables. Alternatively, it can be due to an internal cause, like a defective motherboard.

If you are charging your laptop, it is always worth checking that the indicator light is on to show it is charging up, unless you have an on-screen indictor showing how much battery you have. This will give you advance warning if there is an issue with charging up.

When to call the expert

Should the problem be with the laptop itself, it is important to make sure an expert is involved. Taking it apart and trying to fix the motherboard, the fan (in the case of overheating) or any other component.

It can feel pretty soul-destroying when the screen goes black before your very eyes, but it really isn’t the end of the world. It is unlikely your whole laptop is dead and, provided you have been backing up data, you will not have lost what is saved on your hard drive or in the cloud.

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However, whilst it would take until 2003, with the creation of Skype and the more widespread adoption of broadband internet for online calls to take off, the voice over internet protocol technology that powers it is much older than this and starts in the 1960s.

On early prototype internet systems such as ARPANET, sending uncompressed speech using a system like pulse-code modulation was not really possible.

To send audio across the network with the same level of quality as an analogue telephone system required 64kbps, around 61.6kbps more than ARPANET could send.

Because the benefits of VoIP with regards to capacity, redundancy and potentially providing superior quality to circuit-switched telecommunications was tempting even back then, early computer engineers worked to solve the problem.

The first step was to create a form of speech processing that could compress speech data so that it could fit in ARPANET’s limited bandwidth.

This took the form of linear predictive coding, first proposed by Nagoya University’s Fumitada Itakura and Nippon Telegraph and Telephones Shuzo Saito.

One of the earliest demonstrations of this in action came through the work of Danny Cohen, inventor of the world’s first graphical flight simulator.

As part of his development work, he showcased a type of packet voice system which used network packets of both voice and data that were connected together and formed some of the basic principles behind the first-ever conference call in 1978, and the first real-time online call in 1974.

The call was between MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts and Culler-Harrison Incorporated in Goleta California, cementing the principle of LPC, the most important audio coding standard that allows Teams and other VoIP systems to work.

It would eventually take a fundamental shift in the infrastructure of the internet itself to make online calls for everyone a reality.