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"I hate computers! Why do they always blow up when I use them?"
Freeman's Mind, Episode 4

Some people are just naturally good with technology, while others can barely surf the Internet. And then there are those who go beyond the "use the CD-ROM drive as a cup holder" crowd, and can cause a computer to catch fire and explode while trying to turn it on, or even by standing next to it. That's the Walking Techbane in a nutshell.

For added irony, sometimes the Walking Techbane wants to be good with technology, but is prevented from doing so by the apparent plague of gremlins that follows them whenever they try to work anything with moving parts. In this case, they may overlap with Bungling Inventor.

Sometimes this happens to characters with magical powers, in universes where magic and science can't coexist. Compare Anti-Magic. Contrast Walking Techfix and Technopath.

Examples of Walking Techbane include:


Advertising

  • A This is Sports Center commercial plays with this, as Michael Phelps asks to use an anchor's computer and ends up shorting it out. He then wonders why that keeps happening with computers he's using, while being completely oblivious to the fact that he's dripping wet and getting the computers wet as well.

Anime and Manga

  • Shin Seijuro from Eyeshield 21 has a tendency to break any piece of technology handed to him within a minute, at the most. It started with him breaking a video camera by accident, which was followed up by him trying to open a GPS like a normal map. He apparently breaks the ticket machine every time he takes the train to school, and he can't even buy a can of soft drink from a vending machine without disabling it. Considering the guy is able to perform vertical push-ups on his index fingers, one can make a plausible guess about the reason. The most technologically advanced piece of equipment he is shown using in the series is a stopwatch.
    • In the supplemental material within the manga, there is a girl who look like him and has a crush on him, that in order to be as much like him as possible, she breaks three computers a month on purpose.
  • Mr. Yashiro (Ren's manager) from Skip Beat is one of these. However, it only works if he has direct skin contact with the object, and said contact is for at least ten seconds. He uses this as a threat against Ren to get information out of him, holding Ren's cellphone as a hostage. Ren is later seen receiving a new cellphone from the LME president, obviously deciding the sacrifice was worth keeping the information.
  • Nina Mercury from Lost Universe is infamous for breaking or ruining anything electronic she touches.
  • Mihoko from Saki, when trying to print off Mahjong tournament records from an average personal computer, somehow turned the whole of the room into a mass of wire wrapped around her body with the intent of not letting her go.
  • Rin Tohsaka from Fate Stay Night is said, in the manual, to be this. However Fate, being the series it is, does not get to go too far into this; the Carnival Phantasm OVAs, however...
  • For Chinami Ebihara, involuntarly frying electronics twenty minutes in future must really suck.

Comic Book

  • Hellboy is a victim of this trope. He's had guns jam and blow up on him, and once had a jetpack blow its engines, causing him to drop hundreds of feet in freefall into a vampire castle. Lucky for him he's more or less indestructible.
  • Black Canary despises computers, and the feeling is mutual. In the first issue splash panel of Birds of Prey she is seen looking terrified and screaming "No! NO! Take it away! It's too horrible". Turn the page to learn that Oracle has just bought her a computer.
  • Kitty Pryde of the X-Men has this as a side effect of her intangibility powers: Phasing through any sort of electronic device will cause it to instantly short circuit. (Unusually for this trope, she is a skilled programmer as long as she stays tangible.)
  • Clark Kent has to write his news articles on a typewriter because his powers sometimes cause computers to malfunction.

Film

  • In the Jurassic Park film, characters joke that paleontologist Alan Grant is a Walking Techbane when he seems to cause a computer monitor to burst into static whenever he points to it. Lampshaded later when the park shuts down for reasons unrelated to him, and he immediately asks what (presumably crucial component) he just touched.
  • The Philadelphia Experiment has this occur to a character as a result of getting shocked by a high power generator involved in a Time Travel accident. As he walks around, he shorts out nearby electronics and attracts thunderstorms to himself.

Literature

  • Newton Pulsifer from Good Omens. As a lad, he caused a black-out throughout his entire house by trying to fix a radio, which is apparently an improvement over the last time he tried that, when he blacked-out his entire neighborhood. He once assembled a joke electronics kit that wasn't supposed to do anything; when he turned it on, it picked up Radio Moscow. His car breaks down so often, he's taken to calling it "Dick Turpin" (after the famous British highwayman), because "Wherever I go, I hold up traffic." His bad luck with electronics finally comes in handy when he has to sabotage a launch computer at a military base. He does this after several false starts by attempting to fix it, which is to say, he says "I don't know if I can do that ..." and placing his hand on a console, and everything immediately breaks.

 "There. You fixed it. You fixed it good."

  • Harry Dresden of The Dresden Files shorts out any advanced technology (almost anything past the '50s) because he's a wizard. (Magic makes microscopic improbabilities more probable - and electronics are particularly vulnerable to small current surges.) This occurs to all wizards, but he interacts with Muggles more often. This forces him to drive an old-school VW Bug and use an old-style stove and icebox in his home.
    • It also proves problematic in his more mundane Private Detective activities because he has to be extremely careful around anything completely modern, like a computer or USB hard-drive, since all information stored therein is often completely wiped. His friends won't let him with 20 feet of a computer (for good reason!).
    • This is actually used by a tech savvy crook in one of the later books -- knowing that wizards fry electronics, the only clue he provides for the location of a powerful necromantic text is a set of GPS numbers stored on a USB drive. Doesn't spare him, though; the necromancer he was trying to deal to was convinced no mere mortal could out-fox him, and killed him rather than pay for the book, and subsequently was unable to find the book he was after.
    • From the second book on Harry makes use of a directed form (Hexus), essentially simply ramping up this tendency to short out anything electrical. He makes the point multiple times that it's possibly the easiest thing in the world for a wizard to do, since it happens all the time anyway.
    • He does find a few ways to suppress his Walking Techbane status, but so far they've all been imperfect and temporary solutions.
    • Ghost Story mentions that in the past wizards had vastly different effects such as their presence souring milk and things like that - and that in the future, it will likely be something different again.
  • And the same thing applies to Laura Anne Gilman's The Retrievers series, though for a different reason. Magic is electricity. A wizard can recharge simply by tapping the nearest power source -- usually shorting it the hell out. All wizards are VERY careful when recharging, not to mention when using anything electrically powered. This occurs to all wizards in varying degrees.
  • Likewise in Nick Pollotta's novels based in the Bureau 13 universe; wizards tend to cause nearby technology to fail in mysterious to spectacular ways. This is actually used as a Crowning Moment of Awesome when the team is attacked by a vampire high school football team equipped with lasers. (it's that sort of book...) When one of the wizards is confronted with a laser point-blank in her face, she grabs the barrel, preventing it from working and giving her teammates time to stake its surprised holder.
  • The Isaac Asimov story Saving Humanity eventually featured such a person, though he was initially just a natural jinx (called a teleklutz) before he was reformatted into an anti-computer weapon to prevent AI becoming a crapshoot. He's not too happy about it, considering the growing computerization of his world... but hey, it would have taken at least thirty years for AI to have advanced that far, so at least he knows he'll live to be sixty. This was not a comfort to him, as it turned out.
  • Wobbler in Terry Pratchett's Johnny Maxwell Trilogy... sometimes. In the first book he's a fairly skilled Playful Hacker, but by the second he can't turn his computer on without it smelling of burning plastic.
  • This overlaps with Science vs. Magic, but a ghost character in Mercedes Lackey's SERRATED Edge series was told to stay away from Tannim's tapes because ghosts in that 'verse has a devastating effect on electromagnetic items. He eventually prevented a Big Bad's getaway by walking through a plane's navigation board, rendering it completely useless.
  • Charles de Lint's Newford series has Sophie, whose faerie blood makes her a Walking Techbane. Her wristwatch runs backwards, and her friends won't let her near their computers.
  • In Harry Potter, single wizards can't cause this, but an entire school of them can.
    • It's never explicitly stated whether the tech-messing is done by the mere presence of so many mages or one of the many anti-Muggle charms on the school grounds.
  • In Brian Caswell's Alien Zones series, the narrator and Audience Surrogate Paul suffers from this in the form of a "jinx." It's never explained why it happens, but electrical devices will either break down or blow up should he so much as touch them; thankfully, a lot of the alien technologies that Paul and his friends encounter in the series are immune to the jinx.
  • In Roger Zelazny's Changeling, the main character was Switched At Birth, and was originally from a magical world. Naturally, he short-circuits any technology he's around, leading his adoptive father, a scientist and inventor, to joke he has a "poltergeist".
  • Magic and technology simply don't mix, as mentioned several times in Sergey Lukyanenko's Night Watch novels. Anton, the protagonist of most of the novels, constantly has to replace mini-disc players due to them frying every time he casts a moderately-powerful spell. Other than that, he is pretty good with computers, his former position being an IT tech support guy.
  • In Citadel PVT John "Chaosman" Peterson, one of the Marines stationed on Troy, is infamous for breaking anything technological he uses, even if the item is supposed to be completely immune to complete and total failure. Considering his job involves operating in space, this isn't exactly the best of situations.
  • In the Alcatraz Series all of the Free Lands technology can do this to the more mundane technology Hushlanders (we) use. Special notice goes to the titular character who has the ability to break things, and can do this to anything and possibly anyone.

Live Action TV

  • Joseph Meeger, a character of the week on Fringe was this, to a deadly degree, as a result of experimentation with human electrical fields. It gets worse the more upset he becomes. He actually causes an elevator to actively drive itself into the ground.
  • Mr. Bean causes television sets to switch to static just by walking in front of them... unless he's wearing no more than a cardboard box.
    • Which is even weirder considering that in the exact same scene, he manages to wire up a plug by simply screwing the plug onto the power cable.
  • Bartlett Finchley from The Twilight Zone episode "A Thing About Machines"
    • Also his namesake, Hillaire Belloc's Lord Finchley, who "tried to mend/the electric light himself," with fatal results.
  • Neil from The Young Ones. He even laments that technology is rebelling against him.
  • Captain Kirk was never this in Star Trek, but he is often Flanderized into it in humor based on the series, due to the fact that he destroyed several AI Is a Crapshoot all-controlling computers in different episodes.
  • Spencer from ICarly has had this joke used on him in a number of episodes in which many things - even things that don't have an ignition source or don't even use electricity (one example being a drum set) - spontaneously combust. At one point, after putting out a fire with a liquid, the liquid caught on fire. He was unaware as to how, exactly, that could occur.

Newspaper Comics

  • Roger from FoxTrot has blown up his wife and younger son's computers at least five times. He also seems to have the "talent" of accidentally deleting the files of the computer with one click. He needs an entire manual to find the ON button, and once even mistook the computer simply being turned off as being frozen!
    • It's not just the computer that he has wrecked. He also wrecked several other electrical appliances, and in one arc, he also ended up flooding the house just by attempting to use the dishwasher.
    • Other than Roger, there's also an implied instance of this trope in this comic:

 Jason: Yee-ha! It accepted my order! I've got Star Wars tickets! (praying pose) Attack of the Clones heaven, this angel is ready for entry. (pondering pose) I can't believe how long I had to wait online, though. The movie theater's website must've really been swamped.

(Cut to the Pavilionplex, where an IBM tower computer is currently inside of a running sink full of soapy water, and a very irate manager)

Manager: Johnson, I said to wash out the butter server!

Johnson: (offscreen) Oops.

      • To put it in context, the past three strips had Jason being camped out in front of the computer trying to get tickets for Attack of the Clones for what is strongly implied for an extremely long time (as Jason put it, the connection to the Pavilionplex's web server was running slower than a Bantha on Hoth), and the reason for the long delay was revealed to be because one of the Pavilionplex staffers somehow mistook the Pavilionplex's web server for the butter server and soaked it in soapy water, making the staffer applicable for this trope for the sheer stupidity of his action. Also qualifies as an Epic Fail.
  • In Dilbert the titular character has this happen to him when he loses "The Knack" (for engineering) in the animated series.
    • This trope also pays a visit to Dilbert starting here when he's assigned a new lab partner named Paul Tergeist.
  • While not a computer, Jon's father from the Garfield comics has never seen a faucet head before in his life, having used pumps. As a result, he's assured he can figure out how to work it, but rips off the faucet by mistake, although he chalks it up to the faucet being faulty and poor.

Tabletop Games

  • The tabletop game Deadlands includes this in the form of the Hindrance "All Thumbs". For added points, in the part of the book players aren't supposed to read, there's the "Bollixed" status, which can be randomly generated as a drawback for a Player Character that wants to start as a Badass. Bollixed characters actually act as conduits for literal gremlins, which infest every mechanical device the character touches. And multiply. Exponentially. For maximum comedy? Even a Mad Scientist can be a Walking Techbane.
  • In Shadowrun characters can pick up a flaw called "Gremlins" that does this. Of course they are getting extra build points so it might be an even trade depending on the character.
    • The same name is used for the Physical Limitation that adds up to Techbane in Urban Fantasy Hero.
  • Genius: The Transgression's Clockstoppers/Hollow Ones are pretty much the literal embodiment of this trope.
    • As far as Wonders go mere mortals are this as well, Clockstoppers have an array of special abilities aimed at destroying and/or disabling Wonders and can affect mundane items.
  • GURPS: Thaumatology has a ritual called "Machines Hate You" that makes machines and computers mess up in way that will make the target's life miserable.
    • GURPS Supers also has the Dampen power, which allows a character to turn this on and off at will... unless they have the Always On drawback to the power. One NPC created in the GURPS Mixed Doubles book has this unfortunate combo.
  • In The Dresden Files RPG, anyone with channeling (and by extension Evocation) can fry electronics (and anyone with magical powers might end up frying technology at inconvenient times for Fate Points). There's also a weak supernatural power that allows one to fry electronics the same way normal spellcasters do.

Video Games

  • Same thing goes with magic-users in Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, where magic is opposed to Natural Law. Thus, science- and Steampunk-related objects such as guns, trains, and robots will simply fail or react violently when in close proximity to a powerful wizard. In an interesting variation of this trope technology and those skilled with are Walking Magicbanes
    • Magic items in the hand of a technologist just lose their power, but technological items malfunctions in the hands of mages - their innate "magic affinity" play havoc on the exact scientific rules of nature, affecting the items that rely on those. There are three main ways this is depicted in the game: if you want to ride the railway, you have to answer several questions regarding your stance on magic (if you're of a magical race, if you're a particularly adept mage, if you know volatile spells or carry potent magic items, etc); failing to do so tend to result in spectacular train wrecks. Tech weapons, devices and drugs affect magical targets much less. And finally, equipping technological items on a mage increases their chance of critical failure, with a higher increase the higher their magical aptitude, and the complexity of the item. Equip princess Raven (an elven mage of quite some power) with a pyrotechnic bow and a range of tech gear, and she runs a very real risk of lopping her arm or head off. With a BOW.
  • In Phantasy Star 2, Josh Kain was a mechanic who found that everything he tried to repair would end up exploding spectacularly. He made the best of this and switched careers to hunting and smashing rogue robots.
  • You can become your own Walking Techbane in Deus Ex by enabling the "iamwarren" (Warren being the games development lead) cheat code - which makes literally anything computerized fizzle and die when you walk within five feet of it.
  • Alicia, the title character of the game Bullet Witch seems to be one of these specifically for aircraft. Any time she's on an aircraft, something happens to cause it to crash -- it happens twice in the course of the game, and she's convinced not to attempt it a third time. She also died in a plane crash before the game even started.
  • Cole McGrath, the hero in In Famous, becomes a walking techbane at the beginning of the game. His electrical powers work well enough around electrical devices (enough to recharge batteries if need be), but devices with certain chemical components get very unstable around him: he can't sit in a car without it breaking down, and one attempt to handle a gun results in it exploding. And let's not get started on his girlfriend...
  • Cyan/Cayenne from Final Fantasy VI is terrified of (though fascinated by) machinery, though the first time you meet him he jumps into a suit of Magitek armor and (eventually) pilots it without too much problem; at one point has a great deal of difficulty stepping on a simple pressure switch.
  • Major Zero in Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater was heavily implied to be this. He usually needs to read Sigint's notes word for word when explaining what some of his technologies do, and Sigint also was about to tell a story about Major Zero and a Brand New Washing Machine before he was cut off, which resulted in a Noodle Incident, although it could be assumed that the story was going to be about Zero unintentionally wrecking the washing machine somehow.

Webcomics

  • Ctrl+Alt+Del: A lot of Lucas's customers are the Roger Fox variety of this. Particulary this guy.
  • In the webcomic UC Minor character Jess managed to delete the entire internet from her computer.
  • Evidently, Gabriel is one of these. Illustrated here.
  • Biff from the little-known webcomic Absurd Notions doesn't actually have this ability, but sometimes it seems like it, as shown here.
  • Brad, from The Class Menagerie, is an EXTREME Techbane (and being a bit of a Luddite does not help matters), one crossover storyline ended up with him completely wiping out a company's network just by ending up in the server room. In fact, the only machine he could handle without it breaking is a coffee-maker (which he can't live without anyway).
  • Piled Higher & Deeper would like to talk about your research adviser's negation field.
  • Art from the webcomic Sequential Art has an anti-technology field, said to be a side effect of being an artist. The effects are also said to be 100 times worse if the author is aware of their condition, evidenced by Art setting off the anti-shoplifting towers on his way out of the store and frying a TV, DS, cellphone, and incandescent lamp just by walking through his home. He gets a (placebo) chip in his head to suppress this, and it works for several dozen pages, but he eventually has to 'disable' it in his efforts to thwart an evil supercomputer, Oz Basic. With the 'chip' gone, he crashes the automated turret defenses, security doors, and a section of hallway lights just by tapping control panels, and kills the supercomputer by colliding with it.
    • And it has returned yet again where a group of Dalek Expies have deemed Art a threat, as they are "of technology."
  • Gabe of Penny Arcade is apparently one of these, if Tycho is to be believed.
  • Erin from Dragon City is terrible with computers since she's always causing them to crash and needs help from her family to do basically anything. This is a contrast to her family since her parents and brother are VERY computer savvy to the point her dad is a computer technician for a power plant and her mom used to be one.


Web Original

  • Glitch Girl of the Legion of Net Heroes has this as a superpower. When she can keep it under control, it's fairly useful. When she can't...
  • Overload of the Whateley Universe is an Energizer with a powerful electromagnetic field. That he can't control. The special Whateley Academy laptops are ruggedized to prevent damage from Energizers, but he was able to accidentally wreck his roommate's Whateley laptop a couple times a week. Most of the school calls him 'Glitch' instead of his preferred codename.
  • The said character of the Mastermind series somehow managed to tangle up a wireless router. The techs trying to fix it were nothing short of astounded.


Western Animation

  • Jubilee from the '90s X-Men cartoon; her powers tended to interact with electronics with explosive results, at least early on.
    • It gets to the point where the owner of a local electronics shop knew immediately what Jean and Scott are in for, and jokes how she's good for business.
    • In X-Men: Evolution, Kitty Pryde is no better.

  Teacher: Most people can't program such complicated game protocols without crashing their computer. You, on the other hand, managed to crash three.

Real Life

  • Physicist Wolfgang Pauli, one of the fathers of modern chemistry, frequently saw experiments explode or fail whenever he came near them. On one occasion, an experiment in a university failed, and the scientists figured it couldn't be Pauli, he was nowhere around, he was on his way to Zurich. Except, as it turned out, he was in town... waiting for a train connection. The Other Wiki elaborates.
    • Actually, theoretical scientists in general can be classed as such.
  • There's an elaborate mock-theory known as quantum bogodynamics which deals with the emission and absorption of bogons (the elementary particle of bogosity) and which is supposed to explain how some people can cause computers to spontaneously malfunction by mere presence -- and how others can make such malfunctions disappear.
  • There are people who have an unusually strong electro-magnetic field and end up destroying cellphones and other small electronics.
    • A likely explanation for this guy.
    • Definitely for Jaqueline Priestman, who says she's gone through dozens of various appliances, and causes TV sets to change channels just by passing near. She was found to have ten times the usual amount of electricity in her body.
  • Science-fiction author David Drake often mentions in the prologue to his books how many computers he's managed to kill while writing this one. Example from the acknowledgments page of a recent novel: "None of the computers I blew up this time were my primary work computer, but they could've been. ... I mentioned blowing up computers, pretty much as usual. My son Jonathan twice rebuilt my desktop unit and kept me operational. I honestly don't know what it is about me and computers; I'm really a very gentle person who wants only the best for his machines."
  • Eddie Izzard describes the results thus: "I've wiped the file? ...I've wiped all the files? ....I've wiped the Internet? Aww, no! I don't even have a modem!"
    • "I don't have that [techno-fear]. I have techno-joy: I love machines. ... And the first thing you do when you have techno-joy is you get the instructions and THROW them out the window!!"
  • Comes up fairly often on Not Always Right.
  • The Usenet newsgroup alt.sysadmin.recovery had tales of The Telecom Destruction Bunny.

 "Unfortunately, our Bright Young PFY will no longer be assisting with expeditions downtown, as he has been dubbed the Telecom Destruction Bunny and banned from taking his aura anywhere near anything major." - Anthony DeBoer

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