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Everyone has experienced it. You walk across a carpeted floor to make your exit, you grab the doorknob, and then ZAP! You just felt the shock of Electro Static Discharge (ESD). While the shock factor of ESD causes surprise and even discomfort to humans, it can cause significant damage to electronic components and equipment. Walking across a floor, however, is not the only way that Electro-Static voltage is generated. Walking on vinyl flooring, handling plastic bags or containers, working at a workstation or simply using a chair with urethane padding are just a few examples of tasks that can cause static to build. Any environment where electronics are present, is especially vulnerable to the effects of ESD. According to Paul O'Shea, Associate Editor of Evaluation Engineering, "ESD strikes quickly and silently; leaving a trail of burned-out or weakened circuits. Controlling static charge. . . is a challenge that [starts from] the floor up."
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A July 24, 1996 Wall Street Journal article noted a string of ESD-related incidents. In Polk County, Oregon for instance, ESD was apparently responsible for a malfunction of election-tabulation equipment. "Suspecting an erroneous tabulation, technicians advised officials to treat the carpet around the suspect computer with fabric softener. A subsequent retabulation proved that voters had actually approved, rather than rejected a tax increase."