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Walking Techbane

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"I hate computers! Why do they always blow up when I use them?"

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.

Sub-Trope of The Jinx.

Contrast Hopeless with Tech, and the polar opposite Walking Techfix. Electromagnetic Ghosts can sometimes be this.

If it's not the user, but the computer itself, it's The Alleged Computer. It's Anti-Magic if the user's presence turns off magic instead of technology.

See also Magic Harms Technology, where an entire place or setting becomes this due to magical energy interfering with technology.


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  • A This is SportsCenter 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 & Manga 
  • Kaori Makimura from City Hunter was once convinced to try work as a journalist. While the smashed fax machine was the result of her not noticing it was unplugged and trying Percussive Maintenance with a giant Hyperspace Mallet, the electric typing machine exploded when she touched it, and she managed to destroy a document and erase part of the database before the journalists restrained her. In a variation, she's fully capable to make Ryo wear a chastity belt with an electronic lock without blowing it up.
  • For Chinami Ebihara from Code-E, involuntarily frying electronics 20 Minutes into the Future must really suck.
  • Digimon Data Squad: Marcus Damon is very bad with computers and has done significant damage to DATS's operations on the few occasions where he's tried to use a workstation. He once caused an electrical short which knocked the Digital Dive out of commission for two weeks by typing too hard on the keyboard (though to be fair, Keenan Crier was jumping up and down inside the Dive at the same time, which probably didn't help), and long before that he accidentally deleted part of their database by randomly pressing keys.
  • Eyeshield 21:
    • Shin Seijuro is so Hopeless with Tech, he 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 looks 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.
  • Fino from I Couldn't Become a Hero, So I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job finds employment in an appliance store, where she is constantly frying devices. This is because her world uses Magitek instead of technology and as the Demon Lord's daughter, she's capable of blowing every fuse in an entire house. Fortunately, she learns to turn down her wattage after a few episodes.
  • Joseph Joestar in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders is this by necessity. Due to the way his Stand works, he ends up destroying whatever mechanical device — from a Polaroid camera to a television set — he happens to be funneling information through usually with explosive results, much to his bemusement. Other than that, he's shown using a Walkman without issue, but has a bad habit of getting into plane crashes. He does manage to keep his prosthetic arm working without incident most of the time, though that might just be because there is some legitimately insane German engineering in that arm.
  • Nina Mercury from Lost Universe is infamous for breaking or ruining anything electronic she touches. It only works if she touches them, but she's capable of doing it to just about anything. She breaks Canal's CPU by hugging her holographic projection. In the final arc, Mille exploits this by using her "curse" to short out a Lost Technology-based Dangerous Forbidden Technique.
  • While Subaru from Lyrical Nanoha isn't bad when it comes to using technology, her Vibration Shatter is specifically designed to be extra destructive on electronics and machinery. This makes her especially dangerous when facing off against other cyborgs, and is the main reason why she had to handicap herself while facing off against a brainwashed Ginga.
  • Izumiko of RDG: Red Data Girl can't send a text without breaking her cell, manages to short out the power to every computer in her school's computer lab after a strange experience involving the room filling with water only she could feel, and even manages to break turnstiles and stall trains on her trip to Tokyo.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Kokkuri from Gugure! Kokkuri-san combines this trope with Technologically Blind Elders. One of the series' Running Gag is to poke fun at Kokkuri's age, and he's so inept with technology that machines break whenever he touches them.
  • In Sailor Moon, Minako (Sailor Venus) is also shown to be lethal around Rei's (Sailor Mars) music player which she manages to somehow blow up whilst trying simply play a cassette. Fans of the show then exaggerated this trait in fanfics to the point of Minako destroying any electronic device she touches in some instances.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • X-Men:
    • Kitty Pryde 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.)
    • Bedlam, a member of the X-Force for much of the late 1990s, can produce a bio-electric field around his body that disrupts machines and electronics. He joined X-Force when they were fugitives and by the time he left they were black ops, making him a very valuable member of the team.
  • Superman: Clark Kent has to write his news articles on a typewriter because his powers sometimes cause computers to malfunction.
  • Mortadelo y Filemón:
    • In "Los invasores", after Mortadelo and Filemón discover the alien they've been fighting during the chapter is actually a robot, Mortadelo tells Filemón to just touch it, to invoke this trope with Filemón and destroy the robot. He succeeds.
    • In "El ordenador... ¡qué horror!", Ibáñez writes a couple of pages full of Self-Deprecating Humor where he casts himself as this. His Techbane status is such that, after a series of Epic Fails in attempting to work, his computer ends up outright vanishing - along with his computer mouse and his cat.
  • In one issue of The Simpsons, Mr. Burns tries to learn how to use a computer, but each console he gets near short-circuits at his touch. Smithers then explains to Burns' computer tutor that after years of absorbing nuclear radiation, Mr. Burns can't even go near a calculator.
  • The Transformers (IDW) brings us an Autobot named Damus, tellingly known as "Glitch" to his friends, who has this as a power. Luckily for him (and his comrades) his powers only affect non-sentient machines.At least until his power evolves to the point where it can cause a cybertronian spark to explode, and the fact Megatron corrupts him into becoming the vicious leader of the Deception Justice Division, He now goes by the name of Tarn.
  • Played for Drama in Doctor Who (IDW), where a man has lived his whole life as a living techbane, because he is actually a sentient EMP, which makes him a target for a pair of warring aliens. Eventually undone when the Doctor drains enough of the energy to give him an average lifespan, which is what he wanted to begin with.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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.
    • Johnson is a semi-recurring gag. One strip has Jason find an unbelievably broken, incredibly rare drop in World of Warquest, only to be disconnected just before he can pick it up. The next panel shows the game's headquarters (along with Jason's Big "NO!" Distant Reaction Shot) with someone going "Johnson, did you trip over this cable?"
    • In one storyline, Paige and Jason accidentally wrecked their mom's computer by spilling a soda on it. When Roger tried to use it next, he thought he was responsible (even though all he did was turn it on again), because of his own problems with tech in the past. Andy flipped out and chewed him out so viciously that Paige and Jason were afraid to 'fess up (though they eventually did).
  • 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. That same arc also showed he carries a rooster in a bag when he travels rather than an alarm clock.
  • Phoebe and Her Unicorn has goblins whose laughter causes every app on Phoebe's phone to crash. It also turns milk sour.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Monster X can cause appropriately Titan-level power fluctuations around technology, but they also at one point instead cause Percussive Maintenance.
  • In Amazing Fantasy, Izuku can short out and make any piece of complex technology explode if he uses his powers to phase through it. Luckily, he can handle anything he has on his person with him prior to turning intangible without harm, letting him bring his web-shooters and cell phone along.
  • In Cross Cases, Harry gets fairly envious of Sam's ability to both have scary psychic powers and use laptops and smartphones without blowing them out, providing them with valuable information for their investigation into the demons. For once, he'd like to be in Star Trek rather than Lord of the Rings. Sam's also bemused and fascinated by Dresdenverse wizards' inability to use technology.
    Sam: So I checked the phone’s call logs. It had two incoming calls, both from the same number. It's a 610 area code, which is a suburb of Philadelphia called Gladwyne—
    Harry: How do you know that?
    Sam: [blank stare] I Googled it. The phone has a data plan.
    Harry: ...Oh.
  • The MLP Loops: One Loop has the Equestria Girls version of Ditzy as one of these, exploited by Sunset to prevent the plot of Friendship Games. She merely has to point an oblivious Ditzy in Sci-Twi's direction, and the girl kills Twilight's magic-draining device the instant she touches it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Jurassic Park (1993), characters joke that paleontologist Alan Grant is one 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.
  • MonsterVerse:
  • 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.
  • In R.I.P.D., Dead-os' "soul stank" causes electrical problems.
  • Thirst (2015): The alien monster seems to emit some sort of field that causes phone screens and radios signals to flicker.

  • 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."
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Harry Dresden 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 with all wizards, but he interacts with Muggles more often than most. This forces him to drive an old-school VW Bug, use an old wood-fired stove and icebox in his home, and go completely without central heating, air conditioning, or hot waternote . It also proves problematic in his more mundane Private Detective activities because he has to be extremely careful around anything even slightly modern, like a computer or USB drive since all information stored therein is often completely wiped. His friends won't let him within 20 feet of a computer (for good reason!), and he avoids hospitals as much as possible for fear of accidentally shorting out someone's life support, one of the reasons he calls upon Butters for Open Heart Dentistry. He does find a few ways to suppress his Walking Techbane status, but so far they've all been imperfect and temporary solutions.
    • From Fool Moon 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. Hexus manages to make machines spectacularly self-destruct, too. When he tries to do it as mildly as he possibly can, he winds up getting way more of the effect when he wanted. When a wizard who can ruin gadgetry just by being around it whether he wants to or not tries to mess with your motor, your security system, or your computer, it's less "glitches" and more "KABOOM."
    • This is actually used by a tech-savvy crook in Dead Beat 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, which he swallows. Doesn't spare him, though; the necromancer he's trying to deal with is convinced that no mere mortal can out-fox him, and kills him rather than pay for the book, and subsequently is unable to find the book he's after.
    • 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. Cold Days tells us that one such effect was the wizards' appearance being altered. When magic was as bad for your skin as it is for your computer today, you get the "ugly, warty witch/warlock" stereotype.
    • Harry also finds that magical supernatural entities such as the Fae do NOT suffer from this. He theorizes it's because humans are innately conflicted, with emotions constantly churning around inside them and affecting their magical output, while other magical entities don't have that problem. This is supported by the times in the series when tech breaks down more often around Harry when he's upset. But then you have Molly, who becomes the Winter Lady, and as a result is able to use things like cell phones without incident, which disturbs Harry considerably and raises the question of how much the Techbane aversion is attributed to personality and how much to the type of power being used.
  • 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 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 have 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 one. Her wristwatch runs backwards, and her friends won't let her near their computers.
  • In Harry Potter, single wizards can't cause this, but the elaborate charms, wards, and protections in Hogwarts and most wizard dwellings that uphold The Masquerade and protect against dark wizards do, which also conveniently explains why Harry never buys walkie-talkies for his pals the few dozen times they would otherwise come in handy.
  • 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". Later, when battling a technology expert, he is able to use the effect intentionally.
  • Magic and technology simply don't mix, as mentioned several times in Sergey Lukyanenko's Night Watch (Series) 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.
  • In The Archangel Project, remote viewers like protagonist Toby Guinness make electronics glitchy when they're nearby. For that reason, Toby's vehicle of choice until it gets blown up is a 1979 Volkswagen Super Beetle, which unlike modern cars has no computer.
  • In Rivers of London, using magic near electronic devices will cause them to short out if they aren't disconnected from their power source, and using it near such a device that also contains computer chips will reduce those chips to silicon dust. Peter, the protagonist, rigs his cell phone with a cutout switch so he won't have to stop and take out its battery every time he uses magic.
  • In the Paradox Trilogy, moderate to large phantoms cause any technology in their vicinity to malfunction.
  • In the Towers Trilogy, Xhea becomes one when her dark magic awakens. Technically, she only disrupts other magic, not pure technology; but due to the Magitek nature of the City, even devices which appear purely mechanical in nature are often powered by magic behind the facade. As a result, Xhea can't so much as press an elevator call button without shorting something out.
  • In Zeroes, Crash has the power to destroy any complex technology in her vicinity. She has a difficult time controlling this power and stays away from places like hospitals for fear of accidentally breaking something vital.
  • Weaponized in the Magic 2.0 series. Any wizard deemed untrustworthy will be sent back to their own time, stripped of any powers, and given a magnetic field that disables all electronics. This prevents them from finding some way to access the file again. And yet two of them manage to reverse the effects anyway, although it takes Jimmy 30 years to do that (in large part because the others dumped him in Argentina, knowing he didn't speak either Spanish or Portuguese, so he had to get back either on foot, on a bicycle, or by hitching train rides). He tricks a pair of US Treasury agents into doing the work for him, while he shouts instructions at them from a distance while observing through a telescope. Todd does this by convincing a greedy prison guard to do the same.
  • Arthur Bryant from Christopher Fowler's Peculiar Crimes Unit series has a lot of arcane knowledge but has no luck or patience with even 1940s-current technology, much less the digital gadgets of later decades. Described in the initial volume Full Dark House:
    For Arthur this was the start of a lifelong stand against technology that would one day result in his crashing the entire central London HOLMES database and part of the air traffic control system at Heathrow. The young detective possessed that peculiar ability more common to elderly men, which produces negative energy around electrical equipment, turning even the most basic appliances into weapons of destruction.
  • Half-Bloods in Percy Jackson and the Olympians have horrendous luck with most modern technology, due to their semi-divine parentage making them better suited to ancient times. They understand how to operate it, but can't go more than a few minutes before something inevitably goes wrong. Using anything computerized is also a bad idea since it allows monsters to find them much easier.
    • The children of Hephaestus subvert this somewhat, due to being Technopaths and a Walking Techfix. Though this is usually only in regards to machinery or engineering.
    • The gods themselves seemingly avert this, notably Hermes, who is seen talking on or checking emails with a phone in most of his appearances. This is, when put alongside other examples, however, played mostly straight, the gods seem to have developed their own versions of many modern technologies, implied to be mostly made by Hephaestus, or by him and Hermes collaborating.
  • In The Magicians, magic is revealed to have unpredictable effects on electronics, hence why Brakebills looks so Victorian; magicians can use technology no problem, but if they try to cast spells around it, electrical devices usually break down. For example, there's a contraband videogame console set up on the campus, but it automatically resets if anyone casts a spell within two hundred yards of it - in other words, constantly.
  • In Nnedi Okorafor's Remote Control, an alien artifact grants Sankofa the titular supernatural power, which has the side effect of permanently disabling any modern technology she touches, including motor vehicles and electronics. Unlike her Remote Control, she can't suppress this, forcing her to travel from town to town on foot.
  • In the Light Novel series Campione! this is one of the Authorities of Salvatore Doni, though a rather unusual voluntary version. For about 12 hours he can shut down modern technology over quite a large area (such as most of the island of Sardinia). This didn't make it to the anime adaptation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Joseph Meeger from the Fringe episode "Power Hungry" is 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 (1959) episode "A Thing About Machines".
    • Also his namesake, Hilaire 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.
  • 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.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures introduces Sky, an alien girl designed to destroy her race's enemies, who are biomechanical. This has the side effect of destroying any technology around her when she cries as a baby. When she is aged up to around human age 12 she has slightly more control, but sentient computer Mr. Smith is still nervous around her and doesn't want her to get too close. After the first storyline of the series, she loses most of her power and this no longer happens.
  • Just like in the book it's based on, Newton Pulsifer from Good Omens (2019) merely needs to attempt to use/fix/assemble anything technical for it (and everything else in a generous area around it) to break down in spectacular fashion. Thanks to the Setting Update from the early '90s to 2019, this makes his life much more difficult because it's nearly impossible to find a job that doesn't involve computers. One of his first scenes is getting fired when he blacks out the office upon logging in to his desktop. This becomes a key moment in the finale as The Four Horsemen have set up nuclear launches via interconnected computer systems. When asked if he could "Speed it up," Newton, thinking nothing can be done anyway, types a few commands to set the launches off...and instead it completely undoes the system, restoring control to the proper authorities and averting Armageddon.
  • Gloria Burgle from Fargo: Season Three not only has trouble using computers and phones but hand driers and automatic doors won't acknowledge her presence. In part turns out to be a good thing since Narwhal can't track her through computer use.
  • Roswell, New Mexico:
    • Main character Max Evans has a lot of trouble controlling his Shock and Awe powers. Though he's able to use computers if he's calm, he blows out a lot of light sources and electrical infrastructure if he's upset.
    • Rosa Ortecho accidentally got Max's powers in a Touched by Vorlons situation, and is even worse at controlling them.
  • This is a big problem for the female lead, Da Da, at the outset of the K-drama Absolute Boyfriend (절대 그이)—she tends to short-circuit any device she tries to use, to the point that even her fridge is used only for storing old junk and she has to wear gloves to use her smart phone. Fortunately, everything changes when a ridiculously human robot shipped to her by mistake falls in love with her.


    Print Media 
  • This is another example of anomalous phenomena that fascinates Fortean Times. FT broke the Jacqueline Priestman story (below) and regularly features odd things, like people who can cause street lights to blow just by walking underneath them.

  • In The Men from the Ministry, if there's a way to get a machine malfunctioning or make an error while using it, Mr. Lamb can and will do it. This even gets him noticed by the Technology Insitute in one episode, as they (unsuccessfully) try to make him a test user for their newest machinery.

    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 one.
  • 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.
  • One of the powers utilized by the Bound in Geist: The Sin-Eaters, the Curse of the Gremlin, inflicts this upon the hapless victim. More than just affecting electronic technology, however, this curse can outright prevent someone from even starting a fire.
  • Genius: The Transgression's Clockstoppers/Hollow Ones are pretty much the literal embodiment of this trope. Wonders, firearms and explosives don't do a blasted thing against them, and at really high levels, any technology attempting to influence the Clockstopper fails completely. This includes medical technology, and that's a shame considering they're not superhuman or anything and a good right hook will do the trick just fine. And then there's the matter of magic...
    • 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:
    • GURPS: Thaumatology has a ritual called "Machines Hate You" that makes machines and computers mess up in a way that will make the target's life miserable.
    • GURPS Supers 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.
  • Due to it being a Post Modern Magick setting, d20 Modern Urban Arcana has spells that can mess with electronics. From making electronic devices glitch up (Haywire), to wipe out storage (Degauss) to frying electronics (EMP), there are many spells to mess with electronics. Them being spells that need to be consciously cast, they fall under Invoked Trope.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade: While originally only suffering from Missing Reflection, Clan Lasombra in Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition have a variation of this trope. While they can use technology just fine, their reflection and recording (live or otherwise) is distorted, and just making a phone call requires them to pass a skill check. Oh, and despite these issues, their bane won't reliably obscure their identity, and anyone who knows what to look for (like the Second Inquisition) will recognize the effect on sight.

    Video Games 
  • In Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, Natural Law and Magick are inherently in opposition because magic violates physical laws while technology obeys them. Steampunk-themed objects such as guns, trains, and automatons will fail to work, function less effectively, or react violently when in close proximity to magic, mainly:
    • Tech weapons, gear, devices, and chemicals are less effective when used by mages or on magical targets.
    • A player character wanting to ride the railway must answer several questions regarding their relationship to magic, such as having a magical racial background, being an adept mage, or carrying potent magic items. Failing to answer honestly tends to result in spectacular train wrecks.
    • Equipping technological items on a mage increases their chance of critical failure based on their magical aptitude and the complexity of the item. For instance, if you equip the mage companion Raven with a pyrotechnic bow and tech armor, she runs a very real risk of lopping her arm or head off. With a bow.
  • 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.
  • C14 Dating: Shoji's father can cause an electronic device to stop working merely by touching it. His mother's field of expertise is repairing electronics. As one can guess, things worked out well for them. However, it's a good thing that his father has his own job very far away from his mother's repairshop.
  • You can become your own 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.
  • Doctor 0 from the Fallout: New Vegas expansion, Old World Blues. To put it in his words: "I have a gift with machines. I can render anything inoperable - preserve them in a non-functioning state."
  • Cyan 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, he has a great deal of difficulty stepping on a simple pressure switch.
  • Genshin Impact: Lynette and machinery do not mix, and is thankful that she has an adoptive brother in Freminet who can fix the machines she inadvertently breaks. Ironically, she has ties to the two most technologically advanced nations in Teyvat.
  • I=MGCM: According to Seira's Leucosia dress story, Nymphs have a strange invisible field effect that nullifies electronic waves, especially internet connections.
  • Cole McGrath, the hero of inFAMOUS, 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 Trish, his girlfriend... Though it begs the question how exactly Kessler; his future self, was able to have two daughters with Trish in the first place.
  • Sora of the Kingdom Hearts franchise. Upon encountering the computer in Kingdom Hearts II containing the Hollow Bastion world, he just pounds the keyboard until ending up getting sucked into the world of TRON along with Donald and Goofy. Then, back in the real world, he again bangs on the keyboard after learning the data he was seeking is corrupt, despite this sort of thing being what got him in trouble in the first place.
  • Laura S. Arseid in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel games. She was brought following the way of the sword in her remote hometown of Legram and doesn't have any experience with the recent advances in "orbal technology" in the world of Zemuria. If you do her bonding event in Cold Steel II, she causes a Domestic Appliance Disaster with an orbal washing machine and messes up several other appliances as well. In Cold Steel III, her first ARCUS mail message to Rean is in Caps Lock and she admits - "POSTSCRIPT: IT TOOK ME AN ENTIRE HOUR TO WRITE THIS. ORBMAIL IS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT." (The message is only a few sentences long.)
  • 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.
  • The Fiend, one of the three monsters that potentially hunt the player in Monstrum, can be easily identified by the lights and your flashlight flickering in his presence. They go out entirely when he is close enough, which is your cue to either get out or find a hiding spot immediately. Thankfully, they start working again when he moves away and the effect isn't strong enough to short out any of the vital equipment you need to escape the ship you're trapped on.
  • Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight has Haru reveal to Futaba that she's one of these along with Hopeless with Tech. She doesn't know how to use her smartphone, she thought "booting the computer" meant kicking it, any new computer she touches immediately dies, and she's had to take her own computer in 10 times. Futaba is shocked, saying "I've only heard about people like you in urban legends!"
  • In Phantasy Star II, Josh Kain was a mechanic and aspiring engineer, who found that most things he tried to repair would end up exploding spectacularly. When he found that a group of rebels was out to disable the world-controlling supercomputer gone haywire, he made the best of this and switched his career to hunting and sabotaging rogue robots.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X has a side mission revolving around Jo, who has very bad luck with machines. First, she breaks the coffee machine at the cafe where she works, requiring you to find replacement parts for her. When you do, she offers to make you an iced latte as a reward, and promptly breaks the freezer and runs away because she's afraid of being fired. After finding more replacement parts for the freezer, she decides to talk to her boss... only for her cell phone to break. You have the option of letting her borrow yours, but the game also gives you the option to "keep your comm device far far away from this girl".

    Web Animation 
  • 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.

  • Ctrl+Alt+Del: A lot of Lucas' customers are the Roger Fox variety of this. Particulary this guy.
  • In UC, the minor character Jess managed to delete the entire internet from her computer. Also, the major character Kelsi, shorts out electronics when she is surprised.
  • Biff from the little-known 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).
  • In Leftover Soup Ellen says that she thinks some people have gremlins.
  • Piled Higher & Deeper would like to talk about your research adviser's negation field.
  • Art from 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, OzBasic. 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." Though he claims to have lost it after the OzBasic incident.
  • Gabe of Penny Arcade is apparently one of these, if Tycho is to be believed, as pictured above.
    • Ironically, Gabe's excuse for not knowing how to do computers is said at a point where he would need to become a savior; an old man is strongly implied to be having a heart attack or pacemaker failure while walking by his house.
    • Inversely in this comic, Gabe's son is the opposite where he built a computer from scratch and turned it on without it breaking on him. Gabe considers the cycle broken.
  • 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.
  • In When She Was Bad, Gail becomes one for a time due to her unstable, constantly-changing secondary superpower.
  • In Code Name: Hunter mages and supernatural beings wreak havoc with modern technology, in one of the comics from the early days of RSCI one agent's revolver jams only to become unstuck when the gargoyle they were fighting dies. However, it's later stated that American tech is more resistant to magic than English tech, which acts as foreshadowing to the revelation that England was the only country that attempted to seal away their magic.
  • Cueball in xkcd is sometimes shown as developing inexplicable tech problems, such as when his attempt to upgrade his desktop machine led to the destruction of the desktop and the laptop, and being surrounded by sharks, the time a simple, basic OS command led to a very odd error message, note  the time his computer was literally haunted, or when he had a keyboard problem that spread to other computers via keyboards. He's also sometimes shown as writing his own code despite being really bad at it, so it's possible some of this is his own fault.
    Megan: When the robot apocalypse happens, I'm hiding out in your house. Any Skynet drones that come near will develop inexplicable firmware problems and crash.

    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.
  • In The Saints the Industrial Path of Magic lets a mage screw with technology.
  • SCP-2184 is a mammoth that causes the destruction of all objects created with post-Stone Age technology. It can even cause a fire to go out if it was lit with a match, and ignores the existence of a pit dug with shovels or explosives.

    Web Videos 
  • In a software-leaning, more realistic version of this trope, some Let's Players can get reputations for being unable to touch a game without causing it to glitch the hell out even when they're not trying.
    • Danny 2462 is perhaps one of the most infamous, both harnessing existing glitches and bugs and stumbling upon new ones entirely in every single game played. While Kerbal Space Program (his main source of videos) isn't exactly the most bug-free game, he still finds completely unknown bugs just by trying fairly normal things, and even the stable games he picks suddenly spaz out.
    • Tear Of Grace isn't quite as bad, but he always manages to stumble onto at least one bug on everything, and if a game has even the slightest lack of polish he will end up running into it, enough that even the comments remark that his copies of each game seem especially screwy.
  • Slender Man + electronic recording devices = horrendous audio distortion, bizarre visual glitches, and tapes and files getting irreparably corrupted. In some series, this extends to people who have spent too much time around him- for instance, in Marble Hornets, footage of the exact same places from a few feet away is much more distorted when it comes from Tim's camera instead of Jay's.
  • Linus Tech Tips: In The WAN Show clip "I think I'm cursed…", Linus says bricked an Ubuntu computer in less than an hour. All he tried to do was launch Steam and play Counter-Strike: Global Offense. He says Jake figures he "must have some kind of aura" and that he's cursed to break any Linux machine he uses.

    Western Animation 
  • Jubilee from X-Men: The Animated Series; 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.
  • Astoria Carlton-Ritz, the titular character from the The Transformers episode "The Girl Who Loved Powerglide"; this turns out to be helpful when the Decepticons try to use the Psycho-Probe on her and it repeatedly malfunctions. First the readings come up as empty; then the leads fall off her head, then Soundwave and Rumble get shocked as they try to hold them in place...
    • Though when the probe gave its result as being "subject's mind completely empty", it might have been on to something.
  • SpongeBob's cousin Stanley literally causes things he touches to explode. The reason why he's with SpongeBob in the first place is that SpongeBob's uncle is getting tired of him destroying his house.
  • THIS is why Captain Fanzone from Transformers: Animated HATES machines!
  • This may be why Wile E Coyote, Super Genius, always has his plans backfire in his Looney Tunes shorts.
  • Homer Simpson of The Simpsons once caused a nuclear meltdown. On a test device. It wasn't connected to any fissionable material. The mop-up crew knew him by name. Of course, this is more an extension of Homer's tendency to epically fail than his ability to use machines (this is the same man who once had a bowl of cold cereal burst into flames, after all).
    • In the same episode, he also, somehow, caused a meltdown with a model of a proton accelerator in a classroom.
  • Exploited in Generator Rex. Fitzy Feakins constantly projects a field that temporarily shutdowns any Nanite around him. This makes him a top priority target of Providence as his ability would help them capture the eponymous character.
  • American Dad!: in the episode "CIAPOW", Stan and his CIA team weaponise this trope when trapped in a high-tech Thai prison, by having their older, un-tech-savvy colleague Dick try to use the computer that runs the place. He proceeds to click on an obscene number of pop-up ads until the sheer number of viruses he ends up downloading causes the computer to crash.
  • Angry Birds MakerSpace: The pig in E3 that tries to use the smart speaker. He smashes it on the ground and leaves in frustration, and then it starts working.
  • Max Steel (2013): The main character Max does this to technology that he touches after he got his powers. It got to the point that he was trying to drive a car with car floor mats.

    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 Zürich. Except, as it turned out, he was in town... waiting for a train connection. The Other Wiki elaborates. Someone humorously dubbed it the "Second Pauli Exclusion Principle": Wolfgang Pauli and a functioning device can't occupy the same room.
    • As a second anecdote, someone tried to fake the Pauli Effect by arranging a chandelier to crash upon Pauli's entrance. Instead, the chandelier got stuck and didn't fall when he released it, turning it into an actual example of the Pauli Effect.
  • 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 tend to build up charge accumulations on their clothes and bodies and thus have an unusually strong electric fields, which can end up destroying cellphones and other small electronics.
    • In more subtle cases, they might find themselves unable to enjoy the radio because their unusually strong electric field interferes with FM or AM radio signals, injecting enough static to reduce the music into indecipherable noise.
    • A likely explanation for this kid.
    • Definitely for Jacqueline 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 electric charge on 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 creepiest example is a woman who claims that she has helicopters in her blood that destroy what she touches. Thus she has to test things to see if they're "helicopter-proof". The creepy part is that she picks up a flashlight, turns it on and off a few times... and then it suddenly stops working.
  • 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
  • The street light interference phenomenon is a phenomenon where people allegedly cause street lights to go out just by walking under them.
  • Unfortunately inverted by Janice Tunni. Due to her being electrosensitive, just being around electromagnetic fields causes her to have physical pain.
  • Channing Tatum, by all accounts. According to everybody around him, he has what they call "gremlins," and they claim that you can put a brand new iPod right in front of him, and it will be a brick within the hour.
  • E-1s and E-2s in all military branches have this reputation for anything that's more complex than a rock and even then. (E-1s and E-2s are the lowest ranks possible.) An old saying is that if you want to see how durable something truly is, give it to an E-1 and wait five minutes. If it's not, wait another five.
  • According to Roger Moore, the late Desmond Llewelyn (Q from From Russia with Love through The World Is Not Enough) was ironically one of these and couldn't get a pocket calculator to work if his life depended on it.
  • Experiments by Princeton's Engineering Anomaly Research (PEAR) found that some machines were affected by operator-specific anomalies, with more fragile technology being more susceptible to human interference in general.


Video Example(s):


Simulator Meltdown

While in a simulation of his work station, Homer somehow caused a meltdown, even though there was no nuclear material in the simulator.

How well does it match the trope?

4.96 (27 votes)

Example of:

Main / EpicFail

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