Well, I didn't get to sleep right away, but I spent some time on the MicroCenter website and determined that, if push came to shove, I could get some sort of reasonable replacement box for $200-$300 dollars. Since Gretchen's handling Capricon e-mail, getting her back on line quickly was going to be a good thing and it's not like she's using the box for high-end gaming. If it will read her e-mail, surf the web, and run WordPerfect, that will pretty much fit the bill.
This morning, I got showered and dressed and rolled a spare chair over next to the machine so that I had a workbench. I determined that no miracles had occurred during the previous night that would cause the machine to start working again, so I dropped it on the chair and popped the cover. First, I disconnected the power to the hard drive, in case that had prevented the boot somehow. (Moving parts have that nasty high failure rate.) The machine still powered up, but wouldn't boot.
A corrupt BIOS was another possibility. I spent a bit of time looking for a jumper on the motherboard to clear the BIOS, but didn't find one, so I put that strategy aside for a bit.
Let's check the RAM. I pulled the two memory sticks out and started up the machine again.
Ok, it knows it doesn't have any RAM. I couldn't power it off from the button on the front, so I just pulled the plug. Then I plugged the two sticks of RAM back into their sockets, making sure they were nice and tight.
Start computer again. Look! It's the boot screen. But there's nothing to boot from, because I disconnected the hard drive.
Power down, reconnect the power to the drive, power up again.
And up came the computer.
I had noted the manufacture date for the machine while I was moving it around: February, 2009. We'd gotten this box because Gretchen insisted on having her own computer that she would have access to if I was going to be working at home.
After nearly six years, I suppose I can't complain about having to reseat the RAM. :)