It wasn't till college that I learned about assembly language. In high school, being a major geek, I designed a variety of computers, none successfully implemented, whose machine languages were all greatly simplified Fortran dialects. (Since then I've learned to research subjects first.)
With such misconceptions I initially found assembly totally baffling. Where was the formatted write instruction? Fortunately other equally passionate students helped. We mastered the hundreds of Univac 1108 instructions, always joking about those that were missing. Surely a halt-and-set-fire mnemonic would be useful, or at least fun. What about a return-from-exception-tomorrow instruction? Or halt-and-release-smoke?
Turns out this silly ramblings now represent the state-of-the-art in advanced semiconductors. EE Times reported last week that scientists at UCSD accidentally discovered a semiconductor formulation that explodes on demand.
Doesn't seem like much of a discovery to me. Hell, I've had lots of chips blow up over the years. Drive a CMOS part into SCR latch up and often the entire package, not just the silicon, will go with a bang that sprays plastic around the lab.
The military is excited about this new development and envision plenty of battlefield uses for these new components. Mini-rocket motors could propel MEMS devices, making them hop around an enemy installation. Others speculate that consumer chips might use this technology to self-destruct, say if a thief tries to make a call from a hot cell phone. It'll get really hot, fast.
I think the UCSD scientists need to think bigger. Surely Verizon would love cell phones with exploding chips. Miss a bill payment, and POW! Take THAT, you lousy deadbeat! It could redefine relationships; in the 1990s unhappy lovers learned to dump each other via e-mail. Now just send an SMS message that fries the ex's electronics. That'll give him or her the message!
Of course Microsoft will demand that all new Pentiums include a self-destruct instruction. Do you really want to share that copy of Office with your pals, heh, heh?
Bill Gates (now redefined as a macho man, spouting “make my day” to software license scofflaws) will be the man whose finger is on The Button. Just the threat of disabling every copy of Windows and Office would be enough to get him elected president. Can you say “computer coup?”
Which makes me think: maybe Windows already has a self-destruct command initiated by Internet command from Redmond! Just wiping the hard disk is as disabling as popping processors.
The ultimate hack will be an electronic letter bomb. The virus first e-mails itself to everyone in your address book, and then BANG!
Pentiums have always had a “Flush Cache” instruction. How about “Flush Chip?”
What do you think? What would you use the “Jump Zero and Explode” instruction for?
Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embedded development issues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helps companies with their embedded challenges. He founded two companies specializing in embedded systems. Contact him at . His website is .
After all the human sheep have their implanted (embedded) chips installed into some portion of their neuroanatomy, make them all go boom. The few remaining homos will no longer be sapiens sapiens, but, having avoided the Moravecian fate of the android, will be sapiens**3, and can restart the earth as Eden. 🙂 / 2
(Only half tongue in cheek)
Imagine a speed camera that could fry your electronic ignition!
JACK REPLIES: Interesting point. I have mixed feelings about speed cameras. The constitution (in the USA) guarantees us the right to be confronted by our accuser. In traffic court, should we demand the robotic beast be hauled up to the bar?
What would we use this instruction for? Well, you've heard aboutthe WOMs of course – write only memories? They're actually useful in weapons. If the device fails to explode, then you recover the WOMs and put them into something that reads them. Come to think of it, cockpit voice recorders and CPIs – crash position indicators are already WOMs aren't they?
So how about using exploding silicon as triggers for nuclearweapons? Gives new meaning to a one bit error caused by an alpha particle, doesn't it?
JACK REPLIES: Ah, the WOM was a classic part. The data sheet is on-line at http://www.ganssle.com/Misc/wom.html.
Yes there indeed was a self destruct code for the IBM pc back in '86.
It would stretch the horizontal synch signal for the Monochrome adaptor and fry the monitor with a a high power flyback pulse.
It took a while for IBM or Amdek to catch on.
Ah, the good old days…
I also designed an (unimplemented) Fortran computer in the mid 1970's while in High school. Having been exposed to Fortran on the schools IBM computer, I was unaware that a computer had anything below the Fortran to make it work.
Once I got into college, I discovered the wonderful world of assembly and machine code. During my sophomore year I purchased a TRS-80 and over the coming few years learned the basics of the language and hardware design. Fortunately I never discovered the JZ and explode instruction on my TRS-80.
I did manage however to discover that instruction on an emulator once. After the smoke cleared and the fire was put out, I was amazed to discover that the emulator was completely fried but that the target (mostly) survived.
Since then I have always warned others “not to let the smoke out of the chips because they stop working when you do”.
Perhaps I could suggest a Dilbert use – JZ and explode the pointy haired manager!
Director, Application Software Development
Global Payment Technologies, Inc.
The 6800 had an undocumented Halt and Catch Fire instruction. It was a bus test, and would rapidly cycle the address lines, causing your circuit board to overhead (hence “catch fire”).
This little item has been a piece of computer lore for as long as I can remember (early '80s).
JACK REPLIES: I didn't know that! Those fun lovin' fellas at Motorola really know how to have a good time…