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By Jack Ganssle

Jump Zero and Explode

Plubished 2/07/2002

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 (http://www.eet.com/at/news/OEG20020122S0070) 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 latchup 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 email. 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 Pentium's 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. who knows, 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 emails 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?