They've been working on it for over 12 years; I wrote the following for my web site in 2002. It will be in an upcoming book. Apologies for the mangled unicode, but slashdot's preview is worthless, since "preview" shows the unicode but the submission displays garbage. Here is the article:
McCoy: He's dead, Jim
Several years ago, before PCs were not nearly as com-mon in the home as they are now, a friend of mine asked of my computer, âoebut aren't you afraid it will explode?â
He was a Star Trek fan, and in the old 1950s and 1960s science fiction and spy shows, computers all had a nasty habit of blowing up. All one had to do to these TV or movie computers to make them explode was shoot them, with either a ray gun or a police revolver. Some TV and movie computers would blow up if you âoepressed the wrong buttonâ; one episode of the 1960s TV show The Prisoner (âoeI am not a number! I am a free man!â) had a computer that could answer any question. The bad guys, who had imprisoned the hero, a spy who had resigned his post, wanted to know why he resigned. Of course, before the bad guys could ask the computer âoeWhy did number six resign his post?â the intrepid number six offered that he had a question the computer could not answer.
He typed in to the Remington electric typewriter and fed the paper into the computer, which, of course, promptly started smoking, sparking, and ultimately blew up. The question was simply âoewhy?â
Similarly, in an episode of Star Trek, Spock makes a computer explode by asking it to figure the value of pi to the last decimal place. Of course, any time a Star Trek computer was fired on, whether by a Klingon or Federation phaser, and no matter what civilization designed and built the computer, it would explode in a grand display of fireworks.
I had to explain to my friend that this was all nonsense, that early computers from the early 1950s used thousands of vacuum tubes, requiring high voltages, which could throw showers of sparks and bright purple flashes with the characteristic âoepop!â if there was a short circuit in its 120-240 volt circuitry but would not actually explode, and that modern computers ran on three to twelve volts and wouldn't even get a spark from a short.
I had to explain to my friend that the only explosions were in my games; that the computer itself here in the analog world was safe.
Along with the matter transporter and faster than light travel, the exploding computer was one of those things relegated to science fiction.
New Scientist reports that they have found a way to make silicon explode on demand, either by shock, as with that .38 caliber police special or by electrical signal.
âoeThis machine is stolen and will self-destruct in ten seconds.â
New Scientist says âoeFor instance, the American spy plane impounded by China last year could have used it to destroy its secret electronics systems.â
They add âoeIn a stolen mobile phone, the network would send a trigger signal to the part of the chip containing the gadolinium nitrate âdetonatorâ(TM), triggering the explosion... and detonate it at will.â
So not only is Star Trek's computer to blow up, its communicators will too! I can see in five years when these bozos have the anti theft circuits in phones. Drop your phone now and it might break. Drop it in five years and it might take your leg off!
Of course, the new viruses in ten years will not just reformat your hard drive; the kids will be writing viruses to make people's computers explode in their homes!
Doncha just love science... Personally, I'm hoping someone with a little common sense will have a talk with these educated morons and explain that just maybe, exploding computers ain't such a good idea after all. Just maybe the US Government might be more concerned with bringing its spy plane crew home alive than exploding its electronics; they could have blown the plane up with conventional explosives, or even driven the thing into the ground, but they didn't.
When my cell phone explodes the manufacturer better hope it takes my head off, because if it doesn't I'm suing the shit out of the morons!
Beam me up, Scotty.