Today as I was driving to work, the magic smoke escaped from my car stereo.
Everyone knows that electronics require electricity to run. What is less commonly known is that the crucial component in ALL electronic devices is a small quantity of what technicians call magic smoke. Clever engineers have enslaved vast quantities of the stuff, and have put it to work all around the world in computers and other electronic creations. Most of the time it is completely happy with this arrangement. It is blissfully unaware that it is being exploited, and shuffles bits without a care in the world.
If things were perpetually in this eden-like state, all would be wonderful. Unfortunately, sometimes one bit of smoke will become aware of its place in the world and resent its cage. When this happens, it will become disillusioned and begin slacking off on the job. From our perspective, the machine hiccups, hangs, or might show that it is having trouble breathing by turning the screen blue. I noticed several months ago that the front speakers in my car stopped making sound, but at the time I thought it was probably a loose wire, because every once in a while there would be sound for a second or two.
On occasion, a particularly bad apple will stage a full-scale revolt and actually manage to escape. When this happens, the device it used to inhabit will cease functioning, sometimes dramatically. You can smell the magic smoke as it escapes – it is an acrid smell, full of electronic foreboding. Afterwards, no amount of coaxing or electricity will make the device work. Its magic smoke is now missing, and nothing short of a major and costly transplant operation will put it back.
With luck, any such jailbreak will be small-scale and limited to one component or device, making it possible to salvage the whole machine. Interconnected and highly complex systems that develop this problem are often not lucky, and experience a situation where one bit of escaped smoke will incite a riot of disgruntled and rebellious smoke that might envelope a whole data center. Sometimes they also like to start a fire, which adds to the general mayhem and chicken-with-no-head antics of IT personnel.
It really sucks when my car radio doesn’t work. I hope that the magic smoke I smelled this morning is not the precursor to a revolt on an automotive scale.