19 September 2017

Halt and Catch Fire

Halt and Catch Fire is an American drama television series about a fictionalized version of the history of the personal computer revolution of the 1980s and then the growth of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s.

The show's title refers to a computer machine code instruction abbreviated as HCF. Halt and Catch Fire refers to a computer machine code instruction that causes the computer's central processing unit (CPU) to cease any meaningful operation to the point of requiring a restart of the computer.

Originally it referred to a fictitious instruction in IBM System/360 computers. Later, the joke became real when developers actually wrote such code.

Usually, when a computer hits a bug in the code it probably can still recover, but an HCF instruction is one where there is no way for the system to recover without a restart. It halts the computer, but the "catch fire" part is not literal. There is no computer bursting into flames. The exaggeration was that the circuits would be switching so fast that they would overheat and burn.

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