• Jim Costa

Jim’s Rant For The Day. Halt And Catch Fire.

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

In the early 70s I was going to night school learning to program large IBM and Burroughs mainframe computers. I was using COBOL, a business language in conjunction with Assembler, a basic machine language. Assembler tells the brains of the computer how and when to use equipment hooked to it like a printer. COBOL told the machine how to work with information like math calculations and remembering a name. The Assembler commands told the machine how to print out completed information.

Although I never used it there is an Assembler command of HCF – Halt and Catch Fire. It was used by engineers to test the newly assembled computer. The system was a large five foot tall cabinet with trays of computer boards assembled in it. The engineer had to take the empty cabinet and install all the parts, one connection at a time. When completed the engineer then “burned in” the system by feeding it the same commands over and over again to make certain all connections were good and tight. This was a boring job for any engineer.

Thus the HCF command was created. It would continually repeat commands faster and faster until the system was deemed OK and was halted or it failed at some point (something burned up). It was also used to test new prototype equipment such as a new printer to locate its weakness so it could be improved. And yes, sometimes the equipment did overheat and catch fire! I once saw a techee blow cigarette smoke by the outside of a cabinet to get a rise out of the engineer. Boy did he ever! Smoke inside of a cabinet would crash the hard drives.

What I see today is our country is in a Halt and Catch Fire mode. Our government systems are way overloaded and ready to burn themselves out. So too with the financial and economic systems, as well as the education, policing, small business systems, bathroom designations and Girl sports rosters.

Somebody has put us in the HCF mode intentionally. All I can say is it’s going to catch fire any moment. Back away from their system fast.

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