Characteristics of microcomputers

Problem: A microcomputer is sensitive and easy to disrupt.

The experience of professionals: Yes, it easy to disrupt.

A common public misconception: It is a reliable, robust technology.

An underestimated problem

Our modern world is supported by electronics. This includes not only computers but also many electrical systems. A microcomputer is often used as an embedded brain in such a system, ranging from a watch, mobile phone, air-conditioner, refrigerator, automobile, lift control, industrial robot, or measurement machine to a satellite. This is one of the backbones of our society.

However, an inherent characteristic of a microcomputer is that there is one serious problem: malfunctions. A microcomputer is an industrial product and thus, has a limited life and it can be destroyed. From common sense, with a limited life and subject to being broken, the possibility of permanent damage is quite easy to understand in the nature of complex machines. Normally, during a product’s life, some parts may be replaced during maintenance and a record kept of operating time to monitor the product’s life cycle.

Noise-induced disruption of a microcomputer is somewhat different. It is not permanent damage. Once a microcomputer-based system malfunctions, it can be restored to normal by turning the power off and on. However, during the malfunction, it will not operate as expected and may behave unpredictably, including stopping.

Once a microcomputer malfunctions, what might be seen?

  • In an automobile, sudden stops, no brake control, no acceleration, loss of cabin comfort.
  • In a lift, it could start moving while its door is open.
  • In some field, a robot could exhibit strange behavior.
  • In a hospital, a medical device could stop during surgery.
  • In a factory, an automated machine could not follow its program.
  • In a weather monitor, incorrect data could be collected or reported.
  • On the railways, the signaling system fails to indicate an unsafe condition.
  • In the city, you cannot get your money from an ATM.
  • In a building, a fire-alarm could generate a wrong signal.
  • In your hand, a mobile phone could not connect to its network.
  • At home, an air-conditioner could stop and the house become uncomfortable.
  • In home or office, you could not connect to the Internet.
  • At home, appliances could not work as expected.

In the example cases above, there could be various kinds of problems.