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1998-02-17 23:04:51


Prototype of Machine That Will Test Embedded Chips



A machine that will locate bad chips is not yet in production.

This is late in the game for this invention, needed though it is.

This is from COMPUTERWORLD (Feb. 2).

* * * * * * * * *

A prototype firmware test kit that can work out whether an embedded system is millennium date dependent is set to take some of the pain out of year 2000 testing for embedded systems. . . .

One of the toughest aspects of year 2000 embedded systems projects is the amount of embedded chips, in things from building fire alarms to flow meters on oil pipes. The problem is further compounded because it is difficult even for the systems' manufacturers to know if they contain a real-time clock and what its functions might be, let alone if it is compliant. . . .

CDC's non-invasive test kit is clipped to the clock and firmware chips, and samples the firmware instructions for several hours, downloading the data to a laptop. An engineer can then manually analyse the code to see if any functions use dates calculated from the time supplied by the clock.

Mike Preston, chairman of the UK Year 2000 Interest group, gave a cautious welcome to the kit. "The principles are sound, and it's been thought out by people who understand embedded systems. But it's not a magic tool, it is to assist a quicker diagnosis of the problem." Mike Williams, director of CDC, said the test could not be 100% certain, but added that it would reduce the risk of undetected non-compliance substantially.


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