Do chips have bugs?

There are probably many people who think that microcontrollers are bug-free. After all, they are glorified integrated circuits; a hard-wired jumble of infinitesimal transistor logic gates. There should be no unexpected behavior, as long as you operate the device within the rated voltage and temperature parameters….

Wrong!

What we tend to forget from our CPU architecture classes is that a CPU actually has a program inside. Known as microcode, its primary function is to interpret each instruction into the right electrical signals to drive the various parts of the CPU. For example, an addlw 0x7F instruction might involve directing the ALU’s input to the next word in program memory (0x7F), and then telling the ALU to add it to WREG, with output set back in WREG. The microcode for addwf MyVar would be different again; it needs to get a value in RAM, and set the result back there too.

Well, where there is a program, there will definitely be bugs.

My first experience with a microcontroller bug cost me several weekends of frustration, fretting, and frantic but fruitless rework. Here’s how it happened:

Oscilloclock Gone Wild

It was the early days of the Prototype, And things were looking great! My dream was coming to fruition! Except… every once in a while, the clock would go absolutely berserk. Seemingly at random, it would start displaying crazy, meaningless images, and controls would cease to function. Sometimes it would recover; other times, it would exhibit brain death – requiring a hard reset.

April Fool's? No - it's a PIC bug!

April Fool’s? No – it’s a PIC bug!

No amount of testing or experimentation could tell me what the problem was. I rewrote huge blocks of code. I removed massive chunks to simplify the code. I drank more and more coffee. Sleepless nights and grumpy days ensued, wasting my precious youth!

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BOO!

Oscilloclock.com proudly presents a new feature – Seasonal Treats !

This month, the ghosts come out of the attic and merge with the electron stream, leaving their telltale prints in the phosphor… but if you get too scared? Just push the button and blow them up!

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Oscilloclock.com site is open!

This site is dedicated to showcasing my Scope Clock designs, and to sharing technical information openly to anyone interested in these vintage electronic timepieces.

What is an “(Oscillo)scope Clock”?

A unique style of clock that displays the time (and other fun things) on a CRT taken from an old oscilloscope. These clocks operate on a fusion of old and new electronics, and are often housed in beautifully crafted cases of wood, metal, or acrylic.

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