About six years ago, my next-door-neighbor and I had the rather fun hobby of blowing up computer chips in our driveway. This was wonderful, since it let us get out our pyrotechnical urges without using anything directly flammable such as fireworks or gasoline.

I believe he originally heard about the method for the destruction of chips from his brother, who was attending MIT at the time.

The principle is simple: strip the two ends off a standard extension cord (You'll probably want one at least 15' in length so you can put some distance between you and the explosion), attach one end of some alligator clips to the stripped end of the cord and one end to the first and last pins on an integrated circuit on the computer component of your choice, located on top of asphalt or concrete, so it can't start a big fire. Ideally, you'll be using older components you got out while dumpster diving or something similar.

Attach the plug end of the extension cord to a decent surge protector. This is important because you'll be short-circuiting electricity, and if you fail to do so, you will blow a fuse/trip a circuit breaker. Also, this gives you precise control of the moment you decide to start frying stuff.

Get back to the surge protector that the extension cord is plugged into, and once again confirm that there is a reasonable distance between you and the chip to be destroyed. If you get a good chip, there will be shrapnel, sparks, "blue smoke," and noise, so you want to be reasonably shielded from all of these. Safety goggles are optional, and they add the final touch if someone questions the scientific value or safety risks of what you're doing.

Flip the switch and enjoy the fireworks display. If you're lucky, you'll get a fountain of sparks with a satisfying electrical BZZZZT noise. Weaker ICs will only produce a quick spark as the little core of them explodes and goes flying. Make sure to turn off power before you go and connect another IC, unless you like horrible, horrible electrocution.

I've found that older circuitboards generally explode better than newer ones, and usually the larger the IC, the better the explosion. There was one particular keyboard from an ancient AT&T UNIX machine that was really cool. Also, even if you think it would be really spiffy, socket-style grid-array chips don't usually blow up very well--instead they just silently fry, as if they're mocking you.

I wish I had had a DV camera back in the day, since I have a lot of stories of blowing up chips, but no evidence of them. I've looked on the Internet for similar stories, and I've seen a lot of hoopla about the "etherkiller," which is designed to deliver 120VAC into an ethernet card, but probably with much less impressive results. Also, the etherkiller seems more like something for system administrators to have a good laugh over instead of something that will actually be used in practice. Hopefully I'll get a chance to tape some real chip-killing on video this year, so I can share.

If you do this, please be safe about it. You can seriously hurt yourself with mains power, IC shapnel, toxic smoke, and the like.

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