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Chicken Switch

Recently I was talking to an engineer who works for IBM on a “bring up” team in Austin. His team gets the very early versions of new POWER processor chips and shakes out the bugs. One term he used that I hadn’t heard before was “chicken switch”. They use this term for switches that can disable optimizations on the chip (such as caches) to isolate problems. When you throw all of the “chicken switches” you put the processor in “tinkertoy mode”. If it still isn’t working the problem is likely to reside elsewhere, in external memory for example.

We do the same sort of thing in software — provide settings to disable caches and other forms of optimization in order to isolate problems. On the Notes/Domino team we referred to switches like these as NOTES.INI settings for want of any better term.

Maybe we could start using “chicken switch” as the name for such things?

Related etymology: a Google search found that “chicken switch” is also a military term used by test pilots for the emergency eject button on aircraft. The term was also adopted by astronauts in space capsules.

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