Postmortems

Intel's Spectre, and the Tay Bridge disaster

The article starting on page 5 of issue 19 of PoC||GTFO here


has lots of detail on the construction of the celebrated Tay Bridge…

… which collapsed in 1879 with the loss of ninety lives. Even more interesting, it draws parallels with recent flaws in modern CPUs: architects, designers, implementers all have their own motivations and tradeoffs, and their own model of the bigger picture, with the result that the pursuit of higher performance has resulted in insecure CPUs. (The Tay Bridge was designed with low margins for reduced cost, using wrought iron and cast iron, subsequent compromises in manufacturing and assembly led to an unsafe bridge.)

On page 5, our editor in chief regales us with tales of coke! Neither the soft drink nor the alkaloid, he speaks here of the refined coal that ushered in the Industrial Revolution, the compromises necessary to build an affordable bridge from wrought and cast iron when steel has yet to be invented, and the disastrous collapse of the Tay Bridge in Scotland. What modern marvels are made affordable and efficient by similar fancy tricks, only to collapse under an adversarial load?