Foreign countries want old PCs with 486DX math coprocessors to use in guided missiles?

This blog had this question

and one person comented

Any truth to this?

  1. I call bs. It would be far easier to buy a PC and use its microprossessor

  2. Malaysia has been used as a stand in for “poor third world country”, Malaysia has a pretty big electronics industry anyway.

3)Malaysian Enviroment Laws

Well the part about guided missile’s is pretty silly. But for the rest of it, he’s wrong about the country, Malaysia is a rich country by asian standards and the price of labour is much too high for this kind of trade to be profitable. India, Bangladesh, China are where this kind of practise happens:

The 486DX may have been restricted 20 years ago, but the current restrictions are looking at systems measured in Teraflops. There are also restrictions on microprocessors designed for extreme temperatures, except for automotive applications and radiation hardened.

You can download the current restrictions here:

Yes. It makes no sense.

Under what circumstances would it ever be commonplace for the wrong kind of people to have a stack of Patriot missiles which were ready to go, lacking onlytheir 486 processors?

Or are they pocketing the processor and saying “Hey! now all we need is the rest of the missile”?

There will doubtless be a followup email talking about what happens when you send your old Patriot missiles overseas for recycling. You think they’re getting turned into bedsprings and flowerpots but the awful truth is that innocent children are being exploited to salvage and repair them. Those refurbished missiles are then put on sale via a secret E-Bay store.

Seriously, the story sounds a bit hokey to me. If some nation has the money to develop missiles I’m pretty sure they won’t have any trouble going out and buying a container full of old 486 processors which probably go for about a dollar apiece these days.

I seem to recall (been awhile so dim memory) that Playstations were initially banned for sale to China and others. Apparently the video processor in there was deemed more than sufficient to be adapted to use in a missile. And cheap too as such things go.

This was at least ten years ago if not more but at the time seemed odd my videogame console could guide a missile.

Sure, you say that now, but when the terrorists have mathematics co-processors, all they’ll need are warheads, rocket motors, guidance software and launch equipment.

And missile casings.

But anyway, once they’ve got those, they’ll have everything they need to shoot down 40-year-old aircraft, so don’t come crying to me when your MiG-25s are destroyed.

This sounds like mostly bull to me, an anti-green rant with a bit of truth mixed in.

The 486 processors in missiles thing reminds me of the “my watch has more processing power than the spacecraft that took us to the moon” boast, to which I retort “yes, and the lack of a fucking great rocket is a minor omission”.

Given that the US and Russia were already installing ICBMs in the 50s, I would be amazed if you couldn’t use the simple processors available to anyone in the early 80s to guide a missile accurately enough for most uses.

Why bother trying to scrounge up ancient 486s when a modern ARM processor would probably be cheaper and easier to find?

Sure but the point is there are a series of impediments standing in the way of the “bad guys” getting their hands on various things we’d rather they didn’t.

Like if the bad guys want to build a nuclear bomb getting their hands on U235 is only a start. That is not to say though that we should ignore them getting U235 because U235 is not a bomb. It is just one big road block in a series of road blocks to a working bomb. We want to stop them at every one if we can.

Sure but the point is various countries do not have any way to make the tech themselves. The Soviets and US did. If the guys we’d rather not have missiles can pickup what amounts to a guidance system off the shelf at Toys-R-Us then the US sees that as a problem. A missile without guidance is effectively worthless.

That said the tech for computers has advanced so fast and is so ubiquitous that standing in the way of Playstation sales to some countries was pretty laughable even then and looking back just absurd.

I’m sitting here looking at the “Made in China” stamp on the bottom of my laptop, and trying to figure out why anyone would think it makes sense to try to keep China (or any other SE Asian country) from getting their hands on electronic devices that might be used for some nefarious purpose.

Anyways, any smartphone has lots enough processing umph to get the job done. No need to scavenge for obscure 20-year-old chips.

Not if the 486 was part of an embedded system and couldn’t be replaced easily by a modern processor. In fact wikipedia has this to say about the 486:

Even if the math coprocessor is a different item, it is likely out of production too.

With the processor no longer in production, recycling would be one source that you wouldn’t overlook if you needed the chip.

As for the claim that 486 processors can be bought in bulk for about a dollar each, uh, cite?

The processors that go into that “Made in China” laptop are probably “Made in Chandler.”

This all makes me feel better that the only computer I’ve ever donated away had a 486 SX processor.

Screw you, missile-launching terrorists!

Google “Exaggeration for humorous effect”. I have not priced 486 processors recently but they are cheap.

A brand new 2.2ghz CPU is under $30 at Newegg. I just checked EBay and there are 486 CPUs for under $8. I have no doubt that if you went to a chip manufacturer and said “I’ll take a thousand” that the price would be lower still.

We’re talking about a 20+ year old chip, not something that has to be hand-carved in silicon by trained Swiss artisans.

This is sort of true, if in fact the bad guys have a complete missile, with guidance system board, and the only thing missing is the chip. That’s pretty far-fetched, though. Even if they did, the 486 is 20-year-old technology. I bet you could completely emulate a 486 in an FPGA for < $50. The math coprocessor itself is probably much simpler.

So, given a bunch of really generous assumptions, if we were able to completely stop recycling old computers, you might drive up the price of a black market missile by $50.

Not to mention the functionality of the math coprocessor could be accomplished entirely in software cheaper and faster than using the old chip.

That’s as may be, the chip that was made in Chandler was shipped in bulk to the factory in China that assembled the laptop. CPU chips are not hard to come by in any country. And any CPU on the market today, including those found in cell phones and the like, can duplicate the functionality of a 486 math coprocessor.