Why Is Firmware So Bad?

Why Is Firmware So Bad?

OR

Why Do I Take My Mental Health in My Hands Whenever I Dare to Press a Key on My Remote Control to My Cable DVR Set Top Box?

The latest generation of Motorola STBs fielded by Comcast seems to be highly prone to entering one or more modes where it cannot process a remote or front panel key faster than once in 30 seconds. It seems to enter this mode apparently at random in response to using some exotic function like PAUSE, or FF, or PLAY.

Actually I consider this as largely a rhetorical question, as the combination of time to market pressures, a mismatch between enormous complexity and the supply of firmware engineers capable of dealing with it, and inadequate tools and languages that must be usable by the lowest common denominator of the available employees; all lead to life on the edge.

If I press the PAUSE button and have a problem, the advice can only be the same as the medical advice received for my complaint that 'It hurts if I do x', i.e. 'Don't do x.'

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