Unprogramming: Intro

On Friday, the 13th of January 2012, the ACM Queue published an article by Poul-Henning Kamp entitled ‘The CRYPO-CS-SETI challenge: An Un-programmng challenge’. In this post, Kamp challenged his readers to attempt to disassemble a program for an unknown computer. In what we assume was an attempt at increased dramatic impact, he described a scenario where part of an extra-terrestrial computer is discovered, with only a memory storage device intact.

We first heard of the challenge on the morning of Saturday the 14th, and thought it sounded like fun. Within five days we had completely disassembled the program. In addition, we had accidentally identified the oh-so-terrestrial source of the code.

This is the first in a series of posts in which we’ll describe how we went about reverse-engineering the machine architecture using nothing but the binary blob and our wits.