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Magic smoke is an enduring IT joke about processor function and hardware capability. IT pros or others may humorously or sarcastically refer to “magic smoke” when talking about the smoke that emerges from a hardware device in situations like overheating or improper connections.
Magic smoke is also known as blue smoke or factory smoke.
The idea is that those who are in on this joke have set up the false theory that processors and components have “magic smoke” inside that they somehow use to function. In this fictional scenario, if you “let the magic smoke out,” if it leaks or escapes, the hardware does not work anymore. In actual fact, the hardware stops working because it has been fried – the smoke is a consequence, not the causal factor. Language experts explain this as an example of a “post hoc ergo propter hoc” logical fallacy.
For example, when the system gets overheated and starts to smoke, an engineer might say to another – “you let the smoke out” – maintaining that facetious idea that the device is releasing magic smoke that it uses to do computing tasks.