Guys, this is kinda Embarrassing for a nerd and writer of Science Fiction, but I need your help. I thought of something that could possibly be the solution of all solutions in my book-writing issues. Only I can't remember what It's called. Now I need to do a bunch of research on it to see if it would really cause what I want to be the effects in my story, but I can't figure out what to type into google.

The thing: Whatever can be used to shut down computer parts from a distance away. Usually associated with bombs or enemy machines.

Please, help.

I have, in my story, an older mechanical thing, which is failing at random moments, and a newer, smaller model, built on the same specifications as the first, that is also failing, but much faster. And for my next part to make sense I need to understand what is causing both to shut down. I'm thinking, perhaps computer mechanics could have updated between times to make them immune to the above factor, but the older thing, un-updated, is still vulnerable to it. I'm hoping to research: would it have any other effects to the environment, or the people.