Software Errors Can Kill You

By Deane Barker on March 1, 2006

Software Horror Stories: I found this link buried in the argument between doctors and progammers. It’s a big list of instances where software errors have caused serious problems “beyond the system,” including death.

Some highlights:

The 1988 shooting down of the Airbus 320 by the USS Vincennes was attributed to the cryptic and misleading output displayed by the tracking software. […]

An Air New Zealand airliner crashed into an Antarctic mountain; its crew had not been told that the input data to its navigational computer, which described its flight plan, had been changed. […]

Rumor has it that, when they shut down the IBM 7094 at MIT in 1973, they found a low-priority process that had been submitted in 1967 and had not yet been run. […]

An Iraqi Scud missile hit Dhahran barracks, leaving 28 dead and 98 wounded. The incoming missile was not detected by the Patriot defenses, whose clock had drifted .36 seconds during the 4-day continuous siege, the error increasing with elapsed time since the system was turned on. This software flaw prevented real-time tracking. The specifications called for aircraft speeds, not Mach 6 missiles, for 14-hour continuous performance, not 100. Patched software arrived via air one day later.

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