DailyDirt: Lies My Computer Told Me…

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

We trust automated solutions to perform all kinds of critical tasks, but how often do we verify that we’re actually getting the right results? We survived the Y2K bug, but there are plenty of other examples of software and hardware flaws that could be much more (deadly) serious. Here are just a few disturbing computer glitches that you might have missed.

If you’d like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

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Companies: intel, xerox

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Lies My Computer Told Me…”

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Christenson says:

Intel Pentium Bug

The infamous Intel Pentium math bug is an intersting problem: There was a reward, never claimed, for someone who could find a practical situation where the bug actually made a difference, besides among those using the coprocessor to do computational number theory.

That is, since the problem showed up in the fifth or sixth significant figure, there were no practical calculations in which the bug mattered.

Now, let’s see if my beautiful, sacred theory survives contact with profane reality. (Grin)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Intel Pentium Bug

Yeah, no one at home needed many significant digits with accuracy back then, but things might be a bit different today. Lots of software is available for home use, or one might write it themselves.

Amateur astronomers need accurate ephemerides

Electronic hobbyists need accurate circuit simulation

Who knows, you might want to calculate some standard deviation


Adam Bell (profile) says:


Not really a “software” problem. The T-25 was controlled by a relay ladder on a state machine. The instructions for operating it (as I recall) said that the technician should select the appropriate aperture to deliver the prescribed dose and then turn on the electron beam (another button on the controller). The problem arose because the targets were surrounded by lead and moved very slowly. There was no interlock to check that the target was in place before the beam was energized, nor was there an external indication that it was so if the technician was impatient, the patient was zapped.

The case became a standard safety failure example in the design of programmable logic control ladders.

jraff (profile) says:

Serious Bug - just wait

In January of 2038 a VERY serious bug in the time keeping software in MANY computers and applications will cause all sorts of problems. 32bit roll over on the time counter.
2147483647 – Mon, 18 Jan 2038 22:14:07 -0500
The next second is -Fri, 13 Dec 1901 15:45:52 -0500
Much more serious than the Y2K problem.

BTW: both DEW and some Gov. agencies were down for several days, but they kept it quiet.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Serious Bug - just wait

This is true, however we have lots of lead time and mitigation is being worked on as we speak.

Much more serious than the Y2K problem

I wouldn’t bring up Y2K in relation to this, for two reasons. First, it’s a different kind of problem and second, the unbelievable overhyping of Y2K was crying wolf. If we want the Unix rollover to be taken seriously, the best thing we could do is to distance it as far as possible from the BS that was Y2K.

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