Thursday, November 10, 2005


Of the software kind.

Wired's Simson Garfinkel has a short article on the worst software bugs in history. When you read it, do notice that some of them happened when a 'new, improved' version of the software replaced the old one. Amazing!

Garfinkel offers a quick history lesson that explains the origin of the word 'bug':

[...] in 1945 ... engineers found a moth in Panel F, Relay #70 of the Harvard Mark II system.1The computer was running a test of its multiplier and adder when the engineers noticed something was wrong. The moth was trapped, removed and taped into the computer's logbook with the words: "first actual case of a bug being found."

Sixty years later, computer bugs are still with us, and show no sign of going extinct.

The rest of the story features ten of the biggest bugs including the famous public relations disaster caused in 1993 by the 'floating point division error' in the first generation Pentium which led to a loss off some 475 million dollars for Intel. Interestingly, Garfinkel calls it a 'silicon error'.

There are others in the top 10 list that led to death and disease; some led to mere financial losses; there is at least one bug that was allegedly inserted at the insistence of the CIA!

Read the whole thing!

Hat tip: Slashdot.