Tuesday, November 08, 2005

History's worst bugs

The wired has a story about 10 of the worst software bugs in history. link.

Reminds me of a story that I heard sometime back.

A lot of software is being written to control cars. Nowadays, the first thing a mechanic would do with a newer car, is to plug in a laptop into the car and read out the status messages. So what happens when you combine large amounts of software, written in a matter of days, untested in a real car? Disaster..

Luckily, most car companies are paranoid about the quality of software. Typically, a car model undergoes at least a year's testing for thousands of kilometers. It so happened, that in one car model (No names here), whenever the test driver took a particular exit, the car would just die. It took some time to figure out that to that the exit the driver has to go under a bridge, which for some reason caused the GPS signal to be lost for a fraction of a second. The result? The software running on the car crashed!! Weird, huh?

Another case I remember, is of a guy who complained that his car hated Vanilla Icecream. It seems the guy used to go out for Icecream every Saturday Night with his kids. Whenever the kids took Vanilla, the car wouldn't start up unless it was cranked a bit. Whenever the kids chose different flavours, the problem wasn't seen. It took some debugging to figure out that whenever the guy bought Vanilla he too less time inside the shop and was back in his car earlier. The result? The software failed when the engine was still warm!! Weird!!

All these stories are FOAF. So, if you have corrections or comments, send them in!!!

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