Wikipedia's list of infamous software glitches

Worth noting, especially if you read my piece last Friday about problems with America's electric infrastructure: Wikipedia's list of infamous software glitches includes the problems with General Electric Energy's XA/21 monitoring software that helped make the 2003 East Coast Blackout happen. (Via Kyle McDonald)


  1. Generally speaking, when I get code wrong the worst that’s likely to happen is that it doesn’t work in IE6.

    There must be some serious insurance involved for writing software for the entire power grid.

    1. I suspect that incidents like that are why every software package ever(especially, but not exclusively, the ones that you pay hilariously large amounts for ‘enterprise’ support contracts on) has some dense verbiage in the EULA to the effect of “Yeah, we wrote this and it is our Sacred Intellectual Property and whatnot. All marketing to the contrary, we don’t endorse its merchantability for a damn thing. Should it cause data loss, operational failure, or tortuous combustion of the liver, we have no responsibility whatsoever.”

  2. No mention of the Denver airport baggage handling software that delayed the opening by several months.  Perhaps that didn’t qualify as a ‘glitch’?

  3. I wonder if the shadowy-but-a-classic-if-true CIA/industrial espionagge/Soviet pipeline control software sabotage incident would qualify, or whether that one comes in as “It’s a feature, not a bug!”…

  4.    I encountered a doozy of a glitch just a few days ago. a HUGE jobs board site (starts with a “G”)  has a resume-handling code that cuts up your resume into keywords (provided they’re readable in, say, MS Word) and reformats it for employers with way more resumes than time to filter through them quickly. Reasonable enough, sleazy algorythm-tricking techniques aside.
       My new MS Word resume wouldn’t upload, because apparently I’d included a “banned word”. Okay, evidently it filters for mainstream decency as well.
       Problem was, I didn’t have any nasty language in my resume, and frankly if I had casually dropped the ‘f’-bomb in my resume I wouldn’t deserve a job anyway. But I digress.
       Well, the “banned word” in question turned out to be “fu”. Those two letters when used in sequence, triggered the violation, but regardless of its context. Think about that.
       So I had three banned words, two of them were company names and one of them was the name of a project. FuelDesign, a huge multimedia company based in NYC, was considered a “banned word.” So is “Daisy Fuentes”, the Pilates guru.
       This speaks to the dangers of overreactive/lazy coders, or any corporate attempts to “moralize” the english alphabet to their own standards.
        To the site’s credit, they fixed the issue within 24 hours of my pointing it out to them. Just the same, MINUTES count when answering job postings. How long this site had been symbolically annihilating the existence of hundreds of companies and anyone who ever worked for them, all because of two letters, is anybody’s guess.

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