Software Bugs We Don’t Want to See Repeated in 2015—or Ever Again | TechWell

Software Bugs We Don’t Want to See Repeated in 2015—or Ever Again

Security breaches happen, from Target to Sony, but sometimes it’s not malicious hackers causing pain points for consumers, society, and companies. Occasionally, there are bugs in the software that create panic, displeasure, and financial strain. Here is a look at some of the more infamous software bugs in recent history that we hope don’t get repeated in 2015—or ever again.

The Millennium Bug, probably better remembered as Y2K, may be one of the most well-known software blunders. Many companies scrambled to update their computer systems and fix the way dates were used, recorded, and interpreted. The bug caused problems and panic across industries and organizations, and banks, hospitals, and government databases were all at the mercy of two-digit dates. The world didn't end like some predicted, but there were a few mishaps along the way. 

A glitch in some Soviet software almost led to a third world war. On September 26, 1983, a computer that was designed to give early warning of a possible nuclear attack erroneously indicated that the US had launched an attack against its Cold War counterparts. Luckily, Stanislav Petrov, a Soviet Air Defence officer, went with a gut feeling that there was a problem within the system and avoided sending everyone into a military frenzy. The false alarm caused by the glitch was soon confirmed after further review.

Unfortunately, not all software bugs relating to war and the military come with sighs of relief. In 1991, the Patriot Missile System, which was designed to track enemy missiles, had a bug that caused its internal clock to drift the longer it was left running. When an Iraqi missile was fired at a US airfield in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, the clock had already drifted by 0.34 of a second, which was enough to make the calculations inaccurate, preventing an interception. The missile would go on to kill twenty-eight American soldiers and injure an additional ninety-eight.

Of course, not all software bugs are or were almost catastrophic. There were some that were just downright annoying. In 1994, Intel’s Pentium chips weren’t as accurate with their math processors as some consumers we led to believe. Inaccuracy only lay in calculations involving more than eight decimal points, but this ended up costing Intel more than 475 million dollars—and their reputation. The Windows calculator and Excel application also had some mathematical issues in 1994 and 2007, respectively, but they were smaller PR nightmares than Microsoft's 2006 folly with bugs in preproduction software that led to the company accusing Windows XP consumers of using software that was fake or pirated.

Bugs happen and will continue to happen. Sometimes the blunders can be salvaged, or even leveraged into becoming useful features. But as several wise people have said, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

Up Next

About the Author

TechWell Insights To Go

(* Required fields)

Get the latest stories delivered to your inbox every week.