Software testing is a vital part of the installation and maintenance of any system. Businesses rely on flawless systems to ensure that unforeseen disasters, such as data loss don’t arise. Software bugs can cripple businesses, yet can often be avoided. In the past, software testing has often been overlooked and with (often) disastrous consequences.
So how did the term ‘bug’ come to refer to a mistake in a program’s source code? This dates back to 1945 when engineers testing the Harvard Mark II system found a moth on Panel F, Relay number 70, which caused the add and multiply function to behave erratically. There, so now you know!
Let’s take a look at some of history’s biggest software bugs:
- Who can forget the ‘Millennium Bug’? At the stroke of midnight on January 1st 2000, planes were to fall from the sky, nuclear reactors were to go into meltdown and streetlights were to shine no longer. Well this didn’t happen so we’ll move swiftly on!
- In 1982, it is alleged that the Soviet Union planned to steal software from the USA in order to run a major natural gas pipeline. The CIA intercepted information about this and allowed the Soviet spies to steal the software but with the inclusion of a bug that would eventually sabotage the pipeline. After several weeks of operating perfectly, the malicious code kicked in and caused the biggest non-nuclear explosion ever recorded.
- Between June 1985 and January 1987 the Therac-25 medical accelerator software included a bug that caused radiation therapy devices to malfunction at a number of medical facilities across the US and Canada. The malfunction caused the machines to administer excessive doses of radiation resulting in death and injury. In 1987 the machines were recalled to fix the software issues.
- In January of 1978, heavy snowfall caused the steel roof of the Hartford Coliseum to collapse. It was later discovered that this was due to a bug in the software that was used to design the structure. Miscalculations were made which caused the building to collapse like a deck of cards when excessive weight was applied to the structure. Luckily, thousands of visitors had left the building just hours before the disaster.
These are but a few of history’s major software malfunctions that have caused death and destruction. Granted, for many businesses software bugs are unlikely to cause this scale of devastation, yet these tales reiterate the importance of software testing. Ultimately, one of the major problems that businesses can face with software bugs is data loss and this could be easily averted with thorough testing.
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