• Greg Baker

Bugs Do Not Come From Computers

This past Memorial Day holiday, thousands of travelers were stranded in New York due to a reported “computer glitch.”  This “computer glitch” apparently started with a “crashed” server that brought down the entire check-in system.  To keep everything from coming to a complete stop, airline agents performed manual check-ins using paper tickets.  Eventually, computer operations were restored, but long delays persisted through the remainder of the holiday.

Is it just me, or are you not greatly offended that this entire fiasco was blamed on a computer?

Of course, this isn’t the first time that some sort of disaster was blamed on a computer.  The massive power outage that blacked-out the east coast in 2003 is blamed on a computer error.  The loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter in 1999 is attributed to a computer data issue.  A faulty network card took the fall for the failure of a U.S. Customs system in 2007 that caused over 17,000 flights to be grounded.  In 2012, the responsibility for a Fourth of July fireworks fail in San Diego ultimately fell to a glitch “deep inside the software”.

I think that most people view computers as these mysterious black boxes that seem to do stuff.  I’m fairly certain that most people don’t really know how they work.  They just blindly go along, tap, tap, tap on the screen, and presto!  Instantly delivered is the latest celebrity snapchat or the most recent update from theprepperjournal.com.  So when computers don’t provide the desired result, it’s easy to point fingers.  And since computers won’t fight back (they are inanimate objects after all), the computer becomes an easy scapegoat.

It’s time for someone to stand up for the computers.  It’s time for the people to know the truth.  I know that the truth might be hard for some of you to absorb, but you need to know.

It’s not the computer’s fault.

First of all, think of what that computer had to endure just to become part of our daily lives.  Every computer started out as a bucket of components in some far away land.  These components were soldered and glued together, transformed into something completely different.  And instead of being given the chance to explore their new individuality, they were wrapped in plastic, trapped in a box and shipped around the world.  Whether they end up in Lenox Mall or an Augusta Wal-Mart, only fate can decide.

Secondly, a computer cannot perform any task on its own.  Since the invention of the ENIAC, modern day computers only do what we tell them to do.  A computer without programming can only transform electricity into heat.  A computer with a program can only execute that program.  And here’s the part that vindicates the computer…no matter how many times that program is executed, that program will always run EXACTLY AS WRITTEN.

So finally, we have to ask, “Where do computer programs originate?”  The answer is clear: software developers.  Nerdy, personality-deficient, but horribly well-paid, software developers.  And interestingly enough, the software developers are generally the first ones to pass the blame to the computer.  If you walk into any software development shop in the world, and you will hear the terms “bug” and “software defect” thrown around like candy.

My friends, if software is defective, it’s only due to the workmanship.  Here’s a better term – “COID”.  It stands for “Coding error introduced by the developer.”

OK, I know that I’m being pretty tough on all the developers out there, but I have a purpose in doing so.  Software developers have an opportunity in their profession that very few others possess.  Developers get to answer the question, “If you can have it any way you want it, how would you have it?”  Every new algorithm begins with a blank sheet of paper.  No matter how you spin it, if an application is hard to use or impossible to maintain, a software developer created it that way.

Bad software design is a choice.  Please stop making bad choices.

@gregory_a_baker

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