Monday, July 18, 2005

Can Software Kill?

I receive email newsletters from - A technology based company that has articles that are usually above me. I read the headlines and occasionally see a teaser that makes me think, "I can understand this!"

This week the title, "Hardening Expectations for Software Quality" caught my eye. The reason being, I am continually amazed at the size programs have grown to. To download a simple plugin today took 25 megabytes. That is 5 megabytes more than my first hard drive held. I remember reading how the early computer whizzes at MIT worked hard to streamline programs because they were working with 64k. Nowadays a computer programmer sees the code won't work he just DX's it with a 'rem' command and leaves it in the middle of the software program. Who cares if it takes a bit of space. Plenty more where that came from. To hell with those on dialup.

Well back to the title of this posting. Well, pretty soon anyway. The article mentioned Solidware Technologies that has presented software to find bugs in software. (Free 60 day trial/download for you programming geeks!) in their advert it said, "making software safer - Ouch! There were 428 fatalities between 1985 and 2003 caused by software bugs*** (and these are just the ones we know about)." ... *** 2004 Baseline study, Can Software Kill? - end quote -

NOW ON TO THE TITLE OF THIS POST! - With this I had to run a Google search. - "Can Software Kill?" - (with quotes) - 573 hits with most leading to links to the following link -


TechNewsWorld - 4-13-04 - Software can kill you. Don't think so? Talk to the family members of 21 deceased patients treated at the National Cancer Institute in Panama in November 2000. The cancer patients died after being overdosed by a Cobalt-60 radiotherapy machine. The technicians who entered patient and medication data into the software that guided that machine will stand trial starting May18th in Panama City on charges of second-degree murder.
According to published reports, Ferrari's North America division recalled 353 cars in 1999 because of a software programming error. Some Ferrari 360 Modena and 360 Modena F1 models manufactured in the previous year contained a glitch in the electronic instrument module that prevented a warning light from illuminating if a problem was detected with a car's brake system.
But it's not just in cars that buggy software is threatening life and limb. Computer programming is now embedded in much of the equipment and appliances that permeate homes, schools and the workplace, making software quality a major issue. Most software releases are far from perfect, and software industry analysts admit there is little difference in the quality control applied to industrial programming and retail products.
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prying1 sez: While I don't think it is yet time to put on white robes, drag out the old "END OF THE WORLD" signs and give up our day jobs, I do think that supporting companies like Solidware Technologies would be a good thing. If you know anyone who deals in programming and works with chip design send them the link. Who knows. Some day it might save a life. Besides, they get to play with it for 60 days for free.