The top 5 Devastating Software Bugs


3 m read


Testing & QA

BugOur history is overfilled with stories of minor malfunctions causing tremendous damage. Here’s a top five list of really expensive errors:

  1. 1998, Mars Climate Orbiter. A 327.6 million dollar project has found its last shelter by crushing on the Mars’s surface. The orbiter approached Mars’s atmosphere in a wrong angle causing fried engines and a colossal scandal in NASA. The mistake occurred simply because separate engineering teams were using different units of measurements. It was as simple as that. Instead of the metric Newton-Seconds the orbiter’s thrusters-operating software was using pounds-force second measurement. Or the orbiter was hi-jacked by some little green Martians making the second statement really hard for me to find that plausible.
  2. 2012, Knight Capital. A trading firm was almost burned to bankruptcy by losing 440 million dollars. The damage was caused by a software bug. The new & shiny recently installed trading software caused the computers to execute series of orders that were supposed to be given in several days in less than an hour causing 10 million dollars losses per minute! The Knights Capital stock market was almost ruined by a software bug.
  3. 1985-1987, Therac-25. Series of truly horrible and blood-chilling events occurred because of a Canadian Therac-25 radiation therapy machine. Because of a bug named “race condition” the machine was giving its trusty patients a 100 times radiation overdose, causing death and devastating radiation-burns which lead to the same conclusion.  Although these terrible happenings led to some positive sides, as well. An entire new branch of software testing has emerged in order to prevent such glitches in software engineering. Nowadays it’s a standard study and no medical software comes out without it, thanks’ God.
  4. 1999, Y2K. We all remember the Year 2000 Apocalypse prophecies. Some of them, actually, kind of came true. The Y2K bug is one of these things costing $500 billion! spent on programmers just to fix the software glitch in all of the computer technology using businesses. The bug occurred because most dates were programmed to assume the dates automatically F.E. “99” as the year “1999” for saving space. So when it came to the millennium the last two zeroes of year 2000 were assumed as the year 1900.
  5. 2003, The North-East power outage in the US. It was the second in the world most spread power outage known by men.  The outage had affected 55 million people in the United States and Ontario. Although some power was restored within seven hours many citizens were left without electricity for two whole days. Just imagine all the caused damage. The bug occurred in the energy’s monitoring software so the alarming system began to cause distress on the electric grids.

So, as IT became an irreplaceable part of our lives it has its pluses and minuses. And the minuses can be truly devastating, though it doesn’t mean we should quit all of our tech. The monkey also could continue hitting coconuts with sticks and stones, but it invented tools becoming a man. And, I believe, those tools had a few devastating bugs of their own which in no case stopped progress, as they shouldn’t stop it now.

Check out our related articles:

8 Factors That Cause Software Bugs

The 6 Trickiest Types of Software Bugs You Should Know

Software Testing. Finding And Destroying Software Bugs

How to Really Find Bugs!

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