BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : DECEMBER 6, 1999 ISSUE
INTERNATIONAL -- EUROPEAN COVER STORY

Bad Bug Bites


As software suffuses every facet of society, computer failures caused by bugs, operator errors, and dumbfounding complexity threaten our leisure, our livelihoods--and sometimes our lives. Each year, the litany of mishaps grows. Here are some recent low points:

JANUARY, 1998
Computers in New York State mistakenly terminate coverage for hundreds of Medicaid recipients.

MARCH
A new computer system designed to thwart immigration fraud malfunctions, denying green cards to thousands of legitimate applicants.

APRIL
A bizarre error message on a Cisco switch used by AT&T propagates across hundreds of other switches on a high-speed data network. A network crash cripples thousands of credit-card readers and bank ATMs.

JUNE
There are glitches galore as millions of users of Microsoft's Windows 95 upgrade to Windows 98.

SEPTEMBER
Computer snafus shut down the engine of a Ukrainian-built Zenit 2 rocket five minutes after lift-off. The rocket crashes, destroying 12 commercial satellites owned by Globalstar Telecom worth more than $185 million.

DECEMBER
A computer system called the Traffic Collision Avoidance System malfunctions, appearing to place two jets--from Northwest Airlines and Air Toronto--on a collision course southwest of Albany.

DECEMBER
The Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous spacecraft misses its encounter with the Eros Asteroid when control software throws the satellite off course.

JUNE
Hundreds of flights are delayed by a system crash caused by a software upgrade at an air-traffic-control center on Long Island.

JULY
A NASA review panel blames a series of software and control errors for knocking out its $1 billion Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).

JULY
IBM's Mexican unit agrees to pay millions to Mexico City in compensation for a failed database system that was supposed to help the city fight crime.

AUGUST
Bankrupt drug wholesaler FoxMeyer sues software giant SAP over a software system that snarled the company's operations.

FEBRUARY, 1999
A malfunctioning computer knocks out New York City's 911 system for more than an hour.

APRIL
Two of Intuit's electronic tax-filing services are down for 16 hours just two days before tax returns are due.

MAY
Security watchdog groups say free mail programs from Microsoft, Yahoo, and Excite are riddled with security holes.

JUNE
Air-safety equipment gives false altitude information to a Korean Air jet. It climbs, and nearly collides with a British Airways jet.

JUNE
A software glitch knocks out service on eBay for 22 hours, halting auctions of Beanie Babies.

AUGUST
Thousands of navigation devices in Japanese vehicles freeze when Global Positioning System date is reset.

OCTOBER
A problem in Hershey's enterprise software contributes to shipment delays of Halloween candy.

OCTOBER
A computer glitch halts online trading at Charles Schwab & Co. for 2 1/2 hours. Customers continue to trade through branch offices and via phone.

OCTOBER
Software incompatibilities delay shipments by Whirlpool of its latest
appliances.

NOVEMBER
Toshiba swallows a $2.1 billion settlement for selling laptop computers whose disk-drive chips contain buggy microcode.


DATA: BUSINESS WEEK


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