Software mistakes can be expensive and damage the company brand if they’re bad enough. And sometimes, software bugs can cause even worse damage.
The software errors that happened in the following cases really hurt the organizations.
- Y2K Bug
The most potentially expensive software bug in history was the infamous Y2K. This was a software error that affected vast types of software that reduced the calendar year stored in data sets to the last two digits. This was done to save space.
So, the computer would read the date with 00 on the end as the year 1900. But it should have read it as the year 2000. This problem could have caused significant problems with science, finance, government, and much more. Fortunately, the problem was addressed in the late 1990s and most of the feared consequences didn’t happen.
Programmers and leaders learned that testing for errors today may not be enough. QA testing may also need to look months and years ahead to see how specific programming parameters may function later.
Some estimate this bug could have cost a total of $500 billion.
Starbucks had to close more than half its stores in April 2016 when a register malfunction happened during a software system refresh. The software bug meant thousands of stores in the US, Canada, and Mexico couldn’t function because cash registers couldn’t process payments. It’s unknown how much this bug cost Starbucks that month. But it shows that modern cash registers are more complex and dependent on software programming today.
- Intel Pentium Chip
Intel launched its new Pentium chip in 1993, which was the successor to the 486 processor. Unfortunately, a software error in the chip’s programming made it improperly divide specific numbers, particularly those with four and five decimal places.
The floating-point engine for the Pentium chip was situated on the main processor. When two program sections didn’t function optimally, there was a software error. Customers freaked out when their computers didn’t work correctly, and swapping the chips was a huge hassle and expense.
This problem shows that experienced programming professionals and third-party IT consultants need to do more than simply look for typos in computer code. Some software errors can be challenging to spot. When software professionals work with complicated code, many parts of the code need to be tested to ensure they work flawlessly.
The Intel Pentium software bug cost the company $475 million and years of bad PR.
- British Child Support Agency
In 2004, a British organization created a complex software program to calculate benefit payments for the British Child Support Agency. Unfortunately, the program overpaid 1.9 million people and shorted 700,000 others. The error happened because the British Department For Works and Pensions reformed the Child Support Agency while launching a new computer system.
The software mistake cost BCSA more than $1 billion, which is a lot today but was much more in 2004.
- Soviet Early Warning System False Alarm
In 1983, the Soviet Union’s early-warning missile system sent an alarm to Soviet officials that the United States had launched five nuclear missiles.
There was a critical software bug that led to this potentially cataclysmic disaster. Fortunately, a Soviet military officer perceived that the alert was an error, and radar locations across the country confirmed there had been no launch.
Later, the bug was found to be a line of code that was supposed to eliminate bogus missile launch detections that were caused by satellites spotting sun reflections off the tops of clouds. It’s a good thing the bug was caught because the cost could have easily been millions of lives.
Software bugs can cost all organizations a lot of money and worse. That’s why it always pays to invest in skilled software professionals to reduce system risks.