A smartphone app tasked with reporting the results of the Iowa caucus has crashed, delaying the result of the first major count in nominating a Democratic candidate to run for the U.S. presidency.
Previously, I wrote about how a handful of lines of code could have prevented the Boeing 737 MAX’s software from trimming the airliner into a dive-bomber-at-Midway nose-down attitude (see “Boeing 737 MAX crash and the rejection of ridiculous data”, for example).
I recently visited the Kennedy Space Center visitor center. In the building housing one of the leftover Saturn V rockets there is a compelling “Lunar Theater” presentation explaining that software overloaded the computer system in the Lunar Module during Apollo 11, the first landing on the moon. According to the dramatic retelling, the mission was saved only because the crew hand-flew the spaceship to a successful landing. In other words, all of the civil, mechanical, electrical, and aeronautical engineering challenges were met, but the software failed.
[Update: See comments below for how the the software in this case may have been blameless!]
The books for sale at the KSC do not encourage young visitors to become computer programmers…
Maybe it is time to switch to Haskell?
Also, what if the Iowa debacle had happened in some other country? Would U.S. media report it as resulting from a fundamental problem with that country’s culture and educational system? Whereas if it happens here in the U.S. it is just an unfortunate freak event?
- Apollo 11: Mission Out of Control (WIRED): “The inside story of how Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin struggled to touch down on the moon, while their guidance computer kept crashing. Again and again.”