How Important is Detail inTechnology? Top Tech Blunders of the World Show the Value of Perfection

Everyone remembers the Y2K scare, right? When doomsayers predicted the near end of the world because computers weren’t properly programmed to roll over from 1999 to the year 2000?

Of course, nothing eventful happened on New Year’s Day, except for an epic hangover.

But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some tech blunders over the years that weren’t real whoppers. Technology is a very detail-oriented process, and when you skimp on it, or go on the cheap, you usually wind up getting what you pay for. Here are some examples:

Houston, We Have a Problem — In 1962, Mariner 1, the first U.S. spacecraft sent to explore the planet Venus, went off-course shortly after launch because of an error in its guidance computer program. The error was small: a wrong punctuation character in one line of code. The result was large: instead of going to Venus, Mariner 1 went into the Atlantic Ocean. Disappointed Venusians have been inconsolable since.

I Want That Click Back! — Juan Pablo Davila worked for the Chilean government-owned Codelco Company. In 1994, while trading commodities via computer, Davila accidently typed “buy” when he meant to type “sell.” After realizing his mistake, he went into a frenzy of buying and selling, ultimately losing approximately .5% of the country’s gross national product. His name thereupon became  a verb, “davilar,” meaning “to screw up royally.”

Tech Support for Spies — US Intelligence officials recently released reports on some of the snafus in the Russian spy community. In one instance, a secret agent needed a replacement laptop. In order to get it, he had to first send it to Russia via Rome by a courier who changed passports along the way, then returned to the United States — a process that took three months. Apparently the machine received custom modifications while in Russia. When it was delivered to the spy who would use it, he was told that if he found any problems, they could be taken care of in six months. And I get cheesed if I have to wait 10 minutes on hold.

Steve Jobs Said You’re Doing It Wrong — When the iPhone 4 got released back in 2010, there were a number of reports that if the metallic ring around the phone is blocked, signal will be minimal. This resulted in a number of people attempting to contact Apple to find out what the problem was. The result was a tweet from Apple’s Steve Jobs who seems to tell the brave gadget fan to “Just avoid holding it in that way.”

Don’t MESS With My Games! — Sony admitted being hacked into and losing over 100 million PSN users’ personal details in 2011, even going as far as to offer free game downloads.

The problem was so large that Sony offered everyone affected two free games download from a list. The PlayStation Network still hasn’t completely recovered for this astronomical blunder. To this day, Sony still has no idea where the data went. I have this image of Bill Gates sitting in his bunker, wringing his hands and shouting, “Fools!”

So, the next time your system crashes, don’t feel so bad. Even the big boys break their toys, sometimes.

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