We all moan about computers from time to time, but I’ve recently heard about two large-scale blunders that both occurred in September 1989, which have particularly tickled my humour gene.
On the 6th September in Paris, a large number of Parisians all heard a ‘plop’ on the doormat (assuming they have doormats and letter-boxes in Paris). In fact 41,000 residents all stared in disbelief at very official looking letters that charged each one of them with a selection of serious offences ranging from murder, to extortion and prostitution. What a lot of thieves, murderers and vagabonds must live in Paris you might think; but no! The phone lines were red-hot, as 41,000 incensed citizens tried to sort out the nightmare (probably all at the same time). They discovered that there had been a rather large computer slip-up, and the charges were all in fact for traffic violations.
And then a few days later on the 13th of September 1989, in Britain’s biggest banking bungle, customers of a certain large banking corporation received a surprise share of £2 billion. Approximately 99.3% of the money was later returned; so I wonder what happened to the other £14 million!
Computers – we love ’em or hate ’em; but I know which error I would rather have had!