Skip to main content
© Hotline

 "Science  has  proof without any  certainty.  Creationists  have
certainty without any proof"
                                                  Ashley Montague

            EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK OF HEROIC FAILURES

                         by Stephen Pile

 This  article  was  taken from Issue 1 of  the  "ST  Enthusiasts
Newsletter".  Thanks to Dave Mooney! It's short, but illustrative
for what computers...er...are 'good' for.


                 THE GREATEST MATHEMATICAL ERROR

 The  Mariner 1 space probe was launched from Cape  Canaveral  on
28  July   1962  towards Venus.   After 13  minutes'   flight   a
booster engine would give acceleration up to 25,820 mph; after 44
minutes  9,800   solar  cells would  unfold;   after  80  days  a
computer   would  calculate  the  final  course  corrections  and
after  100   days  the craft  would circle  the  unknown  planet,
scanning the  mysterious cloud in which it is bathed.
 However,  with an efficiency that is truly heartening, Mariner 1
plunged  into the Atlantic Ocean only four minutes   after   take
off.
 Inquiries  later  revealed that a minus sign had  been   omitted
from the instructions that fed into the computer, 'It was a human
error', a launch spokesman said.
 The minus sign cost £4,280,000.

                 THE MOST INACCURATE VALUE OF PI

 PI   is   a  mathematical  constant  which  is  the   ratio   of
the  circumference of the circle to its diameter.  It is a  never
ending number and,   for most calculations, is taken to its third
decimal place (3.142).
 However,  in 1897 the General Assembly of Indiana passed a  Bill
ruling  that  the value of Pi was four.  This  ensured  that  all
mathematical  and engineering calculations in the State would  be
wrong.  It would,  for example,  mean that a pendulum clock would
gain about fifteen minutes every hour.

                       THE WORST COMPUTER

 It  is  widely  suggested  that  computers  improve  efficiency.
Lovers of vintage chaos might remember the computer installed  in
1975 by Avon County Council to pay staff wages.
 The  computer's  spree started off in a small  way,   paying   a
school  caretaker £75 an hour instead of 75 pence.  Then  it  got
ambitious  and  did  not pay a canteen worker at  all  for  seven
weeks.
 Before  long it  got  positively confident and paid  a   janitor
£2,600  for a week's work.  He sent the cheque back and  received
another for the same amount by return of post.
 There  was  no way now of stopping it.   A deputy   headmistress
received  her  year's salary once a month;  heads  of  department
earned less than their assistants,  and some people had more  tax
deducted in a week than they earned all year.
 In   February  1975  two hundred and eighty  employees  on   the
Council payroll attended a protest meeting.  Of these, only eight
had been paid the correct salary. They all went on strike.

Disclaimer
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.