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