Feb 12


This is the final Part 4 of “20 Famous Software Disasters.”
See also Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

16.  Dot-Bomb Collapse (2000)

Cost: $5 trillion in market value, thousands of companies failed

Disaster: A speculative bubble from 1995–2001 fueled a rapid increase in venture capital investments and stock market values in the Internet and technology sectors.  The “dot-com bubble” began to collapse in early 2000, erasing trillions in stock market value, wiping out thousands of companies and jobs, and launching a global recession.

Cause: Companies and investors dismissed standard business models, and instead focused on increasing market share at the expense of profits.  (more)


17.  Love Virus (2000)

Cost: $8.75 billion, millions of computers infected, significant data loss

Disaster: The LoveLetter worm infected millions of computers and caused more damage than any other computer virus in history.  The worm deleted files, changed home pages and messed with the Registry.

Cause: LoveLetter infected users via e-mail, Internet chat and shared file systems.  The email had an executable file attachment and subject line, “ILOVEYOU.”  When the user opened the attachment, the virus would infect the user’s computer and send itself to everyone in the address book.  (more)

18.  Cancer Treatment to Die For (2000)

Cost: Eight people dead, 20 critically injured



Disaster: Radiation therapy software by Multidata Systems International miscalculated the proper dosage, exposing patients to harmful and in some cases fatal levels of radiation.  The physicians, who were legally required to double-check the software’s calculations, were indicted for murder.

Cause: The software calculated radiation dosage based on the order in which data was entered, sometimes delivering a double dose of radiation.  (more)

19.  EDS Drops Child Support (2004)

Cost: £539 million and counting

Disaster: Business services giant EDS developed a computer system for U.K.’s Child Support Agency (CSA) that accidentally overpaid 1.9 million people, underpaid another 700,000, had £3.5 billion in uncollected child support payments, a backlog of 239,000 cases, 36,000 new cases “stuck” in the system, and still over 500 documented bugs.

Cause: EDS introduced a large, complex IT system to the CSA while trying to simultaneously restructure the agency.  (more)

20.  FBI’s Trilogy Terminated (2005)

Cost: $105 million, still no effective case file solution

Disaster: The FBI scrapped its computer systems overhaul after four years of effort.  The Virtual Case File project was a massive, integrated software system for agents to share case files and other information.

Cause: Mismanagement, and an attempt to build a long-term project on technology that was outdated before the project completed, resulted in a complex and unusable system.  (more)

Disasters Continue

Here are some more articles about software disasters:

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Article published on February 12, 2008




15 Responses to “20 Famous Software Disasters – Part 4”

  1. 20 Famous Software Disasters - Part 3 : DevTopics Says:

    [...] This is Part 3 of “20 Famous Software Disasters.”  See also Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4.  [...]

  2. matelot Says:

    21. Microsoft Windows Vista

  3. William Says:

    Oh come on! Skynet? Dot com bubble? The Government’s inability to hold their contractors responsible to committments? You had a pretty decent list there, but ruined it by throwing in flippant non-software based disasters (even even some fictional non-events). Why no mention of say SQL Slammer? Internet worm of ’87?

  4. wonglik Says:

    What about M$ Windows? Milions of frustrated users and bilions spend on unreliable blue screen prone shi*ware

  5. Timm Says:

    William, the list was “Famous Disasters”. Arguably Skynet was one of the most famous disasters on this list, even though it was fictional. The question is, as Russell Crowe asked in Gladiator, “Are you not entertained?!” ;-)

  6. Timm Says:

    Matelot: #21. Windows Vista… LOL!

  7. 20 Famous Software Disasters - Part 2 : DevTopics Says:

    [...] This is Part 2 of “20 Famous Software Disasters.”  See also Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4.  [...]

  8. Michael Says:

    A great list. Some (most) of them refreshed my memory.
    I believe that the internet worm of ’87 (mentioned by William) also deserves to be on the list (perhaps taking Skynet’s place).

    Matelot’s #21:Windows Vista… is great humor – LOL.

  9. Daria Tillen Says:

    Timm: stop being silly. Skynet simply doesn’t fit. Your ‘arguably’ argument is a foolish one. In my fiction, I too have created monumental software disasters (among natural ones).

    They have no basis in reality (and are [just like SkyNet] too unspecified to be meaningful–after all, can _anyone_ really explain how SkyNet “became self-aware”) and simply detract from the value of your list.

  10. Timm Says:

    Daria, respectfully, the Skynet fiction has generated $1.1 billion in box office receipts, $2 billion in DVD sales, four movies, a TV series, and a permanent imprint on popular culture’s view of technology.

    Because of the Terminator series, we humans realize that one day the technology we create will rise up and take control. History has proven time and again that the country or species with the greatest technological advantage dominates others, and I doubt it will be much different when computer intelligence ultimately exceeds human intelligence, by about 2040 if you believe Kurzweil.

    This list is a cautionary tale of what happens when humans trust their lives to software. I would argue that Skynet represents the ultimate software disaster, where software turns on its creators to destroy humanity.

    Yes, its inclusion is somewhat silly (this article is in the Humor category after all), but the serious undertone is that Skynet could eventually happen as easily as the other *real* disasters on this list, and with catastrophic results.

  11. sosa0sa.com » 20 Famous Software Disasters Says:

    [...] Famous Software Disasters, Part 2, 3 and 4 via [...]

  12. Enlaces para leer y ver 100 « el50 Says:

    [...] [en español] | Variable Not Found. “Este artículo es una traducción del original “20 Famous Software Disasters“. Todos sabemos que los errores de programación puede ser molestos, pero además, un [...]

  13. Enlaces para leer y ver 100 | Mantis Technology Solutions Blog Says:

    [...] [en español] | Variable Not Found. “Este artículo es una traducción del original “20 Famous Software Disasters“. Todos sabemos que los errores de programación puede ser molestos, pero además, un [...]

  14. codeslinger Says:

    a very well done and entertaining list! I especially liked the photos.

    The USA had it’s own version of the Russian Missile Launch Warning.

    NORAD deployed a fancy new missile detection radar system that could look over the horizon by bouncing beams off the atmosphere. Everything want fine for awhile, and then one night the alarms went off. The radar system was reporting that the Russians had launched hundreds of missiles. Everybody was freaking out trying to decided if the report was accurate and whether or not to respond. They could not figure out the source of the blips, but thankfully did not quite trust them given that the system was so new. Finally someone happened to go outside and noticed that the moon had just risen. The radar signals were so strong that they were getting secondary reflections from the moon, something that no one had anticipated.

    Another major disaster narrowly averted.

  15. Eclairs Says:

    So, will there be a new terminator movie? I remember his words.. I’ll be back.

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