7 Ways Computer Glitches Can, and Have, Ruined Your Day

  • May 27, 2010
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Computer Slowdown Drops The Stock Market

In 2007, computers that run the Dow Jones industrial average started to slow down around 2:00 PM on a busy trading day. The Dow, which had been steadily declining during the day, was showing up as unchanged throughout the financial media.

The people at Dow saw the problem and switched to backup computers to run the trades. That updated the Dow for the first time in an hour. The switch made a gradual 200-point decline look like an instant freefall. Fearing a Black Tuesday of Depression-era proportions, investors rapidly tried to sell their stocks. That inundated the New York Stock Exchange, which slowed its computers down.



An analyst interviewed by NPR believed that delays cost investors hundreds of thousands of dollars. Additionally, the incident showed that the stock market computers were not ready to handle heavy trading nor were they prepared for a major incident.


Computer Glitch Causes Plane to Freefall

In 2008, Quantas Flight 72 started experiencing problems after the co-pilot switched off the autopilot. Instrument panel warnings started to go off. While the flight crew tried to figure out the problem, the plane dropped 650 feet in a free fall before leveling itself. After the computers corrected themselves for the drop, the plane dropped another 400 feet. Eleven passengers were severely injured by the event.

A later investigation found that one of the plane’s air data inertial reference units (ADIRUs) had malfunctioned. Even though the two other ADIRU units were working properly, the malfunctioning one sent several data spikes that overwhelmed the computer and caused the drop.


This is your captain speaking, you may feel a bit of turbulence in the cabin…


Four Computer Glitches Nearly Start Nuclear War

The Cold War was marked by years of fear that the other side would launch the first nuclear attack that would destroy civilization. Moments like the Cuban Missile Crises made people fear the worst was possible. However, the closest we ever came may have been four computer glitches that gave false alarms of other nations launching nukes.

The first incident was on November 9th, 1979, when a training tape showing a realistic nuclear attack scenario was accidentally loaded into US military computers. The military commanders alerted the buried missile silos in the middle of the country, launched several preliminary fighters, and the President’s doomsday plane was activated.

When military commanders compared the computer data with satellite and other sensors, they saw that no attack was imminent. They called off the alert and turned back the fighter jets.

The second incident in 1980 showed multiple missile launches. Missiles and fighters were given preliminary warnings and armed, but instead of showing a consistent and rational attack pattern, the data showed random missile launches, which kept changing in number and location. The other sensors showed no launched and the warning was withdrawn. An investigation showed a single computer chip had malfunctioned and nearly caused doomsday.

The third incident happened in 1983, when a new Soviet early warning system mistook sunlight glinting off high clouds as the launch of five nuclear missiles. Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, the officer in charge, suspected something was wrong and did not alert his commanders. He thought that the US would not launch a war with only five missiles.

The last incident was on January 25, 1995, when Norwegian and American scientists launched a sounding rocket to study the atmosphere. The large rockets flight pattern was similar to a US titan nuclear missile, causing Russian alarm systems to go off. President Boris Yeltsin activated his “nuclear football” that allowed him to communicate with military nuclear commanders. The military data showed that Russia was not under attack and the alert was called off.

nuclear war

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Written by Philip Moon – Copyrighted © www.weirdworm.com Image Sources
Image sources:

  • - Glitch Stops Birth Control Prescriptions: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3386/3213829088_b674d4bb96.jpg
  • - Riot Breaks Out Over “Free Money”: http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/dali/riot.jpg
  • - Police Computer Glitch Harasses Old People: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_Gk9ihu0IyUs/RhWL2b6LF7I/AAAAAAAAAH0/h5AZc4J-qn8/s400/swat.jpg
  • - Wrong Video Software Keeps an Abusive Cop on the Job: http://www.conceptualist.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/police_brutality01.gif
  • - Computer Slowdown Drops The Stock Market: http://www.investmentpostcards.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/17-oct-4.jpg
  • - Computer Glitch Causes Plane to Freefall: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/staticfiles/NGC/StaticFiles/Images/Show/25xx/257x/2572_Everglades-Plane-crash-2_04700300.jpg
  • - Four Computer Glitches Nearly Start Nuclear War: http://geopolicraticus.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/nuclear-war.jpg


  • http://www.scpr.org/news/2010/01/05/computer-glitch-puts-birth-control-rx-hold/
  • http://www.wsbtv.com/money/14702622/detail.html
  • http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100319/ap_on_re_us/us_police_wrong_address
  • http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2009/09/computer_glitch_affected_rulin
  • http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7648691
  • http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9595_22-277031.html
  • http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/missileers/falsealarms.html