Just because it fails doesn't mean it's a failure

Flashback to the early 1980s, when this pilot has just joined the engineering support team at a big computer vendor.

"A customer had a Cobol program that was intermittently failing," says fish. "Field support found it was only failing when it ran on one of the customer's two processors.

"They ran the diagnostic checks, but didn't find any issues with the processor it was failing on. In those days, each processor was five feet by five feet with a couple hundred printed circuit cards and miles of copper wire on the backplanes.

"So our group was called in -- a software guy and a hardware guy. They got to the site and confirmed hardware was the culprit. The hardware tech went into the cold room. Four hours later, he came out, announcing it was fixed.

"The program now failed on both processors!

"Turns out the program generated variables that contained data that when used was supposed to result in error. The 'good' processor actually was broken, and not generating the proper exception."

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