Tuesday, 9 February 2010


Software – computer programs – have been in the news recently. Today the recall of the Toyota Prius for brake failure has been blamed on a software fault. Computers controlling brakes? They are getting everywhere! A few years ago I had a towbar fitted to my car and one of the items in the bill was a charge for a software upgrade – presumably to handle the extra lights.

The other reference to software recently was in connection with the A320 Airbus that ditched in the Hudson River a year ago. This Airbus was one of the first commercial fly-by-wire aircraft where computers interpret the pilot’s intentions and keep the plane flying safely, correcting errors that would otherwise cause the aircraft to stall. It’s now reported that Captain Sullenberger was significantly aided in his textbook-perfect landing on the water by the A320 software which controlled the descent. So not all software is potentially error-prone, although most PC owners wouldn’t agree!

So next time you’re sitting at the end of the runway waiting for take-off, think of a French programmer somewhere in Toulouse. But think of flight 1549 rather than Prius brakes!

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