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The uses of computer control continue to grow and if we can learn from the incidents that have occurred we may be able to prevent repetitions. The failures are really human failures: failure to realize how people will respond; failures to allow for foreseeable faults.

Chapter 12 of Trevor Kletz’s book: An Engineer’s View of Human
Error

‘To err is human. To really foul things up needs a computer’.
Anon
‘Computer allow us to make more mistakes, faster than ever before’.
Anon

The uses of computer control continue to grow and if we can learn from the
incidents that have occurred we may be able to prevent repetitions. The failures
are really human failures: failure to realize how people will respond; failures
to allow for foreseeable faults.

The equipment used is variously described as microprocessors, computers and
programmable electronic systems (PES). The last phrase is the most precise as
microprocessors do not contain all the features of a general purpose digital
computer. Nevertheless I have used ‘computer’ throughout this chapter
because it is the word normally used by the non-expert.

The incidents described are classified as follows:
12.1. Hardware failures: the equipment did not perform as expected and the results
of
failure were not foreseen.
12.2. Software errors: errors in the instructions given to the computer
12.3. Specification errors, including failures to understand what the computer
can and
cannot do. This is probably the most common cause of incidents.
12.4. Misjudging the way operators will respond to the computer.
12.5. Errors in the data entered in the computer.
12.6. Failure to tell the operators of changes in data or programs.
12.7. Unauthorized interference with the hardware or software.

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