In IT-support jargon the expression “PEBCAK” (meaning “Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard”) is used to blame the user of the system for any computer related problems they are experiencing while using said system – since they are located “between the chair and the keyboard” in most usual situations…
PEBCAK can be found long before the program reaches the end user
I had a fun thought about the expression PEBCAK. Given my many years in IT development I have observed two things:
- Few programmers write their programs without sitting on a chair in front of a keyboard…
- PEBCAK is just as likely to start way before the software reaches the end user.
If you think the Project Cartoon is a gross exaggeration (you are probably an ordinary, unsuspecting computer user, and a victim :P…) I have to inform you, it’s not… The sad truth is that programmers have never been in control of systems, and even the most stable and dependable systems have flaws.
Even NASA has PEBCAK
Did you know that up until 2007 the space shuttles never flew missions over the new year… why? Because their computer systems, programmed in the 70ies, had no stable support for year changes…
Searching to find my source on the above statement only produces two slashdot articles with links to, now non-existing, articles on CNN and Reuters. (Although I just came across this fact a couple of months ago, so either the conspiracy is recent, or my Googling skills are decreasing…) Anyway, here’s the slashdot links:
- NASA Avoids “Happy New Year” On Shuttle
- Computer Date Glitch May Limit Next Shuttle Launch
- There’s a quote from one of them here
- And the forum post “NASA Computers? Happy New Year – NOT!!!” goes into it in some detail. It in turn quotes an article in “Florida Today” from Nov 7, 2006, titled “Glitch may force NASA to launch shuttle early; Dec. 6 slotted for Discovery”
I’m not going to search for pacemaker system errors or similar, but I can guess the mitigating circumstances are that you’re not in space when the problem occurs and might actually get into the hospital in time…
If you like to read more about programmer initiated system errors (and errors initiated by IT projects) you should check out The Daily WTF.