Computer software has come a long way since the invention of computers so many decades ago. Although we take the programs that we use on our computers today for granted, the software development path has not always been smooth. Here are 10 historical software bugs that have had extreme consequences.

AT&T’s Buggy Long-Distance Service

A software update ended up costing AT&T over 60 million dollars on long-distance calls in January 1990. The update meant that no one was able to make a long distance call on that day.

The Mars Climate Orbiter Catastrophe

In 1998, NASA lost a $655 million space probe that was on a mission to Mars as a result of a software glitch. It was later discovered that the thrusters had been configured using the wrong unitspounds per second instead of Newtons per second as had been specified by NASA.

The Windows Genuine Advantage Error

In 2007, people were unable to use some programs on Windows for several hours due to the fact that Windows Genuine Advantage, a software program that is intended to identify pirate copies of Windows, was mislabeling genuine copies of the operating system.


A faulty circuit on the NORAD system almost had serious consequences in 1980 as the system reported that the United States was under missile attack.

Soviet Satellite Error

In a similar situation, a Soviet Satellite reported that there were incoming missiles from the United States in 1983. Fortunately, the Soviet commanding officer decided to ignore the warning.

Hole in the Ozone

The hole that was in the ozone layer over the Antarctica remained undetected for a long time, largely due to the fact that the software that was being used by NASA to monitor the ozone had been programmed to ignore results that deviated from the norm.

Deadly Radiation

Many people were exposed to deadly amounts of radiation between 1985 and 1997 because the Therac-25 device that was being used to treat them had faulty software. As a result, a number of people died due to excessive exposure to radiation.

Chinook Helicopter Crash

The crashing of a Chinook helicopter in Scotland in 1994, which killed all 29 passengers, was later tracked to a systems error.

Gas Pipe Explosion

In 1982, the CIA was reportedly able to introduce software bugs on a gas pipeline control program before allowing the program to be stolen by the Soviet Union. This reportedly caused an explosion on a Siberian gas pipeline.

Ariane 5 Explosion

Equipment worth millions of dollars was lost in 1996 when the Ariane 5 rocket exploded due to the fact that software from the Ariane 4 had been used and had not been configured for use on faster engines.

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