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8 Rutgers Computer & Tech. L.J. 173 (1980-1981)
Product Liability and Software

handle is hein.journals/rutcomt8 and id is 179 raw text is: PRODUCT LIABILITY AND SOFTWARE
MICHAEL C. GEMIGNANI*
The stress has always been on larger and more powerful systems in
spite of the fact that the available programmer competence is unable
to cope with the complexities. -Peter Naur
[T]he Air Force can expect to spend almost half of its software
budget . . . on the checkout and test phases of computer-program
implementation. -Barry Boehm
(Both of the above quotes are cited in PROGRAM TEST METHODS
(W. Hetzel ed. 1973)).
I. INTRODUCTION
Susan Nycum began a 1979 article' by citing several potential
horribles that might occur through the malfunction of a computer
program. Her hypothetical examples included a mid-air-collision of
two airliners, a train crash, and workers being splattered with
molton steel.2 If anything, Ms. Nycum's list of hypothetical horri-
bles is too conservative, and it need not have been limited to hypo-
theticals. Computer problems have already caused near misses in the
air between crowded passenger jets,3 the closing of nuclear plants,4
and the serious waste of fuel during the last critical moments of
Skylab's descent; this fuel might have been needed to alter the course
of re-entry, had that huge satellite been on a collision course with
populated areas.5 Indeed, a computer failure caused the false alert
of another world war.
* Ph.D., Mathematics, University of Notre Dame; J.D., 1980, Indiana University.
Dean Gemignani is presently Dean of the College of Science & Humanities, Ball State
University. He has also been a faculty member at St. Mary's College at Notre Dame,
SUNY at Buffalo, Smith College, and Indiana University-Purdue University of Indian-
apolis. He is the author of seven textbooks and numerous research and expository
papers in professional journals.
1. Nycum, Liability for Malfunction of a Computer Program, 7 RUTGERS J. OF
COMPUTERS, TECH. & L. 1 (1979).
2. Id. at 1.
3. CPU Fails, Two Jets Nearly Collide, COMPUTERWORLD, Nov. 12, 1979, at 1.
4. Computer Error Closes Nuke Plants, INDIANAPOLIS STAR, March 16, 1979, at
1.
5. NASA Jumbles Skylab Flight Data, COMPUTERWORLO, July 9, 1979, at 1.
6. Norad System Goofs, Calls Missile Alert, COMPUTERWORLD, Nov. 19, 1979, at
1. See also U.S. Aides Recount Moments of False Missile Alert, N.Y. Times, Dee. 16,
1979, Section 1, at 25.

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