Friday, August 13, 2010

"The System made a mistake..."

Don't you just hate it when someone blames a computer system for an error? I was in a phone shop in Blackrock today with my daughter Kate. Yesterday she purchased an iPhone 4 - moving from a pre-pay iPhone 3G to bill-pay. As usual, the guy in the shop told her it could take a couple of hours for the new SIM card to be activated - in the mean time her old SIM was deactivated. Easy change-over? No.

30 hours later, and several phone calls to both O2 and Apple, the new iPhone 4 is still not connected. Tech Support in O2 told her they would work on a fix to connect the phone, but that it could be next Wednesday before they would have a fix. Imagine the terror of a 19-year old facing the weekend without a phone?

I was having none of this, so both Kate and I went down to the shop (I wanted beer in Superquinn anyway) to see what could be done, or at the very least get her old phone re-connected. 

There's not much that a guy working on his own in a phone shop can do - to be fair he tried and looked up his system to check on the status of the connection ("in progress"). He then informed me in a very knowledgeable voice that the "system" had "made a mistake" - something to do with a "port". What a load of garbage, I was having none of this!

At this point I couldn't keep my mouth shut, and the Lecturer in Computing in me came out when I spouted (which I regret now) - "Computers don't make mistakes, people do - rubbish in, rubbish out". He immediately defended himself by assuring me that he had not made any mistakes and that he had entered everything correctly. I of course apologized that my comment was not directed at him. To his credit he gave Kate a free SIM to put in her old phone with a new number (it was not possible to reconnect her old SIM - the "system" doesn't allow this!).

Blaming a computer system is a convenient excuse for everything that goes wrong, and it is over-used. Most people don't know how they work (and I don't know much either I admit) - so it is easy to use as an excuse because most people will accept it unconditionally. We're supposed to just accept this and go away. There is obviously an error, bug, or no procedure in the software for connecting an iPhone 4 in a certain situation - it doesn't work because it is not programmed correctly. Programmers are people.

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