When Time magazine was writing their 1988 cover story on viruses, I sent them a copy of Ken Thompson's Turing lecture, which detailed an early and particularly secretive and patient one (a computer "slow virus"?) that he had demonstrated but had not allowed to spread. The conclusion of the lecture was a strongly worded warning about the rise of computer vandalism and worse, and advice to all who would listen that "brilliant" is rarely the right adjective for such activities. In the interview with Time, I had also discussed "Darwin", a game of survival of the fittest among self-reproducing programs, which Vyssotsky, Morris, and I had played sometime around 1962. Darwin had been described in the computer recreation column of Software - Practice and Experience in 1972. Rechristening it "core wars", Kee Dewdney popularized it in Scientific American in 1984. More interested in a good story than an accurate one, Time's writer made up a wheeze about the Bell Labs folks having kept the awful secret of self-reproducing programs to themselves, with the pact of silence being broken by the Turing Lecture. Probably because it didn't fit with the thesis that Ken let the cat out of the bag, the Time article was silent about Ken's admonitory message. Now Ken McAfee, self-styled "leading expert" and principal in the Computer Virus Industry Association, and Colin Hayes, "investigative reporter", have enshrined Time's sensationalism in their book on viruses. They simplify the myth even further, implying that Ken talked about core wars - a trifling subject compared to what he really did describe. Apparently McAfee and Hayes, having found a good story in Time, never looked further, certainly not at the Turing lecture, which is hardly an obscure reference. The investigative reporter did eliminate some of Time's errors: he didn't misspell Vyssotsky's name and mine, but probably only because he identified us merely as "young AT&T programmers". Instead, out of nowhere, he decided that we were "engaged in the groundwork for artificial intelligence." Perhaps I underestimate his ability to misread the record. He may believe in Vyssotsky's chaostron. Doug McIlroy, Bell Labs [The 1959 Chaostron piece reappeared most recently in the Communications of the ACM, vol 27, no 4, April 1984, pp. 356-7, in a section entitled "An Anthology of Selections Spanning 25 Years", in an issue whose table of contents page mysteriously says "May 1984"! For those of you who haven't seen it, this item is an absolute classic. PGN]
Following on from recent discussions in RISKS about railway signalling, I thought it appropriate to submit the attached article, which appeared in the Financial Times on Thursday, 15 March 1990. (It is reprinted in its entirety without permission.) I'm alarmed that London Transport do not seem to have thought before of the sort of situation described. I'm also intrigued that the manner in which a disaster was avoided is also implied to be novel - if this is really so then the train driver showed amazing presence of mind. Brian Randell RUSH HOUR TRAIN DRIVEN WRONG WAY UP TUNNEL By Roy Hodson An empty London underground train was driven along a tunnel in the wrong direction towards a train packed with passengers during last Monday evening's rush-hour at 6pm in an incident that London Underground is now giving the priority of a major disaster. The driver of the empty train became disoriented after being told to manoeuvre the train to a cross-over point. The signalling system was unable to cope as he set off north instead of south on the Piccadilly Line from Kings Cross. The rogue train was stopped just 400 feet from a stationary train crammed with 800 passengers. Kings Cross was the scene of a fire disaster on November 18, 1987 in which 31 people were killed. Disaster was averted in this new incident by the prompt action of the driver of the stationary train. He saw approaching train lights and reached through his window to seize some 12-volt telephone wires, shorting the circuit. A programme is now going on throughout the underground network to redesign parts of the signalling system. Work will be completed by the weekend. Fifty stationary red lights are being fitted at points identified as possible accident sites, of a similar accident. "The present signalling system cannot understand that a train is going backwards in a one-way tunnel", a London Underground manager said last night. "The new lights will warn a driver in the remote possibility of this ever happening again". Brian Randell, Computing Laboratory, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Is TDD printed output Information or just paper? >From the Milwaukee Journal, 3/18/90. A piece of TDD (Telecommunication Device for the Deaf) output was pried from the clenched fist of a deaf man, resulting in a life prison sentence for murder, according to an appeal being considered by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The questions created by this case include: Was the paper obtained illegally? Is the TDD output to be considered public information or as private as a phone conversation? Since the TDD was in the sheriff's department office in Pierce County, Wisconsin, the paper is police property. Is the information written on it during normal use also police property? The facts of the case: Robert Rewolinski was picked up on a traffic charge in June 1987. He used the TDD in the sheriff's office to call his common law wife, Catherine Teeters, for a ride home. During the TDD conversation Teeters told Rewolinski "I am scared like hell you will do something to me or the kids. I don't want the kids to have short lives or hurt... I can't stand you anymore... You must understand that I don't want you and I don't love you." Three hours later the sheriff's TDD received a call with the message "Robert Rewolinski here. Lost my mind. Cathy's dead." The TDD printout of the earlier conversation was considered the critical evidence in convicting him of first degree murder rather than manslaughter. The prosecution contends that the deputy was simply retaining custody and control of police property. She could not have been looking for evidence of a crime since no crime had yet been committed. The defense contends Rewolinski deserves a new trial because the printout should not have been taken or used as evidence. It is clear that the paper belonged to the sheriff. Did the information on it belong to them too? The police do not monitor phone conversations in such circumstances, how about TDD communication? Leonard P. Levine, Professor, Computer Science, Univ. Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Thought you might be amused by my latest encounter with Bad Computer Programming. Last Saturday, I phone-ordered a selection of seeds from Shepherd's Seeds in Connecticut. I asked that the seeds be sent Second Day Air, since planting season is coming fast. The salesperson said "Sure, I'll mark it FedEx; that'll be $5.00 extra.", and we parted with mutual expressions of esteem. Five days later, on Thursday, I called Shepherd's to enquire why the seeds hadn't arrived. After the order-taker had done some quick computer-sleuthing, she came up with a shamefaced explanation. Their computerized order-entry system schedules orders to be filled based on the method of shipping; normally, 2nd Day Air orders are scheduled to be filled on the evening of arrival. Unfortunately, my order-taker had marked the order "FedEx". Since Shepherd's never ships seeds by Federal Express (they use UPS exclusively), the order-entry system never scheduled my order to be shipped. Presumably, my order would have languished unfilled until the Judgment Day, or until Shepherd's switched delivery services.
The Twentieth International Symposium on Fault-Tolerant Computing (FTCS-20) 26-28th June, 1990 Newcastle Crest Hotel, New Bridge Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK Sponsored by: Computer Society of the IEEE, CSR, BCS, IEE, ESPRIT, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, IFIP Working Group 10.4. FTCS is the international symposium on fault-tolerant systems. It is devoted to state-of-the-art issues in fault tolerant computing and encompasses all aspects of specifying, designing, modelling, implementing, testing, diagnosing and evaluating dependable and fault-tolerant computing systems and their components. In addition to a full programme of contributed papers, invited talks will be given on two very significant and interesting systems, each of which has extremely challenging dependability requirements, in the areas of banking and air traffic control, respectively. The Association for Payment Clearing Service's CHAPS system provides the UK same-day guaranteed electronic credit transfer service for 14 settlement banks and over 300 participant banks. The transaction value often exceeds 80 billion pounds per day. This system will be described by Mr Eryl Thomas, who has overall responsibility for the operation of CHAPS, together with Mr Jim Reeves, CHAPS Technical Manager, and Mr Geoff Birks, a Senior Manager with the IT Planning Department of the National Westminster Bank, which is a major CHAPS user. Dr Flaviu Cristian, who is on the staff of the IBM Research Center, Almaden, California, will describe plans for the Advanced Automation System (AAS). The AAS system is being built for the US Federal Aviation Authority, as a total replacement for the existing North American air traffic control system. The AAS contract, whose total value is 3.55 billion dollars, is the biggest single contract in IBM's history, and the biggest non-military procurement by the US Government ever. Dr Cristian has just received a Corporate Award (IBM's highest technical award) for his key contributions to the design of the AAS. Further information and enquires regarding registration should be made to: FTCS-20 REGISTRATION, Keepers Lodge, Great Chart, Kent TN26 1JX, UK., Tel. +44 23 382 258.
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