A neighbor of ours was moving and had stack of crap she was throwing away / giving away. One of the items was a ~3-year old Dell desktop — one of those ugly grey and black towers with the meaningless names (OptiPresidioFlexron 3000 or something.) It had XP Home on it, and she thought the motherboard was bad or something. Really, it was mostly just too slow to be usable and she had a new laptop anyway and just wanted rid of it. She gave it to Tammie, and I figured I’d take a look at it and replace the MB if necessary. After booting it into XP, it didn’t look too bad but I really didn’t want an old Windows box of mysterious provenance on my network, so I wiped and repaved with Ubuntu current. A wireless USB NIC and 15-minute driver hunt later, we have a perfectly adequate 2nd websurfing desktop in the house— total out-of-pocket cost: $20 for the NIC.
The Greatest Mathematical Error
The Mariner I space probe was launched from Cape Canaveral on 28
July 1962 towards Venus. After 13 minutes’ flight a booster engine would
give acceleration up to 25,820 mph; after 44 minutes 9,800 solar cells
would unfold; after 80 days a computer would calculate the final course
corrections and after 100 days the craft would cirlce the unknown planet,
scanning the mysterious cloud in which it is bathed.
However, with an efficiency that is truly heartening, Mariner I
plunged into the Atlantic Ocean only four minutes after takeoff.
Inquiries later revealed that a minus sign had been omitted from
the instructions fed into the computer. “It was human error”, a launch
This minus sign cost L4,280,000.
— Stephen Pile, “The Book of Heroic Failures”