back to article Blame everything on 'computer error' – no one will contradict you

Please pass on my regards to Mrs Cromwell for selling me her fig. What's that? You can't? Your email isn't working? Maybe that's because you are trying to log into Gmail with your Yahoo ID. That's right, they are different. They are supposed to be different. Yes, really. No, the computer isn't broken. You're broken, perhaps …

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  1. Richard 81

    I'm not sure I believe you

    It beggars belief that someone can suffer so many separate technical problems in a single day.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: I'm not sure I believe you

      It beggars belief that someone can suffer so many few separate technical problems in a single day.

      TFTFY

      1. tfewster Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: I'm not sure I believe you

        It beggars belief that someone can suffer so many few separate technical idiocy problems in a single day.

        TFTFFY

        1. tfewster Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: I'm not sure I believe you

          Bad form replying to my own post, and I'm not sure if this is original, but, extrapolating from a quote attributed to Albert Einstein "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former".

          "Stupidity" may also be called "denseness". Get where I'm going yet? Stupidity definitely has mass, you can feel it weighing you down.

          Dark Matter: Invisible, universal and massy. It fits.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm not sure I believe you

      I've had days like that, they usually end with a few beverages.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: I'm not sure I believe you

        I've had days like that, they usually end with a few beverages.

        Making it painfully obvious that fridges and drinks cabinets should never be computer-controlled.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: I'm not sure I believe you

          "Making it painfully obvious that fridges and drinks cabinets should never be computer-controlled."

          Tell that to El Reg. The current plan is to build a beer delivery bot. What could possibly go wrong?

    3. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: I'm not sure I believe you

      You are correct in statement, in that no "technical" errors happened... they were all "human" errors!

      (See name, I have qualifications in knowing what a technical error is, as I never make human errors! /s)

    4. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: I'm not sure I believe you

      This column is mainly fictional or highly exaggerated i.e. "hyperbolics". HTH HAND

      1. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

        Re: I'm not sure I believe you

        Unfortunately Robert, I fear you might be mistaken. I don't think it's exaggerated at all - I've had the same sort of encounters and would had many more but for the fact that I tend to hide away at home and only venture out when absolutely necessary...

      2. ' DROP TABLE users;

        Re: Only have one thing to say to Lenovo....

        Shirley, you mean "Hyperbollox"

  2. muddysteve

    I have always said...

    The main problem with computers is that they do what you tell them to do, not what you want them to do.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: I have always said...

      ...what you tell them to do

      Like with Cortana? Or siri? and what's that other woman's name? Lexie?

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: I have always said...

        @Chivo243,

        No, no, Cortana and Siri and Alexa only do what they interpret is what you told them to do. Which is more often than not exactly the opposite of what you tell them to do.

      2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: I have always said...

        Alexa.

        Or as she think's she's called whenever the football is on the TV "Alexis Sanchez".

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: I have always said...

        Like with Cortana? Or siri? and what's that other woman's name? Lexie?

        And you don't get an 'are you sure?' prompt.

    2. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

      Re: I have always said...

      Humans are no different. I frequently design/build/program according to the requirement spec only to find out when I sit down with the customer to conduct the FAT that what I've done is not what they wanted.

      If I do a second degree I'll ensure the course syllabus is curated by Doris Stokes.

    3. Alister Silver badge

      Re: I have always said...

      According to Ted Nelson...

      "The good news about computers is that they do exactly what you tell them to do. The bad news is that they do exactly what you tell them to do."

    4. rg287

      Re: I have always said...

      The main problem with computers is that they do what you tell them to do, not what you want them to do.

      Making extremely fast, extremely accurate mistakes in the process.

  3. Mycho Silver badge

    One of those sounds like a computer error

    Surely the ATM should be able to distinguish whether the notes in each feeder look similar to the expected notes in those feeders? Even if all it does is to inform the users that £20 notes are unavailable today. Otherwise you can expect a lot more of this kind of thing.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

      Why would they be able to tell the difference? In some areas it may make more sense to dispense fivers and tenners, in others tenners and twenties. It's the tech's job to put the right money in the right feeder.

      And if it did do more thorough checking, a better idiot would come along and manage to mix notes in the feeder and it would be the cash machine's fault again because it couldn't cope with mixed notes in the feeder.

      1. rg287

        Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

        Why would they be able to tell the difference? In some areas it may make more sense to dispense fivers and tenners, in others tenners and twenties. It's the tech's job to put the right money in the right feeder.

        Given that your bog standard supermarket self-service till can scan notes and detect denominations (after it's spent half an hour complaining about unexpected items), it doesn't seem entirely improbable that an ATM could be fitted with a similar scanner on the dispenser to check that the notes it thinks it's dispensing are in fact what it is dispensing.

        Closed loop control is not an especially novel concept.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

          And be honest, in that scenario how many would try to take out just a tenner to see if they'd actually swapped the fill over accidentally and put twenties into the tenner hopper too?

          Then if a purple drinking voucher actually appeared out, spend the next several minutes slowly emptying it a "tenner" at a time...?

        2. lglethal Silver badge

          Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

          "Closed loop control is not an especially novel concept."

          No, but it costs money. And have you ever known a bank to spend money on anything except C-Suite bonuses?

        3. DiViDeD Silver badge

          Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

          You're missing a point there. Automated checkouts check the denominations of the notes to make sure the customer is not cheating the business. Where's the profit in making sure your company is not cheating the customer?

          1. onefang Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

            I used to work on the guts of ATMs here in Australia over two decades ago. Dunno about other brands of ATM equipment, but the ones I worked on did have fancy stuff for detecting the types of notes going in and out. All manner of checks. I know that sort of thing still exists in the ATMs I use today. When you hear the machine making the usual sounds it makes while it counts your money, then makes a kinda grinding sound, and does the counting sound once more, then you know it has detected something wrong, dumped the cash it was trying to give you, and tried again.

    2. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

      Very simple to check with UK banknotes as I assume the feeder has some sort of sliding paper guide to accommodate the different sizes.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

        I guess that somebody in the banking sector has come up with the solution that i've seen, never fill the machine with anything other than £20 notes.

        1. Mycho Silver badge

          Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

          This is true. Why pay a programmer when you can just inconvenience the general public and have done with it?

        2. albegadeep

          Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

          "...never fill the machine with anything other than £20 notes."

          Yup, my bank does this. I'm in the US, and my bank's ATMs only allow cash withdrawals in $20 increments.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

            Because most places will take a $20 if pushed ($50 and up, another story), so an all-$20 fill maximizes the load as much as is convenient. Fewer trips = less need to pay couriers + better security.

            1. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

              Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

              Because most places will take a $20 if pushed ($50 and up, another story)

              I remember reading somewhere that this is, in fact, exactly the reason that the $20 bill is (OK, was, but it probably still is) the most-commonly forged of the US bills.

              Big enough to be worth forging.

              Small enough to pass easily.

            2. DiViDeD Silver badge

              Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

              Hah! Here in Oz, everywhere takes $50s and even $100s (I've bought the odd bag of crisps with a $50, and back in the days before they put 'handling cash' into the too hard for bus drivers basket, I even saw someone use a $100 to pay for her $2.80 concession ticket.)

              I'm not sure whether willingness to accept high denomination notes is the result of the ruinously high cost of living in Sydney, or simply because our dollar is currently worth about fourpence.

              Either way, you almost never see cash change hands these days, it's all PayWave (not nearly as nice a phrase as 'Pay by Bonk', IMO)

          2. kain preacher Silver badge

            Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

            I've travel a lot in the US. Far as I've seen, USBank is the only ATM that I've seen that gives you some thing other than 20's.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bank note checker

        Either because they are US machines redone for the UK, or to put the responsibility on min wage employees you can sue easier than a billion dollar Cash machine manufacture... I can confirm no note checking mechanism in the machines I've seen... though I've only seen a few.

        The teller types in the type of note, the amount and the machine just counts out individual "pages" as far as its designed. Though no ink in this printer. ;)

        1. Olivier2553

          Re: Bank note checker

          In the (few) AT machines I have seen replenished, here in Thailand, not only the bank note were checked by drawer, but each note of each drawer is being checked too before the machine goes online. This allows to count the bills, check that there are no bill sticking, invalid, unrecognizable, etc. Rejected bills go to a reject drawer that will eventually go back to the bank to be treated by a human.

          More over, even if the person in charge of inserting the drawers in the ATM may be a low wages person, the one filling the drawers with thousands of fresh bank notes (10, 20, 30, more thousand notes in a drawer) is probably a bank employee. Why should they make error? And why a 10 pounds drawer could be installed in a 20 pounds slot?

          Laser printers solved the paper size 30 years ago...

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

      Here in the USofA, I once used an automated check-out machine at the home improvement store, gave it a $20 for a $17 purchase and received three $10 notes in change.

      Being an honest kind of guy, I went over to the "watcher" and presented her with my receipt, the three $10 notes, a smile, and told her, "No."

      I have never seen the staff at Lowe's move so quickly before, or after. Must have been a one time event.

      They opened up the machine, handed me my $3, and I left, while they attempted to figure out how many people before me had neglected to inform them of the error.

      Best Saturday morning fun I've had outside the bedroom in...forever.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: One of those sounds like a computer error

        Ah... confusion and chaos... your work there was done.

        Well done, sir. That deserves a frothy one.

  4. Steve Button

    only $11.99 this week only!

    Be quick though, Udemy only have these very special sales on days with a Y in the name.

  5. chivo243 Silver badge
    Pint

    Best photo tagline!

    Sorry, I only have large denomination bills on me. Do you have change for a £403 note?

    This one deserves as many pints as £403 can buy!

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Best photo tagline!

      So...A pint then?

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Best photo tagline!

        Dabbsy I'm not sure what your complaining about - you got £398 change at the first stop!

        (Based on my personal experiences with cashiers - if the machine says they should give out £200 change on a £2 purchase, then the machine must be right. The machine is always right after all...)

        1. imanidiot Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Best photo tagline!

          Yup, run into that problem before.

          *me staring at the 50 and 20 Euro notes I just got handed*

          "uhhmmmm, I gave you a tenner"

          *Her, staring at her screen*

          "What is the problem?"

          *Me, fighting the urge to just walk away*

          "I gave you a 10 Euro note, you have now given me 70 Euro's in change. You may want to check you got that right"

          *Her, staring blankly at the till screen in front of her, then at me, then back at the till, then back at my hand holding out the bank notes to her, then back at her till*

          "..."

          I ended up waving down the shop owner/manager. 'Twas faster that way. The guy's been very friendly since then. And oddly enough the cashier is still working there too.

          I am honestly worried about the future sometimes. I might be a spring chicken at 30 laps around the sun, but today's youth....

          1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

            Re: Best photo tagline!

            In Costa Coffee in Inverness, an Italian tourist off a cruise ship was given change for her £2.50 coffee as if she’d paid with a £50, but she’d actually handed over a £100. (Yes, Scotland.)

            The assistant realised her mistake quickly but she had to wait for a supervisor to be able to open the till, which took a while. She was getting quite flustered. I’m not sure if my 3 words of Spitalin helped...

            The poor woman then went to the loo and managed to pull the disabled alarm cord instead of the flush.

            I didn’t hang around to see if things come in threes....

          2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Best photo tagline!

            I am honestly worried about the future sometimes. I might be a spring chicken at 30 laps around the sun, but today's youth....

            Learned helplessness.

            At my first (and, I think, only) job involving a cash register,1 the machine in question was an old mechanical model which could add and ring up the total. It did not compute change (or multiply, or know the price of anything, etc), so we counted out change by hand. It was an ice cream shop in a mall, so on weekends around the holidays it got very busy indeed, and we all got very fast at counting change.

            That was many years ago, but I can still usually figure my change before someone using a modern register reads the total and decides what to give me back. It's always pleasant when I run into a cashier who's as fast as I am. There's one shop I frequent where most of the staff can; I don't know if it's just practice or if they're actually trained in it.

            In any case, my point is that having the register tell the cashier how much change is due is unhelpful. Counting up change manually from the sale amount seems to be faster and more accurate than counting out an amount given by the machine. I suspect register vendors and merchants did not do much usability testing.

            1Similar to a till, but with more syllables.

  6. Aaiieeee
    Angel

    Don't give your opinion!

    If I'm out and about and I see somebody having an IT Moment at a cash register or terminal and the solution is obvious to me.. I usually do not say anything otherwise it becomes MY problem!

    An airy confirmation of how much of a nuisance computers are will do, possibly and a nervous laugh.

    In a lot of walks of life being helpful or a decent person is staight forward and worth it. When it comes to computers just stay well out of it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't give your opinion!

      "I usually do not say anything otherwise it becomes MY problem!"

      That is true of most situations.

      Our company noticed that many problems that were reported - didn't get followed up and resolved. So it was decided that anyone who reported a problem became its "owner". In that way more problems would be chased and resolved.

      The number of problems reported dropped. People no longer "saw" problems that didn't affect them seriously - even if they were problems that needed attention. As the famous author said "it's an S.E.P".

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Don't give your opinion!

        "Our company noticed that many problems that were reported - didn't get followed up and resolved. So it was decided that anyone who reported a problem became its "owner"

        No. Can something, even a company, be that stupid? They made "That's your problem" official policy? I need hope. I'm out of hope.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Don't give your opinion!

          " They made "That's your problem" official policy?"

          Indeed they did. It was all on the back of the Crosby "Quality is Free" programme. Initially the CARs (Corrective Action Requests) were being raised enthusiastically by staff - but in most cases nothing ever happened to fix a problem.

          Management saw the ever increasing catalogue of unresolved CARs. They decided that henceforth someone had to be responsible for the necessary pillar to post shuffle that most grey area interactions involved. Hence the formal decree that if you raised a CAR - you had to follow it through. So - where people previously would report something they noticed in passing - from then on they didn't "see" it.

          Another feature of that system was you had to find something in your job to regularly measure.

          Now Crosby pointed out that the resulting progress chart had to be completely private to the individual - as purely a form of self-assessment by them for themselves.

          What did management do? They insisted that everyone displayed their chart above their desk. Surprise surprise - at best the charts often showed wonderful progress on totally irrelevant measurements. At worst they were irreverent fictions.

          The only useful thing I remember was from the first lecture on the compulsory "Quality Education" course. The instructor explained there was a difference between "education" and "training". He said "Would you like your children at school to get 'sex education' lessons - or 'sex training' lessons.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Don't give your opinion!

      "When it comes to computers just stay well out of it."

      Computers now occupy the space that cars formerly occupied.

      In the past, offering help to a car owner staring vacantly under the bonnet by the roadside would end up obliging you to fix it and get it right or the responsibility for the fault would become yours,I think the same applies to computers now.

      Also like cars,if you do 'fix' a computer, any subsequent faults, no matter what they are will be linked to you and what ever you did to fix the original fault.

      A nervous laugh followed by a rapid retreat is probably a good thing.

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