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High-pressure steam engines and computer software

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1 Author(s)
Leveson, N.G. ; Dept. of Comput. Sci. & Eng., Washington Univ., Seattle, WA, USA

The introduction of computers into the control of potentially dangerous devices has led to a growing awareness of the possible contribution of software to serious accidents. The number of computer-related accidents so far has been small due to the restraint shown in introducing computers into safety-critical control loops. However, as the economic and technological benefits of using computers become more widely accepted, their use is increasing dramatically. We need to ensure that computers are introduced into safety-critical systems in the most responsible way possible and at a speed that does not expose people to undue risk. Risk induced by technological innovation existed long before computers; this is not the first time that humans have come up with an extremely useful new technology that is potentially dangerous. Studying parallels in the early development of high-pressure steam engines and of software engineering can help.<>

Published in:

Computer  (Volume:27 ,  Issue: 10 )