Systems Testing and Quality Assurance Techniques

True Tales of Testing

Editor’s note: The content on this page, created over 15 years ago,
remains surprisingly popular, so we have kept it online for your enjoyment.

The bizarre, humorous and ever-changing world of
ST&QA. These stories are true unless otherwise indicated. The names have been changed
(or left out) where appropriate.

for Year 2000

Year 2000 Fictional Tale


Jones, Smith or Brown

Preparing for
Year 2000

A client recently updated their system to comply with
Year 2000 requirements. Operators were instructed to enter system dates in the form:
mm/dd/ccyy. The ‘cc’ piece was new to the operators and they were told that it would be
used for century information. On the first production run, the operator was instructed by
the program to enter the date and he remembered his instructions. Unfortunately there was
a little problem because he knew we were in the 20th century and entered the date as
11/01/2096 with the obvious consequences. (The system could probably use a reasonableness

A Year 2000 Fictional Tale

There once was a COBOL programmer in the mid to late 1990’s. For
the sake of this story, we’ll call him Goovoo. After years of being taken for granted and
treated as a technological dinosaur by all the UNIX programmers and Client/Server
programmers and website developers, Goovoo was finally getting some respect. He’d become a
private consultant specializing in Year 2000 conversions. He was working short-term
assignments for prestige companies, traveling all over the world on different assignments,
and making more money than he’d ever dreamed of.

He was working 70 and 80 and even 90 hour weeks, but it was
worth it. Soon he could retire. Several years of this relentless, mind-numbing work had
taken its toll on Goovoo. He had problems sleeping and began having anxiety dreams about
the Year 2000. It had reached a point where even the thought of the year 2000 made him
nearly violent. He must have suffered some sort of breakdown, because all he could think
about was how he could avoid the year 2000 and all that came with it.

Goovoo decided to contact a company that specialized in
cryogenics. He made a deal to have himself frozen until March 15th, 2000. This was a very
expensive process and totally automated. He was thrilled. The next thing he would know is
he’d wake up in the year 2000; after the New Year celebrations and computer debacles;
after the leap day. Nothing else to worry about except getting on with his life. He was
put into his cryogenic receptacle, the technicians set the revive date, he was given
injections to slow his heartbeat to a bare minimum, and that was that.

The next thing that Goovoo saw was an enormous and very modern
room filled with excited people. The were all shouting "I can’t believe it!" and
"It’s a miracle" and "He’s alive!". There were cameras (unlike any
he’d ever seen) and equipment that looked like it came out of a science fiction movie.

Someone who was obviously a spokesperson for the group stepped
forward. Goovoo couldn’t contain his enthusiasm. "it is over?" he asked.
"Is 2000 already here? Are all the millennial parties and promotions and crises all
over and done with?" The spokesman explained that 2000 had gone, but that there had
been a problem with the programming of the timer on Goovoo’s cryogenic receptacle – it
hadn’t been year 2000 compliant and it was March 15th, 2099, not 2000. But the spokesman
told Goovoo that he shouldn’t get excited as someone important wanted to speak to him.

Suddenly a wall sized projection screen displayed the image of a
man that looked very much like Bill Gates. This man was Prime Minister of Earth. He told
Goovoo not to be upset. That there was world peace and no more starvation. That the space
program had been reinstated and there were colonies on the moon and on Mars. That
technology had advanced to such a degree that everyone had virtual reality interfaces
which allowed them to contact anyone else on the planet, or to watch any entertainment, or
to hear any music recorded anywhere.

"That sounds terrific," said Goovoo. "But I’m
curious. Why is everybody so interested in me?"

"Well," said the Prime Minister, "2100 is just
around the corner and it says in your files you know COBOL."

Submitted by Shawn


One student in class related this call to the support center: The
issue became a discussion of whether or not the system had a bug QA should have identified
in testing. The problem centered around a Human Resource System developed in the United
States and installed in the Middle East. The problem: the employee profile only provided
room for one spouse.

UPDATE: This story has an added twist. Some people
are legally required to provide support for a spouse and one or more ex-spouses.
Consequently, Human Resource Systems may need additional fields regardless of where they
will be installed.

Jones, Smith or Brown

In a similar situation, installing a Human Resource
System in the Caribbean presented problems because it was keyed to a social security
number or last name. The population did not use identifying numbers at all, let alone a
number similar to an SSN or SIN. To compound the problem, most of the population shared
just three last names.