Anonymous Industrial Engineering Ethics Cases 191
WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?
This happened my first or second week at the company. I worked there
for 4 years. I left in search of a better work environment after many dis-
agreements with my direct supervisor.
CASE 3: ELECTRICAL ENGINEER
Ethics Dilemma Scorecard
Public Safety & Welfare
Data Integrity & Representation
Trade Secrets & Industrial Espionage
Gift Giving & Bribery
Principle of Informed Consent
Conflict of Interest
Accountability to Clients & Customers
Fair Treatment
TELL US YOUR STORY
In 1974, I was working for Hewlett-Packard and wrote all the code for
the HP 35 calculator. Unfortunately, my code had a round-off error, which
propagated into the carry digit, which was not saved. It could be repro-
duced by calculating e
ln2.02
. Instead of calculating 2.02, the result was 1.01.
At the time the bug was discovered, 25,000 calculators had been shipped.
I could fix the bug by changing out one of three read only memories.
However, by the time the fix would be ready, 100,000 calculators would
have been shipped.
A meeting was called that included engineers, salespeople, marketing,
and manufacturing. When someone suggested that “Suppose we don’t
tell anybody, my friend heard founder David Packard’s pencil break.
Mr. Packard immediately stated, “Who said that? As long as my name is
on the building, we are always going to be upfront with our customers.
We decided to send our customers a description of the circumstances
that created the bug, and let them know that when a replacement was
available, they would be able to receive a replacement if requested. Only
25% of the customers ever requested the new calculator.
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