Public Minimizes Successes, Magnifies Erros of DP


Over the past several months, patience has been taxed by reports in local newspapers concerning "computer errors".

The general public, which knows Iittle of tbe technology of DP, has now begun to regard DPers as a blundering group of "professionals" who make life miserable for everyone. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

DPers make errors in system designing, programming, keypunching and processing, and they will be the first to admit it. However, imagine the hundreds of thousands of items of information which are received daily at DP installations across the country that are keyed, processed and reported correctly.

That is the percentage of error? It is so small it would not be worthy of calculation. Yet, article after article written by persons both within and outside the DP field, attempts to highlight errors compounded by errors. The authors of such articles fail to note the overwhelming successes while elaborating upon the few naturally occurring mistakes. If those collective errors could be considered seconds or offquality production, what industry could compete upon a percentage basis. I believe almost any industry would welcome such a low percentage of error as their percentage of seconds.

Conclusions may be drawn from news articles that the computer constantly makes errors, that an error on one report, payroll check or invoice means errors on all reports, payroll checks and invoices and that techniques in DP have been ill-founded and poorly conceived. However, our errors are not necessarily the results of failure of DP techniques, but the failure of people to make proper use of the techniques.

Do not misunderstand. Errors should be reported - as exceptions. They should be reported in a proper perspective and with appropriate emphasis upon the origin of the error.

After all, errors are not necessarily indicative of poor techniques. The best techniques are only as effective as those persons using them. Mistakes, as they occur, are generally corrected and overcome, and such errors in keypunching, programming, designing and processing do not deserve the spectacular coverage afforded them. Such coverage generally creates the false illusion that DP techniques are universally inadequate.

Errors in DP should be used to grow from and not to stumble on. Naturally, errors that continue to occur day after day, without correction, are not errors in DP techniques, but just poor management, and certainly are not be fault of the computer and its abilities as we are often led to believe.

The growth of American industry over the past two decades has been in large part due to technological innovations and developments in data handling facilities. If industry is to continue its growth with any measure of success, it must continue to reckon with computer systems' remarkable capabilities.

No such reckoning is complete until the public is educated about the reliability of DP Systems and the dedication of DP personnel to the task of making life easier for all mankind. The education must emphasize that our techniques are good, our errors are small and above all, that we are human.