Computer rage: the new age malaise : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

From the Electronic Telegraph:

ISSUE 1463, Friday 28 May 1999

Computer rage: the new age malaise, By Robert Uhlig, Technology Correspondent

COMPUTER rage is more common than road rage, according to a survey of human frustrations with technology.

The survey, Rage Against The Machine, found that four out of five people had seen colleagues vent their anger on computers, damaging hardware and resulting in loss of business. One in four people under 25 admitted physically assaulting their machines, and one in six said they felt like taking their frustrations out on colleagues or office furniture. Another quarter of computer users have cut short their irritations by pulling out the plug, often deliberately damaging the computer.

The research by Mori has coined the phrase - technology-related anxiety - to describe the stress suffered by many office workers because of the shortcomings of their computers. One third of people have to stay late or take work home as a result of computer-related problems.

Prof Robert Edelman, a psychologist who researches the causes of conflict at work, said: "Frustration with information technology is clearly a serious issue. Technology-related anxiety is a by-product of our obsession with technology and must be taken seriously as a modern malaise. It is affecting both our work and our home lives to the extent that computer rage is now much more prevalent than the more commonly known road rage."

The shortcomings of computers led many workers to question whether they were more of a burden than an asset. One in eight employees had been observed bullying staff in their computer departments.

Cut and pasted by

-- Old Git (, May 27, 1999


Any stats on what software was in use at the time. Bet you it was some Microsucks piecacrap or something dependent on Microsucks Windows.

-- vbProg (, May 28, 1999.

This fits in very nicely with my theory that there are reams of TRA- disgruntled programmers out there who will be doing their utmost to sabotage their company computers and networks during rollover - not forgetting your common or garden hackers and cyber-terrorists (CIA anyone?) who will be doing likewise.

-- Andy (, May 28, 1999.

This fits in very nicely with my theory that there are reams of TRA- disgruntled programmers out there who will be doing their utmost to sabotage their company computers and networks during rollover - not forgetting your common or garden hackers and cyber-terrorists (CIA anyone?) who will be doing likewise.

No programmer who thinks himself worthy of the name will do any such thing. It's something almost as unthinkable as a nurse being a serial killer, or a scholar burning down a library. Even the cowboys who call themselves programmers won't be deliberate saboteurs, the worst they do is a botched job that they haven't got the wits to recognise as such (or the understanding that botches are unacceptable to professionals).

Sure, there are a few sociopaths out there, and some may even be employed as programmers, but I suspect very few.

As for who to blame (if anyone): it's the management. Bad end-user computer systems are almost always the ones where the management who specify the system have never used its predecessor, don't have a clue what's needed, and are far too arrogant to find out. They then contract out implementation of a specification to the lowest bidder. The one thing that such managers are good at is shovelling s**t onto whoever looks most convenient: the software supplier, the users, the in-hourse IT folks....

In this fiasco, the programmer is the guy who makes things work as per the specification, if there's the slightest chance that doing so is possible. It's not his fault if the specification is brain-dead. It's not his fault if there's no provision for finding out what the guys on the sharp end really want, as opposed to what's in the specification and contract. You don't blame the people working on the construction site for the fact that what gets built looks like a crumpled Coke tin eight stories high, do you?

-- Nigel Arnot (, May 28, 1999.

Nigel - I have given this a lot of thought and here's a little reasoning. Yep - there are sociopaths out there - I've met a bunch of programmers over the years that are incapable of human interaction, freeze at meetings, retreat to the rabbit hutch at every opportunity. Not saying any of these will crack but the potential is there. Two - genuine disgruntled employees - the temptation is going to be there. Three - how do you explain the hacker phenomenon- especially the ones that propagate virai (?), time bombs and the like - I'd like to get my hands on one personally :) Four - Jack Kevorkian, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Misery, several recent cases in the USA where nannies shake babies, where nursing home carers have done away with plus minus 100 old folks (their version of euthanasia I guess), - happens all the time, much going undetected. Five - Columbine, Hungerford, Road Rage, ask any cop about chucking out time violence - people are cracking all the time, mental illness is a growth sport, look at the numbers of beggars and homeless in the streets of London. This is symptomatic of society as a whole - including programmers able to kick back and do damage. Six - state sponsored terrorism. Seven - outsourcing code to potential enemies - happens all the time. Uh - that's all I can think of. Just my gut feeling - my tuppence worth.

PS All the great libraries were burned down by learned men and secret societies and mystery schools to prevent the dissemination of knowledge. Check out the vaults in the Vatican - if the rumours are half true it's probably one of the the world's biggest scandals...

-- Andy (, May 28, 1999.

Old Git, I can identify with that news article totally. I had been using our old word processor for years, hardly ever a problem, and when there was, it was our fault. Then we got a new computer with Windows 95.

I've been irritated with appliances before, but not like this. I've really wished the damn piece of junk had feelings so I could hurt it. But since it didn't, I just cussed and ranted and raved. In fact, I was taking an advanced novel writing course which required certain margins, spacing, headers, footers, and with only the final exam to go, I quit the course on account of this damn computer.

Granted I'm computer illiterate. But this was beyond the pale--go get a cup of coffee--come back, and everything had changed. It crashed repeatedly, although we had every kind of expensive back up available. It lost all my lesson material more times than I can count. I can't tell you how many tears I've shed and how often I've cussed this piece of crap.

The computer guru came to our house and worked on it often. Like a mother who senses something is wrong with her child, I kept saying it was flawed from the git-go--something bad wrong with it. Everyone just laughed and said, "Oh that's just Windows, you have to get used to it."

The day it crashed as I was preparing the 50 page synopsis of my novel, and the outline of the novel for my final, I gave up. We called the computer company,, (we had before many times) and they finally authorized taking it to be examined--to the Mayo Clinic of sick computers, a two hour drive from here. It was there over two months, had to have motherboard replaced, hard drive replaced and something else I can't remember. Oh, and by the way, our Windows 95 was flawed program was flawed too.

I wanted set it outside on a stump and shoot it. I may do it yet. If 2000 is "just a bump in the road," we'll get a new one, but not until I know. I can see how this kind of rage can happen. It makes me angry just writing about it all the expense, wasted time and problems this thing caused.

-- gilda (, May 28, 1999.

Nigel, you said:

"No programmer who thinks himself worthy of the name will do any such thing. It's something almost as unthinkable as a nurse being a serial killer. . ."

Er, there've actually been several instances of serial-killer-nurses over here. And I've known a couple of people who are quite capable of sabotaging computers for Y2K, in fact, I've decided some "timebombs" are already there, ticking away.

Have you heard the US phrase, "going postal"? There have been so many instances of postal employees losing it and playing fast and loose with various weapons at their supervisors and anyone within range that the phrase has made its way into the top common colloquialisms over here. Now imagine how many disgruntled computer employees there might be. Hell, all you have to do is read some of the posts here and especially at the Debunking Y2K forum. I was just wondering what a disrguntled computer pro at the postal service might do. . . Goodness, must go get an extra month's worth of beans!

-- Old Git (, May 28, 1999.


Sorry to hear of the trouble you've had with your computer. Computers and machinery in general should be ergonomic, human-friendly and designed for ease of use. It is disgraceful the mess musoft has made of a valuable tool.

Some people have green thumbs. I have a silicon thumb. I've been known to make computers, large and small, with chronic problems, begin to work properly just by getting close. No lie, no exaggeration. Sometimes all I have to do is talk nice to them. (Ok, that's an exaggeration.)

I would have liked the opportunity to read your novel.

-- Elbow Grease (, May 28, 1999.

Have you heard the US phrase, "going postal"?

According to some of my contacts in the "next generation", a new phrase (I am not kidding) is "going to school". As in "Wow, dude just went to school when Jocko dissed him. Took three guys to pull him off."

Welcome to the Funhouse...

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), May 28, 1999.

My point wasn't that no programmers are saboteurs, just that it's unlikely. Programmers in general work not only for the money, but also because they enjoy the work. The good ones are often to be found working somewhere where they earn a fraction of what they could elsewhere (like a university) because they have more freedom there. The cowboys (who work as fast as possible for the highest bidder) are most unlikely to do anything that would render them unemployable.

I didn't like the implication that programmers are more likely to be sociopaths than the average employee. The converse is almost certainly true. They value their reputations. They also tend to think of their systems in the same way that a nurse thinks of patients, an artist thinks of his own paintings, or a scholar thinks of libraries. Deliberately causing harm goes right against the grain.

A hacker often isn't a programmer, just the same as a burglar often isn't a locksmith or a poacher often isn't a gamekeeper. They just use the same tools.

-- Nigel Arnot (, May 28, 1999.

Fair points Nigel - I too have yet to meet (knowingly) one of these sociopathic programmers - however, they ARE out there, how many - who knows?

-- Andy (, May 28, 1999.

Nigel, I'm married to a systems analyst (one more exam and he'll be a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer, whatever that is). He tells me about these people and I've met a few of them. I can believe it. Years ago I did dBase II programming and I knew some "highly-strung" folks doing that too. I'm speaking from experience and spousal anecdotes. Sure there are tons of great people out there doing computer work, and a lot of them are on this forum. I'm not saying all computer pros are nuts, I'm saying I know a few who are fully capable of making a statement by either deliberately leaving a ticking timebomb or passive-aggressively "overlooking" a Y2K problem. It's like the IRA says about their targets--they have to be lucky all the time, we have to be lucky only once. And so might go the thinking of the disgruntled computer pro.

I doubt there are any more disturbed people in the computer profession than there are in any other profession. In fact, a genealogy board I once posted on was FAR nastier than this one!

-- Old Git (, May 28, 1999.

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