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To Test or Not to Test

A Case Study on Ethics in Computing


Junaid Ahmed Zubairi
Department of Math and Computer Science
SUNY Fredonia


In 1991, faulty computer instructions caused a massive shutdown of phone systems in several major cities in the U.S., including Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The instructions were part of a revised version of software that was not tested fully because the changes were considered too small. Developed as part of the ethics module for a computer science course for non-majors, this case emphasizes good software development techniques, including full compliance with the rules.


  • To teach students good software development techniques.
  • To make students aware that deviations from the rules can lead to disasters, especially in software that impacts on human life


Ethics in computing; socially responsible computing; software development; software failure; systems failure

Topical Areas

Ethics, Social issues

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division



Type / Methods

Discussion, Role-Play



Subject Headings

Computer Science  |  

Date Posted


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