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Pentium Flaw

In: Computers and Technology

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When dealing with technology and computers, you come to expect flaws and glitches seeing that these devices are manmade. One of the biggest computer flaws in computer history was the “Pentium Microprocessor flaw”; this was a bug in the Intel P5 Pentium floating point that caused the processor to return incorrect results for many calculations used in math and science. This bug was blamed on the fact that there were a few missing entries in the lookup table used by Intel. This flaw was exposed by Professor Thomas R. Nicely, who was a professor at Lynchburg College in Virginia. Nicely discovered this error June 13, 1994 when noticing some inconsistencies in his calculations. It took Nicely until October 19, 1994 to be sure that it was in fact the microprocessor causing his error. Once Nicely was sure that this was causing the error he reported it to Intel October 24, 1994. It was later discovered that Intel was aware of this flaw since May 1994 while they were conducting some testing for a newer model. News of this bug spread quickly, and Intel needed to respond publicly. They responded stating that there was a floating point flaw but that they didn’t feel it would affect many users and offered to replace processors for users who could prove that they were affected. The public was not satisfied with this response and Pentium was forced to offer a replacement to all users who requested a replacement. This dramatically affected the finances of Intel; the company announced a 475 million charge against its earnings in January 1995. Flaws are to be expected, but the response of the manufacturer is very important. As seen with Intel you have to very careful with your response. Their initial response left customers feeling slighted, consumers felt like they shouldn’t have to wait for a problem to occur just to receive a replacement when the company was fully aware that this flaw could happen. Also consumers lost some trust in Intel and felt as if they were hiding the flaw from them; customers such as IBM cancelled sales of all computers containing the flawed chip. I feel as if Intel could have handled this problem in a more professional manner, it seems to me like they tried to short customers and offer them some sort of “pat on the back” instead of truly handling the issue. Their response caused them to lose lots of profits and even some customers, though they eventually satisfied all of their customer concerns by agreeing to replace all the processors, I feel this part of their response came a little too late as they had already done damage to their reputation. Even though this response cost Intel in many ways, I feel as if it also made the company stronger. After this flaw and all the criticism that was to follow, Intel changed some of its business practices and made their product more user end focused ultimately boosting their popularity in the long run. In today’s society I don’t think Intel could have survived such a flaw. With technology advancing and companies in such fierce competition this flaw would have made consumers overlook Intel and move on to purchasing their product from another manufacturer. Today’s consumer has no loyalty and tends to follow trends, once the word would have got about this flaw through the power of social media, Intel would have been exposed so quick they would not have had time to properly fix the error before consumers had jumped ship. I’m sure Intel is aware of that and today makes sure that its products are thoroughly tested and error free.

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