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Gulf oil spill: Computer glitches plagued the Deepwater Horizon rig, technician says

Computers on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig had a history of malfunctions, a rig technician told federal investigators Friday.

A computer that could be used to control all rig drilling functions routinely crashed and had to be restarted, according to Mike Williams, a chief engineering technician who worked for rig owner Transocean aboard the Deepwater Horizon.

“It turned into a blue screen. You’d have no data coming through,” Williams said.

He said replacement hard drives were ordered, as well as an entire new computer system. But, he said, the problems weren’t resolved, partly because technicians couldn’t get the old software to work on the new hardware.

“We were limping along with what we had,” Williams said.

Another problem system tracked maintenance aboard the floating oil rig. Williams said that sometimes the computer called for maintenance to be done on equipment that was not aboard the Deepwater Horizon, while other items aboard the rig that needed maintenance weren’t on the computer system.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II in Kenner, La.
 
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All software on the rig and all safety sensitive software everwhere was developed using language with poor simplicity of expression compared with what was designed at IBM in the early 1970s and implemented at DEC in the early 1980s. Decades of obstruction of simplification in software has caused many disasters. See "Technical Fluency Thwarted for Decades" at
http://users.rcn.com/eslowry/stifled.pdf .


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