Cautionary tales by Minneapolis cable-TV news anchor Lee on how recent computer-system failures in business, government, and medicine have wrought death and chaos. As the world moves blithely toward a near-total dependence on computers, few realize the inherent danger that arises when these systems become so complex that designers cannot anticipate every combination of circumstances that a system must reliably handle. Going behind the headlines of several tragedies and scandals, Lee finds that the common culprit in computer lapses is often inadequate software. For instance, when AT&T (the world standard for computer reliability) suffered a complete nine-hour collapse of its long-distance network on January 15, 1990, the cause was an obscure software bug buried in a new multimillion-line software program. An Iranian commercial jet was shot down by the U.S.S. Vincennes partly because of design errors in a $500 million weapons system. Several patients were burned to death during routine radiation therapy and a new airliner (the Airbus) crashed because the machines involved used designs overreliant on computer controls, Lee asserts. He also explores the federal government's failures to develop adequate computer systems for air-traffic control, fiscal management, and IRS operations. Overall, the author's description of the brewing crisis in computerization is far stronger than his prescriptions for correction (such as support for pending legislation to fund software development research). Lee's lively style delivers potentially dry material in a form accessible to people concerned about social and management problems and to computer professionals seeking an overview on a potential nightmare.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)