USS Yorktown – 1997
The boat stood still for 3 hours because of a division by zero

The Navy’s Smart Ship technology may not be as smart as the service contends.

Although PCs have reduced workloads for sailors aboard the Aegis missile cruiser USS Yorktown, software glitches resulted in system failures and crippled ship operations, according to Navy officials.

Navy brass have called the Yorktown Smart Ship pilot a success in reducing manpower, maintenance and costs. The Navy began running shipboard applications under Microsoft Windows NT so that fewer sailors would be needed to control key ship functions.

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The ship had to be towed into the Naval base at Norfolk, Va., because a database overflow caused its propulsion system to fail, according to Anthony DiGiorgio, a civilian engineer with the Atlantic Fleet Technical Support Center in Norfolk.

If you understand computers, you know that a computer normally is immune to the character of the data it processes, he wrote in the June U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine. Your $2.95 calculator, for example, gives you a zero when you try to divide a number by zero, and does not stop executing the next set of instructions. It seems that the computers on the Yorktown were not designed to tolerate such a simple failure.