Tuesday, July 28, 2015

2015-30 - One in a million...

Back when I was a wee young lad, fresh from college, I thought I knew everything there was to know.

One of my best memories happened very early on, back when I was working on DOS 4. We ran into some kind of problem... I was looking into the bug with Gordon Letwin, the architect for DOS 4. I looked at the code and commented "Maybe this is what was happening? But if that were the case, it'd take a one in a million chance for it to happen".

Gordon's response was simple, "In our business, one in a million is next Tuesday".

He then went on to comment that at the speeds which modern computers operate (4.77 MHz remember), things happened so quickly that something with a one in a million chance of occurrence is likely to happen in the next day or so.

I'm not sure I've ever received better advice in my career.

It has also stood the test of time – no matter how small the chance of something happening, with modern computers and modern operating systems, essentially every possible race condition or deadlock will be found within a reasonable period of time.

So nowadays, whenever anyone comments on how unlikely it is for some event to occur, my answer is simply: "One in a million is next Tuesday".

~ Larry Osterman


"If nature has taught us anything it is that the impossible is probable.”

~ Ilyas Kassam

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