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Daily News Glitches of the Week By Leonard Lee, Newsbytes March 19, 2000

This is a weekly column from Newsbytes featuring the latest in the weird, bizarre, and unfortunate when it comes to technology.

Late Fees Extend to Year 1900

When Robert Challender of Reno was a month late in registering his car with Nevada's Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety, he received a bill of $378,426.25. The bill included about $260,000 of late fees that dated back to the year 1900.

According to Kimberly Evans, public information officer for the DMV&PS, the erroneous bill was a result of a data conversion error that occurred when the department went live with a new computer system last September. The problem recently surfaced when Challender tried to renew his registration. "When we went live with the new system, there were millions of records that had to be converted over," said Evans. "In that conversion, there were only a couple of instances when the data didn't get converted properly, like in this man's case. We only know of this happening one other time in the state." Because the bill was obviously incorrect, the DMV asked Challender to pay what he was charged last year for the same service - $60. Evans said that the incorrect data was corrected by technicians later the same week it was discovered.

$100 Million Satellite Lost

A rocket carrying a mobile communications satellite went down in the Pacific Ocean, after a Mar. 12 launch by the International Sea Launch program. "After an apparently successful liftoff, the Sea Launch rocket carrying the ICO F-1 mobile communications satellite suffered an anomaly," said Boeing, one of the four companies that comprise the Sea Launch consortium. According to Sea Launch, the assembly and command ship lost communication with the rocket several minutes into the flight. Investigations are expected to be conducted by all parties involved in the project, including Boeing, Energia of Russia, Anglo-Norwegian Kvaerner Group, and KB Yuzhnoye/PO Yuzhmash of Ukraine. No known safety hazards have been reported as a result of the lost craft. Both Boeing and Sea Launch expressed regret at the loss of the rocket and ICO F-1 satellite. "We will have information out as soon as it becomes available," said Jim Albaugh, president of Boeing Space and Communications Group. "Right now we are not speculating on the exact cause of the failure."

Emergency Landing Message Accidentally Sounded

On an otherwise normal British Airways flight from Boston to London, an automated emergency landing message was falsely activated last Sunday, as reported by London's The Independent. The Boeing 777 was in flight over the Atlantic with a full passenger load of 251 people when the alarm was sounded. Although the plane was in no danger, the message said that an emergency landing in the sea might occur in a manner of minutes. Sunday's episode marks the third occasion when an emergency message activated during a British Airway's flight when no such danger existed. The previous incidents happened last April and June on Boeing 747 flights. According to The Independent, British Airways officials say that the incident was probably the result of an electrical error.

Reported by

-- Jen Bunker (, March 20, 2000

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