Sputtering Network Card Strands 17,000 People at LAX

Just to remind you how thin the thread is upon which we hang every day, consider that one faulty network interface card stranded 17,000 people for nine hours last weekend at Los Angeles International Airport. According to government officials in charge of the infrastructure at the airport, a network card inside one computer experienced "a partial failure that started at about 12:50 p.m. Saturday," and then the house of cards that is the LAX Airport computer network came crashing down, stranding a gigantic crowd of people for the better part of a day.

What kind of system is this that can completely fail when just one relatively tiny piece isn't quite working properly? It makes us wonder what other important pieces of infrastructure hang by such a delicate thread. Sure, the LAX computer system is destined to be updated by October, 2008, but that won't be a minute too soon.

Incidentally, on a personal note, I was just on board a flight on Monday whose hydraulic system completely failed at 37,000 feet. Fortunately, there were two backup hydraulic systems on board the Bombardier CRJ-200ER regional jet, allowing the plane to turn around and fly back to the airport whence we came, a one-hour round trip altogether .

Although that mechanical failure resulted in a total 12-hour trip home rather than the normal two-hour jaunt, thankfully it resulted in no loss of life. Good thing some systems are worthy of backup. Even so, how expensive could it be to enjoy a bit of redundancy on support equipment as well? [LA Times, via Boing Boing]