June 1994: Intel testers discover a division error in the Pentium chip. Intel managers decide that the error will not affect many people and do not inform anyone outside the company. This was Intel's first mistake. The company was right in that the division error could affect only a few customers, but not disclosing the information made Intel appear to hide a sinister secret. It sent the message to customers that Intel was not trustworthy. Disclosing the flaw upon discovery would have created only minor news, on the same low level as an automaker announcing a minor defect. The same month, Dr. Thomas R. Nicely, a professor of mathematics at Lynchburg College, Virginia, notices a small difference in two sets of numbers. He double-checks all his work by computing everything twice, in two different ways. Dr. Nicely spends months successively eliminating possible causes such as PCI bus errors and compiler artifacts. After testing on several 486 and Pentium-based computers, Dr. Nicely is certain that the error is caused by the Pentium processor. Dr. Nicely contacts Intel technical support. Intel's contact person duplicates the error and confirms it, but says that it was not reported before. After receiving no more information from Intel, Dr. Nicely sends an email message to a few people, announcing his discovery of a "bug" in Pentium processors. Intel finally apologizes and says it will replace all flawed Pentiums upon request. It sets aside a reserve of $420 million to cover costs. It hires hundreds of customer service employees to deal with customer requests. And it dedicates four fulltime employees to read Internet newsgroups and respond immediately to any postings about Intel or its products. Could this happen again? Yes, but I think they will probably provide a patch to fix the problem. Or offer a replacement for the flawed...
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