For those of us who grew up in the '80s and '90s, it's difficult to fully understand just how close to annihilation we actually came in the 20th century. With the two most powerful nations on Earth threatening to detonate their entire nuclear arsenals at the slightest provocation, one would assume that the respective governments would have treated the situation with the care and respect it deserved (spoiler: they didn't).
6A 50-Cent Computer Chip Mistakenly Announces Nuclear War
At 2 a.m. on June 3, 1980, some poor Air Force staffer deep within the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was working the late night shift when he noticed that the screen readout that usually read "0 Incoming Missiles" suddenly read "2 Incoming Missiles." This was bad enough, but then, perhaps with an innocuous beep, it announced "220 Incoming Missiles."
"Sir, the 'FUCKED' button is lighting up. I'm just going to take my last few minutes to tell you how much of a dick you are."
Alarms sounded everywhere as the Air Force collectively freaked out all across America. Bombers carrying nuclear bombs began taking off throughout the country. Someone woke up National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and told him that the shit was hitting the fan.
Luckily, before anyone could actually fire a missile, someone realized that the hundreds of warheads weren't showing up on the radar screens. The alerts were canceled, bombers landed and everyone took a deep breath and poured a strong Scotch.
"Hey, Jim, why don't you go out and let the looters know they're not going to die?"
It took three days to figure out what happened. It turned out that a simple computer chip was malfunctioning inside the NORAD computers, causing the display to sometimes show 2s when it should have shown 0s. Allegedly, the chip that caused the crisis cost only 46 cents.
"I have the worst case of blue treads."
And that wasn't the only time a tiny glitch almost drove us back to the Stone Age ...