4 Technical Glitches That Made Life Hell for One Guy and One Guy Only
Behind the scenes of almost everyone’s lives now is a constant stream of code. Everything from our bank account balances to our coffee machine is likely running on some level of programming. For anyone who’s not completely off-the-grid eating beans in some forest somewhere, you’re probably more reliant on a battery of software than you could ever sanely admit. Thankfully, the software in question is usually pretty reliable — until it isn’t.
When software goes sour, it can be devastating and widespread, whether it’s grounding flights across the country or knocking out swaths of the internet. It doesn’t take much to snowball, and before you know it, you’re reading panicked press releases that basically say, “PLEASE HOLD ON. WE’RE DOING OUR BEST.” Sometimes, though, a technical glitch hits a much smaller pool of victims — namely, one very unlucky person.
Here are four technical glitches that ruined only a couple people’s days, or even lives…
The Guy With Everyone’s iPhones
A recent story has cropped up out of Texas of one man who has, for the past couple of years, been tormented by what feels like a strange technological haunting. Repeatedly, and reliably, he has been visited by scores of people who knock on his door with the same accusation: He has their iPhone. Scott Schuster, the man in question, is not, in fact, the world’s worst and most stubborn phone thief. He just happens to live in a house that seems to be plagued with a glitch in Apple’s Find My iPhone software.
The specific reason isn’t known, since Apple is being predictably unhelpful, having not responded to his increasingly pleading support tickets. Whatever miscalculation is causing it, it seems that anyone who is unlucky enough to misplace their phone in an area surrounding his house is going to be returned his exact home address as the location. So far it’s been nothing but deeply confusing arguments, but given that drunk people notoriously love to misplace phones, he’s also had to deal with irate and deeply sauced phoneless partiers showing up in the middle of the night.
The Guy Who Owed 100 Years of Late Fees
The Y2K bug, thanks to a whole lot of careful preparation and software updates, didn’t end up being nearly as big of a problem as people were worried it would be. There were tales of Mad Max level societal breakdowns caused by the world’s computers resetting to the year 1900 instead of 2000, and that a little bit of lazy date-setting might require stockpiles of water and canned food. For the most part, disaster was avoided.
The supposed world-eating bug did rear its head in a comically disastrous way for one resident of Albany, New York, however. A customer had made the unfortunate mistake of renting a video before the turn of the millennium from the local Super Video. When they returned the video a couple days into the year 2000, they were informed the return was late — 100 years late. The Y2K bug had struck and demanded $91,250 in late fees. Thankfully, the glitch had what some don’t: a real human nearby to realize, “oh, well that’s wrong,” who could fix it.
The U.K. Postmasters Accused of Fake Fraud
The next entry on this list is a whole lot less entertaining, and took literal decades to fully sort out, unfortunately for those affected. It’s related to software that was used by U.K. post offices known as “Horizon.” Horizon handled the accounts of the nation’s post offices, and it seemed to be working mostly fine, except for one recurring, massively damaging glitch: It kept losing money. As in, the system would suddenly report massive discrepancies to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds, and worse yet, it would tie these losses to the accounts of specific postmasters.
These supremely unlucky postmasters were hit with accusations of fraud, and despite their pleas to the contrary, apparently there was nobody with the investigative interest of the video store manager above. The result was pretty horrific, as the postmasters were prosecuted, and some spent years in prison over this numerical error. Others remortgaged their homes to pay off their erroneous shortcomings, and at least one took their own life. In 2021, the convictions were finally overturned, but the post office’s unimpeachable belief in one piece of dogshit software had already done an unimaginable amount of damage.
The World’s First Trillionaire
Let’s try to cleanse the palate with a much more enjoyable bug, one that any of us would be overjoyed to fry our accounts. After all, getting numbers wrong goes in both directions, and a restaurant manager named Reggie Theus in 2013 was on the receiving end of a particularly fortuitous miscalculation. One that updated his personal checking account balance to north of $4 trillion, making him, in seconds, the richest man on Planet Earth.
Unfortunately for Theus, the quite obviously glitchy total of $4,040,404,040,404.04 didn’t last long before being corrected. But hey, for a couple of hours there, he was living the highest of high lives. I probably would have been running to every ATM around me and hitting them for their maximum withdrawal limit like a cross between a bank job and a scavenger hunt, and on a plane to somewhere without an extradition treaty post-haste.