The Register: ‘Excel at my DNA’

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Technology
July 16th, 2004 • 5:34 am

A reader was kind enough to forward this link to me. Apparently, a flaw in Microsoft Excel is causing errors in genetic research…

Interestingly, the problem is not a bug, but one of these automatic behaviours that are always turned on by default in Microsoft software, much to the dismay of the vast majority of its users. In this case, it’s Excel pretending to outsmart the person who enters the data and automatically converting genetic identifiers into dates just because they look like dates (as in “SEPT2“).

What it’s going to take to force Microsoft software engineers to finally understand that all these automatic options should be turned off by default, I do not know.

What I do know is that, sooner or later, if people keep using Microsoft software for such critical work, this software is indeed going to cause serious damage. I can already imagine the headlines: “Patient dies after spreadsheet bug caused doctor to misread crucial vital sign information”…

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