2010: 10 best tech blunders

From dodgy gadgets to bungled broadcasts; coverage failures to complete system outages, 2010 saw some of the funniest and most frustrating tech fails. Here are ten of the best for your disaster-loving pleasure.

From dodgy gadgets to bungled broadcasts and coverage failures to complete system outages, 2010 saw some of the funniest and most frustrating tech fails. Here are ten of the best for your disaster-loving pleasure.

Virgin Blues

Low-cost airline Virgin Blue's check-in software host Navitaire suffered a hardware failure on its network that forced the New Skies platform offline in September.

The outage was so bad that Virgin Blue cancelled several flights, leaving understandably frustrated passengers stranded. The outage meant that Virgin Blue staff had to revert to manual check-in processes to clear passengers through departure gates.

Multi-billionaire Richard Branson even issued a personal apology after the glitch inconvenienced thousands.

The airline's group executive, Andrew David, said that legal action against Navitaire was being considered.

NAB: National Australia Blunder

National Australia Bank (NAB) customers woke up in November only to find that some accounts were missing transaction histories, scheduled payments, and in some cases, their hard earned pay packets.

What followed was a week of pain for NAB staff, executives and customers alike, with account balances and transactions appearing, then disappearing again, only to reappear somewhere else.

NAB kept branches open over a weekend to make sure customers had access to their money in the old-fashioned way.

The glitch was eventually repaired, although speculation surrounded the exact cause. The official explanation from bank CEO Cameron Clyne was that a software update dating from 2001 and a coding error teamed with a missing vendor patch caused the week from hell.

Time-travelling speed cameras

Victoria Police shut down its point-to-point speed cameras in October after an out-of-sync clock caused speeding offences to be recorded in error.

The fault was dated back to 2008 and nine motorists out of 68,000 snapped by the cameras had their fines reversed.

It just goes to show that you can't be too careful with a speed camera.

Back to the stone age: ATM, website collapses

One week in August saw three of the big four banks suffer various technology outages ranging from ATM and EFTPOS collapses through to website unavailability.

CommBank blamed a botched software upgrade, as did Westpac, but ANZ played its cards close to the chest, leaving us wondering what caused its ATM woes.

At the time, it looked as if NAB escaped unscathed. We know better now.

Nokia N8 — Flagship fail

Nokia's new smartphone flagship was meant to set the pace for quality craftsmanship.

With a camera that could shoot action movies and curves that left Victoria's Secret models wanting, it looked set to thrill users. In the end it was more a case of plenty of smoke, no flash.

When users ran their shiny new N8s out of battery, the devices refused to turn back on. Nothing could bring them back to life.

Thankfully, Nokia quickly recognised the fault and promised affected users a new handset rather than a patch job.

An Apple a day couldn't keep Antennagate away

The iPhone 4 was another product that was loaded with forward sizzle, only to disappoint on launch day.

Users bounding out of Apple Stores with their precious devices later discovered that if their hands covered a specific section of the device, coverage would disappear.

To remedy the issue — dubbed Antennagate — Apple CEO and cult icon Steve Jobs gave all iPhone 4 users a free rubber bumper with their new phone, and dragged other manufacturers like BlackBerry and Nokia down into the muck with it.

Come the device's Australian launch, Vodafone said that Antennagate hadn't fazed Aussie users, despite the effects being duplicated on local carriers.

iOS: Wake me up (early) before you go, go

Turns out there are some times when being the early bird is not such a great thing.

After daylight savings came around once again for those on the east coast of Australia, devices running Apple's iOS platform (including iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches) failed to adjust themselves.

The glitch was localised to recurring alarms that had been set prior to the daylight savings switchover, with bewildered users left wondering why they had been woken up an hour early by their keen-bean iOS devices.

TV ain't as easy as ABC

After bungled ads, miscued cameras and general broadcast sloppiness on both the ABC and WIN Television, Media Watch pointed the finger at MediaHub.

Errors included footage being stuck in a loop, advertisements not being aired and shows being interrupted with static images or broadcast logos.

At one point in time, according to Media Watch, ABC TV jumped in on the end of A Current Affair for around a minute.

Media Watch talked to a source who claimed that the Morpheus Software used inside MediaHub was chiefly to blame, as it couldn't handle changes to programming.


A botched network upgrade was to blame for slow throughput speeds and data drop-outs that caused Vodafone users to pull their hair out over the last few months.

The latest development in the Vodafail saga saw Vodafone Hutchison Australia chief Nigel Dews apologise to users for the coverage catastrophes.

Dews not only apologised for the coverage dramas, but also for how the carrier kept users abreast of the issues. Will we see a more open Vodafone in future?

Queensland Health's unhealthy returns

Nurses missing their pay packets, being rostered on at the wrong times and even seeing their deceased co-workers scheduled to work were just some of the distinct calling cards of Queensland Health's failed deployment of a payroll system.

Problems with the SAP-based payroll system started after the implementation in March, with the Queensland Government importing two payroll experts from Canada to untangle the problems, at a cost to taxpayers of almost $350,000.

The Queensland Auditor-General slammed the leadership behind the roll-out, saying that the lack of a clear organisational structure within the project team had led to confusion over the roles and responsibilities of various parties.

In November, Queensland Health and the state's Department of Education and Training separated themselves from the state's shared services program to prevent further catastrophes.

That's the last of our best blunders of 2010. Merry Christmas, and here's to an outage-free 2011.

Carousel image credit: Doh image, by Hobvias Sudoneighm, CC2.0