Essay on Computer Science

779 Words May 22nd, 2013 4 Pages
Social Issues and Ethics in Computer Science and Engineering


Therac –25 is a medical linear accelerator that was developed by AELC .A linear accelerator (linac) is a particle accelerator, a gadget that increases the energy of electrically charged atomic particles. Linacs are use mainly in hospitals to treat cancer patients .During treatment a patient is exposed to beam of radiation in doses designed to kill a malignancy.(Grolier, 1985)

The Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice is a practical frame- work for moral decision-making related to problems that software engineers may encounter. (Quinn, 2013)

Between June 1995 and January 1987, six
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Another major discrepancy on the software that played a big role in the death of the six patients was the nature of the real time system that had been installed in the system. When the machine is in use a variable called class 3 is usually set to a non-zero value, whenever the operator is testing the position of the light beam, this variable usually changes. Once testing is done the variable is usually set to zero while the radiation beam is allowed to pass. Despite this class 3 was stored in one byte memory. The effect of this was that every 265th increment would results in the value of zero assigned to it. Looking at the case study of the therac-25 incident, the operator pushed the set button at the exact moment that class 3 rolled over to zero. Consequently a full prescription beam was released without any of the beam flatteners ( 1993). This is another malfunction that would have been avoided if the engineers would have conducted a bug test to the machine before they had released the machine to the users, AELC was responsible for many of the factors that led to the Therac-25 incident and poor engineering methods were one of the major failures. For instance AELC violated another code of ethics that govern engineers when they did not responsibility for, correcting, and reporting

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