Students Stuff the Contest Box (California Institute of Technology students use computer printouts to win McDonalds sweepstakes)
[Image] Still a Few Bugs in the System It bugs us here at Creative Computing when the mass media blame various problems on the computer. Even people in government, business, and schools find the computer a convenient scapegoat for problems actually caused by a programmer, keypuncher, faulty data collection techniques or other non-computer facets. In this continuing column, we'll reprint articles or quotes which blame various catastrophies or problems on the computer. It's up to you, the reader, to decide whether the computer is actually to blame. Also, if you spot an appropriate item for the "Bugs" column, please send it in. A COMPUTERIZED bill had this notice on the bottom: "Failure to receive this bill is no excuse for non-payment of the amount shown below." Chicago Tribune SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - Gas rates have gone up like everything else. Just ask Ruth Brister. Her bill went from around $14 last month to $42,474.58. "I flipped completely," she said. "The computer went haywire and some of those bills got out," a customer representative at Arkla Gas Co. explained. Toledo Blade, 3/30/75 In Swansea, Wales, Barry Carr was quite happy when he passed his driving test soon after his 17th birthday, the earliest age at which Britons are permitted to drive a car. But when his license arrived, it bore 12 endorsements for a whole array of driving OFFENSES, plus a 28-day driving suspension. Police proved sympathetic when it was found a computer at the license office had run wild. "The system has not been operating for long," said an official. Road & Track. Fred Finn Mazanek, a one-year-old guppy, died, recently, leaving an estate of $5,000. Stan Mazanek, twenty-four, a student at the University of Arizona, had filled out an insurance form he received in his mail box marked "0ccupant," entering the fish as the insured party. No fraud was involved in the policy. The guppy's age was listed as six months, his weight as thirty centigrams, and his height as three centimeters. The Globe Life and Accident Insurance Co. apparently issued Policy No. 3261057 in Fred Finn's name through a computer error. When Mazanek filed a claim following the guppy's demise, they sent a sales representative to see him to find out if he was the sort of person who would take advantage of a clerical error. He was. The company settled out of court for $650. South Bend Tribune. *** Students Stuff the Contest Box by Robert Meyers PASADENA, Calif. - It was enough to crack the golden arches. Twenty-six science and math, students at California institute of Technology here, looking for something to do while studying for final exams in March, stuffed more than 1.1 million computer-printed entries into a giveaway contest sponsored by the McDonald's hamburger company. When the drawings were held about two weeks ago, the students had won 20 per cent of the total prizes, including a $7,000 car and $3,000 in cash. McDonald's promised to change its rules. "It's amazing how much free time you can find during final exams week when,you're really looking for it," said Steve Klein, 21, a junior information sciences major. Klein and Dave Novikoff, 21, Barry Megdal, 19 and Becky Hartsfield, 18, all students at the science-oriented school here, were in trigued by the give-away contest being sponsored by the McDonald's Operators Association of California. The rules called only for an entry to be printed on a 3x5 inch card, by a person who was over 18 with a valid driver's license. "Enter as often as you wish," the rules invited. The students did. In late March the 26, all members of Page House, a residential and dining facility, spent $350 to buy about 20 hours' printing time on an IBM 370/158 computer. They produced 52 boxes of paper, each box of which contained 2,700 pages, and each page of which contained eight valid McDonald's entries. "There were 1.2 million entries at first," Megdal, a sophomore electrical engineering student says, "but by the time we got through cutting the paper up into individual entries, there were only 1.1 million." Each of the 26 students involved in the tension-breaking project thus found that the computer had printed his name 40,000 times. Dividing up into eight groups, the students took their ballots to 98 of the 190 participating McDonald's stores in Southern California. When the management of the fast-food chain learned of the prank, its reaction was hot enough to sizzle a french fry. "...The students acted in complete contradiction to the American standards of fair play and sportsmanship," boomed a press release. "Their actions had the effect of depriving individuals and families of improved odds of winning the prizes." The company reported getting letters from outraged citizens. Newspapers and television stations sent reporters to sniff out the story. Burger King , a fast-food competitor of McDonald's gleefully gave Caltech a $3,000 scholarship in honor of the stunt. McDonald's, however, spent a great deal of 155 time trying to figure out what action to take with regard to the computer-printed entry forms. The company finally decided to honor them all, but to give duplicate prizes to the general public for every Caltech entry that was drawn. That action cost the participating dealers an extra $10,000 on top of the $50,000 already allotted. The prizes were presented last Tuesday, May, 20. Becky Hartsfield, a freshman physics major, was given the keys to a new Datsun 710 station wagon, which she immediately turned over to a chapter of the United Way. The top prize - a more expensive car and a year's supply of groceries - went to a non-student. The students say they will keep the check for $3,000, and use it to pay for the taxes and license on the station wagon, to improve their living quarters, to buy micro-wave ovens for the house, and to pay off the cost of buying time on the computer to print the entries in the first place. "No one will make a profit on this," Novikoff said. At the awards presentation on Tuesday, Novikoff invited Ronald McDonald, the clown character who represents the hamburger chain, to have dinner that night at Page House. Ronald, however, ate elsewhere. Washington Post 5/21/75. Thanks to Nelson Griggs, Boyds, MD for sending us the clipping.