There was an amusing story in last week's London Daily Mail about a Birmingham, England council-owned parking garage that has a ticket dispenser that switches from English instructions to German instructions on its display screen when the parking garage is full. Locals are apparently not amused.
Unfortunately, the exact nature of the change was changed is not explained - I assume it was for the expected German visitors' benefit. For instance, were the parking garage's instructions now given in both German and English instead of just English? If so, was it for a specific period of time, since German instructions now seem only to appear when the parking garage is full.
If the parking instructions were not given in both German and English, it would seem to be a bit silly to have a software "upgrade" so that the instructions were in English only when the parking garage was not full and in German when it was.
What, did the ticket dispenser's software designers think that German visitors are able to read and understand English when a British parking garage is empty but lose that ability when it is full?
The Daily Mail story shows a photo of the dispenser with a little paper sign attached to it that says helpfully that, "If display shows German writing it means car park is full. Please wait until display returns to English before obtaining ticket."
Plans are in the works to fix the software.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.