Names and registration numbers that break servers - the history of the biggest IT mistake

Null is a fairly specific concept in programming and databases. It means "value that is a lack of value" and is not zero or null. It is also not unknown or undetermined. It's just a lack of value.

Null has been a problem for programmers for years. In strong typing languages, any variable or object of any type can be null . An attempt to reference a value in such an object, or calling a method from it, ends with one of the numerous "null reference exception" exceptions.

The beginning of the existence of "null" can be traced to 1965, when Tony Hoare, the creator of the Algol programming language, decided to implement this value in it. Today, Hoare is an IT legend: many programmers have encountered the Hoare logic used to determine the correctness of algorithms, and certainly everyone has encountered the QuickSort sorting algorithm he invented.

Hoare called his "invention" null in 2005 a billion dollar mistake . Some hands call him the biggest IT mistake .

Use of empty value

What's null , that's how it is, and programmers have learned to live with it. Unfortunately, this usually means adding additional code to check that the value is not null, or setting defaults to variables. The fact that in some languages null is not treated as a value and cannot be compared to it does not help. For example, so-called nulle compatible with ANSI in SQL. The comparison with null always returns false (even a comparison of null to null!), And to check if the value is not null we have to use the keyword is .

However, there are those who try to use this value in their favor. As I read recently , one of the California drivers got (legally, paying extra for it), a license plate with the inscription NULL. He hoped that in this way he would fool traffic monitoring cameras. Yes, the story has a sad ending - the would-be elusive road pirate received tickets for all cars whose plates could not be read, so they were of value in the police database ... Yes, NULL.

My name is Null

People with the surname Null have unintended problems with "value without value". For example, the BBC reported about Jennifer Null, who did not work many internet systems in which she tried to register (including those needed to work - as a teacher she could not enter the site with information about substitutions). I myself encountered a similar situation: the client reported that in the database of his contractors Null values ​​appear in the name column - which, however, did not take such values. After a long search, it turned out to be "Null" - a four-letter string denoting the name of R. Null - one of their German clients.

Of course, somewhere in the background of all this is a wrong implementation of null values ​​- comparing a string, even containing the word null, should not work like this. But, as you can see, it sometimes works, causing trouble with "the biggest mistake in IT history."

Names and registration numbers that break servers - the history of the biggest IT mistake


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