Security's brewing mess

Friday, 7 November 2003, 12:48 PM EST

In 1992, a seventy-nine year old woman sued the McDonald's fast food chain after spilling the entire contents of a cup of coffee in her lap, causing third-degree burns over six percent of her body. Several days in the hospital, intense medical treatments, and a jury trial later, the woman won her case and a $2.7 million dollar judgment, ultimately reduced to $480,000.

Some people jeered at the case, calling it a wanton abuse of the legal system. Others jumped on the bandwagon, finding a lawyer that would sue for whatever circumstance they could find. To this day, whenever the McDonald's coffee case comes up in conversation, people still scoff and joke about it.

The fact of the matter is, the woman was seriously injured. If you fill a paper cup with 185 degree Fahrenheit liquid, cap it with a plastic top and hand it to a senior citizen in a car, you have to assume some responsibility for the outcome.

The most popular programming languages are like that scalding cup of coffee. Accidents in programming will happen, and we can't blame programmers for occasionally getting burned.

Today's programmers are still writing code the same way their predecessors did, using the same languages. A good example is C, a robust, excellent language filled with power and features, that hasn't evolved much since the 70s.

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