e-Talk Radio: Yourdon, Ed, 21 November 2000


that if we all had an ATM card or access to the Internet or some other razzle-dazzle technology that it would make all these problems go away, which is probably not the case.

Carol: Right.

Ed: I hope that if there is enough concern or unhappiness or frustration or whatever about how this election ended up in terms of the process of manually recounting the votes, I hope that we go about looking for an improved approach in a more measured and reasonable fashion than some of the half-baked ideas that I have been hearing over the last couple of days.

Carol: I was flying back a few nights ago and somebody on the plane behind me, that cannot be in the software industry, they were talking about the Internet and the way it is that all we have to do is have these touch screens and that somehow magically all the software behind this will just appear.

Ed: Maybe to some extent this new technology would be an improvement. It is a classic case of a solution looking for a problem to solve. All of us in the computer field have access to some really wonderful technology. We do not really stop to think very often about how often it breaks down or how hard it is to use or things of that sort. The first thing that a computer project team does is a feasibility study where they can see exactly what is wrong with the existing system and exactly what kind of improvements might we possibly expect to make if we were to bring in the "perfect technology." And that normally gets you into discussions about how a new system, using some kind of new technology, would be cheaper, faster, and better in some fashion. But given the nature of this whole voting process, it is not clear that this would actually work out. The existing system is already cheap and indeed that is part of its problem. A lot of the counties and states all across the country are using voting machines that date back 40 or 50 years. At least here in New York City, where I am calling in from, they are not really maintained very well which means that they continue falling apart. Meanwhile, the whole manual part of the process including the counting that is going on down in Florida is done largely by volunteers who, you know, are paid nothing. So, yes there is a cost associated with it and maybe if we could get rid of the punch cards and all the people that have to carry the punch cards back and forth and so on, we might achieve some savings, but I suspect that the high-tech solution would be more expensive and while it might be faster it is not clear that this is all that is necessary.

Carol: Right.

Ed: The politicians are jumping up and down saying that if we do not get this recounting thing finished up instantaneously that the whole country is going to fall apart. It has given us all something in common to talk about. Dave Letterman can make jokes about it every night. The country is clearly not in a state of crisis yet.

Carol: Right.

Ed: It might be by mid-December. The idea of new technology that would let the entire country know the outcome of the election within 3 microseconds after the polls close, you know, that is not something that most of us would be willing to spend a lot of money for.

Carol: Would you say that this

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