Jan. 29, 1990
Ghost in The Machine
The nine-hour breakdown of AT&T's long-distance telephone network dramatizes the vulnerability of complex computer systems everywhere



The first sign that something had gone haywire in AT&T's long-distance telephone network came at 2:25 p.m. last Monday, when the giant map of the U.S. in the company's operations center in New Jersey began to light up like a football scoreboard. For reasons still being investigated, a computer in New York City had come to believe it was overloaded with calls, and it started to reject them. Alerted to New York's troubles, dozens of backup computers across the U.S. automatically switched in to take up the slack -- only to exhibit the same bizarre symptoms. People trying to place long-distance calls all...Get free instant access to this article when you subscribe to TIME for $4.95.

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