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Programming Tips on Accuracy: How to Know If Enough is Indeed Enough

by: Tesa Mari S. Sabao | 28 Jun, 2010 12:23:52

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Once there was an expert programmer who was contracted to encode a bank’s monetary system. He crafted the deposits and the withdrawals to a limit of hundredths place.  For instance you have an exact savings of 499.999998 pesos, what will register in your account is 499.99 pesos.

Nope, he did not rounded off and cut off the remaining 0.009998. Clever enough to gain more than the payment he received, he programmed these excess digits to his own bank account. The bank institution we are talking about have hundred branches around a well-known country and each branch has over a million bank accounts. Imagine how much amount he gained including the interest his own account receives. Obviously, he became very rich.

I don’t know if he was sued for doing so as this was only a story told to me once. I don’t even know this really happened. But the point is this is very possible. This is an example how accuracy, and single digits and bits are important in programming.

Accurate Programs Have No Noticeable Deficiency at All Perspective

However, how will you define what is accurate from what is not? Puzzling isn’t it? From the story, a bank account holder wouldn’t suspect that he’s already been robbed. I don’t know about bank accounting. However, from what is understandable is the missing amount becomes noticeable once we’re talking about accumulation in a whole single branch. Arriving at an answer, therefore accuracy is something that is noticeable.

Accurate Programs Do Not Damage Other Connected Programs and/or System Functions

However, a single branch would solely detect this because of the large amount deducted from branch funds upon an audit. Now what makes the amount missing and error large enough to be noticed by audits? Audit unveils discrepancies by check and balance on how funds were used or what function it served. Obtaining a conclusion, an amount or an error becomes large enough if it affects already a use or a designated function.

Thus… from our observations based from the example, there is no such thing as perfectly exact. A program is accurate enough if it serves its function without damaging other related and connected functions.

Accuracy is of essence nowadays, as almost everything is possible with just a push of a button. This becomes an unspoken burden of programmers and technology crafters. Nothing is an excuse, intended or not… an error committed is a damage done. Hence, prudent assessment becomes duty for every technology mover including programmers.

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