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GEEKS: Killer kangaroo objects

recycled email from   radha      -=*%%  radham@efn.org  %%*=-   

Tactical kangaroo report

from June 15, 1999 _Defense Science and Technology Organization
Lecture series_, Melbourne, Australia, and staff reports.

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   The reuse of some object-oriented code had caused tactical
   headaches for Australia's armed forces.

"As virtual reality simulators assume larger roles in helicopter combat
training, programmers have gone to great lengths to increase the
realism of their scenarios, including detailed landscapes and -- in
the case of the Northern Territory's Operation Phoenix -- herds of
kangaroos (since disturbed animals might well give away a helicopter's

The head of the Defense Science & Technology Organization's
Land Operations/Simulation division reportedly instructed developers to
model the local marsupials' movements and reactions to helicopters.

Being efficient programmers, they just re-appropriated some code
originally used to model infantry detachment reactions under the same
stimuli, changed the mapped icon from a soldier to a kangaroo, and
increased the figures' speed of movement. Eager to demonstrate their
flying skills for some visiting American pilots, the hotshot Aussies
"buzzed" the virtual kangaroos in low flight during a simulation.

The kangaroos scattered, as predicted, and the visiting Americans
nodded appreciatively....then did a double-take as the kangaroos
reappeared from behind a hill and launched a barrage of Stinger
missiles at the helpless helicopter. (Apparently the programmers had
forgotten to remove THAT part of the infantry coding.)

The lesson? Objects are defined with certain attributes, and any new
object defined in terms of an old one inherits all the attributes. The
embarrassed programmers had learned to be careful when reusing
object-oriented code, and the Yanks left with a newfound respect for
Australian wildlife.

Simulator supervisors report that pilots from that point onward have
strictly avoided kangaroos, just as they were meant to."