Nov 13, 2009

ATM craziness

There was an amusing story recently in the Global Times entitled "Expat fights ATM, detained ". Some highlights:
A foreigner named Tom, surname anonymous, was taken into criminal detention Wednesday for attacking an ATM, Beijing police told the Global Times Thursday.
Tom grabbed the screen of the ATM and started shaking it violently, hitting and kicking the machine at the same time.
The screen went black and failed to reboot. Bank staff called the police after failing to persuade him to leave.
I almost had my own altercation with an ATM this week. One day, the ATM I was using froze up and wouldn't give back my card. I wasn't drunk or high on PCP like some other people may have been, so I handled the situation a little more normally. I just called the bank phone number and they sent someone right away to fix the machine and retrieve my card.

I noticed that the ATM I was using on this particular day was about twice as slow as usual. At some point after entering my PIN, but before the point of actually withdrawing cash, the screen just froze up. There was no way to eject my card after this point. After a few more minutes, the screen turned into this:

Yes, that's right folks. China Construction Bank, the second largest bank in the entire world, is running Windows XP and Internet Explorer for its ATM user interface. Amazing. They're obviously not hiring Tsinghua University grads and MIT grads for their software department. I can't imagine why these engineering choices were made.

Here's another close look at the error message that's displayed on the ATM screen:

Play this YouTube video I uploaded, and you can hear the annoying Windows XP error beep that the ATM was making as this screen was displayed:

Imagine your ATM card is captured inside the machine, and you have to stand there waiting at the ATM like an asshole, listening to that stupid XP beeping over and over again. Let me tell you, it's a good test of your patience.

After the helpful bank employees resolved the situation, this is what the ATM looked like:

I think that the third graders who wrote the software for this ATM have a memory leak in their code. I must have happened to come upon the machine just as it was completely out of resources. You would think a bank, of all places, would use something a little more professional than Windows XP and Internet Explorer for their ATM software.


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