Maybe it’s a little early to retire the paper. At least if the idea is to replace it with a household product in very critical tasks. The flight plan of commercial airline pilots, say. Because what if the media tablet be given by hanging? That is what happened on Tuesday night in the United States, where several dozen American Airlines flights were delayed by a software problem in the iPad that since 2013, replaced all paper to load a driver. In doing so, they did not have the team to be packed to the point of leaving the plane without a path. But so it is the computers, and we’ve all experienced their whims.

American Airlines

Information on what went wrong in American Airlines iPad yesterday was very diffuse. Apparently, an application (ie, not a problem in the tablet) or hung off the iPad. Some pilots had failed to resolve the problem before passengers boarding ended, but others had to return to the gate to connect to Wi-Fi so you can re-download and install the app. As expected, the accident spread quickly through social networks.

But the diagnosis was vague, as much as can be the phrase “a software problem” in a world where everything is controlled by software. Even the aircraft itself.

The difference is that the flight computer-and other operating on an aircraft or in our cars, including air conditioners or the elevators are not general purpose, unlike a laptop or iPad. Just do the tasks for which they have been programmed, and these programs are refined and tested until there is no possibility of failure.

Personal computers, smartphones and tablets are a type of creature very different. They are general purpose computers, that is, they can be installed and applications of many kinds without limit. It is sufficient that one of those applications should not do something for the system at risk of falling. As you know suffered many users, then the machine may simply refuse to start.

However, the temptation to use iPad or other tablets is great for airlines. Aside from the gloss obtained by replacing outdated textbooks with technology, fuel savings is significant. American Airlines got rid of 16 kilos of paper per aircraft when using the iPad, which represents a savings of $ 1.2 million per year in fuel. But outdated manuals never crash or run out of battery. On Tuesday it became clear that these benefits can be much more important than it seems.