Abort, Retry, Fail

Subject: Abort, Retry, Fail
From: David Oberstadt <daveo -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 15 Apr 1994 11:25:54 PDT

These three words have stumped me more than once too. I noticed
different software will cause my computer to Abort or to Fail differently.
Perhaps this shows the programmers aren't even clear just what these
two words mean, or maybe it is an internal structure thing.

In any case, I think Retry is clear enough. Does anyone disagree?

I looked up Abort and Fail in my handy 1994 IBM Dictionary of
Computing (c). Here is what it has:

In data communications, a function invoked by a sending primary,
secondary, or combined station that causes the recipient to discard
and ignore all bit sequences transmitted by the sender since the
preceding flag sequences or to discard and ignore all data transmitted
by the sender since the previous checkpoint.

Failure (Fail is not listed, but this is close.)
(1) The termination of the ability of a functional unit to perform
its required function. Synonymous with malfunction.
(2) Contrast with error, fault, mistake.

What does this mean? I think Abort includes an implied Restore,
because it will ignore data that has already been sent. Fail
is a mystery, but probably does not include a Restore.

I always encourage meaningful messages that will not alarm, mystify,
frighten, or mislead people. My favorite system error I have received
was on a Mac running System 6. I forget the text, but remember the
icon--a bomb! Yes, a bomb with the fuse almost gone. The window had
just one button: OK. It rebooted the system.

David Oberstadt Santa Teresa Lab, San Jose
daveo -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com California

"Omit needless words."
Strunk & White, The Elements of Style

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