Friday, September 08, 2006

The ABCs of Product Serial Numbers!

There’s a lot of buzz right now about how people are RECHECKING their battery serial numbers at the Dell web site and discovering, after changing zeroes to “ohs” and ones to “ells” (or vice versa) that their battery IS a fire hazard. (I’ve rechecked my batteries for ohs and zeroes but I still have to recheck AGAIN for ones and ells.) In discussing this matter - here’s an example - everyone seems to assume that figuring out what’s a digit and what’s a letter is OUR problem. That infuriates me! It’s Dell and Sony’s problem. Here are the ABCs of product serial numbers, which both companies seem to have blithely ignored:

  1. If serial numbers must use all ten digits, they must NEVER use ells, esses and ohs. Period.

  2. If companies stupidly persist in ignoring rule one above, then serial numbers must be set up so that each character, by position, HAS to be a digit or a letter. That way a data entry program that validates serial numbers can prevent you from entering the wrong symbol. (E.g.: “The third character MUST be a letter. You entered a digit. Please correct this character.”)

  3. If companies astoundingly persist in ignoring rules one and two above, their programs that search the data base of serial numbers should automatically search for all possibilities! For example if I enter 012345, they should search for 012345, O12345, 0l2345, Ol2345, 01234S, O1234S, 0l234S and Ol234S. (See how hard it is to tell them apart?)

  4. If companies dumbheadedly persist in ignoring rules one, two and three above, they can still go to great lengths to make sure we know how to distinguish these symbols in the serial number before we type something in.

NOTE: Currently at the Dell battery web site, they provide this wonderful advice:
Common errors include distinguishing between alphanumeric characters:
· letter "O" from the number "0"
· letter "S" from the number "5"
· letter "l" from the number "1"

They then leave it to you to guess how many times you’ll have to re-enter your serial number to rule out all the possibilities. Gee thanks!

Dell and Sony YOU figure out how to save us from zero/oh/one/ell/ess/five confusion. You made this mess, you clean it up!

(The Precision Blogger will now resume his scheduled hiatus. Sorry, but this topical issue was too important to ignore.)

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