Read how a person named Jennifer Null can break the computers
Names like I.P. Freely and Huge Jass were once upon a time considered to be one of the worst names that one could have. Thanks to the life we live on the internet, all that has changed in the recent years.
A BBC story gazes into some names that one would wish not to have in our hyper connected world, and a name that stands out in that list is of a woman in Virginia named Jennifer. Her full name is Jennifer Null:
When Jennifer Null tries to buy a plane ticket, she gets an error message on most websites. The site will say she has left the surname field blank and ask her to try again.
Instead, she has to call the airline company by phone to book a ticket – but that’s not the end of the process.
“I’ve been asked why I’m calling and when I try to explain the situation, I’ve been told, ‘there’s no way that’s true’,” she says.
For any programmer, it’s painfully easy to see why “Null” could cause problems for a database. By definition, ‘null’ means nothing, or zero – and this carries over to the language of computer programming. While some websites will accept the name, others will show the user an error message, explaining that the last name field cannot be left blank or that the word is a ‘reserved term’ which cannot be used. Time and again, system administrators have to try and fix the problem for people who are actually named “Null” – but the issue is rare and sometimes surprisingly difficult to solve.
For instance, Null has had trouble entering her details into a government tax website as well getting her utility bill set up. To make things worse, this is not even her maiden name. Null willingly put herself into this situation when she decided to take her husband’s last name after marriage.
Null was working as an on-call substitute teacher before the birth of her child. In that role, she could be notified of work via phone or through an online service. However, the website would never work for Null and she always had to arrange a shift by phone.
“I feel like I still have to do things the old-fashioned way,” she says.
“On one hand it’s frustrating for the times that we need it, but for the most part it’s like a fun anecdote to tell people,” she adds. “We joke about it a lot. It’s good for stories.”
Now, the Nulls have a child, who too would have to live with the last name forever.