brittle

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brittle

(jargon)
Said of software that is functional but easily broken by changes in operating environment or configuration, or by any minor tweak to the software itself. Also, any system that responds inappropriately and disastrously to abnormal but expected external stimuli; e.g. a file system that is usually totally scrambled by a power failure is said to be brittle. This term is often used to describe the results of a research effort that were never intended to be robust, but it can be applied to commercially developed software, which displays the quality far more often than it ought to.

Opposite of robust.
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brittle

1. Descriptive of a material which fractures under low stress without appreciable deformation.
2. Descriptive of a paint film unable to withstand stretching or scratching without breaking or becoming otherwise deformed.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

software brittleness

Old software that has been patched so many times that even small changes to the source code make the program fail. The term stems from metal that has been worked and reworked so often that it becomes brittle.

The term may also refer to software that was designed with very little error checking or a rigid set of assumptions that are no longer valid. In such cases, variations of input may cause the program to crash. See patch and spaghetti code.
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