Kurt Vonnegut & Destructive Testing

I’m reading Kurt Vonnegut’s fantastic Breakfast of Champions at the moment. It’s the kind of book you can sail through, and reading it feels like unboxing a load of toys.

About half way through (where I am now), he has one of the lead characters, a man called Dwayne, who is going crazy, tell a story of a Pontiac car manufacturer and their testing labs:

“We were given a tour of all the research facilities”, he said. The thing that impressed him most, he said, was a series of laboratories and out-of-doors test areas where various parts of automobiles and even entire automobiles were destroyed. Pontiac scientists set upholstery on fire, threw gravel at windshields, snapped crankshafts and driveshafts, staged head-on collisions, tore gearshift levers out by the roots, ran engines at high speeds with almost no lubrication, opened and closed glove compartment doors a hundred times a minute for days, cooled dashboard clocks to within a few degrees of absolute zero, and so on.

“Everything you’re not supposed to do to a car, they did to a car,” Dwayne said to Francine. “And I’ll never forget the sign on the front door of the building where all that torture went on.” Here was the sign Dwayne described to Francine:

© Kurt Vonnegut Jr 1973

The detailed list of destructions made me think about testing web apps like cars. So I had a Google for ‘destructive testing web’ and to be honest, apart from a research paper and a very expensive-looking testing suite. Not the glut I was expecting.

So, to any web app testers out there – what’s the word?


  1. Posted November 21, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    It’s a great book! I really like Kurt’s compressed reading: http://huffduffer.com/psd/8026

  2. DE
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    I remember Luke Heapwalker

  3. Mahemoff
    Posted November 28, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    The search you want is “stress testing”.

  4. Martin Budden
    Posted December 14, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    You may also want to check out “fuzzing” or “fuzz testing”.