Production Test by Raymond F Jones appeared in the October 1949 issue of Astounding. It can be read here at Archive.org.
While I was excited to see a Raymond F. Jones story in this issue, Production Test was something of a let-down. Unlike his noir thriller, The Martian Circe, or his raygun epic The Jewels of Chamar, Production Test is ultimately a parable about the importance of User Acceptability Testing.
The screwdriver-wielding Bryan Kimberly has just developed the next generation in space suits. “Trim! Safe! Comfortable! Kimberly!” The marketing campaign is under way and the first batch has been deployed into the field Lunar Flightways’ ship Lunar Queen for her maiden voyage…
…when disaster strikes! The suits are all defective. Out in the field, the joints blow out, leaving the suits’ occupants stranded and helpless until a rescue operation can be mounted, because the Lunar Queen had switched out all older models for the new ones. To top it off, the occupants swear the suits are ‘haunted’, as they can hear a madness-inducing, barely audible howl while in them.
Impossible! Kimberly swears by his suits, which had all undergone thorough and rigorous testing… Forgoing his vacation to the lake, Kimberly sets out to determine what’s wrong with the suits himself, putting one on and hopping into the vacuum environment testing chamber, nearly getting himself killed in the process when his suit blows out.
Turns out the ghostly howling was caused by the changes in pressure in the suit when air passed through the valve system. The resonance frequency causes the micro-filaments of the springs shatter at operating temperatures. Nobody ever bothered to test the suits with a person inside it. All that rigorous testing? Unit testing. The engineers never actually bothered to test the components under actual operating conditions together.
As someone who has spent years working in software QA, I appreciated this story more than I might’ve otherwise, and being by Jones, it’s well-written and quick paced enough. If anything, it shows how well Jones could write to his audience. Dames & Daring for Planet Stories and Thinkery and Tinkery for Astounding.