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Why is an error on a computer called a bug?

Was there a bug caused by an insect, or did someone just give it that name like a computer mouse or spam e-mail?

4654 day(s) ago

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The term "bug" was around to describe engineering problems long before electronic computers had been invented. Edison talked about having to work the bugs out of his designs in a letter he wrote in the late 1870s and by WWII it had become a commonly used term by radar technicians.

However, there was a computer bug caused by a real insect. In 1947 the Harvard Mark II electromechanical computer had an error, prompting the scientists using it to inspect its hardware. It turned out the "bug" was caused by a dead moth stuck in one of the relays. Finding this funny, one of the people working on the Mark II taped the moth to the project's log book with the note "First actual case of bug being found." The story was popularized by one of the scientists working on the project, Navy officer Grace Hopper.* Sometimes the discovery of the moth is erroneously attributed to her.

The log book with the moth is currently on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

*While she didn't discover the moth, Rear Admiral Hopper is notable for inventing the first compiler and helping create the first English-like programming language, COBOL.

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