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From Whence Came the Term 'Bug?' You'll Be Surprised, Too

From Whence Came the Term 'Bug?' You'll Be Surprised, Too - RF CafeIt was one of those, "Well, huh!," moments for me when I read in a story from the IEEE that claims the first recorded use of the term 'bug' in reference to a problem in hardware was not by U.S. Navy Admiral Grace Hopper and her colleagues, as popular belief (including mine) goes. Their finding of a dead moth - a 'bug' - in a Harvard University computer is legend, but evidently was not the first known instance. Instead, it was none other than Thomas Edison who may have originally used the term. Before you go accusing the respected Institution of waging a War on Women (a popular indictment of convenience these days) for denying credit where credit is due, nobody is implying that she purloined Mr. Edison's term. According to researcher Dr. Paul Israel, editor of the The Papers of Thomas A. Edison, and the IEEE History Center, Edison regularly referred to technical problems as bugs. "In 1873 Edison first confronted what he later called a bug when he began developing a quadruplex telegraph system to transmit and receive up to four separate telegrams on a single wire simultaneously." Edison even devised what he called 'bug traps' to isolate troublesome portions of circuits and mechanisms. Read the full story here.

These photos and text excerpts are from the U.S. Navy website (public domain content)

Commodore Grace M. Hopper, USNR (U.S. Navy photo) - RF CafeCommodore Grace M. Hopper, USNR,
Special Assistant to the Commander, Naval Data Automation Command.

Speaking during groundbreaking ceremonies for the Grace M. Hopper Regional Data Automation Center, at Naval Air Station, North Island, California, 27 September 1985.
Photographed by PH2 Michael Flynn.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC.



The First "Computer Bug" (U.S. Navy photo) - RF CafeThe First "Computer Bug"

Moth found trapped between points at Relay # 70, Panel F, of the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator while it was being tested at Harvard University, 9 September 1947. The operators affixed the moth to the computer log, with the entry: "First actual case of bug being found". They put out the word that they had "debugged" the machine.
In 1988, the log, with the moth still taped by the entry, was in the Naval Surface Warfare Center Computer Museum at Dahlgren, Virginia.

Courtesy of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, VA., 1988.

NHHC Collection




Posted August 29, 2013
 
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