From Whence Came the Term 'Bug?' You'll Be Surprised, Too
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
These photos and text excerpts are from the
U.S. Navy website
(public domain content)
Grace M. Hopper, USNR,
Special Assistant to the Commander, Naval Data Automation Command.
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
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"
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.
Posted August 29, 2013