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Christian Paez
Christian Paez

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Why are Software bugs named bugs?

The use of the term "bug" to describe problems with software is now common and is used in both technical and non-technical contexts. What are the origins of the term?, Does it refer to a real insect?, Let's check some historical facts.

Thomas Edison

The term "bug" in software is derived from the term "bug" in insects. The first recorded use of the term "bug" to describe a problem with a machine was in 1878, when Thomas Edison used it to describe a problem with one of his phonographs.

Radio Engineering

The term "bug" was also used to describe problems with mechanical devices in the early days of radio. In an article in the Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers in June of 1920, E. J. Stone described a problem with a receiver caused by a "bug" in the wiring.

Grace Hopper

In 1946, when Hopper was working on the electromechanical computer Harvard Mark II, operators traced an error to a moth rapped in a relay, coining the term "bug". This bug was carefully removed and taped to the log book. This log book, complete with attached moth, is part of the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (See image below).

Original page of the Mark II log book.

John McCarthy

In an article in the Harvard University Computing Center Newsletter in October of 1947, John McCarthy, the father of artificial intelligence, described a problem with a computer program as a "bug."

Hopefully, these historical facts remind you that software terminology is interesting because it is ever-changing and constantly evolving. As new software is created, new terminology is born.

Check out this post in the Art Of Code:

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