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On This Day… A Bug In The System!

Written by: George Chittenden : 31 May 2019

It was on this day, 9th Sept, back in 1945 when U.S. Navy officer Grace Hopper found a moth between the relays on the Harvard Mark II computer she was working on, reported it and supposedly created the term ‘bug’. Back in those days computers were huge and took up most of the space in an entire room. The heat generated by the computer’s internal components attracted moths, flies and other bugs. These actual bugs shortened circuits and caused the computer to malfunction. So, this is where the term computer bug comes from, right? Wrong I’m afraid. History just isn’t that convenient.

U.S. Navy officer Grace Hopper

U.S. Navy officer Grace Hopper

So, several points are true, such as the actual log entry on this day and the fact that an actual moth was found inside the Harvard Mark II, and Grace Hopper certainly talked about the moth in the relay, however she did not make the discovery or write the log entry. Another factor is the fact that Harvard's Mark II wasn’t operational until summer of 1947, two years after the date attributed to this story.

The report which supposedly created the term ‘bug’

The report which supposedly created the term ‘bug’

On top of this why would the author of the note use the line… "First actual case of bug being found" if the term bug wasn’t already in common use. In truth engineers had been using the term ‘bugs’ for more than a century before the moth in the relay incident. Even Thomas Edison used the word. So, on this occasion let’s allow the truth to get in the way of a good story.

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