On this day - September 9th

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bug

The first Computer bug

The Middle English word bugge is the basis for the terms "bugbear" and "bugaboo" as terms used for a monster.

The term "bug" to describe defects has been a part of engineering jargon since the 1870s and predates electronic computers and computer software.

The term "bug" was used in an account by computer pioneer Grace Hopper, who publicized the cause of a malfunction in an early electromechanical computer, known as a Harvard Mark II. Operators traced an error in the Mark II to a moth trapped in a relay, coining the term bug. This bug was carefully removed and taped to the log book. Stemming from the first bug, today we call errors or glitches in a program a bug.

The date in the log book was September 9, 1947. The operators who found it, including William "Bill" Burke, later of the Naval Weapons Laboratory, Dahlgren, Virginia, were familiar with the engineering term and amusedly kept the insect with the notation "First actual case of bug being found."

This log book, complete with attached moth, is part of the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

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