On This Day - September 9th

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A "computer bug" is an error, flaw, failure or fault in a computer program or system that causes it to produce an incorrect or unexpected result, or to behave in unintended ways. The process of fixing bugs is termed "debugging" and often uses formal techniques or tools to pinpoint bugs, and since the 1950's, some computer systems have been designed to also deter, detect or auto-correct various computer bugs during operations.

Most bugs arise from mistakes and errors made in either a program's source code or its design, or in components and operating systems used by such programs. A few are caused by compilers producing incorrect code. A program that contains a large number of bugs, and/or bugs that seriously interfere with its functionality, is said to be buggy (defective). Bugs can trigger errors that may have ripple effects. Bugs may have subtle effects or cause the program to crash or freeze the computer. Other bugs qualify as security bugs and might, for example, enable a malicious user to bypass access controls in order to obtain unauthorised privileges.

Some software bugs have been linked to disasters. Bugs in code that controls the Therac-25 radiation therapy machine were directly responsible for patient deaths in the 1980s. In 1996, the European Space Agency's US$1 billion prototype Ariane 5 rocket had to be destroyed less than a minute after launch due to a bug in the on-board guidance computer program.

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In June 1994, a Royal Air Force Chinook helicopter crashed into the Mull of Kintyre, killing 29. This was initially dismissed as pilot error, but an investigation by Computer Weekly convinced a House of Lords inquiry that it may have been caused by a software bug in the aircraft's engine-control computer.

In 2002, a study commissioned by the US Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology concluded that "software bugs, or errors, are so prevalent and so detrimental that they cost the US economy an estimated $59 billion annually, or about 0.6 percent of the gross domestic product".

Most of us are familiar with the day-to-day therm that a 'computer bug' has become, but how did the term come about?

Find out here...

On September 9th 1947, at the Harvard Faculty Computation Laboratory, operators traced an error in their Mark II computer to a moth trapped in a relay, coining the term bug. This bug was carefully removed and taped to the log book.

computer-bug