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ATG Quirkies: The Bug in the Computer Bug Story

by | May 7, 2022 | 0 comments

The Bug in the Computer Bug Story appears in JSTOR Daily and is by Matthew Wills who has published in Poetry, Huffington Post, and Nature Conservancy Magazine, among other places, and blogs regularly about urban natural history at matthewwills.com.

The First Computer Bug

In 1947, engineers working on Harvard University’s Mark II computer found a bug gumming up the works—a moth had squeezed into one of the machine’s components. After extracting it, somebody taped it to the log book with the caption “first actual case of a bug being found.” That log book, with moth intact, is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History today. Scholar Fred R. Shapiro describes what supposedly happened next:

“The moth is said to have inspired the scientists to speak from then on of debugging the computer, with bug originating as the later back-formation from debug.”

So “debug” and “bug” were bits of computer slang that were eventually adopted by the larger culture. It’s a great story—but not very etymologically correct...”

Please click here to continue reading the original article in JSTOR Daily.


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