Have you ever wondered why we call software or hardware errors “bugs”? What a strange word to describe a mistake. Insects, though some may find them repellent, are among the most complex and perfectly adapted creatures on this planet. How can something that doesn’t work be compared with things that actually function better than most living organisms on Earth? The term has never made much sense to me even though I use it in one way or another at least once a week.
When I was a youngster in the 70’s, I imagined a horde of beetles eating their way through boxes of cardboard punch cards. As it turns out, my uninformed assumption wasn’t that far from the truth.
In the first of a three part series examining computer and software bugs, Wired Magazine contributor, Simson Garfinkel uncovers the first known computer bug, which technically speaking was actually a moth.
“… the ranks of the buggy computer — a club that began in 1945 when engineers found a moth in Panel F, Relay #70 of the Harvard Mark II system. The computer was running a test of its multiplier and adder when the engineers noticed something was wrong. The moth was trapped, removed and taped into the computer’s logbook with the words: “first actual case of a bug being found.'”
So there you go. Next time you are at a cocktail party and run out of things to say, the story of the moth and the Mark II is bound to impress and entertain.