Why a 'bug' in computer software is called a 'bug'?

Why a ‘bug’ in computer software is called a ‘bug’?

  • Wisdom
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All of us here are familiar with the word “bug” which is the most frustrating thing for a programmer. “Bug” is present in all sites, apps, software, and hardware which are prone to some form of glitch or breakage.

A software “bug” is an error, flaw 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 term “bug” was used in an account by computer pioneer, Grace Hopper, who publicized the cause of a malfunction in an early electromechanical computer.

On September 9, 1947, Harvard’s Mark II Aiken Relay computer was malfunctioning. After rooting through the massive machine to find the cause of the problem, Admiral Grace Hopper, who worked in the Navy’s engineering program at Harvard, found the bug. It was an actual insect. It is a kind of moth that runs into the computer and causes malfunction which is known as ‘bugging‘. The incident is recorded in Hopper’s logbook alongside the offending moth, taped to the logbook page:

“15:45 Relay #70 Panel F (moth) in relay. The first actual case of bug being found.”

The sources of technical glitches — a death moth attached to the paper by Grace Hopper

Spreading the term

Thomas A. Edison plays a vital role in spreading the term “bug”. Edison has a frequent appearance of the term in his notebooks according to the Edison Biography. By 1878, Edison was using the term to describe technical problems to associates outside of the laboratory. In March he joked in a letter to Western Union President William Orton:

“You were partly correct, I did find a ‘bug’ in my apparatus, but it was not in the telephone proper. It was of the genus ‘callbellum.’ The insect appears to find conditions for its existence in all call apparatus of Telephones.”

Definition of the term

In 1892, William Maver and engineer Thomas Sloane standardized Edison’s terms in his 1892 Standard Electrical Dictionary. He defined a bug as “any fault or trouble in the connections or working of electric apparatus,” with a bug trap being a “connection or arrangement for overcoming”

In 1895, Standard Dictionary of the English Language gave the term to the general public as “a fault in the working of a quadruplex system or any electrical apparatus.”

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