Kevin Lynch Archives

contact: contact

February 10, 2003

First computer bug

The first bug causing a computer error was found by Grace Hopper's team in 1945 using Harvard University's Mark II computer.

10 Feb 03 11:20 AM


Jakob Nielsen says:

I think this was actually a *hardware* bug, not a software bug: a moth in the relay made the machine compute erroneously.

Posted by: Jakob Nielsen on 10 Feb 03 01:49 PM

Kevin Lynch says:

Ah, yes -- the software was misbehaving, but it was a hardware bug -- I'll update the post :)

We had a similar problem at General Magic, where there was an intermittent failure which was incredibly difficult to track down. Eventually, it was determined to be a flaw on the prototype circuit boards caused by a little *mold* at the manufacturing facility!

Also, the term bug apparently goes back to Edison's time, when he used it to refer to design defects in his inventions, perhaps originating even centuries before that.

Posted by: Kevin Lynch on 10 Feb 03 02:05 PM

mark says:

AIUI, the bugs causing hardware errors caused much amusement: here was a literal bug to complement the metaphorical bugs they'd had to deal with in the past.

As you said, the term bug goes back at least as far as Edison. It may've had something to do with the word "bugbear", but that's just a guess.

This comment pieced together from vague memory and educated guesses; take it for what it's worth.

Posted by: mark on 11 Feb 03 09:39 AM

Raymond Pirouz says:

Cool! It's too bad today's "bugs" are less easily discovered and eradicated.


Posted by: Raymond Pirouz on 13 Feb 03 03:37 PM

buscadores says:

it's sure the bug cames from the hardware

Posted by: buscadores on 14 Mar 03 09:46 AM

Diseņo web says:

"While trying to repair the Mark I she discovered a moth caught in a relay. She taped the moth in the log book and from that coined the phrase 'a bug in the computer'."

Curious anecdote

Posted by: Diseņo web on 16 Mar 03 08:48 AM

Gerald says:

Hey, that's interesting, Jacob Nielsen himself reads and writes to this blog. Would be nice if he would add a blog to, that would be a great chance to give feedback and make controversial discussions.

Posted by: Gerald on 27 Mar 03 02:17 AM

Delphi says:

Alas, a bug!

Posted by: Delphi on 14 May 03 01:28 PM

Fondos says:

Why bug.... :)

Posted by: Fondos on 15 Jun 03 07:08 AM

Tina says:

nice site you have! bookmarked it and hope you keep it up! cu

Posted by: Tina on 11 Oct 03 04:44 AM

Comments on this entry are now closed

You can of course make comments in your own blog, and Trackback continues to be available to reference your post here.