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Issue No.04 - October-December (1998 vol.20)
pp: 5-9
ABSTRACT
<p>From at least the time of Thomas Edison, U.S. engineers have used the word "bug" to refer to flaws in the systems they developed. This short word conveniently covered a multitude of possible problems. It also suggested that difficulties were small and could be easily corrected. IBM engineers who installed the ASSC Mark I at Harvard University in 1944 taught the phrase to the staff there. Grace Murray Hopper used the word with particular enthusiasm in documents relating to her work. In 1947, when technicians building the Mark II computer at Harvard discovered a moth in one of the relays, they saved it as the first actual case of a bug being found. In the early 1950s, the terms "bug" and "debug," as applied to computers and computer programs, began to appear not only in computer documentation but even in the popular press.</p>
CITATION
Peggy Aldrich Kidwell, "Stalking the Elusive Computer Bug", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol.20, no. 4, pp. 5-9, October-December 1998, doi:10.1109/85.728224
REFERENCES
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6. J.H. Palmer, "The First Bug—Discussion," Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 360-361, 1991,
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8. On the history of the Oxford English Dictionary, see K.M.E. Murray, Caught in the Web of Words: James A.H. Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary.New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, 1977.
9. John Willinsky has done a computerized search of the citations in various editions of the OED to find out which sources were used and which were ig nored. See J. Willinsky, Empire of Words: The Reign of the OED.Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1994.
10. R.W. Burchfield, ed., A Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary, vol. 1. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1972, p. 377.
11. F.R. Shapiro, "'The First Bug' Examined," Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 6, no. 2, p. 164, 1984.
12. S. Clapin, A New Dictionary of Americanisms.Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1968, p. 80. (This is a reprint of the 1902 edition.) W.A. Craigie and J.R. Hulbert, Dictionary of American English on Historical Principles, vol. 1. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1938, p. 343-344.)
13. I.K. Funk et al., eds., A Standard Dictionary of the English Language. . ., vol. 1. New York: Funk&Wagnalls, 1895, pp. iii, 248.
14. W.A. Neilson et al., eds., Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd ed. Springfield, Mass.: G.&C. Merriam Co., 1938, p. 350.
15. R. Rattlepate, "The New Office—The Force and Its Aspirations—Chief Chase After a 'Bug,'" Operator, vol. 3, Aug.15 1875, pp. 7-8.
16. On the history of Edison's "bug trap," see R.V. Jenkins et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas A. Edison, vol. 2. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1991.
17. John Lord quoted this passage in a letter to Byte magazine of July 1984. His letter was republished, with discussion, by Henry S. Tropp in a note entitled, "Whence the 'Bug,'" Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 341-342, 1988.
18. For a discussion of early uses of the term "bug," see F.R. Shapiro, "Etymology of the Computer Bug: History and Folklore," Am. Speech, vol. 62, pp. 376-378, 1987. On Edison and the electric light, see R. Friedel and P. Israel with B. Finn, Edison's Electric Light: Biography of an Invention. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1985. Edison made no claim to have coined this use of the word "bug." Skimming prior volumes of a magazine for telegraphers called The Telegrapher, I found no earlier examples of use of the word in this sense. Any citations would be welcome.
19. I.B. Cohen, "The Use of 'Bug' in Computing," Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 16, pp. 54-55, 1994.
20. "Operating Instructions Problem L—Determination of Which Machine Function Is Causing Trouble: A Debugging Note to Operators," Box 2, Grace Murray Hopper Papers, Collection 324, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
21. "Problem L," Box 6, Hopper Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
22. G.M. Hopper Drawings of Computer Bugs, Box 6, Hopper Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
23. Harvard University, The Staff of the Computation Laboratory, "Description of a Relay Calculator," Annals of the Computation Laboratory of Harvard Univ., vol. 24, 1949. This volume describes the Mark II, with extensive illustrations.
24. R. Serrell et al., "Standards on Electronic Computers: Definitions of Terms," Proc. I.R.E., vol. 39, pp. 271-277, 1951.
25. E.C. Berkeley, "Glossary of Terms in the Field of Computing Machinery," Computers and Automation, vol. 2, no. 4, p. 18, May 1953.
26. G.M. Hopper, "A Glossary of Computer Terminology," Computers and Automation, vol. 3, no. 5, p. 16, May 1954.
27. "Service Routines. . .,"12 Jan. 1953, Box 3, G. Goldstein Papers, Collection 554, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
28. Association for Computing Machinery, Committee on Nomenclature, Report to the Association for Computing Machinery: First Glossary of Computing Terminology.Washington, D.C.: Association for Computing Machinery, 1954, p. 7.
29. Association for Computing Machinery, Sub-Committee on Programming Termi nology, ACM Glossary of Terms in the Computer and Information Processing Field.Washington, D.C.: Association for Computing Machinery, 1962, pp. 10, 25.
30. George Lichty Cartoon, Box 6, Hopper Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
31. For a general discussion of the purposes served by slang, see E. Partridge, Slang To-Day and Yesterday With a Short Historical Sketch; and Vocabularies of English, American, and Australian Slang, 3rd ed. London: Routledge&Kegan Paul Ltd., 1950, pp. 6-7.
32. M. Campbell-Kelly, "The Airy Tape: An Early Chapter in the History of Debugging," Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 16-26, 1992.
33. Accounts of the error in the divide unit of early versions of the Pentium chip are still found largely on sites on the World Wide Web. For one discussion, see T.R. Halfhill, "The Truth Behind the Pentium Bug," Byte, Mar. 1995.
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