Commodore Grace M. Hopper,
Special Assistant to the Commander, Naval Data Automation Command.
Speaking during groundbreaking ceremonies for the Grace M. Hopper Regional Data
Automation Center, at Naval Air Station, North Island, California, 27 September
Photographed by PH2 Michael Flynn.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC.
It was one of those, "Well, huh!," moments for me when I read in a story from
the IEEE that claims the first recorded use of the term 'bug' in reference to a
problem in hardware was not by U.S. Navy Admiral Grace Hopper and her colleagues,
as popular belief (including mine) goes. Their finding of a dead moth - a 'bug'
- in a Harvard University computer is legend, but evidently was not the first known
instance. Instead, it was none other than Thomas Edison who may have originally
used the term. Before you go accusing the respected Institution of waging a War
on Women (a popular indictment of convenience these days) for denying credit where
credit is due, nobody is implying that she purloined Mr. Edison's term. According
to researcher Dr. Paul Israel, editor of the
The Papers of Thomas
A. Edison, and the IEEE History Center, Edison regularly referred to technical
problems as bugs. "In 1873 Edison first confronted what he later called a bug when
he began developing a quadruplex telegraph system to transmit and receive up to
four separate telegrams on a single wire simultaneously." Edison even devised what
he called 'bug traps' to isolate troublesome portions of circuits and mechanisms.
Read the full story
These photos and text excerpts are from the
website (public domain content)
Moth found trapped between points at Relay # 70, Panel F, of the Mark II Aiken
Relay Calculator while it was being tested at Harvard University, 9 September 1947.
The operators affixed the moth to the computer log, with the entry: "First actual
case of bug being found". They put out the word that they had "debugged" the machine.
In 1988, the log, with the moth still taped by the entry, was in the Naval Surface
Warfare Center Computer Museum at Dahlgren, Virginia.
Courtesy of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, VA., 1988.
Posted August 29, 2013