Why is it called a computer bug?

The bug, an error in the source code of a program, is a term that began to be used in computer science since 1947

Bug, you've probably heard its name several times. The less young will remember when, at the turn of the 31st of December 1999 and the first of January 2000, the world was left with bated breath because of what was called the Millennium Bug. But what is a bug?

It is an error made during the writing of a program. A mistake that then ends up alternating the correct operation of a software or a hardware component. A bug can not only limit the operations of a device, but in the most serious cases it can crash the machine completely. There are different types of bugs, of course. Some of them can be solved simply by an update. That's why it's necessary, as many cybersecurity experts recommend, to download the latest updates. Hackers are adept at finding a bug and using it to target victims' devices.

The origin of the term

We've explained in broad strokes what a bug is. But why is it called that? Those who know English know very well that bug is a word that literally means little bug. The term in computer science began to be used precisely because of an insect. In 1947 Grace Hopper, then a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, was trying to figure out why the Mark II, an electromechanical computer, didn't work. Upon disassembling the computer, Hopper realized that the cause of the failure was a moth. The insect had gotten stuck in the circuits, preventing the Mark II from working properly.

The U.S. admiral wrote in his work diary, it was September 9, 1947, "First actual case of bug being found", pasting the moth on the diary.

And so it was that the phrase began to be used to indicate a computer error. Hopper, however, was not the first to use the term to indicate a technical failure.

In 1878 Thomas Alva Edison, the famous American inventor, in a letter spoke of the bugs to describe the defects that occurred during his inventions.

From the bug derives also another term, always used in the computer field: debugging. Debugging is a process by which developers, after writing a program, check the source code for errors.