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The Trombone ForumHorns, Gear, and EquipmentTechnology(Moderator: john sandhagen) The computer bug is 70 years old
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robcat2075

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« on: Sep 09, 2017, 08:11AM »

Today is the 70th anniversary of the original computer "bug", found in the Harvard Mark II on September 9, 1947.

"Bug" had been in use for decades as a label for a malfunction or design flaw in a complex device, so it was with amusement that the computing team found their problem that day was an actual bug, squashed in a mechanical relay. Duly noted and logged...


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« Reply #1 on: Sep 09, 2017, 08:34AM »

I didn't know anything about this, thank you for sharing!  Good!
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BGuttman
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« Reply #2 on: Sep 09, 2017, 09:26AM »

It's a piece of computer folklore.  The term "bug" came about because an actual insect caused the program malfunction.  Since then problems in computer programs have been called "bugs".

Point of pedantry: a moth is not a bug in the entomological sense, but it is an insect, as is a bug.
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #3 on: Sep 09, 2017, 09:59AM »


More interesting than the moth itself is the story of Grace Hopper, the person who logged the moth's discovery and one of the brighter luminaries in the history of computing (those of you who were lucky enough to hear Admiral Hopper speak in the '70s probably still have one of the "nanoseconds" she passed out; I still have mine.)  And just for sake of completeness it looks like it was Thomas Edison who first used the term "bug" in an engineering context.
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BGuttman
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« Reply #4 on: Sep 09, 2017, 10:11AM »

Is that a piece of wire just under a foot long (it takes an electrical impulse one nanosecond to traverse that wire)?
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« Reply #5 on: Sep 09, 2017, 02:22PM »


Exactly, except with radio waves.  She was often asked by military brass, politicians, and bureaucrats why it took so long for signals to propagate through a satellite, so when she spoke she'd pass out the short lengths of wire to everyone in the audience and explain, "It's because there are so many nanoseconds between here and the satellite."
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BGuttman
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« Reply #6 on: Sep 09, 2017, 02:34PM »

It's a nice way to get a point across.  Much better than saying, for example, that it's one millisecond from New York to Baltimore (about 186 miles).  In fact, given the altitude of the Space Station it's one millisecond up and one more down.
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« Reply #7 on: Sep 09, 2017, 03:10PM »

---snip---
Point of pedantry: a moth is not a bug in the entomological sense, but it is an insect, as is a bug.

Kudos to a chemist from a biologist for rectifying this.   Good!

But does anyone care?  Yeah, RIGHT.
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BGuttman
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« Reply #8 on: Sep 09, 2017, 03:52PM »

Who cares?  Indeed.  That's why it's a point of Pedantry.

When I was young I was a Nature Counselor at a summer camp.  One of the easiest (and most rewarding) things was to capture and identify various insects.  Too many kids would see something crawling and say "Ooh, a bug -- SQUASH IT".  But after a while I taught them that some insects, like bees and lady beetles, were useful in controlling more annoying insects.  And that moths and butterflies had pretty wings (at least some of them).  And that while both a grasshopper and a mosquito were insects, they came from different insect families.

My interest in things insecta came in handy when I worked for a company that made a mosquito trap.  I was able to understand how it worked and knew the characteristics of the beast we were hunting.
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« Reply #9 on: Sep 21, 2017, 11:26AM »

But, how old is the quine?

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Tim Richardson
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