Tuesday, September 10, 2013

History: Computer Bug

Yesterday, an interesting little bit popped up on my "This Day in US Navy History" feed.  Most everyone here has probably heard the name Admiral Grace Hopper.

She was not only the first programmer of the Navy's Mark I computer, not only the first recipient of Data Processing Management Associations "Man of the Year" award, not only the first woman to be awarded a PhD in Mathematics from Yale University...

But did you know that she was the first...

The first to discover the aptly named ... computer bug?
In May 1944 the machine was turned over to the Navy for the duration of the war and became an official unit of the Bureau of Ships under Aiken’s command. By August the Mark I was in full operation with a large staff of Navy personnel, including a number of officers, among them Grace Hopper and Richard Bloch, who became the chief programmer. There was a funny story, that namely Grace Hopper found the first computer "bug": a dead moth (see the lower photo of notes from Hopper) that had gotten into the Mark I and whose wings were blocking the reading of the holes in the paper tape. The word "bug" had been used to describe a defect since at least 1889 but Hopper is credited with coining the word "debugging" to describe the work to eliminate program faults.1

And when did all this happen, 09 September of 1945.  That little moth might very well be the most hated moth in the history of moths.

Image: Author
1 http://www.history.navy.mil/bios/hopper_grace.htm

1 comment:

  1. That logbook entry dates from September 9, 1947, actually, not 1945.