The World’s First Computer Bug

Jeff Glennon | April 5th, 2019

Not too long after World War II on September 9, 1947, the first ever documented report of a computer bug happened. Computer scientist Grace Hopper was monitoring her computer and reported that there was, in fact, a moth trapped inside her computer at Harvard University. So the first ever recorded computer bug was quite literally an actual bug.

This was the first computer bug, which in modern times generally means that there is a bug with the software, a glitch in the software or an actual fault with the hardware. Thomas Edison did actually identify and report bugs in his designs and creations as early as the 1800s. But the award for the first report of a computer bug goes to Grace Hopper.

And in Hopper’s case, it was an actual real-life bug. Her coworkers investigated her system at the Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts for her and noticed that it was constantly delivering errors and running into technical problems. They decided to check the actual computer’s hardware and then that is when they discovered a moth inside the tower.

The moth was trapped and the insect was being able to disrupt the actual electronics of the computer. Luckily this bug did not stop Hopper who went on to become one of the first supercomputer geeks: creating the first compiler for the programming language that went on to become COBOL. And the really cool thing was that during this scenario of an insect being trapped in her computer, was the first time anyone actually used the term debugging.

Debugging and bug management are now extremely important aspects of the computer science industry. So it pretty cool to think that debugging was created when a moth was taking out of a computer system. And today software bugs can have an effect on the functioning, safety and the actual security of the operating system.

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