The invention of the term is often erroneously attributed to Grace Hopper
, who publicized the cause of a malfunction in an early electromechanical computer.
A typical version of the story is given by this quote:
“ In 1946, when Hopper was released from active duty, she joined the Harvard Faculty at the Computation Laboratory where she continued her work on the Mark II and Mark III. Operators traced an error in the Mark II to a moth trapped in a relay, coining the term bug
. This bug was carefully removed and taped to the log book September 9th
. Stemming from the first bug, today we call errors or glitch's [sic]
in a program a bug
” Hopper was not actually the one who found the insect, as she readily acknowledged. And the date was September 9
, but in 1947, not 1945.
The operators who did find it (including William "Bill" Burke, later of the Naval Weapons Laboratory, Dahlgren Va.),
were familiar with the engineering term and, amused, kept the insect with the notation "First actual case of bug being found." Hopper loved to recount the story.
While it is certain that the Mark II
operators did not coin the term "bug", it has been suggested that they did coin the related term, "debug
". Even this is unlikely, since the Oxford English Dictionary
entry for "debug" contains a use of "debugging" in the context of airplane engines in 1945 (see the debugging
article for more).