Happy Birthday Computer Bugs!


On this date in 1947, the operators of the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator removed a moth that was blocking a relay. While the term “bug” had been in use in engineering circles for quite a while before then, this was the first known incident of an actual bug causing a computer to malfunction. The operators preserved the bug in their log, which you can see in the photo below.

Computer Bug (Public Domain: US Navy)Computer Bug (Public Domain: US Navy)

Computer Bug (Public Domain: US Navy)

To celebrate this famous event, read up on some famous bugs in computing history.

1988 The Morris internet worm, the first widespread worm, shuts down thousands of Internet-connected computers due to a programming error on the part of Robert Morris. Morris was attempting to map the internet, but an error caused the worm to crash the computers it connected to instead.

1993 The Denver Airport’s automatic luggage handling system fails to launch on time, leading to its eventual full shutdown in 2005. The failure of the software led to a lot of deep thought on how software is created.

2003 Northeast Blackout, caused in part by a race condition in the control room software, but also due to cascading failures in multiple systems.

You can read about more famous bugs in this 2005 Wired story. My favorite site for non-famous bugs is The Daily WTF. Got a favorite historical bug or a bug story of your own? Share it in the comments!

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