by Dinesh Thakur

The B word. If something is wrong with a piece of software or hardware so that it stops working or destroys your data or just acts weird, the product is said to have a bug, or to be buggy. The term actually comes down to us from the real live crawling and flying bugs that used to get into those old giant-sized computers .


Computer folklore has it that the term was first coined in 1947 by Admiral Grace HOPPER (the pioneering programmer who commissioned COBOL) in joking reference to an incident where a moth trapped in relay contacts caused an early computer to malfunction. However, it is reported to have been in use, meaning a defect, in the 19th century in the early days of the electrical telegraph, and it may simply derive from the ancient word 'bugbear'.

Bugs are not your fault; they are malfunctions accidentally built into the hardware or software. Of course, it can be hard to know whether the problem you're facing is a bug or whether you're just doing something stupid. And occasionally a virus can make a program appear buggy. Bugs can be minor or major. Here's an example of a minor bug: In pageMaker version 4.0 you could search for the characters "f i" and replace them with the ligature "fi." But in the dialog box in which you do this, when you typed the key sequence for the ligature "fi," PageMaker displayed the ligature "fl" (although it replaced the characters with the proper ligature). This bug was fixed in pageMaker 4.2.

Bugs give beta testers their mission in life. Beta testers find and report the bugs in products that are under development so the bugs get exterminated (the item gets debugged) before we pay lots of money for the products. But almost always, some bugs are missed during the beta testing process, and they wind up in the version of the item that you buy anyway.