[Ads-l] Grace Murray Hopper Honored by Yale

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Sun Feb 12 20:44:26 EST 2017

On Sunday, 12 Feb 2017 at 23:28:58 Zone + 0000 "Shapiro, Fred" <fred.shapiro at yale.edu> wrote:

>I was the first to really question the Hopper/moth myth, in several articles beginning in the 1980s.  The definitive citations are given by >Peggy Kidwell in an article in the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing.  I believe she traced "debugging" back to 1944.

I included the argument that the logbook entry required the prior existence of the term "bug" because, to the best of my recollection, nobody ever used that argument in the ADS-L list.

As for a pre-Hopper usage of "debugging":


gives a photocopy of a letter dated October 27, 1944 which includes the text:

"It was clear from your plans, and also from the reports from the visitors that all personnel that you now have is occupied in getting into operation and debugging, and certainly we must all regard this as the wisest use that can by made of our men."

I found this document by following footnote 2 of the Wikipedia article "Debugging" at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debugging

This may be the 1944 usage in the Peggy Kidwell article mentioned above, which is available to those with access to IEEE Digital Library at 

- Jim Landau

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of James A. Landau <JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM>
Sent: Sunday, February 12, 2017 6:16 PM
Subject: Re: Grace Murray Hopper Honored by Yale

On Sun, 12 Feb 2017 03:40:52 Zone + 0000 "Shapiro, Fred" <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU> wrote:


<snip>  But I am curious whether Hopper's principal claim to popular fame, the colorful but wholly erroneous claim that she coined the term "bug" for defects in computer hardware or software, will be repeated by the media or Yale in connection with the naming.


The log entry (see https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.wired.com_2013_12_googles-2Ddoodle-2Dhonors-2Dgrace-2Dhopper-2Dand-2Dentomology_&d=CwIGaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=NvsW-OhBbzxE92nK31T2wnmV21_Bx7bPCKzIsk5T4FQ&m=hyxZT5RC9uRyTcJTjcZdt0eZnwydk9AhUkflybrd_E8&s=ZZShkZv4cSEiZhOpWfRHxmdAzhMU02QRkDSyhSzS4Xw&e= )

Google Honors Grace Hopper…and a “bug”<https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.wired.com_2013_12_googles-2Ddoodle-2Dhonors-2Dgrace-2Dhopper-2Dand-2Dentomology_&d=CwIGaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=NvsW-OhBbzxE92nK31T2wnmV21_Bx7bPCKzIsk5T4FQ&m=hyxZT5RC9uRyTcJTjcZdt0eZnwydk9AhUkflybrd_E8&s=ZZShkZv4cSEiZhOpWfRHxmdAzhMU02QRkDSyhSzS4Xw&e=>
The December 9th, 2013 Google Doodle Honors Grace Hopper's 107th Birthday...and has an entomological surprise at the end!

reads “First actual case of bug being found”.

This strongly implies (if not proves) that the term "bug" for a technical problem was already in existence and widely known, and that this was the first actual case of a actual biological bug (in this case a moth) causing such a bug.

The above-quoted website also suggests that the term "debugging" was invented around this time, if not by Dr. Hopper.  Anyone have data?

- Jim Landau


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