Where Did Computer Bug, Debugged Computer Virus and Other Terms Come From?

Posted by Bhavesh Joshi On Saturday, May 19, 2012 0 comments
Where Did Computer Bug, Debugged Computer Virus and Other Terms Come From?
Where did the terms computer bug and debugged come from? On September 9th, 1947 a woman, Grace Hopper, was working on a computer at Harvard University. The computer was one if those main frame computers that were very large. It was called the Mark II Aiken Relay Computer. When the computer stopped working, she began to investigate the problem. After removing one of the panels she found a moth caught between two relay points.

When she removed the moth and put the panel back in place, the computer functioned properly again. Grace reported that the computer was debugged. The terms computer bug and debugged remain in use today.

Computer Virus

Scientific American reports the history for the term "computer virus" comes from two separate origins. The first person to come up with the idea of a computer virus was John Von Newman. He wrote an article about computers being able to reproduce. The title of this paper was called "Theory and Organization of Complicated Automata".

Later, during the 1950s computer programmers at Bell Labs took Von Newman's idea and invented a computer game called "Code Wars". In this game, bits of software called "organisms" would be sent to the player's computers. The object of "code Wars" was for the organisms to gain control of the opponent's computer.

In 1986, Fred Cohen discovered the first mathematical algorithm for a computer virus. It was with this algorithm that a computer virus could be replicated. Cohen wrote his PhD thesis on this subject.

Trojan Horse

Everyone remembers the story of the Trojan horse. It comes from the ancient tale from the Trojan War. The Greeks tricked the army of Troy by making them think the Greeks had fled by way of the sea.  However, the Greeks built a huge wooden horse that was hollow on the inside. Many of the Greek soldiers hid inside of the horse. When the Trojans thought they had run off the Greeks the pulled their wooden horse home to Troy as a trophy. We all know the end of that story.

The legend of the Trojan horse gave rise to the phrase being synonymous with tricking an enemy be inviting them into a safe place.

In computer language a Trojan horse is a bit if malware that seems harmless, but when introduced to a computer it causes damage to the computer's programs. The malware can completely shut down a computer and make it useless.


The term software was coined in 1958 by John Tukey. Computer software is a computer program that tells a computer what to do.


Malware is malicious software that is secretly downloaded into a computer. Once downloaded, the malware can take control of your computer.


In the early 1960s computer hackers came into being. They were mostly MIT students trying to gain entry into the main frame computers. The students warred with each other by sending computer codes to wipe out each other’s programs to gain control of their computers. Since then hackers have been getting smarter as programs become more sophisticated.

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