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A bug in the machine

A bug in the machine

A bug in the machine

bug On this day in 1947 the Harvard Mark II electro-magnetic computer at Harvard University encountered a problem. It was found to be caused by a moth, which had inadvertently found its way into the machine and became trapped in one of the electro-magnetic relays (as a reminder, the poor creature was taped to that day’s entry in the log book). This was, by some, said to be the event that coined the phrase 'bug' to describe a computer malfunction; although the term bug was used to describe problems with RADAR in World War II, and as early as 1931 where a new pinball machine was heralded as being 'bug free'. Also, on this day in 1999, there were concerns that the date 9/9/99 would cause some computer programs to fail or even cease to work. The cause for this concern was that the date value 9999 was used to specify an unknown date and fear grew that computers would not recognise this date. 9999 was also used as the end-of-file code in some old computer programs and it was thought this may stop some programs from functioning altogether! Thankfully, these fears were unfounded, as was the Millennium bug a few months later, which caused world-wide panic but had virtually no impact.

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Community Gaffer
The millennium bug had loads of impact on the wallets of thousands of fortran programmers to fix it... Although perhaps all that money spent prevented the impact... who can say?
Superuser
I think the videos of the millennium bug causing lifts to crash to the floor in flames were rather OTT. However lots of decrepit hardware was replaced which alongside updated operating systems provided support for 4-digit dates and non-eventful transition to year 2000. Adapting applications to make use of more precise dates took time, but overall the job got done.
Community Veteran
Ahh the millennium bug. I remember so much talk about it, although at that point I didn't actually have a computer so it didn't affect me much! (Ironically I got my first computer in January 2000 if I recall correctly… from Argos of all places.) P.S. It's good to see something other than Plusnet back-patting appearing on the Community. Smiley
Not applicable
I was one of those 'lucky' FOTRAN programmers. We spent weeks pouring over millions of lines of FORTRAN. We found many problem areas which we fixed. We also spent night shifts monitoring the production runs ensuring there were no problems during that period. There were none, thank goodness. If we had done nothing there would have been hell to pay.