We've Got Roaches

We've Got Roaches

The term "computer bugs" arose earlier in the century when insects were discovered to be the cause of malfunctions in the relays used in very early computers. In some cases, the bugs would induce a short-circuit by getting caught in the mechanical relay contacts and would have to be removed manually. As progress would have it, we must now deal with silicon insects as evidenced by the photomicrograph of a roach that we captured scurrying across the surface of a Hewlett-Packard CPU support chip. So far, this is the only silicon bug we have found, but we're keeping our eyes peeled.

The photograph below contains a page from the 1945 logbook of the Mark I computer at Harvard University, one of the first computers ever built. Engineer Grace Murray Hopper and her associates were testing the Mark I one day when the machine suddenly stopped. Upon inspection, they found a fried moth that had become wedged into one of the relays, causing a short circuit and halting the computer. Hopper taped the bug into her logbook (illustrated below), and we have been referring to computer glitches as "bugs" ever since.

We've Got Roaches

The Hewlett-Packard integrated circuit featuring this tiny silicon rendition of a cockroach was donated to us by HP chip designer Craig Robson, who designed the artwork.


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