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Bug, river, E Europe, also known as Western Bug
Bug, river, Ukraine, also known as Southern Bug
bug, in zoology
bug, common name correctly applied to insects belonging to the order Hemiptera, although members of the order Homoptera (e.g., mealybug) are sometimes referred to as bugs, as are other insects in general. The true bugs (Hemipterans) have a characteristic pair of front wings that are partially thickened and darkened at the base and partially membranous at the apex. Development is gradual through an incomplete metamorphosis with a number of nymphal stages before the reproductively mature adult stage is reached. Most bugs are terrestrial, but many are aquatic (e.g., various water bugs).
Although bugs vary greatly in size, color, and physical appearance, they all have piercing-sucking mouthparts in the form of a jointed beak. Most species suck plant juices (e.g., the squash bug and chinch bug); however, some suck the blood of other insects and spiders (e.g., the assassin bug and backswimmer). Others, such as the bedbug, feed on people and other animals. Many of these insects characteristically secrete defensive substances (e.g., the stink bug). The true bugs are classified in the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Hemiptera.
or Zapadnyi Bug, a river in the USSR and Poland (marking the border over a considerable distance), right tributary of the Vistula. Length, 831 km; area of basin, 73,470 sq km.
The Bug rises in the Podol’e Upland in Lvov Oblast, Ukrainian SSR. It flows at the western edge of the Lublin Upland and Podlasie. It has high water during spring and autumn flooding, which is caused by rain. There are frequent winter floods caused by the thaw of snow. The water is highest in March and April and lowest usually in September. The river freezes in late December and the ice breaks in the second half of March. The most important tributaries are the Mukhavets River, which is linked by the Dnieper-Bug Canal with the Pina River (tributary of the Pripiat’) belonging to the Dnieper system, and the Narew River; the Biebrza River, a tributary of the Narew, is linked through the Netta River by the Augustów Canal with the Czarna Hancza River, which flows into the Neman River. The Bug is navigable up to a distance of 315 km from its mouth. The main cities on the Bug are Brest, Sokal’, Chervonograd, Kamenka-Bugskaia, and Busk.
Admiral Grace Hopper (an early computing pioneer better known for inventing COBOL) liked to tell a story in which a technician solved a glitch in the Harvard Mark II machine by pulling an actual insect out from between the contacts of one of its relays, and she subsequently promulgated bug in its hackish sense as a joke about the incident (though, as she was careful to admit, she was not there when it happened). For many years the logbook associated with the incident and the actual bug in question (a moth) sat in a display case at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC). The entire story, with a picture of the logbook and the moth taped into it, is recorded in the "Annals of the History of Computing", Vol. 3, No. 3 (July 1981), pp. 285--286.
The text of the log entry (from September 9, 1947), reads "1545 Relay #70 Panel F (moth) in relay. First actual case of bug being found". This wording establishes that the term was already in use at the time in its current specific sense - and Hopper herself reports that the term "bug" was regularly applied to problems in radar electronics during WWII.
Indeed, the use of "bug" to mean an industrial defect was already established in Thomas Edison's time, and a more specific and rather modern use can be found in an electrical handbook from 1896 ("Hawkin's New Catechism of Electricity", Theo. Audel & Co.) which says: "The term "bug" is used to a limited extent to designate any fault or trouble in the connections or working of electric apparatus." It further notes that the term is "said to have originated in quadruplex telegraphy and have been transferred to all electric apparatus."
The latter observation may explain a common folk etymology of the term; that it came from telephone company usage, in which "bugs in a telephone cable" were blamed for noisy lines. Though this derivation seems to be mistaken, it may well be a distorted memory of a joke first current among *telegraph* operators more than a century ago!
Actually, use of "bug" in the general sense of a disruptive event goes back to Shakespeare! In the first edition of Samuel Johnson's dictionary one meaning of "bug" is "A frightful object; a walking spectre"; this is traced to "bugbear", a Welsh term for a variety of mythological monster which (to complete the circle) has recently been reintroduced into the popular lexicon through fantasy role-playing games.
In any case, in jargon the word almost never refers to insects. Here is a plausible conversation that never actually happened:
"There is a bug in this ant farm!"
"What do you mean? I don't see any ants in it."
"That's the bug."
[There has been a widespread myth that the original bug was moved to the Smithsonian, and an earlier version of this entry so asserted. A correspondent who thought to check discovered that the bug was not there. While investigating this in late 1990, your editor discovered that the NSWC still had the bug, but had unsuccessfully tried to get the Smithsonian to accept it - and that the present curator of their History of American Technology Museum didn't know this and agreed that it would make a worthwhile exhibit. It was moved to the Smithsonian in mid-1991, but due to space and money constraints has not yet been exhibited. Thus, the process of investigating the original-computer-bug bug fixed it in an entirely unexpected way, by making the myth true! - ESR]
bugA persistent error in software or hardware. If the bug is in software, the bad logic can be corrected by changing the program code. If the bug is in hardware, a new circuit has to be designed and the chip replaced. Years ago, Intel took intense heat for a mathematical flaw in one of its CPU circuits, but this is rare.
Bugs Are Predominantly in Software
Applications have become incredibly complex, and programmers have to be perfectionists to write huge programs with no bugs. Software can be buggy forever because each new version produces different bugs. Hardware bugs are rare but hardware failure is common, mostly due to the gradual degeneration of components.
All the Way Back to the 1800s
Although the derivation of bug is generally attributed to a moth found squashed between the relays of Harvard University's Mark II electromechanical calculator in 1947, the term actually dates back to the 1800s to refer to flaws in mechanical systems. See buggy, bug fix, software bug, broken, glitch, debug, Heisenbug, bug bounty program and Web bug.
A Note from the Author
On October 19, 1992, I found my first "real bug." When I fired up my laser printer, it printed blotchy pages. Upon inspection, I found a small, dead beetle lying belly up in the trough below the corona wire (we live in the country). The printer worked fine after removing it!