What are software bugs?

Have you ever had an app misbehave on you? Has your touchscreen for no reason began to operate itself? I have. Usually, when I would complain about it, the experts would nod their heads knowingly and say that “it is a bug”. A bug in software? What are software bugs?

ENIAC computers usually occupied entire rooms (credit: Wikipedia)

Read more: What is Software?


To answer these questions, we’ll need to understand the history behind this term. A bug is simply an insect. Thee early 20th century was a wonderful time. Science grew and new computers were being invented. The first true general purpose reprogrammable computer known as ENIAC was one of the best computers in the world. ENIAC used vacuum tubes as transistors. The tubes could sometimes light on or off. These vacuum tube transistors had to be manually switched on and off in order to programme the computer.

There were also other computers of the day like the Harvard Mark I and II, EDSAC and later UNIVAC.

Vacuum tubes were once the lifeblood of computers

Sometimes, these computers would not work as programmed. This confused the engineers until one day they found dead insects in the transistor switches. The problem was now simple. Drawn in either by the heat or the light, insects (bugs) flocked to the computer and tampered with the switches. This caused the programme to not behave as intended.

Programming ENIAC (credit: Encyclopedia Britannica)

Read more: Types of Software


As a result, whenever faults were found in software, they were then referred to as software bugs. Now some of you might think, “oh well yeah, but that was over 50 years ago or are there bugs in my phone right now?”. Well no. There are no bugs in your phone but the answer to the question “what are software bugs?” still remain the same. Well almost.

What are software bugs?

Software bugs are faults and errors that show up in software. These faulty software can issue wrong instructions to a computer or smartphone. Such faulty instructions can cause it to malfunction or behave in an unexpected/unwanted manner. It could delete your work or even your entire storage or tell your system to shut down unexpectedly. It may even cause your system software to crash.

Causes of software bugs

Software bugs are usually caused by poorly written software. They could also be caused by certain incompatibilities or poor implementation between hardware and software.

How are software bugs removed?

Bugs are discovered and eliminated using a process known as debugging. This is usually done by carrying out extensive software tests as well as feedback from users.

Software is usually tested by the developers (alpha stage) and then by beta testers (pilot stage) before being released to the public (stable release).

Conclusion

Despite all of these, it is nearly impossible to eliminate bugs from a system. According to Lubarsky’s law, every programme has at least one bug. This means that even the best programme has at least one bug. These bugs will show up from time to time. The best you can do is report such bugs to your manufacturer and force restart your device by holding the power button till the phone reboots. If enough people report a problem, good manufacturers will usually send a software update to all affected devices.


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