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Edison Coined the Word “Bug”

by Owen on August 27, 2013

Many think the phrase “computer bug” came from programmer Grace Hopper in the 1940s when she and her colleagues found a dead moth in a Harvard University computer. They truly found a bug in the system, which, in those times, could cause shorts and circuit problems and effect the computer’s operation in many ways.

But the term “bug” to describe an error or problem in the design or operation of a technical system actually dates back to Thomas Edison, our namesake. He actually coined the phrase almost 140 years ago to describe problems he faced during the process of innovation while working on a way to send multiple signals through a single pair of telegraph wires.

Edison first confronted what he later called a bug when he began developing a telegraph system to transmit and receive up to four separate telegrams on a single wire simultaneously. He developed a process which used changes in current direction and amplitude to send two messages in each direction. But, the solution created a false break in a message’s signal created by the changing polarity when the current switched direction.

Edison developed what he eventually called a “bug trap” to isolate the unwanted break.  In August 1873 he filed a patent caveat which included this bug trap, which eventually became part of his application for  a patent, issued in  1892.

The term itself appeared in his notebooks in 1876 and a  later Edison biography notes frequent use of the term in his notebooks. Referring to his lighting invention work, one entry reads: “Awful lot of bugs still.”

By 1878, Edison joked in a letter to the Wester Union president:

“… I did find a ‘bug’ in my apparatus… It was of the genus ‘callbellum.’ The insect appears to find conditions for its existence in all call apparatus of Telephones.”


This is paraphrased in part from an article in IEEE , the institute, written by Alexander Magoun, an outreach historian with the IEEE History Center and Paul Israel, director and general editor of the Edison Papers—a collection of Thomas Edison’s writings, drawings, and business papers—at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, N.J. The original article can be found here: http://theinstitute.ieee.org/technology-focus/technology-history/did-you-know-edison-coined-the-term-bug


Apple and its rise to Number 1

by jaime on August 11, 2011

Today for the second day in a row Apple has risen to become the number 1 company in the world as indicated by market cap. Quite a change from the late 1990’s when it seemed Apple would cease to continue as a viable Company. Most did not count them among the survivors, to be swept aside by the first Internet wave.

Since then Steve Jobs and Apple has transformed the computing and home software market (iMac, Mac Air, MacBook and OSX), the music industry (iPod, and iTunes), the phone market (iPhone and the Apps Store), became a semiconductor design house (A4 and A5), defined the tablet market with the iPad, and finally the retail market with the Apple Retail stores. In each case they started from either no presence in the market category or a weak position to achieve a dominant position in the market.

For Exxon Mobile, now number 2 in market cap, to accomplish the same feat would require then to dominate and make practical alternative forms of energy (Solar, wind, and Hydrogen), invent and deploy a new battery technology to make electric cars dominant, revive the nuclear power industry, and change from being an energy only company to also becoming a media com, making oil and gas no longer a viable commodity for energy production.

So a good question is can someone else do what Apple has done in the last 10+ years? It has certainly been a rare event requiring an exceptional leader, exceptional talent, great discipline and execution and the willingness to take risks that seemed at the start too far fetched to consider. Our conclusion is that it will be another rare event that follows this course that Apple has run.

But we can learn some lessons that can be applied for those bold enough to try. Pick a market that is very large but stagnant due to years of neglect by the market leaders (exactly what the music, phone and tablet market were prior to Apple’s entry). Design a product or service that delights, excites and compels the customer to want to buy it over and over again. Improve it by eliminating feature after feature ( A music player with limited buttons, no added hardware dodads ) . And make the software so intuitive to use that an instruction manual is not required and that a child can walk up and use it from the very moment they first touch the device. And finally make it beautiful, delightful to the touch, and enticing to show your neighbor, family and friends. And Finally enter the market when what you have create is so far superior to the market leader there really is no contest from day one.

So set off on your voyage to make this come true, the ocean is vast and inviting, if you can leave the safety of your port of call. Discovery begins with leaving the known to enter the realm of the unknown.