12 August 2015


Right off, I have to say that although the term "glitch" is in common use, the origins and etymology of  it are unclear.

It has come to mean "a short-lived fault in a system." It is often used to describe a transient fault that corrects itself, and is therefore difficult to troubleshoot. The term is particularly common in the computing and electronics industries, and among players of video games.

It seems to first come into use in the late-1950s within the military and space program, but it didn't appear in the media until the early-1960s in the context of unforeseen technical errors in space travel. Astronaut John Glenn used the word in his 1962 book, Into Orbit: "Another term we adopted to describe some of our problems was 'glitch'. Literally, a glitch ... is such a minute change in voltage that no fuse could protect against it."

Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang says the term comes from the German word glitschen ("to slip") and the Yiddish word gletshn ("to slide or skid").

In 1965, Time Magazine felt the need to define it when using it in an article: "Glitches—a spaceman's word for irritating disturbances."

Glitch was used to describe a computer bug that many feared would cause an apocalyptic crisis named Y2K. The term fit in that the bang turned out to be a whimper.

On the other hand, it was also used to describe issues with the launch of the HealthCare.gov website. In that case, it is misused considering the issues were much more than just a "short-lived fault in a system that corrects itself."

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