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Odd and Awesome Computer Facts, Part I. It’s a bug!

The personal computer has been around since the 1960s, and the first electromechanical analog computers date back 30 years before that. Computing has a long, strange history, filled with surprising discoveries, lucky accidents, and some developments that are downright creepy. Learn some weird and interesting facts about computers that will impress even your geekiest friend.

DID YOU KNOW… that the first computer bug was an actual bug?

First computer bug

This cute little piece of computer terminology dates back to September 1947, when researchers at Harvard University were working on a primitive computer called the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator. When the machine started to experience problems, it was revealed that a moth was trapped in the machine.

The operators removed the moth and attached it to the log. Word got out that the computer had been “de-bugged” and the rest is history. The log with the first “computer bug” is now on display at the Smithsonian.

DID YOU KNOW… some worms will heal your computer?

Most computer worms deliver malicious malware to your computer, but not all worms are so malevolent. In fact, some worms, like the Welchia worm, will actually fix your computer.

The Welchia worm was a so-called “helpful worm” that exploited a vulnerability in the Microsoft Remote procedure call (RPC) to search for and delete the harmful Blaster worm. It then installed security patches from Microsoft to prevent further infection by Blaster before deleting itself.

This rare good worm was discovered in August 2003. You can find it on the timeline of notable computer worms and viruses.

DID YOU KNOW… there was a Russian computer that ran on water?

Water computer

In 1936, Russian scientist Vladimir Lukyanov built the first computer to do partial differential equations, a type of math used by engineers and physicists. This in itself was a notable feat, but even more noteworthy is that the machine was powered by water.

Lukyanov’s machine used a series of interconnected, water-filled tubes. You could adjust taps and plugs to change the variables, and then determine the answers based on the resulting water levels in the tubes.

DID YOU KNOW… computer technology can tell if your smile is real or fake?

In 2012, researchers at MIT developed some very smart software that can distinguish smiles of happiness from smiles of frustration. Even more amazing — or creepy, depending on your perspective — is that the computerized system is better than humans at determining the underlying meaning behind your smile.

Stay tuned to the Astral Internet blog for Part II of this blog series.