Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Lakshith. Lakshith Wonders, “what are gliches” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Lakshith!
There you are, sitting in front of your computer, getting ready to enjoy the Wonder of the Day. You open your web browser and navigate your way to Wonderopolis. You click the link to read today's Wonder and — beep! blip! buzz! — your browser freezes and then shuts down suddenly.
What's going on here? Is your computer dead? Did it crash? Hopefully, it's just a temporary error in one of your computer's systems that caused a malfunction during data processing…or what computer experts refer to as a glitch.
Computer glitches are often only a temporary disruption. They can have a wide variety of causes, although the most common causes are errors within the operating system, defects in a piece of software, or problems created by computer bugs or viruses.
Computer glitches can sometimes be very easy to fix. For example, restarting your computer is often sufficient to fix many simple glitches. Restarting your system clears your memory, shuts down running programs, and often gets rid of whatever combination of factors that may have created the glitch in the first place.
Of course, some glitches can't be fixed just by restarting your computer. For example, if a glitch is caused by a computer virus, removing the virus may be the only way to fix the glitch. More serious glitches like these may also cause severe problems, including total system failure, if they are not caught and fixed quickly.
Practically, glitches can take many forms. Your keyboard or mouse might not work properly. Your screen may suddenly turn sideways or upside-down. A program may freeze or suddenly shut down. Your entire system might stop functioning, requiring a complete restart.
Computer and software manufacturers go to great lengths to make sure that glitches happen as infrequently as possible. Depending upon the type of hardware or software being manufactured, workers may spend from several months to several years testing products to eliminate glitches before a product is released.
Unfortunately, it's virtually impossible to eliminate the possibility of glitches completely. When you consider the interaction of hardware components with an operating system and dozens of software applications, there are billions of variables that could result in a glitch. Testing every possible combination of factors would require hundreds of years and would mean we'd never see new products!
If you encounter a computer glitch, try restarting whatever program you were using when you encountered the problem. If that doesn't work, you can then try restarting your computer. If you still run into a glitch, you may need to seek help from someone more experienced with computers.
Even though most computer glitches tend to be minor and temporary, they can be costly in certain situations. For example, computer glitches have been responsible for disruptions in water filtration plants, emergency service dispatch systems, and even satellites and spacecraft. In 2015, a bank encountered a computer glitch that cost it more than a million dollars per day when the bank was unable to raise interest rates on loans! Also, in 2016, a computer glitch resulted in 3,500 flights grounded or delayed for thousands of United Airlines passengers!