Babbage's Devil

or "Why software is bugged"





Pr Ràmon Puigjaner

Belfast, September 15, 1992


1. Introduction

2. Antecedents and empirical observations

3. Development

4. Conclusions and open problems


1. Introduction

In the computer field there are a lot of facts that remain unexplainable despite the high level of our scientific knowledge.

Examples of unexplainable facts in the computer field are:

An interdisciplinary theory combining history, computer science and mathematics will be proposed in order to give a reasonable explanation to the above kind of facts.


2. Antecedents and empirical observations

It is an historically verified fact that the British nobles, when they die without eradicating their enemies, become ghosts haunting their castles until they succeed to win or to humiliate a descendent of their enemies.

Around the year 1830, Charles Babbage designed the Analytical Engine with the same structure than the Von Neumann computer. Unfortunately the mechanical technology of that time avoided the project realization.

His assistant and companion, countess Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's daughter, considered as the first programmer, could not realize her willing of executing some of the programs she wrote.

In consequence we have two nobles who died without winning their enemies, in this case the computer and its programs.

The evolution of countess Lovelace phantom is well known as the ADA language.

We must discover where is the Charles Babbage phantom.


3. Development

Let B be the set of all the bits stored in all the memories of a computer.

The above facts show that there are evolutions of the bits stored in the computer memories neither scheduled nor desired.

Let a be the application of B in B expressing these neither scheduled nor desired bit evolutions.

B = aB

What other factors have any influence in the above mentioned application ?

This transformation must be in such a way that the error is transparent to the error detecting and correcting mechanisms existing in the computer hardware.

So, the inverse application a-1, applied on the original bit set B, restores it in its apparently safe state and obviously it must influence the application.

In consequence, we can represent this observation like

B = aB (Ba-1)

The gravity constant g must also have an influence because we are faced to a problem of constant gravity.

In consequence, we can write

B = aB (Ba-1,g)

Number e must also appear because:

In consequence, we can write

B = aB (Ba-1,g,e)

Arrived to this point it is clearly seen the reason of the unexplainable computer problems:

B = aB (Ba-1,g,e)

The Charles Babbage's ghost (or devil or phantom) is installed in his castle (the computer) trying to revenge of his enemies (the technology that he was not able to use) and he will continue until he will satisfy his thirst for revenge.

In consequence we can state that all computers have associated a Babbage's devil acting in the following way:


4. Conclusions and open problems

The present work definitively demonstrates the existence of the Babbage's devil in the computers and his actuation rules.

The existence of the Babbage's devil allow a simple and clear explanation of facts that, until now, remained in the unexplainable domain.

Hot topics still to be addressed and that need a deeper experimentation are:

So we see that there are a lot of suggestive problems to be urgently addressed and they are a domain of fascinating future researches.


Thank you for your attention


Thanks to Professor Ràmon Puigjaner from the University of Baléaric Islands.