A glitch is a short-lived fault in a system, such as a transient fault that corrects itself, making it difficult to troubleshoot. The term is particularly common in a computing and electronics industries, in circuit bending, as well as among players of video games. More generally, all types of systems including human organizations and nature experience glitches.
A glitch, which is slight and often temporary, differs from a more serious software bug which is a genuine functionality-breaking problem. Alex Pieschel, writing for Arcade Review, said: "“bug” is often cast as the weightier and more blameworthy pejorative, while “glitch” suggests something more mysterious and unknowable inflicted by surprise inputs or stuff outside the realm of code."
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Some reference books, including Random House's American Slang, claim that the term comes from the German word glitschen ("to slip") and the Yiddish word gletshn ("to slide or skid"). Either way, it is a relatively new term. It was first widely defined for the American people by Bennett Cerf on the June 20, 1965 episode of What's My Line as "a kink... when anything goes wrong down there [Cape Kennedy], they say there's been a slight glitch." Astronaut John Glenn explained the term in his section of the book Into Orbit, writing that
Another term we adopted to describe some of our problems was "glitch." Literally, a glitch is a spike or change in voltage in an electrical circuit which takes place when the circuit suddenly has a new load put on it. You have probably noticed a dimming of lights in your home when you turn a switch or start the dryer or the television set. Normally, these changes in voltage are protected by fuses. A glitch, however, is such a minute change in voltage that no fuse could protect against it.
John Daily further defined the word on the July 4, 1965 episode of the same show, saying that it's a term used by the Air Force at Cape Kennedy, in the process of launching rockets, "it means something's gone wrong and you can't figure out what it is so you call it a "glitch". Later, on July 23, 1965, Time Magazine felt it necessary to define it in an article: "Glitches—a spaceman's word for irritating disturbances." In relation to the reference by Time Magazine, the term has been believed to enter common usage during the American Space Race of the 1950s, where it was used to describe minor faults in the rocket hardware that were difficult to pinpoint.
An electronics glitch or hazard is an undesired transition that occurs before the signal settles to its intended value. In other words, a glitch is an electrical pulse of short duration that is usually the result of a fault or design error, particularly in a digital circuit. For example, many electronic components, such as flip-flops, are triggered by a pulse that must not be shorter than a specified minimum duration; otherwise, the component may malfunction. A pulse shorter than the specified minimum is called a glitch. A related concept is the runt pulse, a pulse whose amplitude is smaller than the minimum level specified for correct operation, and a spike, a short pulse similar to a glitch but often caused by ringing or crosstalk. A glitch can occur in the presence of race condition in a poorly designed digital logic circuit. For example, when a signal is based on two other signals which are based on a common signal, a glitch can occur if there is a delay in one of them.
A computer glitch is the failure of a system, usually containing a computing device, to complete its functions or to perform them properly.
In public declarations, glitch is used to suggest a minor fault which will soon be rectified and is therefore used as a euphemism for a bug, which is a factual statement that a programming fault is to blame for a system failure.
It frequently refers to an error which is not detected at the time it occurs but shows up later in data errors or incorrect human decisions. Situations which are frequently called computer glitches are incorrectly written software (software bugs), incorrect instructions given by the operator (operator errors, and a failure to account for this possibility might also be considered a software bug), undetected invalid input data (this might also be considered a software bug), undetected communications errors, computer viruses, Trojan attacks and computer exploiting (sometimes called "hacking").
Such glitches could produce problems such as keyboard malfunction, number key failures, screen abnormalities (turned left, right or upside-down), random program malfunctions, and abnormal program registering.
Examples of computer glitches causing disruption include an unexpected shutdown of a water filtration plant in New Canaan, 2010, failures in the Computer Aided Dispatch system used by the police in Austin, resulting in unresponded 911 calls, and an unexpected bit flip causing the Cassini spacecraft to enter "safe mode" in November 2010. Glitches can also be costly: in 2015, a bank was unable to raise interest rates for weeks resulting in losses of more than a million dollars per day.
Glitches/bugs are software errors that can cause drastic problems within the code, and typically go unnoticed or unsolved during the production of said software. These errors can be game caused or otherwise exploited until a developer/development team repairs them with patches. Complex software is rarely bug-free or otherwise free from errors upon first release.
Texture/model glitches are a kind of bug or other error that causes any specific model or texture to either become distorted or otherwise to not look as intended by the developers. Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is notorious for texture glitches, as well as other errors that affect many of the company's popular titles. Many games that use ragdoll physics for their character models can have such glitches happen to them.
Physics glitches are errors in a game's physics engine that causes a specific entity, be it a physics object or an NPC (Non-Player Character), to be unintentionally moved to some degree. These kinds of errors can be exploited, unlike many. The chance of a physics error happening can either be entirely random or accidentally caused.
Sound glitches are in which there is an error with the game's sound. These can range from sounds playing when not intended to play or even not playing at all. Occasionally, a certain sound will loop or otherwise the player will be given the option to continuously play the sound when not intended. Often, games will play sounds incorrectly due to corrupt data altering the values predefined in the code. Examples include, but are not limited to, extremely high or low pitched sounds, volume being mute or too high to understand, and also rarely even playing in reverse order/playing reversed.
Glitches may include incorrectly displayed graphics, collision detection errors, game freezes/crashes, sound errors, and other issues. Graphical glitches are especially notorious in platforming games, where malformed textures can directly affect gameplay (for example, by displaying a ground texture where the code calls for an area that should damage the character, or by not displaying a wall texture where there should be one, resulting in an invisible wall). Some glitches are potentially dangerous to the game's stored data.
"Glitching" is the practice of players exploiting faults in a video game's programming to achieve tasks that give them an unfair advantage in the game, over NPC's or other players, such as running through walls or defying the game's physics. Glitches can be deliberately induced in certain home video game consoles by manipulating the game medium, such as tilting a ROM cartridge to disconnect one or more connections along the edge connector and interrupt part of the flow of data between the cartridge and the console. This can result in graphic, music, or gameplay errors. Doing this, however, carries the risk of crashing the game or even causing permanent damage to the game medium.
Heavy use of glitches are used in performing a speedrun of a video game. One type of glitch often used for speedrunning is a stack overflow, which is referred to as "overflowing." Another type of speedrunning glitch, which is almost impossible to do by humans and is mostly made use of in tool assisted speedruns, is arbitrary code execution which will cause an object in a game to do something outside of its intended function.
Part of the quality assurance process (as performed by game testers for video games) is locating and reproducing glitches, and then compiling reports on the glitches to be fed back to the programmers so that they can repair the bugs. Certain games have a cloud-type system for updates to the software that can be used to repair coding faults and other errors in the games.
Glitches can also be found in electronic toys. For example, in 2013, Hasbro released a game called Bop It Beats. It was discovered by several players that the DJ Expert and Lights Only modes have a bug that will give players a fail sound upon reaching a pattern with six actions and completing them successfully. The more difficult DJ modes can be completed in the Party mode as long as there is a "Pass It" on the last few patterns. Hasbro were informed about this glitch but as it was discovered after manufacture, they can no longer update or upgrade existing units. Foreign versions of the game, however, were shipped with this glitch already patched.
Glitches in games should not be confused with exploits. Despite them both performing unintended actions, an exploit is not a programming error, but instead an oversight by the developers. (Ex. Bunny hopping or Lag Exploits)
In broadcasting, a corrupted signal may glitch in the form of jagged lines on the screen, misplaced squares, static looking effects, freezing problems, or inverted colors. The glitches may affect the video and/or audio (usually audio dropout) or the transmission. These glitches may be caused by a variety of issues, interference from portable electronics or microwaves, damaged cables at the broadcasting center, or weather.
Multiple works of popular culture deal with glitches; those with the word "glitch" or derivations thereof are detailed in Glitch (disambiguation).
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