A glitch is 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 in circuit bending, as well as among players of video games, although it is applied to all types of systems including human organizations and nature.

The term derives from the German glitschig, meaning 'slippery', possibly entering English through the Yiddish term glitsh.


Electronics glitch

An electronics glitch is an undesired transition that occurs before the signal settles to its intended value. In other words, 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.

Computer glitch

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 a euphemism by comparison to 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. While the fault is usually attributed to the computer hardware, this is often not the case since hardware failures rarely go undetected. Situations which are frequently called computer glitches are:

  • Incorrectly written software (software bug)
  • Incorrect instructions given by the operator (operator error) (this might also be considered a software bug)
  • Undetected invalid input data (this might also be considered a software bug)
  • Undetected communications errors
  • Computer viruses
  • Computer security cracking (sometimes erroneously called "hacking")

Such glitches could produce problems such as:

  • Keyboard malfunction
  • Number key failure
  • Screen abnormalities (turned left, right or upside down)
  • Random program malfunctions
  • Abnormal program registering

Examples of computer glitches causing disruption include an unexpected shutdown of a water filtration plant in New Canaan, 2010;[1] failures in the Computer Aided Dispatch system used by the police in Austin, resulting in unresponded 911 calls;[2] and an unexpected bit flip causing the Cassini spacecraft to enter "safe mode" in November 2010.[3]

Video game glitches

In video games, a glitch is a programming error which results in behavior not intended by the programmers. Glitches may include incorrectly displayed graphics, collision detection errors, game freezes/crashes, sound issues, and others. Some glitches are potentially dangerous to the game save data.[4]

"Glitching" is the practice of a player exploiting faults in a video game's programming to achieve tasks normally impossible if the game's script runs as intended, such as running through walls or defying the game's laws of gravity. It is often used to gain an unfair advantage over other players in multiplayer video games.

During quality assurance (such as the role of a game tester for video games), glitches must be located, a report compiled, and then fed back to the programmers.[4] (An example of this is getting to fight MissingNo. from Pokemon Red and Blue.)

Popular culture

  • A 1976 novel by Steve Wilson, The Lost Traveller, deals with a post-apocalyptic world in which descendants of the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang act as paramilitary forces for a community called the Fief. Over the years, the Angels have developed numerous quasi-religious beliefs, including a pantheon of gods. One of the minor deities is Glitch, the godlet of hangups and glitches.
  • The 1976 nonfiction book CB Bible includes glitch in its glossary of citizens band radio slang, meaning "an indefinable technical defect in CB equipment", indicating the term was already then in use on citizens band.[5]
  • In the 1987 science fiction film RoboCop directed by Paul Verhoeven, ED-209, a state-of-the-art military robot, malfunctions during its presentation to the executive board of the fictional OCP (Omni Consumer Products). The result is the brutal killing of a company executive. Shortly after the incident, another executive states that it happened due to a "minor glitch".
  • In the 1994-2001 computer animated series ReBoot the character of Bob has a key tool called "Glitch". This is a reference to a computer glitch.
  • In the 1999 film The Matrix there's a "glitch in the Matrix", a sense of déjà vu that occurs when the enemy machines alter an aspect of the Matrix, a digital reality in which all the inhabitants believe that they are living in the real world. This is seen when the protagonist, Neo, sees a black cat walk by twice.
  • The 2008 short film The Glitch, opening film and best science fiction finalist at Dragon Con Independent Film Festival 2008, deals with the disorientation of late-night TV viewer Harry Owen (Scott Charles Blamphin), who experiences 'heavy brain-splitting digital breakdowns.'[6]


Canadian Oxford lists it as a 20th century word of unknown origin. Some reference books, including Random House's American Slang, claim it 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. So new, in fact, that on July 23, 1965, Time Magazine felt it necessary to define it in an article: "Glitches—a spaceman's word for irritating disturbances."

See also


  1. ^ "Water filtration plant temporarily shut down due to computer glitch". December 6, 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-11. 
  2. ^ "911 computer glitch led to police delay". Austin News 15 Nov 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-11. 
  3. ^ "NASA revives Saturn probe, three weeks after glitch". 2010-11-24. Retrieved 2010-12-11. 
  4. ^ a b Ofoe, Emmanuel-Yvan; William Pare (March 06 - March 12.2008). "Testing, testing, testing". Montreal Mirror. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  5. ^ Bibb, Porter. CB Bible, p. 94. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1976.
  6. ^ Doto, Bob. NY Horror Film Fest Night 4: The Shorts, November 7, accessed March 3, 2011.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Glitch — [glɪtʃ] besitzt folgende Bedeutungen: ein Genre der elektronischen Musik, siehe Glitch (Musik) eine temporäre Falschaussage in logischen Schaltungen, siehe Glitch (Elektronik) ein Bild und/oder Tonfehler eines Videos, siehe Glitch (Media)… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • glitch — [glɪtʆ] noun [countable] COMPUTING MANUFACTURING a small fault in a machine or piece of equipment that stops it working: • a computer glitch * * * glitch UK US /glɪtʃ/ noun [C] ► a small problem or …   Financial and business terms

  • glitch — n. 1. A fault or defect in a system, plan, or machine. Syn: bug. [WordNet 1.5] 2. (Elect.) A brief surge or interruption in the voltage in an electrical circuit or device. [PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • glitch — [glıtʃ] n [Date: 1900 2000; Origin: Probably from German glitschen to slide, slip ] a small fault in a machine or piece of equipment, that stops it working ▪ a software glitch …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Glitch — [glitʃ] der; , es [...iz] <aus engl. glitch »Panne«> störende Spannungsspitze, die beim Betrieb von schnellen Digital analog Umsetzern auftreten kann (Elektronik) …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

  • Glitch —   [glɪtʃ, englisch] der, / es, Elektronik: störende Spannungsspitze, die beim Betrieb von schnellen Digital analog Umsetzern auftreten kann. Glitches werden z. B. in dem Augenblick erzeugt, in dem sich das Eingangssignal am Umsetzer ändert …   Universal-Lexikon

  • glitch — [ glıtʃ ] noun count INFORMAL a small and sudden problem: HITCH …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • glitch — 1962, Amer.Eng., possibly from Yiddish glitsh a slip, from glitshn to slip, from Ger. glitschen, and related gleiten to glide (see GLIDE (Cf. glide)). Perhaps directly from German; it began as technical jargon in the argot of electronic hardware… …   Etymology dictionary

  • glitch — [n] error bug*, defect, flaw, hitch, malfunction, misfire, mishap, problem, setback, snafu, snag, something wrong; concepts 101,230,674,699 …   New thesaurus

  • glitch — ► NOUN informal 1) a sudden malfunction or irregularity of equipment. 2) an unexpected setback in a plan. ORIGIN of unknown origin …   English terms dictionary

  • glitch — [glich] n. [< Ger colloq. glitsche, a slip < glitschen, to slip, slide, intens. of Ger gleiten: see GLIDE] 1. Slang a mishap, error, malfunctioning, etc. 2. a sudden, brief change in the period of a pulsar, believed to be caused by sudden… …   English World dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.