One of the biggest advantages of working with an IT support service is that it helps to demystify a field of technology that can at first be surprisingly intimidating.
Modern operating systems are designed to streamline and hide the millions of complex instructions that a computer processes every single second and give the illusion of a simple, straightforward productivity machine that helps people get more done.
In reality, as with most aspects of life, it takes a lot of hard work to make something look easy, and so much work goes into all of the features that make IT equipment accessible and easy to use.
Some of these can have issues or can go wrong when certain parts of a computer interact with other parts, something that is known as a computer bug.
Whilst often credited to a rather infamous incident on 9th September 1947 when a literal moth was found in an early electromechanical computer at Harvard University, the term had been used in engineering for nearly a century before this.
However, one phrase that was first used in the world of computers but has since stepped out beyond this is the expression “It is not a bug, it is a feature” (INABIAF).
First written in the satirical glossary The Jargon File, INABIAF is a term that a lot of technical experts still use, and can even be found in other places where there is a mismatch between expectations and reality.
However, whilst it can often be used as a joke or a somewhat dismissive remark, it does highlight a potential disconnect between different types of users, and if someone has to note that what looks like a bug is a feature, there is something wrong.
The Perils Of Undocumented Features
Both bugs and undocumented features are oversights, but the difference between them is where in the creation process the oversight emerged.
A bug is an oversight in the development process, caused by either a coding error or an unforeseen interaction between the software and some combination of the users, hardware, operating system or other programs.
The big reason why some operating systems such as Windows 95 had an infamous reputation for regularly crashing and showing a blue screen of death was due to bugs that emerged when certain types of hardware interacted with drivers that interacted with the operating system.
However, an undocumented feature, by contrast, is not an oversight in development given that the feature works as intended, but instead is an oversight in documentation, as something happens that a user is not intended, and if it is difficult to either replicate or return to a normal setting, can be somewhat distressing.
This is not always the case, as some undocumented features are legacy functions that are kept in later versions, orphaned or untested features that have not been removed completely, or so-called easter eggs intended to reward particularly curious individuals.
The problem with undocumented features is that intentional or otherwise, unexpected features are indistinguishable from bugs, and technical support teams will often resolve issues in the same way.