Alderson Loop

Long, long ago at a microprocessor manufacturing company far, far away, there were three newbie programmers. One of these was working on a bug tracking system for the team, writing it in Microsoft Access. He made a mistake and created a dialog box so powerful that not only could it not be dismissed, but one had to force quit the application in order to get rid of it. The other two took to joking about it and called it an Alderson Loop after the last name of the programmer who had made the mistake.

They were all big fans of The Jargon File, a collection of computer science and software development jargon and slang. And as the story, and the term, were particularly funny, one of them decided to submit an entry for the Alderson Loop to The Jargon File as a term that they used. None of them really expected it to get in, so they forgot about it. This was 1996.

Not only did it make it into The Jargon File, but since then it has been spreading over the Internet. Today it can be found on, in wikis about programming, in bug reports, and Wikipedia! One of the three recently found that some people had named their company after the, now infamous, infinite loop derivative.

This has been a periodic, if infrequent, source of entertainment for us over the years, occasionally finding the Alderson Loop cropping up in new places, with new code examples describing the phenomena. It’s awesome that the term has caught on with so many for it to have made it so far. Even if being a part of this is my only lasting contribution to computer science, I’m proud of it!


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