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For other uses, see Glitch (disambiguation).
Microsoft Sam saying, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog 1,234,567,890 times", followed by a demonstration of a glitch that occurs when the letters SOI/SOY are inputted

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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.


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, as 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.[1][2]

Electronics glitch[edit]

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[edit]

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 bug)
  • Incorrect instructions given by the operator (operator error) (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 virus
  • Computer exploiting (sometimes 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;[3] failures in the Computer Aided Dispatch system used by the police in Austin, resulting in unresponded 911 calls;[4] and an unexpected bit flip causing the Cassini spacecraft to enter "safe mode" in November 2010.[5]

Video game glitches[edit]

See also: Software bug and Glitching
The start-up screen of the Virtual Boy is affected by a visual glitch

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. 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.[6] Many games that uses ragdoll physics for their character models can have such glitches happen to them.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[7]

"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.[8] 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.[9]

Heavy use of glitches are used in performing a speedrun of a video game.[10] Examples of glitches for speedrunning are sequence breaking, overflowing, and warping/zipping. Another type of speedrunning glitch, almost impossible to do by humans and is done mostly in tool assisted speedruns, is arbitrary code execution which will cause a game to do something else outside it's intended function.[11]

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 usually repairs coding faults and other errors in the games.[7]

TV glitch[edit]

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.[12]

Popular culture[edit]

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.[13] 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.'[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  2. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  3. ^ "Water filtration plant temporarily shut down due to computer glitch". December 6, 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-11. 
  4. ^ "911 computer glitch led to police delay". Austin News 15 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-11. 
  5. ^ "NASA revives Saturn probe, three weeks after glitch". 2010-11-24. Retrieved 2010-12-11. 
  6. ^ "Bethesda Criticised over buggy releases". 
  7. ^ a b Ofoe, Emmanuel-Yvan; William Pare (March 06 - March 12.2008). "Testing, testing, testing". Montreal Mirror. Retrieved 2008-06-17.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ "It’s Not A Glitch. It’s A Feature. It’s Art. It’s Beautiful.". 
  9. ^ "Killing a Sega Genesis Cartridge (YouTube Video of a cartridge becoming permanently broken during the process of cartridge tilting)". 
  10. ^ "Why Speedrunners Use Glitches". Retrieved March 17, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Games Done Quick Makes ‘Pokemon’ Play Twitch". Retrieved March 17, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Signal Strength Variables". Retrieved 2015-03-17. 
  13. ^ Bibb, Porter (1976). CB Bible. New York: Doubleday and Company. p. 94. 
  14. ^ Doto, Bob (November 7, 2008). "NY Horror Film Fest Night 4: The Shorts". Retrieved March 3, 2011.