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2 definitions found
 for bit rot
From The Jargon File (version 4.4.7, 29 Dec 2003) :

  bit rot
   n.
  
      [common] Also bit decay. Hypothetical disease the existence of which has
      been deduced from the observation that unused programs or features will
      often stop working after sufficient time has passed, even if ?nothing has
      changed?. The theory explains that bits decay as if they were radioactive.
      As time passes, the contents of a file or the code in a program will become
      increasingly garbled.
  
      There actually are physical processes that produce such effects (alpha
      particles generated by trace radionuclides in ceramic chip packages, for
      example, can change the contents of a computer memory unpredictably, and
      various kinds of subtle media failures can corrupt files in mass storage),
      but they are quite rare (and computers are built with error-detecting
      circuitry to compensate for them). The notion long favored among hackers
      that cosmic rays are among the causes of such events turns out to be a
      myth; see the cosmic rays entry for details.
  
      The term software rot is almost synonymous. Software rot is the effect,
      bit rot the notional cause.
  

From The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (18 March 2015) :

  bit rot
  alpha particle
  bit decay
  
      A hypothetical disease the existence of which has
     been deduced from the observation that unused programs or
     features will often stop working after sufficient time has
     passed, even if "nothing has changed".  The theory explains
     that bits decay as if they were radioactive.  As time passes,
     the contents of a file or the code in a program will become
     increasingly garbled.
  
     People with a physics background tend to prefer the variant
     "bit decay" for the analogy with particle decay.
  
     There actually are physical processes that produce such
     effects (alpha particles generated by trace radionuclides in
     ceramic chip packages, for example, can change the contents of
     a computer memory unpredictably, and various kinds of subtle
     media failures can corrupt files in mass storage), but they
     are quite rare (and computers are built with error detection
     circuitry to compensate for them).  The notion long favoured
     among hackers that cosmic rays are among the causes of such
     events turns out to be a myth.
  
     Bit rot is the notional cause of software rot.
  
     See also computron, quantum bogodynamics.
  
     [{Jargon File]
  
     (1998-03-15)
  

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