Etymology of alpha test, beta test

Where did the terms “alpha” and “beta” in software development come from?

… to beta-test is to test a pre-release (potentially unreliable) version of a piece of software by making it available to selected (or self-selected) customers and users. This term derives from early 1960s terminology for product cycle checkpoints, first used at IBM but later standard throughout the industry. Alpha Test was the unit, module, or component test phase; Beta Test was initial system test. These themselves came from earlier A- and B-tests for hardware. The A-test was a feasibility and manufacturability evaluation done before any commitment to design and development. The B-test was a demonstration that the engineering model functioned as specified. The C-test (corresponding to today’s beta) was the B-test performed on early samples of the production design, and the D test was the C test repeated after the model had been in production a while.

Eric S. Raymond, “Beta.” The on-Line Hacker Jargon File, Version 4.4.2. May 22, 2003. http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/B/beta.html

In a description of development of storage devices at IBM in 1969:

Before a product could be shipped, procedures in place at the time required successful completion of three levels of reliability testing designated as product tests, A, B, and C. Completion of A test was normally required before a product could be announced; it verified that the product built by the development group met design objectives. Completion of B test was required for release of the product to manufacturing; it demonstrated that the documentation supplied to manufacturing by the development group adequately specified the product. Completion of C test was required before a product could be shipped; it demonstrated that manufactured hardware performed as specified.49

49K. E. Haughton, 24 August 1988; interview by E. W. Pugh.

Emerson W. Pugh, Lyle R. Johnson, and John H. Palmer. 1991. IBM’s 360 and Early 370 Systems. MIT Press. https://books.google.ca/books?id=MFGj_PT_clIC&pg=PA517.
Advertisements
About

David Ing blogs at http://coevolving.com , photoblogs at http://daviding.com , and microblogs at https://ingbrief.wordpress.com . See .

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in post
One comment on “Etymology of alpha test, beta test
  1. craig kensek says:

    So that’s where it came from. I never knew there was a “c” test. Firm’s I’ve been in have sometimes announced to some of the world that a product was in alpha. After beta, we’d also have controlled release so that we could ship it to customers for revenue but not necessarily make the product available to the world. Good article.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Beyond this microblog
This content is syndicated to Twitter. For professional perspectives, look to Coevolving Innovations; for a photoblog, look to Reflections, Distractions.
  • 2017/03 Moments March 2017
    Toronto, Ontario; Santa Clara, California; Milpitas, California; San Jose, California; Oakland, California; Hayward, California; Mountain View, California; Palo Alto, California; San Francisco, California; Mountain View, California; Half Moon Bay, California, Pescadero, California; Santa Cruz, California; Tokyo, Japan
  • 2017/02 Moments February 2017
    Toronto, Ontario; Mississauga, Ontario; London, Ontario
  • 2017/01 Moments January 2017
    Toronto, Ontario. (A whole month without leaving town, since Don Mills and Scarborough are Metropolitan Toronto)
  • 2016/12 Moments December 2016
    Helsinki; Finland; London, England; Dublin, Ireland; Toronto, Ontario; Fairfield, Iowa
  • 2016/11 Moments November 2016
    Markham, Ontario; Toronto, Ontario; Scarborough, Ontario; London, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec; Brussels, Belgium; Woluwe Saint Pierre, Belgium; Amersfoort, Netherlands; Hameenlinna, Finland
  • 2016/10 Moments October 2016
    Toronto, Ontario; Richmond Hill, Ontario; Don Mills, Ontario; San Francisco, California; Oakland, California; Berkeley, California; San Jose, California; Mountain View, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Los Gatos, California
Contact
I welcome your e-mail. If you don't have my address, here's a contact page.
%d bloggers like this: