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Q: Why is prerelease software called "beta"? ( Answered 3 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Why is prerelease software called "beta"?
Category: Computers > Software
Asked by: zpatch-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 20 Jul 2004 22:33 PDT
Expires: 19 Aug 2004 22:33 PDT
Question ID: 377005
We all know about beta software, but how did the term "beta" arise and
what, exactly, does it refer to? Obviously it comes after "alpha"
releases, though I'm not sure who came up with that, either. And does
anyone know who came up with the term "beta" in the first place?
Subject: Re: Why is prerelease software called "beta"?
Answered By: mother911-ga on 20 Jul 2004 23:18 PDT
Rated:3 out of 5 stars
Hi Zpatch,

The order of releases, much like the order of army platoons or many
other labled item follows the greek alphabet.
We see this commonly in:
Science: Alpha males in animal packs 
From my own knowledge

chemistry: "To indicate the position of substituting atoms or groups
in certain compounds; as, [beta]-naphthol."

Astrology: "To designate some bright star, usually the second
brightest, of a constellation, as, [beta] Aurig[ae]."
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)
Under the word "Beta" 

"hardware or software systems often go through two stages of release
testing: Alpha (in-house) and Beta (out-house?)."
"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."
"The Jargon File 4.1.0"

I hope this clears up any questions as to why we use alpha and beta
for software releases, as well as the source of these terms. If you
have any questions please make a request for clarification before
rating this question.

zpatch-ga rated this answer:3 out of 5 stars
Perfectly acceptable answer

Subject: Re: Why is prerelease software called "beta"?
From: anthonyh-ga on 26 Aug 2004 02:01 PDT
Because of the greek alphabet, which begins Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta.
So Alpha software is first, followed by Beta. If there was another
pre-release stage it would be called Gamma etc. Does that help?

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