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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary
beta testing
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programming Testing a pre-release (potentially unreliable)
version of a piece of software by making it available to
selected 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.
An item "in beta test" is thus mostly working but still under
test. In the Real World, systems (hardware or software)
often go through two stages of release testing: Alpha
(in-house) and Beta (out-house?). Beta releases are generally
made available to a small number of lucky (or unlucky),
trusted customers.