Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO) is an axiom and a concept in computer science, implying that incorrect, or garbage, data as input to a system will produce garbage results or output. GIGO can refer to any system, from computers to garbage cans.
The idea of GIGO dates back to the 1940s, after mathematicians and scientists described the ‘noise’ in calculations and data processing. The phrase was later popularized by computer scientists in the 1950s, and it was understood that inaccurate data as input would lead to corrupted results. GIGO is an important concept to consider when dealing with any system, as it indicates that the system will only produce results within certain parameters and ranges.
In the context of computers, GIGO implies that if incorrect data is used, a system will produce inaccurate results. For example, if the software used to run a computer is outdated or incorrect, the user may receive error messages or inaccurate results. The same is true of data: if incorrect data is inputted into an application or system, the results will likely be inaccurate.
In addition, GIGO is useful for teaching people about the quality of their data. It points to the importance of validating input data, and how it affects systems and results. People should always check the accuracy and quality of data they input, and make sure it meets the parameters of the system.