A dedicated debugging facility for tracing hardware and software faults in a distributed digital system. An event data capture circuit is integrated into each processing node in a distributed multinode system for capturing event data within each node under software control. The captured event data is stored in one of a plurality of variable-length trace data buffers in the node processor memory space for analysis or transfer. These dedicated trace data acquisition circuits provide continuously available trace data for the hardware and software functions within each node. Each variable-length trace data entry is stored in the trace data buffers according to a format of this invention that permits collection and assembly of trace data entries from throughout the distributed multinode system to debug local hardware or software and to debug internodal interconnection hardware and software.