term% ls -F
term% cat index.txt
========= THIS IS THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 2.5.1 29 JAN 1991  =================


This document is a collection of slang terms used by various
subcultures of computer hackers.  Though some technical material is
included for background and flavor, it is not a technical dictionary;
what we describe here is the language hackers use among themselves for
fun, social communication and debate within their communities.

The `hacker culture' is actually a loosely networked collection of
subcultures that is nevertheless conscious of some important shared
experiences, shared roots, and shared values.  It has its own myths,
heroes, villains, folk epics, in-jokes, taboos and dreams.  Because
hackers as a group are particularly creative people who define
themselves partly by rejection of `normal' values and working habits,
it has unusually rich and conscious traditions for an intentional
culture less than thirty-five years old.

Hackers, as a rule, love word-play and are very conscious in their use
of language.  Thus, a compilation of their slang is a particularly
effective window into their culture --- and, in fact, this one is the
latest version of an evolving compilation called the `Jargon File'
maintained by hackers themselves for over fifteen years.  This one
(like its ancestors) is primarily a lexicon, but also includes `topic
entries' which collect background or sidelight information on hacker
culture that would be awkward to try to subsume under a single term.
These are distinguished by being in SMALL CAPS.

Though the format is that of a reference, it is also intended that the
material be enjoyable to browse or read straight through.  Even a
complete outsider should find at least a chuckle on nearly every page,
and much that is amusingly thought-provoking.  But it is also true
that hackers use humorous word-play to make strong, sometime combative
statements about what they feel.  Some of these entries reflect the
views of opposing sides in disputes which have been genuinely
passionate, and they deliberately reflect this.  We have not tried to
moderate or pretty up these disputes; rather we have attempted to
ensure that *everyone's* sacred cows get gored, impartially.
Compromise is not particularly a hackish virtue, but the honest
presentation of divergent viewpoints is.

They reader with minimal computer background who finds some references
incomprehensibly technical can safely ignore them.  We have not felt
it either necessary or desirable to eliminate all such; they, too,
contribute flavor and one of this document's major intended audiences
(fledgeling hackers already partway inside the culture) will benefit
from them.

A selection of longer items of hacker folklore and humor are included
in appendix A.  The `outside' reader's attention is particularly
directed to Appendix B, the Portrait of J. Random Hacker.  Appendix C
is a bibliography of non-technical works which have either influenced
or described the hacker culture.

Because hackerdom is an intentional culture (one which each individual
must choose consciously to join), one should not be surprised that the
line between description and influence can become more than a little
blurred.  Earlier Jargon File versions have played a central role in
spreading hacker language and the culture that goes with it to
successively larger populations, and we hope and expect that this one
will do likewise.

Revision History

The original Jargon File was a collection of hacker slang from
technical cultures including the MIT AI Lab, the Stanford AI lab
(SAIL), the old ARPANET AI/LISP/PDP-10 communities, Carnegie-Mellon
University (CMU), and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).

The Jargon File (hereafter referred to as `jargon-1' or `the File')
was begun by Raphael Finkel at Stanford in 1975, though some terms in
it date back considerably earlier (<frob> and some senses of
<moby>, for instance, go back to the MIT Model Railroad Club and are
are believed to date at least back to the early nineteen-sixties).
The revisions of jargon-1 were all un-numbered and may be collectively
considered `Version 1'.

In 1976, Mark Crispin brought the File to MIT; he and Guy Steele then
added a first wave of new entries.  Richard Frankel dropped out of
active participation shortly thereafter, and Don Woods became the SAIL
contact for the file (which was subsequently kept in duplicate at SAIL
and MIT, with periodic re-synchronizations).

The file expanded by fits and starts until about 1983; Richard
Stallman was prominent among the contributors, adding many MIT and
ITS-related coinages.

A late version of jargon-1, expanded with commentary for the mass
market, was edited by Guy L. Steele into a book published in 1983 as
`The Hacker's Dictionary' (Harper & Row CN 1082, ISBN
0-06-091082-8).  The other jargon-1 editors (Raphael Finkel, Don Woods
and Mark Crispin) contributed to the revision, as did also Richard M.
Stallman and Geoff Goodfellow.  This book is hereafter referred to as
`Steele-1983'.  It is now out of print.

Shortly after the publication of Steele-1983 the File effectively
stopped growing and changing.  The PDP-10-centered cultures that had
originally nourished it were dealt a serious blow by the cancellation
of the Jupiter project at DEC.  The AI-Lab culture died and its best
and brightest dispersed; the File's compilers moved on to other

By the mid-1980s the File's contents was dated, but the legend that
had grown up around it never quite died out.  The book and softcopies
snarfed off the ARPANET circulated even in cultures far removed from
MIT's; the content exerted a strong and continuing influence on
hackish slang and humor.  Even as the advent of the microcomputer and
other trends fueled a tremendous expansion of hackerdom, the File (and
related materials like the AI Koans in Appendix A) came to be seen as
a sort of sacred epic, a hacker-culture Matter of Britain chronicling
the heroic exploits of the Knights of the Lab.  The pace of change in
hackerdom at large accelerated tremendously, but the Jargon File
passed from living document to icon and remained essentially untouched
for seven years.

This revision contains nearly the entire text of a late version of
jargon-1 (a few obsolete PDP-10-related entries have been dropped
following careful consultation with the editors of Steele-1983).  It
merges in about about 80% of the Steele-1983 text, omitting some
framing material and a very few entries introduced in Steele-1983
which are now also obsolescent.

This new version casts a wider net than the old jargon file; its aim
is to cover not just AI but all the technical computing cultures
wherein the true hacker-nature is manifested.  More than half of the
entries now derive from USENET and represent slang now current in the
C and UNIX communities, but special efforts have been made to collect
slang from other cultures including IBM-PC programmers, Mac fans and
even the IBM mainframe world.

Where a term can be attributred to a particular subculture or is known
to have originated there, we have tried to so indicate.  Here is a
list of abbreviations used in etymologies:

     University of California at Berkeley.
     Cambridge University, England (*not* Cambridge, Mass!).
     Carnegie-Mellon University
     Commodore Business Nachines.
     See the <Fidonet> entry.
     International Business Machines
     Massachusetts Institute of Technology; esp. the legendary MIT AI Lab
     culture of roughly 1971 to 1983.  Some MITisms go back to the MIT
     Model Railroad Club of c.1960.
     New York University.
     Purdue University.
     Stanford Artificial Intelliegence Laboratory.
     Stanford University.
     Sun Microsystems.
     University of California at Los Angeles.
     See the <USENET> entry.
     Worcester Polytechnic Institute, site of a very active community of
     PDP-10 hackers during the Seventies.
Xerox PARC
     Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, site of much pioneering research in
     user interface design and networking.
     Yale University.

Some other etymology abbreviations such as <UNIX>, <PDP-10>, etc.
refer to technical cultures surrounding specific operating systems,
processors or other environments.

Eric S. Raymond ( maintains the new File with
assistance from Guy L. Steele (; these are the persons
primarily reflected in the File's editorial `we', though we take
pleasure in acknowledging the special contribution of the other
coauthors of Steele-1983.  Please email all additions, corrections and
correspondence relating to the jargon file to
(UUCP-only sites without connections to an autorouting smart site can
use ...!uunet!snark!jargon).

(Warning: other email addresses appear in this file *but are not
guaranteed to be correct* later than the revision date on the first
line.  *Don't* email us if an attempt to reach your idol bounces
--- we have no magic way of checking addresses or looking up people)

Some snapshot of this on-line version will become the main text of a
`New Hacker's Dictionary' possibly as early as Fall 1991.  The
maintainers are committed to updating the on-line version of the
jargon file through and beyond paper publication, and will continue to
make it available to archives and public-access sites as a trust of
the hacker community.

Here is a chronology of the recent on-line revisions:

Version 2.1.1, Jun 12 1990: the jargon file comes alive again after a
seven-year hiatus. Reorganization and massive additions were by Eric
S. Raymond, approved by Guy Steele.  Many items of UNIX, C, USENET and
microcomputer-based slang were added at that time (as well as The
Untimely Demise of Mabel The Monkey).  Some obsolete usages (mostly
PDP-10 derived) were moved to appendix B.

Version 2.1.5, Nov 28 1990: changes and additions by ESR in response to
numerous USENET submissions and comment from the First Edition coauthors.
The bibliography (Appendix C) was also appended.  

Version 2.2.1, Dec 15 1990: most of the contents of the 1983 paper
edition edited by Guy Steele was merged in.  Many more USENET
submissions added, including the International Style and
<COMMONWEALTH HACKISH> material.  This version had 9394 lines, 75954
words, 490501 chars, and 1046 entries.

Version 2.3.1, Jan 03 1991: the great format change --- case is no
longer smashed in lexicon keys and cross-references.  A very few
entries from jargon-1 which were basically straight tech-speak were
deleted; this enabled the rest of Appendix B to be merged back into
main text and the appendix replaced with the Portrait of J. Random
Hacker. More USENET submissions were added.  This version had 10728
lines, 85070 words, 558261 characters, and 1138 entries.

Version 2.4.1, Jan 14 1991: the Story of Mel and many more USENET
submissions merged in.  More material on hackish writing habits added.
Numerous typo fixes.  This version had 12362 lines, 97819 words,
642899 characters, and 1239 entries.

Version 2.5.1, Jan 29 1991: many new entries merged in.  Discussion of
inclusion styles added.  This version had 14145 lines, 111904 words,
734285 characters, and 1425 entries.

Version numbering: Read versions as major.minor.revision.  Major
version 1 is reserved for the `old' (ITS) Jargon File, jargon-1.  Major
version 2 encompasses revisions by ESR with assistance from GLS.  Someday,
the next maintainer will take over and spawn `version 3'. In general, later
versions will either completely obsolesce or incorporate earlier versions,
so there is generally no point in keeping old versions around.

Our thanks to the other co-authors of Steele-1983 for oversight and
assistance; also to all the USENETters who contributed entries and
encouragement.  Special thanks go to our Scandinavian correspondent
Per Lindberg (, author of the remarkable Swedish
language 'zine `Hackerbladet', for bringing FOO! comics to our
attention and smuggling one of the IBM hacker underground's own baby
jargon files out to us.  Also, much gratitude to ace hacker/linguist Joe
Keane ( for helping us improve the pronunciation
guides; and to Maarten Litmath for generously allowing the inclusion
of the ASCII pronunciation guide he formerly maintained.  Finally,
Mark Brader ( submitted many thoughtful comments and
did yeoman service in catching typos and minor usage bobbles.

Format For New Entries

Try to conform to the format already being used --- definitions and
cross-references in angle brackets, pronunciations in slashes,
etymologies in square brackets, single-space after definition numbers
and word classes, etc.  Stick to the standard ASCII character set (no
high-half characters or [nt]roff/TeX/Scribe escapes), as one of the
versions generated from the master file is an info document that has
to be viewable on a character tty.

Please note that as of 2.3.1 the preferred format has changed rather
dramatically; please *don't* all-caps your entry keys any more.
Besides preserving case information, this enables the maintainers to
process the File into a rather spiffy [nt]roff document with font
switches via an almost trivial lex(1) program.  This is all in aid of
preventing the freely-available on-line document and the book from

We are looking to expand the file's range of technical specialties covered.
There are doubtless rich veins of jargon yet untapped in the scientific
computing, graphics, and networking hacker communities; also in numerical
analysis, computer architectures and VLSI design, language design, and many
other related fields.  Send us your slang!

We are *not* interested in straight technical terms explained by
textbooks or technical dictionaries unless an entry illuminates
`underground' meanings or aspects not covered by official histories.
We are also not interested in `joke' entries --- there is a lot of
humor in the file but it must flow naturally out of the explanations
of what hackers do and how they think.

It is OK to submit items of slang you have originated if they have spread
to the point of being used by people who are not personally acquainted with
you.  We prefer items to be attested by independent submission from two
different sites.

A few new definitions attached to entries are marked [proposed].
These are usually generalizations suggested by editors or USENET
respondents in the process of commenting on previous definitions of
those entries.  These are *not* represented as established

The jargon file will be regularly maintained and re-posted from now on and
will include a version number.  Read it, pass it around, contribute --- this
is *your* monument!

Jargon Construction

There are some standard methods of jargonification which became
established quite early (i.e. before 1970), spreading from such
sources as the MIT Model Railroad Club, the PDP-1 SPACEWAR hackers,
and John McCarthy's original crew of LISPers.  These include:

Verb doubling: A standard construction in English is to double a verb
and use it as an exclamation, such as "Bang, bang!" or "Quack,
quack!".  Most of these are names for noises.  Hackers also double
verbs as a concise, sometimes sarcastic comment on what the implied
subject does.  Also, a doubled verb is often used to terminate a
conversation, in the process remarking on the current state of affairs
or what the speaker intends to do next.  Typical examples involve
<win>, <lose>, <hack>, <flame>, <barf>, <chomp>:

     "The disk heads just crashed."  "Lose, lose."
     "Mostly he talked about his latest crock. Flame, flame."
     "Boy, what a bagbiter!  Chomp, chomp!"

Some verb-doubled constructions have special meanings not immediately
obvious from the verb.  These have their own listings in the lexicon.

Soundalike slang: Hackers will often make rhymes or puns in order to
convert an ordinary word or phrase into something more interesting.
It is considered particularly <flavorful> if the phrase is bent so
as to include some other slang word; thus the computer hobbyist
magazine `Dr. Dobb's Journal' is almost always referred to among
hackers as `Dr. Frob's Journal' or simply `Dr. Frob's'. Terms of
this kind that have been in fairly wide use include names for

     Boston Herald American => Horrid (or Harried) American
     Boston Globe => Boston Glob
     San Francisco Chronicle => the Crocknicle
     New York Times => New York Slime

However, terms like these are often made up on the spur of the moment.
Standard examples include:

     Prime Time => Slime Time
     Data General => Dirty Genitals
     Government Property - Do Not Duplicate (seen on keys)
             => Government Duplicity - Do Not Propagate
     for historical reasons => for hysterical raisins
     Margaret Jacks Hall => Marginal Hacks Hall

This is not really similar to the Cockney rhyming slang it has been
compared to in the past, because Cockney substitutions are opaque
whereas hacker rhyming slang is intentionally transparent. 

The -P convention: turning a word into a question by appending the
syllable `P'; from the LISP convention of appending the letter `P'
to denote a predicate (a Boolean-valued function).   The question
should expect a yes/no answer, though it needn't.  (See T and NIL.)

     At dinnertime:
            Q: "Foodp?"
            A: "Yeah, I'm pretty hungry." or "T!"

            Q: "State-of-the-world-P?"
            A: (Straight) "I'm about to go home."
            A: (Humorous) "Yes, the world has a state."

     On the phone to Florida:
            Q: "State-p Florida?"
            A: "Been reading JARGON.TXT again, eh?"

[One of the best of these is a Gosperism (i.e., due to Bill
Gosper).  When we were at a Chinese restaurant, he wanted to know
whether someone would like to share with him a two-person-sized
bowl of soup.  His inquiry was: "Split-p soup?" --GLS]

Overgeneralization: A very conspicuous feature of hackerspeak is the
frequency with which names of program tools, command language
primitives, and even assembler opcodes are applied to contexts outside
of computing wherever hackers find amusing analogies to them.  Thus,
(to cite one of the best-known examples) UNIX hackers often <grep> for
things rather than *searching* for them.  Many of the lexicon
entries are generalizations of exactly this kind.

Hackers enjoy overgeneralization on the grammatical level as well.
Many hackers love to take various words and add the wrong endings to
them to make nouns and verbs, often by extending a standard rule to
nonuniform cases (or vice versa).  For example, because

     porous => porosity
     generous => generosity

hackers happily generalize:

     mysterious => mysteriosity
     ferrous => ferrocity
     obvious => obviosity
     dubious => dubiosity

Also, note that all nouns can be verbed.  e.g.: "All nouns can be
verbed", "I'll mouse it up", "Hang on while I clipboard it over",
"I'm grepping the files".  English as a whole is already heading in
this direction (towards pure-positional grammar like Chinese);
hackers are simply a bit ahead of the curve.

Similarly, all verbs can be nouned.  Thus:

     win => winnitude, winnage
     disgust => disgustitude
     hack => hackification

Finally, note the prevalence of certain kinds of nonstandard plural
forms.  Anything ending in x may form plurals in -xen (see <VAXen>
and <boxen> in the main text). Even words ending in phonetic /k/
alone are sometimes treated this way; ex. `soxen' for a bunch of
socks.  Other funny plurals are `frobbotzim' for the plural of
<frobboz> (see main text) and `Unices' and `Tenices' (rather than
`Unixes' and `Tenexes'; see <UNIX>, <TENEX> in main text). But
note that `Unixen' and `Tenexen' are *never* used; it has been
suggested that this is because -ix and -ex are latin singular endings
that attract a Latinate plural.

The pattern here, as with other hackish grammatical quirks, is
generalization of an inflectional rule which (in English) is either
an import or a fossil (such as Hebrew plural in `-im', or the
Anglo-Saxon plural in `en') to cases where it isn't normally
considered to apply.

This is not `poor grammar', as hackers are generally quite well
aware of what they are doing when they distort the language.  It is
grammatical creativity, a form of playfulness.

Spoken inarticulations: Words such as `mumble', `sigh', and
`groan' are spoken in places where their referent might more
naturally be used.  It has been suggested that this usage derives from
the impossibility of representing such noises on a comm link or in
email.  Another expression sometimes heard is "Complain!", meaning
"I have a complaint!"

Of the five listed constructions, verb doubling, peculiar noun
formations, and (especially!) spoken inarticulations have become quite
general; but rhyming slang is still largely confined to MIT and other
large universities, and the P convention is found only where LISPers

Finally, note that many words in hacker jargon have to be
understood as members of sets of comparatives.  This is especially
true of the adjectives and nouns used to describe the beauty and
functional quality of code.  Here is an approximately correct


The last is spoken of as a mythical absolute, approximated but never
actually attained.  Coinages for describing <lossage> seem to call
forth the very finest in hackish linguistic inventiveness; it has been
truly said that "<Computer geeks> have more words for equipment
failures than Inuit have for snow", or than Yiddish has for obnoxious

Hacker Speech Style

Features extremely precise diction, careful word choice, a
relatively large working vocabulary, and relatively little use of
contractions or `street slang'.  Dry humor, irony, puns, and a
mildly flippant attitude are highly valued --- but an underlying
seriousness and intelligence is essential.  One should use just
enough jargon to communicate precisely and identify oneself as `in
the culture'; overuse of jargon or a breathless, excessively
gung-ho attitude are considered tacky and the mark of a loser.

This speech style is a variety of the precisionist English normally
spoken by scientists, design engineers, and academics in technical
fields.  Unlike the jargon construction methods, it is fairly constant
throughout hackerdom.

It has been observed that many hackers are confused by negative
questions --- or, at least, the  people they're talking to are often
confused by the sense of their answers.  The problem is that they've
done so much coding that distinguishes between

     if (going) {


     if (!going) {

that when they parse the question "Aren't you going?" it seems to be
asking the opposite question from "Are you going?", and so merits an
answer in the opposite sense.  This confuses English-speaking
non-hackers because they were taught to answer as though the negative
part weren't there (in some other languages, including Chinese and
Japanese, the hackish interpretation is standard and the problem
wouldn't arise).  Hackers often find themselves wishing for a word
like French `si' or German `doch' with which one could
unambiguously answer `yes' to a negative question.

For similar reasons, English-speaking hackers almost never use a
double negative even if they live in a region where colloquial usage
allows it.  The thought of uttering something that logically ought to
be an affirmative knowing it will be mis-parsed as a negative tends to
disturb them. 

Hacker Writing Style

Hackers tend to use quotes as balanced delimiters like parens, much to
the dismay of American editors.  Thus, if "Jim is going" is a
phrase, and so is "Bill runs" and "Spock groks", then hackers
generally prefer to write: "Jim is going", "Bill runs", and
"Spock groks".  This is incorrect according to standard American
usage (which would put the continuation commas and the final period
inside the string quotes) but it is counter-intuitive to hackers to
mutilate literal strings with characters that don't belong in them.
Given the sorts of examples that can come up in discussing
programming, American-style quoting can even be grossly misleading.
When communicating command lines or small pieces of code extra
characters can be a real pain in the neck. For example:

     First do "foo -acrZ tempo | bar -," then...

is different from

     First do "foo -acrZ tempo | bar -", then...

from a computer's point of view. While the first is correct according
to the stylebooks and would probably be parsed correctly by the a
human recipient, the second is unambiguous.  The Jargon File follows
hackish usage consistently throughout.

Interestingly, a similar style is now preferred practice in Great
Britain, though the older style (which became established for
typographical reasons having to do with the aesthetics of comma and
quotes in typeset text) is still accepted there.  Hart's Rules and the
Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors call it `new' or `logical'
style quoting.

Another hacker quirk about quoting style is a tendency to distinguish
between `marking' quotes and "speech" quotes; that is, to use
British-style single quotes for emphasis and reserve double quotes for
actual reports of speach or text included from elsewhere.
Interestingly, some authorities describe this as correct general
usage, but mainstream American English has gone to using double-quotes
thoroughly enough that hacker usage appears marked [and, in fact, I
thought this was a personal quirk of mine until I checked with USENET
-- ESR].  One further permutation that is definitely *not*
standard is a hackish tendency to do marking quotes by using
apostrophes in pairs; that is, 'like this'.  This is modelled on
string and character literal syntax in some programming languages.

There seems to be a meta-rule behind these nonstandard hackerisms to
the effect that precision of expression is more important than
conformance to traditional rules; where the latter create ambiguity or
lose information they can be discarded without a second thought.  It
is notable in this respect that other hackish inventions (for example,
in vocabulary) also tend to carry very precise shades of meaning even
when constructed to appear slangy and loose.

There is another respect in which hackish usage often parallels
British usage; it tends to choose British spellings whenever these
seem more phonetically consistent than the American ones.  For
example, a hacker is likely to insist on (British-style) `signalling'
rather than American-standard `signaling' on the grounds that the
latter ought to be pronounced /sig'nay'ling/ rather than
/sig'n@-ling/.  Similarly, `travelling' is preferred to `traveling'.

Hackers have also developed a number of punctuation and emphasis
conventions adapted to single-font all-ASCII communications links, and
these are occasionally carried over into written documents even when
normal means of font changes, underlining, and the like are available.

One of these is that TEXT IN ALL CAPS IS INTERPRETED AS `LOUD', and
this becomes such a synesthetic reflex that a person who goes to
caps-lock while in <talk mode> (see main text) may be asked to "stop
shouting, please, you're hurting my ears!".

Also, it is common to use bracketing with asterisks to signify
emphasis, as in "What the *hell*?" (mote that this interferes with
the common use of asterisk suffix is a footnote mark).  An alternative
form uses paired slash and backslash: "What the \hell/?".  The
latter is never used in text documents, as many formatters treat
backslash as an <escape> and may do inappropriate things with the
following text.  Also note that there is a semantic difference between
*emphasis like this*, (which emphasizes the phrase as a whole) and
*emphasis* *like* *this* (which suggests the writer speaking very
slowly and distinctly, as if to a very young child or mentallly
impaired person).

In a formula, `*' signifies multiplication, and two asterisks in a
row are a shorthand for exponentiation (this derives from FORTRAN).
Thus, one might write `2 ** 8 = 256'.

Another notation for exponentiation one sees more frequently uses the
caret (^, ASCII 1011110); one might write instead `2 ^ 8 = 256'.
This goes all the way back to Algol-60, which used the archaic ASCII
`up-arrow' that later became caret; this was picked up by Kemeny &
Kurtz's original BASIC, which in turn influenced the design of the
bc(1) and dc(1) UNIX tools that have probably done most to reinforce
the convention on USENET.  The notation is mildly confusing to C
programmers, because `^' means logical <XOR> in C.  Despite
this, it was favored 3--1 over ** in a late-1990 snapshot of USENET.
It is used consistently in this text.

Another on-line convention, used especially for very large or very
small numbers, is taken from C (which derived it from FORTRAN).  This
is a form of `scientific notation' using `e' to replace `*10^'; for
example, one year is about 3e7 seconds long.

The tilde (`~') is commonly used in its mathematical sense of
`approximately'; that is, `~50' means "about fifty".

Underlining is often suggested by substituting underscores for spaces
and prepending and appending one underscore to the underlined phrase.
Example: "It is often alleged that Haldeman wrote _The_Forever_War_
in response to Robert Heinlein's earlier _Starship_Troopers_"

On USENET and in the <MUD> world common C boolean operators
(`|, !, ==, !=, >, <') are often combined with English by analogy
with mainstream usage of &.  The Pascal not-equals, `<>', is also
recognized. The use of prefix `!' as a loose synonym for `not-' or
`no-' is particularly common; thus, `!clue' is read `no-clue' or

Another habit is that of using enclosure to genericize a term; this
derives from conventions used in <BNF>.  Uses like the following are

     So this <ethnic> walks into a bar one day, and...

In flat-ASCII renderings of the Jargon File, you will see <> used in
exactly this way to bracket words which themselves have entries in the
File.  This isn't done all the time for every such word, but it is
done everywhere that the reader needs specially to be aware that the
term has a jargon meaning and might wish to refer to its entry.

One quirk that shows up frequently in the <email> style of UNIX
hackers in particular is a tendency for some things which are normally
all-lowercase (including usernames and the names of commands and C
routines) to remain uncapitalized even when they occur at the
beginning of sentences.  It is clear that, for many hackers, the case
of such identifiers becomes a part of their internal representation
(the "spelling") and cannot be overridden without mental effort (an
appropriate reflex because UNIX and C both distinguish cases and
confusing them can lead to lossage).  Another way of dealing with this
is simply to avoid using these constructions at the beginning of

Finally, it should be noted that hackers exhibit much less reluctance
to use multiply-nested parentheses than is normal in English.  Partly
this is almost certainly due to influence from LISP ((which uses
deeply nested parentheses (like this) in its syntax) (a lot (see?))),
but it has also been suggested that a more basic hacker trait of
enjoying playing with complexity and pushing systems to their limits
is in operation.

One area where hackish conventions for on-line writing are still in
some flux is the marking of included material from earlier messages
--- what would be called `block quotations' in ordinary English.  From
the usual typographic convention employed for these (smaller font at
an extra indent) there derived the notation of included text being
indented by one ASCII TAB (0001001) character, which under UNIX and
many other environments gives the appearance of an 8-space indent.

Early mail and netnews readers had no facility for including messages
this way, so people had to paste in copy manually. BSD `Mail(1)'
was the first message agent to support inclusion, and early USENETters
emulated its style.  But the TAB character tended to push included
text too far to the right (especially in multiply nested inclusions),
leading to ugly wraparounds.  After a brief period of confusion
(during which an inclusion leader consisting of three or four spaces
became established in EMACS and a few mailers), the use of leading ">"
or "> " became standard, perhaps because the character suggests
movement to the right (alternatively, it may derve from the ">" that
some V7 UNIX mailers use to quote leading instances of "From" in
text).  Inclusions within inclusions keep their > leaders, so the
`nesting level' of a quotation is visuallly apparent.

Now, it was rapidly observed that the practice of including text
helped solve what had been a major nuisance on USENET: the fact that
articles do not arrive at different sites in the same order.  Careless
posters used to post articles that would begin with, or even consist
entirely of, "No, that's wrong", or "I agree" or the like.  It was
hard to see who was responding to what.  Consequently, in about 1984,
new news posting software was created with a facility to automatically
include the text of a previous article, marked with "> " or whatever
the poster chose.  The poster was expected to delete all but the
relevant lines.  The result has been that, now, careless posters post
articles containing the *entire* text of a preceding article,
*followed* only by "No, that's wrong" or "I agree".

Many people feel that this cure is worse than the original disease,
and there soon appeared newsreader software designed to let the reader
skip over included text if desired.  Today, some posting software
rejects articles containing too high a proportion of lines beginning
with ">", but this too has led to undesirable workarounds such as the
deliberate inclusion of zero-content filler lines which aren't quoted
and thus pull the message below the rejection threshold.

Because the default mailers supplied with UNIX and other operating
systems haven't evolved as quickly as human usage, the older
conventions using a leading TAB or three or four spaces are still
alive; however, >-inclusion is now clearly the preferred form in both
netnews and mail.

Practice is still evolving.  One variant style reported uses the
citation character `|' in place of `>' for extended quotations where
original variations in indentation are being retained.  One also sees
different styles of quoting a number of authors in the same message:
one (deprecated because it loses information) uses a leader of "> "
for everyone, another (the most common) is "> > > > ", "> > > ", etc.
(or ">>>> ", ">>> ", etc., depending on line length and nesting depth)
reflecting the original order of messages, and yet another is to use a
different citation leader for each author, say "> ", ": ", "| ", "} "
(preserving nesting so that the inclusion order of messages is still
apparent, or tagging the inclusions with authors' names).  Yet *another*
style is to use each poster's initials (or login name) as a citation
leader for that poster.  Occasionally one sees a "# " leader used for
quotations from *authoritative* sources such as standards
documents; the intended connotation is to the root prompt.

International Style

Although the Jargon File remains primarily a lexicon of hacker
usage in American English, we have made some effort to get input from
abroad.  Though the hacker-speak of other languages often uses
translations of English slang (often as transmitted to them by earlier
Jargon File versions!) the local variations are interesting, and
knowledge of them may be of some use to travelling hackers.

There are some references to `Commonwealth English'. These are
intended to describe some variations in hacker usage as reported in
the English spoken in Great Britain and the Commonwealth (Canada,
Australia, India, etc., though Canada is heavily influenced by American
usage).  There is also an entry on COMMONWEALTH HACKISH, which see.

Hackers in Western Europe and (especially) Scandinavia are reported
to often use a mixture of English and their native languages for
technical conversation.  Occasionally they develop idioms in their
English usage which are influenced by their native-language styles.
Some of these are reported here.

A note or two on hackish usages in Russian have been added where they
are parallel with and comprehensible to English-speakers. 

UNIX Conventions

References such as `malloc(3)' and `patch(1)' are to UNIX
facilities (some of which, such as patch(1), are actually freeware
distributed over USENET).  The UNIX manuals use `foo(n)' to refer
to item foo in section (n) of the manual, where n=1 is utilities, n=2
is system calls, n=3 is C library routines, n=6 is games, and n=8
(where present) is system administration utilities.  Sections 4, 5,
and 7 have changed roles frequently and in any case are not referred
to from any of the entries.

Pronunciation Guide

Pronunciation keys are provided in the jargon listing for all
entries that are neither dictionary words pronounced as in standard
English nor obvious compounds of same.  Slashes bracket a phonetic
pronunciation to be interpreted using the following conventions:

  1. Syllables are hyphen-separated, except that an apostrophe
     or back-apostrophe follows each accented syllable (the
     back apostrophe marks a secondary accent in some words of
     four or more syllables).

  2. Consonants are pronounced as in American English.  The letter
     "g" is always hard (as in "got" rather than "giant");
     "ch" is soft ("church" rather than "chemist").  The letter
     "j" is the sound that occurs twice in "judge".  The letter
     "s" is always as in "pass", never a z sound (but it is
     sometimes doubled at the end of syllables to emphasize this).
     The digraph `kh' is the guttural of `loch' or `l'chaim'.

  3. Vowels are represented as follows:

          a	back, that
          ah	father, palm
          ar	far, mark
          aw	flaw, caught
          ay	bake, rain
          e	less, men
          ee	easy, ski
          eir	their, software
          i	trip, hit
          ie	life, sky
          o	cot, top
          oh	flow, sew
          oo	loot, through
          or	more, door
          ow	out, how
          oy	boy, coin
          uh	but, some
          u	put, foot
          y	yet
          yoo	few
          [y]oo	oo with optional fronting as in `news' (noos or nyoos)

An at-sign is used for the `schwa' sound of unstressed or occluded
vowels (the one that is often written with an upside-down `e').  The
schwa vowel is omitted in syllables containing vocalic r, l, m or n;
that is, `kitten' and `color' would be rendered /kit'n/ and /kuhl'r/,
not /kit'@n/ and /kuhl'@r/.

Entries are sorted in case-blind ASCII collation order (rather than
the letter-by-letter order ignoring interword spacing common in
mainstream dictionaries).  The case-blindness is a feature, not
a bug.

The Jargon Lexicon

                    {= [^A-Za-z] (see <regexp>) =}

<@-party> /at'par`tee/ [from the @-sign in an Internet address] n.
   (also `@-sign party' /at'sien par`tee/) Semi-closed parties thrown
   at SF conventions (esp.  the annual Worldcon) for hackers; one must
   have a <network address> to get in, or at least be in company
   with someone who does.  One of the most reliable opportunities for
   hackers to meet face to face with people who might otherwise be
   represented by mere phosphor dots on their screens.  Compare

<@Begin> [primarily CMU] n. Scribe-influenced equivalent of

<'Snooze> [Fidonet] n. Fidonews, the weekly official on-line newsletter 
   of Fidonet.  As the editorial policy of Fidonews is "anything
   that arrives, we print", there are often large articles completely
   unrelated to Fidonet, which in turn tend to elicit <flamage> in
   subsequent issues.

<(tm)> [USENET] ASCII rendition of the trademark symbol, appended to
   phrases that the author feels should be recorded for posterity,
   perhaps in the Jargon File.  Sometimes used ironically as a form of
   protest against the recent spate of software and algorithm patents,
   and `look and feel' lawsuits.

</dev/null> /dev-nuhl/ [from the UNIX null device, used as a data
   sink] n.  A notional `black hole' in any information space being
   discussed, used or referred to.  A controversial posting, for
   example, might end "Kudos to, flames to
   /dev/null".  See <bit bucket>, <null device>.

<120 reset> n. To cycle power on a machine in order to reset or
   unjam it.  Compare <Big Red Switch>, <power cycle>.

<2 (infix)> n. In translation software written by hackers, infix 2 often
   represents the syllable  to with the connotation "translate
   to"; as in dvi2ps (DVI to PostScript), int2string (integer to
   string) and texi2roff (Texinfo to [nt]roff).

<\begin> with \end, used humorously in writing to
   indicate a context or to remark on the surrounded text.  From the
   LaTeX command of the same name.  For example:

     Predicate logic is the only good programming language.
     Anyone who would use anything else is an idiot.  Also,
     computers should be tredecimal instead of binary.

   The Scribe users at CMU and elsewhere used to use @Begin/@End in
   an identical way.  On USENET, this construct would more frequently
   be rendered as "<FLAME ON>" and "<FLAME OFF>".

                                {= A =}

<accumulator> n. Archaic term for a register.  Cited here because
   on-line use of it is a fairly reliable indication that the user has
   been around for quite a while, and/or the architecture under
   discussion is quite old.  The term in full is never used of
   microprocessor registers, for example, though symbolic names for
   arithmetic registers beginning in A derive from historical use of
   `accumulator' (and not, actually, from `arithmetic'!).
   Confusingly, though, an `A' register name prefix may also stand for
   `address', as for example on the Motorola 680x0 family.

<ACK> /ak/ interj. 1. [from the ASCII mnemonic for 0000110]
   Acknowledge.  Used to register one's presence (compare mainstream
   Yo!).  An appropriate response to <ping> or <ENQ>. 2. [prob.
   from the Bloom County comic strip] An exclamation of surprised
   disgust, esp. in "Oop ack!".  Semi-humorous.  3. Used to politely
   interrupt someone to tell them you understand their point.  See
   <NAK>.  Thus, for example, you might cut off an overly long
   explanation with "Ack. Ack. Ack.  I get it now".  See also <NAK>.

   There is also a usage "ACK?" (from sense #1) meaning "Are you
   there?", often used in email when earlier mail has produced no
   reply, or during a lull in <talk mode> to see if the person has
   gone away (the standard humorous response is of course <NAK>
   (sense #2), i.e., "I'm not here").

<adger> /adj'r/ [UCLA] vt. To make a bonehead move with consequences
   that could have been foreseen with a slight amount of mental
   effort.  E.g., "He started removing files and promptly adgered the
   whole project."  Compare <dumbass attack>.

<ad-hockery> /ad-hok'@r-ee/ [Purdue] n. 1. Gratuitous assumptions
   made inside certain programs, esp. expert systems, which lead to
   the appearance of semi-intelligent behavior, but are in fact
   entirely arbitrary.  2. Special-case code to cope with some awkward
   input which would otherwise cause a program to <choke>, presuming
   normal inputs are dealt with in some cleaner and more regular way.
   Also called "ad-hackery".

<Ada> n. A <Pascal>-descended language that has been made
   mandatory for Department of Defense software projects by the
   Pentagon.  Hackers are nearly unanimous in observing that,
   technically, it is precisely what one might expect given that kind
   of endorsement by fiat; designed by committee, crockish, difficult
   to use, and overall a disasterous, multi-billion-dollar boondoggle
   (one common description is "The PL/1 of the 1980s"; hackers find
   the exception handling and inter-process communication features
   particularly risible).  Ada Lovelace (the niece of the poet Lord
   Byron who became the world's first programmer while cooperating
   with Babbage on the design of his mechanical computing engines in
   the mid-1800s) would certainly blanch at the use her name has been
   latterly put to; the kindest thing that has been said about it it
   is that there is probably a good small language screaming to get
   out from inside its vast, <elephantine> bulk.

<ADVENT> /ad'vent/ n. The prototypical computer adventure game, first
   implemented on the <PDP-10> by Will Crowther as an attempt at
   computer-refereed fantasy gaming, and expanded into a
   puzzle-oriented game by Don Woods.  Now bet<ter known as Adventure,
   but the <TOPS-10> operating system only permitted 6-letter

   This game defined the terse, dryly humorous style now expected in
   text adventure games and popularized several tag lines that have
   become fixtures of hacker-speak. "A huge green fierce snake bars
   the way!"  "I see no X here." (for X some noun). "You are in a
   maze of twisty little passages, all alike."  "You are in a little
   maze of twisty passages, all different."  The "magic words"
   <xyzzy> and <plugh> also derive from this game.

   Crowther, by the way, participated in the exploration of the
   Mammoth/Flint Ridge cave system; it actually *has* a `Colossal
   Cave' and a `Bedquilt' as in the game, and the `Y2' that also turns
   up is cavers' jargon for a map reference to a secondary entrance.

<AI koans> pl.n. A series of pastiches of Zen teaching riddles
   created by Danny Hillis at the MIT AI Lab around various major
   figures of the Lab's culture.  A selection are included in Appendix
   A. See also <ha ha only serious> and HUMOR, HACKER.

<AIDS> /ayds/ n. Short for A* Infected Disk Syndrome ("A*" matches,
   but not limited to, Apple), this condition is the quite often the
   result of practicing unsafe <SEX>.  See <virus>, <worm>, <trojan

<airplane rule> n. "Complexity increases the possibility of
   failure; a twin-engine aeroplane has twice as many engine problems
   as a single engine aeroplane."  By analogy, in both software and
   electronics, the rule that simplicity increases robustness (see
   also <Keep It Simple, Stupid>.  It is correspondingly argued that
   the right way to build reliable systems is to put all your design
   eggs in one basket and then build a *really good* basket.

<aliasing bug> [C programmers] n. A class of subtle programming
   errors which can arise in code that does dynamic allocation, esp.
   via `malloc(3)'.  If more than one pointer addresses (`aliases
   for') a given hunk of storage, it may happen that the storage is
   freed through one alias and then referenced through another,
   leading to subtle (and possibly intermittent) lossage depending on
   the state and the allocation history of the malloc <arena>.
   Avoidable by use of allocation strategies that never alias
   allocated core.  Also avoidable by use of higher-level languages
   such as <LISP> which employ a garbage collector (see <GC>).
   Also called a <stale pointer bug>.  See also <precedence
   lossage>, <smash the stack>, <fandango on core>, <memory
   leak>, <overrun screw>, <spam>.

<all-elbows> adj. Of a TSR (terminate-and-stay-resident) IBM PC
   program, such as the N pop-up calendar and calculator utilities
   that circulate on <BBS> systems: unsociable.  Used to describe a
   program that rudely steals the resources that it needs without
   considering that other TSRs may also be resident.  One particularly
   common form of rudeness is lock-up due to programs fighting over
   the keyboard interrupt.  See also <mess-doss>.
<ALT> /awlt/ [PDP-10] n.obs. Alternate name for the ASCII ESC
   character, after the keycap labeling on some older terminals.  Also
   "ALTMODE".  This character was almost never pronounced
   "escape" on an ITS system, in TECO, or under TOPS-10 --- always
   ALT, as in "Type ALT ALT to end a TECO command" or "ALT U onto
   the system" (for "log onto the [ITS] system").  This was
   probably because ALT is more convenient to say than "escape",
   especially when followed by another ALT or a character (or another
   ALT *and* a character, for that matter!).

<alt bit> /alt bit/ [from alternate] adj.  See <meta bit>.

<Aluminum Book> [MIT] n. `Common Lisp: The Language', by Guy L.
   Steele Jr., Digital Press, first edition, 1984, second edition
   1990.  Strictly speaking, only the first edition is the aluminum
   book, since the second edition has a yucky pale green cover.  See
   also <Blue Book>, <Red Book>, <Green Book>, <Silver Book>, <Purple
   Book>, <Orange Book>, <White Book>, <Pink-Shirt Book>, <Dragon

<amoeba> /@-mee'b@/ n. Humorous term for the Commodore Amiga
   personal computer.

<amp off> [Purdue] vt. To run in <background>.  From the UNIX shell `&'

<angle brackets> n. Either of the characters `<' and `>' (ASCII
   less-than or greater-than signs).  The <Real World> angle brackets
   used by typographers are actually taller than a less-than or
   greater-than sign.
   See <broket>, <ASCII>.

<AOS> 1. /aws/ (East coast), /ay-os/ (West coast) [based on a PDP-10
   increment instruction] vt.,obs. To increase the amount of something.
   "Aos the campfire."  Usage: considered silly, and now
   obsolescent.  See <SOS>.  Now largely supplanted by <bump>.  2.
   A crufty <Multics>-derived OS supported at one time by Data
   General.  This was pronounced /ay-oh-ess/ or /ay-ahs/, the latter
   being prevalent internally at DG.  A spoof of the standard AOS
   system administrator's manual (`How to load and generate your
   AOS system') was created, issued a part number, and allegedly
   released.  It was called `How to goad and levitate your chaos

   Historical note: AOS in sense #1 was the name of a <PDP-10>
   instruction that took any memory location in the computer and added
   one to it; AOS meant "Add One and do not Skip".  Why, you may
   ask, does the "S" stand for "do not Skip" rather than for
   "Skip"?  Ah, here was a beloved piece of PDP-10 folklore.  There
   were eight such instructions: AOSE added one and then skipped the
   next instruction if the result was Equal to zero; AOSG added one
   and then skipped if the result was Greater than zero; AOSN added
   one and then skipped if the result was Not zero; AOSA added one and
   then skipped Always; and so on.  Just plain AOS didn't say when to
   skip, so it never skipped.  For similar reasons, AOJ meant "Add
   One and do not Jump".  Even more bizarre, SKIP meant "do not
   SKIP"!  If you wanted to skip the next instruction, you had to say
   "SKIPA".  Likewise, JUMP means "do not JUMP".  Such were the
   perverse mysteries of assembler programming.

<app> /ap/ n. Short for "application program", as opposed to a systems
   program.  What systems vendors are forever chasing developers to do
   for their environments so they can sell more boxes.  Hackers tend
   not to think of the things they themselves run as apps; thus, in
   hacker parlance the term excludes compilers, program editors,
   games, and messaging systems, though a user would consider all
   those apps.  Oppose <tool>, <operating system>.

<arc> [primarily MSDOS] vt. to create a compressed archive from a
   group of files using the SEA ARC, PKWare PKARC, or compatible
   program.  Rapidly becoming obsolete as the ARC compression method
   is falling into disuse, having been replaced by newer compression
   techniques.  See <tar and feather>, <zip>.

<arc wars> [primarily MSDOS] n. <holy wars> over which archiving
   program one should use.  The first arc war was sparked when System
   Enhancement Associates (SEA) sued PKWare for copyright and
   trademark infringement on its ARC program.  PKWare's PKARC
   outperformed ARC on both compression and speed while largely
   retaining compatibility (it introduced a new compression type which
   could be disabled for backward-compatibility).  PKWare settled out
   of court to avoid enormous legal costs (both SEA and PKWare are
   small companies); as part of the settlement, it was prohibited from
   distributing ARC-compatible archivers in the future.  The public
   backlash against SEA for bringing suit helped to hasten the demise
   of ARC as a standard when PKWare and others introduced new,
   incompatible but better-compressing, archivers.

<arena> [UNIX] n. The area of memory attached to a process by `brk(2)'
   and `sbrk(2)' and used by `malloc(3)' as dynamic storage.  So named
   from a semi-mythical `malloc: corrupt arena' message supposedly
   emitted when some early versions became terminally confused.  See
   <overrun screw>, <aliasing bug>, <memory leak>, <smash the stack>.

<arg> /arg/ n. Abbreviation for "argument" (to a function), used so
   often as to have become a new word (like `piano' from
   `pianoforte').  "The sine function takes one arg, but the
   arc-tangent function can take either one or two args".  Compare
   <param>, <var>.

<armor-plated> n. Syn. for <bulletproof>.

<asbestos cork award> n.  Once, long ago at MIT, there was a <flamer>
   so consistently obnoxious that another hacker designed, had made,
   and distributed posters announcing that said flamer had been
   nominated for the "asbestos cork award".  Persons in any doubt as
   to the intended application of the cork should consult the
   etymology under <flame>.  Since then, it is agreed that only a
   select few have risen to the heights of bombast required to earn
   this dubious dignity --- but there's no agreement on *which*

<asbestos longjohns> n. Metaphoric garments often donned by <USENET>
   posters just before emitting a remark they expect will elicit
   <flamage>.  Also "asbestos underwear", "asbestos overcoat",

<ASCII> [American Standard Code for Information Interchange] /as'kee/
   n. Common slang names for ASCII characters are collected here.  See
   individual entries for <bang>, <close>, <excl>, <open>, <ques>,
   <semi>, <shriek>, <splat>, <twiddle>, <what>, <wow>, and <Yu-Shiang
   whole fish>.  This list derives from revision 2.2 of the USENET
   ASCII pronunciation guide.  Single characters are listed in ASCII
   order; character pairs are sorted in by first member.  For each
   character, common names are given in rough order of popularity
   followed by names which are reported but rarely seen; official
   ANSI/CCIT names are parenthesized.

          Common: <bang>, pling, excl shriek, (exclamation point).
          Rare: factorial, exclam, smash, cuss, boing, yell, wow, hey,
          wham, spot-spark, soldier..

          Common: double quote, quote.  Rare: literal mark,
          double-glitch, (quotation marks), (diaresis), dirk..

          Common: (number sign), pound, hash, sharp, <crunch>, mesh,
          hex.  Rare: flash, crosshatch, grid, pig-pen, tictactoe,
          scratchmark, octothorpe, thud, <splat>..

          Common: dollar, (dollar sign).  Rare: currency symbol, buck,
          cash, string (from BASIC), escape (from <TOPS-10>), ding,

          Common: percent, (percent sign), mod, grapes..

          Common: (ampersand), amper, and.  Rare: address (from C),
          reference (from C++), andpersand, bitand, background (from
          `sh(1)'), pretzel..

          Common: single quote, quote, (apostrophe).  Rare: prime,
          glitch, tick, irk, pop, spark, (closing single quotation
          mark), (acute accent)..

          Common: left/right paren, left/right parenthesis, left/right,
          paren/thesis, open/close paren, open/close, open/close
          parenthesis, left/right banana.  Rare: lparen/rparen,
          so/already, wax/wane, (opening/closing parenthesis),
          left/right ear, parenthisey/unparenthisey, open/close round

          Common: star, <splat>, (asterisk).  Rare: wildcard, gear,
          dingle, mult, spider, aster, times, twinkle, glob (see
          <glob>), <Nathan Hale>..

          Common: (plus), add.  Rare: cross..

          Common: (comma). Rate: (cedilla)..

          Common: dash, (hyphen), (minus).  Rare: worm, option, dak,

          Common: dot, point, (period), (decimal point), Rare: radix
          point, full stop..

          Common: slash, stroke, (slant), forward slash. Rare: diagonal,
          solidus, over, slak, virgule..

          Common: (colon).  Rare: two-spot..

          Common: (semicolon), semi.  Rare: weenie..

          Common: (less/greater than), left/right angle bracket,
          bra/ket, left/right broket.  Rare: from/{into,towards}, read
          from/write to, suck/blow, comes-from/gozinta, in/out,
          crunch/zap (all from UNIX).

          Common: (equals), gets.  Rare: quadrathorpe..

          Common: query, (question mark), <ques>.  Rare: whatmark, what,
          wildchar, huh, hook, buttonhook, hunchback..

          Common: at-sign, at, strudel.  Rare: each, vortex, whorl,
          cyclone, snail, ape, cat, rose, cabbage, (commercial at)..

          Rare: vee, book..

          Common: left/right square bracket, (opening/closing bracket),
          bracket/unbracket left/right bracket, Rare: square/unsquare..

          Common: backslash, escape (from C/UNIX), reverse slash, slosh,
          backslant.  Rare: bash, backwhack, (reversed slant), reversed

          Common: hat, control, (as in `control to'), uparrow, (caret).
          Rare: (circumflex), chevron, shark (or shark fin), to (`to the
          power of'), fang..

          Common: (underline), underscore, underbar, under.  Rare:
          score, backarrow..

          Common: backquote, left quote, open quote, (grave accent),
          grave.  Rare: backprime, backspark, unapostrophe, birk,
          blugle, back tick, back glitch, push, (opening single
          quotation mark)..

          Common: open/close brace, left/right brace, left/right
          squiggly bracket, (opening/closing brace), left/right curly
          bracket.  Rare: brace/unbrace, curly/uncurly, leftit/rytit..

          Common: bar, or, or-bar, v-bar, pipe.  Rare: vertical bar,
          (vertical line), gozinta, thru, pipesinta (last three ones
          from UNIX)..

          Common: (tilde), squiggle, <twiddle>, not.  Rare: approx,
          wiggle, swung dash, enyay, sqiggle.

   The pronunciation of `#' as `pound' is common in the U.S. but
   a bad idea; Commonwealth hackish has its own rather more apposite
   use of `pound'.  The U.S. practice seems to derive from an old-time
   habit of using `#' to tag pound weights on bills of lading.
   The character is usually pronounced `hash' outside the U.S.

   Also note that the `swung dash' or `approx' sign is not quite the
   same as tilde in typeset material, but the ASCII tilde serves for
   both (compare <angle brackets>).

   Some other common usages cause odd overlaps.  The `#',
   `$', `>' and `&' chars, for example, are all
   pronounced "hex" in different communities because various assemblers
   use them as a prefix tag for hexadecimal constants (in particular,
   $ in the 6502 world, > at Texas Instruments, and & on the Sinclair
   and some other Z80 machines).

<asymptotic> adj. Infinitely close to.  This is used in a
   generalization of its mathematical meaning to allege that something
   is <within epsilon of> some standard, reference, or goal (see

<autobogotiphobia> /aw'to-boh-got'@-foh`bee-uh/ n. See <bogotify>.

<automagically> /aw-toh-maj'i-klee/ or /aw-toh-maj'i-k@l-ee/ adv.
   Automatically, but in a way which, for some reason (typically
   because it is too complicated, or too ugly, or perhaps even too
   trivial), the speaker doesn't feel like explaining to you.  See
   <magic>.  "The C-INTERCAL compiler generates C, then automagically
   invokes `cc(1)' to produce an executable."

<awk> 1. n. [UNIX] An interpreted language developed by Aho,
   Weinberg and Kernighan (the name is from their initials).
   characterized by: C-like syntax, a BASIC-like approach to variable
   typing and declarations, associative arrays, and field-oriented
   text processing.  See also <Perl>. 2. Editing term for an
   expression awkward to manipulate through normal regular expression
   facilities.  2. vt. To process data using `awk(1)'.

                                {= B =}

<backbone cabal> n. A group of large-site administrators who pushed
   through the <Great Renaming> and reined in the chaos of <USENET>
   during most of the 1980s.  The cabal <mailing list> disbanded in late
   1988 after a bitter internal catfight, but the net hardly noticed.

<backbone site> n. A key USENET and email site; one which processes
   a large amount of third-party traffic, especially if it's the home
   site of any of the regional coordinators for the USENET maps.
   Notable backbone sites as of early 1991 include "uunet" and the
   mail machines at Rutgers University, UC Berkeley, DEC's Western
   Research Laboratories, Ohio State University, and the University of
   Texas.  Compare <rib site>, <leaf site>.

<back door> n. A hole in the security of a system deliberately left in
   place by designers or maintainers.  The motivation for this is not
   always sinister; some operating systems, for example, come out of
   the box with privileged accounts intended for use by field service
   or the vendor's maintenance programmers.

   Historically, back doors have often lurked in systems longer than
   anyone expected or planned, and a few have become widely known.
   The famous RTM worm of late 1988, for example, used a back door in
   the <BSD UNIX> `sendmail(1)' utility.

   Ken Thompson's 1983 Turing Award lecture to the ACM revealed the
   existence of a back door in early UNIX versions that may have
   qualified as the most fiendishly clever security hack of all time.
   The binaries of the C compiler had code in them which a) would
   automatically patch itself into the output executable whenver
   whenever the compiler itself was being recompiled, b) would also
   patch the `login'  command, when *it* was being
   recompiled, to accept a password that gave Thompson entry to the
   computer whether or not an account had been created for him!  This
   back door was propagated through hundreds of machines without any
   clue to it ever showing up in source.

   Syn. <trap door>; may also be called a "wormhole".  See also
   <iron box>, <cracker>, <worm>, <logic bomb>.

<background> vt.,adj. A task running in background is detached from
   the terminal where it was started (and often running at a lower
   priority); oppose <foreground>.  Nowadays this term is primarily
   associated with <UNIX>, but it appears first to have been used in
   this sense on OS/360.  By extension, to do a task "in
   background" is to do it whenever <foreground> matters are not
   claiming your undivided attention, and "to background"
   something means to relegate it to a lower priority.  Note that this
   implies ongoing activity but at a reduced level or in spare time,
   in contrast to mainstream `back burner' which connotes benign
   neglect until some future resumption of activity.  Compare <amp
   off>, <slopsucker>.

<backspace and overstrike> interj.  Whoa!  Back up.  Used to suggest
   that someone just said or did something wrong.  Common among
   APL programmers.

<BAD> [IBM; acronym, Broken As Designed] adj.  Said of a program
   which is <bogus> due to bad design and misfeatures rather than
   due to bugginess.  See <working as designed>.

<Bad Thing> [from the 1962 Sellars & Yeatman parody `1066 and All
   That'] n. Something which can't possibly result in improvement of
   the subject.  This term is always capitalized, as in "Replacing
   all of the 9600 baud modems with bicycle couriers would be a Bad
   Thing."  Oppose <Good Thing>.  British correspondents confirm that
   <Bad Thing> and <Good Thing> (and prob. therefore <Right Thing> and
   <Wrong Thing>) come from the book referenced in the etymology,
   which discusses rulers who were Good Kings, but Bad Things.  This
   has apparently created a mainstream idiom on their side of the

<bagbiter> /bag'biet-@r/ n.  1. Something, such as a program or a
   computer, that fails to work, or works in a remarkably clumsy
   manner.  Example: "This text editor won't let me make a file with
   a line longer than 80 characters!  What a bagbiter!"  2.  A person
   who has caused you some trouble, inadvertently or otherwise,
   typically by failing to program the computer properly.  Synonyms:
   <loser>, <cretin>, <chomper>. 3. Also in the form
   "bagbiting" adj.  Having the quality of a bagbiter.  "This
   bagbiting system won't let me compute the factorial of a negative
   number."  Compare <losing>, <cretinous>, <bletcherous>,
   <barfucious> and "chomping" (under <chomp>). 4. "bite
   the bag" vi.  To fail in some manner. "The computer keeps crashing
   every five minutes."  "Yes, the disk controller is really biting
   the bag."  The original loading of these terms was almost
   undoubtedly obscene, possibly referring to the scrotum, but in
   their current usage they have become almost completely sanitized.

<bamf> /bamf/ 1. [from old X-men comics] interj. Notional sound made
   by a person or object teleporting in or out of the hearer's
   vicinity.  Often used in <virtual reality> (esp. <MUD>)
   electronic fora when a character wishes to make a dramatic entrance
   or exit.  2. [from `Don Washington's Survival Guide'] n.
   Acronym for `Bad-Ass Mother Fucker', used to refer to one of the
   handful of nastiest monsters on an LPMUD or similar MUD.

<banana label> n. The labels often used on the sides of <macrotape>
   reels, so called because they're shaped roughly like blunt-ended
   bananas.  This term, like macrotapes themselves, is still current
   but visibly headed for obsolescence.

<banana problem> n. [from the story of the little girl who said "I
   know how to spell `banana', but I don't know when to stop"].  Not
   knowing where or when to bring a production to a close.  One may
   say there is a banana problem of an algorithm with poorly defined
   or incorrect termination conditions, or in discussing the evolution
   of a design that may be succumbing to featuritis (see also
   <creeping elegance>).
<bandwidth> n. 1. Used by hackers in a generalization of its technical
   meaning as the volume of information per unit time that a computer,
   person or transmission medium can handle. "Those are amazing
   graphics but I missed some of the detail --- not enough bandwidth,
   I guess."  2. Attention span.  3. On <USENET>, a measure of
   network capacity that is often wasted by people complaining about
   how network news items posted by others are a waste of bandwidth.

<bang> 1. n. Common spoken name for `!' (ASCII 0100001),
   especially when used in pronouncing a <bang path> in spoken
   hackish.  In elder days this was considered a CMUish usage, with
   MIT and Stanford hackers preferring <excl> or <shriek>; but the
   spread of UNIX has carried <bang> with it (esp. via the term
   <bang path>) and it is now certainly the most common spoken name
   for `!'.  Note that it is used exclusively for non-emphatic
   written `!'; one would not say "Congratulations bang"
   (except possibly for humorous purposes), but if one wanted to
   specify the exact characters `FOO!', one would speak "Eff oh oh
   bang".  See <shriek>, <ASCII>.  2.  interj.  An exclamation
   signifying roughly "I have achieved enlightenment!", or "The
   dynamite has cleared out my brain!".  Often used to acknowledge
   that one has perpetrated a <thinko> immediately after one has
   been called on it.

<bang path> n. An old-style UUCP electronic-mail address specifying
   hops to get from some assumed-reachable location to the addressee,
   so called because each <hop> is signified by a <bang> sign.  Thus
   the path `...!bigsite!foovax!barbox!me' directs correspondents
   to route their mail to machine bigsite (presumably a well-known
   location accessible to everybody) and from there through the
   machine `foovax' to the account of user `me' on `barbox'.  In the
   bad old days of not so long ago, before autorouting mailers became
   commonplace, people often published compound bang addresses using
   the { } convention (see <glob>) to give paths from
   *several* big machines, in the hopes that one's correspondent
   might be able to get mail to one of them reliable (example:
   ...!{seismo, ut-sally, gatech}!rice!beta!gamma!me). Bang paths of 8
   to ten hops were not uncommon in 1981.  Late night dial-up uucp
   links would cause week-long transmission times.  Bang paths were
   often selected by both transmission time and reliability, as
   messages would often get lost.  See <Internet address>,
   <network, the>, and <sitename>.

<banner> n. 1. The title page added to printouts by most print
   spoolers see <spool>.  Typically includes user or account ID
   information in very large character-graphics capitals.  2. A
   similar printout generated from user-specified text, e.g by a
   program such as UNIX's `banner[16]'.  3. On interactive
   software, a first screen containing a logo and/or author credits
   and/or copyright notice.

<bar> /bar/ n. 1. The second metasyntactic variable, after <foo>
   and before <baz>.  "Suppose we have two functions FOO and BAR.
   FOO calls BAR..." 2. Often appended to <foo> to produce

<bare metal> n. 1. New computer hardware, unadorned with such snares
   and delusions as an <operating system>, <HLL>, or even
   assembler.  Commonly in the phrase `programming on the bare metal',
   which refers to the arduous work of <bit bashing> needed to
   create these basic tools for a new machine.  Real bare-metal
   programming involves things like building boot proms and BIOS
   chips, implementing basic monitors used to test device drivers, and
   writing the assemblers that will be used to write the compiler back
   ends that will give the new machine a real development environment.
   2. The same phrase is also used to describe a style of
   <hand-hacking> that relies on bit-level peculiarities of a
   particular hardware design, esp. tricks for speed and space
   optimization that rely on crocks such as overlapping opcodes (or,
   as in the famous case described in Appendix A, interleaving of
   opcodes on a magnetic drum to minimize fetch delays due to the
   device's rotational latency).  This sort of thing has become less
   common as the relative costs of programming time and machine
   resources have changed, but is still found in heavily constrained
   environments like industrial embedded systems.  See <real

<barf> /barf/ [from mainstream slang meaning `vomit'] 1. interj.
   Term of disgust.  This is the closest hackish equivalent of the
   Valspeak `gag me with a spoon'.  See <bletch>.  2. To say
   "Barf!" or emit some similar expression of disgust. "I showed
   him my latest hack and he barfed" means only that he complained
   about it, not that he literally vomited.  3. vi. To fail to work
   because of unacceptable input.  May mean to give an error message.
   Examples: "The division operation barfs if you try to divide by
   zero."  (that is, division by zero fails in some unspecified
   spectacular way) "The text editor barfs if you try to read in a
   new file before writing out the old one." See <choke>, <gag>.
   Note that in Commonwealth hackish, `barf' is generally replaced by
   `puke' or `vom'.  <barf> is sometimes also used as a
   metasyntactic variable like <foo> or <bar>.

<barfulous> adj. (also <barfucious>) Said of something which would
   make anyone barf, if only for esthetic reasons.

<barfulation> interj. Variation of <barf> used around the Stanford
   area.  An exclamation, expressing disgust. On seeing some
   particularly bad code one might exclaim, "Barfulation! Who wrote
   this, Quux?"

<baroque> adj.  Feature-encrusted; complex; gaudy; verging on
   excessive.  Said of hardware or (esp.) software designs, this has
   many of the connotations of <elephantine> or <monstrosity> but is
   less extreme and not pejorative in itself.  See also <rococo>.

<BartleMUD> n. Any of the MUDs which are devived from the original MUD
   game (see <MUD>) or use the same software drivers.  BartleMUDs are
   noted for their (usually slightly offbeat) humour, dry but friendly
   syntax, and lack of adjectives in object descriptions, so a player
   is likely to come across `brand172', for instance (see <brand
   brand brand>).  Some mudders intensely dislike Bartle and this
   term, preferring to speak of `MUD-1'.

<batch> adj.  Non-interactive.  Hackers use this somewhat more
   loosely than the traditional technical definitions justify; in
   particular, switches on a normally interactive program that prepare
   it to receive what would normally be keyboard input from a file are
   often referred to as <batch mode> switches.  A "batch file"
   is a series of instructions written to be handed to an interactive
   program running in batch mode.  Compare <script>.

<baud barf> /bawd barf/ n. The garbage one gets on the monitor when
   using a modem connection with some protocol setting (esp. line
   speed) incorrect, or when someone picks up a voice extension on the
   same line, or when really bad line noise disrupts the connection.
   Baud barf is not completely <random>, by the way; hackers with a
   lot of serial-line experience can usually tell whether the device
   at the other end is expecting a higher or lower speed than the
   terminal is set to.  *Really* experienced ones can identify
   particular speeds.

<bathtub curve> n. Common term for the curve (resembling an
   end-to-end section of one of those claw-footed antique bathtubs)
   that describes the expected failure rate of electronics with time:
   initially high, dropping to near zero for most of the system's
   lifetime, then rising again as it `tires out'.  See also <burn-in
   period>, <infant mortality>.

<baz> /baz/ n. [Stanford corruption of <bar>] 1. The third
   metasyntactic variable, after <foo> and <bar> and before
   <qux>.  "Suppose we have three functions FOO, BAR, and BAZ.  FOO
   calls BAR, which calls BAZ..." 2. interj. Term of mild
   annoyance.  In this usage the term is often drawn out for two or
   three seconds, producing an effect not unlike the bleating of a
   sheep; /baaaaaaz/.  3. Occasionally appended to <foo> to produce

<bboard> /bee'bord/ [contraction of "bulletin board"] n. 1. Any
   electronic bulletin board; esp. used of <BBS> systems running of
   personal micros, less frequently of a USENET <newsgroup>.  2. At
   CMU and other colleges with similar facilities, refers to
   campuswide electronic bulletin boards.  3.  The term "physical
   bboard" is sometimes used to refer to a non-electronic
   old-fashioned cork memo board.  At CMU, it refers to a particular
   one outside the CS Lounge.

   In either of senses 1 or 2, the term is usually prefixed by the
   name of the intended board (`the Moonlight Casino bboard' or
   `market bboard'); however, if the context is clear, the better-read
   bboards may be referred to by name alone, as in [at CMU] "Don't
   post for-sale ads on general".

<BBS> [acronym, Bulletin Board System] n. An electronic bulletin
   board system; that is, a message database where people can log in
   and leave broadcast messages for others grouped (typically) into
   topic areas.  Thousands of local BBS systems are in operation
   throughout the U.S., typically run by amateurs for fun out of their
   homes on MS-DOS boxes with a single modem line each.  Fans of
   USENET and Internet or the big commercial timesharing boards like
   CompuServe or GEnie tend to consider local BBSes the `low-rent
   district' of the hacker culture, but they serve a valuable function
   by knitting together lots of hackers and users in the
   personal-micro world who would otherwise be unable to exchange code
   at all.

<beam> [from Star Trek Classic's "Beam me up, Scotty!"] vt. To
   transfer <softcopy> of a file electronically; most often in
   combining forms such as "beam me a copy" or "beam that over to
   his site".  Compare <blast>, <snarf>, <BLT>.

<beep> n.,v. Syn. <feep>.  This term seems to be preferred among micro

<bells and whistles> [by analogy with steam calliopes] n. Features
   added to a program or system to make it more <flavorful> from a
   hacker's point of view, without necessarily adding to its utility
   for its primary function.  Distinguished from <chrome> which is
   intended to attract users.  "Now that we've got the basic program
   working, let's go back and add some bells and whistles."  However,
   no one seems to know what distinguishes a bell from a whistle.

<belly up> [think of a dead fish] adj. Down, and it stinks.  Used of
   hardware which suddenly stops working, especially when the
   <stoppage> is ideally timed to disrupt a development schedule.
   Esp. found in the phrase `to go belly up' or `gone belly up'.  See
   also <casters up mode>, <down>.
<benchmark> n. An inaccurate measure of computer performance.  "In
   the computer industry, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn
   lies, and benchmarks."  Well known ones include Whetstone,
   Dhrystone, the Gabriel LISP benchmarks (see <Gabriel mode>),
   Rhealstone (see <h infix>) and LINPACK. See also <machoflops>,

<berklix> /ber'kliks/ n.,adj. Contraction of `Berkeley UNIX'.  See
   <BSD>.  Not used at Berkeley itself.  May be more common among
   <suits> attempting to sound like cognoscenti than among hackers,
   who usually just say `BSD'.

<berserking> vi. A <MUD> term meaning to gain points *only* by
   killing other players and mobiles (non-player characters).  Hence a
   Berserker-Wizard is a player character that has achieved enough
   points to become a wizard, but only by killing other characters.
   Berserking is sometimes frowned upon because of its inherently
   antisocial nature, but some MUDs have a "berserker mode" in which a
   player becomes *permanently* berserk, can never flee out of a
   fight, cannot use magic, get no score for treasure, but they
   *do* get double kill points.  "Berserker wizards can seriously
   damage your elf!"

<Berzerkeley> [from "berserk"] /b@r-zer'klee/ [from the name of a
   now-deceased record label] n. Humorous, distortion of `Berkeley'
   used esp.  to refer to the practices or products of the <BSD> UNIX
   hackers.  See <software bloat>, <Missed'em-five>.

<beta> /be't@/, /bay't@/ or (Commonwealth) /bee't@/ n. 1. In the
   <Real World>, software often goes through two stages of testing:
   Alpha (in-house) and Beta (out-house?).  Software is said to be
   "in beta".  2. Anything that is new and experimental is in
   beta. "His girlfriend is in beta."  3. Beta software is
   notoriously buggy, so `in beta' connotes flakiness.   

   Historical note: More formally, to beta-test is to test a
   pre-release (potentially unreliable) version of a piece of software
   by making it available to selected customers and users.  This term
   derives from early nineteen-sixties 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.
<BFI> n. See <brute force and ignorance>.  Also encountered in the
   variant "BFMI", `brute force and "massive" ignorance'.

<bible> n. 1. One of a small number of fundamental source books
   such as <Knuth> and <K&R>.  2. The most detailed and
   authoritative reference for a particular language, operating
   system, or other complex software system.

<BiCapitalization> adj. The act said to have been performed on
   trademarks such as VisiCalc, FrameMaker, TKsolver, EasyWriter and
   others which have been raised above the hoi polloi of common
   coinage by nonstandard capitalization.  <Marketroid> types think
   this sort of thing is really cute, even the 2,317th time they do
   it.  Compare <studlycaps>.

<BIFF> /bif/ [USENET] n.  The most famous <pseudo>, and the
   prototypical <newbie>.  Articles from BIFF are characterized by
   all upper case letters sprinkled liberally with bangs, typos,
   `cute' misspellings (EVRY BUDY LUVS GOOD OLD BIFF CUZ HE"S A K00L
   THIS!!!), use (and often misuse) of fragments of <talk mode>
   abbreviations, a long <sig block> (sometimes even a <doubled
   sig>), and unbounded naivete.  BIFF posts articles using his elder
   brother's VIC-20.  BIFF's location is a mystery, as his articles
   appear to come from a variety of sites.  However, BITNET seems to
   be the most frequent origin.  The theory that BIFF is a denizen of
   BITNET is supported by BIFF's (unfortunately invalid) electronic
   mail address: BIFF@BIT.NET.

<biff> /bif/ vt. To notify someone of incoming mail; from the BSD
   utility `biff(1)' which was in turn named after the
   implementor's dog; it barked whenever the mailman came.

<big-endian> [From Swift's `Gulliver's Travels' via a famous
   paper `On Holy Wars and a Plea for Peace' by Danny Cohen,
   USC/ISI IEN 137 dated 1 April 1980] 1. adj.  Describes a computer
   architecture in which, within a given word, lower byte addresses
   have higher significance (the word is stored `big-end-first').
   Most processors including the IBM 370 family and the <PDP-10> and
   Motorola microprocessor families and most of the various RISC
   designs current in 1990 are big-endian.  See <little-endian>,
   <middle-endian>, <NUXI problem>.  2.  adj. An <internet
   address> the wrong way round.  Most of the world follows the
   Internet standard and writes email addresses starting with the name
   of the computer and ending up with the name of the country.  In the
   UK the Joint Networking Team decided to do it the other way round.
   E.g. `'.  Most gateway sites have
   <ad-hockery> in their mailers to handle this, but can still be
   confused.  In particular the address above could be in the UK (code
   `uk') or Czechoslovakia (code `cs').

<Big Grey Wall> n. What greets a <VMS> user searching for
   documentation.  A full VMS kit comes on a pallet, the documentation
   taking up around 15 feet of shelf space before adding layered
   products such as compilers, databases, multivendor networking,
   programming tools etc.  Recent (since VMS V5) DEC documentation
   comes with grey binders; under VMS V4 the binders were orange
   ("big orange wall"), and under V3 they were blue.  See <VMS>.

<big iron> n. Large, expensive, ultra-fast computers.  Used generally
   of number crunching supercomputers such as Crays, but can include
   more conventional big commercial IBMish mainframes.  Term of
   approval; compare <heavy metal>, oppose <dinosaur>.

<Big Red Switch> [IBM] n. The power switch on a computer, esp. the
   `Emergency Pull' switch on an IBM <mainframe> or the power switch on
   an IBM-PC where it really is large and red.  "This !@%$% <bitty
   box> is hung again; time to hit the Big Red Switch."  Sources at
   IBM report that, in tune with the company's passion for <TLA>s,
   this is often acronymized as "BRS" (this has also become
   established on FidoNet and in the PC <clone> world).  It is alleged
   that the emergency pull switch on a 360/91 actually fired a
   non-conducting bolt into the main power feed.  Compare
   <power cycle>, <three-finger salute>.

<bignum> /big'num/ [orig. from MIT MACLISP] n.  1. A
   multiple-precision computer representation for very large integers.
   More generally, any very large number.  "Have you ever looked at
   the United States Budget?  There's bignums for you!"

   Most computer languages provide a kind of data called `integer',
   but such computer integers are usually very limited in size;
   usually they must be smaller than 2^31 (2147483648) or (on a losing
   <bitty box>) 2^15 (32768).  If you want to work with numbers
   larger than that, you have to use floating-point numbers, which are
   usually accurate to only six or seven decimal places.  Computer
   languages that provide bignums can perform exact calculations on
   very large numbers, such as 1000! (the factorial of 1000, which is
   1000 times 999 times 998 times ... times 2 times 1).  For
   example, this value for 1000! was computed by the MACLISP system
   using bignums:


   2. [Stanford] n. In backgammon, large numbers on the dice are
   called "bignums", especially a roll of double fives or double
   sixes.  See also <El Camino Bignum>.

<bigot> n. A person who is religiously attached to a particular
   language, operating system, editor or other tool (see <religious
   issues>).  Usually found with a specifier; thus, "APL bigot",
   "VMS bigot", "EMACS bigot".  A true bigot can be
   distinguished from a mere partisan or zealot by the fact that
   he/she refuses to learn alternatives. It is said "You can tell a
   bigot, but you can't tell him much."  Compare <weenie>.

<bit> [from the mainstream meaning and `binary digit'] n.  1. The
   unit of information; the amount of information obtained by asking a
   yes-or-no question for which the two outcomes are equally probable
   (this is straight technicalese).  2. A computational quantity that
   can take on one of two values, such as true and false, or zero and
   one.  3. A mental flag: a reminder that something should be done
   eventually.  Example: "I have a bit set for you." (I haven't seen
   you for a while, and I'm supposed to tell or ask you something.)
   "I just need one bit from you" is a polite way of indicating that
   you intend only a short interruption for a question which can
   presumably be answered with a yes or no.

   A bit is said to be "set" if its value is true or one, and
   "reset" or "clear" if its value is false or zero.  One
   speaks of setting and clearing bits.  To "toggle" or
   "invert" a bit is to change it, either from zero to one or from
   one to zero.   See also <flag>, <trit>, <mode bit>.

<bit bang> n. Transmission of data on a serial line, when accomplished by
   rapidly tweaking a single output bit at the appropriate times
   (popular on certain early models of Prime computers, presumably
   when UARTs were too expensive, and on archaic Z-80 micros with a
   Zilog PIO but no SIO).  The technique is a simple loop with eight
   OUT and SHIFT instruction pairs for each byte.  Input is more
   interesting.  And full duplex (doing input and output at the same
   time) is one way to separate the real hackers from the <wannabees>.

<bit bashing> n. (also, "bit diddling" or "bit twiddling") Term
   used to describe any of several kinds of low-level programming
   characterized by manipulation of <bit>, <flag>, <nybble> and other
   smaller-than-character-sized pieces of data: these include
   low-level device control, encryption algorithms, checksum and
   error-correcting codes, hash functions, some flavors of graphics
   programming (see <bitblt>), and assembler/compiler code generation.
   May connote either tedium or a real technical challenge (more
   usually the former).  "The command decoding for the new tape
   driver looks pretty solid but the bit-bashing for the control
   registers still has bugs."  See also <bit bang>, <mode bit>.

<bit bucket> n. The universal data sink (originally, the mythical
   receptacle used to catch bits when they fall off the end of a
   register during a shift instruction).  Data that is discarded,
   lost, or destroyed is said to "go to the bit bucket".  On <UNIX>,
   often used for </dev/null>.  Sometimes amplified as "the Great Bit
   Bucket in the Sky".  This term is used purely in jest.  It's based
   on the fanciful notion that bits are objects that are not
   destroyed, but only misplaced.  This appears to have been a
   mutation of an earlier term "bit box", about which the same
   legend was current; old-time hackers also report that trainees used
   to be told that when the CPU stored bits into memory it was
   actually pulling them "out of the bit box".  See also <chad box>,
   <null device>.

<bit decay> n. See <software rot>.  People with a physics background
   tend to prefer this one for the analogy with particle decay.  See
   also <computron>, <quantum bogodynamics>.

<bit-paired keyboard> n. obs.  A non-standard keyboard layout which
   seems to have originated with the Teletype ASR-33 and remained
   common for several years on early computer equipment.  The TTY was
   a mechanical device (see <EOU>) so the only way to generate the
   character codes from keystrokes was by some physical linkage.  The
   design of the ASR-33 assigned each character key a basic pattern
   which could be modified by flipping bits if the SHIFT or CTRL key
   were pressed.  This meant that in order to avoid making the thing
   more of a Rube Goldberg kluge than it already was the design had to
   group on one keytop characters which shared the same basic bit

   Looking at the ASCII chart, we find:
        b7b6b5  b4b3b2b1 --- (in decimal)
                 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  
         0 1 0  sp   !   "   #   $   %   &   '   (   ) 
         0 1 1   0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9

   That's why the shifted decimal digits on a Teletype are arranged
   that way (except that 0 was moved over to the right-hand side).
   This was <not> the weirdest variant of <QWERTY> layout widely
   seen, by the way; that palm probably goes to the keycaps on IBM's
   even clunkier 029 card punch.
   When electronic terminals became popular in the early
   nineteen-seventies there was no agreement in the industry over how
   the keyboards should be laid out.  Some vendors opted to emulate
   the Teletype keyboard, while others used the flexibility of
   electronic circuitry to make their product look like an office
   typewriter.  These alternatives became known as `bit-paired' and
   `typewriter-paired' keyboards.  To a hacker, the bit-paired
   keyboard seemed far more logical --- and because most hackers in
   those days had never learned to touch-type, there was little
   pressure from the pioneering users to adapt keyboards to the
   typewriter standard.
   The doom of the bit-paired keyboard was the large-scale
   introduction of the computer terminal into the normal office
   environment, where out-and-out technophobes were expected to use
   the equipment.  The `typewriter-paired' standard became universal,
   `bit-paired' hardware was quickly junked or relegated to dusty
   corners, and both terms passed into obsolescence.

<bit rot> n. Also <bit decay>.  Hypothetical disease the existence
   of which has been deduced from the observation that unused programs
   or features will often stop working after sufficient time has
   passed, even if `nothing has changed'.  The theory explains that
   bits decay as if they were radioactive.  As time passes, the
   contents of a file or the code in a program will become
   increasingly garbled.

   There actually are physical processes that produce such effects
   (the alpha particles such as are found in cosmic rays can change
   the contents of a computer memory unpredictably, and various kinds
   of subtle media failures can corrupt files in mass storage) but
   they are quite rare.

   The term <software rot> is almost synonymous.

<bitblt> /bit'blit/ n. [from <BLT>, q.v.] 1. Any of a closely
   related family of algorithms for moving and copying rectangles of
   bits between main and display memory on a bit-mapped device, or
   between two areas of either main or display memory (the requirement
   to do the Right Thing in the case of overlapping source and
   destination rectangles is what makes BitBlt tricky).  2.  Synonym
   for <blit> or <BLT>

<bits> n.  1. Information.  Examples: "I need some bits about file
   formats."  ("I need to know about file formats.")  Compare <core
   dump>, sense #4. 2.  Machine-readable representation of a document,
   specifically as contrasted with paper.  "I only have a photocopy
   of the Jargon File; does anyone know where I can get the bits?".
   See <softcopy>.  3. Also in <the source of all good bits> n.  A
   person from whom (or a place from which) information may be
   obtained.  If you need to know about a program, a <wizard> might be
   the source of all good bits.  The title is often applied to a
   particularly competent secretary.

<bitty box> /bit'ee boks/ n. 1. A computer sufficiently small,
   primitive, or incapable as to cause a hacker acute claustrophobia at
   the thought of developing for it.  Especially used of small,
   obsolescent, single-tasking-only personal machines like the Atari
   800, Osborne, Sinclair, VIC-20, TRS-80, or IBM PC.  2. More
   generally, the opposite of `real computer' (see <Get a real
   computer!>).  Pejorative.  See also <mess-dos>, <toaster>, and

<bixie> /biks'ee/ n. Synonym for <emoticon> used on BIX (the Byte
   Information Exchange); many BIXers believe (incorrectly) the
   emoticon was invented there.

<black art> n. A collection of arcane, unpublished, and (by
   implication) mostly ad-hoc techniques developed for a particular
   application or systems area.  VLSI design and compiler code
   optimization were (in their beginnings) considered classic examples
   of black art; as theory developed they became <deep magic>, and
   once standard textbooks had been written became merely <heavy
   wizardry>.  The huge proliferation of formal and informal channels
   for spreading around new computer-related technologies during the
   last twenty years has made both the term `black art' and what it
   describes less common than formerly.  See also <voodoo

<black box> n. Something which is sealed off (opaque) so the
   inner workings aren't visible, typically said of very complex
   algorithms.  "That image restoration technique is a black box."
   The application to <hardware> is general technical English, of

<black hole> n. When a piece of email or netnews disappears
   mysteriously between its origin and destination sites (that is,
   without returning a <bounce message>) it is commonly said to have
   "fallen into a black hole".  Similarly, one might say "I think
   there's a black hole at foovax!" to convey suspicion that site
   foovax has been dropping a lot of stuff on the floor lately (see
   <drop on the floor>).  The implied metaphor of email as
   interstellar travel is interesting in itself.  Compare <bit

<blast> vt.,n. Synonym for <BLT>, used esp. for large data sends over
   a network or comm line.  Opposite of <snarf>.  Usage: uncommon.
   The variant "blat" has been reported.  2. vt. [HP/Apollo] Synonymous
   with <nuke> (sense #3).  Sometimes the message "Unable to kill all
   processes.  Blast them (y/n)?" would appear in the command window
   upon logout.

<blazer> n. (also <'blazer>) Nickname for the Telebit Trailblazer,
   an expensive but extremely reliable and effective high-speed modem,
   popular at UNIX sites that pass large volumes of <email> and
   <USENET> news.

<bletch> /blech/ [from Yiddish/German "brechen", to vomit] 1.
   interj.  Term of disgust.  Often in "Ugh, bletch".

<bletcherous> /blech'@-rus/ adj. Disgusting in design or function;
   esthetically unappealing.  This word is seldom used of people.
   "This keyboard is bletcherous!" (Perhaps the keys don't work very
   well, or are misplaced).  See <losing>, <cretinous>, <bagbiter>,
   <bogus>, and <random>.  <bletcherous> applies to the esthetics of
   the thing so described; similarly for <cretinous>.  By contrast,
   something that is <losing> or <cretinous> may be failing to meet
   objective criteria.  See <bogus> and <random>, which have richer
   and wider shades of meaning than any of the above.

<blinkenlights> /blink'@n-lietz/ n. Front-panel diagnostic lights
   on a computer, esp. a <dinosaur>.  Derives from the last word of
   the famous blackletter-Gothic "ACHTUNG! ALLES LOOKENSPEEPERS!"
   notice in mangled pseudo-German that once graced about half the
   computer rooms in the English-speaking world.  The sign in its
   entirety ran:

                        ACHTUNG! ALLES LOOKENSPEEPERS
     Das computermachine ist nicht fur gefingerpoken und mittengrabben.
     Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und poppencorken
     mit spitzensparken.  Ist nicht fur gewerken bei das dumpkopfen.
     Das rubbernecken sichtseeren keepen hans in das pockets muss;
     relaxen und watchen das blinkenlichten.

   This silliness dates back at least as far as 1959 at Stanford
   University and had already gone international by the early '60s,
   when it was reported at London University's ATLAS computing site.
   There are several variants of it in circulation, some of which
   actually do end with the word `blinkenlights'.  It is reported, by
   the way, that an analogous travesty in mangled English is posted in
   German computer laboratories.

<blit> /blit/ vt.  1. To copy a large array of bits from one part of
   a computer's memory to another part, particularly when the memory
   is being used to determine what is shown on a display screen.
   "The storage allocator picks through the table and copies the good
   parts up into high memory, and at the end <blit>s it all back
   down again."  See <bitblt>, <BLT>, <DD>, <cat>, <blast>,
   <snarf>.  More generally, to perform some operation (such as
   toggling) on a large array of bits while moving them.  2.
   All-capsed as "BLIT": An early experimental bit-mapped terminal
   designed by Rob Pike at Bell Labs, later commercialized as the AT&T
   5620.  The folk etymology from `Bell Labs Intelligent Terminal' is

<blivet> [allegedly fr. a World War II military term meaning "ten
   pounds of manure in a five-pound bag"] n. 1. An intractable
   problem.  2. A crucial piece of hardware which can't be fixed or
   replaced if it breaks.  3. A tool that has been hacked over by so
   many incompetent programmers that it has become an unmaintainable
   tissue of hacks.  4. An out-of-control but unkillable development

   This term has other meanings in other technical cultures; in
   particular, among experimental physicists and hardware engineers of
   various kinds it seems to mean any random object of unknown purpose
   (similar to hackish use of <frob>).  It has also been used to
   describe an amusing trick-the-eye drawing resembling a
   three-pronged fork which appears to depict a three-dimensional
   object until one realizes that the parts fit together in an
   impossible way.
<block> [From computer science usage] 1. vi. To delay while waiting
   for something.  "We're blocking until everyone gets here."  2. in
   <block on> vt. To block, waiting for (something).  "Lunch is
   blocked on Phil's arrival."

<block transfer computations> n. From the Dr. Who television series:
   in the show, it referred to computations so fiendishly subtle and
   complex that they could not be performed by machines.  Used to
   refer to any task that should be expressible as an algorithm in
   theory, but isn't.

<blow away> vt. To remove files and directories from permanent storage
   with extreme prejudice, generally by accident.  Oppose <nuke>.

<blow out> vi. Of software, to fail spectacularly; almost as serious
   as <crash and burn>.  See <blow past>.

<blow past> vt. To <blow out> despite a safeguard.  "The server blew
   past the 5K reserve buffer."

<blow up> vi. [scientific computation] To become unstable.  Suggests
   that the computation is diverging so rapidly that it will soon
   either overflow or at least go <nonlinear>.

<blt> /bee ell tee/, /bl@t/ or (rarely) /belt/ n.,vt. 1. Synonym
   for <blit>.  This is the original form of <blit> and the
   ancestor of <bitblt>.  In these versions the usage has outlasted
   the <PDP-10> BLock Transfer instruction for which <BLT>
   derives; nowadays, the assembler mnemonic <BLT> almost always
   means `Branch if Less Than Zero'.

<Blue Book> n. 1. Informal name for one of the three standard
   references on the page-layout and graphics-control language
   PostScript (`PostScript Language Tutorial and Cookbook', Adobe
   Systems, Addison-Wesley 1985, QA76.73.P67P68, ISBN 0-201-10179-3);
   the other two official guides are known as the <Green Book> and
   <Red Book>.  2. Informal name for one of the three standard
   references on Smalltalk: `Smalltalk-80: The Language and its
   Implementation'. David Robson, Addison-Wesley 1983, QA76.8.S635G64,
   ISBN 0-201-11371-63 (this is also associated with green and red
   books).  3. Any of the 1988 standards issues by the CCITT 9th
   plenary assembly.  Until now, they have changed color each review
   cycle (1984 was <Red Book>, 1992 would be <Green Book>); however,
   it is rumored that this convention is going to be dropped before
   1992.  These include, among other things, the X.400 email spec and
   the Group 1 through 4 fax standards.  See also <Red Book>, <Green
   Book>, <Silver Book>, <Purple Book>, <Orange Book>, <White Book>,
   <Pink-Shirt Book>, <Dragon Book>, <Aluminum Book>.

<Blue Glue> [IBM] n. IBM's SNA (Systems Network Architecture) an
   incredibly <losing> and <bletcherous> protocol suite widely
   favored at commercial shops that don't know any better.  The
   official IBM definition is "That which binds blue boxes
   together."  See <fear and loathing>.  It may not be irrelevant
   that <Blue Glue> is the trade name of a 3M product that is
   commonly used to hold down the carpet squares to the removable
   panel floors so common in computer installations.  A correspondent
   at U.Minn. reports that the CS dept there has about 80 bottles of
   Blue Glue hanging about, so they often refer to any messy work to
   be done `using the blue glue".

<blue goo> n. Term for `police' <nanobot>s intended to prevent <gray
   goo>, denature hazardous waste, destroy pollution, put ozone back
   into the stratosphere, prevent halitosis, and to promote truth,
   justice, and the American way, etc., etc.  See <nanotechnology>.

<BNF> /bee-en-ef/ n. 1. Acronym for `Backus-Naur Form', a
   metasyntactic notation used to specify the syntax of programming
   languages, command sets and the like.  Widely used for language
   descriptions but seldom documented anywhere, so that it must
   usually be learned by osmosis from other hackers.  Consider this
   BNF for a postal address:

      <postal-address> ::= <name-part> <street-address> <zip-part>

      <name-part> ::= <first-name> [<middle-part>] <last-name> <EOL>

      <middle-part> ::= <middle-name> | <middle-initial> "."

      <street-address> ::= [<apt>] <street-number> <street-name> <EOL>

      <zip-part> ::= <town-name> "," <state-code> <zip-code> <EOL>

   This translates into English as: A postal-address consists of a
   name-part, followed by a street-address part, followed by a
   zip-code part.  A name-part consists of a first-name followed by an
   optional middle-part followed by a last-name.  A middle-part
   consists of either a middle name or a middle initial followed by a
   dot.  A street address consists of an optional apartment specifier
   followed by a street number, followed by a street name.  A zip-part
   consts of a town-name, followed by a state code, followed by a zip
   code.  Note that many things such as the format of a first-name,
   apartment specifier or zip-code are left unspecified.  These are
   presumed to be obvious from context or detailed in another part of
   the specification the BNF is part of.  See also <parse>.

   A major reason BNF is listed here is that the term is also used
   loosely for any similar notation, possibly containing some or all
   of the <glob> wildcards.

   2. In SCIENCE-FICTION FANDOM, BNF expands to "Big Name Fan"
   (someone famous or notorious).  Years ago a fan started handing out
   black-on-green BNF buttons at SF conventions.  This confused the
   hacker contingent terribly.

<boa> [IBM] n. Any one of the fat cables that lurk under the floor
   in a <dinosaur pen>.  Possibly so called because they display a
   ferocious life of their own when you try to lay them straight and
   flat after they have been coiled for some time.  It is rumored
   within IBM that 370 channel cables are limited to 200 feet because
   beyond that length the boas get dangerous...and it is worth
   noting that one of the major cable makers uses the trademark

<boat anchor> n. 1. Like <doorstop> but more severe, implies that the
   offending hardware is irreversibly dead or useless.  2. Also used
   of people who just take up space.

<bogo-sort> n. The generic bad algorithm.  The origin is a
   fictitious contest at CMU to design the worst running time sort
   algorithm (Apparently after a student found an n^3 algorithm to do
   sorting while trying to design a good one).  Bogo-sort is
   equivalent to throwing a deck of cards in the air, picking them up,
   then testing whether they are in order.  If not, repeat.  Usage:
   when one is looking at a program and sees a dumb algorithm, one
   might say "Oh, I see, this program uses bogo-sort."  Compare
   <bogus>, <brute force>.

<bogometer> n. See <bogosity>.

<bogon> /boh'gon/ [by analogy with proton/electron/neutron, but
   doubtless reinforced after 1980 by the similarity to Douglas
   Adams's `Vogons', see Appendix C] n. 1. The elementary particle of
   bogosity (see <quantum bogodynamics>).  For instance, "the
   ethernet is emitting bogons again", meaning that it is broken or
   acting in an erratic or bogus fashion. 2. A query packet sent from
   a TCP/IP domain resolver to a root server, having the reply bit set
   instead of the query bit.  3.  Any bogus or incorrectly formed
   packet sent on a network.  4. By extension, used to refer
   by synecdoche to any bogus thing, as in "I'd like to go to lunch
   with you but I've got to go to the weekly staff bogon." 5. A
   person who is bogus or who says bogus things.  This was
   historically the original usage, but has been overtaken by its
   derivatives in 1-4.

<bogon filter> /boh'gon fil'tr/ n.  Any device, software or hardware,
   which limits or suppresses the flow and/or emission of bogons.
   Example: "Engineering hacked a bogon filter between the Cray and
   the VAXen and now we're getting fewer dropped packets."

<bogosity> /boh-go's@-tee/ n. 1. The degree to which something is
   <bogus>.  At CMU, bogosity is measured with a <bogometer>;
   typical use: in a seminar, when a speaker says something bogus, a
   listener might raise his hand and say, "My bogometer just
   triggered".  More extremely, "You just pinned my bogometer"
   means "You just said or did something so outrageously bogus that
   it is off the scale (pinning the bogometer needle at the highest
   possible reading)".  The agreed-upon unit of bogosity is the
   microLenat (uL).  The consensus is that this is the largest unit
   practical for everyday use.  2.  The potential field generated by a
   bogon flux; see <quantum bogodynamics>.

   [Historical note: microLenat was invented as a attack against noted
   computer scientist Doug Lenat by a <tenured graduate student>.
   Doug had failed him on the AI Qual after the student gave "AI is
   bogus" as his answer to the questions.  The slur is generally
   considered unmerited, but it has become a running gag nevertheless.
   Some of Doug's friends argue that "of course" a microLenat is
   bogus, since it's only one millionth of a Lenat.  Others have
   suggested that the unit should be re-designated after the grad
   student, as the microReid.]

<bogotify> /boh-go't@-fie/ vt. To make or become bogus.  A program
   that has been changed so many times as to become completely
   disorganized has become bogotified.  If you tighten a nut too hard
   and strip the threads on the bolt, the bolt has become bogotified
   and you'd better not use it any more.  This coinage led to the
   notional <autobogotiphobia> (aw'to-boh-got'@-foh`bee-uh) n.,
   defined as the fear of becoming bogotified; but is not clear that
   the latter has ever been `live' slang rather than a self-conscious
   joke in jargon about jargon.

<bogue out> /bohg owt/ vi. to becomes bogus, suddenly and
   unexpectedly.  "His talk was relatively sane until somebody asked
   him a trick question, then he bogued out and did nothing but
   <flame> afterwards."

<bogus> [WPI, Yale, Stanford] adj. 1. Non-functional.  "Your patches
   are bogus."  2. Useless.  "OPCON is a bogus program."  3.
   False.  "Your arguments are bogus."  4. Incorrect.  "That
   algorithm is bogus."  5. Unbelievable.  "You claim to have solved
   the halting problem for Turing Machines?  That's totally bogus."
   6. Silly.  "Stop writing those bogus sagas."  Astrology is bogus.
   So is a bolt that is obviously about to break.  So is someone who
   makes blatantly false claims to have solved a scientific problem.
   (This word seems to have some, but not all, of the connotations of

   It is claimed that `bogus' was originally used in the hackish sense
   at Princeton, in the late 60s.  A glossary of bogus words was
   compiled at Yale when the word was first popularized (see
   <autobogotiphobia> under <bogotify>).  By the mid-1980s it was
   also current in something like the hackish sense in West Coast teen
   slang.  A correspondent at Cambridge reports, by contrast, that
   these uses of bogus grate on British nerves; in Britain the word
   means rather specifically `counterfeit' as in "a bogus pound

<Bohr bug> /bohr buhg/ [from quantum physics] n. A repeatable <bug>;
   one which manifests reliably under a possibly unknown but
   well-defined set of conditions.  Antonym of <heisenbug>.

<boink> /boynk/ [USENET, perh. fr the TV series "Moonlighting"]
   1. To have sex with; compare <bounce>, sense #3.  In Commonwealth
   hackish the variant "bonk" is more common.  2. After the
   original Peter Korn `Boinkon' <USENET> parties, used for almost
   any net social gathering, e.g.  Miniboink, a small boink held by
   Nancy Gillett in 1988; Minniboink, a Boinkcon in Minnesota in 1989;
   Humpdayboinks, Wednesday get-togethers held in the San Francisco
   Bay Area.  Compare <@-party>.

<bomb> v. 1. General synonym for <crash>, esp. used of software or OS
   failures. "Don't run Empire with less than 32K stack, it'll bomb
   out." 2. Atari ST and Macintosh equivalents of <panic> or <guru>
   (sense 2), where icons of little black-powder bombs or mushroom
   clouds are displayed indicating the system has died.  On the Mac
   this may be accompanied by a hexadecimal number indicating what
   went wrong, similar to the Amiga GURU MEDITATION number.  <Mess-dos>
   machines tend to get <locked up> in this situation.

<bondage-and-discipline language> A language such as Pascal, APL, or
   Prolog that, though ostensibly general-purpose, is designed so as
   to enforce an author's theory of "right programming" even though
   said theory is demonstrably inadequate for systems or even vanilla
   general-purpose programming.  Often abbreviated `B&D'; thus, one
   may speak of things "having the B&D nature" etc.  See <Pascal>;
   oppose <Languages of Choice>.

<bonk/oif> interj. In the <MUD> community, it has become trdaitional
   to express pique or censure by `bonking' the offending person.
   There is a convention that one should acknowledge a bonk by saying
   `oif!' and a myth to the effect that failing to do so upsets the
   cosmic bonk/oif balance, causing much trouble in the universe.
   Some early MUDs which did not support <posing> implemented special
   commands for bonking and oifing See also <talk mode>.

<boot> [from `by one's bootstraps'] vi.,n. To load and initialize
   the operating system on a machine.  This usage is no longer slang
   (having become jargon in the strict sense), but it is sometimes
   used of human thought processes, as in the following exchange:
   "You've lost me." "O.K., reboot.  Here's the theory...".

   Also found in the variants "cold boot" (from power-off condition)
   and "warm boot" (with the CPU and all devices already powered up,
   as after a hardware reset or software crash).

   Another variant: "soft boot", re-initialization of only part of a
   system, under control of other software that's still running: "If
   you're running the <mess-dos> emulator, control-alt-insert will
   cause a soft-boot of the emulator, while leaving the rest of the
   system running."

   Opposed to this there is "hard boot", which connotes hostility
   towards or frustration with the machine being booted.  "I'll have
   to hard-boot this losing Sun" or "I recommend booting it hard."

<bottleneck> adj. A slow code section, algorithm, or hardware
   subsystem through which computation must pass (see also <hot
   spot>); anything with lower <bandwidth> than is available for the
   rest of the computation.  A system is said to be "bottlenecked"
   when performance is usually limited by contention for one
   particular resource (such as disk, memory or processor <clocks>);
   the opposite condition is called "balanced", which is more jargon
   in the strict sense and may be found in technical dictionaries.

<bottom-up implementation> n.  Hackish opposite of the straight
   technical term "top-down design".  It is now received wisdom in
   most programming cultures that it is best to design from higher
   levels of abstraction down to lower, specifying sequences of action
   in increasing detail until you get to actual code.  Hackers often
   find (especially in exploratory designs which cannot be closely
   specified in advance) that it works best to "build" things in the
   opposite order, by writing and testing a clean set of primitive
   operations and then knitting them together.

<bounce> vi. 1. [UNIX, perhaps from the image of a thrown ball bouncing
   off a wall] An electronic mail message which is undeliverable and
   returns an error notification to the sender is said to `bounce'.
   See also <bounce message>. 2. [Stanford] To play volleyball.  At
   one time there was a volleyball court next to the computer
   laboratory.  From 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM was the scheduled maintenance
   time for the computer, so every afternoon at 5:00 the computer
   would become unavailable, and over the intercom a voice would cry ,
   "Bounce, bounce!"  3. To engage in sexual intercourse; prob.  fr.
   the expression `bouncing the mattress', but influenced by
   Piglet's psychosexually-loaded "Bounce on me too, Tigger!" from
   the Winnie the Pooh books.  4.  To casually reboot a system in
   order to clear up a transient problem.  Reported primarily among
   <VMS> users.

<bounce message> [UNIX] n. Notification message returned to sender by
   a site unable to relay <email> to the intended <Internet address>
   recipient or the next link in a <bang path> (see <bounce>).
   Reasons might include a nonexistent or misspelled username or a
   down relay site.  Bounce messages can themselves fail, with
   occasionally ugly results; see <sorcerer's apprentice mode>.

<box> [within IBM] n. 1.  A computer; esp. in the construction "foo
   box" where foo is some functional qualifier, like `graphics', or
   the name of an OS (thus, "UNIX box", "MS-DOS box", etc.  2.
   Without qualification but within an <SNA>-using site, this refers
   specifically to an IBM front-end processor or FEP.  An FEP is a
   small computer necessary to enable an IBM <mainframe> to communicate
   beyond the limits of the <dinosaur pen>.  Typically used in
   expressions like the cry that goes up when an SNA network goes
   down, "Looks like the <box> has <fallen over>."  See also
   <IBM>, <fear and loathing>, <Blue Glue>.

<box comments> n.  Comments (explanatory notes in code) which occupy
   several lines by themselves; so called because in assembler and C
   code they are often surrounded by a box in a style something like

      * This is a boxed comment in C style

   Common variants of this style omit the asterisks in column two or
   add a matching row of asterisks closing the right end of the box.
   The sparest variant omits all but the slashes and the asterisks at
   the extreme left; the `box' is implied.  Oppose <winged

<boxen> /bok'sn/ pl n. [by analogy with <VAXen>] Fanciful plural of
   <box> often encountered in the phrase "UNIX boxen", used to
   describe commodity <UNIX> hardware.  The implication is that any
   two UNIX boxen are interchangeable.

<boxology> n. The fine art of drawing diagrams using the `box'
   characters (mainly, `|', `-', and `+') in
   ASCII-monospace fonts.  Also known as "character graphics".
<brain-damaged> [generalization of `Honeywell Brain Damage' (HBD), a
   theoretical disease invented to explain certain utter cretinisms
   in Honeywell <Multics>] adj.  Obviously wrong; <cretinous>;
   <demented>.  There is an implication that the person responsible
   must have suffered brain damage, because he should have known
   better.  Calling something brain-damaged is really bad; it also
   implies it is unusable, and that its failure to work is due to poor
   design rather than some accident.

<brain-dead> adj. Brain-damaged in the extreme.  Not quite like
   mainstream use, as it tends to imply terminal design failure rather
   than malfunction or simple stupidity.

<brain dump> n. The act of telling someone everything one knows
   about a particular topic or project.  Typically used when someone
   is going to let a new party maintain a piece of code.  Analogous to
   an operating system <brain dump> in the sense that the state of
   the person's important "registers" are saved before exiting.
   Example: "You'll have to give me a brain dump on FOOBAR, before
   you start your new job at hackercorp."  See <core dump> (sense
   #4).  At Sun, this is also known as "TOI" (transfer of

<braino> /bray'no/ n. Syn. for <thinko>.

<branch to Fishkill> [IBM, from the location of one of their
   facilities] n. Any unexpected jump in a program that produces
   catastrophic or just plain weird results.  See <hyperspace>.

<brand brand brand> n. Humorous catch-phrase from <BartleMUDs>, in which
   player were described carrying a list of objects, the most
   common of which would usually be a brand.  Often used as a joke
   in <talk mode> as in "Fred the wizard is here, carrying brand
   ruby brand brand brand kettle broadsword flamethrower".  Prob.
   influenced by the infamous Monty Python `Spam' skit.

<break> vt. 1. To cause to be broken (in any sense).  "Your latest
   patch to the editor broke the paragraph commands."  2. (of a
   program) To stop temporarily, so that it may be examined for
   debugging purposes.  The place where it stops is a "breakpoint".
   3. To send an RS-232 break (125 msec. of line high) over a
   serial comm line. 4. [UNIX] To strike whatever key currently causes
   the tty driver to send SIGINT to the current process.  Normally
   break (sense 3) or delete does this.

<breakage> [IBM] n. The extra people that must be added to an
   organization because its master plan has changed; used esp. of
   software and hardware development teams.

<breath of life packet> [Xerox PARC] n. An Ethernet packet that
   contained bootstrap code, periodically sent out from a working
   computer to infuse the `breath of life' into any computer on the
   network that had happened to crash.  The crashed machines had
   hardware or firmware that would wait for such a packet after a
   catastrophic error.

<bring X to its knees> n. Of a machine, operating system, piece of
   software, or algorithm; to present it with a load so extreme or
   pathological that it grinds virtually to a halt.  "To bring a
   MicroVAX to its knees, try twenty users running <vi> --- or four
   running <EMACS>."  Compare <hog>.

<brittle> adj. Said of software that's functional but easily broken by
   changes in operating environment or configuration.  Often describes
   the results of a research effort that were never intended to be
   robust, but can be applied to commercially developed software.
   Oppose <robust>.

<broadcast storm> n. An incorrect packet broadcast on a network that
   causes most hosts to respond all at once, typically with wrong
   answers that start the process over again.  Also called <network
   meltdown>.  See also <Chernobyl packet>.

<broken> adj. 1. Not working properly (of programs).  2.  Behaving
   strangely; especially (of people), exhibiting extreme depression.

<broket> /broh'k@t/ or /broh'ket/ [by analogy with `bracket': a
   `broken bracket'] n. Either of the characters `<' and `>'.
   This word originated as a contraction of the phrase `broken
   bracket', that is, a bracket that is bent in the middle.  (At MIT,
   and apparently in <Real World> as well, these are usually called
   <angle brackets>.)

<Brooks's Law> prov. "Adding manpower to a late software project
   makes it later" --- a result of the fact that the advantage from
   splitting work between N programmers is O(n), but the complexity
   and communications cost associated with coordinating and then
   merging their work is O(n^2).  The quote is from Fred Brooks, a
   manager of IBMs OS/360 project and author of "The Mythical Man
   Month", an excellent early book on software engineering.  Hackers
   have never forgotten this advice; too often, <management> does.

<brute force> adj. Describes a certain kind of primitive programming
   style; broadly speaking, one where the programmer relies on the
   computer's processing power instead of using his/her own intelligence to
   simplify the problem, often ignoring problems of scale and applying
   naive methods suited to small problems directly to large ones.
   The <canonical> example of a brute force algorithm is associated
   with the `Travelling salesman problem' (TSP), a classical NP-hard
   problem: suppose a person is in Boston and wishes to drive to N
   other cities.  In what order should he/she visit them in order to
   minimize the distance travelled?  The brute force method is to
   simply generate all possible routes and compare the distances;
   while guaranteed to work and simple to implement, this algorithm is
   clearly very `stupid' in that it considers even obviously absurd
   routes (like going from Boston to Houston via San Francisco and New
   York, in that order).  For small N it works well, but it rapidly
   becomes absurdly inefficient when N increases (for N=15, there are
   already 1,307,674,368,000 possible routes to consider).  See also

   A more simple-minded example of brute-force programming is finding
   the smallest number in a large list by first using an existing
   program to sort the list in ascending order, and then picking the
   first number off the front.
   Note that whether brute-force programming should be considered
   stupid or not depends on the context; if the problem isn't too big,
   the extra CPU time spent on a brute-force solution may cost less
   than the programmer time it would take to develop a more
   `intelligent' algorithm.  Alternatively, a more intelligent
   algorithm may imply more long-term complexity cost and bug-chasing
   than are justified by the speed improvement.

   Ken Thompson, co-inventor of UNIX, is reported to have uttered the
   epigram "When in doubt, use brute force".  He probably intended
   this as a <ha ha only serious>, but the original UNIX kernel's
   preference for simple, robust and portable algorithms over fragile
   `smart' ones does seem to have been a significant factor in the
   success of that OS.  Like so many other tradeoffs in software
   design, the choice between brute force and complex, finely-tuned
   cleverness is often a difficult one that requires both engineering
   savvy and the most delicate esthetic judgement.

<brute force and ignorance> n. A popular design technique at many
   software houses --- <brute force> coding unrelieved by any
   knowledge of how problems have been previously solved in elegant
   ways.  Dogmatic adherence to design methodologies tends to
   encourage it.  Characteristic of early <larval stage> programming;
   unfortunately, many never outgrow it.  Often abbreviated BFI, as
   in: "Gak, they used a bubble sort!  That's strictly from BFI."
   Compare <bogosity>.

<BSD> /bee-ess-dee/ n. [acronym for Berkeley System Distribution] a
   family of <UNIX> versions for the DEC <VAX> developed by Bill
   Joy and others at University of California at Berkeley starting
   around 1980, incorporating TCP/IP networking enhancements and many
   other features.  The BSD versions (4.1, 4.2, and 4.3) and
   commercial versions derived from them (SunOS, ULTRIX and Mt. Xinu)
   held the technical lead in the UNIX world until AT&T's successful
   standardization efforts after about 1986, and are still widely
   popular.  See <UNIX>, <USG UNIX>.

<bucky bits> /buh'kee bits/ [primarily Stanford] n. The bits produced
   by the CTRL and META shift keys, esp. on a Stanford (or Knight)
   keyboard (see <space-cadet keyboard>).  It is rumored that these
   were in fact named for Buckminster Fuller during a period when he
   was consulting at Stanford.  Unfortunately, legend also has it that
   `Bucky' was Niklaus Wirth's nickname when *he* was
   consulting at Stanford and that he first suggested the idea of the
   meta key, so its bit was named after him.  See <double bucky>,
   <quadruple bucky>.

<buffer overflow> n. What typically happens when an <OS> or
   application is fed data faster than it can handle.  Used
   metaphorically of human mental processes. "Sorry, I got four phone
   calls in three minutes last night and lost your message to a buffer

<bug> n. An unwanted and unintended property of a program or hardware,
   esp. one which causes it to malfunction.  Antonym of <feature>.
   Examples: "There's a bug in the editor: it writes things out
   backwards."  "The system crashed because of a hardware bug."
   "Fred is a winner, but he has a few bugs."  (e.g. Fred is a good
   guy, but he has a few personality problems.)

   Some have said this term came from telephone company usage: "bugs
   in a telephone cable" were blamed for noisy lines, but this
   appears to be an incorrect folk etymology.  Admiral Grace Hopper
   (an early computing pioneer better known for inventing COBOL) liked
   to tell a story in which a technician solved a persistent <glitch> in
   the Harvard Mark II machine by pulling an actual physical bug out
   from between the contacts of one of its relays, and she
   subsequently promulgated <bug> in its hackish sense as a joke about
   the incident (though, as she was careful to admit, she was not
   there when it happened).  For many years the logbook associated
   with the incident and the actual bug in question (a moth) sat in a
   display case at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, and now resides
   in the Smithsonian.  The entire story, with a picture of the
   logbook and the moth taped into it, is recorded in the Annals of
   the History of Computing (Volume 3, Number 3 (July 1981) on pages
   285 and 286.

   Interestingly, the text of the log entry, which is said to read
   "First example of an actual computer `bug'." establishes that the
   term was already in use at the time; and a similar incident is
   alleged to have occurred on the original ENIAC machine.  Indeed,
   the use of `bug' to mean an industrial defect was already
   established in Thomas Edison's time, and `bug' in the sense of an
   disruptive event goes back to Shakespeare!  In the First Edition of
   Johnson's Dictionary a `bug' is a `frightful object'; this is
   traced to `bugbear', a Welsh term for a variety of mythological
   monster which (to complete the circle) has recently been
   reintroduced into the popular lexicon through fantasy role-playing

   In any case, in hacker's slang the word almost never refers to
   insects.  Here is a plausible conversation that never actually

   "This ant-farm has a bug."

   "What do you mean?  There aren't even any ants in it."

   "That's the bug."

<bug-for-bug compatible> n. Said of a design or revision the design
   of which has been badly compromised by a requirement to be
   compatible with <fossil>s or <misfeature>s in other programs or
   (esp.) previous releases of itself.

<buglix> n. Pejorative term referring to DEC's Ultrix operating
   system in its earlier *severly* buggy versions.  Still used to
   describe Ultrix but without venom.  Compare <HP-SUX>.

<bulletproof> adj. Used of an algorithm or implementation considered
   extremely <robust>; lossage-resistant; capable of correctly
   recovering from any imaginable exception condition.  This is a rare
   and valued quality.  Syn. <armor-plated>.

<bum> 1. vt. To make highly efficient, either in time or space, often
   at the expense of clarity.  "I managed to bum three more
   instructions out of that code."  2. n. A small change to an
   algorithm, program, or hardware device to make it more efficient.
   "This hardware bum makes the jump instruction faster."  Usage:
   now uncommon, largely superseded by <tune>.  Note that both these
   uses are rare in Commonwealth hackish, because in the parent
   dialects of English `bum' is interpreted as a rude synonym for

<bump> vt. Synonym for increment.  Has the same meaning as C's ++
   operator.  Used esp. of counter variables, pointers and index
   dummies in for, while, and do-until loops.

<burble> vi. Like <flame>, but connotes that the source is truly
   clueless and ineffectual (mere flamers can be competent).  A term
   of deep contempt.

<burn-in period> n.  1. A factory test designed to catch systems with
   <marginal> components before they get out the door; the theory is
   that burn-in will protect customers by outwaiting the steepest part
   of the <infant mortality> curve.  2.  A period of indeterminate
   length in which a person using a computer is so intensely involved
   in his project that he forgets basic needs such as food, drink,
   sleep, etc.  See <hack mode>, <larval stage>.

<busy-wait> vi. To wait on an event by <spin>ning through a tight or
   timed-delay loop that polls for the event on each pass, as opposed
   to setting up an interrupt handler and continuing execution on
   another part of the task.  A wasteful technique, best avoided on
   time-sharing systems where a busy-waiting program may hog the
   processor.  Syn. <spin-lock>

<buzz> vi. 1. Of a program, to run with no indication of progress and
   perhaps without guarantee of ever finishing; esp. said of programs
   thought to be executing tight loops of code.  The state of a
   buzzing program resembles <catatonia>, but you never get out of
   catatonia, while a buzzing loop may eventually end of its own
   accord.  Example: "The program buzzes for about ten seconds trying
   to sort all the names into order."  See <spin>.  2. [ETA Systems]
   To test a wire or PCB trace for continuity by applying an AC signal
   as opposed to applying a DC signal.  Some wire faults will pass DC
   tests but fail a buzz test.

<BWQ> /bee duhb'l-yoo kyoo/ [IBM] n. Buzz Word Quotient.  The
   percentage of buzzwords in a speech or documents.  Usually roughly
   proportional to <bogosity>.  See <TLA>.

<by hand> adv. Said of an operation (especially a repetititive, trivial
   and/or tedious one) which ought to be performed automatically by
   the computer, but which a hacker instead has to step tediously
   through.  "My mailer doesn't have a command to include the text of
   the message I'm replying to, so I have to do it by hand".  Compare
   <eyeball search>.

<byte> n. One character of information; usually 8 bits, occasionally
   9 (on 36-bit machines).  The term originated in 1956 during the
   early design phase for the IBM Stretch computer; originally it was
   described as one to six bits (typical I/O equipment of the period
   used 6-bit chunks of information).  The move to an 8-bit byte
   happened in late 1956, and this size was later adopted and made
   standard by the System/360.  The term "byte" was coined by
   mutating the word `bite' so it would not be accidentally misspelt
   as <bit>.  See also <nybble>.
<bytesexual> /biet-seks'u-@l/ adj. Said of hardware, denotes
   willingness to compute or pass data in either <big-endian> or
   <little-endian> format (depending, presumably, on a <mode bit>
   somewhere).  See also <NUXI problem>.

                                {= C =}

<C> n. 1. The third letter of the Latin alphabet. 2. The name of a
   programming language designed by Dennis Ritchie during the early
   1970s and first used to implement <UNIX>.  So called because many
   features derived from an earlier interpreter named `B' in
   commemoration of *its* parent, BCPL; before Bjarne Stroustrup
   settled the question by designing C++, there was a humorous debate
   over whether C's successor should be named `D' or `P'.  C became
   immensely popular outside Bell Labs after about 1980 and is now the
   dominant language in systems and microcomputer applications
   programming.  C is often described, with a mixture of fondness and
   disdain varying according to the speaker, as "a language which
   combines all the elegance and power of assembly language with the
   readability and maintainability of assembly language".  See also
   <languages of choice>, <indent style>.

<calculator> [Cambridge] n. Syn. for <bitty box>.

<can> vt. To abort a job on a time-sharing system.  Used esp. when the
   person doing the deed is an operator, as in `canned from the
   <console>'.  Frequently used in an imperative sense, as in "Can
   that print job, the LPT just popped a sprocket!".  Synonymous with
   <gun>.  It is said that the ASCII character with mnemonic CAN
   (0011000) was used as a kill-job character on some early OSs.

<canonical> adj. The usual or standard state or manner of something.
   This word has a somewhat more technical meaning in mathematics.
   For example, one sometimes speaks of a formula as being in
   canonical form.  Two formulas such as `9 + x' and `x + 9' are
   said to be equivalent because they mean the same thing, but the
   second one is in canonical form because it is written in the usual
   way, with the highest power of `x' first.  Usually there are fixed
   rules you can use to decide whether something is in canonical form.
   The slang meaning is a relaxation of the technical meaning (this
   generalization is actually not confined to hackers, and may be
   found throughout academia).

   A true story: One Bob Sjoberg, new at the MIT AI Lab, expressed
   some annoyance at the use of jargon.  Over his loud objections, we
   made a point of using jargon as much as possible in his presence,
   and eventually it began to sink in.  Finally, in one conversation,
   he used the word `canonical' in jargon-like fashion without
   thinking.  Steele: "Aha!  We've finally got you talking jargon
   too!"  Stallman: "What did he say?"  Steele: "Bob just used
   `canonical' in the canonical way."

   Of course, canonicality depends on context, but is implicitly
   defined as the way *hackers* normally do things.  Thus, a
   hacker may claim with a straight face that "according to religious
   law" is *not* the canonical meaning of the word canonical.

<card> n. 1. An electronic printed-circuit board (see also <tall
   card>, <short card>.  2. obs. Syn. <punched card>.

<card walloper> n. An EDP programmer who grinds out batch programs
   that do stupid things like print people's paychecks.  Compare
   <code grinder>.  See also <punched card>, <eighty-column

<cargo-cult programming> n. A style of (incompetent) programming
   dominated by ritual inclusion of code or program structures that
   serve no real purpose.  A cargo-cult programmer will usually
   explain the extra code as a way of working around some bug
   encountered in the past, but usually, neither the bug nor the
   reason the code avoided the bug were ever fully understood (compare
   <shotgun debugging>).

   The term cargo-cult is a reference to aboriginal religions that
   grew up after World War II.  The practices of these cults center on
   building elaborate mockups of airplanes and military style landing
   strips in the hope of bringing the return of the god-like airplanes
   that brought such marvelous cargo during the war.

<casters-up mode> /cas'trz uhp mohd/ [IBM] n. Yet another synonym for
   `broken' or `down'.

<casting the runes> n. The act of getting a <guru> to run a particular
   program and type at it because it never works for anyone else; esp.
   used when nobody can ever see what the guru is doing different from
   what J. Random Luser does.  Compare <incantation>, <runes>,
   <examining the entrails>.

<case and paste> [from "cut and paste"] n. 1. The addition of a new
   <feature> to an existing system by selecting the code from an
   existing feature and pasting it in with minor changes.  Common in
   telephony circles because most operations in a telephone switch are
   selected using case statements.  Leads to <software bloat>.

<cat> [from "catenate" via <UNIX> `cat(1)'] vt. To spew an entire
   (notionally, large) file to the screen or some other output sink
   without pause; by extension, to dump large amounts of data at an
   unprepared target or with no intention of browsing it carefully.
   Usage: considered silly.  Rare outside UNIX sites.  See also <DD>,

<catatonia> n. A condition of suspended animation in which something
   is so <wedged> that it makes no response.  For example, if you are
   typing on a terminal and suddenly the computer doesn't even echo
   the letters back to the screen as you type, let alone do what
   you're asking it to do, then the computer is suffering from
   catatonia (possibly because it has crashed).

<cdr> /ku'dr/ [from LISP] vt. To remove the first item from a list of
   things.  In the form "cdr down", to trace down a list of
   elements.  "Shall we cdr down the agenda?"  Usage: silly.  See
   also <loop through>.

<chad> /chad/ n. 1. The perforated edge strips on printer paper, after
   they have been separated from the printed portion.  Also called
   <selvage> and <perf>. 2. obs. the confetti-like paper bits punched
   out of cards or paper tape; this was also called "chaff", "computer
   confetti", and "keypunch droppings".

   Historical note: one correspondent believes `chad' (sense #2)
   derives from the Chadless keypunch (named for its inventor), which
   cut little u-shaped tabs in the card to make a hole when the tab
   folded back, rather than punching out a circle/rectangle; it was
   clear that if the `Chadless' keypunch didn't make them, then the
   stuff that other keypunches made had to be `chad'.

<chad box> n. <Iron Age> computers contained boxes inside them, about
   the size of a lunchbox, that held the <chad>, squares of paper
   punched out of punch cards.  You had to open the covers of the card
   punch periodically and empty the chad box.  The <bit bucket> is the
   equivalent device in the CPU enclosure, which was typically across
   the room in another great grey-and-blue box.

<chain> [orig. from BASIC's CHAIN statement] vi. When used of
   programming languages, refers to a statement that allows a parent
   executable to hand off execution to a child without going through
   the <OS> command interpreter.  The state of the parent program is
   lost and there is no returning to it.  Though this facility used to
   be common on memory-limited micros and is still widely supported
   for backward compatibility, the jargon usage is semi-obsolescent;
   in particular most UNIX programmers will think of this as an
   <exec>.  Oppose the more modern <subshell>.

<char> /keir/ or /char/; rarely, /kar/ n. Shorthand for `character'.
   Esp.  used by C programmers, as `char' is C's typename for
   character data.

<chase pointers> 1. vi. To go through multiple levels of indirection,
   as in traversing a linked list or graph structure.  Used esp. by
   programmers in C, where explicit pointers are a very common data
   type.  This is almost jargon in the strict sense, but remains slang
   when used of human networks. "I'm chasing pointers.  Bob said you
   could tell me who to talk to about..."  2. [Cambridge] <pointer
   chase> or <pointer hunt>: the process of going through a dump
   (interactively or on a large piece of paper printed with hex
   <runes>) following dynamic data-structures.  Only used in a
   debugging context.

<chemist> [Cambridge] n. Someone who wastes CPU time on
   number-crunching when you'd far rather the CPU was doing something
   more productive, such as working out anagrams of your name or
   printing Snoopy calendars or running <life> patterns.  May or may
   not refer to someone who actually studies chemistry.

<Chernobyl packet> /cher-noh'b@l pak'@t/ n. An IP Ethergram with both
   source and destination Ether and IP address set as the respective
   broadcast address.  So called because it induces <network

<choke> vt. To reject input, often ungracefully.  "I tried building
   an <EMACS> binary to use <X>, but `cpp' choked on all
   those #defines."  See <barf>, <gag>, <vi>.

<chiclet keyboard> n. A keyboard with small rectangular or
   lozenge-shaped rubber or plastic keys that look like pieces of
   chewing-gum (Chiclet is a brand-name and also the Spanish common
   noun for the stuff).  Used esp. to describe the original PCjr
   keyboard.  Vendors unanimously liked these because they're cheap,
   and a lot of early portable and laptop products got launched using
   them.  Customers rejected the idea with almost equal unanimity, and
   chiclets are not often seen on anything larger than a digital watch
   any more.

<chomp> vt. To lose; to chew on something of which more was bitten off
   than one can.  Probably related to gnashing of teeth.  See
   <bagbiter>.  A hand gesture commonly accompanies this, consisting
   of the four fingers held together as if in a mitten or hand puppet,
   and the fingers and thumb open and close rapidly to illustrate a
   biting action (much like what the PacMan does in the classic video
   game, though this pantomime seems to predate that).  The gesture
   alone means "chomp chomp" (see Verb Doubling).  The hand may be
   pointed at the object of complaint, and for real emphasis you can
   use both hands at once.  For example, to do this to a person is
   equivalent to saying "You chomper!"  If you point the gesture at
   yourself, it is a humble but humorous admission of some failure.
   You might do this if someone told you that a program you had
   written had failed in some surprising way and you felt dumb for not
   having anticipated it.

<chomper> n. Someone or something that is chomping; a loser.  See
   <loser>, <bagbiter>, <chomp>.

<Christmas tree> n. A kind of RS-232 line tester or breakout box
   featuring rows of blinking red and green LEDs like Christmas

<Christmas tree packet> n. A packet with every single option set for
   whatever protocol is in use.

<chrome> [from automotive slang via wargaming] n. Showy features added
   to attract users, but which contribute little or nothing to the
   power of a system. "The 3D icons in Motif are just chrome!"
   Distinguished from <bells and whistles> by the fact that the latter
   are usually added to gratify developers' own desires for

<Church of the Sub-Genius> n. A mutant offshoot of <Discordianism>
   launched in 1981 as a spoof of fundamentalist Christianity by the
   `Rev.'  Ivan Stang, a brilliant satirist with a gift for
   promotion.  Popular among hackers as a rich source of bizarre
   imagery and references such as: `Bob' the divine
   drilling-equipment salesman, the Benevolent Space Xists and the
   Stark Fist of Removal.  Much Sub-Genius theory is concerned with
   the acquisition of the mystical substance or quality of `slack'.
   See also <ha ha only serious>.

<Cinderella book> [CMU] n. `Introduction to Automata Theory,
   Languages', and Computation', by John Hopcroft and Jeffrey Ullman,
   Addison-Wesley, 1979.  So-called because the cover depicts a girl
   (notionally Cinderella) sitting in front of a Rube Goldberg device
   and holding a rope from that device.  The back cover depicts the
   girl with the Rube Goldberg in shambles after having pulled on the

<Classic C> /klas'ik see/ [a play on "Coke Classic"] n.  The C
   programming language as defined in the first edition of <K&R>,
   with some small additions.  It is also known as `K&R C.'  The
   name came into use during the standardization process for C by the
   ANSI X3J11 committee.  Also <C Classic>. This is sometimes
   applied elsewhere: thus, `X Classic' where X = Star Trek (referring
   to the original TV series), or X = PC (referring to IBM's ISA-bus
   machines as opposed to the PS/2 series).  This construction is
   especially used of product series in which the newer versions are
   considered serious losers relative to the older ones.

   In one particularly strong parallel to the Coke fiasco, Apple
   Computer released a new computer called the Mac Classic.
   Unfortunately, just as the Coca Cola company had `restored' Coke
   Classic made with nasty-tasting corn syrup rather than real sugar,
   the new Mac Classic was inferior to the machine Mac hackers had
   always called the `classic Mac' (the original 128K Macintosh) causing
   much confusion and upset.

<clean> adj. Used of hardware or software designs, implies `elegance
   in the small', that is, a design or implementation which may not
   hold any surprises but does things in a way that is reasonably
   intuitive and relatively easy to comprehend from the outside.  The
   antonym is <grungy> or <crufty>.

<CLM> [Sun, `Career Limiting Move'] 1. n. Endangering one's future
   prospects of getting plum projects and raises, also possibly one's
   job.  "He used a bubblesort!  What a CLM!"  2. adj. denoting
   extreme severity of a bug, discovered by a customer and obviously
   due to poor testing: "That's a CLM bug!"

<clobber> vt. Mistakenly overwrite.  As in "I walked off the end of
   the array and clobbered the stack."  Compare <mung>, <scribble>,
   <trash>, and <smash the stack>.

<clocks> n. Processor logic cycles, so called because each generally
   corresponds to one clock pulse in the processor's timing.  The
   relative execution times of instructions on a machine are usually
   discussed in clocks rather than absolute fractions of a second.
   Compare <cycle>.

<clone> n. 1. An exact duplicate, as in "Our product is a clone of
   their product."  Implies a legal re-implementation from
   documentation or by reverse-engineering, as opposed to the
   illegalities under sense #3.  Also connotes lower price.  2. A
   shoddy, spurious copy, as in "Their product is a clone of our
   product."  3. A blatant ripoff, most likely violating copyright,
   patent, or trade secret protections, as in "Your product is a
   clone of my product."  This usage implies legal action is pending.
   4. A "PC clone"; a PC-BUS/ISA or EISA-compatible 80x86 based
   microcomputer (this use is sometimes spelled "klone"). These
   invariably have much more bang for the bug than the IBM prototypes
   they resemble.  5. In the construction "UNIX clone": An OS
   designed to deliver a UNIX-lookalike environment sans UNIX license
   fees, or with additional `mission-critical' features such as
   support for real-time programming.

<close> /klohz/ [from the verb `to close', thus the `z' sound] 1. n.
   Abbreviation for `close (or right) parenthesis', used when
   necessary to eliminate oral ambiguity.  See <open>.  2. adj.  Of a
   delimiting character, used at the right-hand end of a grouping.
   Used in such terms as "close parenthesis", "close bracket",
   etc. 3. vt. To release a file or communication channel after

<clustergeeking> /kluh'ster-gee`king/ [CMU] n. An activity defined by
   spending more time at a computer cluster doing CS homework than
   most people spend breathing.

<COBOL> n. Synonymous with <evil>.  Hackers believe all COBOL
   programmers are <suit>s or <code grinder>s, and no self-respecting
   hacker will ever admit to having learned the language.  Its very
   name is seldom uttered without ritual expressions of disgust or

<COBOL fingers> /koh'bol fing'grs/ n. Reported from Sweden, a
   (hypothetical) disease one might get from programming in COBOL.
   The language requires extremely voluminous code.  Programming too
   much in COBOL causes the fingers to wear down (by endless typing),
   until short stubs remain.  This malformity is called "COBOL
   fingers".  "I refuse to type in all that source code again, it
   will give me cobol fingers!"

<code grinder> n. 1. A <suit>-wearing minion of the sort hired in
   legion strength by banks and insurance companies to implement
   payroll packages in RPG and other such unspeakable horrors.  This
   is about as far from hackerdom as you can get and still touch a
   computer.  Connotes pity.  See <Real World>. 2. Used of or to a
   hacker, a really serious slur on the person's creative ability;
   connotes a design style characterized by primitive technique,
   rule-boundedness, and utter lack of imagination.  Compare <card

<code police> [by analogy with `thought police'] n. A mythical team
   of Gestapo-like storm troopers that might burst into one's office
   and arrest one for violating style rules.  May be used either
   seriously, to underline a claim that a particular style violation
   is dangerous, or ironically, to suggest that the practice under
   discussion is condemned mainly by anal-retentive weenies.  The
   ironic usage is perhaps more common.

<codewalker> n. A program component that traverses other programs for
   a living.  Compilers have codewalkers in their front ends; so do
   cross-reference generators and some database front-ends.  Other
   utility programs which try to do too much with source code may turn
   into codewalkers.  As in "This new vgrind feature would require a
   codewalker to implement."

<coefficient of x> n.  Hackish speech makes rather heavy use of
   pseudo-mathematical metaphors.  Four particularly important ones
   involve the terms "coefficient", "factor", "index" and
   "quotient".  They are often loosely applied to things you
   cannot really be quantitative about, but there are subtle
   distinctions between them that convey information about the way the
   speaker mentally models whatever he or she is describing.

   "Foo factor" and "foo quotient" tend to describe something
   for which the issue is one of presence or absence.  The canonical
   example is <fudge factor>.  It's not important how much you're
   fudging; the term simply acknowledges that some fudging is needed.
   You might talk of liking a movie for its silliness factor.
   Quotient tends to imply that the property is a ratio of two
   opposing factors: "I would have won except for my luck quotient.'
   This could also be, "I would have won except for the luck factor",
   but using *quotient* emphasises that it was bad luck
   overpowering good luck.   

   "Foo index" and "coefficient of foo" both tend to imply
   that foo is, if not strictly measurable, at least something that
   can be larger or smaller.  Thus, you might refer to a paper or
   person as having a "high bogosity index", whereas you would be less
   likely to speak of a "high bogosity factor".  "Foo index" suggests
   that foo is a condensation of many quantities, as in the mundane
   cost of living index; "coefficient of foo" suggests that foo is a
   fundamental quantity, as in a coefficient of friction.  The choice
   between these terms is often one of personal preference; e.g., some
   people might feel that bogosity is a fundamental attribute and thus
   say "coefficient of bogosity", whereas others might feel it is a
   combination of factors and thus say "bogosity index".

<cokebottle> /kohk'bot-l/ n. Any very unusual character,
   particularly one that isn't on your keyboard so you can't type it.
   MIT people used to complain about the `control-meta-cokebottle'
   commands at SAIL, and SAIL people complained right back about the
   `altmode-altmode-cokebottle' commands at MIT.  After the demise of
   the <space-cadet keyboard> cokebottle faded away as serious
   usage, but was often invoked humorously to describe an
   (unspecified) weird or non-intuitive keystroke command.  It may be
   due for a second inning, however.  The OSF/Motif window manager,
   mwm, has a reserved keystroke for switching to the default set of
   keybindings and behaviour. This keystroke is (believe it or not)
   `control-shift-meta-exclam'. Since the exclamation point looks a
   lot like an upside down coke bottle, Motif hackers have begun
   referring to this keystroke as cokebottle.  See also

<COME FROM> n. A semi-mythical language construct dual to the `go
   to'; COME FROM <label> would cause the referenced label to act as
   a sort of trapdoor, so that if the program ever reached it control
   would quietly fall through to the statement following the COME
   FROM.  COME FROM was first proposed in a Datamation article of
   December 1973 (reprinted in the April 1984 issue of CACM) that
   parodied the then-raging `structured programming' wars (see
   <considered harmful>). Mythically, some variants are the
   "assigned come from", and the "computed come from"
   (parodying some nasty control constructs in BASIC and FORTRAN).
   Notionally, multi-tasking could be implemented by having more than
   one COME FROM statement coming from the same label.

   In some ways the Fortran DO loop is a form of COME FROM statement,
   since after the terminating label is reached control continues at
   the statement following the DO. Some generous Fortrans would even
   allow arbitrary statements for the label, for example:

              DO 10 I=1,LIMIT
        C imagine many lines of code here, leaving the original DO
        C statement lost in the spaghetti...
              WRITE(6,10) I,FROB(I)
         10   FORMAT(1X,I5,G10.4)

   While sufficiently astonishing to the unsuspecting reader, this
   form of COME FROM statement isn't completely general. After all,
   control will eventually pass to the following statement. The
   implementation of the general form was left to Univac Fortran,
   c.1975. The statement `AT 100' would perform a `COME FROM 100'.  It
   was intended strictly as a debugging aid, with dire consequences
   promised to anyone so deranged as to use it in production code.
   COME FROM was supported under its own name for the first time
   fifteen years later, in C-INTERCAL (see <INTERCAL>,
   <retrocomputing>); knowledgeable observers are still reeling from

<comment out> vt. To surround a section of code with comment
   delimiters in order to prevent it from being compiled.  This may be
   done for a variety of reasons, most commonly when the code is
   redundant or obsolete but you want to leave it in the source to
   make the intent of the active code clearer.

<com[m] mode> /kom mohd/ [from the ITS feature supporting on-line
   chat, spelled with one or two Ms] Syn. for <talk mode>.

COMMONWEALTH HACKISH n. Hacker slang as spoken outside the U.S.,
   esp. in the British Commonwealth.  It is reported that Commonwealth
   speakers are more likely to pronounce `char', `soc' etc. as spelled
   (/char/, /sok/) as opposed to American /keir/ or /sohsh/.  Dots in
   names tend to be pronounced more often (/sok dot wi'bble/ rather
   than /sohsh wib'ble/).  <Meta-> may be pronounced /mee't@-/;
   similarly, Greek letter beta is often /bee't@/, zeta is often
   /zee'ta/ and so forth.  Preferred metasyntactic variables include
   EEK, OOK, FRODO and BILBO; WIBBLE, WOBBLE and in emergencies
   WUBBLE; BANANA, WOMBAT, FROG, <fish> and so on and on.

   Alternatives to verb doubling include suffixes `-o-rama',
   `frenzy' (as in feeding frenzy) and `city' (as in "barf
   city!" "hack-o-rama!" "core dump frenzy!").  Finally, note
   that the American usages `parens' `brackets' and `braces' for (),
   [], and {} are uncommon; Commonwealth hackish prefers
   `bracket', `square bracket' and `curly bracket'.  Also, the
   use of `pling' for <bang> is common outside the U.S..

   See also <calculator>, <chemist>, <console jockey>, <fish>,
   <grunge>, <hakspek>, <heavy metal>, <leaky heap>, <lord high
   fixer>, <noddy>, <psychedelicware>, <plingnet>, <raster blaster>,
   <seggie>, <spin-lock>, <terminal junkie>, <tick-list features>,
   <weeble>, <weasel>, <YABA> and notes or definitions under <Bad
   Thing>, <barf>, <bogus>, <bum>, <chase pointers>, <cosmic rays>,
   <crippleware>, <crunch>, <dodgy>, <gonk>, <nybble>, <root>,
   <tweak>, and <xyzzy>.

<compact> adj. Of a design, describes the valuable property that it
   can all be apprehended at once in one's head.  This generally means
   the thing created from the design can be used with greater facility
   and fewer errors than an equivalent tool that is not compact.  Note
   that compactness does not imply triviality or lack of power; for
   example, C is compact and Fortran is not, but C is more powerful
   than Fortran.  Designs become non-compact through accreting
   features and <cruft> that don't merge cleanly into the overall
   design scheme.

<compress> [UNIX] vt. When used without a qualifier, generally refers
   to <crunch>ing of a file using a particular C implementation of
   Lempel-Ziv compression by James A. Woods et al. and widely
   circulated via <USENET>. Use of <crunch> itself in this sense is
   rare among UNIX hackers.

<computer geek> n.  One who eats (computer) bugs for a living.  One
   who fulfills all of the dreariest negative stereotypes about
   hackers: an asocial, malodorous, pasty-faced monomaniac with all
   the personality of a cheese grater.  Cannot be used by outsiders
   without implied insult to all hackers; compare black-on-black usage
   of `nigger'.  A computer geek may be either a fundamentally
   clueless individual or a proto-hacker in <larval stage>.  Also
   called "turbo nerd", "turbo geek".  See also
   <clustergeeking>, <wannabee>, <terminal junkie>.

<computron> /kom'pyoo-tron`/ n. 1. A notional unit of computing power
   combining instruction speed and storage capacity, dimensioned
   roughly in instructions-per-sec times megabytes-of-main-store times
   megabytes-of-mass-storage.  "That machine can't run GNU Emacs, it
   doesn't have enough computrons!"  This usage is usually found in
   metaphors that treat computing power as a fungible commodity good
   like a crop yield or diesel horsepower.  See <bitty box>, <get a
   real computer>, <toy>, <crank>. 2. A mythical subatomic particle
   that bears the unit quantity of computation or information, in much
   the same way that an electron bears one unit of electric charge
   (see <bogon>).  An elaborate pseudo-scientific theory of computrons
   has been worked out based on the physical fact that the molecules
   in a solid object move more rapidly as it is heated.  It is argued
   that an object melts because the molecules have lost their
   information about where they are supposed to be (that is, they have
   emitted computrons).  This explains why computers get so hot and
   require air conditioning; they use up computrons.  Conversely, you
   should be able to cool down an object by placing it in the path of
   a computron beam.  It is believed that this may also explain why
   machines that work at the factory fail in the computer room ---
   because the computrons there have been all used up by your other

<condom> n. The protective plastic baggy that accompanies 3.5"
   microfloppy diskettes.  Rarely, used of (paper) disk envelopes.
   Unlike the write protect, the condom (when left on) not only
   impedes the practice of <SEX>, it has shown to have a high
   failure rate as drive mechanisms attempt to access the disk.

<connector conspiracy> [probably came into prominence with the
   appearance of the KL-10, none of whose connectors match anything
   else] n. The tendency of manufacturers (or, by extension,
   programmers or purveyors of anything) to come up with new products
   which don't fit together with the old stuff, thereby making you buy
   either all new stuff or expensive interface devices.

<cons> /konz/ or /cons/ [from LISP] 1. v. To add a new element to a
   list, esp.  at the top.  2.  "cons up": vt. To synthesize from
   smaller pieces: "to cons up an example".

<considered harmful> adj. Edsger Dijkstra's infamous March 1968 CACM
   note, `Goto Statement Considered Harmful', fired the first salvo
   in the `structured programming' wars.  Amusingly, ACM considered
   the resulting acrimony sufficiently harmful that they will (by
   policy) no longer print an article which takes up that assertive a
   position against a coding practice.  In the ensuing decades a large
   number of both serious papers and parodies have borne titles of the
   form `X considered Y'.  The `structured programming' wars
   eventually blew over with the realization that both sides were
   wrong, but use of such titles has remained as a persistent minor
   in-joke (the `considered silly' found at various places in this
   jargon file is related).

<console> n. 1. The operator's station of a <mainframe>.  In times
   past this was a privileged location which conveyed godlike powers
   to he (almost invariably a he) with his fingers on the keys.  Under
   UNIX and other modern timesharing OSs it is just the tty the system
   was booted from.  Some of the mystique remains, however, and it is
   traditional for sysadmins to post urgent messages to all users from
   /dev/console.  2.  On microcomputer UNIX boxes: the main screen and
   keyboard (as opposed to character-only terminals talking to a
   serial port board).  Typically only the console can do real
   graphics or run <X>.  See also <CTY>.

<console jockey> n.  See <terminal junkie>.

<content-free> adj. Ironic analogy with `context-free', used of a
   message which adds nothing to the recipient's knowledge.  Though
   this adjective is sometimes applied to <flamage>, it more usually
   connotes derision for communication styles which exalt form over
   substance, or are centered on concerns irrelevant to the subject
   ostensibly at hand.  Perhaps most used with reference to speeches
   by company presidents and like animals.  "Content-free?
   Uh...that's anything printed on glossy paper".

<Conway's Law> prov. The rule that the organization of the software and
   the organization of the software team will be congruent; originally
   stated as "If you have four groups working on a compiler, you'll
   get a four-pass compiler."

   This was originally promulgated by Melvin Conway, an early
   proto-hacker who wrote an assembler for the Burroughs 220 called
   SAVE.  The name `SAVE' didn't stand for anything, it was just that
   you lost fewer decks and listings because they all had SAVE written
   on top of them.

<cookie> n. A handle, transaction ID or other form of agreement
   between cooperating programs.  "I give him a packet, he gives me
   back a cookie."  See <magic cookie>.

<cookie monster> [from `Sesame Street'] n. Any of a family of
   early (1970s) hacks reported on <TOPS-10>, <ITS> and elsewhere
   that would lock up either the victim's terminal (on a time-sharing
   machine) or the <console> (on a batch <mainframe>), repeatedly
   demanding "I WANT A COOKIE".  The required responses ranged in
   complexity from "COOKIE" through "HAVE A COOKIE" and upward.
   See also <wabbit>.

<copper> n. Conventional electron-carrying network cable (which uses
   copper as a core conductor), as opposed to fiber-optic cable (or,
   say, a short-range microwave link).  Oppose <light pipe>.

<copy protection> [MS-DOS] n. A clever method of preventing
   incompetent pirates from stealing software and legitimate customers
   from using it.  Considered silly.

<copybroke> adj. Used to describe an instance of a copy-protected program
   which has been `broken'; that is, a copy with the copy-protection
   scheme disabled.  Syn. <copywronged>.

<copyleft> /kop'ee-left/ n. 1. The copyright notice (`General Public
   License') carried by <GNU EMACS> and other Free Software
   Foundation software, granting re-use and reproduction rights to all
   comers (but see also <General Public Virus>).  2. By extension, any
   copyright notice intended to achieve similar aims.

<copywronged> [play on "copyright"] adj. Syn. for <copybroke>.

<core> n. Main storage or RAM.  Dates from the days of ferrite-core
   memory; now archaic, but still used in the UNIX community and by
   old-time hackers or those who would sound like same.  Some derived
   idioms are quite current; "in core", for example, means `in
   memory' (as opposed to `on disk'), and both <core dump> and the
   "core image" or "core file" produced by one are preferred
<core dump> n. [common <Iron Age> slang, preserved by UNIX] 1. A
   symptom of catastrophic program failure due to internal error. 2.
   By extension, used for humans passing out, vomiting, or registering
   extreme shock. "He dumped core.  All over the floor.  What a
   mess." "He heard about ... and dumped core."  3.
   Occasionally used for a human rambling on pointlessly at great
   length; esp. in apology: "Sorry I dumped core on you".  4.  A
   recapitulation of knowledge (compare <bits>, sense 1). Hence,
   spewing all one knows about a topic, esp. in a lecture or answer to
   an exam question.  "Short, concise answers are better than core
   dumps" [From the instructions to a qual exam at Columbia].  See

<core leak> n. Syn. with <memory leak>.

<Core Wars> n. A game between `assembler' programs in a simulated
   machine, where the objective is to kill your opponent's program by
   overwriting it.  This was popularized by A.K. Dewdney's column in
   `Scientific American' magazine, but is said to have been first
   devised by Victor Vyssotsky as a PDP-1 hack, during the early '60s
   at Bell Labs.  It is rumored that the game is a civilized version
   of an amusement called DARWIN common on pre-MMU multitasking
   machines.  See <core>.

<corge> /korj/ [originally, the name of a cat] n. Yet another
   meta-syntactic variable, invented by Mike Gallaher and propagated
   by the Gosmacs documentation.  See <grault>.

<cosmic rays> n. Notionally, the cause of <bit rot>.  However, this is
   a semi-independent usage which may be invoked as a humorous way to
   <handwave> away any minor <randomness> that doesn't seem worth the
   bother of investigating. "Hey, Eric --- I just got a burst of
   garbage on my <tube>, where did that come from?" "Cosmic rays, I
   guess". Compare <sunspots>, <phase of the moon>.  The British seem
   to prefer the usage "cosmic showers"; "alpha particles" is also
   heard, because stray alpha particles passing through a memory chip
   can cause single bit errors (this becomes increasingly more likely
   as memory sizes and densities increase).

<cowboy> [Sun, from William Gibson's cyberpunk SF] n. Synonym for
   <hacker>.  It is reported that at Sun, this is often said with

<CP/M> (see-pee-em) [Control Program for Microcomputers] An early
   microcomputer <OS> written by hacker Gary Kildall for 8080 and Z-80
   based machines, very popular in the late 1970s until virtually
   wiped out by MS-DOS after the release of the IBM PC in 1981 (legend
   has it that Kildall's company blew their chance to write the PC's
   OS because Kildall decided to spend the day IBM's reps wanted to
   meet with him enjoying the perfect flying weather in his private
   plane).  Many of its features and conventions strongly resemble
   those of early DEC operating systems such as OS-8, RSTS and RSX-11.
   See <MS-DOS>, <operating system>.

<CPU Wars> n. A 1979 large-format comic by Chas Andres chronicling the
   attempts of the brainwashed androids of `IPM' (Impossible to
   Program Machines) to conquer and destroy the peaceful denizens of
   HEC (Human Engineered Computers).  This rather transparent allegory
   featured many references to <ADVENT> and the immortal line "Eat
   flaming death, minicomputer mongrels!"  (uttered, of course, by an
   IPM stormtrooper). It is alleged that the author subsequently
   received a letter of appreciation on IBM company stationery from
   the then-head of IBM's Thomas J. Watson research laboratories (then
   as now one of the few islands of true hackerdom in the IBM
   archipelago). The lower loop of the `B' in the IBM logo, it is
   said, had been carefully whited out.  See <eat flaming death>.

<cracker> n. One who breaks security on a system.  Coined c.1985 by
   hackers in defense against journalistic misuse of <hacker> (q.v.,
   sense #7).  There had been an earlier attempt to establish `worm'
   in this sense around 1981-1982 on USENET; this largely failed.

<crank> [from automotive slang] vt. Verb used to describe the
   performance of a machine, especially sustained performance. "This
   box cranks about 6 MegaFLOPS, with a burst mode of twice that on
   vectorized operations."

<crash> 1. n. A sudden, usually drastic failure.  Most often said of
   the <system> (q.v., sense #1), sometimes of magnetic disk drives.
   "Three lusers lost their files in last night's disk crash."  A
   disk crash which entails the read/write heads dropping onto the
   surface of the disks and scraping off the oxide may also be
   referred to as a "head crash", whereas the term "system crash"
   usually, though not always, implies that the operating system or
   other software was at fault.  2. vi. To fail suddenly.  "Has the
   system just crashed?"  Also used transitively to indicate the
   cause of the crash (usually a person or a program, or both).
   "Those idiots playing <SPACEWAR> crashed the system."  3.
   Sometimes said of people hitting the sack after a long <hacking
   run>; see <gronk> (sense #4).

<crash and burn> vi.,n. A spectacular crash, in the mode of the
   conclusion of the car chase scene from Steve McQueen's
   `Bullitt'.  Sun-3 monitors losing the flyback transformer and
   lightning strikes on VAX-11/780 backplanes are notable crash and
   burn generators.  The construction "crash and burn machine" is
   reported for a computer used for alpha or <beta> testing, or
   reproducing bugs, only (not development).  The implication is that
   it wouldn't be such a disaster if that machine crashed, since only
   the testers would be inconvenienced.

<crawling horror> n. Ancient crufty hardware or software that forces
   beyond the control of the hackers at a site refuse to let die.
   Like <dusty deck> or <gonkulator>, but connotes that the thing
   described is not just an irritation but an active menace to health
   and sanity.  "Mostly we code new stuff in C, but they pay us to
   maintain one big Fortran II application from nineteen-sixty-X
   that's a real crawling horror...".  Compare <WOMBAT>.

<cray> /kray/ n. 1. One of the line of supercomputers designed by Cray
   Research.  The term is actually the lowercased last name of Seymour
   Cray, a noted computer architect and co-founder of the company.
   Numerous vivid legends surround him, some true and some admittedly
   invented by Cray Research brass to shape their corporate culture.
   2.  Any supercomputer at all.

<cray instability> n. A shortcoming of a program or algorithm which
   only manifests itself when running a large problem on a powerful
   machine.  Generally more subtle than bugs which can be detected in
   smaller problems running on a workstation or mini.

<crayola> n. A super-mini or -micro computer that provides some
   reasonable percentage of supercomputer performance for an
   unreasonably low price.  Might also be a <killer micro>.

<crayon> n. Someone who works on Cray supercomputers.  More
   specifically implies a programmer, probably of the CDC ilk,
   probably male, and almost certainly wearing a tie (irrespective of
   gender).  Unicos systems types who have a Unix background tend not
   to be described as crayons.

<creationism> n. The (false) belief that large, innovative designs
   can be completely specified in advance and then painlessly magicked
   out of the void by the normal efforts of a team of normally
   talented programmers.  In fact, experience has shown repeatedly
   that good designs arise only from evolutionary, exploratory
   interaction between one (or at most a small handful) of
   exceptionally able designer(s) and an active user population ---
   and that the first try at a big new idea is always wrong.
   Unfortunately, because these truth doesn't fit the planning models
   beloved of <management> they are generally ignored.

<creeping elegance> n. Describes a tendency for parts of a design to 
   become <elegant> past the point of diminishing return.  This often
   happens at the expense of the less interesting parts of the design,
   schedule, and other things deemed important in the <Real World>.
   See also <creeping featuritis>.

<creeping featuritis> /kree'ping fee-ch@r-ie't@s/ n. 1. Describes a
   systematic tendency to load more <chrome> onto systems at the
   expense of whatever elegance they may have possessed when originally
   designed.  See also <feeping creaturitis>.  "You know, the main
   problem with <BSD UNIX> has always been creeping featuritis".  At
   MIT, this tends to be called `creeping featur*ism*' (and
   likewise, `feeping creaturism'). (After all, -ism means
   `condition' whereas -itis usually means `inflammation of'...)
   2. More generally, the tendency for anything complicated to become
   even more complicated because people keep saying, "Gee, it would
   be even better if it had this feature too."  (See <feature>.)  The
   result is usually a patchwork because it grew one ad-hoc step at a
   time, rather than being planned.  Planning is a lot of work, but
   it's easy to add just one extra little feature to help someone...
   and then another...  and another....  When creeping featurism gets
   out of hand it's like a cancer.  Usually this term is used to
   describe computer programs, but it could also be said of the
   federal government, the IRS 1040 form, and new cars.  See also
   <creeping elegance>.

<cretin> /kre'tn/ or /kree'tn/ n. Congenital <loser>; an obnoxious
   person; someone who can't do anything right.  It has been observed
   that American hackers tend to favor the British pronunciation
   /kre'tn/ over standard American /kree'tn/; it is thought this may
   be due to the insidious phonetic influence of Monty Python's Flying

<cretinous> /kre't@n-uhs/ or /kree't@n-uhs/ adj. Wrong;
   non-functional; very poorly designed (Also used pejoratively of
   people).  Synonyms: <bletcherous>, <bagbiter>, <losing>,

<crippleware> n. 1. <shareware> which has some important functionality
   deliberately removed, so as to entice potential users to pay for a
   working version.  See also <guiltware>.  2. [Cambridge] <guiltware>
   which exhorts you to donate to some charity.

<crlf> /ker'l@f/, sometimes /kru'l@f/ n. A carriage return (CR)
   followed by a line feed (LF).  More loosely, whatever it takes to
   get you from the end of one line of text to the beginning of the
   next line.  See <newline>, <terpri>.  Under <UNIX> influence this
   usage has become less common (UNIX uses a bare line feed as its

<crock> [from the obvious mainstream scatologism] n. 1. An awkward
   feature or programming technique that ought to be made cleaner.
   Example: Using small integers to represent error codes without the
   program interpreting them to the user (as in, for example, UNIX
   `make(1)') is a crock.  2. Also, a technique that works acceptably
   but which is quite prone to failure if disturbed in the least, for
   example depending on the machine opcodes having particular bit
   patterns so that you can use instructions as data words too; a
   tightly woven, almost completely unmodifiable structure.  See
   <kluge>.  Also in the adjectives "crockish", "crocky" and the
   noun "crockitude".

<cross-post> [USENET] vi.  To post a single article directed to several
   newsgroups.  Distinguished from posting the article repeatedly,
   once to each newsgroup, which causes people to see it multiple
   times.  Cross-posting is frowned upon, as it tends to cause
   <followup> articles to go to inappropriate newsgroups, as people
   respond to only one part of the original posting (unless the
   originator is careful to specify a newsgroup for followups.)

<crudware> /kruhd'weir/ n. Pejorative term for the hundreds of
   megabytes of low-quality <freeware> circulated by user's groups
   and BBS systems in the micro-hobbyist world. "Yet *another*
   set of disk catalog utilities for <MS-DOS>?  What crudware!"
   The related usage "fuckware" is reported for software so bad it
   mutilates your disk, broadcasts to the Internet, or some similar

<cruft> /kruhft/ 1. [back-formation from <crufty>] n. 1. An unpleasant
   substance.  The dust that gathers under your bed is cruft.  2. n.
   The results of shoddy construction.  3. vt. [from hand cruft, pun on
   hand craft] to write assembler code for something normally (and
   better) done by a compiler (see <hand-hacking>).  4. Excess;
   superfluous junk.  Esp. used of redundant or superseded code.

<cruft together> vt. (also "cruft up") To throw together
   something ugly but temporarily workable.  Like vt. <kluge>, but
   more pejorative.  "There isn't any program now to reverse all the
   lines of a file, but I can probably cruft one together in about ten
   minutes."  See <crufty>.

<cruftsmanship> /kruhfts'man-ship / n. [from <cruft>] The
   antithesis of craftsmanship.

<crufty> /kruhf'tee/ [origin unknown; poss. from `crusty' or
   `cruddy'] adj. 1.  Poorly built, possibly overly complex.  The
   <canonical> example is "This is standard old crufty DEC
   software".  In fact, one theory of the origin of `crufty' holds
   that was originally a mutation of `crusty' applied to DEC software
   so old that the Ss were tall and skinny, looking more like Fs.  2.
   Unpleasant, especially to the touch, often with encrusted junk.
   Like spilled coffee smeared with peanut butter and catsup.  3.
   Generally unpleasant.  4. (sometimes spelled "cruftie") n.  A
   small crufty object (see <frob>); often one which doesn't fit
   well into the scheme of things.  "A LISP property list is a good
   place to store crufties (or, random cruft)."

<crumb> n. Two binary digits; a quad.  Larger than a <bit>, smaller
   than a <nybble>.  Syn. <tayste>.

<crunch> 1. vi. To process, usually in a time-consuming or complicated
   way.  Connotes an essentially trivial operation which is
   nonetheless painful to perform.  The pain may be due to the
   triviality being imbedded in a loop from 1 to 1000000000.
   "FORTRAN programs do mostly number crunching."  2. vt. To reduce
   the size of a file by a complicated scheme that produces bit
   configurations completely unrelated to the original data, such as
   by a Huffman code.  (The file ends up looking like a paper document
   would if somebody crunched the paper into a wad.)  Since such
   compression usually takes more computations than simpler methods
   such as counting repeated characters (such as spaces) the term is
   doubly appropriate.  (This meaning is usually used in the
   construction `file crunch(ing)' to distinguish it from `number
   crunch(ing)'.)  See <compress>.  3. n. The character `#'.
   Usage: used at Xerox and CMU, among other places.  See <ASCII>.  4.
   [Cambridge] To squeeze program source into a minimum-size
   representation that will still compile.  The term came into being
   specifically for a famous program on the BBC micro which crunched
   BASIC source in order to make it run more quickly (it was a
   wholly-interpretive basic).

<cruncha cruncha cruncha> /kruhn'ch@ kruhn'ch@ kruhn'ch@/ interj.
   An encouragement sometimes muttered to a machine bogged down in a
   serious <grovel>.  Also describes a notional sound made by
   grovelling hardware.  See <wugga wugga>, <grind> (sense #3).

<cryppie> /krip'ee/ n. A cryptographer.  One who hacks or implements
   cryptographic software or hardware.

<CTSS> /see-tee-ess-ess/ n. Compatible Time-Sharing System.  An early
   (1963) experiment in the design of interactive time-sharing
   operating systems.  Cited here because it was ancestral to
   <Multics>, <UNIX>, and <ITS>.  The name <ITS> ("Incompatible
   Time-sharing System") was a hack on CTSS.

<CTY> /sit'ee/ or /see tee wie/ n. [MIT] The terminal physically
   associated with a computer's system <console>.  The term is a
   contraction of `Console TTY', that is, `Console TeleTYpe'.
   This <ITS> and <TOPS-10>-associated term has become less common
   than formerly, as most UNIX hackers simply refer to the CTY as `the

<cube> n. A module in the open-plan offices used at many programming
   shops.  "I've got the manuals in my cube".

<cubing> [parallel with `tubing'] vi. 1. Hacking on an IPSC (Intel
   Personal SuperComputer) hypercube.  "Louella's gone cubing
   *again*!!"  2. An indescribable form of self-torture (see
   sense #1).

<cursor dipped in X> adj.  There are a couple of metaphors in
   English of the form `pen dipped in X' (perhaps the most common
   values of X are `acid' and `bile').  These map over neatly to this
   hackish usage (the cursor being what moves, leaving letters behind,
   when one is composing on-line).

<cuspy> /kuhs'pee/ [coined at WPI from the DEC acronym CUSP, for
   Commonly Used System Program, i.e., a utility program used by many
   people] adj. 1.  (of a program) Well-written.  2. Functionally
   excellent.  A program which performs well and interfaces well to
   users is cuspy.  See <rude>.  3. [NYU] Said of an attractive
   woman, especially one regarded as available.

<cut a tape> vi. To write a software or document distribution on
   magnetic tape for shipment.  Has nothing to do with physically
   cutting the medium!  Though this usage is quite widespread, one
   never speaks of analogously `cutting a disk' or anything else in
   this sense.

<cybercrud> /sie'ber-kruhd/ [coined by Ted Nelson] n. Obfuscatory
   tech-talk.  Verbiage with a high <MEGO> factor.  The computer
   equivalent of bureaucratese.

<cyberpunk> /sie'ber-puhnk/ [orig. by SF writer Bruce Bethke and/or
   editor Gardner Dozois] n.,adj.  A subgenre of SF launched in 1982
   by William Gibson's epoch-making novel `Neuromancer' (though
   its roots go back through Vernor Vinge's `True Names' (See
   Appendix C) to John Brunner's 1975 Hugo winner, `The Shockwave
   Rider').  Gibson's near-total ignorance of computers and the
   present-day hacker culture enabled him to speculate about the role
   of computers and hackers in futures in ways hackers have since
   found both irritatingly naive and tremendously stimulating.
   Gibson's work was widely imitated, in particular by the short-lived
   but innovative `Max Headroom' TV series.  See <cyberspace>,
   <ice>, <go flatline>.

<cyberspace> /sie'ber-spays/ n. 1. Notional `information-space'
   loaded with visual cues and navigable with brain-computer
   interfaces called `cyberspace decks'; a characteristic prop of
   <cyberpunk> SF.  At time of writing (1990) serious efforts to
   construct <virtual reality> interfaces modelled explicitly on
   <cyberspace> are already under way, using more conventional
   devices such as glove sensors and binocular TV headsets.  Few
   hackers are prepared to outright deny the possibility of a
   cyberspace someday evolving out of the network (see <network,
   the>).  2. Occasionally, the notional location of the mind of a
   person in <hack mode>.  Some hackers report experiencing strong
   eidetic imagery when in hack mode; interestingly, independent
   reports from multiple sources suggest that there are common
   features to the experience.  In particular, the dominant colors of
   this kind of subjective `cyberspace' are often gray and silver, and the
   imagery often involves constellations of marching dots, elaborate
   shifting patterns of lines and angles, or moire patterns.

<cycle> n. The basic unit of computation.  What every hacker wants
   more of.  One might think that single machine instructions would be
   the measure of computation, and indeed computers are often compared
   by how many instructions they can process per second, but some
   instructions take longer than others.  Nearly all computers have an
   internal clock, though, and you can describe an instruction as
   taking so many "clock cycles".  Frequently the computer can
   access its memory once on every clock cycle, and so one speaks also
   of "memory cycles".  These are technical meanings of <cycle>.
   The slang meaning comes from the observation that there are only so
   many cycles per second, and when you are sharing a computer, the
   cycles get divided up among the users.  The more cycles the
   computer spends working on your program rather than someone else's,
   the faster your program will run.  That's why every hacker wants
   more cycles: so he can spend less time waiting for the computer to

<cycle crunch> n. The situation where the number of people trying to
   use the computer simultaneously has reached the point where no one
   can get enough cycles because they are spread too thin.  Usually
   the only solution is to buy more computer.  Happily, this has
   rapidly become easier in recent years, so much so that the very
   term <cycle crunch> now has a faintly archaic flavor (most hackers
   now use workstations or personal computers as opposed to
   traditional timesharing systems).

<cycle drought> n. A scarcity of cycles.  It may be due to a <cycle
   crunch>, but could also occur because part of the computer is
   temporarily not working, leaving fewer cycles to go around.
   Example: "The <high moby> is <down>, so we're running with only
   half the usual amount of memory.  There will be a cycle drought
   until it's fixed."

<cycle server> n. A powerful machine which exists primarily for
   running large batch jobs.  Interactive tasks such as editing should
   be done on other machines on the network, such as workstations.

                                {= D =}

<daemon> /day'm@n/ or /dee'm@n/ [Disk And Execution MONitor] n. A
   program which is not invoked explicitly, but which lies dormant
   waiting for some condition(s) to occur.  The idea is that the
   perpetrator of the condition need not be aware that a daemon is
   lurking (though often a program will commit an action only because
   it knows that it will implicitly invoke a daemon).  For example,
   under <ITS> writing a file on the LPT spooler's directory would
   invoke the spooling daemon, which prints the file.  The advantage
   is that programs which want (in this example) files printed need
   not compete for access to the LPT.  They simply enter their
   implicit requests and let the daemon decide what to do with them.
   Daemons are usually spawned automatically by the system, and may
   either live forever or be regenerated at intervals.  Usage:
   <daemon> and <demon> are often used interchangeably, but seem to
   have distinct connotations.  The term <daemon> was introduced to
   computing by <CTSS> people (who pronounced it dee'mon) and used it to
   refer to what ITS called a <dragon>.  The meaning and pronunciation
   have drifted, and we think this glossary reflects current usage.
   See also <demon>.

<dangling pointer> n. A reference that doesn't actually lead
   anywhere (in C and some other languages, a pointer that doesn't
   actually point at anything valid).  Used as slang in a
   generalization of its technical meaning; a local phone number for a
   person who's since moved to the other coast, for example.

<DATAMATION> n.  A magazine that many hackers assume all <suits> read.
   Used to question an unbelieved quote, as in "Did you read that in

<day mode> n. See <phase> (of people).

<dd> /dee-dee/ [from IBM <JCL>] vt. Equivalent to <cat> or
   <BLT>.  A UNIX copy command with special options suitable for
   block-oriented devices.  Often used in heavy-handed system abuse,
   as in "Let's dd the root partition onto a tape, then use the boot
   prom to load it back on to a new disk".  The UNIX `dd(1)' was
   desugned with a weird, distinctly non-UNIXy keyword option syntax
   reminiscent of IBM System/360 JCL (which had a similar DD command);
   though the command filled a need, the design choice looks to have
   been somebody's joke.  The slang usage is now very rare outside
   UNIX sites and now nearly obsolescent even there, as `dd(1)'
   has been <deprecated> for a long time (though it has no
   replacement).  Replaced by <BLT> or simple English `copy'.

<DDT> /dee-dee-tee/ n. 1. Generic term for a program that helps you
   to debug other programs by showing individual machine instructions
   in a readable symbolic form and letting the user change them.  In
   this sense the term DDT is now slightly archaic, having been widely
   displaced by `debugger' 2. [ITS] Under MIT's fabled <ITS> operating
   system, its DDT was also used as the SHELL or top level command
   language used to execute other programs. 3. Any one of several
   specific DDTs (sense 1) supported on early DEC hardware.  The DEC
   PDP-10 Reference Handbook (1969) contained a footnote on the first
   page of the documentation for DDT which illuminates the origin of
   the term:

     Historical footnote: DDT was developed at MIT for the PDP-1
     computer in 1961.  At that time DDT stood for "DEC Debugging
     Tape".  Since then, the idea of an on-line debugging program
     has propagated throughout the computer industry.  DDT programs
     are now available for all DEC computers.  Since media other
     than tape are now frequently used, the more descriptive name
     "Dynamic Debugging technique" has been adopted, retaining
     the DDT acronym.  Confusion between DDT-10 and another well
     known pesticide, dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane
     (C14-H9-Cl5) should be minimal since each attacks a different,
     and apparently mutually exclusive, class of bugs.

   Sadly, this quotation was removed from later editions of the
   handbook as the <suit>s took over and DEC became much more

<dead code> n. Routines which can never be accessed because all
   calls to them have been removed, or code which cannot be reached
   because it is guarded by a control structure which provably must
   always transfer control somewhere else.  The presence of dead code
   may reveal either logical errors due to alterations in the program
   or significant changes in the assumptions and environment of the
   program (see also <software rot>); a good compiler should detect
   flag dead code so a maintainer can think about what it means.  Syn.

<deadlock> n. 1. A situation wherein two or more processes are unable
   to proceed because each is waiting for another to do something.  A
   common example is a program communicating to a server, which may
   find itself waiting for output from the server before sending
   anything more to it, while the server is similarly waiting for more
   input from the controlling program before outputting anything.  (It
   is reported that this particular flavor of deadlock is sometimes
   called a "starvation deadlock", though that term is more properly
   used for situations where a program can never run simply because it
   never gets high enough priority.  Another common flavor is
   "constipation", where each process is trying to send stuff to the
   other, but all buffers are full because nobody is reading
   anything.)  See <deadly embrace>.  2. Also used of deadlock-like
   interactions between humans, as when two people meet in a narrow
   corridor, and each tries to be polite by moving aside to let the
   other pass, but they end up swaying from side to side without
   making any progress because they always both move the same way at
   the same time.

<deadly embrace> n. Same as <deadlock>, though usually used only when
   exactly two processes are involved.  This is the more popular term in
   Europe; <deadlock> in the United States.  Also "deadly embrace"
   is often restricted to the case where exactly two processes are
   involved, while <deadlock> can involve any number.

<death star> [from the movie `Star Wars'] The AT&T corporate logo,
   which appears on computers sold by AT&T and bears an uncanny
   resemblance to the `Death Star' in the movie.  This usage is
   particularly common among partisans of <BSD> UNIX, who tend to
   regard the AT&T versions as inferior and AT&T as a bad guy.

   AT&T's internal magazine, `Focus', uses "death star" for
   an incorrectly done AT&T logo in which the inner circle in the top
   left is dark instead of light -- a frequent result of dark-on-light
   logo images.

<DEC Wars> n. A 1983 <USENET> posting by Alan Hastings and Steve Tarr,
   spoofing the `Star Wars' movies in hackish terms.  Some years
   later, ESR (disappointed by Hastings/Tarr's failure to exploit a
   great premise more thoroughly) posted a three-times-longer complete
   rewrite called `UNIX WARS'; the two are often confused.

<deckle> [from dec- and <nickle>] /dek'l/ n. Two <nickle>s; 10
   bits.  Reported among developers for Mattel's GI 1600 (the
   Intellivision games processor), a chip with 16-bit-wide RAM but
   10-bit-wide ROM.

<deep magic> [poss. fr. C.S. Lewis's `Narnia' books.] n. An
   awesomely arcane technique central to a program or system, esp. one
   not generally published and available to hackers at large (compare
   <black art>). one which could only have been uttered by a true
   <wizard>.  Compiler optimization techniques and many aspects of
   <OS> design used to be <deep magic>; many techniques in
   cryptography, signal processing, graphics and AI still are.
   Compare <heavy wizardry>.  Esp. found in comments of the form
   "Deep magic begins here...".  Compare <voodoo programming>.

<deep space> adj. 1. Describes the notional location of any program
   which has gone <off the trolley>.  Esp. used of programs which
   just sit there silently grinding long after either failure or some
   output is expected.  Compare <buzz>, <catatonia>,
   <hyperspace>.  2. The metaphorical location of a human so dazed
   and/or confused or caught up in some esoteric form of <bogosity>
   that he/she no longer responds coherently to normal communication.
   Compare <page out>.

<defenestration> [from the traditional Czechoslovak method of
   assassinating prime ministers, via SF fandom] n. 1. Proper karmic
   retribution for an incorrigible punster. "Oh, ghod, that was
   *awful*!" "Quick! Defenestrate him!"  See also <h infix>.
   2. The act of exiting a window system in order to get better
   response time from a full-screen program.  3. [proposed] The
   requirement to support a command-line interface.  As: "It has to
   run on a VT100." "Curses! I've been defenestrated".

<defined as> adj. Currently in the role of, usually in an
   off-the-organization-chart sense.  "Pete is currently defined as
   bug prioritizer".

<dehose> vt. To clear a <hosed> condition.

<delint> vt. To modify code to remove problems detected when linting.
   See <lint>.

<demo> /de'moh/ [short for `demonstration'] 1. v. To demonstrate a
   product or prototype.  A far more effective way of inducing bugs to
   manifest than any number of <test> runs, especially when
   important people are watching.  2. n. The act of demoing.

<demo mode> [Sun] n. State of being <heads down> in order to finish
   code in time for a <demo>, usually due <RSN>.

<delta> n. 1. A change, especially a small or incremental change.
   Example: "I just doubled the speed of my program!"  "What was
   the delta on program size?"  "About thirty percent."  (He
   doubled the speed of his program, but increased its size by only
   thirty percent.) 2. [UNIX] A <DIFF>, especially a <DIFF> stored
   under the set of version-control tools called SCCS (Source Code
   Control System).  3. n. A small quantity, but not as small as
   <epsilon>.  The slang usage of <delta> and <epsilon> stems from the
   traditional use of these letters in mathematics for very small
   numerical quantities, particularly in so-called `epsilon-delta'
   proofs in the differential calculus.  <delta> is often used once
   <epsilon> has been mentioned to mean a quantity that is slightly
   bigger than <epsilon> but still very small.  For example, "The
   cost isn't epsilon, but it's delta" means that the cost isn't
   totally negligible, but it is nevertheless very small.  Compare
   <within delta of>, <within epsilon of>: that is, close to and even
   closer to.

<demented> adj. Yet another term of disgust used to describe a
   program.  The connotation in this case is that the program works as
   designed, but the design is bad.  For example, a program that
   generates large numbers of meaningless error messages implying it
   is on the point of imminent collapse.

<demigod> n. Hacker with years of experience, a national reputation,
   and a major role in the development of at least one design, tool or
   game used by or known to more than 50% of the hacker community.  To
   qualify as a genuine demigod, the person must recognizably identify
   with the hacker community and have helped shape it.  Major demigods
   include Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie (co-inventors of <UNIX> and
   C) and Richard M. Stallman (inventor of <EMACS>).  In their hearts
   of hearts most hackers dream of someday becoming demigods
   themselves, and more than one major software project has been
   driven to completion by the author's veiled hopes of apotheosis.
   See also <net.god>, <true-hacker>.

<demon> n. 1. [MIT] A portion of a program which is not invoked
   explicitly, but which lies dormant waiting for some condition(s) to
   occur.  See <daemon>.  The distinction is that demons are usually
   processes within a program, while daemons are usually programs
   running on an operating system.  Demons are particularly common in
   AI programs.  For example, a knowledge manipulation program might
   implement inference rules as demons.  Whenever a new piece of
   knowledge was added, various demons would activate (which demons
   depends on the particular piece of data) and would create
   additional pieces of knowledge by applying their respective
   inference rules to the original piece.  These new pieces could in
   turn activate more demons as the inferences filtered down through
   chains of logic.  Meanwhile the main program could continue with
   whatever its primary task was. 2. [outside MIT] Often used
   equivalently to <daemon>, especially in the <UNIX> world where the
   latter spelling and pronunciation is considered mildly archaic.

<depeditate> vt. Humourously, to cut off the feet of.  When using
   some computer-aided phototypesetting tools, careless placement of
   text blocks within a page or above a rule can result in chopped-off
   letter descenders.  Such letters are said to have been depeditated.

<deprecated> n. Said of a program or feature that is considered
   obsolescent and in the process of being phased out, usually in
   favor of a specified replacement.  Deprecated features can,
   unfortunately, linger on for many years.

<de-rezz, derez> /dee-rez'/ [from the movie `Tron'] 1. vi. To
   disappear or dissolve; the image that goes with it is of an object
   breaking up into raster lines and static and then dissolving.
   Occasionally used of a person who seems to have suddenly
   "fuzzed out" mentally rather than physically.  Usage: extremely
   silly, also rare.  This verb was actually invented as
   *fictional* hacker slang, and adopted in a spirit of irony by
   real hackers years after the fact.  2. vt.  On a Macintosh, the
   data is compiled separately from the program, in small segments of
   the program file known as "resources". The standard resource
   compiler is Rez.  The standard resource decompiler is DeRez.
   Usage: very common.

<desk check> n.,v. To grovel over hardcopy of source code mentally
   simulating the control flow; a method of catching bugs.  No longer
   common practice in this age of on-screen editing and fast compiles,
   though some maintain stoutly that it ought to be.

<devo> /dee'voh/ [orig. in-house slang at Symbolics] n.  A person in a
   development group.  See also <doco> and <mango>.

<dickless workstation> n. Extremely pejorative hackerism for
   "diskless workstation", a class of botches including the Sun 3/50
   and other machines designed exclusively to network with an
   expensive central disk server.  These combine all the disadvantages
   of time-sharing with all the disadvantages of distributed personal

<diddle> 1. vt. To work with in a not particularly serious manner.
   "I diddled a copy of <ADVENT> so it didn't double-space all the
   time."  "Let's diddle this piece of code and see if the problem
   goes away."  See <tweak> and <twiddle>. 2. n. The action or result
   of diddling.  See also <tweak>, <twiddle>, <frob>.

<diffs> n. 1. Differences, especially difference in source code or
   documents.  Includes additions. "Send me your diffs for the jargon
   file!" 2. (often in the singular <diff>) the output from the
   `diff(1)' utility, esp. when used as specification input to
   the `patch(1)' utility (which can actually perform the
   modifications).  This is a common method of distributing patches
   and source updates in the UNIX/C world.

<digit> /dij'it/ n. An employee of Digital Equipment Corporation.  See
   also <VAX>, <VMS>, <PDP-10>, <TOPS-10>, <field circus>.

<dike> vt. To remove or disable a portion of something, as a wire from
   a computer or a subroutine from a program.  A standard slogan runs:
   "When in doubt, dike it out."  (The implication is that it is
   usually more effective to attack software problems by reducing
   complexity rather than increasing it).  The word `dikes' is
   widely used among mechanics and engineers to mean `diagonal
   cutters', a heavy-duty metal-cutting device; to `dike something
   out' means to use such cutters to remove something.  Among hackers
   this term has been metaphorically extended to non-physical objects
   such as sections of code.

<ding> /ding/ n.,vi. 1. Synonym for <feep>.  Usage: rare among
   hackers, but commoner in the <Real World>. 2.  <dinged>: What
   happens when someone in authority gives you a minor bitching about
   something, esp. something you consider trivial.  "I was dinged for
   having a messy desk".

<dink> adj. Said of a machine which has the <bitty box> nature; a
   machine too small to be worth bothering with, sometimes the current
   system you're forced to work on.  First heard from an MIT hacker
   (BADOB) working on a CP/M system with 64K in reference to any 6502
   system, then from people writing 32 bit software about 16 bit
   machines.  "GNUmacs will never work on that dink machine."
   Probably derived from mainstream `dinky', which isn't
   sufficiently perjorative.

<dinosaur> n. 1. Any hardware requiring raised flooring and special
   power.  Used especially of old minis and mainframes when contrasted
   with newer microprocessor-based machines.  In a famous quote from
   the '88 UNIX EXPO, Bill Joy compared the mainframe in the massive
   IBM display with a grazing dinosaur, "with a truck outside pumping
   its bodily fluids through it".  IBM was not amused.  Compare
   <big iron>; see also <mainframe>.  2.  [IBM] A very
   conservative user; a <zipperhead>.

<dinosaur pen> n. A traditional <mainframe> computer room complete with
   raised flooring, special power, its own ultra-heavy-duty air
   conditioning, and a side order of Halon fire extinguishers.  See

<dinosaurs mating> n. Said to occur when yet another <big iron>
   merger or buyout occurs; reflects a perception by hackers that
   these signal another stage in the long-drawn-out death throes of
   the <mainframe> industry.  In its glory days of the Sixties, it
   was `IBM and the Seven Dwarves': Burroughs, Control Data, General
   Electric, Honeywell, NCR, RCA and Univac.  RCA and GE sold out
   early and it was `IBM and the Bunch' (Burroughs, Univac, NCR,
   Control Data, and Honeywell) for a while.  Honeywell was bought out
   by Bull; Burroughs merged with Univac (in 1984, this was when the
   phrase `dinosaurs mating' was coined), and at time of writing AT&T
   is attempting to recover from a disasterously bad first six years
   in the hardware industry by buying NCR.  More such earth-shaking
   unions of doomed giants seem inevitable.

<dirty power> n.  Electrical mains voltage which is unfriendly to
   the delicate innards of computers. <Drop-outs>, spikes, average
   voltage significantly higher or lower than nominal or plain noise
   can all cause problems of varying subtlety and severity.

<Discordianism> /dis-kor'di-@n-ism/ n. The veneration of <Eris>, aka
   Discordia; widely popular among hackers.  Popularized by Robert
   Anton Wilson's `Illuminatus!' trilogy as a sort of self-subverting
   dada-Zen for Westerners --- it should on no account be taken
   seriously but is far more serious than most jokes.  Usually
   connected with an elaborate conspiracy theory/joke involving
   millenia-long warfare between the anarcho-surrealist partisans of
   Eris and a malevolent, authoritarian secret society called the
   Illuminati.  See Appendix B, <Church of the Sub-Genius>, and <ha ha
   only serious>.

<display hack> n. A program with the same approximate purpose as a
   kaleidoscope: to make pretty pictures.  Famous display hacks
   include <munching squares>, <smoking clover>, the BSD UNIX `rain(6)'
   program, `worms(6)' on miscellaneous UNIXes, and the <X> kaleid
   program.  Display hacks can also be implemented without programming
   by creating text files containing numerous escape sequences for
   interpretation by a video terminal; one notable example displayed,
   on any VT100, a Christmas tree with twinkling lights and a toy
   train circling its base.  Syn. <psychedelicware>.

<disk farm> n. (also <laundromat>) A large room or rooms filled
   with disk drives (esp.  <washing machines>).

<distribution> n. 1. A software source tree packaged for
   distribution; but see <kit>.  2.  A vague term encompassing
   mailing lists and USENET newsgroups;  any topic-oriented message
   channel with multiple recipients.

<do protocol> [from network protocol programming] vt.  To perform an
   interaction with somebody or something that follows a clearly
   defined procedure.  For example, "Let's do protocol with the
   check" at a restaurant means to ask for the check, calculate the
   tip and everybody's share, collect money from everybody, generate
   change as necessary, and pay the bill.

<doco> /do'koh/ [orig. in-house slang at Symbolics] n.  A documentation
   writer.  See also <devo> and <mango>.

<documentation> n. The multiple kilograms of macerated, pounded,
   steamed, bleached, and pressed trees that accompanies any modern
   software or hardware product (see also <tree-killer>).  Hackers
   seldom read paper documentation and (too often) resist writing it;
   they prefer theirs to be terse and on-line.  See <drool-proof
<dodgy> adj. Syn. with <flaky>.  Preferred outside the U.S.

<dogcow> n. See <moof>.

<dogwash> [From a quip in the `urgency' field of a very optional
   software change request, about 1982.  It was something like,
   "Urgency: Wash your dog first."] n. A project of minimal
   priority, undertaken as an escape from more serious work.  Also, to
   engage in such a project.  Many games and much <freeware> gets
   written this way.

<domainist> adj. 1. Said of an <Internet address> (as opposed to a
   <bang path>) because of the part to the right of the `@',
   which specifies a nested series of "domains"; for example,
   "" specifies the machine called
   "snark" in the subdomain called <thyrsus> within the
   top-level domain called "com".  2.  Said of a mailer or routing
   program which knows how to handle domainist addresses.  3.  Said of
   a site which runs a domainist mailer.

   Reading domain addresses is something of an art.  Here are the
   five most important top-level functional domains followed by a
   selection of geographical domains:

     Machines at commercial organizations.
     Machines at educational instututions.
     U.S. Government civilian sites.
     U.S. military sites.
     Sites in the U.S. not within one of the functional domains
     Sites in the Soviet Union (only one really active one so far!)
     Sites in the United Kingdom

   Within the `us' domain there are subdomains for the fifty
   states, generally with a name identical to the state postal code.

<Don't do that, then!> [from an old doctor's office joke about a
   patient with a trivial complaint] interj. Stock response to a user
   complaint.  "When I type control-S, the whole system comes to a
   halt for thirty seconds."  "Don't do that, then."  Compare

<dongle> /dong'gl/ n. 1. A security device for commercial
   microcomputer programs consisting of a serialized EPROM and some
   drivers in a D-25 connector shell.  Programs that use a dongle
   query the port at startup and programmed intervals thereafter, and
   terminate if it does not respond with the dongle's programmed
   validation code.  Thus, users could make as many copies of the
   program as they want but must pay for each dongle.  The idea was
   clever but initially a failure, as users disliked tying up a serial
   port this way.  Most dongles on the market today (1990) will pass
   data through the port, and monitor for `magic codes' (and
   combinations of status lines) with minimal if any interference with
   devices further down the line (this innovation was necessary to
   allow daisy-chained dongles for multiple pieces of software).  The
   devices are still not widely used, as the industry has trended away
   from copy-protection schemes in general. 2. By extension, any
   physical electronic key or transferrable ID required for a program
   to function.  See <dongle-disk>.

<dongle-disk> /don'gl disk/ n. See <dongle>; a `dongle-disk' is a
   floppy disk with some coding which allows an application to
   identify it uniquely.  It can therefore be used as a <dongle>.
   Also called a "key disk".

<donuts> n. Collective noun for any set of memory bits.  This is
   really archaic and may no longer be live slang; it dates from the
   days of ferrite-core memories in which each bit was represented by
   a doughnut-shaped magnetic flip-flop.  Compare <core>.

<doorstop> n. Used to describe equipment that is non-functional and
   halfway expected to remain so, especially obsolescent equipment
   kept around for political reasons or ostensibly as a backup.
   "When we get another Wyse-50 in here that ADM3 will turn into a
   doorstop."  Compare <boat anchor>.

<dot file> [UNIX] n. A file that is not visible to normal
   directory-browsing tools (on UNIX, files named beginning with a dot
   are normally invisible to the directory lister).

<double bucky> adj. Using both the CTRL and META keys.  "The command
   to burn all LEDs is double bucky F."  See also <meta bit>,
   <cokebottle>, <quadruple bucky>, <space-cadet keyboard>.  The
   following lyrics were written on May 27, 1978, in celebration of
   the Stanford keyboard.  A typical MIT comment was that the Stanford
   <bucky bits> (control and meta shifting keys) were nice, but there
   weren't enough of them; you could only type 512 different
   characters on a Stanford keyword.  An obvious thing was simply to
   add more shifting keys, and this was eventually done; one problem,
   is that a keyboard with that many shifting keys is hard on
   touch-typists, who don't like to move their hands away from the
   home position on the keyboard.  It was half-seriously suggested
   that the extra shifting keys be pedals; typing on such a keyboard
   would be very much like playing a full pipe organ.  This idea is
   mentioned below, in a parody of a very fine song by Jeffrey Moss
   called `Rubber Duckie', which was published in `The Sesame
   Street Songbook'.

     			Double Bucky

     	Double bucky, you're the one!
     	You make my keyboard lots of fun.
     	    Double bucky, an additional bit or two:
     	Control and meta, side by side,
     	Augmented ASCII, nine bits wide!
     	    Double bucky!  Half a thousand glyphs, plus a few!
     		I sure wish that I
     		Had a couple of
     		    Bits more!
     		Perhaps a
     		Set of pedals to
     		Make the number of
     		    Bits four:
     		Double double bucky!
     	Double bucky, left and right
     	OR'd together, outta sight!
     	    Double bucky, I'd like a whole word of
     	    Double bucky, I'm happy I heard of
     	    Double bucky, I'd like a whole word of you!

     	--- The Great Quux (with apologies to Jeffrey Moss)

   [This is, by the way, an excellent example of computer <filk> --- ESR]

<doubled sig> [USENET] n.  A <sig block> that has been included
   twice in a <USENET> article or, less frequently, in an electronic
   mail message.  An article or message with a doubled sig can be
   caused by improperly configured software.  More often, however, it
   reveals the author's lack of experience in electronic
   communication.  See <biff>, <pseudo>.

<down> 1. adj. Not operating.  "The up escalator is down."  That is
   considered a humorous thing to say, but "The elevator is down"
   always means "The elevator isn't working" and never refers to
   what floor the elevator is on.  With respect to computers, this
   usage has passed into the mainstream; the extension to other kinds
   of machine is still hackish.  2. "go down" vi. To stop functioning;
   usually said of the <system>.  The message every hacker hates to
   hear from the operator is, "The system will go down in five
   minutes."  3.  "take down", "bring down" vt. To deactivate
   purposely, usually for repair work. "I'm taking the system down to
   work on that bug in the tape drive."

<DP> n. Data Processing.  Listed here because according to hackers,
   use of it marks one immediately as a <suit>.  See <DPer>.

<DPB> /d@-pib'/ [from the PDP-10 instruction set] vt., obs. To plop
   something down in the middle.  Usage: silly.  Example: "Dpb
   yourself into that couch, there."  The connotation would be that
   the couch is full except for one slot just big enough for you to
   sit in.  DPB means `DePosit Byte', and was the name of a PDP-10
   instruction that inserts some bits into the middle of some other
   bits.   This usage has been kept alive by the Common Lisp function
   of the same name.

<DPer> n. Data Processor.  Hackers are absolutely amazed that <suits>
   use this term self-referentially. "*Computers* process data,
   not people!"  See <DP>.

<dragon> n. [MIT] A program similar to a <daemon>, except
   that it is not invoked at all, but is instead used by the system to
   perform various secondary tasks.  A typical example would be an
   accounting program, which keeps track of who is logged in,
   accumulates load-average statistics, etc.  Under ITS, many
   terminals displayed a list of people logged in, where they are,
   what they're running, etc. along with some random picture (such as
   a unicorn, Snoopy, or the Enterprise) which was generated by the
   `name dragon'.  Usage: rare outside MIT --- under UNIX and most
   other OSs this would be called a "background demon" or <daemon>.
   The best-known UNIX example of a dragon is `cron(1)'.  At SAIL they
   called this sort of thing a "phantom".

<Dragon Book> n. Aho, Sethi and Ullman's classic compilers text
   `Compilers: Principles, Techniques and Tools', so called
   because of the cover design depicting a knight slaying a dragon
   labelled `compiler complexity'.  This actually describes the `Red
   Dragon Book'; an earlier edition (sans Sethi and titled
   `Principles Of Compiler Design') was the `Green Dragon Book'.
   See also <Blue Book>, <Red Book>, <Green Book>, <Silver
   Book>, <Purple Book>, <Orange Book>, <White Book>,
   <Pink-Shirt Book>, <Aluminum Book>.

<drain> [IBM] v. Syn. for <flush> (sense #4).

<dread high bit disease> n. A condition endemic to PRIME (formerly
   PR1ME) minicomputers which results in all the characters having
   their high (0x80) bit ON rather than OFF.  This of course makes
   transporting files to other systems much more difficult, not to
   mention talking to true eightbit devices.  It is reported that
   PRIME adopted the reversed eight bit convention in order to save 25
   cents/serial line/machine.  This probably qualifies as one of the
   most <cretinous> design tradeoffs ever made.  See <meta bit>.

<DRECNET> /drek'net/ [fr. German & Yiddish `dreck'] n. Deliberate
   distortion of DECNET, a networking protocol used in the <VMS>
   community.  So-called because DEC helped write the Ethernet
   specification, and then (either stupidly or as a malignant
   customer-control tactic) violated that spec in the design of
   DRECNET in a way that made it incompatible.  See also <connector

<driver> n.  1. The <main loop> of an interactive program; the
   code that gets commands and dispatches them for execution.  2. In
   "device driver", code designed to handle a particular
   peripheral device such as a magnetic disk or tape.

<drool-proof paper> n. Documentation which has been obsessively dumbed
   down, to the point where only a <cretin> could bear to read it, is
   said to have succumbed to the `drool-proof paper syndrome' or to
   have been `written on drool-proof paper'.  For example, this is
   an actual quote from Apple's LaserWriter manual: "Do not expose
   your LaserWriter to open fire or flame."

<drop on the floor> vt. To react to an error condition by silently
   discarding messages or other valuable data.  Example: "The gateway
   ran out of memory, so it just started dropping packets on the
   floor."  Also frequently used of faulty mail and netnews relay
   sites that lose messages.  See also <black hole>.

<drop-ins> [prob. by anology with <drop-outs>] n. Spurious
   characters appearing on a terminal or console due to line noise or
   a system malfunction of some sort.  Esp. used when these are
   interspered with your own typed input.  Compare <drop-outs>.

<drop-outs> n. 1. A variety of "power glitch" (see <glitch>);
   momentary zero voltage on the electrical mains.  2. Missing
   characters in typed input due to software malfunction or system
   saturation (this can happen under UNIX, for example, when a bad
   connect to a modem swamps the processor with spurious character
   interrupts).  3.  Mental glitches; used as a way of describing
   those occasions when the mind just seems to shut down for a couple
   of beats.  See <glitch>, <fried>.

<drugged> adj., also "on drugs".  1. Conspicuously stupid, heading
   towards <brain-damaged>.  Often accompanied by a pantomime of
   toking a joint.  2. Of hardware, very slow relative to normal

<drunk mouse syndrome> n.  A malady exhibited by the mouse pointing
   device of some workstations.  The typical symptom is for the mouse
   cursor on the screen to move to random directions and not in sync
   with the moving of the actual mouse.  Can usually be corrected by
   unplugging the mouse and plugging it back again.  Another
   recommended fix is to rotate your optical mouse pad 90 degrees.

<dumbass attack> /duhm'ass @-tak'/ [Purdue] n. A novice's mistake
   made by the experienced, especially one made by running as root
   under UNIX, e.g. typing `rm -r *' or `mkfs' on a mounted
   file system.  Compare <adger>.

<dump> n. An undigested and voluminous mass of information about a
   problem or the state of a system, especially one routed to the
   slowest available output device (compare <core dump>), and most
   especially one consisting or hex and octal <runes> describing the
   byte-by-byte state of memory, mass storage or some file.  In elder
   days, debugging was generally done by "grovelling over a dump"
   (see <grovel>); increasing use of high-level languages and
   interactive debuggers has made this uncommon, and the term `dump'
   now has a faintly archaic flavor.

<double DECkers> n.  Married couples both working for Digital
   Equipment Corporation.

<dup loop> /doop loop/ (also <dupe loop>) [Fidonet] n. an incorrectly
   configured system or network gateway may propagate duplicate
   messages on one or more <echo>s, with different   identification
   information which renders <dup killers> ineffective.  If such
   a duplicate message passes eventually reaches a system which
   it had already passed through (with the original identification
   information), all systems passed on the way back to that
   system are said to be involved in a <dup loop>.

<dup killer> /doop killer/ [Fidonet] n. Software which is supposed to
   detect and delete duplicates of a message which may have reached
   the Fidonet system via different routes.

<dusty deck> n. Old software (especially applications) with which one
   is obliged to remain compatible.  The term implies that the
   software in question is a holdover from card-punch days.  Used esp.
   when referring to old scientific and number-crunching software,
   much of which was written in FORTRAN and very poorly documented but
   would be too expensive to replace.  See <fossil>.

<DWIM> /dwim/ [Do What I Mean] 1. adj. Able to guess, sometimes even
   correctly, what result was intended when provided with bogus input.
   2. n.,obs. The INTERLISP function that attempted to accomplish this
   feat by correcting many of the more common errors.  See <hairy>.
   3. Occasionally, an interjection hurled at a balky computer, esp.
   when one senses one might be tripping over legalisms.

   DWIM is often suggested in jest as a desired feature for a complex
   program; also, occasionally described as the single instruction the
   ideal computer would have.  Back when proof of program correctness
   were in vogue, there were also jokes about "DWIMC": Do What I
   Mean, Correctly).  A related term, more often seen as a verb, is
   DTRT (Do The Right Thing), see <Right Thing, The>.

<dynner> /din'r/ 32 bits, by analogy with <nybble> and <byte>.  Usage:
   rare and extremely silly.  See also <playte>, <taste>, <crumb>.

                                {= E =}

<earthquake> [IBM] n. The ultimate real-world shock test for computer
   hardware.  Hacker sources at IBM deny the rumor that the Bay Area
   quake of 1989 was initiated by the company to test QA at its
   California plants.

<Easter egg> n. 1. A message hidden in the object code of a program as
   a joke, intended to be found by persons disassembling or browsing
   the code. 2. A message, graphic, or sound-effect emitted by a
   program (or, on a PC, the BIOS ROM) in response to some
   undocumented set of commands or keystrokes, intended as a joke or
   to display program credits.  One well-known early Easter egg found
   in a couple of OSs caused them to respond to the command `make
   love' with `not war?'.  Many personal computers (other than the IBM
   PC) have much more elaborate eggs hidden in ROM, including lists of
   the developers' names, political exhortations, snatches of music,
   and (in one case) graphics images of the entire development team.

<Easter egging> [IBM] n. The act of replacing unrelated parts more or
   less at random in hopes that a malfunction will go away.  Hackers
   consider this the normal operating mode of <field circus> techs and
   do not love them for it.  Compare <shotgun debugging>.

<eat flaming death> imp. A construction popularized among hackers by
   the infamous <DEC WARS> comic; supposed to derive from a famously
   turgid line in a WWII-era anti-Nazi propaganda comic in which X was
   "non-Aryan mongrels" or something of the sort.  Used in
   humorously overblown expressions of hostility. "Eat flaming death,
   <EBCDIC> users!"

<EBCDIC> /eb's'dik/ [Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange
   Code] n. An alleged character set used on IBM <dinosaur>s that
   exists in six mutually incompatible versions, all featuring such
   delights as non-contiguous letter sequences and the absence of
   several ASCII punctuation characters fairly important for modern
   computer languages (exactly which characters are absent vary
   according to which version of EBCDIC you're looking at).  IBM
   created EBCDIC in the early nineteen-sixties as a customer-control
   tactic, spurning the already established ASCII standard.  Today,
   IBM claims to be an open-systems company, but IBM's own description
   of the EBCDIC variants and how to convert between them is still
   internally classified top-secret, burn-before reading.  Hackers
   blanch at the very *name* of EBCDIC and consider it a
   manifestation of purest <evil>.  See also <fear and loathing>.

<echo> [Fidonet] n. A topic group on <Fidonet>'s echomail system.  Compare

<eighty-column mind> [IBM] n. The sort said to be employed by
   persons for whom the transition from card to tape was traumatic
   (nobody has dared tell them about disks yet).  It is said that
   these people, like (according to an old joke) the founder of IBM,
   will be buried `face down, 9-edge first' (the 9-edge is the bottom
   of the card).  This is inscribed on IBM's 1422 and 1602 card
   readers, and referenced in a famous bit of doggerel called "The
   Last Bug", which ends:

        He died at the console
        Of hunger and thirst.
        Next day he was buried,
        Face down, 9-edge first.

   The eighty-column mind is thought by most hackers to dominate IBM's
   customer base, and its thinking.  See <IBM>, <fear and
   loathing>, <card walloper>.

<El Camino Bignum> /el' k@-mee'noh big'num/ n. El Camino Real.  El
   Camino Real is the name of a street through the San Francisco
   peninsula that originally extended (and still appears in places)
   all the way down to Mexico City.  Navigation on the San Francisco
   peninsula is usually done relative to El Camino Real, which is
   assumed to run north and south even though it doesn't really in
   many places (see <logical>).  El Camino Real runs right past
   Stanford University, and so is familiar to hackers.  The Spanish
   word `real' (which has two syllables (ray-ahl')) means `royal';
   El Camino Real is `the royal road'.  Now the English word
   `real' is used in mathematics to describe numbers (and by analogy
   is misused in computer jargon to mean floating-point numbers).  In
   the FORTRAN language, for example, a `real' quantity is a number
   typically precise to seven decimal places, and a `double
   precision' quantity is a larger floating-point number, precise to
   perhaps fourteen decimal places.  When a hacker from MIT visited
   Stanford in 1976 or so, he remarked what a long road El Camino Real
   was.  Making a pun on `real', he started calling it `El Camino
   Double Precision' --- but when the hacker was told that the road
   was hundreds of miles long, he renamed it `El Camino Bignum', and
   that name has stuck.  (See <bignum>.)

<elegant> [from mathematical usage] adj. Combining simplicity, power,
   and a certain ineffable grace of design.  Higher praise than
   `clever', `winning' or even <cuspy>.

<elephantine> adj. Used of programs or systems which are both
   conspicuous <hog>s (due perhaps to poor design founded on <brute
   force and ignorance>) and exceedingly <hairy> in source form.  An
   elephantine program may be functional and even friendly, but (like
   the old joke about being in bed with an elephant) it's tough to
   have around all the same, esp. a bitch to maintain.  In extreme
   cases, hackers have been known to make trumpeting sounds or perform
   expressive zoomorphic mime at the mention of the offending program.
   Usage: semi-humorous.  Compare `has the elephant nature' and the
   somewhat more pejorative <monstrosity>.  See also <second-system
   effect> and <baroque>.

<EMACS> /ee'maks/ [from Editing MACroS] n. The ne plus ultra of
   hacker editors, a program editor with an entire LISP interpreter
   inside it.  Originally written by Richard Stallman in <TECO> at
   the MIT-AI lab, but the most widely used versions now run under
   UNIX.  It includes facilities to run compilation subprocesses and
   send and receive mail; many hackers spend up to 80% of their
   <tube time> inside it.  Some versions running under window
   managers iconify as an overflowing kitchen sink, perhaps to suggest
   the one feature the editor doesn't include.  Indeed, some hackers
   find EMACS too heavyweight and <baroque> for their taste, and expand
   the name as `Escape Meta Alt Control Shift' to spoof its heavy
   reliance on complex bucky-bitted keystrokes.  Other spoof
   expansions include Eight Megabytes And Constantly Swapping,
   Eventually malloc()s All Computer Storage, and EMACS Makes A
   Computer Slow (see RECURSIVE ACRONYMS).  See also <vi>.

<email> /ee'mayl/ vt.,n. Electronic mail automatically passed
   through computer networks and/or via modems common-carrier lines.
   Contrast <snail-mail>, <paper-net>, <voice-net>.  See
   <network address>.

<emoticon> /ee-moh'ti-con/ n. An ASCII glyph used to indicate an
   emotional state in email or news.  Hundreds have been proposed, but
   only a few are in common use.  These include:

     :-) Smiley face (indicates laughter)
     :-( Frowney face (indicates sadness, anger or upset)
     ;-) Half-smiley (ha ha only serious)
         Also known as "semi-smiley" or "winkey face".
     :-/ Wry face

   It appears that the emoticon was invented by one Scott Fahlman on
   the CMU <bboard> systems around 1980.  He later wrote "I wish I
   had saved the original post, or at least recorded the date for
   posterity, but I had no idea that I was starting something that
   would soon pollute all the world's communication channels".

   Of these, the first two are by far the most frequently encountered.
   Hyphenless forms of them are common on CompuServe, GEnie and BIX;
   see also <bixie>.  On <USENET>, "smiley" is often used as a
   generic (synonym for emoticon) as well as specifically for the
   happy-face emoticon.

   Note for the <newbie>: overuse of the smiley is a mark of
   loserhood!  More than one per paragraph is a fairly sure sign that
   you've gone over the line.

<empire> n. Any of a family of military simulations derived from a
   game written by Peter Langston many years ago.  There are 5 or 6
   multi-player variants of varying degrees of sophistication, and one
   single-player version implemented for both UNIX and VMS which is
   even available as MS-DOS freeware.  All are notoriously addictive.

<engine> n. 1. A piece of hardware that encapsulates some function
   but can't be used without some kind of <front end>.  This
   generalization has a long history; Charles Babbage's 1844 design
   for a mechanical stored-program computer was to be called the
   `Analytical Engine').  Today we have, especially, "print
   engine": the guts of a laser printer.  2. An analogous piece of
   software; notionally, one that does a lot of noisy crunching such
   as a <database engine>.

<English> n.,obs. The source code for a program, which may be in any
   language, as opposed to <binary>.  The idea behind the term is
   that to a real hacker, a program written in his favorite
   programming language is as readable as English.  Usage: obsolete,
   used mostly by old-time hackers, though recognizable in context.

<enhancement> n. <Marketroid>-speak for a bug <fix>.  This abuse
   of language is a popular and time-tested way to turn incompetence
   into increased revenue.

<ENQ> /enkw/ [from the ASCII mnemonic for 0000101] 1. An on-line
   convention for querying someone's availability.  After opening a
   <talk mode> connection to someone apparently in heavy hack mode,
   one might type "SYN SYN ENQ?" (the SYNs representing notional
   synchronization bytes) expecting a return of <ACK> or NAK depending
   on whether or not the person felt interruptible.  See <ACK>;
   compare <ping>, <finger>, and the usage of "FOO?" listed under
   <talk mode>.

<EOF> /ee-oh-ef/ [UNIX/C] n. End Of File. 1. Refers esp. to whatever
   pseudo-character value is returned by C's sequential input
   functions (and their equivalents in other environments) when the
   logical end of file has been reached (this was 0 under V6 UNIX, is
   -1 under V7 and all subsequent versions and all non-UNIX C library
   implementations). 2. Used by extension in non-computer contexts
   when a human is doing something that can be modelled as a
   sequential read and can't go further. "Yeah, I looked for a list
   of 360 mnemonics to post as a joke, but I hit <EOF> pretty fast,
   all the library had was a <JCL> manual."

<EOL> /ee-oh-el/ [End Of Line] n. Syn. <newline> derived perhaps
   from the original CDC6600 Pascal.  Now rare, but widely recognized
   and occasionally used because it's shorter.  It's used in the
   example entry under <BNF>.

<EOU> /ee-oh-yoo/ The mnemonic of a mythical ASCII control character
   (End Of User) that could make a Model 33 Teletype explode on
   receipt.  This parodied the numerous obscure record-delimiter
   control characters left in ASCII from the days when it was more
   associated with wire-service teletypes than computers (e.g. FS, GS,
   RS, US, EM, SUB, ETX and esp. EOT).  It is worth remembering that
   ASR-33s were big, noisy mechanical beasts with a lot of clattering
   parts; the notion that one might explode was nowhere near as
   ridiculous as it might seem to someone sitting in front of a <tube>
   or flatscreen today.

<epoch, the> [UNIX] [perhaps from astronomical timekeeping] n. The
   time and date corresponding to zero in an operating system's clock
   and timestamp values.  Under most UNIX versions, 00:00:00 GMT
   January 1, 1970.  System time is measured in seconds or <tick>s
   past the epoch.  See <tick>s, <wall time>.  Note that weird
   problems may ensue when the clock wraps around (see <wrap
   around>), and that this is not a necessarily a rare event; on
   systems counting 10 <tick>s per second, a 32 bit count of ticks
   is only good for 6.8 years.  The 1-per-second clock of UNIX is good
   until January 18, 2038, assuming word lengths don't increase by

<epsilon> [see <delta> for etymology] 1.  n. A small quantity of
   anything.  "The cost is epsilon."  2.  adj.  Very small,
   negligible; less than marginal.  "We can get this feature for
   epsilon cost."  3. <within epsilon of>: close enough to be
   indistinguishable for all practical purposes.  this is even closer
   than being <within delta of>.  Example: "That's not what I asked
   for, but it's within epsilon of what I wanted."  Alternatively, it
   may mean not close enough, but very little is required to get it
   there: "My program is within epsilon of working."  See

<epsilon squared> n. A quantity even smaller than <epsilon>, as small
   in comparison to it as it is to something normal.  If you buy a
   supercomputer for a million dollars, the cost of the
   thousand-dollar terminal to go with it is <epsilon>, and the cost
   of the ten-dollar cable to connect the two is <epsilon squared>.

<era, the> Syn. <epoch>.  The Webster's Unabridged makes these words
   almost synonymous, but `era' usually connotes a span of time
   rather than a point in time.  The <epoch> usage is recommended.

<Eric Conspiracy> n. Notional group of mustachioed hackers named Eric
   first pinpointed as a sinister conspiracy by an infamous
   talk.bizarre posting c. 1986; this was doubtless influenced by the
   numerous `Eric' jokes in the Monty Python oeuvre.  There do indeed
   seem to be considerably more mustachioed Erics in hackerdom than
   the frequency of these three traits can account for unless they are
   correlated in some arcane way.  Well known examples include Eric
   Allman of <BSD> fame, Erik Fair (coauthor of NNTP); your editor has
   heard from about fourteen others by email, and the organization
   line `Eric Conspiracy Secret Laboratories' now emanates regularly
   from more than one site.

<Eris> /e'ris/ pn. The Greco-Roman goddess of Chaos, Discord,
   Confusion and Things You Know Not Of; aka Discordia.  Not a very
   friendly deity in the Classical original, she was re-invented as a
   more benign personification of creative anarchy starting in 1959 by
   the adherents of <Discordianism> and has since been a semi-serious
   subject of veneration in several `fringe' cultures including
   hackerdom.  See <Discordianism>, <Church of the Sub-Genius>.

<erotics> /ee-ro'tiks/ n. Reported from Scandinavia as
   English-language university slang for electronics.  Often used by
   hackers, maybe because of its exciting aspects.

<essentials> n. Things necessary to maintain a productive and secure
   hacking environment. "A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, a
   20-megahertz 80386 box with 8 meg of core and a 300-megabyte disk
   supporting full UNIX with source and X windows and EMACS and UUCP
   to a friendly Internet site, and thou."

<evil> adj. As used by hackers, implies that some system, program,
   person or institution is sufficiently mal-designed as to be not
   worth the bother of dealing with.  Unlike the adjectives in the
   <cretinous>/<losing>/<brain-damaged> series, `evil' does not
   imply incompetence or bad design, but rather a set of goals or
   design criteria fatally incompatible with the speaker's.  This is
   more an esthetic and engineering judgement than a moral one in the
   mainstream sense. "We thought about adding a <Blue Glue> interface
   but decided it was too evil to deal with." "<TECO> is neat, but
   it can be pretty evil if you're prone to typos."  Often pronounced
   with the first syllable lengthened, as /eeeevil/.

<exa-> /ek's@/ pref. Multiplier, 10 ^ 18 or [proposed] 2 ^ 60. See

<examining the entrails> n. The process of rooting through a core dump
   or hex image in the attempt to discover the bug that brought your
   program or system down.  Compare <runes>, <incantation>, <black

<EXCH> /eks'ch@, eksch/ vt. To exchange two things, each for the
   other; to swap places.  If you point to two people sitting down and
   say "Exch!", you are asking them to trade places.  <EXCH>,
   meaning EXCHange, was originally the name of a PDP-10 instruction
   that exchanged the contents of a register and a memory location.
   Many newer hackers tend to be thinking instead of the PostScript
   exchange operator.

<excl> /eks'kl/ n. Abbreviation for "exclamation point".  See
   <bang>, <shriek>, <wow>.

<EXE> /eks'ee/ An executable binary file.  Some operating systems
   (notably MS-DOS, VMS, and TOPS-20/TWENEX) use the extension .EXE to
   mark such files.  This usage is also occasionally found among UNIX
   programmers even though UNIX executables don't have any required
   extension (in fact, the term `extension' in this sense is not part
   of UNIX jargon).

<exec> /eg-zek'/ [shortened from "executive" or "execute"]
   vt.,n.  1.  [UNIX] Synonym for <chain>, derives from the
   `exec(2)' call.  2.  (obs) The command interpreter for an
   <OS> (see <shell>); term esp.  used on mainframes, and prob.
   derived from UNIVAC's archaic EXEC 2 and EXEC 8 operating systems.
   3. At IBM, the equivalent of a <script> (sense #1).

<exercise, left as an> [Technical reference books] Used to complete a
   proof when one doesn't mind a <handwave>, or to avoid one entirely.
   The complete phrase is: "The proof (or rest) is left as an
   exercise for the reader."

<eyeball search> n. To look for something in a mass of code by hand,
   as opposed to using some sort of pattern matcher like <grep> or
   any other automated search tool.  Confusingly, this may also be
   described as a search <by hand>.

                                {= F =}

<fab> /fab/ [from English fabricate] 1. To produce chips from a
   design that may have been created by someone at another company.
   <fabbing> chips based on the designs of others is the activity of
   a <silicon foundry>.  2. Also "fab line" the production
   system (lithographry, diffusion, etching, etc.) for chips at a chip
   manufacturer.  Different "fab lines" are run with different
   process parameters, die sizes, or technologies, or simply to
   provide more manufacturing volume.

<face time> n. Time spent interacting with somebody face-to-face (as
   opposed to via electronic links).  "Oh, yeah, I spent some face
   time with him at the last Usenix."

<fall over> [IBM] vi. Yet another synonym for <crash> or <lose>.
   `Fall over hard' equates to <crash and burn>.

<fall through> vt. 1. To exit a loop by exhaustion, i.e. by having
   fulfilled its exit condition rather than via a break or exception
   condition that exits from the middle of it.  This usage appears to
   be *really* old, as in dating from the '40s and '50s.  It may
   no longer be live slang.  2.  To fail a test that would have passed
   control to a subroutine or other distant portion of code.  2. In C,
   `fall-through' is said to occur when the flow of execution in a
   switch statement reaches a `case' label other than by jumping there
   from the switch header, passing a point where one would normally
   expect to find a `break'. A trivial example:

     switch (color)
     case GREEN:
     case PINK:
        /* FALL THROUGH */
     case RED:

   The effect of this code is to `do_green()' when color is `GREEN',
   `do_red()' when color is `RED', `do_blue()' on any other color than PINK,
   and (this is the important part) `do_pink()' and *then* `do_red()'
   when color is `PINK'.  Fall-through is <considered harmful> by some;
   among those who use it, it is considered good practice to include a
   comment highlighting the fall through, at the point one would
   normally expect a break.

<fandango on core> [UNIX/C hackers, from the Mexican dance] n. In C, a
   wild pointer that runs out of bounds causing a <core dump>, or
   corrupts the `malloc(3)' <arena> in such a way as to cause mysterious
   failures later on, is sometimes said to have `done a fandango on
   core'.  On low-end personal machines without an MMU this can
   corrupt the OS itself, causing massive lossage.  Other third-world
   dances such as the rhumba, cha-cha or watusi may be substituted.
   See <aliasing bug>, <precedence lossage>, <smash the stack>,
   <memory leak>, <overrun screw>, <core>.

<FAQ list> /ef-ay-kyoo list/ [Usenix] n. Compendium of accumulated
   lore, posted periodically to high-volume newsgroups in an attempt
   to forestall Frequently Asked Questions.  The jargon file itself
   serves as a good example of a collection of one kind of lore,
   although it is far too big for a regular posting.  Several extant
   FAQ lists do (or should) make reference to the jargon file.  "How
   do you pronounce `char'?" and "What's that funny name for the `#'
   character?" are, for example, both Frequently Asked Questions.

<farming> [Adelaide University, Australia] n. What the heads of a
   Winchester are said to do when they plow little furrows in the
   magnetic media.  Associated with a <crash>.  Typically used as
   follows: "Oh no, the machine has just crashed, I hope the hard
   drive hasn't gone <farming> again."

<fascist> adj. Said of a computer system with excessive or annoying
   security barriers, usage limits or access policies.  The
   implication is that said policies are preventing hackers from
   getting interesting work done.  The variant "fascistic" seems to
   have been preferred at MIT, poss. by analogy with "touristic"
   (see <tourist>).

<faulty> adj. Non-functional; buggy.  Same denotation as
   <bletcherous>, <losing>, q.v., but the connotation is much

<fd leak> /ef dee leek/ n. A kind of programming bug analogous to a
   <core leak>, in which a program fails to close file descriptors
   (`fd's) after file operations are completed, and thus eventually
   runs out.  See <leak>.

<fear and loathing> [from Hunter Thompson] n. State inspired by the
   prospect of dealing with certain real-world systems and standards
   which are totally <brain-damaged> but ubiquitous --- Intel 8086s,
   or COBOL, or <EBCDIC>, or any IBM machine except the Rios (aka
   the RS/6000).  "Ack.  They want PCs to be able to talk to the AI
   machine.  Fear and loathing time!"  See also IBM.

<feature> n.  1. An intended property or behavior (as of a program).
   Whether it is good or not is immaterial.  2. A good property or
   behavior (as of a program).  Whether it was intended or not is
   immaterial.  3. A surprising property or behavior; in particular,
   one that is purposely inconsistent because it works better that way
   -- such an inconsistency is therefore a <feature> and not a
   <bug>.  This kind of feature is sometimes called a <miswart>;
   see that entry for a classic example.  4. A property or behavior
   that is gratuitous or unnecessary, though perhaps also impressive
   or cute.  For example, one feature of the MACLISP language is the
   ability to print numbers as Roman numerals.  See <bells and
   whistles>.  5. A property or behavior that was put in to help
   someone else but that happens to be in your way. 6. A <bug> that
   has been documented.  To call something a feature sometimes means
   the author of the program did not consider the particular case, and
   the program responded in a way that was unexpected, but not
   strictly incorrect.  A standard joke is that a <bug> can be
   turned into a <feature> simply by documenting it (then
   theoretically no one can complain about it because it's in the
   manual), or even by simply declaring it to be good.  "That's not a
   bug, that's a feature!"  See also <feetch feetch>, <creeping
   featuritis>, <wart>.

<feature creature> n. One who loves to add features to designs or
   programs, perhaps at the expense of coherence, concision, or
   <taste>.  See also <creeping featurism>.

<feature shock> n. A user's confusion when confronted with a package that
   has too many features and poor introductory material.  Originally  a
   pun on Alvin Toffler's title `Future Shock'.
<featurectomy> /fee`ch@r-ek'to-mee/ n. The act of removing a feature
   from a program.  Featurectomies generally come in two varieties,
   the "righteous" and the "reluctant".  Righteous featurectomies
   are performed because the remover believes the program would be
   more elegant without the feature, or there is already an equivalent
   and `better' way to achieve the same end.  (This is not quite the
   same thing as removing a <misfeature>.)  Reluctant featurectomies
   are performed to satisfy some external constraint such as code size
   or execution speed.

<feep> /feep/ 1. n. The soft bell of a display terminal (except for a
   VT-52!); a beep (in fact, the microcomputer world seems to prefer
   <beep>).  2. vi. To cause the display to make a feep sound.  TTY's
   do not have feeps; they have mechanical bells that ring.  Alternate
   forms: <beep>, <bleep>, or just about anything suitably
   onomatopoeic.  (Jeff Macnelly, in his comic strip `Shoe', uses
   the word `eep' for sounds made by computer terminals and video
   games; this is perhaps the closest written approximation yet.)  The
   term <beedle> was sometimes heard at SAIL, where the terminal
   bleepers are not particularly `soft' (they sound more like the
   musical equivalent of a raspberry or Bronx cheer; for a close
   approximation, imagine the sound of a Star Trek communicator's beep
   lasting for five seconds.).  The `feeper' on a VT-52 has been
   compared to the sound of a '52 Chevy stripping its gears.  See also

<feeper> /fee'pr/ n. The device in a terminal or workstation (usually
   a loudspeaker of some kind) that makes the <feep> sound.

<feeping creaturitis> /fee'ping kree`ch@r-ie'tis/ n. Deliberate
   spoonerization of <creeping featuritis>, meant to imply that the
   system or program in question has become a misshapen creature of
   hacks.  This term isn't really well-defined, but it sounds so neat
   that most hackers have said or heard it.  It is probably reinforced
   by an image of terminals prowling about in the dark making their
   customary noises.

<feetch feetch> interj.  If someone tells you about some new
   improvement to a program, you might respond, "Feetch, feetch!"
   The meaning of this depends critically on vocal inflection.  With
   enthusiasm, it means something like, "Boy, that's great!  What a
   great hack!"  Grudgingly or with obvious doubt, it means "I don't
   know; it sounds like just one more unnecessary and complicated
   thing."  With a tone of resignation, it means, "Well, I'd rather
   keep it simple, but I suppose it has to be done."

<fence> n. One or `out-of-band' characters used to delimit a piece
   of data intended to be treated as a unit.  The NUL character that
   terminates strings in C is a fence.  Hex FF is probably the most
   common fence character after NUL.

<fencepost error> n. 1. The discrete equivalent of a boundary
   condition.  Often exhibited in programs by iterative loops.  From
   the following problem: "If you build a fence 100 feet long with
   posts ten feet apart, how many posts do you need?"  (Either 9 or
   11 is a better answer than the obvious 10.)  For example, suppose
   you have a long list or array of items, and want to process items m
   through n; how many items are there?  The obvious answer is `n - m',
   but that is off by one; the right answer is `n - m + 1'.  A program
   that used the `obvious' formula would have a fencepost error in
   it.  See also <off-by-one error>, and note that not all off-by-one
   errors are fencepost errors.  The game of Musical Chairs involves
   an off-by-one problem where N people try to sit in N-1 chairs, but
   it's not a fencepost error.  Fencepost errors come from counting
   things rather than the spaces between them, or vice versa, or by
   neglecting to consider whether one should count one or both ends of
   a row.  2.  Occasionally, an error induced by unexpectedly regular
   spacing of inputs, which can (for instance) screw up your hash

<Fidonet> n. A world-wide hobbyist network of personal computers
   which exchange mail, discussion groups, and files.  Originally
   consisting only of IBM PCs and compatibles, Fidonet now includes
   such diverse machines as Apple ][s, Ataris, Amigas, and Unix
   systems.  Fidonet is a sizeable fraction of <USENET>'s size at
   some 8000 systems (late 1990), although it is much younger than

<field circus> [a derogatory pun on `field service'] n.  The field
   service organization of any hardware manufacturer, but especially
   DEC.  There is an entire genre of jokes about DEC field circus

     Q: How can you recognize a DEC field circus engineer with a flat tire?
     A: He's changing each tire to see which one is flat.

     Q: How can you recognize a DEC field circus engineer who is out of
     A: He's changing each tire to see which one is flat.

<field servoid> [play on "android"] /fee'ld ser'voyd/ n.
   Representative of a Field Service organization (see <field

<Fight-o-net> [Fidonet] n. Deliberate distortion of <Fidonet>,
   often applied after a flurry of <flamage> in a particular
   <echo>, especially the SYSOP echo or Fidonews (see <'Snooze>).

<File Attach> [Fidonet] 1. n. A file sent along with a mail message
   from one BBS to another.  2. vt. Sending someone a file by using
   the File Attach option in the BBS mailer.

<File Request> [Fidonet] 1. n. The <Fidonet> equivalent of
   <FTP>, in which one BBS system automatically dials another and
   <snarf>s one or more files.  Files are often announced as being
   "available for <FReq>" in the same way that files are announced
   as being "available for/by <anonymous FTP>" on the
   <Internet>.  2. vt.  The act of getting a copy of a file by using
   the File Request option of the BBS mailer.

<filk> /filk/ [from SF fandom, where a typo for `folk' was adopted
   as a new word] n.,v. A "filk" is a popular or folk song with
   lyrics revised or completely new lyrics, intended for humorous
   effect when read and/or to be sung late at night at SF conventions.
   There is a flourishing subgenre of these called "computer filks",
   written by hackers and often containing technical humor of quite
   sophisticated nature.  See <double bucky> for an example.

<film at 11> [MIT, in parody of TV newscasters], interj.  Used in
   conversation to announce ordinary events, with a sarcastic
   implication that these events are earth-shattering. "<ITS>
   crashes; film at 11." "Bug found in scheduler; film at 11."

<filter> [orig. UNIX, now also in <MS-DOS>] n. A program which
   processes an input text stream into an output text stream in some
   well-defined way, and does no I/O to anywhere else except possibly
   on error conditions; one designed to be used as a stage in a

<fine> [WPI] adj. Good, but not good enough to be <cuspy>.  The word
   `fine' is used elsewhere, of course, but without the implicit
   comparison to the higher level implied by <cuspy>.

<finger> [SAIL's mutant TOPS-10, via BSD UNIX] 1. n. A program that
   displays a particular user or all users logged on the system or a
   remote system.  Typically shows full name, last login time, idle
   time, terminal line and terminal location.  May also display a
   "plan file" left by the user. 2.  vt.  To apply finger to a
   username. 3.  vt. By extension, to check a human's current state by
   any means.  "Foodp?"  "T!"  "OK, finger Lisa and see if she's
   idle".  4.  Any picture (composed of ASCII characters) depicting
   `the finger'.  Originally a humorous component of one's plan
   file to deter the curious fingerer (sense #2), it has entered the
   arsenal of some <flamer>s.

<finger-pointing syndrome> n.  All-too-frequent result of bugs, esp.
   in new or experimental configurations.  The hardware vendor points
   a finger at the software.  The software vendor points a finger
   at the hardware.  All the poor users get is the finger.

<firebottle> n. A large, primitive, power-hungry active electrical
   device, similar to an FET constructed out of glass, metal, and
   vacuum.  Characterized by high cost, low density, low reliability,
   high-temperature operation, and high power dissipation.  Sometimes
   mistakenly called a "tube" in the U.S. or a "valve" in England.

<firefighting> n. The act of throwing lots of manpower and late
   nights at a project to get it out before deadline.  See also
   <gang bang>, <Mongolian Hordes technique>; however,
   <firefighting> connotes that the effort is going into chasing
   bugs rather than adding features.

<firewall machine> n. A dedicated gateway machine with special
   security precautions on it, used to service outside
   network/mail/news connections and/or accept remote logins for (read
   only) shared-file-system access via FTP.  The idea is to protect a
   cluster of more loosely administered machines `hidden' behind it
   from crackers.  The typical firewall is an inexpensive
   micro-based UNIX box kept clean of critical data, with a bunch of
   modems and public network ports on it but just one carefully
   watched connection back to the rest of the cluster.  The special
   precautions may include threat monitoring, callback, and even a
   complete <iron box> keyable to particular incoming IDs or activity
   patterns.  Syn. <flytrap>, <Venus flytrap>.

<fireworks mode> n. The mode a machine is sometimes said to be in when
   it is performing a <crash and burn> operation.

<firmware> n. Software installed into a computer-based piece of
   equipment on ROM. So-called because it's harder to change than
   software but easier than hardware.

<fish> [Adelaide University, Australia] n. Another metasyntactic
   variable.  See <foo>.  Derived originally from the Monty Python
   skit in the middle of `The Meaning of Life', entitled `Find the

<FISH queue> [acronym, by analogy with FIFO (First In, First Out)]
   n.  First In, Still Here.  A joking way of pointing out that
   processing of a particular sequence of events or requests has
   stopped dead.  Also "FISH mode" and "FISHnet"; the latter
   may be applied to any network that is running really slowly or
   exhibiting extreme flakiness.  Compare <belly up>.

<fix> n.,v. What one does when a problem has been reported too many
   times to be ignored.

<flag> n. A variable or quantity that can take on one of two values; a
   bit, particularly one that is used to indicate one of two outcomes
   or is used to control which of two things is to be done.  Examples:
   "This flag controls whether to clear the screen before printing
   the message."  "The program status word contains several flag
   bits."  See also <bit>, <hidden flag>, <mode bit>.

<flag day> n. A software change which is neither forward nor backward
   compatible, and which is costly to make and costly to revert.
   "Can we install that without causing a flag day for all users?"
   This term has nothing to do with the use of the word <flag> to mean
   a variable that has two values.  It came into use when a massive
   change was made to the <Multics> timesharing system to convert from
   the old ASCII code to the new one; this was scheduled for Flag Day,
   June 14, 1966.

<flaky> adj. (var sp. "flakey") Subject to frequent lossages.  See
   <lossage>.  This use is of course related to the common slang use
   of the word, to describe a person as eccentric or crazy.  A system
   that is flaky is working, sort of, enough that you are tempted to
   try to use it, but it fails frequently enough that the odds in
   favor of finishing what you start are low.  Commonwealth hackish
   prefers <dodgy>.

<flamage> /flay'm@j/ n. High-noise, low-signal postings to <USENET>
   or other electronic fora.  Often in the phrase "the usual

<flame> 1. vi. To speak incessantly and/or rabidly on some relatively
   uninteresting subject or with a patently ridiculous attitude.  When
   a discussion degenerates into useless controversy, one might tell
   the participants, "Now you're just flaming" or "Stop all that
   flamage!"  to try to get them to cool down (so to speak).  2.  To
   post an email message intended to insult and provoke.  <FLAME ON>:
   vi.  To continue to flame.  See <rave>, <burble>.  The punning
   reference to Marvel comics's Human Torch has been lost as recent
   usage completes the circle: "Flame on" now usually means
   "beginning of flame".

   A USENETter who was at WPI from 1972 to 1976 adds: I am 99% certain
   that the use of `flame' originated at WPI.  Those who made a
   nuisance of themselves insisting that they needed to use a TTY for
   `real work' came to be known as `flaming asshole lusers'.
   Other, particularly annoying people became `flaming asshole
   ravers', which shortened to `flaming ravers', and ultimately
   `flamers'.  I remember someone picking up on the Human Torch pun,
   but I don't think `flame on/off' was ever much used at WPI.  See
   also <asbestos cork award>.

   The term may have been independent invented at several different
   places; it is also reported that `flaming' was in use to mean
   something like `interminably drawn-out semi-serious discussions'
   (late-night bull-sessions) at Carleton College during 1968-1971.

<flame bait> n. A posting intended to trigger a <flame war>, or one
   which invites flames in reply.

<flame war> n. Acrimonious dispute, especially when conducted on a
   public electronic forum such as <USENET>.  Often merged to one
   word, <flamewar>.

<flamer> n. One who habitually flames others.  Said esp. of obnoxious
   <USENET> personalities.

<flap> vt. 1. To unload a DECtape (so it goes flap, flap, flap...).
   Old hackers at MIT tell of the days when the disk was device 0 and
   microtapes were 1, 2,... and attempting to flap device 0 would
   instead start a motor banging inside a cabinet near the disk!  2.
   By extension, to unload any magnetic tape.  See <microtape>,
   <macrotape>.  Modern cartridge tapes no longer actually flap, but
   the usage has remained.

<flat-ASCII> adj. Said of a text file wich contains only 7-bit ASCII
   characters and uses only ASCII-standard control characters (that
   is, has no embedded codes specific to a particular text formatter
   or markup language, and no <meta>-characters).  Syn.
   <plain-ASCII>.  The description <flat-file> is roughly

<flat-file> adj.  A <flatten>ed representation of some database or
   tree or network structure, as a single file from which the
   structure could implicitly be rebuilt, esp. one in <flat-ASCII>

<flatten> vt. To remove structural information, esp. to filter
   something with an implicit tree structure into a simple sequence of
   leaves.  "This code flattens an expression with parentheses into
   an equivalent <canonical> form."

<flavor> n. 1. Variety, type, kind.  "DDT commands come in two
   flavors."  "These lights come in two flavors, big red ones and
   small green ones."  See <vanilla>.  2. The attribute that causes
   something to be <flavorful>.  Usually used in the phrase "yields
   additional flavor."  "This convention yields additional flavor by
   allowing one to print text either right-side-up or upside-down."
   See <vanilla>.  This usage is almost certainly influenced by
   accepted terminology in particle physics, in which quarks (the
   constituents of e.g. protons) come in six flavors (up, down,
   strange, charm, top, bottom) and three colors (red, blue, green)
   --- however, its use at MIT almost certainly predated quark theory.

<flavorful> adj. Aesthetically pleasing.  See <random> and <losing>
   for antonyms.  See also the entries for <taste> and <elegant>.

<flippy> /flip'ee/ n. A single-side floppy disk altered for
   double-sided use by addition of a second write-notch, so called
   because it must be flipped over for the second side to be
   accessible.  No longer common.

<flowchart> n.  An archaic form of visual control-flow specification
   employing arrows and `speech balloons' of various shapes.  Hackers
   never use flowcharts, consider them extremely silly, and associate
   them with COBOL programmers and other lower forms of life.  This is
   because (from a hacker's point of view) they are just as difficult
   to read as code, not as precise, and tend to fall out of sync with
   the code (so that they either obfuscate it rather than explaining
   it, or require extra maintainence effort that doesn't improve the
   code).  See also <pdl>, sense #3.

<flush> v. 1. To delete something, usually superfluous.  "All that
   nonsense has been flushed."  Standard ITS terminology for aborting
   an output operation (but note sense 4 below!); one speaks of the
   text that would have been printed, but was not, as having been
   flushed.  Under ITS, if you asked to have a file printed on your
   terminal, it was printed a page at a time; at the end of each page,
   it asked whether you want to see more, and if you said no, it
   replied "FLUSHED".  (It is speculated that this term arose from a
   vivid image of flushing unwanted characters by hosing down the
   internal output buffer, washing the characters away before they can
   be printed.)  2. To leave at the end of a day's work (as opposed to
   leaving for a meal).  "I'm going to flush now."  "Time to
   flush."  3. To exclude someone from an activity, or to ignore a
   person.  4.  [UNIX/C] To force buffered I/O to disk, as with an
   `fflush(3)' call.  This is *not* an abort as in sense 1 but a
   demand for early completion!  UNIX hackers find the ITS usage
   confusing and vice versa.

<flytrap> n. See <firewall machine>.

<FOAF> [USENET] n.  Written-only acronym for Friend Of A Friend.  The
   source of an unverified, possibly untrue story.  This was not
   originated by hackers (it is used in Jan Brunvand's books on urban
   folklore) but is much better recognized on USENET and elsewhere
   than in the mainstream.

<FOD> v. [Abbreviation for `Finger of Death', originally a
   spell-name from fantasy gaming] To terminate with extreme prejudice
   and with no regard for other people.  From <MUD>s where the
   wizards' command `FOD <player>' results in the immediate and
   total death of <player>, usually as punishment for obnoxious
   behaviour.  This migrated to other circumstances, such as "I'm
   going to fod that process which is burning all the CPU".  Compare

<fold case> v.  See <smash case>.  This term tends to be used more
   by people who don't "mind" that their tools smash case.

<followup> n. On USENET, a <posting> generated in response to
   another posting (as opposed to a <reply>, which goes by email
   rather than being broadcast).  Followups include the ID of the
   <parent message> in their headers; smart news-readers can use
   this information to present USENET news in `conversation' sequence
   rather than order-of-arrival.  See <thread>.

<foo> /foo/ 1. interj. Term of disgust.  2. Name used for temporary
   programs, or samples of three-letter names.  Other similar words
   are <bar>, <baz> (Stanford corruption of <bar>), and rarely RAG.
   3. Used very generally as a sample name for absolutely anything.
   4. First on the standard list of metasyntactic variables used in
   syntax examples.  See also: <bar>, <baz>, <qux>, <quux>, <QUUUX>,
   <corge>, <grault>, <garply>, <waldo>, <fred>, <plugh>, <xyzzy>.
   <moby foo>: See <moby>.

   <foo> is the <canonical> example of a `metasyntactic variable'; a
   name used in examples and understood to stand for whatever thing is
   under discussion, or any random member of a class of things under
   discussion.  To avoid confusion, hackers never use `foo' or other
   words like it as permanent names for anything.

   The etymology of hackish `foo' is obscure.  When used in
   connection with `bar' it is generally traced to the WWII-era army
   slang acronym FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition), later
   expurgated to <foobar> and then truncated.

   However, the use of the word `foo' itself has more complicated
   antecedents, including a long history in comic strips and cartoons.
   The old `Smokey Stover' comic strips by Bill Holman often
   included the word `FOO', in particular on license plates of cars;
   allegedly, `FOO' and `BAR' also occurred in Walt Kelly's
   `Pogo' strips.  In a 1938 cartoon Daffy Duck holds up a sign
   saying "SILENCE IS FOO!".  It is even possible that hacker usage
   actually springs from the title `FOO, Lampoons and Parody' of
   a comic book first issued 20 years later, in September 1958; the
   byline read `C.  Crumb' but this may well have been a sort-of
   pseudonym for noted weird-comix artist Robert Crumb.  The title FOO
   was featured in large letters on the front cover.

   Very probably hackish `foo' had no single origin and derives
   through all these channels from Yiddish `feh', or English

<foobar> n. Another common metasyntactic variable; see <foo>.

<fool> n. As used by hackers, specifically describes a person who
   habitually reasons from obviously or demonstrably incorrect
   premises and cannot be persuaded to do otherwise by evidence; it is
   not generally used in its other senses, i.e. to describe a person
   with a native incapacity to reason correctly, or a clown.  Indeed,
   in hackish experience many fools are capable of reasoning all too
   effectively in executing their errors.  See also <cretin>, <loser>.

<footprint> n. 1. The floor or desk area taken up by a piece of
   hardware. 2. [IBM] The audit trail (if any) left by a crashed
   program (often in plural, "footprints").  See also

<for the rest of us> [from the Mac slogan "The computer for the
   rest of us"] adj. Used to describe a <spiffy> product whose
   affordability shames other comparable products, or (more often)
   used sarcastically to describe <spiffy>, but very overpriced

<foreground> [UNIX] adj.,vt. On a time-sharing system, a task
   executing in foreground is one able to accept input from and return
   output to the user; oppose <background>.  Normally, there is only
   one foreground task per terminal (or terminal window); having
   multiple processes simultaneously reading the keyboard is a good
   way to <lose>.  By extension, to "foreground a task" is to bring
   it to the top of one's <stack> for immediate processing, and in
   this sense hackers often use it for non-computer tasks.

<forked> [UNIX] adj. Terminally slow, or dead.  Originated when the
   system slowed to incredibly bad speeds due to a process recursively
   spawning copies of itself (using the Unix system call `fork(2)')
   and taking up all the process table entries.

<fortune cookie> [UNIX] n. A random quote, item of trivia, joke or
   maxim printed to the user's tty at login time or (less commonly) at
   logout time.  Items from this jargon file have often been used as
   fortune cookies.

<fossil> n. 1. In software, a misfeature that becomes understandable
   only in historical context, as a remnant of times past retained so
   as not to break compatibility.  Example: the retention of octal as
   default base for string escapes in C in spite of the better match
   of hexadecimal to modern byte-addressable architectures.  See
   <dusty deck>. 2. More restrictively, a feature with past but no
   present utility.  Example: the force-all-caps (LCASE) bits in the
   V7 and <BSD UNIX> tty driver, designed for use with monocase
   terminals.  In a perversion of the usual backwards compatibility
   goal, this functionality has actually been expanded and renamed in
   some later <USG UNIX> releases as the IUCLC and OLCUC bits.  3.
   FOSSIL (Fido/Opus/Seadog Standard Interface Level) specification for
   serial-port access to replace the <brain-dead> routines in the IBM PC
   ROMs.  Fossils are used by most MSDOS <BBS> software in lieu of
   programming the <bare metal> of the serial ports, as the ROM routines
   do not support interrupt-driven operation or setting speeds above
   9600.  Since the FOSSIL specification allows additional functionality
   to be hooked in, drivers which use the <hook> but do not provide
   serial-port access themselves are named with a modifier, as in `video

<fred> n. The personal name most frequently used as a metasyntactic
   variable (see <foo>).  Allegedly popular because it's easy to type
   on a standard QWERTY keyboard.  It is alternatively alleged to be
   an acronym for `Flipping Ridiculous Electronic Device' (other
   f-verbs may be substituted for "flipping")

<frednet> n. Used to refer to some <random> and uncommon protocol
   encountered on a network.  "We're implementing bridging in our
   router to solve the frednet problem."

<freeware> n. Free software, often written by enthusiasts and usually
   distributed by electronic mail, local bulletin boards, <USENET>, or
   other electronic media.  See <shareware>.

<freeze> v. To lock an evolving software distribution or document
   against changes so it can be released with some hope of stability.
   Carries the strong implication that the item in question will
   `unfreeze' at some future date.  "OK, fix that bug and we'll
   freeze for release."

<FReq> [Fidonet] written-only abbreviation for <File Request>.

<fried> adj. 1. Non-working due to hardware failure; burnt out.
   Especially used of hardware brought down by a "power glitch"
   (see <glitch>), <drop-outs>, a short, or other electrical
   event.  (Sometimes this literally happens to electronic circuits!
   In particular, resistors can burn out and transformers can melt
   down, emitting terribly-smelling smoke.  However, this term is also
   used metaphorically.)  2. Of people, exhausted.  Said particularly
   of those who continue to work in such a state.  Often used as an
   explanation or excuse.  "Yeah, I know that fix destroyed the file
   system, but I was fried when I put it in."

<frob> /frob/ 1. n. [MIT] The official Tech Model Railroad Club
   definition was `FROB = protruding arm or trunnion', and by
   metaphoric extension any somewhat small thing; an object that you
   can comfortably hold in one hand; something you can frob.  See
   <frobnitz>.  2. vt. Abbreviated form of <frobnicate>.  3. [from the
   <MUD> world] To request <wizard> privileges on the `professional
   courtesy' grounds that one is a wizard elsewhere.

<frobnicate> /frob'ni-kayt/ vt. [Poss. derived from <frobnitz>, and
   usually abbreviated to <frob>, but <frobnicate> is recognized
   as the official full form.]  To manipulate or adjust, to tweak.
   One frquently frobs bits or other two-state devices.  Thus:
   "Please frob the light switch."  (That is, flip it), but also
   "Stop frobbing that clasp; you'll break it."  One also sees the
   construction `to frob a frob'.  See <tweak> and <twiddle>.
   Usage: <frob>, <twiddle>, and <tweak> sometimes connote
   points along a continuum.  <frob> connotes aimless manipulation;
   <twiddle> connotes gross manipulation, often a coarse search for
   a proper setting; <tweak> connotes fine-tuning.  If someone is
   turning a knob on an oscilloscope, then if he's carefully adjusting
   it he is probably tweaking it; if he is just turning it but looking
   at the screen he is probably twiddling it; but if he's just doing
   it because turning a knob is fun, he's frobbing it.  The variant
   "frobnosticate" has been recently reported.

<frobnitz> /frob'nits/, pl. <frobnitzem> (frob'nit-zm) n. An
   unspecified physical object, a widget.  Also refers to electronic
   black boxes.  This rare form is usually abbreviated to "frotz",
   or more commonly to <frob>.  Also used are "frobnule" and
   "frobule".  Starting perhaps in 1979, "frobozz"
   /fruh-bahz'/, plural "frobbotzim" /fruh-bot'z@m/ has also
   become very popular, largely due to its exposure as a name via
   <Zork>.  These can also be applied to nonphysical objects, such
   as data structures.

<frog> alt. "phrog" 1. interj. Term of disgust (we seem to have a lot
   of them).  2. Used as a name for just about anything.  See <foo>.
   3.  n.  Of things, a crock.  Of people, somewhere inbetween a
   turkey and a toad.  4. <froggy>: adj. Similar to <bagbiting>, but
   milder.  "This froggy program is taking forever to run!"

<front end> n. 1. A subsidiary computer that doesn't do much. 2.
   What you're talking to when you have a conversation with someone
   who is making replies without paying attention. "Look at the
   dancing elephants!"  "Uh-huh." "Do you know what I just said?"
   "Sorry, you were talking to the front end".  3. Software which
   provides an interface to another program `behind' it, which may not
   be as user-friendly.  Probably from analogy with hardware
   front-ends (see sense #1) which interfaced with mainframes.

<frotz> /frotz/ 1. n. See <frobnitz>.  2. <mumble frotz>: An
   interjection of very mild disgust.

<frotzed> /frotzt/ adj. <down> due to hardware problems.

<fry> 1. vi. To fail.  Said especially of smoke-producing hardware
   failures.  More generally, to become non-working.  Usage: never
   said of software, only of hardware and humans.  See <fried>, <magic
   smoke>. 2. vt. To cause to fail; to <roach>, <toast> or <hose> a
   piece of hardware (never used of software or humans).

<FTP> /ef-tee-pee/, *not* /fit'ip/ 1. n. The File Transfer
   Protocol for transmitting files between systems on the Internet.
   2.  vt. To transfer a file using the File Transfer Protocol. 3.
   Sometimes used as a generic even for file transfers not using
   <FTP>. "Lemme get this copy of Wuthering Heights FTP'd from

<fuck me harder> excl. Sometimes uttered in response to egregious
   misbehavior, esp. in software, and esp. of those which seem
   unfairly persistent (as though designed in by the imp of the
   perverse).  Often theatrically elaborated: "Aiighhh! Fuck me with
   a piledriver and sixteen feet of curare-tipped wrought-iron fence
   *and no lubricants!*"  The phrase is sometimes heard
   abbreviated FMH in polite company.

<FUD> /fuhd/ n. Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.  Defined by Gene Amdahl
   after he left IBM to found his own company: "FUD is the fear,
   uncertainty and doubt that IBM sales people instill in the minds of
   potential customers who might be considering [Amdahl] products."
   The idea, of course, was to persuade them to go with safe IBM gear
   rather than with competitors' equipment.  This was traditionally
   done by promising that Good Things would happen to people who stuck
   with IBM, but Dark Shadows loomed over the future of the
   competitors' equipment or software.  See <IBM>.

<FUD wars> /fuhd worz/ n. [from `Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt']
   Political posturing engaged in by hardware and software vendors
   ostensibly committed to standardization but actually willing to
   fragment the market to protect their own share.  The OSF vs. UNIX
   International conflict, for example.

<fudge> 1. vt. To perform in an incomplete but marginally acceptable
   way, particularly with respect to the writing of a program.  "I
   didn't feel like going through that pain and suffering, so I fudged
   it."  2. n. The resulting code.

<fudge factor> n. A value or parameter that is varied in an ad hoc way
   to produce the desired result.  The terms "tolerance" and
   "slop" are also used, though these usually indicate a one-sided
   leeway, such as a buffer which is made larger than necessary
   because one isn't sure exactly how large it needs to be, and it is
   better to waste a little space than to lose completely for not
   having enough.  A fudge factor, on the other hand, can often be
   tweaked in more than one direction.  A good example is the <fuzz>
   typically needed in floating-point calculations: two numbers being
   compared for equality must be allowed to differ by a small amount;
   if that amount is too small, a computation may never terminate,
   while if it is too large, results will be needlessly inaccurate.
   Fudge factors are frequently adjusted incorrectly by programmers
   who don't fully understand their import.  See also <coefficient
   of x>.

<fuel up> vi. To eat or drink hurriedly in order to get back to
   hacking.  "Food-p?" "Yeah, let's fuel up." "Time for a
   <great-wall>!".  See also ORIENTAL FOOD.

<fuggly> /fuhg'lee/ adj. Emphatic form of <funky>; funky + ugly (or
   possibly a contraction of "fuckin' ugly"). Unusually for hacker
   slang, this may actually derive from black street-jive.  To say it
   properly, the first syllable should be growled rather than spoken.
   Usage: humorous.  "Man, the ASCII-to-<EBCDIC> code in that printer
   driver is *fuggly*."  See also <wonky>.

<funky> adj. Said of something which functions, but in a slightly
   strange, klugey way.  It does the job and would be difficult to
   change, so its obvious non-optimality is left alone.  Often used to
   describe interfaces.  The more bugs something has that nobody has
   bothered to fix because workarounds are easier, the funkier it is.
   <TECO> and UUCP are funky.  The Intel i860's exception handling is
   extraordinarily funky.  Most standards acquire funkiness as they
   age.  "The new mailer is installed, but is still somewhat funky;
   if it bounces your mail for no reason, try resubmitting it."
   "This UART is pretty funky.  The data ready line is active-high in
   interrupt mode, and active-low in DMA mode."  See <fuggly>.

<funny money> n. 1. Notional `dollar' units of computing time and/or
   storage handed to students at the beginning of a computer course by
   professors; also called "play money" or "purple money" (in
   implicit opposition to real or "green" money). When your funny
   money ran out, your account froze and you needed to go to a
   professor to get more.  Formerly a common practice, this has now
   been made sufficiently rare by the plunging cost of timesharing
   cycles that it has become folklore.  The amounts allocated were
   almost invariably too small, even for the non-hackers who wanted to
   slide by with minimum work.  In extreme cases the practice led to
   small-scale black markets in bootlegged computer accounts. 2. By
   extension, phantom money or quantity tickets of any kind used as a
   resource-allocation hack within a system.

<fuzz> n. In floating-point arithmetic, the maximum difference allowed
   between two quantities for them to compare equal.  Has to be set
   properly relative to the FPU's precision limits.  See <fudge

<fuzzball> [TCP/IP hackers] n. A DEC LSI-11 running a particular suite
   of homebrewed software by Dave Mills and assorted co-conspirators,
   used in the early 80's for Internet protocol testbedding and
   experimentation.  These were used as NSFnet backbone sites in its
   early 56KB-line days; a few of these are still active on the
   Internet as of early 1990, doing odd jobs such as network time

                                {= G =}

<gabriel> /gay'bree-@l/ [for Dick Gabriel, SAIL volleyball fanatic]
   n.  An unnecessary (in the opinion of the opponent) stalling
   tactic, e.g., tying one's shoelaces or hair repeatedly, asking the
   time, etc.  Also used to refer to the perpetrator of such tactics.
   Also, "pulling a Gabriel", "Gabriel mode".

<gag> vi. Equivalent to <choke>, but connotes more disgust. "Hey,
   this is Fortran code.  No wonder the C compiler gagged."  See also

<gang bang> n. The use of large numbers of loosely-coupled
   programmers in an attempt to wedge a great many features into a
   product in a short time.  While there have been memorable gang
   bangs (e.g. that over-the-weekend assembler port mentioned in
   Steven Levy's `Hackers'), most are perpetrated by large
   companies trying to meet deadlines and produce enormous buggy
   masses of code entirely lacking in orthogonality (see
   <orthogonal>).  When market-driven managers make a list of all
   the features the competition have and assign one programmer to
   implement each, they often miss the importance of maintaining
   strong invariants, like relational integrity.  See also
   <firefighting>, <Mongolian Hordes technique>.

<garbage collect> vi., (also "garbage collection", n.) See <GC>.

<garply> /gar'plee/ n. [Stanford] Another meta-syntactic variable (see
   <foo>) popular among SAIL hackers.

<gas> [as in "gas chamber"] interj. 1. A term of disgust and hatred,
   implying that gas should be dispensed in generous quantities,
   thereby exterminating the source of irritation.  "Some loser just
   reloaded the system for no reason!  Gas!"  2. A term suggesting
   that someone or something ought to be flushed out of mercy.  "The
   system's wedging every few minutes.  Gas!"  3. vt.  <flush>.
   "You should gas that old crufty software."  4.  GASEOUS adj.
   Deserving of being gassed.  Usage: primarily used by Geoff
   Goodfellow at SRI, but spreading; became particularly popular after
   the Moscone/Milk murders in San Francisco, when it was learned that
   Dan White (who supported Proposition 7) would get the gas chamber
   under 7 if convicted.  He was eventually found not guilty by reason
   of insanity.

<GC> /jee-see/ [from LISP terminology; "Garbage Collect"] 1. vt. To
   clean up and throw away useless things.  "I think I'll <GC> the
   top of my desk today."  When said of files, this is equivalent to
   <GFR>.  2.  vt. To recycle, reclaim, or put to another use.  3. n.
   An instantiation of the garbage collector process. "Garbage
   collection" is computer science jargon for a particular class of
   strategies for dynamically reallocating computer memory.  One such
   strategy involves periodically scanning all the data in memory and
   determining what is no longer useful; useless data items are then
   discarded so that the memory they occupy can be recycled and used
   for another purpose.  Implementations of the LISP language usually
   use garbage collection.  In slang, the full phrase is sometimes
   heard but the acronym is more frequently used because it's shorter.
   Note that there is an ambiguity in usage that has to be resolved by
   context: "I'm going to garbage-collect my desk" usually means to
   clean out the drawers, but it could also mean to throw away or
   recycle the desk itself.

   Warning: in X programming, a `GC' may be a graphics context.  This
   technical term has nothing to do with the jargon <GC>!

<GCOS> n. A quick and dirty <clone> of System/360 DOS that emerged
   from GE about 1970; originally called GECOS (the General Electric
   Comprehensive Operating System) and later kluged to support
   primitive timesharing and transaction processing.  After the buyout
   of GE's computer division by Honeywell the name was changed to
   General Comprehensive Operating System (GCOS). Other OS groups at
   Honeywell began referring to it as `God's Chosen Operating System',
   allegedly in reaction to the GCOS crowd's uninformed and snotty
   attitude about the superiority of their product.  All this might be
   of zero interest, except for two facts: 1. the GCOS people won the
   political war, resulting in the orphaning and eventual death of
   Honeywell <Multics>, and 2. GECOS/GCOS left one permanent mark
   on UNIX.  Some early UNIX systems at Bell Labs were used as front
   ends to GCOS machines; the field added to /etc/passwd to carry GCOS
   ID information was called the "GECOS field" and survives today as
   the pw_gecos member used for the user's full name and other
   human-id information.  GCOS later played a major role in keeping
   Honeywell a dismal also-ran in the mainframe market, and was itself
   ditched for UNIX in the late 1980s when Honeywell retired its aging
   <big iron> designs.


<gedanken> /g@-dahn'kn/ adj. Wild-eyed; impractical; not
   well-thought-out; untried; untested.  "Gedanken" is a German word
   for "thought".  A thought experiment is one you carry out in your
   head.  In physics, the term "gedanken experiment" is used to
   refer to an experiment that is impractical to carry out, but useful
   to consider because you can reason about it theoretically.  (A
   classic gedanken experiment of relativity theory involves thinking
   about a man flying through space in an elevator.)  Gedanken
   experiments are very useful in physics, but you have to be careful.
   It was a gedanken experiment that led Aristotle to conclude that
   heavy things always fall faster than light things (he thought about
   a rock and a feather); this was accepted until Galileo proved
   otherwise.  Among hackers, however, the word has a pejorative
   connotation.  It is said of a project, especially one in artificial
   intelligence research, which is written up in grand detail
   (typically as a Ph.D. thesis) without ever being implemented to any
   great extent.  Such a project is usually perpetrated by people who
   aren't very good hackers or find programming distasteful or are
   just in a hurry.  A gedanken thesis is usually marked by an obvious
   lack of intuition about what is programmable and what is not, and
   about what does and does not constitute a clear specification of an

<geek out> vi. To temporarily enter techno-nerd mode while in a
   non-hackish context, for example at parties held near computer
   equipment.  Especially used when you need to do something highly
   technical and don't have time to explain: "Pardon me while I geek
   out for a moment."

<gen> /jen/ n.,v. Short for <generate>, used frequently in both spoken
   and written contexts.

<gender mender> n., also "gender bender", "gender blender",
   "sex changer" and even "homosexual adaptor"; there appears to
   be some confusion as to whether a `male homosexual adapter' has
   pins on both sides (is male) or sockets on both sides (connects two
   males).  A cable connector shell with either two male or two female
   connectors on it, used to correct the mismatches that result when
   some <loser> didn't understand the RS232C specification and the
   distinction between DTE and DCE.  Used esp. for RS-232C parts in
   either the original D-25 or the IBM PC's bogus D-9 format.

<General Public Virus> n. Pejorative name for some versions of the
   <GNU> project <copyleft> or General Public License (GPL), which
   requires that any tools or <app>s incorporating copylefted code
   must be source-distributed on the same counter-commercial terms as
   GNU stuff.  Thus it is alleged that the copyleft `infects' software
   generated with GNU tools, which may in turn infect other software
   that reuses any of its code.  The Free Software Foundation's
   official position as of January 1991 is that copyright law limits
   the scope of the GPL to "programs textually incorporating
   significant amounts of GNU code", and that the `infection' is not
   passed on to third parties unless actual GNU source is transmitted
   (as in, for example, use of the Bison parser skeleton).
   Nevertheless, widespread suspicion that the <copyleft> language
   is `boobytrapped' has caused many developers to avoid using GNU
   tools and the GPL license.

<generate> vt. To produce something according to an algorithm or
   program or set of rules, or as a (possibly unintended) side effect
   of the execution of an algorithm or program.  The opposite of
   <parse>.  This term retains its mechanistic connotations (though
   often humorously) when used of human behavior.  "The guy is
   rational most of the time, but mention nuclear energy around him
   and he'll generate <infinite> flamage."

<Get a life!> imp. Hacker-standard way of suggesting that the person
   to whom you are speaking has succumbed to terminal geekdom (see
   <computer geek>).  Often heard on <USENET>.  This exhortation was
   originally uttered by William Shatner on a Saturday Night Live
   episode in a speech which ended "Get a *life*!".

<Get a real computer!> imp. Typical hacker response to news that
   somebody is having trouble getting work done on a system that is a)
   single-tasking, b) has no Winchester, or c) has an address space
   smaller than 4 megabytes.  This is as of 1990; note that the
   threshold for `real computer' rises with time, and it may well be
   (for example) that machines with character-only displays will be
   considered `unreal' in a few years.  See <bitty box> and <toy>.

<GFR> /jee eff ar/ vt. [acronym, ITS] From "Grim File Reaper", an
   ITS utility.  To remove a file or files according to some
   program-automated or semi-automatic manual procedure, especially
   one designed to reclaim mass storage space or reduce namespace
   clutter.  Often generalized to pieces of data below file level.
   "I used to have his phone number but I guess I <GFR>ed it."  See
   also <prowler>, <reaper>.

<gig> /jig/ or /gig/ n. Short for "gigabyte" (1024 megabytes);
   esp. used in describing amounts of <core> or mass storage. "My
   machine just got upgraded to a quarter-gig".  See also <kilo->.

<giga-> /ji'ga/ or /gi'ga/ pref. Multiplier, 10 ^ 9 or 2 ^ 30. See

<GIGO> /gie'goh/ [acronym] 1. Garbage In, Garbage out --- Usually said
   in response to lusers who complain that a program didn't complain
   about faulty data.  Also commonly used to describe failures in
   human decision making due to faulty, incomplete or imprecise data.
   2. Garbage In, Gospel Out --- this more recent expansion is a
   sardonic comment on the tendency human beings have to put excessive
   trust in "computerized" data.

<gillion> /jill'y@n/ n. 10 ^ 9.  [From <giga->, following
   construction of mega/million and notional tera/trillion] Same as an
   American billion or a British `milliard'.

<glark> /glark/ vt. To figure something out from context. "The
   System III manuals are pretty poor, but you can generally glark the
   meaning from context".  Interestingly, the word was originally
   `glork'; the context was "This gubblick contains many nonsklarkish
   English flutzpahs, but the overall pluggandisp can be glorked [sic]
   from context." by David Moser, quoted by Douglas Hofstadter in his
   `Metamagical Themas' column in the January 1981 Scientific
   American.  It is conjectured that hackish usage mutated the verb to
   `glark' because <glork> was already an established jargon term.

<glass> [IBM] n. Synonym for <silicon>.

<glass tty> /glas tee-tee-wie/ or /glas ti'tee/ n. A terminal which
   has a display screen but which, because of hardware or software
   limitations, behaves like a teletype or other printing terminal,
   thereby combining the disadvantages of both: like a printing
   terminal, it can't do fancy display hacks, and like a display
   terminal, it doesn't produce hard copy.  An example is the early
   `dumb' version of Lear-Siegler ADM-3 (without cursor control).  See
   <tube>, <tty>.  See Appendix A for an interesting true story
   about glass ttys.

<glitch> /glich/ [from German "glitschen" to slip, via Yiddish
   "glitshen", to slide or skid] 1. n. A sudden interruption in
   electric service, sanity, continuity, or program function.
   Sometimes recoverable.  An interruption in electric service is
   specifically called a "power glitch".  This is of grave concern
   because it usually crashes all the computers.  More common in
   slang, though, a hacker who got to the middle of a sentence and
   then forgot how he or she intended to complete it might say,
   "Sorry, I just glitched".  2. vi. To commit a glitch.  See
   <gritch>.  3. vt.  [Stanford] To scroll a display screen several
   lines at a time.  This derives from some oddities in the terminal
   behavior under the mutant TOPS-10 formerly used at SAIL. 4.  (obs.)
   Same as <magic cookie>, sense #2.

<glob> /glob/, *not* /glohb/ [UNIX, from `glob', the name
   of a subprogram that translated wildcards in archaic Bourne Shell
   versions] vt.,n. To expand special characters in a wildcarded name,
   or the act of so doing (the action is also called "globbing").
   The UNIX conventions for filename wildcarding have become
   sufficiently pervasive that many hackers use some of them in
   written English, especially in email or news on technical topics.
   Those commonly encountered include:

     *    wildcard for any string (see UN*X).
     ?    wildcard for any character (generally only read this way
          at the beginning or in the middle of a word).
     []   wildcard matching one character from a specified set.
     {}   alternation of comma-separated alternatives.  Thus,
          `foo{bar,baz}' would be read as `foobar' or `foobaz'.

   Some examples: "He said his name was [KC]arl" (expresses
   ambiguity).  "That got posted to talk.politics.*" (all the
   talk.politics subgroups on <USENET>).  Other examples are given
   under the entry for <X>.

<glork> /glork/ 1. interj. Term of mild surprise, usually tinged with
   outrage, as when one attempts to save the results of two hours of
   editing and finds that the system has just crashed.  2. Used as a
   name for just about anything.  See <foo>.  3. vt. Similar to
   <glitch>, but usually used reflexively.  "My program just glorked

<glue> n. Generic term for any interface logic or protocol that
   connects between two monolithic component blocks.  For example, the
   <Blue Glue> is IBM's SNA protocol, and hardware designers call
   anything used to connect large VLSI's or circuit blocks "glue

<gnarly> adj. Both <obscure> and <hairy> in the sense of complex.
   "Yeech --- the tuned assembler implementation of BitBlt is really
   gnarly!"  From a similar but less specific usage in surfer slang.

<GNU> /gnoo/, *not* /noo/ 1. [acronym for "GNU's Not UNIX!"]
   A UNIX-workalike development effort of the Free Software Foundation
   headed by Richard Stallman (  GNU EMACS and
   the GNU C compiler, two tools designed for this project, have
   become very popular in hackerdom.  The GNU project was designed
   partly to prosyletize for RMS's position that information is
   community property and all software source should be shared (one of
   its slogans is "Help stamp out software hoarding!").  Though this
   remains controversial (because it implicitly denies any right of
   designers to own and assign the results of their labors), many
   hackers who disagree with him have nevertheless cooperated to
   produce large amounts of high-quality software available for free
   redistribution under the Free Software Foundation imprimatur.  See
   <EMACS>, <copyleft>, <General Public Virus>.  2. Noted UNIX
   hacker John Gilmore (, founder of USENET's anarchic
   alt.* hierarchy.

<GNUMACS> /gnoo'maks/ [contraction of `Gnu Emacs'] Often-heard
   abbreviated name for the <GNU> project's flagship tool, <EMACS>.
   Used esp. in contrast with <GOSMACS>.

<go flatline> [from cyberpunk SF, refers to flattening of EEG traces
   upon brain-death] vi., also adjectival <flatlined>. 1. To die,
   terminate, or fail, esp. irreversibly.  In hacker parlance this is
   used of machines only, human death being considered somewhat too
   serious a matter to employ jargon-jokes about. 2. To go completely
   quiescent; said of machines undergoing controlled shutdown. "You
   can suffer file damage if you shut down UNIX but power off before
   the system has gone flatline." 3. A particular failure mode of
   video tubes in which vertical scan is lost, so all one sees is a
   bright horizontal line bisecting the screen.

<gobble> vt. To consume or to obtain.  The phrase <gobble up> tends to
   imply `consume', while <gobble down> tends to imply `obtain'.
   "The output spy gobbles characters out of a <tty> output buffer."
   "I guess I'll gobble down a copy of the documentation tomorrow."
   See also <snarf>.

<golden> adj. [perh. from folklore's `golden egg'] When used to
   describe a magnetic medium (e.g. `golden disk', `golden tape'),
   describes one containing a tested, up-to-spec, ready-to-ship
   software version.

<gonk> /gonk/ vt.,n. 1. To prevaricate or to embellish the truth
   beyond any reasonable recognition.  It is alleged that in German
   the term is (fictively) "gonken", in Spanish the verb becomes
   "gonkar".  "You're gonking me.  That story you just told me is a
   bunch of gonk."  In German, for example, "Du gonkst mir" (You're
   pulling my leg).  See also <gonkulator>.  2. [British] To grab some
   sleep at an odd time.

<gonkulator> /gon'kyoo-lay-tr/ [from the old `Hogan's Heroes' TV
   series] n. A pretentious piece of equipment that actually serves no
   useful purpose.  Usually used to describe one's least favorite
   piece of computer hardware.  See <gonk>.

<gonzo> /gon'zo/ [from Hunter S. Thompson] adj. Overwhelming;
   outrageous; over the top; very large, esp.  used of collections of
   source code, source files or individual functions.  Has some of the
   connotations of <moby> and <hairy>.

<Good Thing> adj. Often capitalized; always pronounced as if
   capitalized.  1. Self-evidently wonderful to anyone in a position
   to notice: "The Trailblazer's 19.2Kbaud PEP mode with on-the-fly
   Lempel-Ziv compression is a Good Thing for sites relaying
   netnews." 2. Something which can't possibly have any ill side
   effects and may save considerable grief later: "Removing the
   self-modifying code from that shared library would be a Good
   Thing." 3. When said of software tools or libraries, as in "YACC
   is a Good Thing", specifically connotes that the thing has
   drastically reduced a programmer's work load.  Oppose <Bad Thing>.

<gorilla arm> n. The side-effect that destroyed touch-screens as a
   mainstream input technology despite a promising start in the early
   eighties.  It seems the designers of all those <spiffy> touch-menu
   systems failed to notice that humans aren't designed to hold their
   arms in front of their faces making small motions.  After more than
   a very few selects the arm begins to feel sore, cramped, and
   oversized, hence `gorilla arm'.  This is now considered a classic
   Horrible Example and cautionary tale to human-factors designers;
   "Remember the gorilla arm!" is shorthand for "How's this gonna
   fly in *real* use?"

<gorp> /gorp/ [CMU, perhaps from the canonical hiker's food, Good
   Old Raisins And Peanuts] Another metasyntactic variable, like
   <foo> and <bar>.

<GOSMACS> /goz'maks/ [contraction of `Gosling Emacs'] n. The first
   <EMACS>-in-C implementation, predating but now largely eclipsed by
   <GNUMACS>.  Originally freeware; a commercial version is now
   modestly popular as `UniPress Emacs'.  The author (James Gosling)
   went on to invent NeWS.

<Gosperism> /gos'p@r-iz-m/ A hack, invention, or saying by
   arch-hacker R. William (Bill) Gosper.  This notion merits its own
   term because there are so many of them.  Many of the entries in
   <HAKMEM> are Gosperisms; see also <life>.

<grault> /grawlt/ n. Yet another meta-syntactic variable, invented by
   Mike Gallaher and propagated by the <GOSMACS> documentation.  See

<gray goo> n. A hypothetical substance composed of <sagans> of
   sub-micron-sized Von Neumann machines (self-replicating robots)
   programmed to make copies of themselves out of whatever is
   available.  The image that goes with the term is one of the entire
   biosphere of Earth being eventually converted to robot goo.  This
   is the simplest of the <nanotechnology> disaster scenarios and is
   easily refuted by arguments from energy requirements and elemental

<Great Renaming> n. The <flag day> on which all of the groups on the
   <USENET> had their names changed from the net.- format to the
   current multiple-hierarchies scheme.

<Great Runes> n. Uppercase-only text or display messages.  Some
   archaic operating systems still emit these.  See also <runic>,
   <smash case>, <fold case>, <mixed case>.
<great-wall> [from SF fandom] vi.,n. A mass expedition to an oriental
   restaurant, esp. one where food is served family-style and shared.
   There is a common heuristic about the amount of food to order
   expressed as "For N people, get N - 1 entrees.".  See ORIENTAL
   FOOD, <ravs>, <stir-fried random>.

<Green Book> n. 1. One of the three standard PostScript references
   (`PostScript Language Program Design', Adobe Systems,
   Addison-Wesley 1988 QA76.73.P67P66 ISBN 0-201-14396-8); see also
   <Red Book>, <Blue Book>).  2. Informal name for one of the three
   standard references on PostScript: `Smalltalk-80: Bits of
   History, Words of Advice', Glenn Krasner, Addison-Wesley 1983,
   QA76.8.S635S58, ISBN 0-201-11669-3 (this is also associated with
   blue and red books).  3. The `X/Open Compatibility Guide'.
   Defines an international standard <UNIX> environment that is a
   proper superset of POSIX/SVID; also includes descriptions of a
   standard utility toolkit, systems administrations features, and the
   like.  This grimoire is taken with particular seriousness in
   Europe.  See <Purple Book>.  4. The IEEE 1003.1 POSIX Operating
   Systems Interface standard has been dubbed "The Ugly Green Book".
   5. Any of the 1992 standards which will be issued by the CCITT 10th
   plenary assembly.  Until now, these have changed color each review
   cycle (1984 was <Red Book>, 1988 <Blue Book>); however, it is
   rumored that this convention is going to be dropped befor 1992.
   These include, among other things, the X.400 email spec and the
   Group 1 through 4 fax standards.  See also <Blue Book>, <Red Book>,
   <Green Book>, <Silver Book>, <Purple Book>, <Orange Book>, <White
   Book>, <Dragon Book>, <Pink-Shirt Book>.

<green bytes> n. 1. Meta-information imbedded in a file such as the
   length of the file or its name; as opposed to keeping such
   information in a separate description file or record.  Name comes
   from an IBM user's group meeting where these two approaches were
   being debated and the diagram of the file on the blackboard had the
   `green bytes' drawn in green.  2. By extension, the
   non-data bits in any self-describing format.  "A GIF file
   contains, among other things, green bytes describing the packing
   method for the image."

<green card> n. [after the IBM System/360 Reference Data card] This
   is used for any summary of an assembly language, even if the color is
   not green.  Less frequently used now because of the decrease in the
   use of assembly language.  "I'll go get my green card so I can
   check the addressing mode for that instruction."  Some green cards
   are actually booklets.

   The original green card became a yellow card when the System/370
   was introduced, and later a yellow booklet.  An anecdote from IBM
   refers to a scene that took place in a programmers' terminal room
   at Yorktown in 1978.  A luser overheard one of the programmers ask
   another "Do you have a green card?".  The other grunted and
   passed the first a thick yellow booklet.  At this point the luser
   turned a delicate shade of olive and rapidly left the room, never
   to return.  See also <card>.

<green lightning> [IBM] n. 1. Apparently random flashing streaks on
   the face of 3278-9 terminals while a new symbol set is being
   downloaded.  This hardware bug was left deliberately unfixed, as
   some genius within IBM suggested it would let the user know that
   `something is happening'.  That, it certainly does.  2. [proposed]
   Any bug perverted into an alleged feature by adroit rationalization
   or marketing.  E.g.  "Motorola calls the CISC cruft in the 88000
   architecture `compatibility logic', but I call it green

<green machine> n. A computer or peripheral device that has been
   designed and built to military specifications for field equipment
   (that is, to withstand mechanical shock, extremes of temperature
   and humidity, and so forth).  Comes from the olive-drab `uniform'
   paint used for military equipment.

<grep> /grep/ [from the qed/ed editor idiom g/re/p , where
   re stands for a regular expression, to Globally search for the
   Regular Expression and Print the lines containing matches to it)
   via <UNIX> `grep(1)'] vt. To rapidly scan a file or file set
   looking for a particular string or pattern.  By extension, to look
   for something by pattern. "Grep the bulletin board for the system
   backup schedule, would you?"

<grind> vt. 1. [MIT and Berkeley] To format code, especially LISP
   code, by indenting lines so that it looks pretty.  This usage was
   associated with the MACLISP community and is now rare;
   <prettyprint> was and is the generic term for such operations.  2.
   [UNIX] To generate the formatted version of a document from the
   nroff, troff, TeX or Scribe source. The BSD program `vgrind' grinds
   code for printing on a Versatec bitmapped printer.  3.  To run
   seemingly interminably, esp. (but not necessarily) if performing
   some tedious and inherently useless task. Similar to <crunch> or
   <grovel>.  Grinding has a connotation of using a lot of CPU time,
   but it is possible to grind a disk, network, etc.  See also <hog>.
   4. To make the whole system slow, e.g. "Troff really makes things
   grind to a halt on a PDP-11".  5. <grind grind> excl. Roughly,
   "Isn't the machine slow today!"

<grind crank> n. A mythical accessory to a terminal.  A crank on the
   side of a monitor, which when operated makes a zizzing noise and
   causes the computer to run faster.  Usually one does not refer to a
   grind crank out loud, but merely makes the appropriate gesture and
   noise.  See <grind>, and <wugga wugga>.

   Historical note: At least one real machine actually had a grind
   crank --- the R1, a research machine built towards the the end of
   the days of the great vacuum tube computers in 1959.  R1 (also
   known as `The Rice Institute Computer' - TRIC, and later as `The
   Rice University Computer' - TRUC) had a single step/free run
   switch for use when debugging programs.  Since single stepping
   through a large program was rather tedious, there was also a crank
   with a cam and gear arrangement that repeatedly pushed the single
   step button.  This allowed one to `crank' through a lot of code,
   then slow down to single step a bit when you got near the code of
   interest, poke at some registers using the console typewriter,
   and then keep on cranking.

<gritch> /grich/ 1. n. A complaint (often caused by a <glitch>).  2.
   vi.  To complain.  Often verb-doubled: "Gritch gritch".  3.  A
   synonym for <glitch> (as verb or noun).

<grok> /grok/ [from the novel `Stranger in a Strange Land', by
   Robert Heinlein, where it is a Martian verb meaning literally "to
   drink" and metaphorically "to be one with"] vt. 1. To
   understand, usually in a global sense.  Connotes intimate and
   exhaustive knowledge.  Contrast <zen>, similar supernal
   understanding as a single brief flash.  2. Used of programs, may
   connote merely sufficient understanding, e.g., "Almost all C
   compilers grok void these days."

<gronk> /gronk/ [popularized by the cartoon strip `B.C.' by Johnny
   Hart, but the word apparently predates that] vt. 1. To clear the
   state of a wedged device and restart it.  More severe than "to
   <frob>".  2. To break.  "The teletype scanner was gronked,
   so we took the system down."  3. <gronked>: adj. Of people, the
   condition of feeling very tired or sick.  Oppose <broken>, which
   means about the same as <gronk> used of hardware but connotes
   depression or mental/emotional problems in people.  4. <gronk out>:
   vi. To cease functioning.  Of people, to go home and go to sleep.
   "I guess I'll gronk out now; see you all tomorrow."

<grovel> vi. 1. To work interminably and without apparent progress.
   Often used transitively with `over' or `through'. "The file
   scavenger has been grovelling through the file directories for ten
   minutes now."  Compare <grind> and <crunch>.  Emphatic form:
   <grovel obscenely>.  2. To examine minutely or in complete detail.
   "The compiler grovels over the entire source program before
   beginning to translate it."  "I grovelled through all the
   documentation, but I still couldn't find the command I wanted."

<grunge> [Cambridge] n. Code which is `dead' (can never be accessed)
   due to changes in other parts of the program.  The preferred term
   in North America is <dead code>,

<grungy> /gruhn'jee/ adj. Incredibly dirty, greasy, or grubby.
   Anything which has been washed within the last year is not really
   grungy.  Also used metaphorically; hence some programs (especially
   crocks) can be described as grungy.  Now (1990) also common in
   mainstream slang.

<gubbish> /guh'bish/ [a portmanteau of "garbage" and "rubbish"?]
   n.  Garbage; crap; nonsense.  "What is all this gubbish?"  The
   opposite portmanteau "rubbage" is also reported.

<guiltware> n. <freeware> decorated with a message telling one how
   long and hard the author worked on this program and intimating that
   one is a no-good freeloader if one does not immediately send the
   poor suffering martyr gobs of money.

<gumby> /guhm'bee/ [from a class of Monty Python characters, poss.
   themselves named after a '60s claymation character] n. An act of
   minor but conspicuous stupidity, often in "gumby maneuver" or
   "pull a gumby".

<gun> [from the :GUN command on ITS] vt. To forcibly terminate a
   program or job (computer, not career).  "Some idiot left a
   background process running soaking up half the cycles, so I gunned
   it."  Compare <can>.

<gurfle> /ger'fl/ interj. An expression of shocked disbelief. "He
   said we have to recode this thing in FORTRAN by next week.
   Gurfle!"  Compare <weeble>.

<guru> n. 1. [UNIX] An expert.  Implies not only <wizard> skill but a
   history of being a knowledge resource for others.  Less often, used
   (with a qualifier) for other experts on other systems, as in `VMS
   guru'.  2. Amiga equivalent of "panic" in UNIX. When the system
   crashes a cryptic message "GURU MEDITATION #XXXXXXXX.YYYYYYYY"
   appears, indicating what the problem was.  An Amiga guru can figure
   things out from the numbers.  Generally a <guru> event must be
   followed by a <vulcan nerve pinch>.

                                {= H =}

<h infix> [from SF fandom] A method of `marking' common words in the
   linguist's sense, i.e. calling attention to the fact that they are
   being used in a nonstandard, ironic or humorous way.  Orig. in the
   fannish catchphrase "Bheer is the One True Ghod" from decades
   ago.  H-infix marking of `Ghod' and other words spread into the
   Sixties counterculture via underground comix, and into early
   hackerdom either from the counterculture or SF fandom (all three
   overlapped heavily at the time). More recently, the h infix has
   become an expected feature of benchmark names, i.e.  Whetstone,
   Dhrystone, Rhealstone, etc; this is prob. patterning on the
   original Whetstone name but influenced by the
   fannish/counterculture H infix.

<ha ha only serious> [from SF fandom, orig. as mutation of HHOK,
   "Ha Ha Only Kidding"] A phrase that aptly captures the flavor of
   much hacker discourse (often seen abbreviated as HHOS). Applied
   especially to parodies, absurdities and ironic jokes that are both
   intended and perceived to contain a possibly disquieting amount of
   truth, or truths which are constructed on in-joke and self-parody.
   The jargon file contains many examples of ha-ha-only-serious in
   both form and content.  Indeed, the entirety of hacker culture is
   often perceived as ha-ha-only-serious by hackers themselves; to
   take it either too lightly or too seriously marks a person as an
   outsider, a <wannabee> or in <larval stage>.  For further
   enlightenment on this subject, consult any Zen master.  See also
   HUMOR, HACKER and <AI koans>.

<hack> 1. n. Originally a quick job that produces what is needed,
   but not well.  2. n. An incredibly good, and perhaps very
   time-consuming, piece of work that produces exactly what is needed.
   4. n. The result of a hack (sense 1 or 2); 3. "neat hack": n.,
   A clever technique.  Also, a brilliant practical joke, where
   neatness is correlated with cleverness, harmlessness, and surprise
   value.  Example: the Caltech Rose Bowl card display switch (see
   Appendix A).  5.  "real hack": A crock (occasionally
   affectionate).  vt.  6. With `together', to throw something
   together so it will work.  7. vt. To bear emotionally or physically.
   "I can't hack this heat!" 8.  vt. To work on something (typically
   a program).  In specific sense: "What are you doing?"  "I'm
   hacking TECO."  In general sense: "What do you do around here?"
   "I hack TECO."  (The former is time-immediate, the latter
   time-extended.)  More generally, "I hack x" is roughly equivalent
   to "x is my major interest (or project)".  "I hack solid-state
   physics."  9. vt. To pull a prank on.  See definition 3 and
   <hacker> (def #6).  10. vi.  To waste time (as opposed to
   <tool>).  "Watcha up to?"  "Oh, just hacking."  11. "hack
   up", "hack on": vt., To hack, but generally implies that the
   result is meanings 1-2.  12. [UNIX] n. A dungeon game similar to
   <rogue> but more elaborate, distributed in C source over
   <USENET> and very popular at UNIX sites and on PC-class machines.
   Recent versions are called `nethack'.  13. n.  Short for
   <hacker>, which see.

   Constructions on this term abound.  They include: "happy hacking": A
   farewell.  <how's hacking?>: A friendly greeting among hackers.
   "hack hack": A somewhat pointless but friendly comment, often used
   as a temporary farewell.  For more on the meaning of <hack> see
   Appendix A.

<hack attack> [poss by analogy with `Big Mac Attack'] n. Nearly
   synonymous with <hacking run> though the latter implies an
   all-nighter more strongly.

<hack value> n. Often adduced as the reason or motivation for
   expending effort toward a seemingly useless goal, the point being
   that the accomplished goal is a hack.  For example, MacLISP has
   features for reading and printing roman numerals, which was
   installed purely for hack value.  As a musician once said of jazz,
   if you don't understand hack value there is no way it can be

<hack-and-slay> n. 1. To play a <MUD> or go mudding, especially with
   the intention of <berserking> for pleasure.  2. To undertake an
   all-night programming/hacking session, interspersed with stints of
   mudding to alleviate boredom.  This term arose on the British
   academic network amongst students who worked nights and logged onto
   Essex University's MUDs during public-access hours (2am =>
   7am).  Usually more mudding than work was done in these sessions.

<hacked-off> adj. Said of system administrators who have become
   annoyed, upset or touchy due to suspicions that their sites have
   been or are going to be victimized by crackers, or used for
   inappropriate, technically illegal, or even overtly criminal
   activities.  For example, having unreadable files in your home
   directory called `worm', `lockpick', or `goroot' would probably be
   an effective way to get your sysadmin hacked off at you, not to
   mention a monumentally obvious and stupid one.

<hacker> [originally, someone who makes furniture with an axe] n. 1. A
   person who enjoys learning the details of programming systems and
   how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users who
   prefer to learn only the minimum necessary.  2. One who programs
   enthusiastically (even obsessively), or who enjoys programming
   rather than just theorizing about programming.  3. A person capable
   of appreciating <hack value>.  4. A person who is good at
   programming quickly.  Not everything a hacker produces is a hack.
   5. An expert at a particular program, or one who frequently does
   work using it or on it; example: "A UNIX hacker".  (Definitions 1
   to 5 are correlated, and people who fit them congregate.)  6.  An
   expert of any kind.  One might be an astronomy hacker, for example.
   7.  (deprecated) A malicious or inquisitive meddler who tries to
   discover information by poking around.  Hence "password hacker",
   "network hacker". See <cracker>.

<hack mode> n. 1. What one is in when hacking, of course. 2.  More
   specifically, a Zen-like state of total focus on The Problem which
   may be achieved when one is hacking.  Ability to enter such
   concentration at will correlates strongly with wizardliness; it is
   one of the most important skills learned during <larval stage>.
   Sometimes amplified as "deep hack mode". Being yanked out of hack
   mode (see <priority interrupt>) may be experienced as an almost
   physical shock, and the sensation of being in it is more than a
   little habituating.  The intensity of this experience is probably
   by itself sufficient explanation for the existence of hackers, and
   explains why many resist being promoted out of positions where they
   can do code.  See also <cyberspace> (sense #2).

<hacking run> [analogy with "bombing run" or "speed run"] n. A
   hack session extended long outside normal working times, especially
   one longer than 12 hours.  May cause you to "change phase the hard
   way" (see <phase>).

<hackish> /hak'ish/ adj. (also <hackishness> n.) 1. Being or involving
   a hack. 2. Of or pertaining to hackers or the hacker subculture.
   See also <true-hacker>.  It is better to be described as hackish by
   others than to describe oneself that way.  Hackers consider
   themselves somewhat of an elite, though one to which new members
   are gladly welcome.  It is a meritocracy based on ability.  There
   is a certain self-satisfaction in identifying yourself as a hacker
   (but if you claim to be one and are not, you'll quickly be labelled

<hackishness> n.  The quality of being or involving a hack.

<hackitude> n.  Syn. <hackitude>; this word is considered silly.

<hair> [back-formation from <hairy>] n. The complications which
   make something hairy.  "Decoding <TECO> commands requires a
   certain amount of hair."  Often seen in the phrase <infinite
   hair>, which connotes extreme complexity.  Also in <hairiferous>
   (tending to promote hair growth): "GNUMACS elisp encourages lusers
   to write complex editing modes."  "Yeah, it's pretty hairiferous
   all right." (or just: "Hair squared!")

<hairy> adj. 1. Overly complicated.  "<DWIM> is incredibly hairy."
   2.  Incomprehensible.  "<DWIM> is incredibly hairy."  3.  Of
   people, high-powered, authoritative, rare, expert, and/or
   incomprehensible.  Hard to explain except in context: "He knows
   this hairy lawyer who says there's nothing to worry about."

<HAKMEM> /hak'mem/ n. MIT AI Memo 239 (February 1972).  A legendary
   collection of neat mathematical and programming hacks contributed
   by many people at MIT and elsewhere.  (The title of the memo really
   is "HAKMEM", which is an acronym of sorts for `hacks memo'.)
   Some of them are very useful techniques or powerful theorems, but
   most fall into the category of mathematical and computer trivia.  A
   sampling of the entries (with authors), slightly paraphrased:

   Item 41 (Gene Salamin) There are exactly 23,000 prime numbers less
   than 2 ^ 18.

   Item 46 (Rich Schroeppel) The most *probable* suit
   distribution in bridge hands is 4-4-3-2, as compared to 4-3-3-3,
   which is the most *evenly* distributed.  This is because the
   world likes to have unequal numbers: a thermodynamic effect saying
   things will not be in the state of lowest energy, but in the state
   of lowest disordered energy.

   Problem 81 (Rich Schroeppel) Count the magic squares of order 5
   (that is, all the 5-by-5 arrangements of the numbers from 1 to 25
   such that all rows, columns, and diagonals add up to the same
   number).  There are about 320 million, not counting those that
   differ only by rotation and reflection.

   Item 174 (Bill Gosper and Stuart Nelson) 21963283741 is the only
   number such that if you represent it on the <PDP-10> as both an
   integer and a floating-point number, the bit patterns of the two
   representations are identical.

   HAKMEM also contains some rather more complicated mathematical and
   technical items, but these examples show some of its fun flavor.

<hakspek> /hak'speek/ n. Generally used term to describe a method of
   spelling to be found on many British academic bulletin boards and
   talker systems.  Syllables and whole words in a sentence are
   replaced by single ASCII characters which are phonetically similar
   or equivalent, whilst multiple letters are usually dropped.  Hence
   `for' becomes `4', `two', `too' and `to' become `2', `ck' becomes
   `k'.  "Before I see you tomorrow" becomes "b4 i c u 2moro".
   First appeared in London about 1986, and was probably caused by the
   slow speed of available talker systems, which operated on archaic
   machines with outdated operating systems, and no standard methods
   of communication.  Has become rarer nowadays.  See also <talk

<hamster> n. A particularly slick little piece of code that does one
   thing well; a small, self-contained hack.  The image is of a
   hamster happily spinning its exercise wheel.

<hand-hacking> n. 1. The practice of translating <hot spot>s from an
   <HLL> into custom hand-optimized assembler, as opposed to trying to
   coerce the compiler into generating better code.  Both the term and
   the practice are becoming uncommon.  See <tune>, <bum>; syn. with
   v.  <cruft>.  2. More generally, manual construction or patching of
   data sets that would normally be ground out by a translation
   utility and interpreted by another program, and aren't really
   designed to be read or modified by humans.

<handshaking> n. Hardware or software activity designed to keep two
   machines or programs in synchronization as they <do protocol>.
   Often applied to human activity; thus, a hacker might watch two
   people in conversation nodding their heads to indicate that they've
   heard each others' points and say "Oh, they're handshaking!".
   See also <protocol>.

<handwave> [poss. fr. gestures characteristic of stage magicians] 1.
   v. To gloss over a complex point; to distract a listener; to
   support a (possibly actually valid) point with blatantly faulty
   logic.  If someone starts a sentence with "Clearly..." or
   "Obviously..." or "It is self-evident that...", you can
   be sure he is about to handwave.  The theory behind this term is
   that if you wave your hands at the right moment, the listener may
   be sufficiently distracted to not notice that what you have said is
   <bogus>.  Alternatively, if a listener does object, you might try
   to dismiss the objection with a wave of your hand. 2. n. The act of
   handwaving.  "Boy, what a handwave!"

   The use of this word is often accompanied by gestures: both hands
   up, palms forward, swinging the hands in a vertical plane pivoting
   at the elbows and/or shoulders (depending on the magnitude of the
   handwave); alternatively, holding the forearms still while rotating
   the hands at the wrist to make them flutter.  In context, the
   gestures alone can suffice as a remark; if a speaker makes an
   outrageous unsupported assumption, you might simply wave your hands
   in this way, as an accusation more eloquent than words could
   express that his logic is faulty.

<hang> v. 1. To wait for some event to occur; to hang around until
   something happens. "The program displays a menu and then hangs
   until you type a character." 2. More commonly, to wait for an
   event that will never occur. "The system is hanging because it
   can't read from the crashed drive". See <wedged>, <hung>.

<Hanlon's Razor> n. A `murphyism' parallel to Occam's Razor that
   reads "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately
   explained by stupidity".  The derivation of the common title
   Hanlon's Razor is unknown; a similar epigram has been attributed to
   William James.  Quoted here because it seems to be a particular
   favorite of hackers, often showing up in <fortune cookie> files and
   the login banners of BBS systems and commercial networks.  This
   probably reflects the hacker's daily experience of environments
   created by the well-intentioned but shortsighted.

<harcoded> adj. 1. Data inserted directly into a program, where it
   cannot be easily modified, as opposed to data in some <profile>
   por environment variable that a <user> or hacker can easily
   modify.  2. In C, this is esp. applied to use of a literal instead
   of a preprocessor #define (see <magic number>).

<hardwarily> /hard-weir'i-lee/ adv. In a way pertaining to hardware.
   "The system is hardwarily unreliable."  The adjective
   `hardwary' is *not* used.  See <softwarily>.

<hardwired> adj.  1. Syn. for <hardcoded>. Technically, this term
   only applies to hardware, but hackers use it for software as well.
   2. By extension, anything that is not modifiable, especially in the
   sense of customizable to one's particular needs or tastes.

<has the X nature> [seems to derive from Zen Buddhist koans of the
   form "Does an X have the Buddha-nature?"]  adj. Common hacker
   construction for `is an X', used for humorous emphasis.  "Anyone
   who can't even use a program with on-screen help embedded in it
   truly has the <loser> nature!"

<hash collision> [from the technical usage] n. When used of people,
   signifies a confusion in associative memory or imagination,
   especially a persistent one (see <thinko>). True story: one of us
   [ESR] was once on the phone with a friend about to move out to
   Berkeley.  When asked what he expected Berkeley to be like, the
   friend replied "Well, I have this mental picture of naked women
   throwing Molotov cocktails, but I think that's just a collision in
   my hash tables."  The variant "hash clash" is also reported.

<HCF> /aych-see-eff/ n. Mnemonic for "Halt and Catch Fire", any of
   several undocumented and semi-mythical machine instructions with
   destructive side-effects, supposedly included for test purposes on
   several well-known architectures going as far back as the IBM 360.
   The MC6800 microprocessor was the first for which the HCF opcode
   became widely known.  This instruction caused the processor to
   <toggle> a subset of the bus lines as rapidly as it can; in some
   configurations this can actually cause lines to burn up.

<heads down> [Sun] adj. Concentrating, usually so heavily and for so
   long that everything outside the focus area is missed.  See also
   <larval stage>, although it's not confined to fledgeling hackers.

<heartbeat> n. 1. The signal emitted by a Level 2 Ethernet
   transceiver at the end of every packet to show that the
   collision-detection circuit is still connected.  2. A periodic
   synchronization signal used by software or hardware, such as a bus
   clock or a periodic interrupt.  2.  The `natural' oscillation
   frequency of a computer's clock crystal, before frequency division
   down to the machine's clock rate.  3. A signal emitted at regular
   intervals by software to demonstrate that it's still alive.
   Sometimes hardware is designed to reboot the machine if it stops
   hearing a heartbeat.  See also <breath-of-life packet>.

<heavy metal> [Cambridge] n. Syn. <big iron>.

<heavy wizardry> n. Code or designs which trade on a particularly
   intimate knowledge or experience of a particular operating system
   or language or complex application interface.  Distinguished from
   <deep magic>, which trades more on arcane *theoretical*
   knowledge.  Writing device drivers is heavy wizardry; so is
   interfacing to X (sense #2) without a toolkit.  Esp. found in
   comments of the form "Heavy wizardry begins here...".  Compare
   <voodoo programming>.

<heavyweight> adj. High-overhead; <baroque>; code-intensive;
   featureful, but costly.  Esp. used of communication protocols,
   language designs, and any sort of implementation in which
   maximum generality has been pushed at the expense of mundane
   considerations like speed, memory utilization, and start-up time.
   <EMACS> is a heavyweight editor; <X> is an "extremely"
   heavyweight window system.  This term isn't pejorative, but one
   man's heavyweight is another's <elephantine> and a third's
   <monstrosity>.  Oppose "lightweight".

<heisenbug> /hie'zen-buhg/ [from Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle in
   quantum physics] n. A bug which disappears or alters its behavior
   when one attempts to probe or isolate it.  Antonym of <Bohr bug>.
   In C, 9 out of 10 heisenbugs result from either <fandango on core>
   phenomena (esp. lossage related to corruption of the malloc
   <arena>) or errors which <smash the stack>.

<Helen Keller mode> n. State of a hardware or software system which is
   deaf, dumb, and blind, i.e. accepting no input and generating no
   output, usually due to an infinite loop or some other excursion
   into <deep space>.  (Unfair to the real Helen Keller, whose success
   at learning speech was triumphant.) See also <go flatline>.

<hello sailor!> interj. Occasional West Coast equivalent of <hello,
   world!>; seems to have originated at SAIL, later associated with
   the game <Zork> (which also included "hello aviator" and "hello
   implementor").  Originally from the from traditional hooker's
   greeting to to a swabbie fresh off the boat, of course.

<hello wall!> excl. See <wall>.

<hello world!> interj. 1. The canonical minimal test message in the
   C/UNIX universe.  In folklore, the first program a C coder is
   supposed to write in a new environment is one that just prints
   "hello, world!" to standard output (and indeed it is the first
   example program in <K&R>).  Environments that generate an
   unreasonably large executable for this trivial test or which
   require a <hairy> compiler-linker invocation to generate it are
   considered to <lose>. 2. Greeting uttered by a hacker making an
   entrance or requesting information from anyone present. "Hello,
   world! Is the <VAX> back up yet?"

<hex> n. Short for <hexadecimal>, base 16.  This term has nothing
   to do with <black magic>, though the pun is appreciated and
   occasionally used by hackers.  True story: as a joke, some hackers
   once offered some surplused ICs for sale to be worn as protective
   amulets against hostile magic.  The chips were, of course, hex

<hexadecimal> n.  Base 16.  Coined in the early nineteen-sixties to
   replace earlier `sexadecimal', which was too racy and amusing for
   stuffy IBM, and later adopted by the rest of the industry.
   Actually, neither term is etymologically pure.  The most strictly
   correct term for base-10 is `denary' (compare `binary'), which
   comes from `denarius', one of a group of Latin number words used
   specifically for partitioning (as opposed to numbering); the
   corresponding term for base-16 would be `senidenary'.  `Decimal' is
   from a numbering word; the corresponding prefix for six would imply
   `sextidecimal'.  The `sexa-' prefix is Latin but incorrect and
   `hexa-' is Greek.

<hexit> /hek'sit/ n. A hexadecimal digit (0-9, A-F).  Used by people
   who claim that there are only <ten> digits, dammit; no one has
   ever met a sixteen-fingered human being, regardless of what some
   keyboard designs might seem to imply (see <space-cadet
<hidden flag> [scientific computation] n. A extra option added to a
   routine without changing the calling sequence.  For example,
   instead of adding an explicit input variable to instruct a routine
   to give extra diagnostic output, the programmer might just add a
   test for some otherwise meaningless feature of the existing inputs,
   such as a negative mass.  Liberal use of hidden flags can make a
   program very hard to debug and understand.

<high bit> [poss. fr. `high order bit'] n. 1. See <meta bit>. Also
   meaning most significant part of something other than a data byte,
   e.g. "Spare me the whole saga, just give me the high bit."

<high moby> /hie mohb'ee/ n. The high half of a stock <PDP-10>'s
   address space; the other half was of course the low moby.  This
   usage has been generalized in a way that has outlasted the
   <PDP-10>; for example, at the 1990 Washington D.C Area Science
   Fiction Conclave (DISCLAVE) when a miscommunication resulted in two
   separate wakes being held in commemoration of the shutdown of MIT's
   last <ITS> machines, the one on the upper floor was dubbed the high
   moby and the other the low moby.  All parties involved grokked this
   instantly.  See <moby>.

<highly> [scientific computation] adv. The preferred modifier for
   overstating an understatement.  As in: <highly nonoptimal>, the
   worst possible way to do something; <highly nontrivial>, either
   impossible or requiring a major research project; <highly
   nonlinear>, completely erratic and unpredictable; <highly
   nontechnical>, drivel written for <luser>s, oversimplified to the
   point of being misleading or incorrect (compare <drool-proof
   paper>).  In other computing cultures, postfixing of <in the
   extreme> might be preferred.

<hirsute> adj. Occasionally used humorously as a synonym for <hairy>.

<HLL> /aych-el-el/ n. [High-Level Language (as opposed to assembler)]
   Found primarily in email and news rather than speech.  Rarely, the
   variants `VHLL' and `MLL' are found.  VHLL = `Very-High-Level
   Language' and is used to describe a <BONDAGE-AND-DISCIPLINE
   LANGUAGE> that the speaker happens to like; Prolog and Backus's FP
   are often called VHLLs. `MLL' = `Medium-Level Language' and is
   sometimes used half-jokingly to describe C, alluding to its
   `structured-assembler' image.  See also <languages of choice>.

<hog> n.,vt. Favored term to describe programs or hardware which seem
   to eat far more than their share of a system's resources, esp.
   those which noticeably degrade general timesharing response.
   *Not* used of programs which are simply extremely large or
   complex or which are merely painfully slow themselves (see <pig,
   run like a>). More often than not encountered in qualified forms,
   e.g. "memory hog", "core hog", "hog the processor", "hog the
   disk". Example: "A controller that never gives up the I/O bus
   gets killed after the bus hog timer expires."

<hobbit> n. The High Order Bit of a byte; same as the <meta bit>.

<holy wars> [from <USENET>, but may predate it] n.  <flame war>s
   over <religious issues>.  The paper by Danny Cohen that
   popularized the terms <big-endian> and <little-endian> in
   connection with the LSB-first/MSB-first controversy was entitled
   `On Holy Wars and a Plea for Peace'. Other perennial Holy Wars
   have included: <EMACS> vs.  <VI>, my personal computer vs.
   everyone else's personal computer, <ITS> vs. <UNIX>, <UNIX>
   vs. <VMS>, <BSD> UNIX vs. <USG> UNIX, C vs.  Pascal, etc.
   etc. etc.  The characteristic that distinguishes <holy wars> from
   normal technical disputes is that (regardless of the technical
   merits of the case on either side) most participants spend their
   time trying to pass off personal value choices and cultural
   attachments as objective technical evaluations.

<hook> n. An extraneous piece of software or hardware included in
   order to simplify later additions or changes by a user.  For
   instance, a PDP-10 assembler program might execute a location that
   is normally a <JFCL>, but by changing the <JFCL> to a PUSHJ one
   can insert a debugging routine at that point.  As another example,
   a simple program that prints numbers might always print them in
   base ten, but a more flexible version would let a variable
   determine what base to use; setting the variable to 5 would make
   the program print numbers in base five.  The variable is a simple
   hook.  An even more flexible program might examine the variable,
   and treat a value of 16 or less as the base to use, but treat any
   other number as the address of a user-supplied routine for printing
   a number.  This is a very powerful hook; one can then write a
   routine to print numbers as roman numerals, say, or as Hebrew
   characters, and plug it into the program through the hook.  Often
   the difference between a good program and a superb one is that the
   latter has useful hooks in judiciously chosen places.  Both may do
   the original job about equally well, but the one with the hooks is
   much more flexible for future expansion of capabilities.  The term
   "user exit" is synonymous but more formal.

<home box> n. A hacker's personal machine, especially one he or she
   owns.  "Yeah?  Well, *my* home box runs a full 4.2BSD, so

<hop> n. One file transmission in a series required to get a file
   from point A to point B on a store-and-foward network.  On such
   networks (including <UUCPNET> and <Fidonet>), the important
   `distance' between machines is the number of hops in the shortest
   path between them, rather than their geographical separation.  See
   <bang path>.

<hose> 1. vt. To make non-functional or greatly degraded in
   performance, as in "That big ray-tracing program really hoses the
   system."  See <hosed>.  2. n. A narrow channel through which
   data flows under pressure.  Generally denotes data paths in a
   system that represent performance bottlenecks.  3. n. Cabling,
   especially thick Ethernet cable.  This is sometimes called "bit
   hose" or "hosery" (play on `hosiery') or "etherhose".  See
   also <washing machine>.

<hosed> adj. Same as <down>.  Used primarily by UNIX hackers.
   Humorous: also implies a condition thought to be relatively easy to
   reverse.  Probably derived from the Canadian slang `hoser'
   popularized by the Bob and Doug skits on SCTV. See <hose>.  It is
   aso widely used of people in the mainstream sense of `in an
   extremely unfortunate situation'.

   There is a story that a Cray which had been experiencing periodic
   difficulties once crashed, and it was announced to have been
   <hosed>.  It was discovered that the crash was due to the
   disconnection of some coolant hoses.  The problem was corrected, and
   users were then assured that everything was OK because the system
   had been rehosed.  [This is an excellent example of hackish
   wordplay --- ESR].

<hot key> 1. n. A keystroke (or combination of keystrokes) that
   switches environments; esp. used if it flips between different
   modes or screens of a full-screen interface.  Perhaps so called
   because they are always active or `hot'; possibly related to
   "hot buttons" in <marketroid>-speak.  host environment.  2.
   v. To switch environments.
<hot spot> n. 1. [primarily C/UNIX programmers, but spreading] n.  In
   most programs, less than 10% of the code eats 90% of the execution
   time; if one were to graph instruction visits versus code
   addresses, one would typically see a few huge spikes amidst a lot
   of low-level noise.  Such spikes are called `hot spots' and are
   good candidates for micro-optimization or <hand-hacking>.  The term
   is especially used of tight loops and recursions in the code's
   central algorithm, as opposed to (say) initial set-up costs or
   large but infrequent I/O operations.  See <tune>, <bum>,
   <hand-hacking>.  2. The active location of a cursor on a bit-map
   display.  "Put the mouse's hot spot on the `ON' widget and click
   the left button."

<house wizard> [prob. from ad-agency lingo, cf. `house freak'] n. A
   lone hacker occupying a technical-specialist, R&D or systems
   position at a commercial shop.  A really effective house wizard can
   have influence out of all proportion to his/her ostensible rank and
   still not have to wear a suit.  Used esp. of UNIX experts.  The
   term <house guru> is equivalent.

<HP-SUX> /aych pee suhx/ n. Unflattering hackerism for HP-UX,
   Hewlett-Packard's UNIX port.  Features some truly unique bogosities
   in the filesystem internals and elsewhere that occasionally create
   portability problems.  HP-UX is often referred to as "hockey-pux"
   inside HP, and one outside correspondent claims that the proper
   pronunciation is /aych-pee ukkkhhhh/ as though one were spitting.
   Another such alternate spelling and pronunciation is "H-PUX"
   /aych-puhks/.  Hackers at HP/Apollo (the former Apollo Computer
   that was swallowed by HP in 1989) have been heard to complain that
   Mr. Packard should have pushed to have his name first, if for no
   other reason than the resulting more accurate form for this
   acronym.  Compare <buglix>.  See also <Telerat>,
   <sun-stools>, <terminak>.

<huff> v. To compress data using a Huffman code.  Various programs
   that use such methods have been called `HUFF' or some variant
   thereof.  Oppose <puff>.  Compare <compress>.

<humma> excl. A filler word used on various `chat' and `talk'
   programs when you had nothing to say but felt that it was important
   to say something.  The word apparently originated (at least with
   this definition) on the MECC Timeshare System (MTS) a now-defunct
   educational time-sharing system running in Minnesota during the
   1970s and early '80s, but was later sighted on early UNIX systems.

<humungous> /hyoo-muhng'g@s/ alt. <humongous> (hyoo-mohng'g@s) See

HUMOR, HACKER n. A distinctive style of shared intellectual humor
   found among hackers, having the following marked characteristics:

   1) Fascination with form-vs.-content jokes, paradoxes, and humor
   having to do with confusion of metalevels (see <meta>). One way to
   make a hacker laugh: hold an index card in front of him/her with
   "THIS IS GREEN" written on it in bold red ink, or vice-versa
   (note, however, that this is only funny the first time).

   2) Elaborate deadpan parodies of large intellectual constructs such
   as specifications (see <write-only memory>), standards documents,
   language descriptions (see <INTERCAL>) and even entire scientific
   theories (see <quantum bogodynamics>, <computron>).

   3) Jokes which involve screwily precise reasoning from bizarre,
   ludicrous or just grossly counter-intuitive premises.

   4) Fascination with puns and wordplay.

   5) A fondness for apparently mindless humor with subversive
   currents of intelligence in it, for example: old Warner Brothers
   and Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons, Charlie Chaplin movies, the B-52s,
   and Monty Python's Flying Circus.  Humor which combines this trait
   with elements of high camp and slapstick is especially favored.

   6) References to the symbol-object antinomies and associated ideas
   in Zen Buddhism and (less often) Taoism.  See <has the X nature>,
   <Discordianism>, <zen>, <ha ha only serious>, <AI koans>.

   See also <filk>; <retrocomputing>; and Appendix B.  If you have an
   itchy feeling that all six of these traits are really aspects of
   one thing that is incredibly difficult to talk about exactly, you
   are a) correct and b) responding like a hacker.  These traits are
   also recognizable (though in a less marked form) throughout

<hung> [from "hung up"] adj. Equivalent to <wedged>. but more
   common at UNIX/C sites.  Not generally used of people.  Syn. with
   <locked up>, <wedged>; compare <hosed>.  See also <hang>.
   A hung state is distinguished from `crashed' or <down>, where the
   program or system is also unusable but because it is not running
   rather than because it is waiting for something.  However, the
   recovery from both situations is often the same.

<hungus> /huhng'g@s/ [perhaps related to current slang `humungous';
   which one came first (if either) is unclear] adj. Large, unwieldy,
   usually unmanageable.  "TCP is a hungus piece of code."  "This
   is a hungus set of modifications."

<hyperspace> (hie'per-spays) n. A memory location within a virtual
   memory machine that is many, many megabytes (or gigabytes) away
   from where the program counter should be pointing, usually
   inaccessible because it is not even mapped in. "Another core
   dump... looks like the program jumped off to hyperspace somehow."
   This usage is from the SF notion of a spaceship jumping "into
   hyperspace", that is, taking a shortcut through higher-dimensional
   space --- in other words, leaving this universe.

                                {= I =}

<i18n> n. Written-only abbrev. for `internationalization', which is
   an `i' followed by 18 letters followed by `n'.  Used in the <X>

<i14y> n. Written-only abbrev. for `interoperability', which is an
   `i' followed by 14 letters followed by `y'.  Used in the <X>

<I didn't change anything!> interj. A plaintive cry often heard as
   bugs manifest during a regression test.  The canonical reply to
   this assertion is "Then it works just the same as it did before,
   right?" See also <one-line fix>.

<IBM> /ie bee em/ Inferior But Marketable; It's Better Manually;
   Insidious Black Magic; It's Been Malfunctioning; Incontinent Bowel
   Movement; and a near-<infinite> number of even less complimentary
   expansions, including `International Business Machines'.  See
   <TLA>.  These abbreviations illustrate the considerable antipathy
   most hackers have long felt for the `industry leader' (see <fear
   and loathing>).  What galls hackers about most IBM machines above
   the PC level isn't so much that they're underpowered and overpriced
   (though that counts against them) but that the designs are
   incredibly archaic, crufty and <elephantine> and you can't
   *fix* them --- source code is locked up tight and programming
   tools are expensive, hard to find, and bletcherous to use once
   you've found them.  With the release of the UNIX-based RIOS family
   this may have begun to change --- but then, we thought that when
   the PC-RT came out, too.  In the spirit of universal peace and
   brotherhood, this lexicon now includes a number of entries marked
   `IBM'; these derive from two rampantly unofficial jargon lists
   circulated among IBM's own beleaguered hacker underground.

<IBM discount> n. A price increase.  Outside IBM, this derives from
   the common perception that IBM products are generally hideously
   overpriced (see <clone>); inside, it is said to spring from a
   belief that large numbers of IBM employees living in an area cause
   prices to rise.

<ice> [from William Gibson's cyberpunk SF: notionally, `Intrusion
   Countermeasure Electronics'] Security software (in Gibson's
   original, software that responds to intrusion by attempting to
   literally kill the intruder).  Also, <icebreaker>: a program
   designed for cracking security on a system.  Neither term is in
   serious use yet as of 1990, but many hackers find the metaphor
   attractive and they may be in the near future.

<ill-behaved> adj. 1. [numerical analysis] Said of an algorithm or
   computational method that tends to blow up due to accumulated
   roundoff error or poor convergence properties.  2. Software which
   bypasses the defined <OS> interfaces to do things (like screen,
   keyboard and disk I/O) itself, often in a way that depends on the
   hardware of the machine it is running on or which is nonportable or
   incompatible with other pieces of software.  In the IBM PC/MS-DOS
   world, there is a folk theorem (nearly true) to the effect that
   (due to gross inadequacies and performance penalties in the OS
   interface) all interesting applications are ill-behaved.  Oppose
   <well-behaved>, compare <PC-ism>.  See <mess-dos>.

<IMHO> [from SF fandom via USENET] Written acronym for In My Humble
   Opinion.  Example: "IMHO, mixed-case C names should be avoided, as
   mistyping something in the wrong case can cause hard-to-detect
   errors --- and they look too Pascalish anyhow."  Also seen in
   variant forms such as IMNSHO (In My Not-So-Humble Opinion) and IMAO
   (In My Arrogant Opinion).

<in the extreme> adj. A preferred emphasizing suffix for many hackish
   terms. See for example <obscure in the extreme> under <obscure>,
   and compare <highly>.

<incantation> n. Any particularly arbitrary or obscure command that
   must be muttered at a system to attain a desired result.  Not used
   of passwords or other explicit security features.  Especially used
   of tricks that are so poorly documented they must be learned from a
   <wizard>.  E.g. "This compiler normally locates initialized data
   in the data segment, but if you mutter the right incantation they
   will be forced into text space". See <mutter>.

<include> vt. [USENET] 1. To duplicate a portion (or whole) of
   another's message (typically with attribution to the source) in a
   reply or followup, for clarifying the context of one's response.
   2. A directive; to explicitly command the preprocessor to include a
   file.  3. Derived from C: #include <disclaimer.h> has appeared in
   <sig block>s to denote a `standard' disclaimer file.

<include war> n. Excessive multi-leveled including within a
   discussion <thread>, which tends to annoy readers.  In a forum
   such as USENET, with high traffic newsgroups, this can lead to
   <flame>s and the urge to start a <kill file>.

<indent style> [C programmers] n. The rules one uses to lay out code
   in a readable fashion; a subject of <holy wars>.  There are four
   major C indent styles, as described below; all have the aim of
   making it easier for the reader to visually track the scope of
   control constructs.  The significant variable is the placement of
   { and } with respect to the statement(s) they enclose and the
   guard (if, while, or do) on the block, if any.

   "K&R style" --- Named after Kernighan & Ritchie, because the
   examples in <K&R> are formatted this way. Also called "kernel
   style" because the UNIX kernel is written in it.  The basic indent
   shown here is 8 spaces (or 1 tab) per level; 4 is occasionally seen
   but much less common.

     if (cond) {

   "Allman style" --- Named for Eric Allman, a Berkeley hacker who
   wrote a lot of the BSD utilities in it (it is sometimes called
   "BSD style"). Resembles normal indent style in Pascal and
   Algol.  Basic indent per level shown here is 8 spaces, but 4 is
   just as common (esp.  in C++ code).

     if (cond)

   "Whitesmiths style" --- popularized by the examples that came
   with Whitesmiths C, an early commercial C compiler. Basic indent
   per level shown here is 8 spaces, but 4 is occasionally seen.

     if (cond)

   "GNU style" --- Used throughout GNU EMACS and the Free Software
   Foundation code, and just about nowhere else. Indents are always 4
   spaces per level, with { and } "centered" between levels.

     if (cond)

   What style one uses is very much a matter of personal choice, but
   one should be consistent within any one software package.
   Statistically, surveys have shown the Allman and Whitesmiths styles
   to be the most common, with about equal `mind share'.  K&R used to
   be nearly universal, but is now much less common (the opening brace
   tends to get lost against the right paren of the guard part in an
   if or while, which is a Bad Thing).

<infinite> adj. Consisting of a large number of objects; extreme.
   Used very loosely as in: "This program produces infinite
   garbage."  "He is an infinite loser."  This is an abuse of the
   word's mathematical meaning.  The term "semi-infinite" denoting
   an immoderately large amount of some resource is also heard.
   "This compiler is taking a semi-infinite amount of time to
   optimize my program".  See also <semi->.

<infinity> n. 1. The largest value that can be represented in a
   particular type of variable (register, memory location, data type,
   whatever).  2. <minus infinity> The smallest such value.  Note that
   this is different from <time t equals minus infinity>, which is
   closer to a mathematician's usage of infinity.

<infant mortality> n. It is common lore among hackers that the chances
   of sudden hardware failure drop off exponentially with a machine's
   time since power-up (that is until the relatively distant time at
   which mechanical wear in I/O devices and thermal-cycling stress in
   components has accumulated enough for the machine to start going
   senile). Up to half of all chip-and-wire failures happen within a
   new system's first few weeks; such failures are often referred to
   as "infant mortality" problems (or, occasionally, as "sudden
   infant death syndrome").

<insanely great> adj. [Mac community, from Steve Jobs; also BSD UNIX
   people via Bill Joy] Something so incredibly <elegant> that it is
   imaginable only to someone possessing the greatest of

<INTERCAL> /in't@r-kal/ [said by the authors to stand for "Compiler
   Language With No Pronounceable Acronym"] n. A computer language
   designed by Don Woods and James Lyon in 1972. INTERCAL is purposely
   different from all other computer languages in all ways but one; it
   is purely a written language, being totally unspeakable.  An
   excerpt from the INTERCAL Reference Manual will make the style of
   the language clear.  In most languages, if you wanted the variable
   A to have the value 65536, you would write something like

     LET A = 65536;

   The INTERCAL Reference Manual explains that "It is a well-known
   and oft-demonstrated fact that a person whose work is
   incomprehensible is held in high esteem.  For example, if one were
   to state that the simplest way to store a value of 65536 in a
   32-bit INTERCAL variable is:

     DO :1 <- #0$#256

   any sensible programmer would say that that was absurd.  Since this
   is indeed the simplest method, the programmer would be made to look
   foolish in front of his boss, who would of course have happened to
   turn up, as bosses are wont to do.  The effect would be no less
   devastating for the programmer having been correct."  INTERCAL has
   many other peculiar features designed to make it even more
   unspeakable.  The Woods/Lyons implementation was actually used by
   many (well, at least several) people at Princeton.  The language
   has been recently re-implemented as C-INTERCAL and is consequently
   enjoying an unprecedented level of unpopularity; there is even an
   alt.lang.intercal newsgroup devoted to the study and ...
   appreciation of the language on USENET.

<interesting> adj. In hacker parlance, this word is not simply
   synonymous with `intriguing', but has strong connotations of
   `annoying', or `difficult', or both.  Hackers relish a
   challenge.  Oppose <trivial>.

<Internet address> n. An absolute network address of the form
   foo@bar.baz, where foo is a user name, bar is a <sitename>, and
   baz is a `domain' name, possibly including periods itself.
   Contrasts with <bang path>; see also <network, the> and
   <network address>.  All Internet machines and most UUCP sites can
   now resolve these addresses, thanks to a large amount of
   behind-the-scenes magic and PD software written since 1980 or so.
   See also <bang path>.

<interrupt> interj. 1. On a computer, an event which interrupts normal
   processing and temporarily diverts flow-of-control through an
   "interrupt handler" routine.  See also <trap>.  2. A request for
   attention from a hacker.  Often explicitly spoken. "Interrupt ---
   have you seen Joe recently?".  See <priority interrupt>.

<interrupt list, the> [MSDOS] n. The list of all known software
   interrupt calls (both documented and undocumented) for IBM PCs and
   compatibles maintained and made available for free redistribution
   by Ralf Brown (  As of early 1991, it had grown to
   approximately 1 megabyte in length.

<interrupts locked out> adj. When someone is ignoring you.  In a
   restaurant, after several fruitless attempts to get the waitress's
   attention, a hacker might well observe that "She must have
   interrupts locked out."  The synonym "interrupts disabled" is
   also common. Variations of this abound; "to have one's interrupt
   mask bit set" is also heard.  See also <spl>.

<iron> n. Hardware, especially older/larger hardware of <mainframe>
   class with big metal cabinets housing relatively low-density
   electronics (but also used of modern supercomputers). Often in the
   phrase <big iron>.  Oppose <silicon>.  See also <dinosaur>.

<Iron Age> n. In the history of computing, 1961-1971 --- the formative
   era of commercial <mainframe> technology. These began with the
   delivery of the first PDP-1, coincided with the dominance of
   ferrite <core>, and ended with the introduction of the first
   commercial microprocessor (the Intel 4004) in 1971.  See also
   <Stone Age>.

<iron box> [UNIX/Internet] n. A special environment set up to trap a
   <cracker> logging in over remote or network connections long
   enough so he can be traced.  May include a specially-gimmicked
   <shell> restricting the hacker's movements in unobvious ways, and
   `bait' files designed to keep him interested and logged on.  See
   also <back door>, <firewall machine>, <Venus flytrap> and
   Clifford Stoll's account in `Cuckoo's Egg' of how he made and
   used one (see Appendix C).

<ironmonger> [IBM] n. A hardware specialist.  Derogatory.  Compare
   <sandbender>, <polygon pusher>.

<ITS> /ie-tee-ess/ n. Incompatible Time-Sharing System, an influential
   but highly idiosyncratic operating system written for PDP-10s at
   MIT and long used at the MIT AI lab; much AI-hacker slang derives
   from ITS folklore.  After about 1982 most actual work was shifted
   to newer machines, with the remaining ITS boxes run essentially as
   a hobby and service to the hacker community.  The shutdown of the
   lab's last ITS machine in May 1990 marked the end of an era and
   sent old-time hackers into mourning nationwide.  The Royal
   Institute of Technology in Sweden is maintaining one `live'  ITS
   site at its computer museum (right next to the only TOPS-10 system
   still on the Internet), so ITS is still alleged to hold the record
   for OS in longest continuous use.  See Appendix A.

<IWBNI> [acronym] It Would Be Nice If.  No pronunciation, as this is
   never spoken, only written.  Compare <WIBNI>.

<IYFEG> [USENET] Abbreviation for `Insert Your Favorite Ethnic
   Group'.  Used as a meta-name when telling racist jokes in email to
   avoid offending anyone.

                                {= J =}

<J. Random> /jay rand'm/ n. [generalized from <J. Random Hacker>,
   q.v.]  Arbitrary; ordinary; any one; `any old'.  "Would you let
   J.  Random Loser marry your daughter?".  <J. Random> is
   often prefixed to a noun to make a name out of it.  It means
   roughly "some particular" or "any specific one".  The most
   common uses are `J. Random Hacker, `J. Random Loser' and `J.
   Random Nerd' ("Should J. Random Loser be allowed to <gun> down
   other people?"), but it can be used just as an elaborate version
   of <random> in any sense.

<J. Random Hacker> [MIT] /jay rand'm hak'r/ n. A mythical figure like
   the Unknown Soldier; the archetypal hacker nerd.  See <random>,
   <Suzie COBOL>.  This may originally have been inspired or
   influenced by `J.  Fred Muggs', a show-biz chimpanzee whose name
   was a household word back in the days of the MIT Model Railroad

<jaggies> /jag'eez/ n. The `stairstep' effect observable when an edge
   (esp. a linear edge of slope far from a multiple of 45 degrees) is
   rendered on a pixel device (as opposed to a vector display).

<JCL> [ex-IBM] 1. IBM's ultimately <rude> "Job Control Language".
   JCL was the script language used to control the execution of
   programs in IBM's batch systems.  JCL had a very <fascist> syntax,
   and would, for example, <barf> if two spaces appeared where it
   expected one.  Most programmers who were confronted with JCL would
   simply copy a working file (or card deck), changing the file names.
   Someone who actually understood and generated unique JCL was
   regarded with the mixed respect which one gives to someone who
   memorizes the phone book.  2. Any very <rude> software that a
   hacker is expected to use.  "That's as bad as JCL."  Often used
   without having experienced it, as is <COBOL>.  See also <IBM>,
   <fear and loathing>.

<JFCL> /jif'kl/ or /jaf'kl/ vt., obs. To cancel or annul something.
   "Why don't you jfcl that out?" The fastest do-nothing instruction
   on the PDP-10 happened to be JFCL, which stands for "Jump if Flag
   set and then CLear the flag"; this does something useful, but is a
   very fast no-operation if no flag is specified.  Geoff Goodfellow,
   one of the jargon-1 coauthors, once had JFCL on the license plate
   of his BMW.  Usage: rare except among old-time PDP-10 hackers.

<jiffy> n. 1. The width of one tick of the system clock on the
   computer (see <tick>).  Often 1 AC cycle time (1/60 second in the
   U.S. and Canada, 1/50 most other places) but more recently 1/100
   sec has become common.  2.  Confusingly, the term is sometimes also
   used for a 1-millisecond <wall time> interval.  "The swapper runs
   every six jiffies" means that the virtual memory management
   routine is executed once for every six ticks of the clock, or about
   ten times a second.  3.  Indeterminate time from a few seconds to
   forever. "I'll do it in a jiffy" means certainly not now and
   possibly never.  This is a bit contrary to the more widespread use
   of the word.

<job security> n. When some piece of code is written in a
   particularly <obscure> fashion, and no good reason (such as time
   or space optimization) can be discovered, it is often said that the
   programmer was attempting to increase his job security.  This sour
   joke seldom has to be said in full; if two hackers are looking over
   some code together and one points at a section and says `job
   security' the other one will generally just nod.

<jock> n. 1. Programmer who is characterized by large and somewhat
   brute force programs.  See <brute force>. 2. When modified by
   another noun, describes a specialist in some particular computing
   area.  The compounds `compiler jock' and `systems jock' seem to be
   the best established examples of this.

<joe code> /joh' kohd`/ [said to commemorate a notoriously bad
   coder named Joe at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory] n. Badly written,
   possibly buggy source code.  Correspondents wishing to remain
   anonymous have fingered a particular Joe and observed that usage
   has drifted slightly; they described his code as "overly <tense>
   and unmaintainable".  "Perl may be a handy program, but if you
   look at the source, it's complete joe code."

<JR[LN]> /jay ahr en/, /jay ahr el/ n. The names JRN and JRL were
   sometimes used as example names when discussing a kind of user ID
   used under <TOPS-10>; they were understood to be the initials of
   (fictitious) programmers named `J. Random Nerd' and `J. Random
   Loser' (see <J. Random>).  For example, if one said "To log in,
   type log one comma jay are en" (that is, "log1,JRN"), the
   listener would have understood that he should use his own computer
   id in place of `JRN'.

                                {= K =}

<K> [from <kilo->] /kay/ n.  A kilobyte.  This is used both as a
   spoken word and a written suffix (like <meg> and <gig> for
   megabyte and gigabyte).  Also written KB, MB, GB respectively (the
   formal SI prefix corresponding to KB would be kB, denoting
   1000-byte units).  See also <kilo->.

<K&R> [Kernighan and Ritchie] n. Brian Kernighan & Dennis Ritchie's
   `The C Programming Language', esp. the classic and influential
   first edition (Prentice-Hall 1978, ISBN 0-113-110163-3).  Also
   called the <White Book>.  Syn. <Wite Book>, <Old Testament>.
   See also <New Testament>

<kahuna> /k@-hoo'nuh/ [IBM, from the Hawaiian title for a shaman] n.
   Synonym for <wizard>, <guru>.

<ken> /ken/ n. A flaming user.  This noun was in use by the Software
   Support group at Symbolics because the two greatest flamers in the
   user community were both named Ken.

<kgbvax> /kay-jee-bee-vaks/ n. See <kremvax>.

<kill file> [USENET] n.  Per-user file(s) used by some <USENET> reading
   programs to discard summarily (without presenting for reading)
   articles which match some particularly uninteresting (or unwanted)
   patterns of subject, author, or other header lines.  Thus to "add
   a person (or subject) to one's kill file" is to arrange for that
   person to be ignored by your newsreader in future.  By extension,
   it may be used for a decision to ignore the person or subject in
   other media.

<killer micro> [popularized by Eugene Brooks] n. A
   microprocessor-based machine that infringes on mini, mainframe or
   supercomputer performance turf.  Often heard in "No one will
   survive the attack of the killer micros!", the battle cry of the
   downsizers.  Used esp. of RISC architectures.

<killer poke> n. A recipe for inducing hardware damage on a machine
   via insertion of invalid values in a memory-mapped control
   register; used esp. of various fairly well-known tricks on MMU-less
   <bitty boxes> like the IBM PC and Commodore PET that can overload
   and trash analog electronics in the monitor.  See also <HCF>.

<kilo-> [from metric measure] prefix.  May denote multiplication by
   1024, the power of 2 closest to 1000, rather than by the usual
   1000.  The correct prefix for multiplication by 1000 is `k'; `K'
   has come to be used for multiplication by 1024.  Similarly the
   higher metric prefixes denote multiplication by powers of 1024
   rather than of 1000: mega- for 1024 ^ 2 = 1,048,576, <giga-> for
   1024 ^ 3 = 1,073,741,824, tera- meaning 1024 ^ 4 =
   1,099,511,627,776, <peta-> meaning 1024 ^ 5 =
   1,125,899,906,842,624, and <exa-> for 1024 ^ 6 =
   1,152,921,504,606,846,976.  The last two have not actually been
   observed, yet.  Usage: the power-of-two sense is used especially
   with bytes, but also with anything else perceived to naturally come
   in units that are powers of 2.

   Confusion of 1000 and 1024, for example describing memory in units
   of 500K or 524K (see K) instead of 512K, is a sure sign of the

<KIPS> [acronym, by analogy with <MIPS> using <K>] n. Thousands of
   Instructions Per Second.  Usage: rare.

<kit> [USENET] n. A source software distribution which has been
   packaged in such a way that it can (theoretically) be unpacked and
   installed according to a series of steps using only standard UNIX
   tools, and entirely documented by some reasonable chain of references
   from the top-level <README>.  The more general term
   <distribution> may imply that special tools or more stringent
   conditions on the host environment are required.

<kluge> /klooj/ alt. kludge /kluhj/ [from the German "klug", clever]
   (/klooj/ is the original pronunciation, more common in the US;
   /kluhj/ is reported more common in England).  n. 1. A Rube Goldberg
   (or Heath Robinson) device in hardware or software. (A long-ago
   Datamation article said: "An ill-assorted collection of poorly
   matching parts, forming a distressing whole.")  2. n.  A clever
   programming trick intended to solve a particular nasty case in an
   expedient, if not clear, manner.  Often used to repair bugs.  Often
   involves <ad-hockery> and verges on being a <crock>.  3.  Something
   that works for the wrong reason.  4.  vt. To insert a kluge into a
   program.  "I've kluged this routine to get around that weird bug,
   but there's probably a better way."  Also "kluge up"; "I've
   kluged up this routine...,etc." .  5. <kluge around>: To avoid by
   inserting a kluge.  6.  [WPI] A feature which is implemented in a
   <rude> manner.

   Note that a plurality of hackers pronounce this word /klooj/ but
   spell it incorrectly as `kludge'.  Some observers consider this
   appropriate in view of its meaning.

<KISS Principle> n. "Keep It Simple, Stupid".  A maxim often
   invoked when discussing design to fend off <creeping featuritis>
   and control development complexity.  Possibly related to the
   <marketroid> maxim on sales presentations, "Keep It Short and
<Knights of the Lambda Calculus> n. A semi-mythical organization of
   wizardly LISP and Scheme hackers (the name refers to a mathematical
   formalism invented by Alonzo Church with which LISP is intimately
   connected).  There is no enrollment list and the criteria for
   induction are unclear, but one well-known LISPer has been known to
   give out buttons and, in general, the *members* know who they

<Knuth> [Donald Knuth's `The Art of Computer Programming'] n. The
   reference that answers all questions about data structures or
   algorithms.  A safe answer when you do not know, as in "I think
   you can find that in Knuth."  Contrast <literature, the>.  See
   also <bible>.

<kremvax> /krem-vaks/ [From the then large number of <USENET> <VAXen>
   with names of the form `foovax'] n.  A fictitious USENET site at
   the Kremlin, announced on April 1, 1984, in a posting ostensibly
   from Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko.  The posting was actually
   forged by Piet Beertema as an April Fool's joke.  Other sites
   mentioned in the hoax were moskvax and <kgbvax>, which now seems to
   be the one by which it is remembered.  This was probably the
   funniest of the many April Fool's forgeries perpetrated on USENET
   (which has negligible security against them), because the notion
   that USENET might ever penetrate the Iron Curtain seemed so totally
   absurd at the time.

   In fact, it was only 6 years later that the first genuine site in
   Moscow,, joined USENET.  Some readers needed convincing
   that it wasn't another prank.  Vadim Antonov (,
   the major poster from Moscow up to at least the end of 1990, was
   quite aware of all this, referred to it frequently in his own
   postings, and at one point twitted some credulous readers by
   blandly `admitting' that he *was* a hoax!  [Mr. Antonov, also
   contributed the Russian-language material for this File --- ESR]

                                {= L =}

<lace card> n. obs. A Hollerith card with all holes punched (also
   called a <whoopee card>).  Card readers jammed when they got to
   one of these, as the resulting card had too little structural
   strength to avoid buckling inside the mechanism.  Card punches
   could also jam trying to produce these things due to power-supply
   problems.  When some practical joker fed a <lace card> through
   the reader you needed to clear the jam with a "card knife" --- which
   you used on the joker first.

<language lawyer> n. A person, usually an experienced or senior
   software engineer, who is intimately familiar with many or most of
   the numerous syntactic and semantic restrictions (both useful and
   esoteric) applicable to one or more computer programming languages.
   Compare <wizard>, <legal>, <legalese>.

<languages of choice> n. C and LISP. Essentially all hackers know one
   of these and most good ones are fluent in both.  Smalltalk and
   Prolog are popular in small but influential communities.  Assembler
   used to be a language of choice, but is generally no longer
   considered interesting or appropriate for anything but compiler
   code generation and a few time-critical uses in systems programs.

   There is also a rapidly dwindling category of older hackers with
   FORTRAN as their language of choice; they often prefer to be known
   as <real programmer>s, and other hackers consider them a bit odd.
   See `The Story of Mel, a Real Programmer' in Appendix A for
   another view of what constitutes a "real programmer".

   Most hackers tend to frown at languages like Pascal and Ada which
   don't give them the near-total freedom considered necessary for
   hacking (see <bondage-and-discipline language>) and to regard
   everything that's even remotely connected with <COBOL> or other
   traditional <card-walloper> languages as a total <loss>.

<larval stage> n. Describes a period of monomaniacal concentration
   on coding apparently passed through by all fledgling hackers.
   Common symptoms include: the perpetration of more than one 36-hour
   <hacking run> in a given week, neglect of all other activities
   including usual basics like food and sex, and a chronic case of
   advanced bleary-eye.  Can last from six months to two years, with
   the apparent median being around eighteen months.  A few so
   afflicted never resume a more `normal' life, but the ordeal seems
   to be necessary to produce really wizardly (as opposed to merely
   competent) programmers.  See also <wannabee>. A less protracted
   and intense version of larval stage (typically lasting about a
   month) may recur when learning a new <OS> or programming

<lase> /layz/ vt. To print a given document via a laser printer. "OK,
   let's lase that sucker and see if all those graphics-macro calls
   did the right things."

<laser chicken> n. Kung Pao Chicken, a standard Chinese dish
   containing chicken, peanuts, and hot red peppers in a spicy
   pepper-oil sauce.  A few hackers call it "laser chicken" for
   two reasons; it can <zap> you just like a laser, and the
   pepper-oil sauce has a red color reminiscent of some laser beams.

   In a variation on this theme, it is reported that one group of
   Australian hackers have redesignated the common dish `lemon
   chicken' as "Chernobyl Chicken".  The name is derived from the
   color of the dish, which is considered bright enough to glow in
   the dark (much like some of the fabled inhabitants of Chernobyl).

<LDB> /l@d'd@b/ [from the PDP-10 instruction set] vt. To extract from
   the middle.  This usage has been kept alive by Common LISP's
   function of the same name.  See also <DPB>.

<leaf site> n. A machine which merely originates and reads USENET
   new or mail, and does not relay any third-party traffic.  Often
   uttered in a critical tone; when the ratio of leaf sites to
   backbone, rib and other relay sites gets too high, the network
   tends to develop bottlenecks.  Compare <backbone site>, <rib

<leak> n. With qualifier, one of a class of resource-management bugs
   that occur when resources are not freed properly after operations
   on them are finished, leading to eventual exhaustion as new
   allocation requests come in.  <memory leak> and <fd leak> have
   their own entries; one might also refer, say, to a `window handle
   leak' in a window system.

<leaky heap> [Cambridge] n. Syn. <memory leak>.

<legal> adj. Loosely used to mean `in accordance with all the
   relevant rules', esp. in connection with some set of constraints
   defined by software. Thus one very frequently hears constructions
   like `legal syntax', `legal input' etc.  Hackers often model their
   work as a sort of game played with the environment in which the
   objective is to maneuver through the thicket of `natural laws' to
   achieve a desired objective.  Their use of `legal' is flavored by
   this game-playing sense rather than the more conventional one
   having to do with courts and lawyers.  Compare <language lawyer>,

<legalese> n.  Dense, pedantic verbiage in a language description,
   product specification or interface standard; text that seems
   designed to obfuscate and requires a <language lawyer> to
   <parse> it.  While hackers are not afraid of information density
   and complexity in language (indeed, they rather enjoy both), they
   share a deep and abiding loathing for legalese; they associate it
   with deception, <suits>, and situations in which hackers
   generally get the short end of the stick.

<LERP> /lerp/ vi.,n. Quasi-acronym for Linear Interpolation, used as a
   verb or noun for the operation.  Ex. Bresenham's algorithm lerps
   incrementally between the two endpoints of the line.

<lexer> /lek'sr/ n. Common hacker shorthand for "lexical analyzer",
   the input-tokenizing stage in the parser for a language. "Some C
   lexers get confused by the old-style compound ops like `=-'".

<life> n. 1. A cellular-automata game invented by John Horton Conway,
   and first introduced publicly by Martin Gardner (Scientific
   American, October 1970). Many hackers pass through a stage of
   fascination with it, and hackers at various places contributed
   heavily to the mathematical analysis of this game (most notably
   Bill Gosper at MIT; see <Gosperism>).  When a hacker mentions
   `life', he is much more likely to mean this game than the
   magazine, the breakfast cereal, or the human state of existence.
   2. The opposite of <USENET>. As in <Get a life!>.

<light pipe> n. Fiber optic cable. Oppose <copper>.
<like kicking dead whales down the beach> adj. A slow and disgusting
   process.  First popularized by a famous quote about the difficulty
   of getting work done under one of IBM's mainframe OSs. "Well, you
   *could* write a C compiler in COBOL, but it would be like
   kicking dead whales down the beach."

<line eater, the> [USENET] n. 1. A bug in some now-obsolete versions
   of the netnews software used to eat up to 512 bytes of the article
   text.  The bug was triggered by having the text of the article
   start wih a space or tab.  This bug was quickly personified as a
   mythical creature called the "line eater", and postings often
   included a dummy line of "line eater food".  Ironically, line
   eater food not preceded by whitespace wasn't actually eaten,
   since the bug was avoided; but if there <was> whitespace before
   it, then the line eater would eat the food <and> the beginning of
   the text which it was supposed to be protecting.  The practice of
   "sacrificing to the line eater" continued for some time after
   the bug had been <nailed to the wall>, and is still humorously
   referred to.  The bug itself is still (in mid-1990) occasionally
   reported to be lurking in some mail-to-netnews gateways.  2.  See
   <NSA line eater>.

<line starve> [MIT] 1. vi. To feed the paper through the terminal
   the wrong way by one line (most terminals can't do this!).  On a
   display terminal, to move the cursor up to the previous line of the
   screen.  Example: "To print X squared, you just output X, line
   starve, 2, line feed."  (The line starve causes the 2 to appear on
   the line above the X, and the line feed gets back to the original
   line.) 2. n. A "character" (or character sequence) that causes a
   terminal to perform this action.  Unlike "line feed", "line
   starve" is *not* standard ASCII terminology.  Even among
   hackers it is considered a bit silly.  3. [proposed] A sequence
   like \c (used in System V echo, as well as nroff/troff) which
   suppresses a <newline> or other character(s) that would normally
   implicitly be emitted.

<link> n. A network connection between two machines.  Usage: "Is
   that link down again?"
<link-dead> [popularized by MUD] adj. 1. A lost Telnet/MUD connection.
   v. 2. A deliberate act, with ulterior motives, to close a

<link farm> [UNIX] n. A directory tree that contains many links to
   files in another, master directory tree of files.  Link farms save
   space when maintaining several nearly identical copies of the same
   source tree, e.g. when the only difference is
   architecture-dependent object files.  Example use: "Let's freeze
   the source and then rebuild the FROBOZZ-3 and FROBOZZ-4 link
   farms."  Link farms may also be used to get around restrictions on
   the number of -I arguments on older C preprocessors.

<lint> [from UNIX's `lint(1)', named perhaps for the bits of
   fluff it picks from programs] 1. vt. To examine a program closely
   for style, language usage, and portability problems, esp. if in C,
   esp. if via use of automated analysis tools, most esp. if the UNIX
   utility `lint(1)' is used.  This term used to be restricted to
   use of `lint(1)' itself but (judging by references on USENET)
   has become a shorthand for `desk-check' at some non-UNIX shops,
   even in some languages other than C. See also <delint>.  2. Excess
   verbiage in a document, as in "this draft has too much lint".

<lion food> [IBM] n. Middle management or HQ staff (by extension,
   administrative drones in general). From an old joke about two lions
   who, escaping from the zoo, split up to increase their chances but
   agreed to meet after two months.  When they do meet, one is skinny
   and the other overweight.  The thin one says "How did you manage?
   I ate a human just once and they turned out a small army to chase
   me --- guns, nets, it was terrible.  Since then I've been reduced
   to eating mice, insects, even grass."  The fat one replies "Well,
   *I* hid near an IBM office and ate a manager a day.  And
   nobody even noticed!"

<LISP> [from "LISt Processing language", but mythically from
   "Lots of Irritating Superfluous Parentheses"] n. The name of
   AI's mother tongue, a language based on the ideas of 1)
   variable-length lists and trees as fundamental data types, and 2)
   the interpretation of code as data and vice-versa.  Invented by
   John McCarthy at Stanford in the late 1950s, it is actually older
   than any other <HLL> still in use except FORTRAN.  Accordingly,
   it has undergone considerable adaptive radiation over the years;
   modern variants (of which Scheme is perhaps the most successful)
   are quite different in detail from the original LISP 1.5 at
   Stanford.  The hands-down favorite of a plurality of hackers until
   the early 1980s, LISP now shares the throne with <C>.  See
   <languages of choice>.

<listing> n.  A physical paper printout (as opposed to on-screen
   display) of program source, or of the results (interspersed with
   error and status messages) of a compilation or assembly run.  What
   one grovels over when performing a <desk check>.  Both the term
   `listing' and the thing it describes are now much less common than
   formerly, as modern time-sharing operating systems and powerful
   interactive editors have made it advantageous for hackers to do
   effectively all of their work on-line.

<literature, the> n. Used to answer a question that the hearer
   believes is <trivial>, as in "It's in the literature."  Oppose
   <Knuth>, which has no connotation of triviality.

<little-endian> adj. Describes a computer architecture in which,
   within a given 16- or 32-bit word, lower byte addresses have lower
   significance (the word is stored `little-end-first').  The PDP-11
   and VAX families of computers and Intel microprocessors and a lot
   of communications and networking hardware are little-endian.  See
   <big-endian>, <middle-endian>, <NUXI problem>.  The term is
   sometimes used to describe the ordering of units other than bytes;
   most frequently these are bits within a byte.

<Live Free Or Die!> imp. 1. The state motto of New Hampshire, which
   used to be on its care license plates.  2. A slogan associated with
   UNIX in the romantic days when UNIX aficionados saw themselves as a
   tiny, beleaguered underground tilting against the windmills of
   industry.  The "free" referred specifically to freedom from the
   <fascist> design philosophies and crufty misfeatures common on
   commercial operating systems.  Armando Stettner, one of the early
   UNIX developers, used to give out fake license plates bearing this
   motto under a large UNIX, all in New Hampshire colors of green and
   white.  These are now valued collector's items.

<livelock> n.  A situation in which some critical stage of a task is
   unable to finish because its clients perpetually create more work
   for it to do after they've been serviced but before it can clear.
   Differs from <deadlock> in that the process is not blocked or
   waiting for anything, but has a virtually infinite amount of work
   to do and accomplishes nothing.

<liveware> n. Synonym for <wetware> Less common.

<lobotomy> n. 1. What a hacker subjected to formal management
   training is said to have undergone.  At IBM and elsewhere this term
   is used by both hackers and low-level management; the latter
   doubtless intend it as a joke.  2. The act of removing the
   processor from a microcomputer in order to replace or upgrade it.
   Some very cheap <clone> systems are sold in `lobotomized' form
   --- everything but the brain.

<locked and loaded> [fr. military slang for an M-16 with magazine
   inserted and prepared for firing] adj.  Said of a removable disk
   volume properly prepared for use --- that is, locked into the drive
   and with the heads loaded.  Ironically, because their heads are
   `loaded' whenever the power is up, this is never used of a

<locked up> adj. Syn. for <hung>, <wedged>.

<logic bomb> n. Code surreptitiously inserted in an application or OS
   which causes it to perform some destructive or
   security-compromising activity whenever specified conditions are
   met.  Compare <back door>.

<logical> [from the technical term "logical device", wherein a
   physical device is referred to by an arbitrary name] adj.
   Understood to have a meaning not necessarily corresponding to
   reality.  E.g., if a person who has long held a certain post (e.g.,
   Les Earnest at SAIL) left and was replaced, the replacement would
   for a while be known as the "logical" Les Earnest.  Compare
   <virtual>.  This use of <logical> is an extension from its
   technical use in computer science.  A program can be written to do
   input or output using a "logical device"; when the program is
   run, the user can specify which "physical" (actual) device to use
   for that logical device.  For example, a program might write all
   its error messages to a logical device called ERROR; the user can
   then specify whether logical device ERROR should be associated to
   the terminal, a disk file, or the <bit bucket> (to throw the error
   messages away).  Perhaps the word "logical" is used because even
   though a thing isn't the actual object in question, you can reason
   logically about the thing as if it were the actual object.

   At Stanford, `logical' compass directions denoted a coordinate
   system in which "logical north" is toward San Francisco,
   "logical west" is toward the ocean, etc., even though logical
   north varies between physical (true) north near San Francisco and
   physical west near San Jose.  (The best rule of thumb here is that
   El Camino Real by definition always runs logical north-and-south.)
   In giving directions, one might say, "To get to Rincon Tarasco
   restaurant, get onto El Camino Bignum going logical north."  Using
   the word `logical' helps to prevent the recipient from worrying
   about that the fact that the sun is setting almost directly in
   front of him.  The concept is reinforced by North American highways
   which are almost, but not quite, consistently labelled with logical
   rather than physical directions.  A similar situation exists at
   MIT.  Route 128 (famous for the electronics industries that have
   grown up along it) is a three-quarters circle surrounding Boston at
   a radius of ten miles, terminating at the coastline at each end.
   It would be most precise to describe the two directions along this
   highway as being `clockwise' and `counterclockwise', but the road
   signs all say `north' and `south', respectively.  A hacker would
   describe these directions as `logical north' and `logical south',
   to indicate that they are conventional directions not corresponding
   to the usual convention for those words.  (If you went logical
   south along the entire length of route 128, you would start out
   going northwest, curve around to the south, and finish headed due

<loop through> vt. To process each element of a list of things. "Hold
   on, I've got to loop through my paper mail."  Derives from the
   computer-language notion of an iterative loop; compare <cdr down>
   (which is less common among C and UNIX programmers).  ITS hackers
   used to say "IRP through" after an obscure pseudo-op in the
   MIDAS PDP-10 assembler.

<lord high fixer> [primarily British, prob. fr. Gilbert & Sullivan's
   `lord high executioner'] n. The person in an organization who
   knows the most about some aspect of a system.  See <wizard>.

<lose> [from MIT jargon] vi. 1. To fail.  A program loses when it
   encounters an exceptional condition or fails to work in the
   expected manner.  2. To be exceptionally unesthetic.  3. Of people,
   to be obnoxious or unusually stupid (as opposed to ignorant).  4.
   <deserves to lose>: vi. Said of someone who willfully does the
   <wrong thing>; humorously, if one uses a feature known to be
   <marginal>.  What is meant is that one deserves the consequences
   of one's <losing> actions.  "Boy, anyone who tries to use
   <mess-dos> deserves to lose!" (ITS fans used to say this of
   UNIX; many still do) See also <screw>, <chomp>, <bagbiter>.
   5.  n. Refers to something which is <losing>, especially in the
   phrases "That's a lose!" or "What a lose!".

<lose lose> interj. A reply or comment on an undesirable situation.
   "I accidentally deleted all my files!" "Lose lose."

<loser> n. An unexpectedly bad situation, program, programmer, or
   person.  Someone who habitually loses (even winners can lose
   occasionally).  Someone who knows not and knows not that he knows
   not.  Emphatic forms are "real loser", "total loser", and
   "complete loser" (but not "moby loser", which would be a
   contradiction in terms). See <luser>.

<losing> adj. Said of anything which is or causes a <lose>.

<loss> n. Something (not a person) which loses; a situation in which
   something is losing.  Emphatic forms include "moby loss" "total
   loss", "complete loss".  Common interjections are "What a loss!"
   and "What a moby loss!"  Compare <lossage>.

<lossage> /los'@j/ n. The result of a bug or malfunction.  This is a
   collective noun.  "What a loss!" and "What lossage!" are nearly
   synonymous remarks.  The former is slightly more particular to the
   speaker's present circumstances while the latter implies a
   continuing lose of which the speaker is presently victim.  Thus
   (for example) a temporary hardware failure is a loss, but bugs in
   an important tool (like a compiler) are serious lossage.

<lost in the underflow> adj.  Too small to be worth considering;
   more specifically, small beyond the limits of accuracy or
   measurement.  This is a reference to a condition called
   "floating underflow" that can occur when a floating-point
   arithmetic processor tries to handle quantities smaller than its
   limit of accuracy.  It is also a pun on `undertow' (a kind of fast,
   cold, current that sometimes runs just outshore of a beach and can
   be dangerous to swimmers). "Well, sure, photon pressure from the
   stadium lights alters the path of a thrown baseball, but that
   effect gets lost in the underflow."  See also <overflow bit>.

<lots of MIPS but no I/O> adj. Used to describe a person who is
   technically brilliant but can't seem to communicate with human
   beings effectively.  Technically it describes a machine which has
   lots of processing power but is <bottlenecked> on I/O.

<LPT> /lip'it/ [ITS] n. Line printer, of course.  Rare under UNIX,
   commoner in hackers with MS-DOS or CP/M background (the printer
   device is called LPT: on those systems, which like ITS were
   strongly influenced by early DEC conventions).

<lurker> n. One of the `silent majority' in a <USENET> or BBS
   newsgroup; one who posts occasionally or not at all but is known to
   read the group regularly.  Often in "the lurkers", the hypothetical
   audience for the group's <flamage>-emitting regulars.

<lunatic fringe> [IBM] n. Customers who can be relied upon to accept
   release 1 versions of software.

<luser> /loo'zr/ n.  A <user> who is probably also a <loser>.
   (<luser> and <loser> are pronounced identically.)  This word was
   coined about 1975 at MIT.  Under ITS, when you first walked up to a
   terminal at MIT and typed Control-Z to get the computer's
   attention, it prints out some status information, including how
   many people are already using the computer; it might print "14
   users", for example.  Someone thought it would be a great joke to
   patch the system to print "14 losers" instead.  There ensued a
   great controversy, as some of the users didn't particularly want to
   be called losers to their faces every time they used the computer.
   For a while several hackers struggled covertly, each changing the
   message behind the back of the others; any time you logged into the
   computer it was even money whether it would say "users" or
   "losers".  Finally, someone tried the compromise `lusers', and
   it stuck.  Later one of the ITS machines supported `luser' as a
   request-for-help command.  ITS died in early 1990; the usage lives
   on, however, and the term `luser' is often seen in program

                                {= M =}

<M> [from <mega->] /kay/ n.  A megabyte (1024 bytes).  Also
   written MB (this conflicts with use of M by scientists, under
   which MB would denote 1000-byte units).  See also <kilo->.

<macdink> /mak'dink/ [from the Apple Macintosh, which is said to
   encourage such behavior] vt.  To make many incremental and
   unnecessary cosmetic changes to a program or file.  Frequently the
   subject of the macdinking would be better off without them.  Ex:
   "When I left at 11pm last night, he was still macdinking the
   slides for his presentation."

<Macintrash> /mak'in-trash`/ The Apple Macintosh, as described by a
   hacker who doesn't appreciate being kept away from the *real
   computer* by the interface.  See also <WIMP environment>,
   <drool-proof paper>, <user-friendly>.

<macro> /mak'roh/ n. A name (possibly followed by a formal <arg>
   list) which is equated to a text expression to which it is to be
   expanded (possibly with substitution of actual arguments) by a
   language translator.  This definition can be found in any technical
   dictionary; what those won't tell you is how the hackish
   connotations of the term have changed over time.  The term `macro'
   originated in early assemblers, which encouraged use of macros as a
   structuring and information-hiding device.  During the early 70s
   macro assemblers became ubiquitous and sometimes quite as powerful
   and expensive as HLLs, only to fall from favor as improving
   compiler technology marginalized assembler programming (see
   <languages of choice>). Nowadays the term is most often used in
   connection with the C preprocessor, LISP, or one of several
   special-purpose languages built around a macro-expansion facility
   (such as TeX or UNIX's nroff, troff and pic suite). Indeed, the
   meaning has drifted enough that the collective `macros' is now
   sometimes used for code in any special-purpose application-control
   language (whether or not the language is actually translated by
   text expansion) as well as other `expansions' such as the `keyboard
   macros' supported in some text editors (and PC TSR keyboard

<macro-> pref. Large. Opposite of <micro->.  In the mainstream and
   among other technical cultures (for example, medical people) this
   competes with the prefix <mega->, but hackers tend to restrict
   the latter to quantification.

<machoflops> /mach'oh-flops/ [pun on "megaflops", a coinage for
   `millions of floating-point operations per second'] n. Refers to
   artificially inflated performance figures often quoted by computer
   manufacturers.  Real applications are lucky to get half the quoted
   speed. See <Your mileage may vary.>, See <benchmark>.

<macrology> /mak-ro'l@-jee/ n. Set of usually complex or crufty
   macros, e.g. as part of a large system written in LISP, <TECO> or
   (less commonly) assembler.  Sometimes studying the macrology of a
   system is not unlike archeology, <ecology> and <theology>,
   hence the sound-alike construction.

<macrotape> /ma'kroh-tayp/ n. An industry standard reel of tape, as
   opposed to a <microtape>.

<magic> adj. 1. As yet unexplained, or too complicated to explain;
   compare <automagically> and (Arthur C.) Clarke's Third Law: "Any
   sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".
   "TTY echoing is controlled by a large number of magic bits."
   "This routine magically computes the parity of an eight-bit byte
   in three instructions." 2.  Characteristic of something that works
   but no one really understands why.  3. [Stanford] A feature not
   generally publicized which allows something otherwise impossible,
   or a feature formerly in that category but now unveiled.  Example:
   The keyboard commands which override the screen-hiding features.

<magic cookie> [UNIX] n. 1. Something passed between routines or
   programs that enables the receiver to perform some operation; a
   capability ticket or opaque identifier.  Especially used of small
   data objects which contain data encoded in a strange or
   intrinsically machine-dependent way.  For example, on non-UNIX OSs
   with a non-byte-stream model of files, the result of
   `ftell(3)' may be a magic cookie rather than a byte offset;
   it can be passed to `fseek(3)' but not operated on in any
   meaningful way.  The phrase "It hands you a magic cookie" means
   it returns a result whose contents are not defined but which can be
   handed back to the same program later to refer back to this
   transaction.  2. An in-band code for changing graphic rendition
   (i.e. inverse video or underlining) or performing other control
   functions.  Some older terminals would leave a blank on the screen
   corresponding to mode-change cookies; this was also called a
   <glitch>.  See also <cookie>.

<magic number> [UNIX/C] n. 1. Special data located at the beginning of
   a binary data file to indicate its type to a utility.  Under UNIX
   the system and various applications programs (especially the
   linker) distinguish between types of executable by looking for a
   magic number. Only a <wizard> knows the magic to create magic
   numbers.  How do you create a magic number that nobody else is
   using?  Simple --- you pick one at random.  See?  It's magic!  2.
   In source code, some non-obvious constant whose value is
   significant to the operation of a program and which is inserted
   inconspicuously in line, rather than expanded in by a symbol set by
   a commented #define.  Magic numbers in this sense are bad style.

<magic smoke> n. A notional substance trapped inside IC packages that
   enables them to function (also called "blue smoke"). Its
   existence is demonstrated by what happens when a chip burns up ---
   the magic smoke gets let out, so it doesn't work any more.  See
   <smoke test>.

<mailing list> n. (often shortened to "list") 1. An <email>
   address which is an alias for many other email addresses. 2. The
   people who receive your email when you send it to such and address.

   Mailing lists are one of the primary forms of hacker interaction,
   along with <USENET>. They predate USENET, and originated with the
   first UUCP and ARPANet connections.  They are often used for
   private information-sharing on topics that would be too specialized
   for or inappropriate in public USENET groups.  While some of these
   maintain purely technical content (such as the Internet Engineering
   Task Force mailing list), others (like the `sf-lovers' list
   maintained for many years by Saul Jaffe) are recreational, and
   others are purely social.  Perhaps the most infamous of the social
   lists was the eccentric `bandykin' distribution; its latter-day
   progeny, `lectroids' and `tanstaafl' still include a number of the
   oddest and most interesting people in hackerdom.

   Mailing lists are easy to create and (unlike USENET) don't tie up a
   significant amount of machine resources.  Thus, they are often
   created temporarily by working groups who can collaborate on a
   project without ever needing to meet face-to-face.  Much of the
   material in this book was criticized and polished on just such a
   mailing list (called `jargon-friends') which included all the
   cauthors of the original `The Hacker's Dictionary'.

<main loop> n. Software tools are often written to perform some
   action repeatedly on whatever input is handed to them, terminating
   when there is no more input or they are explicitly told to go away.
   In such programs, the loop that gets and processes input is called
   the "main loop".  See also <driver>.

<mainframe> n. This term originally referred to the central
   processor unit cabinet or `main frame' of a room-filling <Stone
   Age> batch machine. After the emergence of smaller `minicomputer'
   designs in the early Seventies, the traditional <big iron> machines
   were described as `mainframe computers' and eventually just as mainframes.
   The term carries the implication of a machine designed for batch
   rather than interactive use, though possibly with an interactive
   timesharing operating system retrofitted onto it; it is especially
   used of machines built by IBM, Sperry Univac, Unisys and the other
   great megatheria surviving from computing's Pleistocene.

   Outside the tiny market for specialized number-crunching
   supercomputers (see <cray>) it is common wisdom among hackers
   that the mainframe architectural tradition is essentially dead now,
   swamped by the huge advances in IC technology and `personal'
   lower-cost computing.  As of 1991 corporate America hasn't quite
   figured this out yet, though the wave of failures, takeovers and
   mergers among traditional mainframe makers are certainly straws in
   the wind.  See also <dinosaur>.

<management> n. 1. Corporate power elites distinguished primarily by
   their distance from actual productive work and their chronic
   failure to manage (see also <suit>).  Spoken derisively, as in
   "*Management* decided that..." 2. Mythically, a vast
   bureaucracy responsible for all the world's minor irritations.
   Hackers' satirical public notices are often signed "The Mgmt".

<manged> /mahnjed/ [probably from the French manger, to eat].
   Refers to anything that is mangled or damaged, usually beyond
   repair.  "The disk was manged after the electrical storm."

<mangle> vt. Used similarly to <mung> or <scribble>, but more violent
   in its connotations; something that is mangled has been
   irreversibly and totally trashed.

<mangler> [DEC] n. A manager.  Compare <mango>; see also
   <management>.  Note that <system mangler> is somwhat different
   in connotation.

<mango> /mang'go/ [orig. in-house slang at Symbolics] n.  A manager.
   Compare <mango>. See also <devo> and <doco>.

<marginal> adj. 1. Extremely small.  "A marginal increase in core can
   decrease <GC> time drastically."  In everyday terms, this means
   that it's a lot easier to clean off your desk if you have a spare
   place to put some of the junk while you sort through it. 2. Of
   extremely small merit.  "This proposed new feature seems rather
   marginal to me."  3. Of extremely small probability of winning.
   "The power supply was rather marginal anyway; no wonder it
   fried."  4.  <marginally>: adv.  Slightly.  "The ravs here are
   only marginally better than at Small Eating Place."  See <epsilon>.
   5. <marginal hacks>: n. Margaret Jacks Hall, a building into which
   the Stanford AI Lab was moved near the beginning of the '80s.

<marketroid> /mar'k@-troyd/ alt. <marketing slime>, <marketing
   droid>, <marketeer> n.  Member of a company's marketing department,
   esp.  one who promises users that the next version of a product
   will have features which are unplanned, extremely difficult to
   implement, and/or violate the laws of physics; and/or one who
   describes existing features (and misfeatures) in ebullient,
   buzzword-laden adspeak.  Derogatory.  Used by techies.

<martian> n. A packet sent on a TCP/IP network with a source address
   of the test loopback interface (  As in "The domain
   server is getting lots of packets from Mars.  Does that gateway
   have a martian filter?"

<massage> vt. Vague term used to describe `smooth' transformations of
   a data set into a more useful form, esp.  transformations which do
   not lose information.  Connotes less pain than <munch> or <crunch>.
   "He wrote a program that massages X bitmap files into GIF
   format."  Compare <slurp>.

<math-out> [poss. fr. `white-out'] n. A paper or presentation so
   encrusted with mathematical or other formal notation as to be
   incomprehensible.  This may be a device for concealing the fact
   that it is actually <content-free>.  See also <numbers>,
   <social science number>.
<Matrix> [Fidonet] n. What the Opus BBS software and sysops call

<Mbogo, Dr. Fred> [Stanford] n. The archetypal man you don't want to
   see about a problem, esp. an incompetent professional; a shyster.
   Usage: "Do you know a good eye doctor?"  "Sure, try Mbogo Eye
   Care and Professional Dry Cleaning."  The name comes from synergy
   between <bogus> and the original Dr.  Mbogo, a witch doctor who
   was Gomez Addams' physician on the old `Addams Family' TV show.

<meatware> n. Synonym for <wetware>.  Less common.

<meg> /meg/ n. A megabyte; 1024K.  See <K>.

<mega-> /me'g@/ pref. Multiplier, 10 ^ 6 or 2 ^ 10.  See <kilo->.

<megapenny> /meg'@-pen'ee/ n. $10,000 (1 cent * 10e6). Used
   semi-humorously as a unit in comparing computer cost/performance

<MEGO> /me'goh/ or /mee'goh/ [My Eyes Glaze Over, often Mine Eyes Glazeth
   Over, attributed to the futurologist Herman Kahn] Also "MEGO
   factor".  1.  Handwaving intended to confuse the listener and
   hopefully induce agreement because the listener does not want to
   admit to not understanding what is going on.  MEGO is usually
   directed at senior management by engineers and contains a high
   proportion of <TLA>s. 2. excl. An appropriate response to MEGO

<meltdown, network> n. A state of complete network overload; the
   network equivalent of <thrash>ing.  See also <broadcast storm>.

<meme> /meem/ [coined on analogy with "gene" by Richard Dawkins] n. An
   idea considered as a <replicator>. Used esp. in the phrase "meme
   complex" denoting a group of mutually supporting memes which form
   an organized belief system, such as a religion.  This dictionary is
   a vector of the "hacker subculture" meme complex; each entry
   might be considered a meme.  However, "meme" is often misused to
   mean "meme complex".  Use of the term connotes acceptance of the
   idea that in humans (and presumably other tool-and language-using
   sophonts) cultural evolution by selection of adaptive ideas has
   superseded biological evolution by selection of hereditary traits.
   Hackers find this idea congenial for tolerably obvious reasons.

<meme plague> n. The spread of a successful but pernicious <meme>,
   esp.  one which `parasitizes' the victims into giving their all to
   propagate it.  Astrology, BASIC, and the other guy's religion are
   often considered to be examples.  This usage is given point by the
   historical fact that `joiner' ideologies like Naziism or various
   forms of millenarian Christianity have exhibited plague-like cycles
   of exponential growth followed by collapse to small reservoir

<memetics> /m@-met-iks/ [from <meme>] The study of memes.  As of 1990,
   this is still an extremely informal and speculative endeavor,
   though the first steps towards at least statistical rigor have been
   made by H. Keith Henson and others.  Memetics is a popular topic
   among hackers, who like to see themselves as the architects of the
   new information ecologies in which memes live and replicate.

<memory leak> [C/UNIX programmers] n. An error in a program's
   dynamic-store allocation logic that causes it to fail to reclaim
   discarded memory, leading to attempted hogging of main store and
   eventual collapse due to memory exhaustion.  Also (esp. at CMU)
   called <core leak>.  See <aliasing bug>, <fandango on core>, <smash
   the stack>, <precedence lossage>, <overrun screw>, <leaky heap>.

<menuitis> /men`yoo-ie'tis/ n. Notional disease suffered by software
   with an obsessively simple-minded menu interface and no escape.
   Hackers find this intensely irritating and much prefer the
   flexibility of command-line or language-style interfaces,
   especially those customizable via macros or a special-purpose
   language in which one can encode useful hacks.  See
   <user-obsequious>, <drool-proof paper>, <WIMP environment>.

<mess-dos> /mes-dos/ [UNIX hackers] n. Derisory term for MS-DOS. Often
   followed by the ritual expurgation "Just Say No!". See MS-DOS.
   Most hackers (even many MS-DOS hackers) loathe MS-DOS for its
   single-tasking nature, its limits on application size, its nasty
   primitive interface, and its ties to IBMness (see <fear and
   loathing>). Also "mess-loss", "messy-dos", "mess-dog",
   "mess-dross" and various combinations thereof.

<meta> /me't@/ or /may't@/ or (Commonwealth) /mee't@/ [from
   analytic philosophy] adj. One level of description up.  Thus, a
   meta-syntactic variable is a variable in notation used to describe
   syntax and meta-language is language used to describe language.
   This is difficult to explain out of context, but much hacker humor
   turns on deliberate confusion between meta-levels.  See HUMOR,

<meta bit> /meta@ bit/ or /mayt'@ bit/ n. Bit 8 of an 8-bit
   character, on in values 128-255. Also called <high bit> or <alt
   bit>.  Some terminals and consoles (especially those designed for
   LISP traditions) have a META shift key.  Others (including,
   *mirabile dictu*, keyboards on IBM PC-class machines) have an ALT
   key.  See also <bucky bits>.

<mickey> n. The resolution unit of mouse movement.  In <OS/2>
   there is a system call `MouGetNumMickeys()'.  It has been
   suggested that the "disney" will become a benchmark unit for
   animation graphics performance.
<micro-> pref. 1. Very small (this is the root of its use, as a
   quantifier prefix meaning `multiply by `10 ^ -6'').  Nether of
   these uses is peculiar to hackers, but hackers tend to fling them
   both around rather more freely than is countenanced in standard
   English.  It is recorded, for example, that one CS professor used
   to characterize the standard length of his lectures as a
   microcentury --- that is, about 52.6 minutes (see also
   <nanoacre>).  2. Personal or human-scale --- that is, capable of
   being maintained or comprehended or manipulated by one human being.
   This sense is generalized from "microcomputer", and esp. used
   in contrast with "macro-" (Greek prefix meaning large).  3.
   Local as opposed to global (<macro->).  Thus a hacker might say,
   for example, that buying a smaller car to reduce pollution only
   solves a microproblem; the macroproblem of getting to work might be
   better solved by using transit, moving to within walking distance,
   or telecommuting.

<microfloppies> n. 3-1/2 inch floppies, as opposed to 5-1/4 <vanilla>
   or mini-floppies and the now-obsolescent 8-inch variety.  This term
   may be headed for obsolescence as 5-1/4 inchers pass out of use,
   only to be revived if anybody floats a sub-3-inch floppy standard.
   See <stiffy>.

<microtape> n. Occasionally used to mean a DECtape, as opposed to a
   <macrotape>.  A DECtape is a small reel of magnetic tape about four
   inches in diameter and an inch deep.  Unlike normal drivers for
   standard magnetic tapes, microtape drivers allow random access
   to the data.  In their heyday they were used in pretty much the
   same ways one would now use a floppy disk: as a small, portable way
   to save and transport files and programs.  Apparently the term
   "microtape" was actually the official term used within DEC for
   these tapes until someone consed up the word "DECtape", which of
   course sounded sexier to the <marketroid> types.

<middle-endian> adj. Not <big-endian> or <little-endian>.  Used of
   byte orders like 3-4-1-2 occasionally found in the packed-decimal
   formats of minicomputer manufacturers who shall remain nameless.

<millilampson> /mil'i-lamp`sn/ n.  How fast people can talk.  Most
   people run about 200 millilampsons.  Butler Lampson (a CS theorist
   and systems implementor highly regarded among hackers) goes at
   1000.  A few people speak faster.

<MIPS> /mips/ [acronym] n. 1. A measure of computing speed;
   formally, "Million Instructions Per Second"; often rendered
   by hackers as "Meaningless Indication of Processor Speed". This
   joke expresses a nearly universal attitude about the value of
   <benchmark> claims, said attitude being one of the great cultural
   divides between hackers and <marketroid>s.  2. The corporate name
   of a particular RISC-chip company; among other things, they
   designed the processor chips used in DEC's 3100 workstation series.

<misbug> /mis-buhg/ [MIT] n. An unintended property of a program
   that turns out to be useful; something that should have been a
   <bug> but turns out to be a <feature>.  Usage: rare.

<misfeature> /mis-fee'chr/ n. A feature which eventually screws
   someone, possibly because it is not adequate for a new situation
   which has evolved.  It is not the same as a bug because fixing it
   involves a gross philosophical change to the structure of the
   system involved.  A misfeature is different from a simple
   unforeseen side effect; the term implies that the misfeature was
   actually carefully planned to be that way, but future consequences
   or circumstances just weren't predicted accurately.  This is
   different from just not having thought ahead about it at all.
   Often a former feature becomes a misfeature because a tradeoff was
   made whose parameters subsequently changed (possibly only in the
   judgment of the implementors).  "Well, yeah, it's kind of a
   misfeature that file names are limited to six characters, but the
   original implementors wanted to save directory space and we're
   stuck with it for now."

<miswart> /mis-wort/ [from <wart> by analogy with <misbug>] n.
   A <feature> which appears to be a <wart> but has been
   determined to be the <Right Thing>.  For example, in some versions
   of the <EMACS> text editor, the `transpose characters' command
   exchanges the two characters on either side of the cursor on the
   screen, *except* when the cursor is at the end of a line, in
   which case the two characters before the cursor are exchanged.
   While this behavior is perhaps surprising, and certainly
   inconsistent, it has been found through extensive experimentation
   to be what most users want.  This feature is a miswart.

<Missed'em-five> n. Pejorative hackerism for AT&T System V UNIX,
   generally used by <BSD> partisans in a bigoted mood.  See <software
   bloat>, <Berzerkely>.

<mixed case> adj. Of source code, commentary, system messages, etc.,
   not in all upper case, and therefore easy to read and understand.
   Used in opposition to older designs that are case-insensitive and
   use an all-caps character set.

<moby> /moh'bee/ [MIT; seems to have been in use among model
   railroad fans years ago.  Derived from Melville's `Moby Dick' (some
   say from `Moby Pickle').]  1. adj. Large, immense, complex,
   impressive.  "A Saturn V rocket is a truly moby frob."  "Some
   MIT undergrads pulled off a moby hack at the Harvard-Yale game."
   (see Appendix A).  2. n. obs.  The maximum address space of a
   machine (see below).  For a 68000 or VAX or most modern 32-bit
   architectures, it is 4294967296 8-bit bytes.  3.  A title of
   address (never of third-person reference), usually used to show
   admiration, respect, and/or friendliness to a competent hacker.
   "Greetings, moby Dave.  How's that address-book thing for the Mac
   going?"  4.  adj. In backgammon, doubles on the dice, as in
   "moby sixes", "moby ones", etc.  Compare this with
   <bignum> (sense #2): double sixes are both bignums and moby
   sixes, but moby ones are not bignums (the use of "moby" to
   describe double ones is sarcastic).  "moby foo", "moby
   win", "moby loss": standard emphatic forms.  "foby moo": a
   spoonerism due to Greenblatt.

   This term entered hackerdom with the Fabritek 256K moby memory of
   the MIT-AI machine. Thus, a moby is classically, 256K 36-bit words,
   the size of a PDP-10 moby (it has two).  Back when address
   registers were narrow, the term was more generally useful; because
   when a computer had virtual memory mapping it might actually
   have more physical memory attached to it than any one program could
   access directly.  One could then say "This computer has six
   mobies" to mean that the ratio of physical memory to address space
   is six, without having to say specifically how much memory there
   actually is.  That in turn implied that the computer could
   timeshare six `full-sized' programs without having to swap
   programs between memory and disk.

   Nowadays the low cost of processor logic means that registers are
   typically wider than the most memory you can cram onto a machine,
   so most systems have much *less* than 1 theoretical `native'
   moby of core.  Also, more modern memory-management techniques make
   the `moby count' less significant.  However, there is one series of
   popular chips for which the term could stand to be revived --- the
   Intel 8088 and 80286 with their incredibly brain-damaged
   segmented-memory design.  On these, a `moby' would be the
   1-megabyte address span of a paragraph-plus-offset pair.

<mod> vt.,n. 1. Short for "modify" or <modification>.  Very
   commonly used --- in fact these latter terms are considered markers
   that one is being formal.  The plural `mods' is used esp. with
   reference to bug fixes or minor design changes in hardware or
   software, most esp. with respect to patch sets or <diff>s.

<mode> n. A general state, usually used with an adjective describing
   the state.  Use of the word "mode" rather than "state" implies
   that the state is extended over time, and probably also that some
   activity characteristic of that state is being carried out. "No
   time to hack; I'm in thesis mode."  Usage: in its jargon sense,
   `mode' is most often said of people, though it is sometimes
   applied to programs and inanimate objects. "The E editor normally
   uses a display terminal, but if you're on a TTY it will switch to
   non-display mode."  This term is normally used in a technical sense
   to describe the state of a program.  Extended usage --- for
   example, to describe people --- is definitely slang.  In
   particular, see <hack mode>, <day mode>, <night mode>, <demo mode>,
   <fireworks mode> and <yoyo mode>; also <talk mode>.

   One also often hears the verbs "enable" and "disable" used in
   connection with slang modes.  Thus, for example, a sillier way of
   saying "I'm going to crash" is "I'm going to enable crash mode
   now."  One might also hear a request to "disable flame mode,

<mode bit> n. A <flag>, usually in hardware, that selects between
   two (usually quite different) modes of operation.  The connotations
   are different from <flag> bit in that mode bits are mainly
   written during a boot or set-up phase, are seldom read, and seldom
   change over the lifetime of an ordinary program.  The classic
   example was a the EBCDIC -vs.-ASCII bit 12 of the Program Status
   Word of the IBM 360.

<modulo> /mod'y@-low/ prep. Except for.  From mathematical
   terminology: one can consider saying that 4 = 22 except for the
   9s (4=22 mod 9) (the precise meaning is a bit more complicated,
   but that's the idea).  "Well, LISP seems to work okay now, modulo
   that <GC> bug."  "I feel fine today modulo a slight headache."

<Mongolian Hordes technique> n.  Development by <gang bang>;
   compare the Sixties counterculture expression `Mongolian
   clusterfuck' for a public orgy.  Implies that large numbers of
   inexperienced programmers are being put on a job better performed
   by a few skilled ones.
<monkey up> vt. To hack together hardware for a particular task,
   especially a one-shot job.  Connotes an extremely <crufty> and
   consciously temporary solution.

<monstrosity> 1. n. A ridiculously <elephantine> program or system,
   esp.  one which is buggy or only marginally functional.  2.  The
   quality of being monstrous (see `Peculiar nouns' in the discussion
   of jargonification).  See also <baroque>.

<Moof> /moof/ [MAC users] n.  The Moof or `dogcow' is a
   semi-legendary creature that lurks in the depths of the Macintosh
   Technical Notes hypercard stack V3.1; specifically, the full story
   of the dogcow is told in technical note #31 (the particular Moof
   illustrated is properly named `Clarus').  Option-shift-click will
   cause it to emit a characteristic `Moof!' or `!fooM' sound.
   *Getting* to tech note #31 is the hard part; to discover how
   to do that, one must needs examine the stack script with a hackerly
   eye.  Clue: <rot13> is involved. A dogcow also said to appear if
   you choose `Page Setup...' with a LaserWriter selected and click on
   the `Options' button.

<Moore's Law> /morz law/ prov. The observation that the logic
   density of silicon integrated circuits has closely followed the
   curve (bits per inch ^ 2) = 2 ^ (n - 1962); that is, the amount of
   information storable in one square inch of silicon has roughly
   doubled yearly every year since the technology was invented.

<moria> /mor'i-ah/ n. Together with <nethack> and <rogue>, one
   of the large PD Dungeons-and-Dragons-like simulation games,
   available for a wide range of machines and operating systems.
   Extremely addictive and a major consumer of time better used for

<MOTAS> /moh-tahs/ [USENET, Member Of The Appropriate Sex] n. A
   potential or (less often) actual sex partner.  See <MOTOS>,
   <MOTSS>, <S.O>.

<MOTOS> /moh-tohs/ [from the 1970 census forms via USENET, Member Of
   The Opposite Sex] n. A potential or (less often) actual sex
   partner.  See <MOTAS>, <MOTSS>, <S.O.> Less common than <MOTSS> or
   <MOTAS>, which has largely displaced it.

<MOTSS> /motss/ or /em-oh-tee-ess-ess/ [from the 1970 census forms
   via USENET, Member Of The Same Sex] n. Esp. one considered as a
   possible sexual partner, e.g.  by a gay or lesbian.  The gay-issues
   newsgroup on USENET is called soc.motss.  See <MOTOS> and
   <MOTAS>, which derive from it.  Also see <S.O.>.

<mount> vt. 1. To attach a removable physical storage volume to a
   machine.  In elder days and on mainframes this verb was used almost
   exclusively of tapes; nowadays it is more likely to refer to a disk
   or disk pack. 2.  By extension, to attach any removable device such
   as a sensor, robot arm, or <meatware> subsystem (see Appendix A).
   3.  [UNIX] To make a <logical> volume of some sort available for
   use.  The volume in question may or may not be removable and may be
   just one partition of a physical device.

<mouse ahead> vi. To manipulate a computer's pointing device (almost
   always a mouse in this usage, but not necessarily) and its
   selection or command buttons before a computer program is ready to
   accept such input, in anticipation of the program accepting the
   input.  Handling this properly is rare, but it can help make a
   <user-friendly> program usable by real users, assuming they are
   familiar with the behavior of the user interface.  Point-and-click
   analog of `type ahead'.

<mouse around> vi. To explore public portions of a large system, esp.
   a network such as Internet via <FTP> or <TELNET>, looking for
   interesting stuff to <snarf>.

<mouse elbow> n.  A tennis-elbow-like fatigue syndrome resulting from
   excessive use of a <WIMP environment>.

<mouso> /mow'soh/ n. [by analogy with "typo"] An error in mouse usage
   resulting in an inappropriate selection or graphic garbage on the
   screen.  Compare <thinko>.

<MS-DOS> /em-es-dos/ [MicroSoft Disk Operating System] n. A <clone> of
   <CP/M> for the 8088 crufted together in six weeks by hacker Tim
   Paterson, who is said to have regretted it ever since.  Numerous
   features including vaguely UNIX-like but rather broken support for
   subdirectories, I/O redirection, and pipelines were hacked in in
   2.0 and subsequent versions; as a result, there are two
   incompatible versions of many system calls, and MS-DOS programmers
   can never agree on basic things like what to use as an option
   switch or whether to be case-sensitive.  The resulting mess is now
   the highest-unit-volume OS in history.  Often known simply as DOS,
   which annoys people familiar with other similarly-abbreviated
   operating systems.  Some people like to pronounce DOS as "dose", as
   in "I don't work on dose, man!", or to compare it with a dose of
   brain-damaging drugs.  See <mess-dos>, <ill-behaved>.

<MUD> [abbr: Multi User Dungeon] 1. A class of <virtual reality>
   experiments accessible via <Internet>.  These are real-time chat
   forums with structure; they have multiple `locations' like an
   adventure game and may include combat, traps, puzzles, magic, a
   simple economic system, and the capability for characters to build
   more structure onto the database that represents the existing
   world. 2.  vi. To play a MUD (see <hack-and-slay>).  The acronym MUD
   is often lower-cased and/or verbed; thus, one may speak of "going
   mudding", etc.

   Historically, MUDs (and their more recent progeny with names of MU*
   form) derive from an AI experiment by Richard Bartle and Roy
   Trubshaw on the University of Essex's DEC-10 in the early 80's, and
   decendants of that game still exist today (see <BartleMUD>).  The
   title `MUD' is still copyright to the commercial MUD run by Bartle
   on British Telecom (Their motto: "You haven't *lived* 'til
   you've *died* on MUD"), however this did not stop students on
   the European academic networks from copying/improving on the MUD
   concept, from which sprung several new MUDs (VAXMUD, AberMUD,
   LPMUD).  Many of these had associated bulletin board systems for
   social interaction. Because USENET feeds have been spotty and
   difficult to get in the British Isles, and the British JANET
   network doesn't support <FTP> or <telnet>, the MUDs became
   major foci of hackish social interaction there.

   LPMUD and other variants crossed the Atlantic around 1988 and
   quickly gained popularity in the US; they became nuclei for large
   hacker communities with only loose ties to traditional hackerdom
   (some observers see parallels with the growth of USENET in the
   early 1980s).

   More recent MUDs, esp. in the US, (such as TinyMud) have tended to
   emphasize social interaction, puzzles, and cooperative
   world-building as opposed to combat and competition.  Whether this
   represents a genuine long-term trend is hard to say; the state of
   the art in MUD design is still moving very rapidly, with new
   simulation designs appearing (seemingly) every month.  There is now
   (early 1991) a move afoot to deprecate the term <MUD> itself, as
   newer designs exhibit an exploding variety of names corresponding
   to the different simulation styles being explored.  See also
   <BartleMUD>, <berserking>, <bonk/oif>, <brand brand brand>,
   <FOD>, <hack-and-slay>, <mudhead>, <posing>, <talk mode>,

<mudhead> n. Commonly used to refer to a <MUD> player who sleeps
   breathes and eats MUD. Mudheads have frequently been known to fail
   their degrees, drop out etc, with the consolation however that they
   made wizard level.  When encountered in person, all a mudhead will
   talk about is two topics 1) The tactic, character or wizard that in
   his view is always unfairly stopping him/her becoming
   wizard/beating a favorite MUD, and 2) the mud he is writing/going
   to write because all existing muds are so dreadful!  See also

<multician> /muhl-ti'shn/ [coined at Honeywell, c.1970] n.
   Competent user of <Multics>.

<Multics> /muhl'tiks/ n. [from "MULTiplexed Information and Computing
   Service"] An early (late 1960s) timesharing operating system
   co-designed by a consortium including MIT, GE and Bell
   Laboratories, very innovative for its time (among other things, it
   introduced the idea of treating all devices uniformly as special
   files). All the members but GE eventually pulled out after
   determining that <second-system effect> had bloated MULTICS to the
   point of practical unusability (the `lean' predecessor in question
   is said to have been <CTSS>).  Honeywell commercialized Multics
   after buying out GE's computer group, but it was never very
   successful (among other things, one was required to enter a
   password to log out).  One of the developers left in the lurch by
   the project's breakup was Ken Thompson, a circumstance which led
   directly to the birth of <UNIX>. For this and other reasons
   aspects of the Multics design remain a topic of occasional debate
   among hackers.  See also <brain-damage>.

<multitask> n. Often used of humans in the same meaning it has for
   computers, to describe a person doing several things at once (but
   see <thrash>.  The term "multiplex" from communications
   technology (meaning to handle more than one channel at the same
   time) is used similarly.

<mumblage> /muhm'bl@j/ n. The topic of one's mumbling (see <mumble>).
   "All that mumblage" is used like "all that stuff" when it is
   not quite clear what it is or how it works, or like "all that
   crap" when "mumble" is being used as an implicit replacement for

<mumble> interj. 1. Said when the correct response is either too
   complicated to enunciate or the speaker has not thought it out.
   Often prefaces a longer answer, or indicates a general reluctance
   to get into a big long discussion.  "Don't you think that we could
   improve LISP performance by using a hybrid reference-count
   transaction garbage collector, if the cache is big enough and there
   are some extra cache bits for the microcode to use?"  "Well,
   mumble... I'll have to think about it."  2. Sometimes used as an
   expression of disagreement.  "I think we should buy a <VAX>."
   "Mumble!"  Common variant: <mumble frotz>. 3. Yet another
   metasyntactic variable, like <foo>.

<munch> [often confused with `mung', q.v.] vt. To transform
   information in a serial fashion, often requiring large amounts of
   computation.  To trace down a data structure.  Related to <crunch>
   and nearly synonymous with <grovel>, but connotes less pain.

<munching squares> n. A <display hack> dating back to the PDP-1
   (c.1962), which employs a trivial computation (repeatedly plotting
   the graph Y = X XOR T for successive values of T --- see <HAKMEM>
   items 146-148) to produce an impressive display of moving, and
   growing squares that devour the screen (allegedly invented by one
   Jackson Wright).  The initial value of T was treated as a parameter
   which when well-chosen can produce amazing effects.  Some of these,
   later (re)discovered on the LISP machine, have been christened
   <munching triangles> (try AND for XOR and toggling points instead
   of plotting them), <munching w's>, and <munching mazes>.  More
   generally, suppose a graphics program produces an impressive and
   ever-changing display of some basic form foo on a display terminal,
   and does it using a relatively simple program; then the program (or
   the resulting display) is likely to be referred to as "munching
   foos" (this is a good example of the use of the word <foo> as a
   metasyntactic variable).

<munchkin> /muhnch'kin/ [from the squeaky-voiced little people in L.
   Frank Baum's `The Wizard of Oz'] n. A teenage-or-younger micro
   enthusiast bashing BASIC or something else equally constricted.  A
   term of mild derision --- munchkins are annoying but some grow up
   to be hackers after passing through a <larval stage>.  The term
   <urchin> is also used.  See also <wannabee>, <bitty box>.

<mundane> [from SF fandom] n.  1.  A person who is not in science
   fiction fandom. 2.  A person who is not in the computer industry.
   In this sense, most often an adjectival modifier as in "in my
   mundane life..."  This term is not necessarily as pejorative
   as it sounds.

<mung> /muhng/ alt. `munge' /muhnj/ [in 1960 at MIT, `Mash Until No
   Good"; sometime after that the derivation from the <recursive
   acronym> `Mung Until No Good' became standard] vt.  1.  To make
   changes to a file, often large-scale, usually irrevocable.
   Occasionally accidental.  See <BLT>.  2. To destroy, usually
   accidentally, occasionally maliciously.  The system only mungs
   things maliciously; this ia a consequence of Murphy's Law.  See
   <scribble>, <mangle>, <trash>.  Reports from <USENET> suggest that
   the pronunciation /muhnj/ is now usual in speech, but the spelling
   `mung' is still common in program comments. 3. The kind of beans of
   which the sprouts are used in Chinese food.  (That's their real
   name!  Mung beans!  Really!)

MUSIC n. A common extracurricular interest of hackers (compare
   SCIENCE-FICTION FANDOM, ORIENTAL FOOD; see also <filk>).  It is
   widely believed among hackers that there is a substantial
   correlation between whatever mysterious traits underlie hacking
   ability (on the one hand) and musical talent and sensitivity (on
   the other). It is certainly the case that hackers, as a rule, like
   music and often develop musical appreciation in unusual and
   interesting directions.  Folk music is very big in hacker circles;
   so is the sort of elaborate instrumental jazz/rock that used to be
   called `progressive' and isn't recorded much any more.  Also, the
   hacker's musical range tends to be wide; many can listen with equal
   appreciation to (say) Talking Heads, Yes, Spirogyra, Scott Joplin,
   King Sunny Ade, The Pretenders, or one of Bach's Brandenburg
   Concerti.  It is also apparently true that hackerdom includes a
   much higher concentration of talented amateur musicians than one
   would expect from a similar-sized control group of <mundane> types.

<mutter> vt. To quietly enter a command not meant for the ears of
   ordinary mortals.  Frequently in `mutter an <incantation>'.

                                {= N =}

<N> /en/ adj. 1. Some large and indeterminate number of objects;
   "There were N bugs in that crock!"; also used in its original
   sense of a variable name.  2. An arbitrarily large (and perhaps
   infinite) number; "This crock has N bugs, as N goes to infinity".
   3. A variable whose value is specified by the current context.  For
   example, when ordering a meal at a restaurant N may be understood
   to mean however many people there are at the table.  From the
   remark "We'd like to order N wonton soups and a family dinner for
   N-1." you can deduce that one person at the table wants to eat
   only soup, even though you don't know how many people there are.  A
   silly riddle: "How many computers does it take to shift the bits
   in a register?  N+1: N to hold all the bits still, and one to shove
   the register over." 4. "Nth": adj. The ordinal counterpart of
   N.  "Now for the Nth and last time..." In the specific
   context "Nth-year grad student", N is generally assumed to be at
   least 4, and is usually 5 or more (see <tenured graduate
   student>).  See also <random numbers>, <two-to-the-n>.

<nailed to the wall> [like a trophy] adj. Said of a bug finally
   eliminated after protracted and even heroic effort.

<naive> adj. Untutored in the perversities of some particular
   program or system; one who still tries to do things in an intuitive
   way, rather than the right way (in really good designs these
   coincide, but most designs aren't `really good' in the appropriate
   sense).  This is completely unrelated to general maturity or
   competence or even competence at any other program.  It is a sad
   commentary on the primitive state of computing that the natural
   opposite of this term often claimed to be `experienced user'  but
   is really more like `cynical user'.
<naive user> 1. n. A <luser>.  Tends to imply someone who is
   ignorant mainly due to experience; when applied to someone who
   "has" experience, there is a definite implication of stupidity.

<NAK> [from the ASCII mnemonic for 0010101] interj.  1. On-line joke
   answer to ACK? (see <ACK>) --- "I'm not here". 2. On line answer
   to a request for chat --- "I'm not available".  3. Used to
   politely interrupt someone to tell them you don't understand their
   point or that they have suddenly stopped making sense.  See <ACK>,
   sense #3.  "And then, after we recode the project in COBOL..."
   "Nak Nak Nak!  I thought I heard you say COBOL!"

<nano-> [in measurement, a quantifier meaning * 10 ^ -9] pref.  Smaller
   than <micro->, and used in the same rather loose and connotative
   way.  Thus, one has <nanotechnology> (coined by hacker Eric
   Drexler) by analogy with "microtechnology"; and some machine
   architectures have a "nanocode" level below "microcode".
   See also <pico->.  See also <nanoacre>.

<nanoacre> /nan'o-ay`kr/ n. An areal unit (about 2mm.sq.) of
   real estate on a VLSI chip.  The term derives its amusement
   value from the fact that VLSI nanoacres have costs in the same
   range as real acres once one figures in design and
   fabrication-setup costs.

<nanobot> /nan'oh-bot/ n. A robot of microscopic proportions,
   presumably built by means of <nanotechnology>.  As yet, only used
   informally (and speculatively!). Also sometimes called a

<nanocomputer> /nan'oh-k@m-pyoo'tr/ n. A computer whose switching
   elements are molecular in size.  Designs for mechanical
   nanocomputers which use single-molecule sliding rods for their
   logic have been proposed.  The controller for a <nanobot> would be
   a nanocomputer.

<nanotechnology> /nan'-oh-tek-no`l@-ji/ n. A hypothetical
   fabrication technology in which objects are designed and built with
   the individual specification and placement of each separate atom.
   The first unequivocal nano-fabrication experiments are taking place
   now (1990), for example with the deposition of individual xenon
   atoms on a nickel substrate to spell the logo of a certain very
   large computer company by two of its physicists.  Nanotechnology
   has been a hot topic in the hacker subculture ever since the term
   was coined by K. Eric Drexler in his book `Engines of Creation',
   where he predicted that nanotechnology could give rise to
   replicating assemblers, permitting an exponential growth of
   productivity and personal wealth.  See also <blue goo>, <gray goo>,

<nastygram> n. 1. A protocol packet or item of email (the latter is
   also called a "letterbomb") that takes advantage of misfeatures
   or security holes on the target system to do untoward things. 2.
   Disapproving mail, esp. from a net.god, pursuant to a violation of
   <netiquette>.  Compare <shitogram>.  3. A status report from an
   unhappy, and probably picky, customer.  "What'd the Germans say in
   today's nastygram?"  4. [deprecated] An error reply by mail from a
   <daemon>; in particular, a <bounce message>.

<Nathan Hale> n.  An asterisk (See also <splat>).  Oh, you want an
   etymology?  Notionally from "I regret that I have only one asterisk
   for my country", a misquote of the famous remark uttered by Nathan
   Hale just before he was hanged.  Hale was a (failed) spy for the
   rebels in the American War of Independence.

<neophilia> /nee`oh-fil'-ee-uh/ n. The trait of being excited and
   pleased by novelty.  Common trait of most hackers, SF fans, and
   members of several other connected leading-edge subcultures
   including the pro-technology `Whole-Earth' wing of the ecology
   movement, space activists, theater people, the membership of MENSA,
   and the <Discordian>/neo-pagan underground.  All these groups
   overlap heavily and (where evidence is available) seem to share
   characteristic hacker tropisms for SF, MUSIC and ORIENTAL FOOD.

<nethack> /net'hak/ n. See <hack>, sense #12.

<netiquette> /net'ee-ket, net'i-ket/ [portmanteau fr. "network
   etiquette"] n. Conventions of politeness recognized on <USENET>,
   such as: avoidance of cross-posting to inappropriate groups, or
   refraining from commercial pluggery on the net.

<neep-neep> /neep neep/ [onomatopoeic, from New York SF fandom] n. One
   who is fascinated by computers.  More general than <hacker>, as it
   need not imply more skill than is required to boot games on a PC.
   The gerund "neep-neeping" applies specifically to the long
   conversations about computers that tend to develop in the corners
   at most SF-convention parties.  Fandom has a related proverb to the
   effect that "Hacking is a conversational black hole!"

<net.-> /net dot/ pref. [USENET] Prefix used to describe people and
   events related to USENET.  From the time before the <Great
   Renaming>, when all non-local newsgroups had names beginning
   `net.'.  Includes <net.god>s, "net.goddesses" (various
   charismatic women with circles of on-line admirers),
   "net.lurkers", (see <lurker>), "net.parties" (a synonym
   for <boink> sense #2 (q.v.))  and many similar constructs.  See
   also <net.police>.

<net.god> /net god/ n. Used to refer to anyone who satisfies some
   combination of the following conditions: has been visible on USENET
   for more than five years, ran one of the original backbone sites,
   moderated an important newsgroup, wrote news software, or knows
   Gene, Mark, Rick, Mel, Henry, Chuq, and Greg personally.  See

<net.police> n.  Those USENET readers who feel it is their
   responsibility to pounce on and <flame> any posting which they
   regard as offensive, or in violation of their understanding of
   <netiquette>.  Generally used sarcastically or pejoratively.  Also
   spelled `net police'. See also <net.->, <code police>.

<netrock> [IBM] n. A <flame>; used esp. on VNET, IBM's internal
   corporate network.
<network address> n. (also "net address") As used by hackers,
   means an address on <the network> (almost always a <bang path>
   or <Internet address>). An essential to be taken seriously by
   hackers; in particular, persons or organizations claiming to
   understand, work with, sell to, or recruit from among hackers that
   *don't* display net addresses are quietly presumed to be
   clueless poseurs and mentally flushed (see <flush>, sense #3).
   Hackers often put their net addresses on their business cards and
   wear them prominently in contexts where they expect to meet other
   hackers face-to-face (see also SCIENCE-FICTION FANDOM).  This
   is mostly functional, but is also a connotative signal that one
   identifies with hackerdom (like lodge pins among Masons or tie-dyed
   T-shirts among Grateful Dead fans).  Net addresses are often used
   in email text as a more concise substitute for personal names;
   indeed, hackers may come to know each other quite well by network
   names without ever learning each others' `legal' monikers.  See
   also <sitename>.

<network, the> n. 1. The union of all the major noncommercial,
   academic and hacker-oriented networks such as Internet, the old
   ARPANET, NSFnet, BITNET and the virtual UUCP and <USENET>
   `networks', plus the corporate in-house networks that gate to them.
   A site is generally considered `on the network' if it can be
   reached through some combination of Internet-style (@-sign) and
   UUCP (bang-path) addresses.  See <bang path>, <Internet
   address>, <network address>. 2. A fictional conspiracy of
   libertarian hacker-subversives and anti-authoritarian
   monkeywrenchers described in Robert Anton Wilson's novel
   `Schrodinger's Cat', to which many hackers have subsequently
   decided they belong (this is an example of <ha ha only serious>).

<New Jersey> [primarily Stanford/Silicon Valley] adj. Pejorative term
   for the quality of being brain-damaged or of poor design. It refers
   to the allegedly poor designs of such software as C, C++, and UNIX
   (which originated at Bell Labs in New Jersey).  "This compiler
   bites the bag, but what can you expect from a compiler designed in
   New Jersey?"  See also <UNIX conspiracy>.

<New Testament> n. [C programmers] The second edition of K&R's `The C
   Programming Language' (Prentice-Hall 1988, ISBN 0-13-110362-8),
   describing ANSI Standard C. See <K&R>.

<newbie> /n[y]oo'bee/ n. [orig. fr. British military & public-school
   slang contraction of "new boy"] A USENET neophyte.  This term
   originated in the <newsgroup> "talk.bizarre" but is now in wide
   use.  Criteria for being considered a newbie vary wildly; a person
   can be called a newbie in one newsgroup while remaining a respected
   participant in another.  The label "newbie" is sometimes applied
   as a serious insult, to a person who has been around USENET for a
   long time, but who carefully hides all evidence of having a clue.
   See <BIFF>.

<newgrp wars> /n[y]oo'grp wohrz/ [USENET] n. Salvos of dueling
   `newgrp' and `rmgroup' messages sometimes exchanged by persons on
   opposite sides of a dispute over whether a <newsgroup> should be
   created netwide.  These usually settle out within a week or two as
   it becomes clear whether the group has a natural constituency
   (usually, it doesn't). At times, especially in the completely
   anarchic "alt" hierarchy, the names of newsgroups themselves become
   a form of comment or humor; cf. the spinoff of
   "alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork" from "" in early 1990,
   or any number of specialized abuse groups named after particularly
   notorious <flamer>s.

<newline> /n[y]oo'lien/ n. 1. [UNIX] The ASCII LF character
   (0001010), used under <UNIX> as a text line terminator.  A
   Bell-Labs-ism rather than a Berkeleyism; interestingly (and
   unusually for UNIX jargon) it is said originally to have been an
   IBM usage (though it appears in early ASCII standards, it never
   caught in in the general computing world before UNIX).  2. More
   generally, any magic character sequence or operation (like Pascal's
   writeln() function) required to terminate a text record.  See
   <crlf>, <terpri>.

<newsfroup> /n[y]oos'froop/ [USENET] n. Silly written-only synonym for
   <newsgroup>, originated as a typo but now in regular use on
   USENET'S talk.bizarre and other not-real-tightly-wrapped groups.

<newsgroup> [USENET] n. One of USENET's large collection of topic
   groups.  Among the best-known are "comp.lang.c" (the C-language
   forum), "comp.unix.internals" (for UNIX wizards),
   "rec.arts.sf-lovers" (for science-fiction fans) and
   "talk.politics.misc" (miscellaneous political discussions and

<nickle> [From "nickel", common name for the US 5-cent coin] n. A
   <nybble> + 1; 5 bits.  Reported among developers for Mattel's GI
   1600 (the Intellivision games processor), a chip with 16-bit-wide
   RAM but 10-bit-wide ROM.  See also <deckle>.

<night mode> n. See <phase> (of people).

<Nightmare File System> n. Pejorative hackerism for Sun's Network
   File System (NFS).  In any nontrivial network of Suns where there
   is a lot of NFS cross-mounting, when one Sun goes down, the others
   freeze up because of this behavior: Some machine pings the dead one
   and gets no response, and that machine continues to ping the dead
   one, causing it to appear dead to some messages. Then another
   machine pings either the really dead machine or the sometimes dead
   machine, and this machine enters this mode.  The first machine to
   discover the dead one is now both trying to ping the dead one and
   respond to the second machine, so it is dead more often.  This
   snowballs very fast and soon the entire set of machine is frozen.
   "It's that damned nightmare file system again."  See also
   <broadcast storm>.

<nil> [from LISP terminology for `false'] No.  Usage: used in reply
   to a question, particularly one asked using the `-P' convention.
   See <T>.

<NMI> n. Non-Maskable Interrupt.  See <priority interrupt>.

<noddy> [Great Britain; from the children's books] adj. Small and
   unuseful, but demonstrating a point. Noddy programs are often
   written when learning a new language or system. The archetypal
   noddy program is <hello world>.  Noddy code may be used to
   demonstrate a feature or bug of a compiler, but would not be used
   in a real program. May be used of real hardware or software to
   imply that it isn't worth using.  "This editor's a bit noddy."

<NOMEX underwear> [USENET] n. Syn. <asbestos longjohns>, used
   mostly in auto related mailing lists and newsgroups.  NOMEX
   underwear is an actual product available on the racing equipment
   market, used as a fire retardant measure and required in some
   racing series.

<non-optimal solution> n. (also "sub-optimal solution") An
   astoundingly stupid way to do something.  This term is generally
   used in deadpan sarcasm, as its impact is greatest when the person
   speaking looks completely serious.  Compare <stunning>.  See also
   <Bad Thing>.

<nonlinear> adj. [scientific computation] Behaving in an erratic and
   unpredictable fashion.  When used to describe the behavior of a
   machine or program, it suggests that said machine or program is
   being forced to run far outside of design specifications.  This
   behavior may be induced by unreasonable inputs, or may be triggered
   when a more mundane bug sends the computation far away from its
   expected course.  When describing the behavior of a person,
   suggests a tantrum or a <flame>.  "When you talk to Bob, don't
   mention the drug problem or he'll go nonlinear for hours."

<nontrivial> adj. Requiring real thought or significant computing
   power.  Often used as an understated way of saying that a problem
   is quite difficult.  The preferred emphatic form is "decidedly
   nontrivial".  See <trivial>, <uninteresting>, <interesting>.

<no-op> /noh-op/ alt. NOP (nop) [no operation] n. 1. A machine
   instruction that does nothing (sometimes used in assembler-level
   programming as filler for data areas).  2. A person who contributes
   nothing to a project, or has nothing going on upstairs, or both.
   As in "he's a no-op.". 3. Any operation or sequence of operations
   with no effect, such as circling the block without finding a
   parking space, or putting money into a vending machine and having
   it fall immediately into the coin-return box, or asking someone for
   help and being told to go away.  "Oh well, that was a no-op."

<notwork> n. A network, when it's acting <flaky> or <down>.
   Compare <nyetwork>.  Orig. referred to a particular perioud of
   flakiness on IBM's VNET corporate network, c.1988.

<NP-> /en pee/ pref. Extremely.  Used to modify adjectives describing
   a level or quality of difficulty.  "Getting this algorithm to
   perform correctly in every case is NP-annoying."  This is
   generalized from the computer science terms "NP-hard" and
   "NP-complete".  NP is the set of Nondeterministic-Polynomial
   algorithms, those which can be completed by a nondeterministic
   finite state machine in an amount of time that is a polynomial
   function of the size of the input.

<NSA line eater> n. The mythical NSA (National Security Agency)
   trawling program sometimes assumed to be reading <USENET> for the
   U.S. Government's spooks.  Some netters put loaded phrases like
   `Uzi' `nuclear materials' `Palestine' `cocaine' and `assassination'
   in their <sig block>s in an attempt to confuse and overload the
   creature.  The <GNU> version of <EMACS> actually has a command
   that randomly generates a lot of words like that into your edited

<nuke> vt. 1. To intentionally delete the entire contents of a given
   directory or storage volume. "On UNIX, `rm -r /usr' will nuke
   everything in the usr filesystem."  Never used for accidental
   deletion.  Oppose <blow away>. 2. Syn. for <dike>, applied to
   smaller things such as files, features or code sections. 3. Used of
   processes as well as files; frequently an alias for `kill -9' on

<null device> n. A <logical> input/output device connected to the <bit
   bucket>; when you write to it nothing happens, when you read from
   it you get a zero-length record full of nothing.  Useful for
   discarding unwanted output or using interactive programs in a
   non-interactive way.  See </dev/null>.

<numbers> [scientific computation] n. Results of a computation that
   may not be physically significant, but at least indicate that the
   program is running.  May be used to placate management, grant
   sponsors, etc.  "Making numbers" means running a program
   because output --- any output, not necessarily meaningful output
   --- is needed as a demonstration of progress.  See <pretty
   pictures>, <math-out>, <social science number>.

<NUXI problem> /nuk'see pro'blm/ n. This refers to the problem of
   transferring data between machines with differing byte-order.  The
   string `UNIX' might look like `NUXI' on a machine with a
   different "byte sex" (i.e. when transferring data from a
   little-endian to a big-endian or vice-versa). See also,
   <big-endian>, <little-endian>, <swab>, and <bytesexual>.

<nybble> /nib'l/ [from v. "nibble" by analogy with "bite"
   => "byte"] n.  Four bits; one hexadecimal digit; a
   half-byte.  Though `byte' is now accepted technical jargon found in
   dictionaries, this useful relative is still slang.  Compare
   <byte>, <crumb>, <taste>, <dynner>, see also <bit>.
   Apparently this spelling is uncommon on his side of the pond, as
   British orthography suggests the pronunciation /niebl/.

<nyetwork> [fr. Russian "nyet" = no] n. A network, when it's
   acting <flaky> or <down>.  Compare <notwork>.

                                {= O =}

<Ob-> /ob/ pref. Obligatory.  A piece of <netiquette> that acknowledges
   the author has been straying from the newsgroup's charter.  For
   example, if a posting in has nothing particularly to do
   with sex, the author may append `ObSex' (or `Obsex') and toss
   off a question or vignette about some unusual erotic act.

<obscure> adj. Used in an exaggeration of its normal meaning, to imply
   a total lack of comprehensibility.  "The reason for that last
   crash is obscure."  "The `find(1)' command's syntax is obscure."
   The phrase <moderately obscure> implies that it could be figured
   out but probably isn't worth the trouble.  <Obscure in the extreme>
   is a preferred emphatic form.

<Obfuscated C Contest> n. Annual contest run since 1984 over <the
   network> by Landon Curt Noll & friends.  The overall winner is he
   who produces the most unreadable, creative and bizarre working C
   program; various other prizes are awarded at the judges' whim.
   Given C's terse syntax and macro-preprocessor facilities, this
   gives contestants a lot of maneuvering room.  The winning programs
   often manage to be simultaneously a) funny, b) breathtaking works
   of art, and c) Horrible Examples of how *not* to code in C.

   This relatively short and sweet entry might help convey the flavor
   of obfuscated C:

      * HELLO WORLD program
      * by Jack Applin and Robert Heckendorn, 1985
     main(v,c)char**c;{for(v[c++]="Hello, world!\n)";

   See also <hello, world!>.

<octal forty> /ok'tl for'tee/ n. Hackish way of saying "I'm drawing
   a blank".  Octal 40 is the ASCII space character; by an odd
   concidence, "hex" 40 is the <EBCDIC> space character. See

<off-by-one error> n. Exceedingly common error induced in many ways,
   such as by starting at 0 when you should have started at 1 or vice
   versa, or by writing < N instead of <= N or vice-versa.  Also
   applied to giving an object to the person next to the one who
   should have gotten it.  Often confused with <fencepost error>,
   which is properly a particular subtype of it.

<off the trolley> adj.  Describes the behavior of a program which
   malfunctions but doesn't actually <crash> or get halted by the
   operating system.  See <glitch>, <bug>, <deep space>.

<offline> adv.  Not now or not here.  Example: "Let's take this
   discussion offline."  Specifically used on <USENET> to suggest
   that a discussion be taken off a public newsgroup to email.

<old fart> n. Tribal elder.  A title self-assumed with remarkable
   frequency by (esp.) USENETters who have been programming for more
   than about twenty five years; frequently appears in SIGs attached
   to jargon file contributions of great archeological significance.
   This is a term of insult in second or third person but pride in
   first person.

<Old Testament> n. [C programmers] The first edition of the book
   describing <Classic C>; see <K&R>.

<ONE BELL SYSTEM (IT WORKS)> This was the output from the old Unix V6
   `1' command.  The `1' command also contained a random number
   generator which gave it a one in ten chance of recursively
   executing itself.

<one-line fix> n. Often used sarcastically used of a change to a
   program that is thought to be trivial or insignificant right up to
   the moment it crashes the system.  Usually `cured' by another
   one-line fix.  See also <I didn't change anything!>.

<one-liner wars> n. Popular game among hackers who code in the
   language APL (see <write-only language>). The objective is to see
   who can code the most interesting and/or useful routine in one line
   of operators chosen from APL's exceedingly <hairy> primitive set.
   [This is not *quite* as silly as it sounds; I myself have
   coded one-line <life> programs and once uttered a one-liner that
   performed lexical analysis of its input string followed by a
   dictionary lookup for good measure --- ESR] It has been reported
   that a similar amusement was practiced among <TECO> hackers.

<ooblick> /oo'blik/ [from Dr. Seuss' `Bartholomew and the Ooblick']
   n.  A bizarre semi-liquid sludge made from cornstarch and water.
   Enjoyed among hackers who make batches for playtime at parties for
   its amusing and extremely non-Newtonian behavior; it pours and
   splatters, but resists rapid motion like a solid and will even
   crack when hit by a hammer.  Often found near lasers.

<open> n. Abbreviation for `open (or left) parenthesis', used when
   necessary to eliminate oral ambiguity.  To read aloud the LISP form
   (DEFUN FOO (X) (PLUS X 1)) one might say: "Open def-fun foo, open
   eks close, open, plus eks one, close close."  See <close>.

<open switch> [IBM, prob. fr. railroading] n. An unresolved
   question, issue, or problem.

<operating system> n. (Often abbreviated `OS') The foundation
   software of a machine, of course; that which schedules tasks,
   allocates storage, and presents a default interface to the user
   between applications.  The facilities the operating system provides
   and its general design philosophy exert an extremely strong
   influence on programming style and the technical culture that grows
   up around a machine.  Hacker folklore has been shaped primarily by
   the UNIX, ITS, TOPS-10, TOPS-20/TWENEX, VMS, CP/M, MS-DOS, and
   MULTICS operating systems (most importantly by ITS and UNIX). Each
   of these has its own entry, which see.

<Orange Book> n. The U.S. Government's standards document (Trusted
   Computer System Evaluation Criteria, DOD standard 5200.28-STD,
   December, 1985) characterizing secure computing architectures,
   defining levels A1 (most secure) through D (least).  Stock UNIXes
   are roughly C2.  See also <Red Book>, <Blue Book>, <Green Book>,
   <Silver Book>, <Purple Book>, <White Book>, <Pink-Shirt Book>,
   <Dragon Book>, <Aluminum Book>.

ORIENTAL FOOD n. Hackers display an intense tropism towards Oriental
   cuisine, especially Chinese, and especially of the spicier
   varieties such as Szechuan and Hunan.  This phenomenon (which has
   also been observed in subcultures which overlap heavily with
   hackerdom, most notably science-fiction fandom) has never been
   satisfactorily explained, but is sufficiently intense that one can
   assume the target of a hackish dinner expedition to be the best
   local Chinese place and be right at least 3 times out of 4. See
   also <ravs>, <great-wall>, <stir-fried random>.  Thai, Indian,
   Korean and Vietnamese cuisines are also quite popular.

<orphan> [UNIX] n. A process whose parent has died; one inherited by
   `init(1)'. Compare <zombie>.

<orthogonal> [from mathematics] adj. Mutually independent;
   well separated; sometimes, irrelevant to.  Used in a generalization
   of its mathematical meaning to describe sets of primitives or
   capabilities which, like a vector basis in geometry, span the
   entire `capability space' of the system and are in some sense
   non-overlapping or mutually independent.  For example, in
   architectures such as the VAX where all or nearly all registers can
   be used interchangeably in any role with respect to any
   instruction, the register set is said to be orthogonal.  Or, in
   logic, the set of operators "not" and "or" is orthogonal,
   but the set "nand", "or" and "not" is not (because any
   one of these can be expressed in terms of the other two via De
   Morgan's Laws). Also used in comment on human discourse; "This may
   be orthogonal to the discussion, but...".

<OS> /oh ess/ 1. [Operating System] n. Acronym heavily used in email,
   occasionally in speech. 2. obs. n. On ITS, an output spy.  See
   Appendix A.

<OS/2> /oh ess too/ n. The anointed successor to MS-DOS for
   Intel-286 and (allegedly) 386-based micros; proof that
   IBM/Microsoft couldn't get it right the second time, either.  Cited
   here because mentioning it is usually good for a cheap laugh among
   hackers --- the design was so <baroque> and the implementation of
   1.x so bad that three years after introduction you could still
   count the major <app>s shipping for it on the fingers of two
   hands.  Often called "Half-an-OS".  On 28 January 1991, Microsoft
   announced that it was dropping its OS/2 development to concentrate
   on Windows, leaving the OS entirely in the hands of ex-partner IBM
   and effectively killing it.  See <vaporware>, <monstrosity>,
   <cretinous>, <second-system effect>.

<overflow bit> n. On some processors, an attempt to calculate a
   result too large for a register to hold causes a <trap> with a
   particular <flag> called an <overflow bit> set.  Hackers use
   the term of human thought too.  "Well, the ADA description was
   <baroque>, but I could hack it OK until I they got to the
   exception handling...that set my overflow bit."

<overrun screw> [C programming] n. A variety of <fandango on core>
   produced by scribbling past the end of an array (C has no checks
   for this).  This is relatively benign and easy to spot if the array
   is static; if it is auto, the result may be to <smash the stack>.
   The term <overrun screw> is used esp. of scribbles beyond the end
   of arrays allocated with `malloc(3)'; this typically trashes the
   allocation header for the next block in the <arena>, producing
   massive lossage within malloc and (frequently) a core dump on the
   next operation to use `stdio(3)' or `malloc(3)' itself.  See <spam>; see
   also <memory leak>, <aliasing bug>, <precedence lossage>, <fandango
   on core>.

                                {= P =}

<padded cell> n. Where you put lusers so they can't hurt anything.
   A program that limits a <luser> to a carefully restricted subset
   of the capabilities of the host system (for example, the
   `rsh(1)' utility on UNIX).  Note that this is different from
   an <iron box> because it's overt and not aimed at enforcing
   security so much as protecting others (and the luser him/herself!)
   from the consequences of the luser's boundless naivete (see
   <naive>).  Also "padded cell environment".
<page in> [MIT] vi. To become aware of one's surroundings again after
   having paged out (see <page out>).  Usually confined to the sarcastic
   comment, "So-and-so pages in.  Film at 11."  See <film at 11>.

<page out> [MIT] vi. To become unaware of one's surroundings
   temporarily, due to daydreaming or preoccupation.  "Can you repeat
   that?  I paged out for a minute."  See <page in>.  Compare
   <glitch>, <thinko>.

<pain in the net> n. A <flamer>.

<panic> [UNIX] vi. An action taken by a process or the entire operating
   system when an unrecoverable error is discovered.  The action
   usually consists of: (1) displaying localized information on the
   controlling terminal, (2) saving, or preparing for saving, a memory
   image of the process or operating system, and (3) terminating the
   process or rebooting the system.

<param> /p@-ram'/ n. Speech-only shorthand for "parameter". Compare
   <arg>, <var>. The plural `params' is often further compressed to
   `parms' /parmz/.

<paper-net> n. Hackish way of referring to the postal service,
   analogizing it to a very slow, low-reliability network.  USENET
   <sig block>s not uncommonly include the sender's postal address
   next to a "Paper-Net:" header; common variants of this are
   "Papernet" and "P-Net".  Compare <voice-net>, <snail-mail>.

<parent message> n. See <followup>.

<parity errors> pl.n. Those little lapses of attention or (in more
   severe cases) consciousness, usually brought on by having spent all
   night and most of the next day hacking.  "I need to go home and
   crash; I'm starting to get a lot of parity errors."  Derives from a
   relatively common but nearly always correctable transient error in
   RAM hardware.

<parse> [from linguistic terminology via AI research] vt. 1. To
   determine the syntactic structure of a sentence or other utterance
   (close to the standard English meaning).  Example: "That was the
   one I saw you."  "I can't parse that."  2. More generally, to
   understand or comprehend.  "It's very simple; you just kretch the
   glims and then aos the zotz."  "I can't parse that."  3. Of
   fish, to have to remove the bones yourself (usually at a Chinese
   restaurant).  "I object to parsing fish" means "I don't want to
   get a whole fish, but a sliced one is okay."  A "parsed fish"
   has been deboned.  There is some controversy over whether
   "unparsed" should mean `bony', or also mean `deboned'.

<Pascal> n. An Algol-descended language designed by Niklaus Wirth on
   the CDC 6600 around 1967-68 as an instructional tool for elementary
   programming.  This language, designed primarily to keep students
   from shooting themselves in the foot and thus extremely restrictive
   from a general-purpose-programming point of view, was later
   promoted as a general-purpose tool and in fact became the ancestor
   of a large family of languges including Modula-2 and Ada (see also
   <bondage-and-discipline language>).  The hackish point of view on
   Pascal was perhaps best summed up by a devastating (and, in its
   deadpan way, screamingly funny) 1981 paper by Brian Kernighan (of
   <K&R> fame) entitled `Why Pascal is Not My Favorite
   Computing Language'.  Part of his summation is worth repeating
   here, because its criticisms are still apposite to Pascal itself
   after ten years of improvement, and could also stand as an
   indictment of many other <bondage and discipline> languages.  At
   the end of a summary of the case against Pascal, he wrote:

     9. There is no escape

     This last point is perhaps the most important.  The language is
     inadequate but circumscribed, because there is no way to escape its
     limitations.  There are no casts to disable the type-checking when
     necessary.  There is no way to replace the defective run-time
     environment with a sensible one, unless one controls the compiler that
     defines the "standard procedures".  The language is closed. 

     People who use Pascal for serious programming fall into a fatal trap.
     Because the language is impotent, it must be extended.  But each group
     extends Pascal in its own direction, to make it look like whatever
     language they really want.  Extensions for separtarate compilation,
     Fortran-like COMMON, string data types, internal static variables,
     initialization, octal numbers, bit operators, etc., all add to the
     utility of the language for one group but destroy its portability to

     I feel that it is a mistake to use Pascal for anything much beyond its
     original target.  In its pure form, Pascal is a toy language, suitable
     for teaching but not for real programming.

   Pascal has since been almost entirely displaced (by C) from the
   niches it had acquired in serious application and systems
   programming, but retains some popularity as a hobbyist language in
   the MS-DOS world.

<patch> 1. n. A temporary addition to a piece of code, usually as a
   <quick and dirty> remedy to an existing bug or misfeature.  A patch
   may or may not work, and may or may not eventually be incorporated
   permanently into the program.  2. vt. To insert a patch into a piece
   of code. 3. [in the UNIX world] n. a set of differences between two
   versions of source code, generated with `diff(1)' and intended to be
   mechanically applied using patch(1); often used as a way of
   distributing source code upgrades and fixes over <USENET>.

<path> n. 1. A <bang path>; a node-by node specification of a link
   between two machines.  2. [UNIX] A filename, fully specified
   relative to the root directory (as opposed to relative to the
   current directory.

<pathological> [scientific computation] adj. Used of a data set
   which is grossly atypical of the expected load, esp. one which
   exposes a weakness or bug in whatever algorithm one is using.  An
   algorithm which can be broken by pathological inputs may still be
   useful if such inputs are very unlikely to occur in practice.  2.
   When used of a test load, implies that it was purposefully
   engineered as a worst case.  The implication in both senses is that
   someone had to explicitly set out to break an algorithm in order to
   come up with such a crazy example.

<payware> n. commercial software.  Oppose <shareware> or

<PBD> [abbrev of "Programmer Brain Damage"] n. Applied to bug reports
   revealing places where the program was obviously broken due to an
   incompetent or short-sighted programmer.  Compare <UBD>; see also

<PC-ism> n. A piece of code or coding technique that takes advantage
   of the unprotected single-tasking environment in IBM PCs and the
   like.  e.g. by busy-waiting on a hardware register, direct diddling
   of screen memory, or using hard timing loops.  Compare
   <ill-behaved>, <vaxism>, <unixism>.  Also, <pc-ware> n., a program
   full of PC-ISMs on a machine with a more capable operating system.

<PD> /pee-dee/ adj. Common abbreviation for "public domain", applied
   to software distributed over <USENET> and from Internet archive
   sites.  Much of this software is not in fact "public domain" in
   the legal sense but travels under various copyrights granting
   reproduction and use rights to anyone who can <snarf> a copy.  See

<pdl> /pid'l/ or /puhd'l/ [acronym for Push Down List] In ITS days,
   the preferred MITism for <stack>.  2.  Dave Lebling, one of the
   coauthors of <Zork>; (his <network address> on the ITS machines
   was at one time pdl@dms).  3. Program Design Language.  Any of a
   large class of formal and profoundly useless pseudo-languages in
   which <management> forces one to design programs.  <Management>
   often expects it to be maintained in parallel with the code.  Used
   jokingly as in, "Have you finished the PDL?"  See also

<PDP-10> [Programmable Data Processor model 10] n. The machine that
   made timesharing real.  Looms large in hacker folklore due to early
   adoption in the mid-70s by many university computing facilities and
   research labs including the MIT AI lab, Stanford and CMU. Some
   aspects of the instruction set (most notably the bit-field
   instructions) are still considered unsurpassed.  Later editions
   were labelled `DECsystem-10' as a way of differentiating them from
   the PDP-11.  The '10 was eventually eclipsed by the PDP-11 and VAX
   machines and dropped from DEC's line in the early '80s, and in 1990
   to have cut one's teeth on one is considered something of a badge
   of honorable old-timerhood among hackers.  See <TOPS-10>,
   <ITS>, <AOS>, <blt>, <DDT>, <DPB>, <EXCH>, <HAKMEM>,
   <JFCL>, <LDB>, <pop>, <push>, Appendix A.

<peek> n.,vt. (and <poke>) The commands in most microcomputer
   BASICs for directly accessing memory contents at an absolute
   address; often extended to mean the corresponding constructs in any
   <HLL>.  Much hacking on small, non-MMU micros consists of
   <peek>ing around memory, more or less at random, to find the
   location where the system keeps interesting stuff.  Long and
   variably accurate, lists of such addresses for various computers
   circulate (see <interrupt list, the>). The results of <poke>s at
   these addresses may be highly useful, mildly amusing, useless but
   neat or (most likely) total <lossage> (see <killer poke>).

<pencil and paper> n.  An archaic information-storage and
   transmission device that works by depositing smears of graphite on
   bleached wood pulp.  More recent developments in paper-based
   technology include improved `write-once' update devices which use
   tiny rolling heads similar to mouse balls to deposit colored
   pigment.  These devices require an operator skilled at so-called
   `handwriting' technique.  They technologies are ubiquitous outside
   hackerdom, but nearly forgotten inside it.  Most hackers had
   terrible handwriting to begin with, and years of keyboarding tend
   if anything to have allowed it to degrade further.  Perhaps for
   this reason hackers <deprecate> pencil and paper technology and
   often resist using it in any but the most trivial contexts.

<peon> n. A person with no special (<root> or <wheel>)
   privileges on a computer system.  "I can't create an account on
   foovax for you, I'm only a peon there."
<percent-s> /per-sent' ess/ [From "%s", the formatting sequence in
   C's `printf(3)' library function used to indicate that an arbitrary
   string may be inserted] n. An unspecified person or object.  "I
   was just talking to some percent-s in administration."  Compare

<perf> /perf/ n. See <chad> (sense #1).  The term "perfory"
   /per'f@-ree/ is also heard.

<perfect programmer syndrome> n. Arrogance; the egostistical
   conviction that one is above normal human error.  Most frequently
   found among programmers of some native ability but
   relatively little experience (especially new graduates; their
   perceptions may be distorted by a history of excellent performance
   bashing toy problems). "Of course my program is correct, there is no
   need to test it."  Or "Yes, I can see there may be a problem
   here, but *I'll* never type `rm -r /' while in

<Perl> [Practical Extraction and Report Language, aka Pathologically
   Eclectic Rubbish Lister] n. An interpreted language developed by
   Larry Wall (, author of `patch(1)') and
   distributed over USENET.  Superficially resembles `awk(1)', but is
   much more arcane (see AWK).  Increasingly considered a <language of
   choice> by UNIX sysadmins, who are almost always incorrigible
   hackers.  Perl has been described, in a parody of a famous remark
   about `lex(1)', as the `Swiss-army chainsaw' of UNIX programming.

<pessimal> /pes'i-ml/ [Latin-based antonym for "optimal"] adj.
   Maximally bad.  "This is a pessimal situation."  Also <pessimize>
   vt.  to make as bad as possible.  These words are the obvious
   Latin-based antonyms for "optimal" and "optimize", but for some
   reason they do not appear in most English dictionaries, although
   `pessimize' is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary.

<pessimizing compiler> /pes'i-miez-ing kuhm-pie'lr/ [antonym of
   `optimizing compiler'] n. A compiler that produces object code that
   is worse than the straightforward or obvious translation.  The
   implication is that the compiler is actually trying to optimize the
   program, but through stupidity is doing the opposite.  A few
   pessimizing compilers have been written on purpose, however, as

<peta-> /pe't@/ pref. Multiplier, 10 ^ 12 or [proposed] 2 ^ 40. See

<PETSCII> /pet'skee/ [abbreviation of PET ASCII] n. the variation
   (many would say perversion) of the <ASCII> character set used by the
   Commodore Business Machines PET series of personal computers and
   the later Commodore C64, C16, and C128 machines.  The PETSCII set
   used left-arrow and up-arrow instead of underscore and caret,
   places the unshifted alphabet at positions 65-90 and the shifted
   alphabet at positions 193-218, as well as adding graphics

<phase> 1. n. The phase of one's waking-sleeping schedule with
   respect to the standard 24-hour cycle.  This is a useful concept
   among people who often work at night according to no fixed
   schedule.  It is not uncommon to change one's phase by as much as
   six hours/day on a regular basis.  "What's your phase?"  "I've
   been getting in about 8 PM lately, but I'm going to <wrap around>
   to the day schedule by Friday."  A person who is roughly 12 hours
   out of phase is sometimes said to be in "night mode".  (The
   term "day mode" is also (but less frequently) used, meaning
   you're working 9 to 5 (or more likely 10 to 6)).  The act of
   altering one's cycle is called "changing phase"; "phase
   shifting" has also been recently reported from Caltech.  2.
   "change phase the hard way": to stay awake for a very long time
   in order to get into a different phase.  3. "change phase the
   easy way": To stay asleep etc.  However, some claim that either
   staying awake longer or sleeping longer is easy, and that it's
   *shortening* your day or night that's hard (see <wrap
   around>).  The phenomenon of `jet lag' that afflicts travelers who
   cross many time-zone boundaries may be attributed to two distinct
   causes: the strain of travel per se, and the strain of changing
   phase.  Hackers who suddenly find that they must change phase
   drastically in a short period of time, particularly the hard way,
   experience something very like jet lag without travelling.

<phase of the moon> n. Used humorously as a random parameter on which
   something is said to depend.  Sometimes implies unreliability of
   whatever is dependent, or that reliability seems to be dependent on
   conditions nobody has been able to determine.  "This feature
   depends on having the channel open in mumble mode, having the foo
   switch set, and on the phase of the moon."

   True story: Once upon a time, a program written by Gerry Sussman
   (professor of Electrical Engineering at MIT) and Guy Steele had a
   bug that really did depend on the phase of the moon!  There is a
   little subroutine that had traditionally been used in various
   programs at MIT to calculate an approximation to the moon's true
   phase; the phase is then printed out at the top of program
   listings, for example, along with the date and time, purely for
   fun.  (Actually, since hackers spend a lot of time indoors, this
   might be the only way they would ever know what the moon's phase
   was!)  Steele incorporated this routine into a LISP program that,
   when it wrote out a file, would print a `timestamp' line almost 80
   characters long.  Very occasionally the first line of the message
   would be too long and would overflow onto the next line, and when
   the file was later read back in the program would <barf>.  The
   length of the first line depended on the precise time when the
   timestamp was printed, and so the bug literally depended on the
   phase of the moon!

   The first paper edition of the Jargon File (Steele-1983) included
   an example of this bug, but the typesetter `corrected' it.  This
   has since been described as the phase-of-the-moon-bug bug.

<phreaking> [from "phone phreak"] n. 1. The art and science of
   cracking the phone network (so as, for example, to make free
   long-distance calls).  2. By extension, security-cracking in any
   other context (especially, but not exclusively, on communications

   At one time phreaking was a semi-respectable activity among
   hackers; there was a gentleman's agreement that phreaking as an
   intellectual game and a form of exploration was O.K., but serious
   theft of services was taboo.  There was significant crossover
   between the hacker community and the hard-core phone phreaks who
   ran semi-underground networks of their own like the legendary `TAP
   Newsletter'.  This ethos began to break down in the mid
   nineteen-eighties as wider dissemination of the techniques put them
   in the hands of less responsible phreaks.  Around the same time,
   hanges in the phone network made old-style technical ingenuity less
   effective as a way of hacking it, so phreaking came to depend more
   on overtly criminal acts like stealing phone-card numbers.  The
   crimes and punishments of gangs like the `414 group' turned that
   game very ugly.  A few old-time hackers still phreak casually just
   to keep their hand in, but most these days have hardly even heard
   of `blue boxes' or any of the other paraphenalia of the great
   phreaks of yore.

<pico-> [in measurement, a quantifier meaning * 10 ^ -9] pref.
   Smaller than <nano->; used in the same rather loose and
   connotative way as <nano-> and <micro->.  This usage is not yet
   common in the way <nano-> and <micro-> are, but is instantly
   recognizable to any hacker.  The remaining standard quantifiers are
   "femto" (10 ^ -15) and "atto" (10 ^ -18); these,
   interestingly, derive not from Greek but from Danish.  They have
   not yet acquired slang loadings, though it is easy to predict what
   those will be once computing technology enters the required realms
   of magnitude.  See also <micro->.

<pig, run like a> adj. To run very slowly on given hardware, said of
   software.  Distinct from <hog>.

<ping> /ping/ [from TCP/IP terminology, prob. originally contrived
   to match the submariners' term for a sonar pulse.] n.,vt. 1.  Slang
   term for a small network message (ICMP ECHO) sent by a computer to
   check for the presence and aliveness of another.  Occasionally used
   as a phone greeting.  See <ACK>, also <ENQ>.  2.  To verify the
   presence of.  3. To get the attention of.  From the Unix command by
   the same name (an acronym of "Packet INternet Groper") that
   sends an ICMP ECHO packet to another host.  4. To send a message to
   all members of a <mailing list> requesting an <ACK> (in order
   to verify that everybody's addressses are reachable).  "We haven't
   heard much anything from Geoff, but he did respond with an ACK both
   times I pinged jargon-friends."

   The funniest use of `ping' to date was described in January 1991 by
   Steve Hayman on the USENET group  He was trying to
   isolate a faulty cable segment on a TCP/IP Ethernet hooked up to a
   NeXT machine, and got tired of having to run back to his console
   after each cabling frob to see if the ping packets were getting
   through.  So he used the sound-recording feature on the NeXT, then
   wrote a script that repeatedly invoked ping, listened to the output
   and played back the recording on each returned packet.  Result?  A
   program that caused the machine to repeat, over and over,
   "" as long as the network was
   up.  He turned the volume to maximum, scurried through the building
   with one ear cocked, and found a faulty tee connector in no time.

<Pink-Shirt Book> `The Peter Norton Programmer's Guide to the IBM
   PC'.  The original cover featured a picture of Peter Norton with a
   silly smirk on his face, wearing a pink shirt.  Perhaps in
   recognition of this usage, the current edition has a different
   picture of Norton wearing a pink shirt.

<PIP> /pip/ [Peripheral Interchange Program] vt.,obs. To copy, from
   the program PIP on CP/M and RSX-11 that was used for file copying
   (and in RSX for just about every other file operation you might
   want to do). Obsolete, but still occasionally heard.  It is said
   that when the program was originated during the development of the
   PDP-6 in 1963 it called ATLATL (`Anything, Lord, to Anything,

<pipeline> [UNIX, orig. by Doug McIlroy; now also used under MS-DOS
   and elsewhere] n. A chain of <filter> programs connected
   `head-to-tail', so that the output of one becomes the input of
   the next.  Under UNIX, user utilities can often be implemented or
   at least prototyped by a suitable collection of pipelines and
   temp-file grinding encapsulated in a shell script; this is much
   less effort than writing C every time, and the capability is
   considered one of UNIX's major winning features.

<pistol> [IBM] n.  A tool that makes it all too easy for you to
   shoot yourself in the foot.  "UNIX `rm *' makes such a nice
<pizza, ANSI standard> /an'see stan'd@rd peet'z@/ [CMU] Pepperoni
   and mushroom pizza.  Coined allegedly because most pizzas ordered
   by CMU hackers during some period leading up to mid-1990 were of
   that flavor.  See also <rotary debugger>.

<pizza box> [SUN] n.  The largish thin box housing the electronics
   in (especially SUN) desktop workstations, so named because of its
   size and shape, and the dimpled pattern that looks like air holes.

<plain-ASCII> Syn. <flat-ASCII>.

<playpen> [IBM] n. A room where programmers work.  Compare <salt

<playte> /playt/ 16 bits, by analogy with <nybble> and <byte>.  Usage:
   rare and extremely silly.  See also <dynner>.

<plingnet> /pling'net/ n. Syn. <UUCPNET>. Also see COMMONWEALTH

<plonk> [USENET] The sound a <newbie> makes as he falls to the bottom
   of a <kill file>.  Almost exclusively used in the <newsgroup>
   "talk.bizarre", this term (usually written "*plonk*") is a
   form of public ridicule.

<plugh> /ploogh/ [from the <ADVENT> game] v. See <xyzzy>.

<plumbing> [UNIX] n.  Term used for <shell> code, so called
   because of the prevalence of "pipeline"s that feed the output
   of one program to the input of another.  Esp. used in the
   construction "hairy plumbing" (see <hairy>.  "You can kluge
   together a basic spell-checker out of `sort(1)',
   `comm(1)' and `tr' with a little plumbing."

<PM> /pee em/ 1. [from "preventive maintenance"] v. To bring down a
   machine for inspection or test purposes; see <scratch monkey>. 2.
   n.  Abbrev. for `Presentation Manager', an <elephantine> OS/2
   graphical user interface.

<P.O.D.> /pee-oh-dee/ Acronym for "Piece Of Data" (as opposed to a
   code section). Usage: pedantic and rare.

<pod> n. A Diablo 630 (or, latterly, any impact letter quality
   printer).  From the DEC-10 PODTYPE program used to feed formatted
   text to same.

<poll> v.,n. 1. The action of checking the status of an input line,
   sensor, or memory location to see if a particular external event
   has been registered. 2. To ask.  "I'll poll everyone and see where
   they want to go for lunch."

<polygon pusher> n. A chip designer who spends most of his/her time at
   the physical layout level (which requires drawing *lots* of
   multi-colored polygons). Also "rectangle slinger".

<poke> n.,vt. See <peek>.

<POM> /pee-oh-em/ n. <Phase of the moon>.  Usage: usually used in the
   phrase "POM dependent" which means <flaky>.

<pop> /pop/ [based on the stack operation that removes the top of a
   stack, and the fact that procedure return addresses are saved on
   the stack] (also POP, POPJ /pop-jay/) 1. vt.  To remove something
   from a <stack> or <pdl>.  If a person says he has popped
   something from his stack, he means he has finally finished working
   on it and can now remove it from the list of things hanging over
   his head.  2. To return from a digression (the J-form derives
   specifically from a <PDP-10> assembler instruction).  By verb
   doubling, "Popj, popj" means roughly, "Now let's see, where were
   we?"  See <RTI>.

<port> 1. v.,n. Describes the act of moving, translating,
   reconfiguring and adapting software from one machine architecture
   and/or operating system (the "source environment") to run on a
   different one (the "target environment").  Until recently and
   except among a relatively small group of modern operating systems
   this process has ranged from extremely painful up to flat-out
   impossible.  The ubiquity of the C language and the spread of the
   UNIX operating system have, fortunately, done much to change this.
   2. [from mainstream `port' for a door or gate] n. Anything one
   might plug a peripheral or communications line into; as in a
   `serial port' or `parallel port'.

<posing> n.  On a <MUD>, the use of `:' or an equivalent
   command to announce to other players that one is taking a certain
   physical action, which however has no effect on the game.

<post> v. To send a message to a <mailing list> or <newsgroup>.
   Distinguished in context from "mail"; one might ask, for
   example, "Are you going to post the patch or mail it to known

<posting> n.  Noun corresp. to v. <post> (but note that the shorter
   word can be nouned).  Distinguished from a `letter' or ordinary
   <email> message by the fact that it's broadcast rather than
   point-to-point.  It is unclear whether messages sent to a small
   mailing list are postings or <email>; perhaps the best dividing
   line is that if you don't know the names of all the potential
   recipients, it's a posting.

<power cycle> vt. (also, to "cycle power") To power off a
   machine and then power it on immediately, with the intention of
   clearing some kind of <hung> or <gronked> state.  Syn <120
   reset>; see also <Big Red Switch>.  Compare <vulcan nerve
   pinch>, <bounce>, <boot>.

<PPN> /pip'n/ [from "Project-Programmer Number"] n. A user-ID under
   <TOPS-10> and its various mutant progeny at SAIL, BBN,
   CompuServe and elsewhere.  Old-time hackers from the PDP-10 era
   sometimes use this to refer to user IDs on other systems as well.

<precedence lossage> /pre's@-dens los'j/ [C programmers] n. Coding
   error in an expression due to unexpected grouping of arithmetic or
   logical operators by the compiler.  Used esp. of certain common
   coding errors in C due to the nonintuitively low precedence levels
   of `&', `|' and `^'. Can always be avoided by suitable use of
   parentheses.  See <aliasing bug>, <memory leak>, <smash the stack>,
   <fandango on core>, <overrun screw>.

<prepend> /pree`pend'/ [by analogy with "append"] vt. To prefix.
   Like "append", but unlike "prefix" or "suffix" as a verb, the
   direct object is always the thing being added and not the original
   word (character string, etc).  No, this is *not* standard
   English, yet!

<pretty pictures> n. [scientific computation] The next step up from
   <numbers>.  Interesting graphical output from a program which may
   not have any real relationship to the reality the program is
   intended to model.  Good for showing to <management>.

<prettyprint> v. 1. To generate `pretty' human-readable output from a
   hairy internal representation; esp. used for the process of
   <grind>ing (sense #2) LISP code. 2. To format in some particularly
   slick and nontrivial way.  See <grind>.

<prime time> [from TV programming] n. Normal high-usage hours on a
   timesharing system; the day shift. Avoidance of prime time is a
   major reason for <night mode> hacking.

<priority interrupt> [from the hardware term] n. Describes any
   stimulus compelling enough to yank one right out of <hack mode>.
   Classically used to describe being dragged away by an <SO> for
   immediate sex, but may also refer to more mundane interruptions
   such as a fire alarm going off in the near vicinity.  Also called
   an NMI (non maskable interrupt) especially in PC-land.

<profile> [UNIX] n. 1. A control file for a program, esp. a text file
   automatically read from each user's home directory and intended to
   be easily modified by the user.  Used to avoid <hardcoded> choices.
   2. A report on the amounts of time spent in each routine of a
   program, used to find and <tune> the <hot spots> in it.

<Programmer's Cheer> "Shift to the left!  Shift to the right!  Pop
   up, push down!  Byte!  Byte!  Byte!"  A joke so old it has hair on

<program> 1. n. A magic spell cast over a computer allowing it to
   turn one's input into error messages.  2. n. An exercise in
   experimental epistemology.  3. vt. To engage in a pastime similar
   to banging one's head against a wall, but with fewer opportunies
   for reward.

<programming> n. The art of debugging a blank sheet of paper.

<propeller head> n. Used by hackers, this is syn. with <computer
   geek>.  Non-hackers sometimes use it to describe all techies.
   Prob.  derives from SF fandom's tradition of propeller beanies as
   fannish insignia (though nobody actually wears them except as a

<proprietary> adj. 1. In <marketroid>-speak, superior; implies a
   product imbued with exclusive magic by the unmatched brilliance of
   their employer's hardware or software designers.  2. In the
   language of hackers and users, inferior; implies a product not
   conforming to open-systems standards, and thus one which puts the
   customer at the mercy of a vendor able to gouge freely on service
   and upgrade charges after the initial sale has locked the customer

<protocol> n. As used by hackers, this never refers to niceties
   about the proper form for addressing letters to the Papal Nuncio or
   the order in which one should use the forks in a Russian-style
   place setting; hackers don't care about such things.  It is used
   instead to describe any set of rules which allow different machines
   or pieces of software to coordinate with each other without
   ambiguity.  It implies that there's some common message format and
   accepted set of primitives or commands that all parties involved
   understand, and that transactions among them follow predictable
   logical sequences.  See also <handshaking>, <do protocol>.

<prowler> [UNIX] n. A <demon> that is run periodically (typically once
   a week) to seek out and erase core files (see <core>), truncate
   administrative logfiles, nuke lost+found directories, and otherwise
   clean up the cruft that tends to pile up in the corners of a file
   system.  See also <GFR>, <reaper>, <skulker>.

<pseudo> /soo'doh/ [USENET] n. 1. An electronic-mail or <USENET>
   persona adopted by a human for amusement value or as a means of
   avoiding negative repercussions of his/her net.behavior; a `nom de
   USENET', often associated with forged postings designed to conceal
   message origins.  Perhaps the best-known and funniest hoax of this
   type is <biff>. 2. Notionally, a <flamage>-generating AI program
   simulating a USENET user.  Many flamers have been accused of
   actually being such entities, despite the fact that no AI program
   of the required sophistication exists.  However, in 1989 there was
   a famous series of forged postings that used a
   phrase-frequency-based travesty generator to simulate the styles of
   several well-known flamers based on large samples of their back
   postings.  A significant number of people were fooled by these, and
   the debate over their authenticity was only settled when the
   perpetrator of the hoax came publicly forward to admit the deed.

<pseudoprime> n. A backgammon prime (six consecutive occupied points)
   with one point missing.  This term is an esoteric pun derived from
   a mathematical method which, rather than determining precisely
   whether a number is prime (has no divisors), uses a statistical
   technique to decide whether the number is "probably" prime.  A
   number that passes this test is called a pseudoprime.  The hacker
   backgammon usage stems from the idea that pseudoprime is almost as
   good as a prime: it does the job of a prime until proven otherwise,
   and that probably won't happen.

<pseudosuit> n. A <suit> wannabee; a hacker who's decided that he
   wants to be in management or administration and begins wearing
   ties, sport coats, and (shudder!) suits voluntarily.  His

<psychedelicware> /sie`k@-del'-ik-weir/ [Great Britain] n. Syn.
   <display hack>.

<puff> vt. To decompress data that has been crunched by Huffman
   coding.  At least one widely distributed Huffman decoder program
   was actually "named" `PUFF', but these days it isn't usually
   separate from the encoder.  Oppose <huff>.

<punched card> 1. n.obs. The signature medium of computing's
   <Stone Age>, now obsolescent outside of IBM shops.  The punched
   card actually predated computers considerably, originating as a
   control device for mechanical looms.  The version patented by
   Hollerith and used with mechanical tabulating machines in the 1890
   U.S. Census was a piece of cardboard about 90mm by 215mm, designed
   to fit exactly in the currency trays used for that era's larger
   dollar bills.

   IBM (which originated as a tabulating-machine manufacturer) married
   the punched card to computers, encoding binary information as
   patterns of small rectangular holes; one character per column, 80
   columns per card.  Later, other coding schemes, sizes of card and
   hole shape were tried.

   The 80-column width of most character terminals is a legacy of the
   punched card; so is the size of the quick reference cards
   distributed with many varieties of computers even today.  See
   <chad>, <chad box>, <eighty-column mind>, <green card>,
   <dusty deck>, <lace card>.
<punt> [from the punch line of an old joke referring to American
   football: "Drop back 15 yards and punt"] vt. 1. To give up, typically
   without any intention of retrying.  "Let's punt the movie
   tonight."  "I was going to hack all night to get this feature in,
   but I decided to punt" may mean that you've decided not to stay up
   all night, and may also mean you're not ever even going to put in
   the feature.  2. More specifically, to give up on figuring out what
   the <Right Thing> is and resort to an inefficient hack.

<Purple Book> n. The `System V Interface Definition'.  The covers
   of the first editions were an amazingly nauseating shade of
   off-lavender.  See also <Red Book>, <Blue Book>, <Green Book>,
   <Silver Book>, <Orange Book>, <White Book>, <Pink-Shirt Book>,
   <Dragon Book>, <Aluminum Book>.

<push> [based on the stack operation that puts the current
   information on a stack, and the fact that procedure return
   addresses are saved on the stack] Also PUSH or PUSHJ /push-jay/,
   based on the PDP-10 procedure call instruction.  1. To put
   something onto a <stack> or <pdl>.  If a person says something
   has been pushed onto his stack, he means yet another thing has been
   added to the list of things hanging over his head for him to do.
   2. vi. To enter upon a digression, to save the current discussion
   for later.  Antonym of <pop>; see also <stack>, <pdl>.

                                {= Q =}

<quad> n.  1. Two bits; syn. for <quarter>, <crumb>, <tayste>.
   2. The rectangle or box glyph used in the APL language for various
   arcane purposes mostly related to I/O.  Ex-Ivy-Leaguers and
   Oxbridge types are said to associate it with nostalgic memories of
   dear old University.
<quadruple bucky> n., obs. On a <space-cadet keyboard>, use of all
   four of the shifting keys control, meta, hyper, and super while
   typing a character key.  This was very difficult to do!  One
   accepted technique was to press the left-control and left-meta keys
   with your left hand, the right-control and right-meta keys with
   your right hand, and the fifth key with your nose.  Thus, this
   combination was very seldom used in practice, because when you
   invent a new command you usually assign it to some character that
   is easier to type.  If you want to imply that a program has
   ridiculously many commands or features, you can say something like
   "Oh, the command that makes it spin all the tapes while whistling
   Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is quadruple-bucky-cokebottle". See
   <double bucky>, <bucky bits>, <cokebottle>.

<quantum bogodynamics> /kwon'tm boh`goh-die-nam'iks/ n. Theory which
   characterizes the universe in terms of bogon sources (such as
   politicians, used-car salesmen, TV evangelists, and <suit>s in
   general), bogon sinks (such as taxpayers and computers), and
   bogosity potential fields.  Bogon absorption, of course, causes
   human beings to behave mindlessly and machines to fail (and may
   cause them to emit secondary bogons as well); however, the precise
   mechanics of the bogon-computron interaction are not yet understood
   and remain to be elucidated.  Quantum bogodynamics is most
   frequently invoked to explain the sharp increase in hardware and
   software failures in the presence of suits; the latter emit bogons
   which the former absorb.  See <bogon>, <computron>, <suit>.

<quarter> n. Two bits; syn. <tayste>, <crumb>.  The term comes
   from the `pieces of eight' famed in pirate movies, Spanish gold
   pieces that could be broken into eight pie-slice-shaped `bits' to
   make change.  Early in the U.S.'s history each of these `bits' was
   considered worth about 12.5 cents.  Usage: rare.  See also
   <nickle>, <nybble>, <byte>.

<ques> /kwess/  1. n. The  question mark character (`?',  ASCII
   0111111).   2.  interj.  What?   Also  frequently verb-doubled   as
   "Ques ques?"  See <wall>.

<quick and dirty> adj. A <crock> put together under time or user
   pressure.  Used esp. when you want to convey that you think the
   fast way might lead to trouble further down the road.  "I can have
   a quick and dirty fix in place tonight, but I'll have to rewrite
   the whole module to solve the underlying design problem ".  See
   also <kluge>.

<qux> /kwuhks/ The fourth of the standard metasyntactic variables,
   after <baz> and before the quuu*x series.  See <foo>, <bar>,
   <baz>, <quux>.  Note that this appears to a be recent mutation
   from <quux>, and that many versions of the standard series just
   run <foo>, <bar>, <baz>, <quux>, ...

<quux> /kwuhks/ [invented by Steele] Mythically, from the Latin
   semi-deponent verb quuxo, quuxare, quuxandum iri; noun form
   variously `quux' (plural `quuces', anglicized to `quuxes')
   and `quuxu' (genitive plural is `quuxuum', for four u-letters
   out of seven total).] 1.  Originally, a meta-word like <foo> and
   <foobar>.  Invented by Guy Steele for precisely this purpose when
   he was young and naive and not yet interacting with the real
   computing community.  Many people invent such words; this one seems
   simply to have been lucky enough to have spread a little.  In an
   eloquent display of poetic justice, it has returned to the
   originator in the form of a nickname, as punishment for inventing
   this bletcherous word in the first place.  2. interj. See <foo>;
   however, denotes very little disgust, and is uttered mostly for the
   sake of the sound of it.  3. Guy Steele in his persona as `The
   Great Quux', which is somewhat infamous for light verse and for
   the `Crunchly' cartoons.  4. quuxy: adj.  Of or pertaining to a

<QWERTY> /kwer'tee/ [from the keycaps at the upper left] adj.
   Pertaining to a standard English-language typewriter keyboard, as
   opposed to Dvorak or foreign-language layouts or a <space-cadet
   keyboard> or APL keyboard.

                                {= R =}

<rain dance> n. 1. Any ceremonial action taken to correct a hardware
   problem, with the expectation that nothing will be accomplished.
   This especially applies to reseating printed circuit boards,
   reconnecting cables, etc.  "I can't boot up the machine.  We'll
   have to wait for Greg to do his rain dance."  2. Any arcane
   sequence of actions performed with computers or software in order
   to achieve some goal; the term is usually restricted to rituals
   which include both an <incantation> or two and physical activity
   or motion.  Compare <magic>, <voodoo programming>, <black

<random> adj. 1. Unpredictable (closest to mathematical definition);
   weird.  "The system's been behaving pretty randomly."  2.
   Assorted; undistinguished.  "Who was at the conference?"  "Just
   a bunch of random business types."  3.  Frivolous; unproductive;
   undirected (pejorative).  "He's just a random loser."  4.
   Incoherent or inelegant; not well organized.  "The program has a
   random set of misfeatures."  "That's a random name for that
   function."  "Well, all the names were chosen pretty randomly."
   5.  Gratuitously wrong, i.e., poorly done and for no good apparent
   reason.  For example, a program that handles file name defaulting
   in a particularly useless way, or an assembler routine that could
   easily have been coded using only three registers, but randomly
   uses seven for assorted non-overlapping purposes, so that no one
   else can invoke it without first saving four extra registers.  6.
   In no particular order, though deterministic.  "The I/O channels
   are in a pool, and when a file is opened one is chosen randomly."
   n.  7. A random hacker; used particularly of high school students
   who soak up computer time and generally get in the way.  8.
   (occasional MIT usage) One who lives at Random Hall.  See also <J.
   Random>, <some random X>.

<random numbers> n. When one wishes to specify a large but random
   number of things, and the context is inappropriate for <N>, certain
   numbers are preferred by hacker tradition (that is, easily
   recognized as placeholders). These include

     17 Long described at MIT as `the least random number', see 23.
     23 Sacred number of Eris, Goddess of Discord (along with 17 & 5).
     42 The Answer to the Question of Life, the Universe and Everything.
     69 From the sexual act. This one was favored in MIT's ITS culture.
     105 69 hex = 105 dec, and 69 dec = 105 oct
     666 The Number of the Beast.

   For further enlightenment, consult the `Principia Discordia',
   `The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy', any porn movie, and the
   Christian Bible's `Book Of Revelations'. See also
   <Discordianism> or consult your pineal gland.

<randomness> n. An unexplainable misfeature; gratuitous inelegance.
   Also, a <hack> or <crock> which depends on a complex combination of
   coincidences (or rather, the combination upon which the crock
   depends for its accidental failure to malfunction).  "This hack
   can output characters 40-57 by putting the character in the
   accumulator field of an XCT and then extracting 6 bits --- the low
   two bits of the XCT opcode are the right thing."  "What

<rape> vt. To (metaphorically) screw someone or something, violently;
   in particular, to destroy a program or information irrecoverably
   Usage: often used in describing file-system damage.  "So-and-so
   was running a program that did absolute disk I/O and ended up
   raping the master directory."

<rare> [UNIX] adj. CBREAK mode (character-by-character with interrupts
   enabled).  Distinguished from "raw" and "cooked"; the phrase
   "half-cooked (rare?)" is used in the V7/BSD manuals to describe
   the mode.  Usage: rare.

<raster blaster> n. [Cambridge] Specialized hardware for <bitblt>
   operations.  Allegedly inspired by analogy with "Rasta Blasta",
   British slang for the sort of portable stereo/radio/tapedeck
   Americans call a `boom box' or `ghetto blaster'.

<raster burn> n. Eyestrain brought on by too many hours of looking at
   low-res, poorly tuned or glare-ridden monitors, esp.  graphics
   monitors.  See <terminal illness>.

<rat belt> n. A cable tie, esp. the sawtoothed, self-locking plastic
   kind that you can only remove by cutting (as opposed to a random
   twist of wire or a baggie tie or one of those humongous metal clip
   frobs).  Small cable ties are "mouse belts".
<rave> [WPI] vi. 1. To persist in discussing a specific subject.  2. To
   speak authoritatively on a subject about which one knows very
   little.  3. To complain to a person who is not in a position to
   correct the difficulty.  4. To purposely annoy another person
   verbally.  5. To evangelize.  See <flame>.  Also used to describe a
   less negative form of blather, such as friendly bullshitting.
   <Rave> differs slightly from <flame> in that <rave> implies that it
   is the manner or persistence of speaking that is annoying, while
   <flame> implies somewhat more strongly that the subject matter is
   annoying as well.

<rave on!> imp. Sarcastic invitation to continue a <rave>, often by
   someone who wishes the raver would get a clue but realizes this is

<ravs> /ravz/, also CHINESE RAVS n.  Kuo-teh.  A Chinese appetizer,
   known variously in the plural as dumplings, pot stickers (the
   literal translation of kuo-teh) and (around Boston) `Peking
   Ravioli'.  The term "rav" is short for "ravioli", which among
   hackers always means the Chinese kind rather than the Italian kind.
   Both consist of a filling in a pasta shell, but the Chinese kind
   uses a thinner pasta and is cooked differently, either by steaming
   or frying.  A rav or dumpling can be steamed or fried, but a
   potsticker is always the fried kind (so called because it sticks to
   the frying pot and has to be scraped off).  "Let's get
   hot-and-sour soup and three orders of ravs."  See also ORIENTAL

<read-only user> n. Describes a <luser> who uses computers almost
   exclusively for reading USENET, bulletin boards and email, as
   opposed to writing code or purveying useful information.  See
   <twink>, <terminal junkie>.

<README file> n. By convention, the top-level directory of a UNIX
   source distribution always contains a file named `README' (or
   READ.ME, or (rarely) ReadMe or some other variant) which is a
   hacker's-eye introduction containing a pointer to more detailed
   documentation, credits, miscellaneous revision history notes, etc.
   When asked, hackers invariably relate this to the famous scene in
   Lewis Carroll's `Alice In Wonderland' in which Alice confronts
   magic food with signs posted over it that say `Eat Me' and `Drink

<real estate> n.  May be used for any critical resource measured in units
   of area.  Most frequently used of `chip real estate', the area
   available for logic on the surface of an integrated circuit (see
   also <nanoacre>).  May also be used of floor space in a
   <dinosaur pen> or even space on a crowded desktop (whether
   physical or electronics).

<real operating system> n. Whatever that a given user is accustomed
   to, and subject to wild variation.  People from the academic
   community are likely to issue comments like "System V?  Why don't
   you use a *real* operating system?", people from the
   commercial/industrial UNIX sector are known to complain, "BSD?  Why
   don't you use a *real* operating system?", and people from IBM
   probably think, "UNIX?  Why don't you use a *real* operating
   system?"  See <holy wars>, <religious issues>, <proprietary>.

<real programmer> [indirectly, from the book `Real Men Don't
   Eat Quiche'] n. A particular sub-variety of hacker, one possessed
   of a flippant attitude towards complexity that is arrogant even
   when justified by experience.  The archetypal `real programmer'
   likes to program on the <bare metal>, and is very good at same;
   he remembers the binary opcodes for every machine he's every
   programmed; thinks that HLLs are sissy; and he uses a debugger to
   edit his code because full-screen editors are for wimps.  Real
   Programmers aren't satisfied with code that hasn't been <bum>med
   into a state of <tense>ness just short of rupture.  Real
   Programmers never use comments or write documentation; "If it was
   hard to write", says the Real Programmer, "it should be hard to
   understand."  Real Programmers can make machines do things that
   were never in their spec sheets; in fact, they're seldom really
   happy unless doing so.  A Real Programmer's code can awe you with
   its fiendish brilliance even as it appalls by its level of
   crockishness.  Real Programmers live on junk food and coffee, hang
   line-printer art on their walls, and terrify the crap out of other
   programmers --- because someday, somebody else might have to try to
   understand their code in order to change it.  Their successors
   generally consider it a <Good Thing> that there aren't many Real
   Programmers around any more.  For a famous (and somewhat more
   positive) portrait of a Real Programmer, see `The Story of
   Mel' in Appendix A.

<Real Soon Now> [orig. from SF's fanzine community, popularized by
   Jerry Pournelle's BYTE column] adj.  1. Supposed to be available
   (or fixed, or cheap, or whatever) real soon now according to
   somebody, but the speaker is quite skeptical.  2. When the
   gods/fates/other time commitments permit the speaker to get to it.
   Often abbreviated RSN.

<real time> adv. Doing something while people are watching or waiting.
   "I asked her how to find the calling procedure's program counter
   on the stack and she came up with an algorithm in real time."

<real user> n. 1. A commercial user.  One who is paying `real' money
   for his computer usage.  2. A non-hacker.  Someone using the system
   for an explicit purpose (research project, course, etc.).  See
   <user>.  Hackers who are also students may also be real users.  "I
   need this fixed so I can do a problem set.  I'm not complaining out
   of randomness, but as a real user."  See also <luser>.

<Real World> n. 1. In programming, those institutions at which
   programming may be used in the same sentence as FORTRAN, COBOL,
   RPG, <IBM>, etc.  Places where programs do such commercially
   necessary but intellectually uninspiring things as compute payroll
   checks and invoices.  2. To programmers, the location of
   non-programmers and activities not related to programming.  3. A
   universe in which the standard dress is shirt and tie and in which
   a person's working hours are defined as 9 to 5.  4. The location of
   the status quo.  5. Anywhere outside a university.  "Poor fellow,
   he's left MIT and gone into the real world."  Used pejoratively by
   those not in residence there.  In conversation, talking of someone
   who has entered the real world is not unlike talking about a
   deceased person.  See also <fear and loathing>, <mundane>, and

<reality check> n. 1. The simplest kind of test of software or
   hardware; doing the equivalent of asking it what `2 + 2' and
   seeing if you get 4.  The equivalent of q <smoke test> for
   software.  2. The act of letting a <real user> try out prototype
   software.  Compare <sanity check>.

<reaper> n. A <prowler> which GFRs files (see <GFR>). A file removed
   in this way is said to have been `reaped'.

<rectangle slinger> n. See <polygon pusher>.

<recursion> n. See <recursion>.  See also <tail recursion>.

RECURSIVE ACRONYMS pl.n. A hackish (and especially MIT) tradition is
   to choose acronyms which refer humorously to themselves or to other
   acronyms.  The classic examples were two MIT editors called EINE
   ("EINE Is Not EMACS") and ZWEI ("ZWEI Was EINE Initially").
   More recently, <GNU> (q.v., sense #1) is said to stand for "GNU's
   Not UNIX!"

<Red Book> n. 1. Informal name for one of the three standard
   references on PostScript (`PostScript Language Reference
   Manual', Adobe Systems, Addison-Wesley 1985 QA76.73.P67P67, ISBN
   0-201-10174-2); the others are known as the <Green Book> and <Blue
   Book>.  2. Informal name for one of the three standard references
   on Smalltalk: `Smalltalk-80: The Interactive Programming
   Environment', Adele Goldberg, Addison-Wesley 1984, QA76.8.S635G638,
   ISBN 0-201-11372-4 (this is also associated with blue and green
   books).  3. Any of the 1984 standards issued by the CCITT 8th
   plenary assembly.  Until now, these have changed color each review
   cycle (1988 was <Blue Book>, 1992 will be <Green Book>); however,
   it is rumored that this convention is going to be dropped before
   1992.  These include, among other things, the X.400 email spec and
   the Group 1 through 4 fax standards.  4. The new version of the
   <Green Book> (sense #4), "IEEE 1003.1-1990", aka "ISO 9945-1",
   is (because of the color and the fact that it is printed on A4
   paper), known in the USA as "The Ugly Red Book That Won't Fit On
   The Shelf", and in Europe as "The Ugly Red Book That's A Sensible
   Size".  See also <Green Book>, <Blue Book>, <Purple Book>, <Silver
   Book>, <Orange Book>, <White Book>, <Pink-Shirt Book>, <Dragon
   Book>, <Aluminum Book>.

<regexp> /reg'eksp/ [UNIX] n. (alt "regex" or "reg-ex") 1.
   Common written and spoken abbreviation for "regular
   expression", one of the wildcard patterns used, e.g., by UNIX
   utilities such as `grep(1)', `sed(1)' and `awk(1)'.
   These use conventions similar to but more elaborate than those
   described under <glob>. For purposes of this File, it is
   sufficient to note that regexps also allow complemented character
   sets using `^' and ranges in character sets using `-';
   thus, one can specify any non-alphabetic character with
   `[^A-Za-z]'.  2. Name of a well-known PD regexp-handling
   package in portable C, written by revered USENETter Henry Spencer

<reincarnation, cycle of> n. Term used to refer to a well-known effect
   whereby function in a computing system family is migrated out to
   special purpose peripheral hardware for speed, then the peripheral
   evolves towards more computing power as it does its job, then
   somebody notices that it's inefficient to support two asymmetrical
   processors in the architecture and folds the function back into the
   main CPU, at which point the cycle begins again.  Several
   iterations of this cycle have been observed in graphics processor
   design, and at least one or two in communications and
   floating-point processors.  Also known as "the Wheel of Life",
   "the Wheel of Samsara", and other variations of the basic
   Hindu/Buddhist theological idea.

<religious issues> n. Questions which seemingly cannot be raised
   without touching off <holy wars>, such as "What is the best
   operating system (or editor, language, architecture, shell, mail
   reader, news reader)?" and "What about that Heinlein guy, eh?".
   See also <theology>, <bigot>.

   This entry is an example of <ha ha only serious>.  People
   actually develop the most amazing  and religiously intense attachments
   to their tools, even when the tools are intangible.  The most
   constructive thing one can do when one stumbles into the crossfire
   is mumble <Get a life!> and leave --- unless of course one's
   *own* unassailably rational and obviously correct choices are
   being slanged...

<reinvent the wheel> v. To design or implement a tool equivalent to
   an existing one, with the implication that doing so is silly or a
   waste of time.  This is frequently a valid criticism; but
   automobiles don't use wooden rollers, either, and some kinds of
   wheel have to be re-invented many times before you get it right.

<replicator> n. Any construct that acts to produce copies of itself;
   this could be a living organism, an idea (see <meme>), a program
   (see <worm>, <wabbit> and <virus>), a pattern in a cellular
   automaton (see <life>, sense #1), or (speculatively) a robot or

<reply> n. See <followup>.

<restriction> n. A <bug> or design error that limits a program's
   capabilities, and which is sufficiently egregious that nobody can
   quite work up enough nerve to describe it as a <feature>.  Often
   used (esp. by <marketroid> types) to make it sound as though some
   crippling bogosity had been intended by the designers all along, or
   was forced upon them by arcane considerations no mere user could
   possibly comprehend (these claims are almost invariably false).

<retcon> /ret'kon/ ["retroactive continuity", from USENET's
   rec.arts.comics] 1. n. the common situation in pulp fiction (esp.
   comics, soaps) where a new story `reveals' new things about events
   in previous stories, usually leaving the `facts' the same (thus
   preserving continuity) while completely changing their
   interpretation.  E.g., revealing that a whole season's episodes of
   Dallas was a dream was a retcon.  2.  vt. To write such a story
   about (a character or fictitious object).  Thus, "Byrne has
   retconned Superman's cape so that it is no longer unbreakable".
   3. vi. Used of something `transformed' in this way ---
   "Marvelman's old adventures were retconned into synthetic
   dreams", "Swamp Thing was retconned from a transformed person
   into a sentient vegetable."

   [This is included because it's a good example of hackish linguistic
   innovation in a field completely unrelated to computers.  The word
   `retcon' will probably spread through comics fandom and lose its
   association with hackerdom within a couple of years; for the
   record, it started here. --- ESR]

<retrocomputing> /ret'-roh-k@m-pyoo'ting/ n. Refers to emulations
   of way-behind-the state-of-the-art hardware or software, or
   implementations of never-was-state-of-the-art; esp. if such
   implementations are elaborate practical jokes and/or parodies of
   more `serious' designs.  Perhaps the most widely distributed
   retrocomputing utility was the `pnch(6)' or `bcd(6)'
   program on V7 and other early UNIX versions, which would accept up
   to 80 characters of text argument and display the corresponding
   pattern in Hollerith <card> code.  Other well-known retrocomputing
   hacks have included the programming language <INTERCAL>, a
   <JCL>-emulating shell for UNIX, the card-punch-emulating editor named
   029, and various elaborate PDP-11 hardware emulators and RT-11 OS
   emulators written just to keep an old, sourceless <Zork> binary

<retrofit> v. To graft some pieces from newer technology onto a
   piece of software or hardware representing an older one.  This
   often results in a crocky, inelegant compromise between new and
   old.  The term implies use of the older stuff in ways the designers
   didn't anticipate.  Some of the bizarre things done during the
   nineteen-seventies to old-style batch operating systems like
   <GECOS> and IBM's OS/360 in order to make them crudely
   interactive stand out as examples.  More recently, personal
   computer hackers have frequently been known to graft new floppy and
   hard-disk devices onto obsolete hardware in order to preserve
   software written for a particular processor, screen and keyboard

<RFC> /ahr ef see/ n. Request For Comment.  One of a long-established
   series of numbered Internet standards widely followed by commercial
   and PD software in the Internet and UNIX communities.  Perhaps the
   single most influential one has been RFC-822 (the Internet
   mail-format standard). The RFCs are unusual in that they are
   floated by technical experts acting on their own initiative and
   reviewed by the Internet at large, rather than formally promulgated
   through an institution such as ANSI.  For this reason they remain
   known as RFCs even once adopted.

<RFE> n. 1. Request For Enhancement.  2. [Bellcore, Sun] Radio Free
   Ethernet, a system (originated by Peter Langston) for broadcasting
   audio among Sun SPARCstations over the ethernet.

<rib site> n. A machine which has an on-demand high-speed link to a
   <backbone site> and serves as a regional distribution point for
   lots of third-party traffic in email and USENET news.  Compare
   <leaf site>, <backbone site>.

<rice box> [from ham radio slang] n. Any Asian-made commodity
   computer, esp. an 8086, 80286, 80386 or 80486-based machine built
   to IBM PC-compatible ISA or EISA-bus standards.

<Right Thing, The> n. That which is *obviously* the correct or
   appropriate thing to use, do, say, etc.  Often capitalized, always
   emphasized in speech as though capitalized.  Use of this term often
   implies that in fact reasonable people may disagree.  "Never let
   your conscience keep you from doing the right thing!"  "What's
   the right thing for LISP to do when it reads (a mod 0)? Should it
   return a, or give a divide-by-zero error?"  Antonym: <Wrong

<RL> [MUD community] n. Real Life. "Firiss laughs in RL" means
   Firiss's player is laughing.

<roach> [Bell Labs] vt. To destroy, esp. of a data structure.  Hardware
   gets <toast>ed, software gets roached.

<robust> adj. Said of a system which has demonstrated an ability to
   recover gracefully from the whole range of exception conditions in
   a given environment.  One step below <bulletproof>.  Compare
   <smart>, oppose <brittle>.

<rococo> adj.  <Baroque> in the extreme.  Used to imply that a
   program has become so encrusted with the software equivalent of
   gold leaf and curlicues that they have completely swamped the
   underlying design.  Called after the later and more extreme forms
   of Baroque architecture and decoration prevalent during the
   mid-1700s in Europe.

<rogue> [UNIX] n. Dungeons-And-Dragons-like game using character
   graphics written under BSD UNIX and subsequently ported to other
   UNIX systems.  The original BSD `curses(3)' screen-handling
   package was hacked together by Ken Arnold to support
   `rogue(6)' and has since become one of UNIX's most important
   and heavily used application libraries.  Nethack, Omega, Larn and
   an entire subgenre of computer dungeon games all took off from the
   inspiration provided by `rogue(6)'.  See <hack>.

<root> n. [UNIX] 1. The "superuser" account that ignores
   permission bits, user number zero on a UNIX system.  This account
   has the user name `root'.  2. The top node of the system directory
   structure (home directory of the root user).  3. By extension, the
   privileged system-maintenance login on any OS.  4. Thus, <root
   mode>: Syn.  with <wizard mode> or <wheel mode>.  Like these,
   it is often generalized to describe privileged states in systems
   other than OSs.  5. <go root>: to temporarily enter <root mode>
   in order to perform a privileged operation.  This use is deprecated
   in Australia, where v. `root' is slang for "to have sex with".

<room-temperature IQ> [IBM] 80 or below.  Used in describing the
   expected intelligence range of the <luser>.  As in "Well, but
   how's this interface gonna play with the room-temperature IQ
   crowd?"  See <drool-proof paper>.  This is a much more insulting
   phrase in countries that use Celsius thermometers...

<rot13> /rot ther'teen/ [USENET, from `rotate alphabet 13 places']
   n.,v. The simple Caesar-cypher encryption replaces each English
   letter with the one 13 places forward or back along the alphabet,
   so that "The butler did it!" becomes "Gur ohgyre qvq vg!"  Most
   USENET news reading and posting programs include a rot13 feature.
   It is used as if to enclose the text in a sealed wrapper that the
   reader must choose to open, for posting things that might offend
   some readers, answers to puzzles, or discussion of movie plot

<rotary debugger> [Commodore] n.  Essential equipment for those late
   night or early morning debugging sessions.  Mainly used as
   sustenance for the hacker.  Comes in many decorator colors such as
   Sausage, Pepperoni, and Garbage.  See <pizza, ANSI standard>.

<RSN> adj. See <Real Soon Now>.

<RTFAQ> /ahr-tee-eff-ay-kyoo/ [USENET, by analogy with <RTFM>]
   imp. Abbrev. for `Read the FAQ!', an exhortation that the person
   being addressed ought to read the newsgroup's <FAQ list> before
   posting questions.

<RTFM> /ahr-tee-ef-em/ [UNIX] imp. Abbrev. for `Read The Fucking Manual'.
   1. Used by GURUs to brush off questions they consider trivial or
   annoying.  Compare <Don't do that, then!>.  2. Used when reporting
   a problem to indicate that you aren't just asking out of
   <randomness>.  "No, I can't figure out how to interface UNIX to my
   toaster and yes I have RTFM."  Unlike sense #1 this use is
   considered polite.  See also <RTFAQ>, <RTM>.

<RTI> /ahr-tee-ie/ interj. The mnemonic for the "return from
   interrupt" instruction on the 6502 and Z80.  Equivalent to "Now,
   where was I?" or used to end a conversational digression.  See
   <POP>, <POPJ>.

<RTM> /ahr-tee-em/ [USENET, acronym for `Read The Manual'] Politer
   variant of <RTFM>.

<rude> [WPI] adj. 1. (of a program) Badly written.  2.  Functionally
   poor, e.g. a program which is very difficult to use because of
   gratuitously poor (random?) design decisions.  See <cuspy>.

<runes> pl.n. 1. Anything that requires <heavy wizardry> or <black
   art> to <parse>; core dumps, JCL commands, or even code in a
   language you don't have the faintest idea how to read.  Compare
   <casting the runes>.  2. Special display characters (for example,
   the high-half graphics on an IBM PC).

<runic> adj. Syn.  <obscure>.  VMS fans sometimes refer to UNIX as
   `Runix'; UNIX fans return the compliment by expanding VMS to
   `Vachement Mauvais Systeme' (French, lit. "Cowlike Bad System").

<rusty iron> n. Syn. <tired iron>.  It has been claimed that this
   is the inevitable fate of <water MIPS>.

<rusty memory> n. Mass-storage that uses iron-oxide-based magnetic
   media (tape and the pre-Winchester removable disk packs used in
   <washing machines>).  Compare <donuts>.

                                {= S =}

<s/n ratio> n. (also "s:n ratio").  See <signal-to-noise

<sacred> adj. Reserved for the exclusive use of something (a
   metaphorical extension of the standard meaning).  "Register 7 is
   sacred to the interrupt handler."  Often means that anyone may
   look at the sacred object, but clobbering it will screw whatever it
   is sacred to.  Example: The comment "Register 7 is sacred to the
   interrupt handler" appearing in a program would be interpreted by
   a hacker to mean that one part of the program, the `interrupt
   handler', uses register 7, and if any other part of the program
   changes the contents of register 7 dire consequences are likely to

<sadistics> /s@-dis'tiks/ n. University slang for statistics and
   probability theory, often used by hackers.

<saga> [WPI] n. A cuspy but bogus raving story dealing with N random
   broken people.

<sagan> [from Carl Sagan's TV series on PBS, think `Billions and
   Billions'] n. A large quantity of anything.  "There's a sagan
   different ways to tweak EMACS."  "The US Government spends sagans
   on military hardware."

<SAIL> n. Stanford University Artificial Intelligence Lab.  An
   important site in the early development of LISP; with the MIT AI
   LAB, CMU and the UNIX community, one of the major founts of hacker
   culture traditions.  The SAIL machines were shut down in late May
   1990, scant weeks after the MIT AI lab's ITS cluster went down for
   the last time.

<salescritter> /sayls'kri`tr/ n. Pejorative hackerism for a computer
   salesperson.  Hackers tell the following joke:

     Q. What's the difference between a used car dealer and a computer
     A. The used car dealer knows he's lying.

   This reflects the widespread hacker belief that salescritters are
   self-selected for stupidity (after all, if they had brains and the
   inclination to use them they'd be in programming).  The terms
   "salesthing" and "salesdroid" are also common.  Compare
   <marketroid>, <suit>.

<salt mines> n. Dense quarters housing large numbers of programmers
   working long hours on grungy projects, with some hope of seeing the
   end of the tunnel in N years.  Noted for their absence of sunshine.
   Compare <playpen>, <sandbox>.

<same-day-service> n. Ironic term is used to describe slow response
   time, particularly with respect to <MS-DOS> system calls.  Such
   response time is a major incentive for programmers to write
   programs that are not <well-behaved>.

<sandbender> [IBM] n. A person involved with silicon lithography and
   the physical design of chips.  Compare <ironmonger>, <polygon

<sandbox, the> n. Common term for the R&D department at many
   software and computer companies (where hackers in commercial
   environments are likely to be found).  Half-derisive, but reflects
   the truth that research is a form of creative play.  Compare

<sanity check> n. The act of checking a piece of code for completely
   stupid mistakes.  Implying that the check is to make sure the
   author was sane when it was written i.e. if a piece of scientific
   software relied on a particular formula and was giving unexpected
   results, one might first look at the nesting of parentheses/coding
   of the formula, as a <sanity check>, before looking at the more
   complex I/O or data structure manipulation routines.  Compare
   <reality check>.

<say> vt. In some contexts, to type to a terminal.  "To list a
   directory verbosely, you have to say `ls -l'". Tends to imply
   a carriage-return-terminated command (a `sentence').  A computer
   may also be said to `say' things to you even if it doesn't have a
   speech synthesizer, by displaying them on a terminal in response to
   your commands.  Hackers find it odd that this usage confuses other

SCIENCE-FICTION FANDOM n. Another voluntary subculture having a very
   heavy overlap with hackerdom; most hackers read SF and/or fantasy
   fiction avidly, and many go to `cons' (SF conventions) or are
   involved in fandom-connected activities like the Society for
   Creative Anachronism.  Some hacker slang originated in SF fandom;
   see <defenestration>, <great-wall>, <cyberpunk>, <h infix>, <ha ha
   only serious>, <IMHO>, <mundane>, <neep-neep>, <Real Soon Now>.
   Additionally, the jargon terms <cowboy>, <cyberspace>, <de-rez>,
   <go flatline>, <ice>, <virus>, <wetware>, <wirehead> and <worm>
   originated in SF itself.

<scram switch> [from the nuclear power industry] n. An
   emergency-power-off switch (see <Big Red Switch>), esp. one
   positioned to be easily hit by evacuating personnel.  In general,
   this is *not* something you frob lightly; these are installed
   in a <dinosaur pen> for use in case of electrical fire or in case
   some luckless <field servoid> should put himself between across
   120 volts while tinkering.

<scratch> 1. [from "scratchpad"] adj. A device or recording medium
   attached to a machine for testing or temporary-use purposes; one
   which can be <scribbled> on without loss.  Usually in the combining
   forms "scratch memory", "scratch disk", "scratch tape",
   "scratch volume".  See <scratch monkey>. 2. [primarily IBM] vt. To
   delete (as in a file).

<scratch monkey> n. As in, "Before testing or reconfiguring, always
   mount a", a proverb used to advise caution when dealing with
   irreplaceable data or devices.  Used to refer to any expendable
   device or scratch volume hooked to a computer, in memory of Mabel,
   the Swimming Wonder Monkey who expired when a computer vendor PM'd
   a machine which was regulating the gas mixture that the monkey was
   breathing at the time.  See Appendix A.  See <scratch>.

<screw> [MIT] n. A <lose>, usually in software.  Especially used for
   user-visible misbehavior caused by a bug or misfeature.

<screwage> /skroo'@j/ n. Like <lossage> but connotes that the
   failure is due to a designed-in misfeature rather than a simple
   inadequacy or mere bug.

<scribble> n. To modify a data structure in a random and
   unintentionally destructive way. "Bletch! Somebody's
   disk-compactor program went berserk and scribbled on the i-node
   table." "It was working fine until one of the allocation routines
   scribbled on low core."  Synonymous with <trash>; compare <mung>,
   which conveys a bit more intention, and <mangle>, which is more
   violent and final.

<script> n. 1. A program written in <shell>; a "batch file"
   (see <batch>).  A set of instructions which can be fed to a
   machine as though the user had typed them.  2.  A transcript of
   some interaction with a machine.

<scrog> /skrog/ [Bell Labs] vt. To damage, trash or corrupt a data
   structure.  "The cblock got scrogged."  Also reported as
   `skrog', and ascribed to "The Wizard of Id" comix.  Equivalent
   to <scribble> or <mangle>

<scrozzle> /skroz'l/ vt. Used when a self-modifying code segment runs
   incorrectly and corrupts the running program, or vital data.  "The
   damn compiler scrozzled itself again!"

<SCSI> /ess see ess ie/ n. Small Computer System Interface is a
   system-level interface between a computer and intelligent devices.
   Typically annotated in literature with `sexy' (/sek'see/) and
   `scuzzy' (/skuhz'zee/) as pronunciation guides...the latter being
   the predominating form, much to the dismay of the designers and
   their marketing people.

<search-and-destroy mode> n. Hackerism for the search-and-replace
   facility in an editor, so called because an incautiously chosen
   match pattern can cause <infinite> damage.

<second-system effect> n. When designing the successor to a relatively
   small, elegant and successful system, there is a tendency to become
   grandiose in one's success and perpetrate an <elephantine>
   feature-laden monstrosity.  The term was first used by Fred Brooks
   in his classic book `The Mythical Man-Month'. It described the
   jump from a set of nice, simple, operating monitors on the IBM 70xx
   series to OS/360 on the 360 series.

<segfault> n.,vi. Syn for <segment>, <seggie>.

<seggie> /seg'ee/ [UNIX] n. Shorthand for <segmentation fault>
   reported from Britain.

<segment> /seg'ment/ vi. To experience a <segmentation fault>.
   Confusingly, this is often accented on the first syllable rather
   than on the second as for mainstream v. segment; this is because
   it's actually a noun shorthand that has been verbed.

<segmentation fault (or violation)> n. [UNIX] 1. Error in which a
   running program attempts to access memory not allocated to it and
   <core dump> with a segment violation error.  2. To lose a train of
   thought or a line of reasoning.  Also uttered as an exclamation at
   the point of befuddlement.

<segv> /seg'vee/ n.,vi. Yet another synonym for <segmentation fault>.

<self-reference> n. See <self-reference>.

<selvage> /sel'v@j/ [from sewing] n. See <chad> (sense #1).

<semi> /se'mee/ 1. n. Abbreviation for `semicolon', when speaking.
   "Commands to <grind> are prefixed by semi-semi-star" means that
   the prefix is `;;*', not 1/4 of a star.  2. Prefix with words
   such as `immediately', as a qualifier.  "When is the system
   coming up?"  "Semi-immediately." (That is, maybe not for an
   hour).  "We did consider that possibility semi-seriously."  See
   also <infinite>.

<senior bit> [IBM] n. Syn. <meta bit>.

<server> n. A kind of <daemon> which performs a service for the
   requester, which often runs on a computer other than the one on
   which the server runs.  A particularly common term on the Internet,
   which is rife with `name servers' `domain servers' `news
   servers' `finger servers' and the like.

<SEX> [Sun User's Group & elsewhere] n. 1.  Software EXchange.  A
   technique invented by the blue-green algae hundreds of millions of
   years ago to speed up their evolution, which had been terribly slow
   up until then.  Today, SEX parties are popular among hackers and
   others. 2. The rather Freudian mnemonic often used for Sign Extend,
   a machine instruction found in many architectures.  Amusingly, the
   Intel 8048 (the microcontroller used in IBM PC keyboards) is
   missing straight SEX but has logical-or and logical-and
   instructions ORL and ANL.

<shareware> n. <freeware> for which the author requests some payment,
   usually in the accompanying documentation files or in an
   announcement made by the software itself.  Such payment may or may
   not buy additional support or functionality.  See <guiltware>,

<shelfware> n. Software purchased on a whim (by an individual user) or
   in accordance with policy (by a corporation or government) but not
   actually required for any particular use.  Therefore, it often ends
   up on some shelf.

<shell> [UNIX, now used elsewhere] n. 1. The command interpreter
   used to pass commands to an operating system; so called because
   it's the part of the operating system that interfaces to the
   outside world.  2. More generally, any interface program which
   mediates access to a special resource or <server> for
   convenience, efficiency or security reasons; for this meaning, the
   usage is usually "a shell around" whatever.  This sort of
   program is also called a "wrapper".

<shell out> [UNIX] n. To spawn an interactive <subshell> from within a
   program such as a mailer or editor.  "Bang foo runs foo in a
   subshell, while bang alone shells out."

<shift left (or right) logical> [from any of various machines'
   instruction sets] 1. vi. To move oneself to the left (right).  To
   move out of the way.  2. imper. "Get out of that (my) seat!  You
   can move to that empty one to the left (right)."  Usage: often
   used without the "logical", or as "left shift" instead of
   "shift left".  Sometimes heard as LSH /l@sh/, from the PDP-10
   instruction set.

<shitogram> /shit'oh-gram/ n. A *really* nasty piece of email.
   Compare <nastygram>, <flame>.

<short card> n. A half-length IBM PC expansion card or adapter that
   will fit in one of the two short slots located towards the right
   rear of a standard chassis (tucked behind the floppy disk drives).
   See also <tall card>.

<shotgun debugging> n. The software equivalent of <Easter egging>;
   the making of relatively undirected changes to software in the hope
   that a bug will be preturbed out of existence.  This almost never
   works, and usually introduces more bugs.

<showstopper> n. A hardware or (especially) software bug that makes
   an implementation effectively unusable; one which absolutely has to
   be fixed before development can go on.  Opposite in connotation
   from its original theatrical use, whic referred to something
   stunningly "good".

<shriek> See <excl>.  Occasional CMU usage, also in common use among
   <APL> fans and mathematicians, especially category theorists.

<sidecar> n. Syn. <slap on the side>.  Esp. used add-ons for the
   late and unlamented IBM PCjr.

<sig block> /sig blok/ [UNIX; often written ".sig" there] n. Short
   for `signature', used specifically to refer to the electronic
   signature block which most UNIX mail- and news-posting software
   will allow you to automatically append to outgoing mail and news.
   The composition of one's sig can be quite an art form, including an
   ASCII logo or one's choice of witty sayings (see <sig quote>); but
   many consider large sigs a waste of <bandwidth>, and it has been
   observed that the size of one's sig block is usually inversely
   proportional to one's longevity and level of prestige on the net.

<sig quote> /sig kwoht/ [USENET] n. A maxim, quote, proverb, joke or
   slogan embedded in one's <SIG> and intended to convey something of
   one's philosophical stance, pet peeves, or sense of humor. "He
   *must* be a Democrat --- he posted a sig quote from Dan

<signal to noise ratio> [from analogue electronics] n.  Used by hackers in
   a generalization of its technical meaning.  `Signal' refers to
   useful information conveyed by some communications medium and
   `noise' to anything else on that medium.  Hence a low ratio
   implies that it is not worth paying attention to the medium in
   question.  Figures for such metaphorical ratios are never given.
   The term is most often applied to <USENET> newsgroups during <flame
   wars>.  Compare <bandwidth>.  See also <coefficient of x>.

<silicon> n. Hardware, esp.  ICs or microprocessor-based computer
   systems (compare <iron>). Contrasted with software.

<silicon foundry> A company that <fab>s chips to the designs of
   others.  As of the late 1980s, the existance of silicon foundries
   made it much easier for hardware design startup companies to come
   into being.  The downside of using a silicon foundry is that the
   distance from the actual chip fabrication processes leads to weaker
   designers.  This is somewhat analogous to the use of a <HLL> versus
   coding in assembler.

<silly walk> [from Monty Python] vi. A ridiculous procedure required to
   accomplish a task.  Like <grovel>, but more <random> and humorous.
   "I had to silly-walk through half the /usr directories to find the
   maps file."

<silo> n. The FIFO input-character buffer in an RS-232 line card.  So
   called from DEC terminology used on DH and DZ line cards for the
   VAX and PDP-11.

<Silver Book> n. Jensen & Wirth's infamous `Pascal User Manual
   and Report', so called because of the silver cover of the
   widely-distributed Springer-Verlag second edition of 1978 (ISBN
   0-387-90144-2). See <Red Book>, <Green Book>, <Blue Book>, <White
   Book>, <Purple Book>, <Orange Book>, <Pink-Shirt Book>, <Dragon
   Book>, <Aluminum Book>

<since time T equals minus infinity> adj. A long time ago; for as
   long as anyone can remember; at the time that some particular frob
   was first designed.  Sometimes the word `time' is omitted if there
   is no danger of confusing `T' as a time with <T> meaning `yes'.
   See also <time T>.

<sitename> [UNIX/Internet] n. The unique electronic name of a computer
   system, used to identify it in UUCP mail, USENET or other forms of
   electronic information interchange.  The folklore interest of
   sitenames stems from the creativity and humor they often display.
   Interpreting a sitename is not unlike interpreting a vanity license
   plate; one has to mentally unpack it, allowing for mono-case and
   length restrictions and the lack of whitespace.  Hacker tradition
   deprecates dull, institutional-sounding names in favor of punchy,
   humorous and clever coinages (except that it is considered
   appropriate for the official public gateway machine of an
   organization to bear the organization's name or acronym).
   Mythological references, cartoon characters, animal names, and
   allusions to SF or fantasy literature are probably the most popular
   sources for sitenames (in roughly that order). See also <network

<skulker> n. Syn. <prowler>.

<slap on the side> adj. (also called a <sidecar>) A type of
   external expansion marketed by computer manufacturers (e.g.
   Commodore for their Amiga 500/1000 series and IBM for the hideous
   failure they called `PCJr'). Various SOTS boxes provided
   necessities such as memory, hard drive controllers, and
   conventional expansion slots.

<sleep> vi. On a timesharing system, a process which relinquishes its
   claim on the scheduler until some given event occurs or a specified
   time delay elapses is said to "go to sleep".

<slim> n. A small, derivative change (e.g. to code).

<slop> n. 1. A one-sided <fudge factor>, that is, an allowance for
   error but only in one of two directions.  For example, if you need
   a piece of wire ten feet long and have to guess when you cut it,
   you make very sure to cut it too long, by a large amount if
   necessary, rather than too short by even a little bit, because you
   can always cut off the slop but you can't paste it back on again.
   When discrete quantities are involved, slop is often introduced to
   avoid the possibility of a <fencepost error>.  2. n. The ratio of
   the size code generated by a compiler to the size of equivalent
   <hand-hacked> assembler code, minus 1; i.e., the space (or maybe
   time) you lose because you didn't do it yourself.  This number is
   often used as a measure of the goodness of a compiler; slop below
   5% is very good, and 10% is usually acceptable for most purposes.
   With modern compiler technology, esp. on RISC machines, the
   compiler's slop may actually be *negative*; that is, humans
   may be unable to generate code as good.  This is one of the reasons
   assembler programming is no longer common.

<slopsucker> n. A lowest-priority task that must wait around until
   everything else has `had its fill' of machine resources.  Only
   when the machine would otherwise be idle is the task allowed to
   `suck up the slop.'  Also called a <hungry puppy>.  One common
   variety of slopsucker hunts for large prime numbers.  Compare

<sluggy> /sluhg'ee/ adj. Hackish variant of `sluggish'. Used only of
   people, esp.  someone just waking up after a long <gronk out>.

<slurp> vt. To read a large data file entirely into core before working
   on it.  This may be contrasted with the strategy of reading a small
   piece at a time, processing it, and then reading the next piece.
   "This program slurps in a 1K-by-1K matrix and does an FFT."

<smart> adj. Said of a program that does the <Right Thing> in a wide
   variety of complicated circumstances.  There is a difference
   between calling a program smart and calling it intelligent; in
   particular, there do not exist any intelligent programs (yet).
   Compare <robust> (smart programs can be <brittle>).

<smart terminal> n. A terminal that has enough computing capability to
   perform useful work independently of the main computer.  The
   development of workstations and personal computers has made this
   term and the product it describes semi-obsolescent, but one may
   still hear variants of the phrase "act like a smart terminal"
   used to describe the behavior of workstations/PCs with respect to
   programs that execute almost entirely out of a remote <server>'s
   storage, using said devices as displays.  Compare <glass tty>.

   There's a classic quote from Rob Pike (inventor of the <blit>
   terminal): "A smart terminal is not a smart*ass* terminal,
   but rather a terminal you can educate."  This illustrates a common
   design problem; the attempt to make peripherals (or anything else)
   intelligent sometimes results in finicky, rigid "special
   features" that become just so much dead weight if you try to use
   the device in any way the designer didn't anticipate.  Flexibility
   and programmability, on the other hand, are *really* smart.

<smash case> vi. To lose or obliterate the uppercase/lowercase
   distinction in text input.  "MS-DOS will automatically smash case
   in the names of all the files you create."  The term <fold case>
   is nearly synonymous but implies that the action is deliberate.

<smash the stack> [C programming] n. On many C implementations it is
   possible to corrupt the execution stack by writing past the end of
   an array declared auto in a routine.  Code that does this is said
   to "smash the stack", and can cause return from the routine to jump
   to a random text address.  This can produce some of the most
   insidious data-dependent bugs known to mankind.  Variants include
   "trash" the stack, <scribble> the stack, <mangle> the stack;
   <mung> the stack is not used as this is never done intentionally.
   See <spam>; see also <aliasing bug>, <fandango on core>, <memory
   leak>, <precedence lossage>, <overrun screw>.

<smiley> n. See <emoticon>.

<smoke test> n. 1. A rudimentary form of testing applied to electronic
   equipment following repair or reconfiguration in which AC power is
   applied and during which the tester checks for sparks, smoke, or
   other dramatic signs of fundamental failure.  2. By extension, the
   first run of a piece of software after construction or a critical
   change.  See <magic smoke>.

<smoking clover> [ITS] n. A <display hack> originally due to Bill
   Gosper.  Many convergent lines are drawn on a color monitor in AOS
   mode (so that every pixel struck has its color incremented).  The
   color map is then rotated.  The lines all have one endpoint in the
   middle of the screen; the other endpoints are spaced one pixel
   apart around the perimeter of a large square.  This results in a
   striking, rainbow-hued, shimmering four-leaf clover.  Gosper joked
   about keeping it hidden from the FDA lest it be banned.

<SMOP> /smop/ [Simple (or Small) Matter of Programming] n. 1. A piece
   of code, not yet written, whose anticipated length is significantly
   greater than its complexity.  Usage: used to refer to a program
   that could obviously be written, but is not worth the trouble.  It
   is also used ironically to imply that a difficult problem can be
   easily solved because a program can be written to do it; the irony
   is that it is very clear that writing such a program will be a
   great deal of work.  Example: "It's easy to change a FORTRAN
   compiler to compile COBOL as well; it's just a SMOP."  2. Often
   used ironically by the intended victim when a suggestion for a
   program is made which seems easy to the suggester, but is obviously
   a lot of work to the programmer.

<SNAFU principle> n. "True communication is only possible between
   equals, because inferiors are more consistently rewarded for
   telling their superiors pleasant lies than for telling the truth"
   --- a central tenet of <Discordianism> often invoked by hackers
   to explain the reason authoritarian hierarchies screw up so
   reliably and systematically.  There is a common fable
   that well illustrates this.  A <hacker> says to a manager, "This
   is manure".  Manager to second-level, "This is fertiliser".
   Second-level to third-level, "This makes things grow".
   Third-level to Director, "Must be good stuff".  After the
   subsequent disaster, the <suits> protect themselves by saying "I
   was misinformed", and the programmer is demoted or fired.

<snail-mail> n. Paper mail, as opposed to electronic.  Sometimes
   written as the single word `SnailMail'.  One's postal address is,
   correspondingly, a "snail address".  Derives from earlier
   coinage `USnail' for which there have been parody posters and
   stamps made.  Oppose <email>.

<snarf> /snarf/ vt. 1. To grab, esp. a large document or file for the
   purpose of using it either with or without the author's permission.
   See <BLT>.  Variant: "snarf down", to snarf, sometimes with the
   connotation of absorbing, processing, or understanding.  "I think
   I'll snarf down the list of DDT commands so I'll know what's
   changed recently."  2. [in the UNIX community] to fetch a file or
   set of files across a network.  See also <blast>.  This term was
   mainstream in the late sixties meaning `to eat piggishly'.

<snarf & barf> /snarf'n-barf/ n. The act of grabbing a region of text
   using a <WIMP> environment and then stuffing the contents of that
   region into another region or into the same region, to avoid
   re-typing a command line.  In the late sixties this was a
   mainstream expression for an "Eat now, regret it later"
   cheap-restaurant expedition.

<snark> [Lewis Carroll, via the Michigan Terminal System] n. 1. A
   system failure.  When a user's process bombed, the operator would
   get a message "Help, Help, Snark in MTS!".  2. More generally,
   any kind of unexplained or threatening event on a computer.  Often
   used to refer to events or log file entries which might indicate an
   attempted security violation.  3. UUCP name of,
   home site of the Jargon File 2.x.x versions.

<sneakernet> n. Term used (generally with ironic intent) for transfer
   of electronic information by physically carrying tape, disks, or
   some other media from one machine to another.  "Never
   underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon filled with magtape,
   or a 747 filled with CD-ROMs."  Also called `Tennis-Net',

<sniff> v.,n. Synonym for <poll>.

<SO> /ess-oh/ n. (also "S.O.") Acronym for Significant Other,
   almost invariably written abbreviated and pronounced /ess-oh/ by
   hackers.  Used to refer to one's primary relationship, esp. a
   live-in to whom one is not married.  See <MOTAS>, <MOTOS>,

<social science number> [IBM] n. A statistic which is <content
   free>, or nearly so.  A measure derived via methods of questionable
   validity from data of a dubious and vague nature.  Predictively,
   having a social science number in hand is seldom much better than
   nothing and can be considerably worse.  <Management> loves them.
   See also <numbers>, <math-out>.

<softcopy> n. [by analogy with "hardcopy"] A machine readable form of
   corresponding hardcopy.  See <bits>.

<software bloat> n.  The results of <second system effect>.  Commonly
   cited examples include `ls(1)', <X>, <BSD>, <Missed'em-five> and

<software rot> n.  Term used to describe the tendency of software
   which has not been used in awhile; such failure may be
   semi-humorously ascribed to <bit rot>.  More commonly,
   "software rot" strikes when a program's assumptions become out
   of date.  If the design was insufficiently <robust> this may
   cause it to fail in mysterious ways.  For example, due to endemic
   shortsightedness in the design of COBOL programs, most will succumb
   to software rot when their two-digit year counters <wrap around> at
   the beginning of the year 2000.

   Historical note: software rot in an even funnier sense than the
   mythical one was a real problem on early research computers (e.g.
   the R1, see <grind crank>).  If a program that depended on a
   peculiar instruction hadn't been run in quite a while, the user
   might discover that the opcodes no longer did the things as they
   used to.  ("Hey, so-and-so needs an instruction to do
   such-and-such.  We can snarf this opcode, right?  No one uses

   Compare <bit rot>.

<softy> [IBM] n. Hardware hackers' term for a software expert who
   is largely ignorant of the mysteries of hardware.

<snivitz> n. A hiccup in hardware or software; a small, transient
   problem of unknown origin (less serious than a <snark>).

<softwarily> /soft-weir'i-lee/ adv.  In a way pertaining to software.
   "The system is softwarily unreliable."  The adjective
   `softwary' is *not* used.  See <hardwarily>.

<some random X> adj. Used to indicate a member of class X, with the
   implication that the particular X is interchangeable with most
   other Xs in whatever context was being discussed. "I think some
   random cracker tripped over the guest timeout last night."

<sorcerer's apprentice mode> n. A bug in a protocol where, under some
   circumstances, the receipt of a message causes more than one
   message to be sent, each of which, when received, triggers the same
   bug.  Used esp. of such behavior caused by <bounce message> loops
   in <email> software.  Compare <broadcast storm>.

<SOS> n.,obs. /ess-oh-ess/ 1. An infamously <losing> text editor.
   Once, back in the 1960's, when a text editor was needed for the
   PDP-6, a hacker crufted together a <quick and dirty> `stopgap
   editor' to be used until a better one was written.  Unfortunately,
   the old one was never really discarded when new ones (in
   particular, <TECO>) came along.  SOS is a descendant of that
   editor; SOS means `Son of Stopgap', and many PDP-10 users gained
   the dubious pleasure of its acquaintance.  Since then other
   programs similar in style to SOS have been written, notably BILOS
   (bye'lohss) the Brother-In-Law Of Stopgap. See also <TECO>.  2.
   /sos/ n. Inverse of <AOS>, from the PDP-10 instruction set.

<space-cadet keyboard> n. The Knight keyboard, a now-legendary device
   used on MIT LISP machines which inspired several still-current
   slang terms and influenced the design of <EMACS>.  It was inspired
   by the Stanford keyboard and equipped with no less than
   *seven* shift keys: four keys for <bucky bits> (`control',
   `meta', `hyper', and `super') and three like the regular shift key,
   called `shift', `top', and `front'.  Many keys have three symbols
   on them: a letter and a symbol on the top, and a Greek letter on
   the front.  For example, the `L' key has an `L' and a two-way
   arrow on the top, and the Greek letter lambda on the front.  If you
   press this key with the right hand while playing an appropriate
   `chord' with the left hand on the shift keys, you can get the
   following results:

     L lower-case "l"
     shift-L upper-case "L"
     front-L Greek lower-case lambda
     front-shift-L Greek upper-case lambda
     top-L two-way arrow (front and shift are ignored)

   And of course each of these may also be typed with any combination
   of the control, meta, hyper, and super keys.  On this keyboard you
   can type over 8000 different characters!  This allows the user to
   type very complicated mathematical text, and also to have thousands
   of single-character commands at his disposal.  Many hackers were
   actually willing to memorize the command meanings of that many
   characters if it will reduce typing time (this view rather
   obviously shaped the interface of EMACS).  Other hackers, however,
   thought having that many bucky bits is overkill, and object that
   such a keyboard can require three or four hands to operate.  See
   <bucky bits>, <cokebottle>, <meta bit>.

<SPACEWAR> n. A space-combat simulation game (based on E. E. "Doc"
   Smith's `Lensman' books) first implemented on the PDP-1 at MIT
   in 1960-61.  SPACEWAR aficionados formed the core of the early
   hacker culture at MIT.  Ten years later a descendant of the game
   motivated Ken Thompson to build, in his spare time on a scavenged
   PDP-7, the operating system that became <UNIX>.  Ten years after
   that, SPACEWAR was commercialized as one of the first video games;
   descendants are still feeping in video arcades everywhere.

<spaghetti code> n. Describes code with a complex and tangled control
   structure, esp. one using many GOTOs, exceptions or other
   `unstructured' branching constructs.  Pejorative.  The synonym
   "kangaroo code" has been reported.

<spaghetti inheritance> n. [Encountered among users of object-oriented
   languages that use inheritance, such as Smalltalk] A convoluted
   class-subclass graph, often resulting from carelessly deriving
   subclasses from other classes just for the sake of reusing their
   code.  Coined in a (successful) attempt to discourage such
   practice, through guilt by association with <spaghetti code>.

<spam> [from the <MUD> community] vt. To crash a program by overrunning
   a fixed-size buffer with excessively large input data.  See also
   <overrun screw>, <smash the stack>.

<special-case> vt. To write unique code to handle input or command
   to a program that is somehow distinguished from normal processing.
   This would be used for processing of mode switches or interrupt
   characters in an interactive interface (as opposed, say, to text
   entry or normal commands); or for processing of <hidden flags> in
   the input of a batch program or <filter>.

<spell> n. Syn. <incantation>.

<spiffy> /spi'fee/ adj. 1. Said of programs having a pretty, clever or
   exceptionally well-designed interface. "Have you seen the spiffy X
   version of <empire> yet?" 2. Said sarcastically of programs which
   are perceived to have little more than a flashy interface going for
   them.  Which meaning should be drawn depends delicately on tone of
   voice and context.  This word was common mainstream slang during
   the nineteen-forties, in a sense close to #1.

<spin> vi. Equivalent to <buzz>.  More common among C and UNIX

<spin-lock> [Cambridge] n. A <busy-wait>.  Preferred in Britain.

<spl> [abbrev, fr. Set Priority Level] The way traditional Unix
   kernels implement mutual exclusion by running code at high
   interrupt levels.  Used in slang to describe the act of tuning in
   or tuning out ordinary communication.  Classically, spl levels run
   from 1 to 7; "Fred's at spl 6 today" would mean he's very hard to
   interrupt.  "Wait till I finish this, I'll spl down then."

<splat> n. 1. Name used in many places (DEC, IBM, and others) for the
   ASCII asterisk (`*') character.  2. [MIT] Name used by some
   people for the ASCII number-sign (`#') character.  3. [Stanford]
   Name used by some people for the Stanford/ITS extended ASCII
   circle-x character.  (This character is also called "circle-x",
   "blobby", and "frob", among other names.)  4. [Stanford] Name
   for the semi-mythical extended ASCII circle-plus character.  5.
   Canonical name for an output routine that outputs whatever the
   local interpretation of splat is.  6. [Rochester Institute of
   Technology] The command key on a Macintosh.  Usage: nobody really
   agrees what character `splat' is, but the term is common.  See also

<spooge> /spooj/ 1. n. Inexplicable or arcane code, or random and
   probably incorrect output from a computer program.  2. vi. To
   generate code or output as in definition 1.

<spool> [fr. early IBM "Simultaneous Peripheral Operation Off-Line",
   but this acronym is widely thought to have been contrived for
   effect] vt. To send files to some device or program (a `spooler')
   that queues them up and does something useful with them later.  The
   spooler usually understood is the `print spooler' controlling
   output of jobs to a printer, but the term has been used in
   connection with other peripherals (especially plotters and graphics

<stack> n. A person's stack is the set of things he has to do in the
   future.  One speaks of the next project to be attacked as having
   risen to the top of the stack.  "I'm afraid I've got real work to
   do, so this'll have to be pushed way down on my stack."  "I
   haven't done it yet because every time I pop my stack something new
   gets pushed."  If you are interrupted several times in the middle
   of a conversation, "my stack overflowed" means "I forget what we
   were talking about" (the implication is that too many items were
   pushed onto the stack than could be remembered, and so the least
   recent items were lost).  The usual physical example of a stack is
   to be found in a cafeteria: a pile of plates sitting on a spring in
   a well in a cart, so that when you put a plate on the top they all
   sink down, and when you take one off the top the rest spring up a
   bit.  See also <PUSH> and <POP>.

   At MIT, all the <stack> usages used to be more commonly found
   with <pdl>, and this may still be true.  Everywhere else
   <stack> seems to be the preferred term.  <Knuth> writes (in
   `The Art of Computer Programming' 1st edition, vol 1, page 236
   in section 2.2.1):

        Many people who realized the important of stacks and queues
        independently have given other names to these structures:
        stacks have been called push-down lists, reversion storages,
        cellars, nesting stores, piles, last-in-first-out ("LIFO")
        lists, and even yo-yo lists!

<stack puke> n. Some micros are said to `puke their guts onto the
   stack' to save their internal state during exception processing.
   On a pipelined machine this can take a while (up to 92 bytes for a
   bus fault on the 68020, for example).

<stale pointer bug> n. Synonym for <aliasing bug> used esp. among
   microcomputer hackers.

<state> n. Condition, situation.  "What's the state of your latest
   hack?"  "It's winning away."  "The system tried to read and
   write the disk simultaneously and got into a totally wedged
   state."  A standard question is "What's your state?" which means
   "What are you doing?" or "What are you about to do?"  Typical
   answers might be "I'm about to gronk out", or "I'm hungry".
   Another standard question is "What's the state of the world?"
   meaning "What's new?" or "What's going on?". The more terse and
   humorous way of asking these conventions would be "State-p?".

<stiffy> [Lowell University] n. 3.5" <microfloppies>, so called
   because their jackets are more firm than the 5.25" and 8" floppy.

<stir-fried random> alt. <stir-fried mumble> n. Term used for frequent
   best dish of those hackers who can cook.  Consists of random fresh
   veggies and meat wokked with random spices.  Tasty and economical.
   See <random>, <great-wall>, <ravs>, ORIENTAL FOOD; see also

<stomp on> vt.  To inadvertently overwrite something important, usually
   automatically.  Example: "All the work I did this weekend got
   stomped on last night by the nightly-server script."  Compare
   <scribble>, <mangle>, <trash>, <scrog>, <roach>.

<Stone Age> n.,adj. 1. In computer folklore, an ill-defined period
   from ENIAC (c.1943) to the mid-1950s; the great age of
   electromechanical <dinosaur>s.  Sometimes used for the entire
   period up to 1960-61 (see <Iron Age>); however, it is funnier and
   more descriptive to characterize the latter half in terms of a
   `Bronze Age' era of all-transistor, pre-ferrite-core machines
   with drum or CRT mass storage (as opposed to just mercury delay
   lines and/or relays).  See also <Iron Age>.  2. More generally, a
   pejorative for any crufty, ancient piece of hardware or software
   technology.  Note that this is used even by people who were there
   for the <Stone Age> (sense #1).

<stoppage> /sto'p@j/ n. Extreme lossage (see <lossage>) resulting in
   something (usually vital) becoming completely unusable.  "The
   recent system stoppage was caused by a <fried> transformer."

<stubroutine> /stuhb'roo-teen/ [contr. of "stub routine"] n. Tiny,
   often vacuous placeholder for a subroutine to be written or fleshed
   out later.

<studlycaps> n. A hackish form of silliness similar to
   <BiCapitalization>, but applied to random text rather than
   trademarks.  ThE oRigiN and SigNificaNce of thIs pRacTicE iS

<stunning> adj. Mind-bogglingly stupid.  Usually used in sarcasm.
   "You want to code *what* in ADA? That's...a stunning idea!"
   See also <non-optimal solution>.

<subshell> [UNIX, MS-DOS] n. An OS command interpreter (see <shell>)
   spawned from within a program, such that exit from the command
   interpreter returns one to the parent program in a state that
   allows it to continue execution.  Oppose <chain>.

<sucking mud> [Applied Digital Research] adj. (also "pumping
   mud") Crashed or wedged.  Usually said of a machine that provides
   some service to a network, such as a file server.  This Dallas
   regionalism derives from the East Texas oil field lament, "Shut
   'er down, Ma, she's a-suckin' mud."  Often used as a query.  "We
   are going to reconfigure the network, are you ready to suck mud?"

<suit> n. 1. Ugly and uncomfortable `business clothing' often worn by
   non-hackers.  Invariably worn with a `tie', a strangulation device
   which partially cuts off the blood supply to the brain.  It is
   thought that this explains much about the behavior of suit-
   wearers. 2. A person who habitually wears suits, as distinct from a
   techie or hacker.  See <loser>, <burble> and <brain-damaged>.
   English, BTW, is relatively kind; our Soviet correspondent informs
   us that the corresponding idiom in Russian hacker jargon is
   "sovok", lit. a tool for grabbing garbage.

<sunspots> n. Notional cause of an odd error. "Why did the program
   suddenly turn the screen blue?" "Sunspots, I guess".  Also cause
   of bitrot, from the genuine, honest-to-god fact that sunspots will
   increase cosmic radiation which can flip single bits in memory.
   Needless to say, although real sunspot errors happen, they are
   extremely rare.  See <cosmic rays>, <phase of the moon>.

<sun-stools> n. Unflattering hackerism for SunTools, a pre-X windowing
   environment notorious in its day for size, slowness and misfeatures
   (X, however, is larger and slower; see <second-system effect>).

<SUPDUP> /soop'doop/ vi. To communicate with another ARPAnet host using
   the SUPDUP program, which is a SUPer-DUPer <TELNET> talking a
   special display protocol used mostly in talking to ITS sites.
   Sometimes abbreviated to SD.

<superprogrammer> n.  A prolific programmer; one who can code
   exceedingly well and quickly.  Not all hackers are
   superprogrammers, but many are.  (Productivity can vary from one
   programmer to another by factors of as much as 1000.  For example,
   programmer A might be able to write an average of 3 lines of
   working code in one day, while another, with the proper tools and
   skill, might be able to write 3,000 lines of working code in one
   day.  This variance is astonishing, appearing in very few other
   areas of human endeavor.)  The term superprogrammer is more
   commonly used within such places as IBM than in the hacker
   community.  It tends to stress productivity rather than creativity
   or ingenuity.  Hackers tend to prefer the terms <hacker> and

<support> n. After-sale handholding; something many software vendors
   promise but few deliver.  To hackers, most support people are
   useless --- because by the time a hacker calls support he/she will
   usually know the relevant manuals better than the support people
   (sadly, this is *not* a joke or exaggeration).  A hacker's
   idea of "support" is a one-on-one with the software's designer.

<Suzie COBOL> /soo'zee koh'bol/ 1. [IBM, prob. fr.  Frank Zappa's
   "little Suzy Creamcheese"] n. A coder straight out of training
   school who knows everything except the benefits of comments in
   plain English.  Also (fashionable among personkind wishing to avoid
   accusations of sexism) `Sammy Cobol' or (in some non-IBM circles)
   `Cobol Charlie'.  2.  [proposed] Meta-name for any <code grinder>,
   analogous to <J. Random Hacker>.

<swab> [From the mnemonic for the PDP-11 `byte swap' instruction, as
   immortalized in the dd(1) option `conv=swab' (see <DD>)] 1.
   vt. to solve the <NUXI problem> by swapping bytes in a file.  2.
   Also, the program in V7 UNIX used to perform this action, or
   anything functionally equivalent to it.  See also <big-endian>,
   <little-endian>, <bytesexual>.

<swap space> n. Storage space, especially temporary storage space
   used during a move or reconfiguration. "I'm just using that corner
   of the machine room for swap space".

<swapped> adj. From the older (per-task) method of using secondary
   storage devices to implement support for multitasking.  Something
   which is <swapped in> is available for immediate use in main
   memory, and otherwise is <swapped out>.  Often used metaphorically
   to refer to people's memories ("I read the Scheme Report every few
   months to keep the information swapped in.") or to their own
   availability ("I'll swap you in as soon as I finish looking at
   this other problem.").  Compare <page in>, <page out>.

<swizzle> v. To convert external names or references within a data
   structure into direct pointers when the data structure is brought
   into main memory from external storage; also called "pointer
   swizzling"; the converse operation is sometimes termed

<sync> /sink/ [UNIX] n.,vi. 1. To force all pending I/O to the disk.
   2.  More generally, to force a number of competing processes or
   agents to a state that would be `safe' if the system were to crash;
   thus, to checkpoint.  See <flush>.

<syntactic sugar> [coined by Peter Landin] n. Features added to a
   language or formalism to make it `sweeter' for humans, that do not
   affect the expressiveness of the formalism (compare <chrome>). Used
   esp.  when there is an obvious and trivial translation of the
   `sugar' feature into other constructs already present in the
   notation.  Example: C's `a[i]' notation is syntactic sugar for
   `*(a + i)'.  "Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon."
   --- Alan Perlis.

<sys-frog> [the PLATO system] n. Playful hackish variant of
   `sysprog' which is in turn short for `systems-programmer'.

<sysop> n. [BBS] The operator (and usually owner) of a
   bulletin-board system.  A common neophyte mistake on <FidoNet> is
   to address a message to `sysop' in an international <echo>, thus
   sending it to hundreds of sysops world-wide.

<system> n. 1. The supervisor program or OS on a computer.  2. n.  The
   entire computer system, including input/output devices, the
   supervisor program or OS, and possibly other software.  3. Any
   large-scale program.  4. Any method or algorithm.  5. The way
   things are usually done.  Usage: a fairly ambiguous word.  "You
   can't beat the system."  <System hacker>: one who hacks the system
   (in sense 1 only; for sense 2 one mentions the particular program:
   e.g., "lisp hacker")

<system mangler> n.  Humorous synonym for "system programmer";
   compare <sys-frog>.  Refers specifically to a systems programmer
   in charge of administration, software maintainence, and updates at
   some site.

                                {= T =}

<T> /tee/ 1. [from LISP terminology for `true'] Yes.  Usage: used in
   reply to a question, particularly one asked using the `-P'
   convention).  See <NIL>.  In LISP, the name T means "true", among
   other things.  Some hackers use `T' and `NIL' instead of
   `Yes' and `No' almost reflexively.  This sometimes causes
   misunderstandings.  When a waiter or flight attendant asks whether
   a hacker wants coffee, he may well respond "T", meaning that he
   wants coffee; but of course he will be brought a cup of tea
   instead.  As it happens, most hackers like tea at least as well as
   coffee, particularly those who frequent Chinese restaurants, so
   it's not that big a problem.  2. See <time t>. 3. In
   transaction-processing circles, an abbreviation for the noun
   "transaction". 4. [Purdue] Alternate spelling of <tee>

<TANSTAAFL> /tan'stah-fl/ [acronym, from Robert Heinlein's classic
   `The Moon is a Harsh Mistress'.]  "There Ain't No Such Thing
   As A Free Lunch", often invoked when someone is balking at an
   unpleasant design choice or the prospect of using an unpleasantly
   <heavyweight> technique.  "What? Don't tell me I have to implement a
   database back end to get my address book program to work!"
   "Well, TANSTAAFL you know."  This usage is particularly popular
   among the relatively high precentages of science-fiction fans and
   political libertarians in hackerdom (see Appendix B).

<tail recursion> n. If you haven't already, see <tail recursion>.

<talk mode> n. The state a terminal is in when linked to another via a
   bidirectional character pipe, to support on-line dialogue between
   two or more users.  Talk mode has a special set of jargon words,
   used to save typing, which are not used orally.  Some of these are
   identical to (and probably derived from) Morse-code jargon used by
   ham-radio amateurs going back to the nineteen-twenties.

     BCNU      Be seeing you.
     BTW       By the way...  Lower-case also works.
     BYE?      Are you ready to unlink?  (This is the standard way to
               end a talk mode conversation; the other person types BYE
               to confirm, or else continues the conversation.)
     CUL       See you later.
     ENQ?      Are you busy? Expects ACK or NAK in return.
     FOO?      A greeting, also meaning R U THERE?  Often used in the
               case of unexpected links, meaning also "Sorry if I
               butted in" (linker) or "What's up?" (linkee).
     FYI       For your information...
     FYA       For your amusement...
     GA        Go ahead (used when two people have tried to type
               this cedes the right to type to the other).
     HELLOP    A greeting, also meaning R U THERE?  (An instance of the
               "-P" convention.)
     JAM       Just a minute... Equivalent to SEC...
     NIL       No (see <NIL>).
     O         Over to you (lower-case works too).
     OO        Over and out (lower-case works too).
     /         Another form of "Over to you" (from x/y as "x over y")
     OBTW      Oh, by the way...
     R U THERE?  Are you there?
     SEC       Wait a second (sometimes written SEC...).
     T         Yes (see the main entry for <T>).
     TNX       Thanks.
     TNX 1.0E6 Thanks a million (humorous).
     WRT       With Regard To or With Respect To.
     WTF       The universal interrogative particle.  WTF knows what
               it means?
     WTH       What the hell?
     <double CRLF> When the typing party has finished, he types two CRLFs
               to signal that he is done; this leaves a blank line between
               individual "speeches" in the conversation, making it easier to
               re-read the preceding text.
     <name>:   When three or more terminals are linked, each speech is
               preceded by the typist's login name and a colon (or a hyphen) to
               indicate who is typing.  The login name often is shortened to a
               unique prefix (possibly a single letter) during a very long
     /\/\/\    A giggle or chuckle (rare).  On a MUD, this almost certainly mean
               `earthquake fault'.

   Most of the above sub-jargon is used at both Stanford and MIT.
   Several of these are also common in <email>, esp.  FYI, FYA, BTW,
   BCNU, and CUL.  A few other abbreviations have been reported from
   commercial networks such as GEnie and CompuServe where on-line
   `live' chat including more than two people is common and usually
   involves a more `social' context, notably

     <g> grin
     BBL      be back later
     BRB      be right back
     HHOJ     ha ha only joking
     HHOS     <ha ha only serious>
     LOL      laughing out loud
     ROTF     rolling on the floor
     ROTFL    rolling on the floor laughing
     AFK      away from keyboard
     b4       before
     CU l8tr  see you later
     MORF     Male or Female?
     TTFN     ta-ta for now
     OIC      Oh, I see
     rehi     hello again

   These are not used at universities or in the UNIX world;
   conversely, most of the people who know these are unfamiliar with
   FOO?, BCNU, HELLOP, <NIL>, and <T>.

   The <MUD> community uses a mixture of USENET/Internet emoticons, a
   few of the more natural of the old-style talk mode abbrevs, and
   some of the `social' list above; specifically, MUD respondents
   report use of BBL, BRB, LOL, b4, BTW, WTF, and WTH.  The use of
   rehi is also common; in fact, mudders are fond of re- compounds and
   will frequently `rehug' or `rebonk' (see <bonk/oif>) people.  The
   verb `re' by itself is verbed as `re-greet' In general, though,
   mudders express a preference for typing things out in full rather
   than using abbreviations; this may be due to the relative youth of
   the MUD cultures, which tend to include many touch typists and
   assume high-speed links.  The following uses specific to MUDs are

     UOK?      Are you OK?
     THX       Thanks (mutant of TNX)
     CU l8er   See you later (mutant of CU l8tr)
     OTT       over the top (excessive, uncalled for)

   Some <BIFF>isms (notably the variant spelling `d00d' appear to be
   passing into wider use among some subgroups of mudders).  See also
   <hakspek>, <emoticon>, <bonk/oif>.

<tall card> n. A PC/AT-sized expansion card (these can be larger
   than IBM-PC or XT cards because the AT case is bigger).  See also
   <short card>. 

A PC expansion card or adapter that will only fit in
   the PC/AT (the PC/AT box, being higher than earlier varieties,
   accepts bigger cards).  

<tanked> adj. Same as <down>, used primarily by UNIX hackers.  See
   also <hosed>.  Popularized as a synonym for "drunk" by Steve
   Dallas in the late lamented `Bloom County' comics.

<tar and feather> [from UNIX `tar(1)'] vt. To create a
   transportable archive from a group of files by first sticking them
   together with the tape archiver `tar(1)' (Tape ARchiver) and
   then compressing the result (see <compress>). The latter is
   dubbed `feathering' by analogy to what you do with an airplane
   propeller to decrease wind resistance; smaller files, after all,
   slip through comm links more easily.

<taste> n. [primarily MIT-DMS] 1. The quality in programs which
   tends to be inversely proportional to the number of features,
   hacks, and kluges programmed into it.  Also, "tasty",
   "tasteful", "tastefulness".  "This feature comes in N
   tasty flavors."  Although "tasteful" and "flavorful" are
   essentially synonyms, "taste" and <flavor> are not.  Taste
   refers to sound judgement on the part of the creator; a program or
   feature can *exhibit* taste but cannot "have" taste.  On
   the other hand, a feature can have <flavor>.  Also, <flavor>
   has the additional meaning of `kind' or `variety' not shared by
   "taste".  <flavor> is a more popular word among hackers than
   "taste", though both are used.  2. Alt. sp. of <tayste>.

<tayste> n. Also as <taste>; two bits. Syn <crumb>, <quarter>.
   Compare <byte>, <dynner>, <playte>, <nybble>.

<TCB> /tee see bee/ [IBM] 1. Trouble Came Back.  Intermittent or
   difficult-to reproduce problem which has failed to respond to
   neglect.  Compare <heisenbug>.  Not to be confused with: 2. Trusted
   Computing Base, an `official' jargon term from the <Orange Book>.

<tea, ISO standard cup of> [South Africa] n. A cup of tea with milk and
   and one teaspoon of sugar, where the milk was poured into the cup
   before the tea. Variations are ISO 0, with no sugar, ISO 2, with
   two spoons of sugar, and so on.

   Note: like many ISO standards, this one has a faintly alien ring in
   North America, wherein hackers generally shun the decadent British
   practice of adulterating perfectly good tea with *dairy
   products* and prefer instead to add a wedge of lemon. If one were
   feeling extremely silly, one might hypothecate an analogous
   "ANSI standard cup of tea" and wind up with a political
   situation distressingly similar to several that arise in much more
   serious technical contexts.  Milk and lemon don't mix very well.

<TECO> /tee'koh/ obs. 1. vt. Originally, to edit using the TECO editor
   in one of its infinite variations (see below); sometimes still used
   to mean `to edit' even when not using TECO! Usage: rare and now
   primarily historical.  2. [originally an acronym for (paper)
   `Tape Editor and COrrector'; later, `Text Editor and
   Corrector'] n. A text editor developed at MIT, and modified by
   just about everybody.  If all the dialects are included, TECO might
   have been the single most prolific editor in use before <EMACS>
   to which it was directly ancestral.  Noted for its powerful
   programming-language-like features and its incredibly hairy syntax.
   It is literally the case that every possible sequence of ASCII
   characters is a valid, though probably uninteresting, TECO program;
   one common hacker game used to be mentally working out what the
   teco commands corresponding to human names did.  As an example,
   here is a TECO program that takes a list of names like this:

     Loser, J. Random
     Quux, The Great
     Dick, Moby

   sorts them alphabetically according to last name, and then puts the
   last name last, removing the comma, to produce this:

     Moby Dick
     J. Random Loser
     The Great Quux

   The program is:


   (where ^B means `Control-B' (ASCII 0000010) and $ is actually an
   <escape> (ASCII 0011011) character)

   In fact, this very program was used to produce the second, sorted
   list from the first list!  The first hack at it had a <bug>: gls
   (the author) had accidentally omitted the `@' in front of
   `F^B', which as anyone can see is clearly the <wrong thing>.  It
   worked fine the second time.  There is no space to describe all the
   features of TECO, but it may be of interest that `^P' means
   `sort' and `J<.-Z; ...L>' is an idiomatic series of commands
   for `do once for every line'.

   In 1990, TECO is now pretty much one with the dust of history,
   having been replaced in the affections of hackerdom by <EMACS>.  It
   can still be found lurking on VMS and a couple of crufty PDP-11
   operating systems, however.  See also <write-only language>.

<tee> n.,vt. [Purdue] A carbon copy of an electronic transmission,
   "Oh, you're sending him the <bits> to that?  Slap on a tee for
   me."  From the UNIX command `tee(1)', itself named after a
   pipe fitting (see <plumbing>, <pipeline>).  Can also mean `save
   one for me' as in "Tee a slice for me!". Also spelled `T'.

<TechRef> [MS-DOS] n. The original `IBM PC Technical Reference
   Manual' including the BIOS listing and complete schematics for the
   PC.  The only PC documentation in the issue package that's
   considered serious by real hackers.
<Telerat> /tel'@-rat/ n. Unflattering hackerism for `Teleray', a
   line of extremely losing terminals.  See also <terminak>,
   <sun-stools>, <HP-SUX>.

<TELNET> /tel'net/ vt. To communicate with another ARPAnet host using
   the <TELNET> program.  TOPS-10 people use the word IMPCOM since
   that is the program name for them.  Sometimes abbreviated to TN.
   "I usually TN over to SAIL just to read the AP News."

<ten finger interface> n. The interface between two networks which
   cannot be directly connected for security reasons; refers to the
   practice of placing two terminals side by side and having an
   operator read from one and type into the other.

<tense> adj. Of programs, very clever and efficient.  A tense piece of
   code often got that way because it was highly <bum>med, but
   sometimes it was just based on a great idea.  A comment in a clever
   display routine by Mike Kazar, a student hacker at CMU: "This
   routine is so tense it will bring tears to your eyes.  Much thanks
   to Craig Everhart and James Gosling for inspiring this <hack
   attack>."  A tense programmer is one who produces tense code.

<tenured graduate student> n.  One who has been in graduate school for
   ten years (the usual maximum is five or six): a `ten-yeared'
   student (get it?).  Students don't really get tenure, of course,
   the way professors do, but a tenth-year graduate student has
   probably been around the university longer than any non-tenured

<tera-> /te'r@/ pref. Multiplier, 10 ^ 15 or 2 ^ 50. See <kilo->.

<teraflop club> /ter'a-flop kluhb/ [FLOP = Floating Point Operation]
   n.  Mythical group of people who consume outrageous amounts of
   computer time in order to produce a few simple pictures of glass
   balls with intricate ray tracing techniques.  Cal Tech professor
   James Kajiya is said to have been the founding member.  See also

<terminak> /ter'mi-nak`/ [Caltech, ca. 1979] n. Any malfunctioning
   computer terminal.  A common failure mode of Lear-Siegler ADM3a
   terminals caused the `L' key to produce the `K' code instead;
   complaints about this tended to look like "Terminak #3 has a bad
   keyboard.  Pkease fix."  See <sun-stools>, <Telerat>, <HP-SUX>.

<terminal brain death> n. Extreme form of <terminal illness> (sense

<terminal illness> n. 1. Syn. <raster burn>.  2.  The `burn-in'
   condition your CRT tends to get if you don't have a screen saver.

<terminal junkie> [Great Britain] n. A <wannabee> or early <larval
   stage> hacker who spends most of his/her time wandering the
   directory tree and writing <noddy> programs just to get his/her
   fix of computer time.  Variants include "terminal jockey",
   "console junkie", or <console jockey>.  The term "console
   jockey" seems to imply more expertise than the other three.  See
   also <twink>, <read-only user>.

<terpri> /ter'pree/ [from the LISP 1.5 (and later, MacLISP)] vi. To
   output a <CRLF>. Now rare.  It is a contraction of `TERminate
   PRInt line'.

<test> v.  1. To allow real users to bash on a prototype for long
   enough to get thoroughly acquainted with it, with careful
   monitoring and followup of the results.  2. Some bored
   random trying a couple of the simpler features with a developer
   looking over his/her shoulder ready to pounce on mistakes.  Judging
   by the quality of most software, the second definition is far more
   prevalent.  See also <demo>.

<TeX> /tekh/ n. An extremely powerful <macro>-based text-formatter
   written by Donald E. Knuth, very popular in the computer-science
   community (it is good enough to have displaced UNIX
   `troff(1)', the other favored formatter, even at many UNIX
   installations).  TeX fans insist on the correct (guttural)
   pronunciation and spelling (all caps, with the E depressed below
   the baseline) of the name (the mixed-case `TeX' is considered an
   acceptable kluge on ASCII-only devices).  They like to proliferate
   names from the word `TeX' --- such as TeXnichian (TeX user),
   TeXhacker (TeX programmer), TeXmaster (competent TeX programmer),
   TeXhax, TeXnique, TeXpert.

<text> n. 1. Executable code, esp. a `pure code' portion shared
   between multiple indstances of a program running in a multitasking
   OS.  2. Textual material in the mainstream sense; data which are in
   ordinary ASCII or EBCDIC representation. "Those are text files,
   you can review them using the editor".  These two contradictory
   senses confuse hackers. too.
<thanks in advance> [USENET] Conventional net.politeness ending a
   posted request for information or assistance.  Sometimes written
   `advTHANKSance' or `aTdHvAaNnKcSe' or abbreviated `TIA'. See
   <net.>, <netiquette>.

<theology> n. 1. Ironically used to refer to <religious issues>.  2.
   Technical fine points of an abstruse nature, esp. those where the
   resolution is of theoretical interest but relatively <marginal>
   with respect to actual use of a design or system.  Used esp. around
   software issues with a heavy AI or language design component.
   Example: the deep- vs. shallow-binding debate in the design of
   dynamically-scoped LISPs.

<theory> n. Used in the general sense of idea, plan, story, or set of
   rules.  This is a generalization and abuse of the technical
   meaning. "What's the theory on fixing this TECO loss?"  "What's
   the theory on dinner tonight?"  ("Chinatown, I guess.")
   "What's the current theory on letting lusers on during the day?"
   "The theory behind this change is to fix the following well-known

<thinko> /thing'koh/ [by analogy with "typo"] n. A bubble in the
   stream of consciousness; a momentary, correctable glitch in mental
   processing, especially one involving recall of information learned
   by rote.  Syn. <braino>.  Compare <mouso>.

<This time, for sure!>  Ritual affirmation frequently uttered during
   protracted debugging sessions involving numerous small obstacles
   (as, in for example, attempts to bring up a UUCP connection). For
   the proper effect, this must be uttered in a fruity imitation of
   Bullwinkle the Moose.  Also heard: "Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a
   rabbit out of my hat!".  The canonical response is, of course,
   "But that trick *never* works!". See HUMOR, HACKER.

<thrash> vi. To move wildly or violently, without accomplishing
   anything useful.  Paging or swapping systems which are overloaded
   waste most of their time moving data into and out of core (rather
   than performing useful computation), and are therefore said to
   thrash.  Someone who keeps changing his mind (esp. about what to
   work on next) is said to be thrashing.  A person frantically trying
   to execute too many tasks at once (and not spending enough time on
   any of them) may also be described as thrashing.  Compare

<thread> /thred/ n. [USENET, GEnie] Common abbreviation of `topic
   thread', a more or less continuous chain of postings on a single

<three-finger salute> n. Syn. <vulcan nerve pinch>.

<thunk> /thuhnk/ [mythically, the sound made by data when pushed
   onto the stack] n. 1. " ... a piece of coding which provides
   an address." --- P.Z. Ingerman, who invented <thunk>s in 1961 as
   a way of binding actual parameters to their formal definitions in
   Algol-60 procedure calls.  If a procedure is called with an
   expression in the place of a formal parameter, the compiler
   generates a <thunk> to compute the expression and leave the
   address of the result in some standard location such as an index
   register.  2. Later generalized into an expression, frozen together
   with its environment for later evaluation if and when needed.  The
   process of unfreezing these <thunk>s is called `forcing'.  3.
   Stub routine, in an overlay programming environment, which loads
   and jumps to the correct overlay.  4. People and activities
   scheduled in a thunklike manner.  "It occurred to me the other day
   that I am rather accurately modelled by a thunk --- I frequently
   need to be forced to completion."  --- paraphrased from a .plan

<tick> n. 1. The width of one tick of the system clock on the
   computer.  Often 1 AC cycle time (1/60 second in the U.S. and
   Canada, and 1/50 most other places) but more recently 1/100 sec has
   become common.  Syn <jiffy>.  2. In simulations, the discrete unit
   of time that passes `between' iterations of the simulation
   mechanism.  In AI applications, this amount of time is often left
   unspecified, since the only constraint of interest is that caused
   things happen after their causes.  This sort of AI simulation is
   often pejoratively referred to as "tick-tick-tick" simulation,
   especially when the issue of simultaneity of events with long,
   independent chains of causes is <handwave>d.

<tick-list features> [Acorn Computers] n. Features in software or
   hardware that customers insist on but never use (calculators in
   desktop TSRs and that sort of thing).

<tickle a bug> vt. To cause a normally hidden bug to manifest
   through some known series of inputs or operations.  "You can
   tickle the bug in the Paradise's highlight handling by trying to
   set bright yellow reverse video".

<time sink> n. A project which consumes unbounded amounts of time.

<time T> /tiem tee/ n. 1. An unspecified but usually well-understood
   time, often used in conjunction with a later time T+1.  "We'll
   meet on campus at time T or at Louie's at time T+1." means, in the
   context of going out for dinner, "If we meet at Louie's directly,
   we can meet there a little later than if we meet on campus and then
   have to travel to Louie's."  (Louie's is a Chinese restaurant in
   Palo Alto that is a favorite with hackers.  Had the number 30 been
   used instead of `one', it would have implied that the travel time
   from campus to Louie's is thirty minutes; whatever time T is (and
   that hasn't been decided on yet), you can meet half an hour later
   at Louie's than you could on campus and end up eating at the same
   time. See also <since time T equals minus infinity>.

<tinycrud> n. Pejorative used by habitues of older game-oriented
   <MUD> versions for TinyMuds and other user-extensible <MUD>
   variants; esp. common among users of the rather violent and
   competitive AberMud and MIST systems.  These people justify the
   slur on the basis of how (allegedly) inconsistant and lacking in
   genuine feel or atmosphere the scenarios generated in user
   extendable muds can be. Other common knocks on them are that they
   feature little overall plot, bad game topology, little competitive
   interaction etc. --- not to mention the alleged horrors of the
   TinyMud code itself.  This dispute is clearly a <holy war>.

<tip of the ice-cube> [IBM] n. The visible part of something small and
   insignificant.  Used as an ironic comment in situations where `tip
   of the iceberg' might be appropriate if the subject were actually

<tired iron> [IBM] n. Hardware that is perfectly functional but enough
   behind the state of the art to have been superseded by new
   products, presumably with enough improvement in bang-per-buck that
   the old stuff is starting to look a bit like a <dinosaur>.

<tits on a keyboard> n. Small bumps on certain keycaps to keep
   touch-typists registered  (Usually on the `5' of a numeric keypad,
   and on `F' and `J' of a QWERTY keyboard).

<TLA> /tee el ay/ [Three-Letter-Acronym] n. 1. Self-describing acronym
   for a species with which computing terminology is infested.  2. Any
   confusing acronym at all.  Examples include MCA, FTP, SNA, CPU,
   MMU, SCCS, DMU, FPU, TLA, NNTP.  People who like this looser usage
   argue that not all TLAs have three letters, just as not all four
   letter words have four letters.  One also hears of `ETLA'
   (Extended Three Letter Acronym, pronounced /ee tee el ay/ ) being
   used to describe four-letter acronyms.

<toast> 1. n. Any completely inoperable system, esp. one that has just
   crashed; "I think BUACCA is toast." 2. vt. To cause a system to
   crash accidentally, especially in a manner that requires manual
   rebooting. "Rick just toasted harp again."

<toaster> n. 1. The archetypal really stupid application for an
   embedded microprocessor controller esp. `toaster oven'; often used
   in comments which imply that a scheme is inappropriate technology.
   "<DWIM> for an assembler?  That'd be as silly as running UNIX on
   your toaster!" 2.  A very very dumb computer. "You could run this
   program on any dumb toaster."  See <bitty box>, <toaster>, <toy>.

<toeprint> n. A <footprint> of especially small size.

<toggle> vt. To change a BIT from whatever state it is in to the
   other state; to change from 1 to 0 or from 0 to 1.  This probably
   comes from "toggle switches", such as standard light switches,
   though the word "toggle" actually refers to the mechanism that
   keeps the switch in the position to which it is flipped, rather
   than to the fact that the switch has two positions.  There are four
   things you can do to a bit: set it (force it to be 1), clear (or
   zero) it, leave it alone, or toggle it.  (Mathematically, one would
   say that there are four distinct boolean-valued functions of one
   boolean argument, but saying that is much less fun than talking
   about toggling bits.)

<tool> 1. n. A program primarily used to create other programs, such
   as a compiler or editor or cross-referencing program.  Oppose
   <app>, <operating system>. 2. [UNIX] An application program with a
   simple, `transparent' (typically text-stream) interface designed
   specifically to be used in programmed combination with other tools
   (see <filter>).  3. [MIT] vi. To work; to study.  See <hack>.

<toolsmith> n. The software equivalent of a tool-and-die specialist;
   one who specializes in making the tools with which other
   programmers create applications.

<TOPS-10> /tops-ten/ n. DEC's proprietary OS for the fabled <PDP-10>
   machines, long a favorite of hackers but now effectively extinct.
   A fountain of hacker folklore; see Appendix A. See also <ITS>,
   <TOPS-20>, <TWENEX>, <VMS>, <operating system>.  TOPS-10 was
   sometimes called BOTS-10 (from `bottoms-ten') as a comment on the
   inappropriateness of describing it as the top of anything.

<TOPS-20> /tops-twen'tee/ n. See <TWENEX>.

<tourist> [from MIT's ITS system] n. A guest on the system, especially
   one who generally logs in over a network from a remote location for
   games and other trivial purposes.  One step below <luser>.  Note;
   hackers often spell this `turist', perhaps by some sort of tenuous
   analogy with `luser'.  Compare <twink>, <read-only user>

<tourist information> n. Information in an on-line report that is
   not really relevant to its primary purpose, but contributes to a
   viewer's gestalt of what's going on with the software or hardware
   behind it.  Whether a given piece of info falls in this category or
   not partly depends on what the user is looking for at any given
   time.   The `bytes free' information at the bottom of an MS-DOS
   `dir'  display is tourist information; so is the TIME
   information in a UNIX `ps(1)' display, most of the time.

<touristic> adj. Having the quality of a <tourist>.  Often used as
   a pejorative, as in "losing touristic scum".  Often spelled

<toy> n. A computer system; always used with qualifiers.  1. <nice
   toy>: One which supports the speaker's hacking style adequately.
   2.  "just a toy": A machine that yields insufficient <computron>s
   for the speaker's preferred uses.  This is not condemnatory as is
   <bitty box>; toys can at least be fun.  See also <Get a real
   computer!>, <bitty box>.

<toy language> n. A language useful for instructional puposes or as
   a proof-of-concept for some aspect of computer science theory, but
   which is inadequate for general-purpose programming.  Bad Things
   can result when a toy language is promoted as a general purpose
   solution for programming (see <bondage and discipline language>);
   the classic example is <Pascal>.  Several moderately well-known
   formalisms for conceptual tasks like programming Turing machines
   also qualify as toy languages in a less negative sense.

<toy problem> [AI] n. A deliberately simplified or even oversimplified
   case of a challenging problem used to investigate, prototype, or
   test algorithms for the real problem.  Sometimes used pejoratively.
   See also <gedanken>.

<toy program> n. 1. One which can be readily comprehended.

<trap> 1. n. A program interrupt, usually used specifically to refer
   to an interrupt caused by some illegal action taking place in the
   user program.  In most cases the system monitor performs some
   action related to the nature of the illegality, then returns
   control to the program.  2. vi. To cause a trap.  "These
   instructions trap to the monitor."  Also used transitively to
   indicate the cause of the trap.  "The monitor traps all
   input/output instructions."  This term is associated with
   assembler programming ("interrupt" is more common among <HLL>
   programmers) and appears to be fading into history as the role of
   assembler continues to shrink.

<trap door> alt. <trapdoor> n. Syn. <back door>.

<trash> vt. To destroy the contents of (said of a data structure). The
   most common of the family of near-synonyms including <mung>,
   <mangle> and <scribble>.

<tree killer> [Sun] n. 1. A printer.  2. A person who wastes paper.
   This should be interpreted in a broad sense; `wasting paper'
   includes the production of <spiffy> but <content-free> documents.
   Thus, most <suits> are tree-killers.

<trit> n. One base-3 digit; the amount of information conveyed by a
   choice of one of three equally likely outcomes (see also <bit>).
   These arise, for example, in the context of a <flag> that should
   actually be able to assume *three* values --- yes, no, or

<trivial> adj. 1. In explanation, too simple to bother detailing. 2.
   Not worth the speaker's time. 3. Complex, but solvable by methods
   so well-known that anyone not utterly <cretinous> would have
   thought of them already.  Hackers' notions of triviality may be
   quite at variance with those of non-hackers.  See <nontrivial>,

<troglodyte> [Commodore] n. 1. A hacker who never leaves his cubicle.
   The term `Gnoll' (from D&D) is also reported.  2.  A curmudgeon
   attached to an obsolescent computing environment.  The combination
   "ITS troglodyte" got flung around some during the USENET and
   email wringle-wrangle attending the 2.x.x revision of the Jargon
   File; at least one of the people it was intended to describe
   adopted it with pride.

<troglodyte mode> [Rice University] n. Programming with the lights
   turned off, sunglasses on, and the (character) terminal inverted
   (black on white) because you've been up for so many days straight
   that your eyes hurt.  Loud music blaring from a stereo stacked in
   the corner is optional but recommended.  See <larval stage>,

<trojan horse> [coined by MIT-hacker-turned-spook Dan Edwards] n. A
   program designed to break security or damage a system that is
   disguised as something else benign, such as a directory lister or
   archiver.  See <virus>, <worm>.

<true-hacker> [analogy with "trufan" from SF fandom] n.  One who
   exemplifies the primary values of hacker culture, esp.  competence
   and helpfulness to other hackers.  A high complement.  "He spent
   six hours helping me bring up UUCP and netnews on my FOOBAR 4000
   last week --- unequivocally the act of a true-hacker."  Compare
   <demigod>, oppose <munchkin>.

<tty> /tee-tee-wie/ [UNIX], /ti'tee/ [ITS, but some UNIX people say
   it this way as well] n. 1. Terminal of the teletype variety,
   characterized by a noisy mechanical printer, a very limited
   character set, and poor print quality.  Usage: antiquated (like the
   TTYs themselves).  See also <bit-paired keyboard>.  2.
   [especially UNIX] Any terminal at all; sometimes used to refer to
   the particular terminal controlling a given job.

<tube> 1. n. A CRT terminal.  Never used in the mainstream sense of
   TV; real hackers don't watch TV, except for Loony Toons and Rocky &
   Bullwinkle and the occasional cheesy old swashbuckle movie.  2.
   [IBM] To send a copy of something to someone else's terminal.
   "Tube me that note?"

<tube time> n.  Time spent at a terminal or console; more inclusive
   than hacking time.  Commonly used in discussions of what parts of
   one's environment one uses most heavily.  "I find I'm spending too
   much of my tube time reading mail since I started this revision."

<tunafish> n. In hackish lore, refers to the mutated punchline of an
   age-old joke to be found at the bottom of the man pages of
   `tunefs(8)' in the original <BSD> 4.2 distribution.  The joke
   was removed in later releases once commercial sites started
   developing 4.2. Tunefs relates to the `tuning' of file-system
   parameters for optimum performance, and at the bottom of a few
   pages of <black art> writings was a BUGS section consisting of the
   line "You can tune a filing system, but you can't tunafish."

<tune> [from automotive or musical usage] vt. To optimize a program or
   system for a particular environment, esp. by adjusting numerical
   parameters designed as <hook>s for tuning, e.g. by changing #define
   lines in C.  One may "tune for time" (fastest execution) "tune for
   space" (least memory utilization) or "tune for configuration" (most
   efficient use of hardware). See <bum>, <hot spot>, <hand-hacking>.

<tweak> vt. 1. To change slightly, usually in reference to a value.
   Also used synonymously with <twiddle>.  If a program is almost
   correct, rather than figuring out the precise problem, you might
   just keep tweaking it until it works.  See <frobnicate> and <fudge
   factor>.  2. To <tune> or <bum> a program.  This is preferred usage
   in England.

<TWENEX> /twe'neks/ n. The TOPS-20 operating system by DEC.  TOPS-10
   was a typically crufty DEC operating system for the PDP-10, so
   TOPS-20 was the obvious name choice for the DEC-20 OS. Bolt,
   Beranek and Newman (BBN) had developed their own system, called
   <TENEX> (TEN EXecutive), and in creating TOPS-20 DEC copied TENEX
   and adapted it for the 20. The term TWENEX was therefore a
   contraction of `twenty TENEX'.  DEC people cringed when they
   heard TOPS-20 referred to as `TWENEX', but the term caught on
   nevertheless.  The written abbreviation `20x' was also used.
   TWENEX was successful and very popular; in fact, there was a period
   in the 1980s when it commanded almost as fervent a culture of
   partisans as UNIX or ITS --- but DEC's decision to scrap all the
   internal rivals to the VAX architecture and the relatively stodgy
   VMS OS killed the DEC-20 and put a sad end to TWENEX's brief day in
   the sun.

<twiddle> n. 1. tilde (ASCII 1111110, `~').  Also called
   "squiggle", `sqiggle' (sic---pronounced /skig'l/), and
   "twaddle", but twiddle is the most common term.  2. A small and
   insignificant change to a program.  Usually fixes one bug and
   generates several new ones.  3. vt. To change something in a small
   way.  Bits, for example, are often twiddled.  Twiddling a switch or
   knob implies much less sense of purpose than toggling or tweaking
   it; see <frobnicate>.  To speak of twiddling a bit connotes
   aimlessness, and at best doesn't specify what you're doing to the
   bit; by contrast, toggling a bit has a more specific meaning (see

<twink> /twink/ [UCSC] n. Equivalent to <read-only user>.

<two-to-the-n> q.  Used like N, but referring to bigger numbers. "I
   have two-to-the-N things to do before I can go out for lunch"
   means you probably won't show up.

<two pi> q. The number of years it takes to finish one's thesis.
   Occurs in stories in the form: "He started on his thesis; two pi
   years later...".

<twonkie> n. The software equivalent of a Twinkie; a useless
   `feature' added to look sexy and placate a <marketroid>.

                                {= U =}

<UBD> /yoo-bee-dee/ [abbreviation for "User Brain Damage"] An
   abbreviation used to close out trouble reports obviously due to
   utter cluelessness on the user's part.  Compare <PBD>; see also

<undefined external reference> excl. [UNIX] Message from UNIX's
   linker.  Used to indicate loose ends in an argument or discussion.

<under the hood> prep. [hot-rodder talk] 1. Used to introduce the
   underlying implementation of a product (hardware, software, or
   idea). Implies that the implementation is not intuitively obvious
   from the appearance, but the speaker is about enable the listener
   to <zen> it. "Let's now look under the hood to see how ..."  2.
   Can also imply that the implementation is much simpler than the
   appearance would indicate, as in "Under the hood, we are just
   fork/execling the shell."  3. Inside a chassis, as in "Under the
   hood, this baby has a 40MHz 68030!"

<uninteresting> adj. 1. Said of a problem which, while <nontrivial>,
   can be solved simply by throwing sufficient resources at it. 2.
   Also said of problems for which a solution would neither advance
   the state of the art nor be fun to design and code.  True hackers
   regard uninteresting problems as an intolerable waste of time, to
   be solved (if at all) by lesser mortals.  See <WOMBAT>, <SMOP>;
   oppose <interesting>.

<UN*X> n. Used to refer to the Unix operating system (trademark and/or
   copyright AT&T) in writing, but avoiding the need for the ugly (tm)
   typography.  Also used to refer to any or all varieties of Unixoid
   operating systems.  Ironically, lawyers now say (1990) that the
   requirement for superscript-tm has no legal force, but the asterisk
   usage is entrenched anyhow.  It has been suggested that there may
   be a psychological connection to practice in certain religions
   where the name of the deity is never written out in full, e.g. JHWH
   or G-d is used.  See also <glob>.

<unwind the stack> vi. 1. During the execution of a procedural language
   one is said to "unwind the stack" from a called procedure up to a
   caller when one discards the stack frame and any number of frames
   above it, popping back up to the level of the given caller.  In C
   this is done with longjmp/setjmp; in LISP with THROW/CATCH.  This
   is sometimes necessary when handling exceptional conditions.  See
   also <smash the stack>. 2. People can unwind the stack as well, by
   quickly dealing with a bunch of problems "Oh hell, let's do lunch.
   Just a second while I unwind my stack".

<unwind-protect> [MIT, from the name of a LISP operator] n. A task you
   must remember to perform before you leave a place or finish a
   project.  "I have an unwind-protect to call my advisor."

<UNIX> /yoo'niks/ [In the authors' words, "A weak pun on MULTICS"]
   n. (also `Unix') A popular interactive time-sharing system
   originally invented in 1969 by Ken Thompson after Bell Labs left
   the MULTICS project, mostly so he could play SPACEWAR on a
   scavenged PDP7. Dennis Ritchie, the inventor of C, is considered a
   co-author of the system.  The turning point in UNIX's history came
   when it was reimplemented almost entirely in C in 1974, making it
   the first source-portable operating system.  Fifteen years and a
   lot of changes later UNIX is the most widely used multiuser
   general-purpose operating system in the world.  Many people (see
   <UNIX weenie>) consider this the single most important victory
   yet of hackerdom over industry opposition.  See <Version 7>,

<UNIX conspiracy> [ITS] n.  According to a conspiracy theory long
   popular among <ITS> and <TOPS-20> fans, UNIX's growth is the result
   of a plot hatched during the 70s at Bell Labs, whose intent was to
   hobble AT&T's competitors by making them dependent upon a system
   whose future evolution was to be under AT&T control.  This would be
   accomplished by disseminating an operating system that is seemingly
   inexpensive and easily portable, but relatively unreliable and
   insecure.  In this view, UNIX was designed to be one of the first
   computer viruses (see <virus>), but a virus spread to computers
   indirectly by people and market forces, rather than directly
   through disks and networks.  Adherents of this `UNIX virus'
   theory like to cite the fact that the well-known quotation "UNIX
   is snake oil" was uttered by DEC president Kenneth Olsen shortly
   before DEC began actively promoting its own family of UNIX

<unixism> n. A piece of code or coding technique that depends on
   the protected multi-tasking environment with relatively low
   process-spawn overhead that exists on UNIX systems.  Common
   <unixism>s include: gratuitous use of `fork(2)'; the assumption that
   certain undocumented but well-known features of UNIX libraries like
   `stdio(3)' are supported elsewhere; reliance on <obscure>
   side-effects of system calls (use of `sleep(2)' with a zero argument
   to clue the scheduler that you're willing to give up your
   time-slice, for example); the assumption that freshly-allocated
   memory is empty, the assumption that it's safe to never free()
   memory, etc.

<UNIX weenie> [ITS] n. 1. A derogatory pun on `UNIX wizard', common
   among hackers who use UNIX by necessity, but would prefer
   alternatives.  The implication is that, while the person in
   question may consider mastery of UNIX arcana to be a wizardly
   skill, the only real skill involved is the ability to tolerate, and
   the bad taste to wallow in, the incoherence and needless complexity
   that are alleged to infest many UNIX programs.  "This shell script
   tries to parse its arguments in 69 bletcherous ways. It must have
   been written by a real UNIX weenie."  2. A derogatory term for
   anyone who engages in uncritical praise of UNIX.  Often appearing
   in the context "stupid UNIX weenie".  See <Weenix>, <UNIX
   conspiracy>.  See also <weenie>.

<up> adj. 1. Working, in order.  "The down escalator is up."  2.
   <bring up>: vt. To create a working version and start it.  "They
   brought up a down system."

<upload> /uhp'lohd/ v. 1. To transfer code or data over a digital
   comm line from a smaller `client' system to a larger `host' one.  A
   transfer in the other direction is, of course, called a
   "download".  2. [speculatively] To move the essential patterns
   and algorithms which make up one's mind from one's brain into a
   computer.  Only those who are convinced that such patterns and
   algorithms capture the complete essence of the self view this
   prospect with aplomb.

<upthread> adv. Earlier in the discussion (see <thread>). "As Joe
   pointed out upthread..." See also <followup>.

<urchin> n. See <munchkin>.

<USENET> /yoos'net/ or /yooz'net/ [from "Users' Network"] n. A
   distributed bulletin board system supported mainly by UNIX
   machines, international in scope and probably the largest
   non-profit information utility in existence.  As of early 1990 it
   hosts over 700 <newsgroup>s and distributes up to 15 megabytes of
   new technical articles, news, discussion, chatter, and <flamage>
   every day.

<user> n. 1. Someone doing `real work' with the computer, who uses a
   computer as a means rather than an end.  Someone who pays to use a
   computer.  See <real user>.  2. A programmer who will believe
   anything you tell him.  One who asks silly questions.  (This is
   slightly unfair.  It is true that users ask questions (of
   necessity).  Sometimes they are thoughtful or deep.  Very often
   they are annoying or downright stupid, apparently because the user
   failed to think for two seconds or look in the documentation before
   bothering the maintainer.)  See <luser>.  3. Someone who uses a
   program from the outside, however skillfully, without getting into
   the internals of the program.  One who reports bugs instead of just
   going ahead and fixing them.  Basically, there are two classes of
   people who work with a program: there are implementors (hackers)
   and users (losers).  The users are looked down on by hackers to a
   mild degree because they don't understand the full ramifications of
   the system in all its glory.  (The few users who do are known as
   <real winners>.)  The term is a relative one: a consummate hacker
   may be a user with respect to some program he himself does not
   hack.  A LISP hacker might be one who maintains LISP or one who
   uses LISP (but with the skill of a hacker).  A LISP user is one who
   uses LISP, whether skillfully or not.  Thus there is some overlap
   between the two terms; the subtle distinctions must be resolved by

<user-friendly> adj. Programmer-hostile.  Generally used by hackers in
   a critical tone, to describe systems which hold the user's hand so
   obsessively that they make it painful for the more experienced and
   knowledgeable to get any work done.  See <menuitis>, <drool-proof
   paper>, <Macintrash>, <user-obsequious>.

<user-obsequious> adj. Emphatic form of <user-friendly>.  Connotes a
   system so verbose, inflexible, and determinedly simple-minded that
   it is nearly unusable. "Design a system any fool can use and only
   a fool will want to use it".

<USG UNIX> /yoo-ess-jee yoo'niks/ n. Refers to AT&T UNIX commercial
   versions after <Version 7>, especially System III and System V
   releases 1, 2 and 3.  So called because at that time AT&T's support
   crew was called the `UNIX Support Group'. See <BSD UNIX>.

<UUCPNET> n. The store-and-forward network consisting of all the
   world's UNIX machines (and others running some clone of the UUCP
   (UNIX-to-UNIX Copy Program) software). Any machine reachable via a
   <bang path> is on UUCPNET. See <network address>.

                                {= V =}

<vadding> /vad'ing/ [from VAD, a permutation of ADV (i.e. <ADVENT>),
   used to avoid a particular sysadmin's continual search-and-destroy
   sweeps for the game] n. A leisure-time activity of certain hackers
   involving the covert exploration of the `secret' parts of large
   buildings --- basements, roofs, freight elevators, maintenance
   crawlways, steam tunnels and the like.  A few go so far as to learn
   locksmithing in order to synthesize vadding keys.  The verb is `to
   vad'. The most extreme and dangerous form of vadding is "elevator
   rodeo", aka "elevator surfing", a sport played by wrasslin' down a
   thousand-pound elevator car with a three-foot piece of string, and
   then exploiting this mastery in various stimulating ways (such as
   elevator hopping, shaft exploration, rat-racing and the
   ever-popular drop experiments).  Kids, don't try this at home!

<vanilla> adj. Ordinary flavor, standard.  See <flavor>.  When used of
   food, very often does not mean that the food is flavored with
   vanilla extract!  For example, `vanilla-flavored wonton soup' (or
   simply `vanilla wonton soup') means ordinary wonton soup, as
   opposed to hot and sour wonton soup.  Applied to hardware and
   software.  As in "Vanilla Version 7 UNIX can't run on a vanilla
   11/34".  Also used to orthogonalize chip nomenclature; for instance
   a 74V00 is what TI calls a 7400, as distinct from a 74LS00, etc.
   This word differs from <canonical> in that the latter means `the
   thing you always use (or the way you always do it) unless you have
   some strong reason to do otherwise', whereas <vanilla> simply
   means `ordinary'.  For example, when hackers go on a <Great
   Wall>, hot-and-sour wonton soup is the <canonical> wonton soup to
   get (because that is what most of them usually order) even though
   it isn't the <vanilla> wonton soup.

<vannevar> /van'@-var/ n. A bogus technological prediction or
   foredoomed engineering concept, esp. one which fails by implicitly
   assuming that technologies develop linearly, incrementally, and in
   isolation from one another when in fact the learning curve tends to
   be highly nonlinear, revolutions are common, and competition is the
   rule.  The prototype was Vannevar Bush's prediction of "electronic
   brains" the size of the Empire State Building with a
   Niagara-Falls-equivalent cooling system for their tubes and relays,
   at a time when the semiconductor effect had already been
   demonstrated.  Other famous vannevars have included magnetic-bubble
   memory, LISP machines, videotex, and a paper from the late 1970s
   that computed a purported ultimate limit on areal density for ICs
   which was in fact less than the routine densities of five years

<vaporware> n. Products announced far in advance of any shipment
   (which may or may not actually take place).

<var> /veir/ or /vahr/ n. Short for "variable". Compare <arg>,

<VAX> /vaks/ n. 1. [from Virtual Address eXtension] The most
   successful minicomputer design in industry history, possibly
   excepting its immediate ancestor the PDP-11. Between its release in
   1978 and eclipse by <killer micro>s after about 1986 the VAX was
   probably the favorite hacker machine of them all, esp. after the
   1982 release of 4.2BSD UNIX (see <BSD UNIX>). Esp. noted for its
   large, assembler-programmer-friendly instruction set, an asset
   which became a liability after the RISC revolution following about
   1985.  2. A major brand of vacuum cleaner in Britain.  Cited here
   because its alleged sales pitch, "Nothing sucks like a VAX!"
   became a sort of battle-cry of RISC partisans.  Ironically, the
   slogan was actually that of a rival brand called Electrolux.

<VAXen> /vak'sn/ [from `oxen', perhaps influenced by `vixen'] n.
   pl.  The plural standardly used among hackers for the DEC VAX
   computers.  "Our installation has four PDP-10's and twenty
   <vaxen>."  See <boxen>.

<vaxism> n. A piece of code that exhibits <vaxocentrism> in critical
   areas.  Compare <PC-ism>, <unixism>.

<vaxocentrism> /vak`soh-sen'trizm/ [analogy with "ethnocentrism"] n.
   A notional disease said to afflict C programmers who persist in
   coding according to certain assumptions valid (esp. under UNIX) on
   <VAXen>, but false elsewhere (this can create substantial
   portability problems). Among these are:

  1.    The assumption that dereferencing a null pointer is safe because
        it is all bits zero, and location 0 is readable and zero (it may
        instead cause an illegal-address trap on non-VAXEN, and even on
        VAXEN under OSs other than BSD UNIX).

  2.    The assumption that pointer and integer types are the same size,
        and that pointers can be stuffed into integer variables and drawn
        back out without being truncated or mangled.

  3.    The assumption that a data type of any size may begin at any
        byte address in memory (for example, that you can freely construct
        and dereference a pointer to a word-sized object at an odd
        address). On many (esp. RISC) architectures better optimized for
        HLL execution speed this is invalid and can cause an illegal
        address fault or bus error.

  4.    The (related) assumption that there is no `padding' at the end
        of types and that in an array you can thus step right from the last
        byte of a previous component to the first byte of the next one.

  5.    The assumption that memory address space is globally flat and
        that the array reference foo[-1] is necessarily valid.  This is not
        true on segment-addressed machines like Intel chips (yes,
        segmentation is universally considered a <brain-damaged> way to
        design but that is a separate issue).

  6.    The assumption that objects can be arbitrarily large with no
        special considerations (again, not true on segmented

  7.    The assumption that the parameters of a routine are stored in
        memory, contiguously, and in strictly ascending or descending order
        (fails on many RISC architectures).

  8.    The assumption that bits and addressable units within an object
        are ordered in the same way and that this order is a constant of
        nature (fails on <big-endian> machines).

  9.    The assumption that it is meaningful to compare pointers to
        different objects not located within the same array, or to objects
        of different types (the former fails on segmented architectures,
        the latter on word-oriented machines or others with multiple
        pointer formats).

 10.    The assumption that a pointer to any one type can freely be cast
        into a pointer to any other type (fails on word-oriented machines
        or others with multiple pointer formats).

 11.    The assumption that an `int' is 32 bits (fails on 286-based
        systems and even on 386 and 68000 systems under some compilers), or
        (nearly equivalently) the assumption that `sizeof(int) ==

 12.    The assumption that argv[] is writable (fails in some
        embedded-systems C environments).

 13.    The assumption that characters are signed.

 14.    The assumption that all pointers are the same size and format,
        which means you don't have to worry about getting the types correct
        in calls (fails on word-oriented machines or others with multiple
        pointer formats).

   Note that a programmer can be validly be accused of vaxocentrism
   even if he/she has never seen a VAX. The terms `vaxocentricity'
   and `all-the-world's-a-VAX syndrome' have been used synonymously.

<veeblefester> /vee'b@l-fes`tr/ [from the `Born Loser' comix via
   Commodore; prob. originally from Mad Magazine's `Veeblefeetzer' c.
   1960] n.  Any obnoxious person engaged in the alleged professions
   of marketing or management.  Antonym of <hacker>.  Compare <suit>,

<Venus flytrap> [after the plant] n. See <firewall machine>.

<verbage> n.  Deliberate misspelling/mispronunciation of
   <verbiage> that assimilates it to the word `garbage'.  Compare
   <content-free>.  More pejorative than `verbiage'.

<verbiage> n. When the context involves a software or hardware
   system, this refers to <documentation>.  This term borrows the
   connotations of mainstream `verbiage' to suggest that the
   documentation is of marginal utility, and that the motives from
   which it is produced have little to do with the ostensible subject.

<Version 7> alt. V7 /vee se'vn/ n. The 1978 unsupported release of
   <UNIX> ancestral to all current commercial versions.  Before
   the release of the POSIX/SVID standards V7's features were often
   treated as a UNIX portability baseline.  See <BSD>, <USG UNIX>,
   <UNIX>.  Some old-timers impatient with commercialization and
   kernel bloat still maintain that V7 was the Last True UNIX.

<vi> /vee ie/, *not* /vie/ and *never* /siks/ [from `Visual
   Interface'] n. A screen editor <crufted together> by Bill Joy for
   an early <BSD> version.  Became the de-facto standard UNIX editor
   and a nearly undisputed hacker favorite until the rise of <EMACS>
   after about 1984.  Tends to frustrate new users no end, as it will
   neither take commands while accepting input text nor vice versa,
   and the default setup provides no indication of which mode one is
   in.  Nevertheless it is still widely used (about half the
   respondents in a USENET poll preferred it), and even EMACS fans
   often resort to it as a mail editor and for small editing jobs
   (mainly because it starts up faster than bulky EMACS).  See
   <holy wars>.

<videotex> n.obs. An electronic service offering people the
   privilege of paying to read the weather on their television screens
   instead of having somebody read it to them for free while they brush
   their teeth.  The idea bombed, because by the time videotex was
   practical the installed base of personal computers could hook up to
   timesharing services and do the things videotex might have been
   worthwhile for better and cheaper.  Videotex planners way
   overestimated both the appeal of getting information from a
   computer and the cost of local intelligence at the user's end.
   Like the <gorilla arm> effect, this has been a cautionary tale to
   hackers ever since.

<virgin> adj. Unused, in reference to an instantiation of a program.
   "Let's bring up a virgin system and see if it crashes again."
   Esp. useful after contracting a <virus> through <SEX>.  Also, by
   extension, unused buffers and the like within a program.

<virtual> [via the technical term "virtual memory", prob. fr.
   the term "virtual image" in optics] adj. 1. Common alternative
   to <logical>.  2. Simulated; performing the functions of
   something that isn't really there.  An imaginative child's doll may
   be a virtual playmate.  Usage: never used with compass directions.

<virtual Friday> n. The last day before an extended weekend, if that
   day is not a `real' Friday.  There are also "virtual Mondays"
   which are actually Tuesdays, after the three-day weekends
   associated with U.S. national holidays.

<virtual reality> n. 1. Computer simulations that involve 3D graphics
   and use devices such as the Dataglove to allow the user to interact
   with the simulation.  See <cyberspace>.  2. A form of network
   interaction incorporating aspects of role-playing games,
   interactive theater, improvisational comedy and `true
   confessions' magazines.  In a virtual reality forum (such as
   USENET's alt.callahans newsgroup or the <MUD> experiments on
   Internet) interaction between the participants is written like a
   shared novel complete with scenery, "foreground characters" which
   may be personae utterly unlike the people who write them, and
   common "background characters" manipulable by all parties.  The
   one iron law is that you may not write irreversible changes to a
   character without the consent of the person who `owns' it.
   Otherwise anything goes.  See <bamf>, <cyberspace>.

<virus> [from the obvious analogy with biological viruses, via SF]
   n.  A cracker program that searches out other programs and
   `infects' them by embedding a copy of itself in them, so that when
   these programs are executed, the embedded virus is executed, too,
   thus propagating the `infection'.  This normally happens
   transparently to the user.  The virus may do nothing but propagate
   itself.  Usually, however, after propagating silently for a while
   it starts doing things like writing cute messages on the terminal
   or playing strange tricks with your display (some viruses include
   nice <display hacks>).  Many nasty viruses, written by
   particularly perversely-minded <cracker>s, do irreversible
   damage, like <nuking> all the user's files.

   In 1990, viruses have become a serious problem, especially among
   IBM PC and Macintosh users (the lack of security on these machines
   enables viruses to spread easily, even infecting the opearting
   system).  The production of special anti-virus software has become
   an industry, and a number of exaggerated media reports have caused
   outbreaks of near hysteria among users, to the point where many
   <lusers> tend to blame *everything* that doesn't work as
   they had expected on virus attacks.

<visionary> n. 1. One who hacks vision, in the sense of an
   Artificial Intelligence researcher working on the problem of
   getting computers to `see' things using TV cameras.  (There isn't
   any problem in sending information from a TV camera to a computer.
   The problem is, how can the computer be programmed to make use of
   the camera information?  See <SMOP>.)  2. [IBM] One who reads
   the outside literature.

<VMS> /vee em ess/ n. DEC's proprietary operating system for their VAX
   minicomputer; one of the seven or so environments that loom largest
   in hacker folklore.  Many UNIX fans generously concede that VMS
   would probably be the hacker's favorite commercial OS if UNIX
   didn't exist; though true, this makes VMS fans furious.  One major
   hacker gripe with it is its slowness, thus the following limerick:

        There once was a system called VMS
        Of cycles by no means abstemious.
             It's chock-full of hacks
             And runs on a VAX
        And makes my poor stomach all squeamious.
     			---The Great Quux

   See also <VAX>, <TOPS-10>, <TOPS-20>, <UNIX>, <runic>.

<voodoo programming> [from George Bush's "voodoo economics"] n.
   Use by guess or cookbook of an <obscure>, <hairy> system
   feature or algorithm which one does not truly understand.  The
   implication is that the technique may not work, and if it doesn't
   one will never know why.  Compare <magic>, <deep magic>,
   <heavy wizardry>, <rain dance>.

<voice-net> n. Hackish way of referring to the telephone system,
   analogizing it to a digital network.  USENET <sig block>s not
   uncommonly include the sender's phone next to a "Voice-Net:"
   header; common variants of this are "Voicenet" and "V-Net".
   Compare <paper-net>, <snail-mail>, <wave a dead chicken>.

<vulcan nerve pinch> n. [From the old Star Trek TV series via
   Commodore Amiga hackers] The keyboard combination that forces a
   soft-boot or jump to ROM monitor (on machines that support such a
   feature). On many micros this is Ctrl-Alt-Del; on Suns, L1-A; on
   Macintoshes, it is <Cmd>-<Power switch>!  Also called <three-finger

<vulture capitalist> n. Pejorative hackerism for `venture
   capitalist', deriving from the common practice of pushing
   contracts that deprive inventors of both control over their own
   innovations and most of the money they ought to have made from

                                {= W =}

<wabbit> /wab'it/ [almost certainly from Elmer Fudd's immortal line
   `you wascawwy wabbit!'] n. 1. A legendary early hack reported on a
   System/360 at RPI and elsewhere around 1978. The program would
   reproduce itself twice every time it was run, eventually crashing
   the system.  2. By extension, any hack that includes infinite
   self-replication but is not a <virus> or <worm>.  See also
   <cookie monster>.

<waldo> /wol'doh/ [probably taken from the story `Waldo', by
   Robert A. Heinlein, which is where the term was first used to mean
   a remote mechanical agent controlled by a human limb] At Harvard
   (particularly by Tom Cheatham and students) this is used instead of
   <foobar> as a meta-syntactic variable and general nonsense word.
   See <foo>, <bar>, <foobar>, <quux>.

<walk> n.,vt. Traversal of an actual or <logical> data structure,
   especially a linked-list data structure in <core>.  See also
   <codewalker>, <silly-walk>, <clobber>.

<walking drives> n. An occasional failure mode of magnetic-disk drives
   back in the days when they were 14" wide <washing machine>s. Those
   old <dinosaur> parts carried terrific angular momentum; the
   combination of a misaligned spindle or worn bearings and stick-slip
   interactions with the floor could cause them to `walk' across a
   room, lurching alternate corners forward a couple of millimeters at
   a time.  There is a legend about a drive that walked over to the
   only door to the computer room and jammed it shut; the staff had to
   cut a hole in the wall in order to get at it! Walking could also be
   induced by certain patterns of drive access (a fast seek across the
   whole width of the disk, followed by a slow seek in the other
   direction).  It is known that some bands of old-time hackers
   figured out how to induce disk-accessing patterns that would do
   this to particular drive models and held disk-drive races.  This is
   not a joke!

<wall> [WPI] interj. 1. An indication of confusion, usually spoken
   with a quizzical tone.  "Wall??"  2. A request for further
   explication.  Compare <octal forty>.

   It is said that "Wall?"  really came from `talking to a blank
   wall'.  It was initially used in situations where, after one
   carefully answered a question, the questioner stared at you
   blankly, having understood nothing that was explained.  One would
   then throw out a "Hello, wall?" to elicit some sort of response
   from the questioner.  Later, confused questioners began voicing
   "Wall?" themselves.

   There is an anecdote about a child in a hospital who is addressed
   by a nurse over an intercom and replies "What do you want, Wall?"

<wall fallower> n.  A person or algorithm which compensates for
   native stupidity by efficiently following procedures shown to have
   been effective in the past.  Used of an algorithm this is not
   necessarily pejorative; it recalls `Harvey Wallbanger', the winning
   robot in an early AI contest (named, of course, after the
   cocktail).  Harvey successfully solved mazes by keeping a `finger'
   on one wall and running till it came out the other end.  This was
   inelegant, but mathematically guaranteed to work on
   simply-connected mazes --- and, in fact, Harvey outperformed more
   sophisticated robots that tried to `learn' each maze by building an
   internal representation of it.  Used of humans the term *is*
   pejorative and implies an uncreative, bureaucratic, by-the-book
   mentality.  See also <code grinder>.

<wall time> n. 1. `Real world' time (what the clock on the wall shows)
   as opposed to the system clock's idea of time. 2. The real running
   time of a program, as opposed to the number of <clocks> required to
   execute it (on a timesharing system these will differ, as no one
   program gets all the <clocks>).

<wallpaper> n. 1. A file containing a listing (e.g., assembly listing)
   or transcript, esp. a file containing a transcript of all or part
   of a login session.  (The idea was that the LPT paper for such
   listings was essentially good only for wallpaper, as evidenced at
   Stanford where it was used as such to cover windows.)  Usage: not
   often used now, esp. since other systems have developed other terms
   for it (e.g., PHOTO on TWENEX). However, the UNIX world doesn't
   have an equivalent term, so perhaps <wallpaper> will take hold
   there.  The term probably originated on ITS, where the commands to
   begin and end transcript files were :WALBEG and :WALEND, with
   default file DSK:WALL PAPER.  2. The background pattern used on
   graphical workstations (this is jargon under the `Windows'
   graphical user interface to MS-DOS).  3. <wallpaper file> n. The
   file that contains the wallpaper information before it is actually
   printed on paper.  (Sometimes you don't intend ever to produce a
   real paper copy of the file, because you can look at the file
   directly on your terminal, but it is still called a `wallpaper

<wannabee> [from a term recently used to describe Madonna fans who
   dress, talk, and act like their idol; prob. originally from biker
   slang] n.  A would-be <hacker>.  The connotations of this term
   differ sharply depending on the age and exposure of the subject.
   Used of a person who is in or might be entering <larval stage>
   it's semi-approving; such wannabees can be annoying but most
   hackers remember that they, too were once such creatures.  When
   used of any professional programmer, CS academic, writer, or
   <suit> it's derogatory, implying that said person is trying to
   cuddle up to the hacker mystique but doesn't, fundamentally, have a
   prayer of understanding what it's all about.  Overuse of terms from
   this File is often an indication of the <wannabee> nature.
   Compare <newbie>.

   [Historical note: the wannabee phenomenon has a bit different
   flavor now (1991) than it did ten or fifteen years ago.  When the
   people who are now hackerdom's tribal elders were in <larval
   stage>, the process of becoming a hacker was largely unconscious
   and unaffected by models known in popular culture --- communities
   formed spontaneously around people who, <as individuals>, felt
   irresistibly drawn to do hackerly things, and what wannabees
   experienced was a fairly pure, skill-focused desire to become
   similarly wizardly.  Those days of innocence are gone forever;
   society's adaptation to the advent of the microcomputer after 1980
   included the elevation of hackers as a new kind of folk hero, and
   the result is that some people semi-consciously set out to *be
   hackers* and borrow hackish prestige by fitting the public hacker
   image.  Fortunately, to do this really well one has to actually
   become a wizard.  Nevertheless, old-time hackers tend to share a
   poorly-articulated disquiet about the change; among other things,
   it gives them mixed feelings about the effects of public compendia
   of lore like this one.]

<wank> [Columbia University; prob. by mutation from British slang v.
   "wank", to masturbate] n.,v. Used much as <hack> is elsewhere.
   May describe (negatively) the act of hacking for hacking's sake
   ("Quit wanking, let's go get supper!") or (more positively) a
   <wizard>.  Adj. "wanky" describes something particularly
   clever (a person, program, or algorithm).  Conversations can also
   get wanky when there are too many wanks (here involved.  This
   excess wankiness is signalled by an overload of the "wankometer"
   (compare <bogometer>).  When the wankometer overloads, the
   conversation's subject must be changed, or all non-wanks will
   leave.  Compare "neep-neeping" (under <neep-neep>).

<wart> n. A small, crocky <feature> that sticks out of an
   otherwise <clean> design.  Something conspicuous for localized
   ugliness, especially a special-case exception to a general rule.
   For example, in some versions of `csh(1)', single-quotes
   literalize every character inside them except `!'.  In ANSI C,
   the ?? syntax used for escapes to foreign-language alphabets is a
   wart. See also <miswart>.

<washing machine> n. Old-style hard disks in floor-standing cabinets.
   So called because of the size of the cabinet and the
   `top-loading' access to the media packs --- and, of course, they
   were always set on `spin cycle'.  The washing-machine idiom
   transcends language barriers; it's even used in Russian hacker
   jargon.  See <walking drives>.  The thick channel cables connecting
   these were called "bit hoses" (see <hose>).

<water MIPS> n.  Large, water-cooled machines  of
   either today's ECL-supercomputer flavor or yesterday's traditional
   <mainframe type>.

<wave a dead chicken> v. To perform a ritual in the direction of
   crashed software or hardware which one believes to be futile but
   are nevertheless necessary so that others are satisfied that an
   appropriate degree of effort has been expended.  "I'll wave a dead
   chicken over the source code, but I really think we've run into an
   OS bug."  Compare <voodoo programming>, <rain dance>.

<weasel> [Cambridge] A naive user, one who deliberately or
   accidentally does things which are stupid or ill-advised.  Roughly
   synonymous with <luser>.

<wedged> [from a common description of recto-cranial inversion] adj.
   1. To be stuck, incapable of proceeding without help.  This is
   different from having crashed.  If the system has crashed, then it
   has become totally non-functioning.  If the system is wedged, it is
   trying to do something but cannot make progress; it may be capable
   of doing a few things, but not be fully operational.  For example,
   the system may become wedged if the disk controller fries; there
   are some things you can do without using the disks, but not many.
   Being wedged is slightly milder than being <hung>.  Also see
   <gronk>, <locked up>, <hosed>.  2. This term is sometimes used to
   describe a <deadlock> condition.  3.  Often refers to humans
   suffering misconceptions.  4. [UNIX] Specifically used to describe
   the state of a TTY left in a losing state by abort of a
   screen-oriented program or one that has messed with the line
   discipline in some obscure way. 5. <wedgitude> (wedj'i-tood) n.
   The quality or state of being wedged.

<weeble> /weeb'l/ [Cambridge] interj. Use to denote frustration,
   usually at amazing stupidity.  "I stuck the disk in upside down."
   "Weeble..." Compare <gurfle>.

<weeds> n. Refers to development projects or algorithms that have no
   possible relevance or practical application.  Comes from `off in
   the weeds'.  Used in phrases like "lexical analysis for microcode
   is serious weeds..."

<weenie> n. 1. The semicolon character, `;' (ASCII 0111011).
   2. When used with a qualifier (for example, as in <UNIX weenie>,
   VMS weenie, IBM weenie) can become either an insult or a term of
   praise, depending on context, tone of voice, and whether or not it
   is applied by a person who considered him/herself to be the same
   sort of weenie.  Implies that the weenie has put a major investment
   of time, effort and concentration into the area indicated; whether
   this is positive or negative depends on the hearer's judgement of
   how the speaker feels about that area.  See also <bigot>.

<Weenix> [ITS] n. A derogatory term for <UNIX>, derived from <UNIX

<well-behaved> adj. 1. [primarily <MS-DOS>] Said of software
   conforming to system interface guidelines and standards.  Well
   behaved software uses the operating system to do chores such as
   keyboard input, allocating memory and drawing graphics.  Oppose
   <ill-behaved>.  2.  Software that does its job quietly and without
   counterintuitive effects.  Esp. said of software having an
   interface spec sufficiently simple and well-defined that it can be
   used as a <tool> by other software.

<well-connected> adj. Said of a computer installation, this means it
   has reliable email links with the network and/or relays a large
   fraction of available <USENET> newsgroups.  "Well-known" can
   be almost synonymous, but also implies that the site's name is
   familiar to many (due perhaps to an archive service or active
   USENET users).

<wetware> [prob. from the novels of Rudy Rucker] n. 1. The human
   brain, as opposed to computer hardware or software (as in "Wetware
   has at most 7 plus or minus 2 registers").  2.  Human beings
   (programmers, operators, administrators) attached to a computer
   system, as opposed to the system's hardware or software.

<what> n. The question mark character (`?', ASCII 0111111).
   Syn. <ques>.  Usage: rare, used particularly in conjunction with

<wheel> [from Twenex, q.v.] n. A privileged user or <wizard> (sense
   #2).  The term was invented on the TENEX operating system, and
   carried over to <TWENEX>, Xerox-IFS, and others.  It entered the
   UNIX culture from <TWENEX> and has been gaining popularity there
   (esp.  at university sites).  Privilege bits are sometimes called
   "wheel bits".  The state of being in a privileged logon is
   sometimes called "wheel mode". See also <root>.

<wheel wars> [Stanford University] A period in <larval stage> during
   which student wheels hack each other by attempting to log each
   other out of the system, delete each other's files, and otherwise
   wreak havoc, usually at the expense of the lesser users.

<White Book> n. Syn. <K&R>.

<whizzy> (sometimes `wizzy') [Sun] adj. A <cuspy> program; usually
   feature-rich and well presented.

<WIBNI> [Bell Labs, Wouldn't It Be Nice If] n. What most requirements
   documents and specifications consist entirely of.  Compare <IWBNI>.

<widget> n.  1. A meta-thing.  Used to stand for a real object in
   didactic examples (especially database tutorials).  Legend has it
   that the original widgets were holders for buggy whips.  2. [poss.
   from `window gadget'] A user interface object in X Window System
   graphical user interfaces.

<Winchester> n.  Informal term for the now-standard `floating-head'
   magnetic-disk technology in which the read-write head planes over
   the disk surface on an air cushion.  The name arose because the
   original 1973 engineering prototype for what later became the IBM
   3340 featured two 30-megabyte volumes; 30-30 became `Winchester'
   when somebody noticed the similarity to the common term for a
   famous Winchester rifle (in the latter, the first 30 referred to
   calibre and the second to the grain weight of the charge).

<wiggles> n. [scientific computation] In solving partial differential
   equations by finite difference and similar methods, wiggles are
   sawtooth (up-down-up-down) oscillations at the shortest wavelength
   representable on the grid.  If an algorithm is unstable, this is
   often the most unstable waveform, so it grows to dominate the
   solution.  Alternatively, stable (though inaccurate) wiggles can be
   generated near a discontinuity by a Gibbs phenomenon.

<WIMP environment> n. [acronymic from Window, Icon, Mouse, Pointer] A
   graphical-user-interface based environment, as described by a
   hacker who prefers command-line interfaces for their superior
   flexibility and extensibility.

<win> [from MIT jargon] 1. vi. To succeed.  A program wins if no
   unexpected conditions arise.  2.  Success, or a specific instance
   thereof.  A pleasing outcome.  A <feature>.  3. <big win>: n.
   Serendipity.  Emphatic forms: "moby win", "super win",
   "hyper-win" (often used interjectively as a reply).  For some
   reason "suitable win" is also common at MIT, usually in reference
   to a satisfactory solution to a problem.  4. <win big> vi. To
   experience serendipity.  "I went shopping and won big; there was a
   two-for-one sale." 5.  <win win> interj. Expresses pleasure at a
   <win>.  Oppose <lose>.

<winged comments> n. Comments set on the same line as code, as
   opposed to <box comments>.  In C, for example:

     d = sqrt(x*x + y*y);    /* d = distance of (x,y) from 0,0 */

   Generally these refer only to the action(s) taken on that line.
   See also <box comment>.
<winnage> /win'@j/ n. The situation when a lossage is corrected, or
   when something is winning.  Quite rare.  Usage: also quite rare.

<winner> 1. n. An unexpectedly good situation, program, programmer or
   person.  2. "real winner": Often sarcastic, but also used as high

<winnitude> /win'i-tood/ n. The quality of winning (as opposed to
   <winnage>, which is the result of winning).  "That's really great!
   Boy, what winnitude!"

<wirehead> n. [prob. from notional SF slang for an electrical brain
   stimulation junkie] 1. A hardware hacker, especially one who
   concentrates on communications hardware.  2. An expert in local
   area networks.  A wirehead can be a network software wizard too,
   but will always have the ability to deal with network hardware,
   down to the smallest component.  Wireheads are known for their
   ability to lash up an Ethernet terminator from spare resistors, for

<wish list> n. A list of desired features or bug fixes that probably
   won't get done for a long time, usually because the person
   responsible for the code is too busy or can't think of a clean way
   to do it.

<wizard> n.  1. A person who knows how a complex piece of software
   or hardware works (that is, who <grok>s it); esp.  someone who
   can find and fix bugs quickly in an emergency.  This term differs
   somewhat from <hacker>.  Someone is a hacker if he has general
   hacking ability, but is only a wizard with respect to something if
   he has specific detailed knowledge of that thing.  A good hacker
   could become a wizard for something given the time to study it.  2.
   A person who is permitted to do things forbidden to ordinary
   people.  For example, an Adventure wizard at Stanford may play the
   Adventure game during the day, which is forbidden (the program
   simply refuses to play) to most people because it consumes too many
   <cycle>s. 3. A UNIX expert, esp. a UNIX systems programmer.  This
   usage is well enough established that `UNIX Wizard' is a recognized
   job title at some corporations and to most headhunters.  See

<wizard book> n. Abelson and Sussman's `Structure and Interpretation
   of Computer Programs', an excellent CS text used in introductory
   courses at MIT.  So called because of the wizard on the cover of
   the MIT Press edition.

<wizard mode> [from nethack] n. A special access mode of a program or
   system, usually passworded, that permits some users godlike
   privileges.  Generally not used for operating systems themselves
   (<root mode> or <wheel mode> would be used instead).

<wizardly> adj. Pertaining to wizards.  A wizardly <feature> is one
   that only a wizard could understand or use properly.

<WOMBAT> [Waste Of Money, Brains and Time] adj. Applied to problems
   which are both profoundly <uninteresting> in themselves and
   unlikely to benefit anyone interesting even if solved.  Often used
   in fanciful constructions such as "wrestling with a wombat". See
   also <crawling horror>, <SMOP>.  Also note the rather different
   usage as a meta-syntactic variable under COMMONWEALTH HACKISH

<wonky> /won'kee/ [from Australian slang] adj. Yet another approximate
   synonym for <broken>.  Specifically connotes a malfunction which
   produces behavior seen as crazy, humorous, or amusingly perverse.
   "That was the day the printer's font logic went wonky and
   everybody's listings came out in Elvish."  Also in "wonked out".
   See <funky>, <demented>.

<workaround> n. A temporary <kluge> inserted in a system under
   development or test in order to avoid the effects of a <bug> or
   <misfeature> so that work can continue.  Theoretically,
   workarounds are always replaced by fixes; in practice, customers
   often find themselves living with workarounds in the first couple
   of releases.  "The code died on nul characters in the input, so I
   fixed it to abort with an error message when it sees one"
   "That's not a fix, that's a workaround!"

<working as designed> [IBM] adj. In conformance to a wrong or
   inappropriate specification; useful, but mis-designed.  Frequently
   used either as a sardonic comment on a program's utility, and
   unfortunately also as a bogus reason for not accepting a criticism
   or suggestion.  See <BAD>.
<worm> [from `tapeworm' in John Brunner's `The Shockwave
   Rider', via XEROX PARC] n. A program that propagates itself over a
   network, reproducing itself as it goes.  See <virus>.  Nowadays
   the term has negative connotations, as it is assumed that only
   crackers write worms.  Perhaps the best known example was Robert T.
   Morris's `Internet Worm' in '88, a `benign' one that got out of
   control and hogged hundreds of Suns and VAXen nationwide.  See also
   <cracker>, <trojan horse>, <ice>.

<wound around the axle> adj. In an infinite loop.  Often used by older
   computer types.

<wow> See <bang>.

<wrap around> vi. (also n. `wraparound' and v. shorthand `wrap') 1.
   This is jargon in its normal computer usage, i.e., describing
   the action of a counter that starts over at 0 or at "minus
   infinity" after its maximum value has been reached, and continues
   incrementing, either because it is programmed to do so, or because
   of an overflow like a car's odometer starting over at 0.  2. To
   <change phase> gradually and continuously by maintaining a steady
   wake-sleep cycle somewhat longer than 24 hours, e.g. living 6 long
   days in a week.

<write-only code> [a play on "read-only memory"] n. Code
   sufficiently arcane, complex, or ill-structured that it cannot be
   modified or even comprehended by anyone but the original author,
   and possibly not even by him/her.  A <Bad Thing>.

<write-only language> n. A language with syntax (or semantics)
   sufficiently dense and bizarre that any routine of significant size
   is <write-only code>. A sobriquet often applied to APL,
   though <INTERCAL> and <TECO> certainly deserve it more.

<write-only memory> n. The obvious antonym to "read-only memory".
   In frustration with the long and seemingly useless chain of
   approvals required of component specifications, during which no
   actual checking seemed to occur, an engineer at Signetics created a
   specification for a write-only memory, and included it with a bunch
   of other specifications to be approved.  This inclusion only came
   to the attention of Signetics when regular customers started
   calling and asking for pricing information.  Signetics published a
   corrected edition of the data book, and requested the return of the
   `erroneous' ones.  Later, about 1974, Signetics bought a double
   page spread in Electronics magazine's April issue, and used the
   spec as an April Fools' day joke.  Instead of the more conventional
   characteristic curves, the 25120 "fully encoded, 9046 x N, Random
   Access, write-only-memory" data sheet included diagrams of "bit
   capacity vs. Temp.", "Iff vs. Vff", "Number of pins remaining
   vs. number of socket insertions" and "AQL vs.  selling price".
   The 25120 required a 6.3 VAC VFF supply, a +10V VCC, and VDD of 0V,
   +/- 2%.

<Wrong Thing, the> n. A design, action or decision which is clearly
   incorrect or inappropriate.  Often capitalized; always emphasized
   in speech as if capitalized.  The opposite of the Right Thing; more
   generally, anything that is not the Right Thing.  In cases where
   `the good is the enemy of the best', the merely good, while good,
   is nevertheless the Wrong Thing.

<wugga wugga> /wuh'g@ wuh'g@/ n. Imaginary sound that a computer
   program makes as it labors with a tedious or difficult task.
   Compare <cruncha cruncha cruncha>, <grind> (sense #4).

<WYSIWYG> /wiz'ee-wig/ adj. User interface (usu. text or graphics
   editor) characterized as being "what you see is what you get"; as
   opposed to one which uses more-or-less obscure commands which do
   not result in immediate visual feedback.  The term can be mildly
   derogatory, as it is often used to refer to dumbed-down
   <user-friendly> interfaces targeted at non-programmers, while a
   hacker has no fear of obscure commands.  On the other hand, EMACS
   was one of the very first WYSIWYG editors, replacing (actually, at
   first overlaying) the extremely obscure, command-based TECO.
   [Oddly enough, this term has already made it into the OED --- ESR]

                                {= X =}

<X> /eks/ n. 1. Used in various speech and writing contexts in
   roughly its algebraic sense of `unknown within a set defined by
   context' (compare <N>).  Thus: the abbreviation 680x0 stands for
   68000, 68010, 68020, 68030 or 68040, and 80x86 stands for 80186,
   80286 80386 or 80486 (note that a UNIX hacker might write these as
   680[01234]0 and 80[1234]86 or 680?0 and 80?86 respectively; see
   <glob>).  2. [from the name of an earlier window system called
   `W'] An over-sized, over-featured, over-engineered window system
   developed at MIT and widely used on UNIX systems.

<xor> /eks'ohr/ conj.  Exclusive or.  `A xor B' means `A or B, but
   not both'.  Example: "I want to get cherry pie xor a banana
   split."  This derives from the technical use of the term as a
   function on truth-values that is true if either of two arguments is
   true but not both.

<xref> /eks'ref/ vt.,n. Hackish standard abbreviation for

<XXX> /eks-eks-eks/ n. A marker that attention is needed.  Commonly
   used in program comments to indicate areas that are <kluged up> or
   need to be.  Some hackers liken XXX code to pornographic movies
   that contain the symbol.

<xyzzy> /eks-wie-zee-zee-wie/, /ik-zi'zee/, /eks-wie-ziz'ee/; in
   Britain, /eks-wie-zed-zed-wie/. [from the ADVENT game] adj.  The
   <canonical> `magic word'.  This comes from <ADVENT>, in which
   the idea is to explore an underground cave with many rooms to
   collect treasure.  If you type `xyzzy' at the appropriate time, you
   can move instantly between two otherwise distant points.  If,
   therefore, you encounter some bit of <magic>, you might remark on
   this quite succinctly by saying simply "Xyzzy"!  Example:
   "Ordinarily you can't look at someone else's screen if he has
   protected it, but if you type quadruple-bucky-clear the system will
   let you do it anyway."  "Xyzzy!"  Xyzzy has actually been
   implemented as an undocumented no-op command on several OSs; in
   Data General's AOS/VS, for example, it would typically respond
   "Nothing happens." just as <ADVENT> did if the magic was
   invoked at the wrong spot or before a player had performed the
   action that enabled the word.  See also <plugh>.

                                {= Y =}

<YA-> [Yet Another...] abbrev.  In hackish acronyms this almost
   invariably expands to <Yet Another> following the precedent set by
   UNIX `yacc(1)'. See <YABA>.

<YABA> /ya'buh/ [Cambridge] n. Yet Another Bloody Acronym.  Whenever
   some program is being named, someone invariably suggests that it be
   given a name which is acronymic.  The response from those with a
   trace of originality is to remark ironically that the proposed name
   would then be `YABA-compatible'. Also used in response to questions
   like "What is WYSIWYG?" "YABA."  See also <TLA>.

<YAUN> /yawn/ [Acronym for "Yet Another UNIX Nerd"] n. Reported
   from the San Diego Computer Society (predominantly a microcomputer
   users' group) as a good-natured punning insult aimed at UNIX

<Yet Another> adj. [From UNIX's `yacc(1)', "Yet Another Compiler-
   Compiler" LALR parser generator]  1. Of your own work: humorous
   allusion often used in titles to acknowledge that the topic is not
   original --- though the content is.  As in `Yet Another AI Group'
   or `Yet Another Simulated Annealing Algorithm'.  2. Of other's
   work: describes something of which there are far too many.  See
   also <YA->, <YABA>, <YAUN>.

<You are not expected to understand this.> cav. [UNIX] Canonical
   comment describing something <magic> or too complicated to bother
   explaining properly.  From a comment in the context-switching code
   of the V6 UNIX kernel.

<You know you've been hacking too long when...> The set-up line
   for a genre of one-liners told by hackers about themselves.  These
   include the following:

   * not only do you check your email more often than your paper
     mail, but you remember your <network address> faster than your
     postal one.
   * your <SO> kisses you on the neck and the first thing you
     think is "Uh, oh, <priority interrupt>".
   * you go to balance your checkbook and discover that you're
     doing it in octal.
   * your computers have a higher street value than your car.
   * `round numbers' are powers of 2, not 10.
   * you've woken up more than once to recall of a dream in
     some programming language.
   * you realize you've never met half of your best friends.

   All but one of these have been reliably reported as hacker traits
   (some of them quite often).  Even hackers may have trouble spotting
   the ringer.

<Your mileage may vary.> cav. [from the standard disclaimer attached
   to EPA mileage ratings by American car manufacturers] A ritual
   warning often found in UNIX freeware distributions.  Translates
   roughly as "Hey, I tried to write this portably but who
   *knows* what'll happen on your system?"

<Yow!> /yow/ [from Zippy the Pinhead comix] interj. Favored hacker
   expression of humorous surprise or emphasis. "Yow! Check out what
   happens when you twiddle the foo option on this display hack!"
   Compare <gurfle>.

<yoyo mode> n. State in which the system is said to be when it
   rapidly alternates several times between being up and being down.
   Interestingly (and perhaps not by coincidence), many hardware
   vendors give out free yoyos at Usenix exhibits.

<Yu-Shiang whole fish> /yoo-shyang hohl fish/ n. obs.  The character
   gamma (extended SAIL ASCII 1001011), which with a loop in its tail
   looks like a little fish swimming down the page.  The term is
   actually the name of a Chinese dish in which a fish is cooked whole
   (not <parse>d) and covered with Yu Shiang sauce.  Usage: was used
   primarily by people on the MIT LISP Machine, which could display
   this character on the screen.  Tends to elicit incredulity from
   people who hear about it second-hand.

                                {= Z =}

<zap> 1. n. Spiciness.  2. vt. To make food spicy.  3. vt. To make
   someone `suffer' by making his food spicy.  (Most hackers love
   spicy food.  Hot-and-sour soup is considered wimpy unless it makes
   you blow your nose for the rest of the meal.) See <zapped>.  4.
   To modify, usually to correct.  Also implies surgical precision. In
   some communities, this used to describe modifying a program's
   binary executable.  In the IBM mainframe world, binary patches are
   applied to programs or to the OS with a program called `superzap',
   whose file name is `IMASPZAP' (I Am A SuperZap) 6.  To erase or

<zapped> adj.  Spicy.  This term is used to distinguish between food
   that is hot (in temperature) and food that is *spicy*-hot.
   For example, the Chinese appetizer Bon Bon Chicken is a kind of
   chicken salad that is cold but zapped.  See also ORIENTAL FOOD,
   <laser chicken>.  See <zap>, senses #1 and #2.

<zen> vt. To figure out something by meditation, or by a sudden flash
   of enlightenment.  Originally applied to bugs, but occasionally
   applied to problems of life in general. "How'd you figure out the
   buffer allocation problem?" "Oh, I zenned it".  Contrast <grok>,
   which connotes a time-extended version of zenning a system.
   Compare <hack mode>.

<zero> vt. 1. To set to zero.  Usually said of small pieces of data,
   such as bits or words.  2. To erase; to discard all data from.
   Said of disks and directories, where `zeroing' need not involve
   actually writing zeroes throughout the area being zeroed.  One may
   speak of something being "logically zeroed" rather than being
   "physically zeroed".  See <scribble>.

<zero-content> adj. Syn. <content-free>.

<zeroth> /zee'rohth/ adj. First.  Among software designers, comes
   from C's 0-based indexing of arrays.  Hardware people also tend to
   start counting at zero instead of one; this is natural since e.g.
   the 256 states of 8 bits correspond to the binary numbers
   0,1,...,255 and the digital devices known as `counters' count in
   this way.

   Hackers and computer scientists often like to call the first
   chapter of a publication `Chapter 0', especially if it is of an
   introductory nature.  In recent years this trait has also been
   observed among many pure mathematicians (even those who usually
   won't touch a computer with a ten-foot pole).

<zip> [primarily MSDOS] vt. to create a compressed archive from a
   group of files using PKWare's PKZIP or a compatible archiver.  Its
   use is spreading now that portable implementations of the algorithm
   have been written.  Commonly used as "I'll zip it up and send it
   to you".  See <arc>, <tar and feather>.

<zipperhead> [IBM] n. A person with a closed mind.

<zombie> [UNIX] n. A process which has died but has not yet
   relinquished its process table slot (because the parent process
   hasn't executed a `wait(2)' for it yet).  These show up in `ps(1)'
   listings occasionally.  Compare <orphan>.

<zork> /zork/ n. Second of the great early experiments in computer
   fantasy gaming; see <ADVENT>. Originally written on MIT-DMS during
   the late seventies, later distributed with BSD UNIX and
   commercialized as `The Zork Trilogy' by Infocom.

Hacker Folklore

This appendix contains several fables and legends which illuminate
the meaning of various entries in the main text.  All of this material
except THE UNTIMELY DEMISE OF MABEL THE MONKEY appeared in the 1983
paper edition of the Jargon File (but not in the previous on-line

The Meaning of `Hack'

"The word <hack> doesn't really have 69 different meanings", according
to Phil Agre, an MIT hacker.  "In fact, <hack> has only one meaning, an
extremely subtle and profound one which defies articulation.  Which
connotation is implied by a given use of the word depends in similarly
profound ways on the context.  Similar remarks apply to a couple of
other hacker words, most notably <random>."

Hacking might be characterized as "an appropriate application of
ingenuity".  Whether the result is a quick-and-dirty patchwork job or
a carefully crafted work of art, you have to admire the cleverness
that went into it.

An important secondary meaning of <hack> is `a creative practical
joke'. This kind of <hack> is often easier to explain to non-hackers
than the programming kind.  Accordingly, here are three examples of
practical joke hacks:

In 1961, students from Caltech (California Institute of Technology in
Pasadena) hacked the Rose Bowl football game.  One student posed as a
reporter and `interviewed' the director of the University of
Washington card stunts (such stunts involve people in the stands who
hold up colored cards to make pictures).  The reporter learned exactly
how the stunts were operated, and also that the director would be out
to dinner later.

While the director was eating, the students (who called themselves the
`Fiendish Fourteen') picked a lock and stole one of the direction
sheets for the card stunts.  They then had a printer run off 2300
copies of the sheet.  The next day they picked the lock again and
stole the master plans for the stunts, large sheets of graph paper
colored in with the stunt pictures.  Using these as a guide, they
carefully made `corrections' for three of the stunts on the
duplicate instruction sheets.  Finally, they broke in once more,
replacing the stolen master plans and substituting the stack of
altered instruction sheets for the original set.

The result was that three of the pictures were totally different.
Instead of spelling "WASHINGTON", the word "CALTECH" was flashed.
Another stunt showed the word "HUSKIES", the Washington nickname,
but spelled it backwards.  And what was supposed to have been a
picture of a husky instead showed a beaver.  (Both Caltech and MIT use
the beaver as a mascot.  Beavers are nature's engineers.)

After the game, the Washington faculty athletic representative said,
"Some thought it ingenious; others were indignant."  The Washington
student body president remarked, "No hard feelings, but at the time
it was unbelievable.  We were amazed."

This is now considered a classic hack, particularly because revising
the direction sheets constituted a form of programming not unlike
computer programming.

Another classic hack:

Some MIT students once illicitly used a quantity of thermite to weld a
trolley car to its tracks.  The hack was actually not dangerous, as
they did this at night to a parked trolley.  It took the transit
people quite a while to figure out what was wrong with the trolley,
and even longer to figure out how to fix it.  They ended up putting
jacks under the trolley, and cutting the section of track on either
side of the wheel with oxyacetalene torches.  Then they unbolted the
wheel, welded in a new piece of track, bolted on a new wheel, and
removed the jacks. The hackers sneaked in the next night and stole the
piece of track and wheel!

The piece of trolley track with the wheel still welded to it was later
used as the trophy at the First Annual All-Tech Sing.  They carted it
in on a very heavy duty dolly up the freight elevator of the Student
Center.  Six feet of rail and a trolley wheel is a *lot* of

Though this displayed some cleverness, the side-effect of expensive
property damage was definitely an esthetic minus.  The best hacks are
harmless ones.

And another:

One winter, late at night, an MIT fraternity hosed down an underpass
that is part of a commuter expressway near MIT.  This produced an ice
slick that `trapped' a couple of small cars: they didn't have the
momentum or traction to climb out of the underpass.  While it was
clever to apply some simple science to trap a car, it was also very
dangerous as it could have caused a collision.  Therefore this was a
very poor hack overall.

And yet another:

On November 20, 1982, MIT hacked the Harvard-Yale football game.  Just
after Harvard's second touchdown against Yale in the second quarter, a
small black ball popped up out of the ground at the 40-yard line, and
grew bigger, and bigger, and bigger.  The letters "MIT" appeared all
over the ball.  As the players and officials stood around gawking, the
ball grew to six feet in diameter and then burst with a bang and a
cloud of white smoke.

As the Boston Globe later reported, "If you want to know the truth,
M.I.T. won The Game."

The prank had taken weeks of careful planning by members of MIT's
Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.  The device consisted of a weather
balloon, a hydraulic ram powered by Freon gas to lift it out of the
ground, and a vacuum-cleaner motor to inflate it.  They made eight
separate expeditions to Harvard Stadium between 1 and 5 AM, in which
they located an unused 110-volt circuit in the stadium, and ran buried
wiring from the stadium circuit to the 40-yard line, where they buried
the balloon device.  When the time came to activate the device, two
fraternity members had merely to flip a circuit breaker and push a
plug into an outlet.

This stunt had all the earmarks of a perfect hack: surprise,
publicity, the ingenious use of technology, safety, and harmlessness.
The use of manual control allowed the prank to be timed so as not to
disrupt the game (it was set off between plays, so the outcome of the
game would not be unduly affected).  The perpetrators had even
thoughtfully attached a note to the balloon explaining that the device
was not dangerous and contained no explosives.

Harvard president Derek Bok commented: "They have an awful lot of
clever people down there at MIT, and they did it again."  President
Paul E. Gray of MIT said, "There is absolutely no truth to the rumor
that I had anything to do with it, but I wish there were."  Such is
the way of all good hacks.

Finally, here is a great story about one of the classic computer hacks.

Back in the mid-1970s, several of the system support staff at Motorola
discovered a relatively simple way to crack system security on the
Xerox CP-V timesharing system.  Through a simple programming strategy,
it was possible for a user program to trick the system into running a
portion of the program in `master mode' (supervisor state), in which
memory protection does not apply.  The program could then poke a large
value into its `privilege level' byte (normally write-protected) and
could then proceed to bypass all levels of security within the
file-management system, patch the system monitor, and do numerous
other interesting things.  In short, the barn door was wide open.

Motorola quite properly reported this problem to XEROX via an official
`level 1 SIDR' (a bug report with a perceived urgency of `needs to be
fixed yesterday').  Because the text of each SIDR was entered into a
database that could be viewed by quite a number of people, Motorola
followed the approved procedure: they simply reported the problem as
`Security SIDR', and attached all of the necessary documentation,
ways-to-reproduce, etc. separately.

Xerox sat on their thumbs...they either didn't realize the severity of
the problem, or didn't assign the necessary operating-system-staff
resources to develop and distribute an official patch.

Months passed.  The Motorola guys pestered their Xerox field-support
rep, to no avail.  Finally they decided to take Direct Action, to
demonstrate to Xerox management just how easily the system could be
cracked, and just how thoroughly the system security systems could be

They dug around in the operating-system listings, and devised a
thoroughly devilish set of patches.  These patches were then
incorporated into a pair of programs called Robin Hood and Friar Tuck.
Robin Hood and Friar Tuck were designed to run as `ghost jobs'
(daemons, in Unix terminology); they would use the existing loophole
to subvert system security, install the necessary patches, and then
keep an eye on one another's statuses in order to keep the system
operator (in effect, the superuser) from aborting them. day, the system operator on the main CP-V software
development system in El Segundo was surprised by a number of unusual
phenomena.  These included the following:

   * Tape drives would rewind and dismount their tapes in the middle of a
   * Disk drives would seek back and forth so rapidly that they'd attempt
     to walk across the floor (see <walking drives>).
   * The card-punch output device would occasionally start up of itself
     and punch a <lace card> (every hole punched).  These would usually
     jam in the punch.
   * The console would print snide and insulting messages from Robin Hood
     to Friar Tuck, or vice versa.
   * The Xerox card reader had two output stackers;  it could be
     instructed to stack into A, stack into B, or stack into A unless a
     card was unreadable, in which case the bad card was placed into
     stacker B.  One of the patches installed by the ghosts added some
     code to the card-reader driver... after reading a card, it would flip
     over to the opposite stacker.  As a result, card decks would divide
     themselves in half when they were read, leaving the operator to
     recollate them manually.

There were some other effects produced, as well.

Naturally, the operator called in the operating-system developers.  They
found the bandit ghost jobs running, and X'ed them... and were once
again surprised.  When Robin Hood was X'ed, the following sequence of
events took place:

     !X id1

     id1:   Friar Tuck... I am under attack!  Pray save me!
     id1: Off (aborted)

     id2: Fear not, friend Robin!  I shall rout the Sheriff of 
          Nottingham's men!

     id1: Thank you, my good fellow!

Each ghost-job would detect the fact that the other had been killed,
and would start a new copy of the recently-slain program within a few
milliseconds.  The only way to kill both ghosts was to kill them
simultaneously (very difficult) or to deliberately crash the system.

Finally, the system programmers did the latter... only to find that
the bandits appeared once again when the system rebooted!  It turned
out that these two programs had patched the boot-time image (the
/vmunix file, in Unix terms) and had added themselves to the list of
programs that were to be started at boot time...

The Robin Hood and Friar Tuck ghosts were finally eradicated when the
system staff rebooted the system from a clean boot-tape and
reinstalled the monitor.  Not long thereafter, Xerox released a patch
for this problem.

It is alleged that Xerox filed a complaint with Motorola's management about
the merry-prankster actions of the two employees in question.  It is
not recorded that any serious disciplinary action was taken against
either of them.

The Untimely Demise of Mabel the Monkey

   The following, modulo a couple of inserted commas and capitalization
changes for readability, is the exact text of a famous USENET message.
The reader may wish to review the definitions of <PM> and <mount> in the main
text before continuing.

     Date: Wed 3 Sep 86 16:46:31-EDT
     From: "Art Evans" <Evans@TL-20B.ARPA>
     Subject: Always Mount a Scratch Monkey
     To: Risks@CSL.SRI.COM

My friend Bud used to be the intercept man at a computer vendor for
calls when an irate customer called.  Seems one day Bud was sitting at
his desk when the phone rang.
     Bud:       Hello.                 Voice:      YOU KILLED MABEL!!
     B:         Excuse me?             V:          YOU KILLED MABEL!!

This went on for a couple of minutes and Bud was getting nowhere, so he
decided to alter his approach to the customer.

Well, to avoid making a long story even longer, I will abbreviate what had
happened.  The customer was a Biologist at the University of Blah-de-blah,
and he had one of our computers that controlled gas mixtures that Mabel (the
monkey) breathed.  Now, Mabel was not your ordinary monkey.  The University
had spent years teaching Mabel to swim, and they were studying the effects
that different gas mixtures had on her physiology.  It turns out that the
repair folks had just gotten a new Calibrated Power Supply (used to
calibrate analog equipment), and at their first opportunity decided to
calibrate the D/A converters in that computer.  This changed some of the gas
mixtures and poor Mabel was asphyxiated.  Well, Bud then called the branch
manager for the repair folks:

     Manager:     Hello
     B:           This is Bud, I heard you did a PM at the University of
     M:           Yes, we really performed a complete PM.  What can I do
                  for you?
     B:           Can you swim?

The moral is, of course, that you should always mount a scratch monkey.


There are several morals here related to risks in use of computers.
Examples include, "If it ain't broken, don't fix it."  However, the
cautious philosophical approach implied by "always mount a scratch
monkey" says a lot that we should keep in mind.

     Art Evans
     Tartan Labs

TV Typewriters: A Tale Of Hackish Ingenuity

Here is a true story about a glass tty.  One day an MIT hacker was in
a motorcycle accident and broke his leg.  He had to stay in the
hospital quite a while, and got restless because he couldn't HACK (use
the computer).  Two of his friends therefore took a display terminal
and a telephone connection for it to the hospital, so that he could
use the computer by telephone from his hospital bed.

Now this happened some years before the spread of home computers, and
computer terminals were not a familiar sight to the average person.
When the two friends got to the hospital, a guard stopped them and
asked what they were carrying.  They explained that they wanted to
take a computer terminal to their friend who was a patient.

The guard got out his list of things that patients were permitted to
have in their rooms: TV, radio, electric razor, typewriter, tape
player...  no computer terminals.  Computer terminals weren't on the
list, so they couldn't take it in.  Rules are rules.

Fair enough, said the two friends, and they left again.  They were
frustrated, of course, because they knew that the terminal was as
harmless as a TV or anything else on the list... which gave them an

The next day they returned, and the same thing happened: a guard
stopped them and asked what they were carrying.  They said, "This is
a TV typewriter!"  The guard was skeptical, so they plugged it in and
demonstrated it.  "See?  You just type on the keyboard and what you
type shows up on the TV screen."  Now the guard didn't stop to think
about how utterly useless a typewriter would be that didn't produce
any paper copies of what you typed; but this was clearly a TV
typewriter, no doubt about it.  So he checked his list: "A TV is all
right, a typewriter is all right... okay, take it on in!"

Two Stories About `Magic' (by Guy Steele)

When Barbara Steele was in her fifth month of pregnancy, her doctor
sent her to a specialist to have a sonogram made to determine whether
there were twins.  She dragged her husband Guy along to the
appointment.  It was quite fascinating; as the doctor moved an
instrument along the skin, a small TV screen showed cross-sectional
pictures of the abdomen.

Now Barbara and I had both studied computer science at MIT, and we
both saw that some complex computerized image-processing was involved.
Out of curiosity, we asked the doctor how it was done, hoping to learn
some details about the mathematics involved.  The doctor, not knowing
our educational background, simply said, "The probe sends out sound
waves, which bounce off the internal organs.  A microphone picks up
the echoes, like radar, and send the signals to a computer---and the
computer makes a picture."  Thanks a lot!  Now a hacker would have
said, "... and the computer *magically* makes a picture",
implicitly acknowledging that he has glossed over an extremely
complicated process.

Some years ago I was snooping around in the cabinets that housed the
MIT AI Lab's PDP-10, and noticed a little switch glued to the frame of
one cabinet.  It was obviously a homebrew job, added by one of the
lab's hardware hackers (no one know who).

You don't touch an unknown switch on a computer without knowing what
it does, because you might crash the computer.  The switch was labeled
in a most unhelpful way.  It had two positions, and scrawled in pencil
on the metal switch body were the words `magic' and `more magic'.
The switch was in the `more magic' position.

I called another hacker over to look at it.  He had never seen the
switch before either.  Closer examination revealed that the switch
only had one wire running to it!  The other end of the wire did
disappear into the maze of wires inside the computer, but it's a basic
fact of electricity that a switch can't do anything unless there are
two wires connected to it.  This switch had a wire connected on one
side and no wire on its other side.

It was clear that this switch was someone's idea of a silly joke.
Convinced by our reasoning that the switch was inoperative, we flipped
it.  The computer instantly crashed.

Imagine our utter astonishment.  We wrote it off as coincidence, but
nevertheless restored the switch to the `more magic' position before
reviving the computer.

A year later, I told this story to yet another hacker, David Moon as I
recall.  He clearly doubted my sanity, or suspected me of a
supernatural belief in the power of this switch, or perhaps thought I
was fooling him with a bogus saga.  To prove it to him, I showed him
the very switch, still glued to the cabinet frame with only one wire
connected to it, still in the `more magic' position.  We scrutinized
the switch and its lone connection, and found that the other end of
the wire, though connected to the computer wiring, was connected to a
ground pin.  That clearly made the switch doubly useless: not only was
it electrically nonoperative, but it was connected to a place that
couldn't affect anything anyway.  So we flipped the switch.

The computer promptly crashed.

This time we ran for Richard Greenblatt, a long-time MIT hacker, who
was close at hand.  He had never noticed the switch before, either.
He inspected it, concluded it was useless, got some diagonal cutters
and diked it out.  We then revived the computer and it ran fine ever

We still don't know how the switch crashed the machine.  There is a
theory that some circuit near the ground pin was marginal, and
flipping the switch changed the electrical capacitance enough to upset
the circuit as millionth-of-a-second pulses went through it.  But
we'll never know for sure; all we can really say is that the switch
was <magic>.

I still have that switch in my basement.  Maybe I'm silly, but I
usually keep it set on `more magic.'

A Selection of AI Koans

   These are perhaps the funniest examples of a genre of jokes told at
the MIT AI lab about various noted computer scientists and hackers.
The original koans were composed by Danny Hillis.

                                 * * *

   A novice was trying to fix a broken Lisp machine by turning the power
off and on.

   Knight, seeing what the student was doing spoke sternly: "You can not
fix a machine by just power-cycling it with no understanding of what
is going wrong."

   Knight turned the machine off and on.

   The machine worked.

[Ed note: This is much funnier if you know that Tom Knight was one of the
   Lisp machine's principal designers]

                                 * * *

One day a student came to Moon and said, "I understand how to
make a better garbage collector.  We must keep a reference count
of the pointers to each cons."

Moon patiently told the student the following story:

      "One day a student came to Moon and said, `I understand how
      to make a better garbage collector...

[Ed. note: The point here is technical.  Pure reference-count garbage
   collectors have problems with `pathological' structures that point
   to themselves.]

                                 * * *

In the days when Sussman was a novice Minsky once came to him as
he sat hacking at the PDP-6.

   "What are you doing?", asked Minsky.

   "I am training a randomly wired neural net to play Tic-Tac-Toe",
Sussman replied.

   "Why is the net wired randomly?", asked Minsky.

   "I do not want it to have any preconceptions of how to play",
Sussman said.

   Minsky then shut his eyes.

   "Why do you close your eyes?", Sussman asked his teacher.

   "So that the room will be empty."

   At that moment, Sussman was enlightened.

                                 * * *

   A disciple of another sect once came to Drescher as he was
eating his morning meal.

   "I would like to give you this personality test", said the
outsider, "because I want you to be happy."

   Drescher took the paper that was offered him and put it
into the toaster, saying:

   "I wish the toaster to be happy, too."


This story says a lot about the style of the ITS culture. 

On the ITS system there was a program that allowed you to see what is
being printed on someone else's terminal.  It worked by `spying' on
the other guy's output, by examining the insides of the monitor
system.  The output spy program was called OS.  Throughout the rest of
the computer science (and also at IBM) OS means `operating system',
but among old-time ITS hackers it almost always meant `output spy'.

OS could work because ITS purposely had very little in the way of
`protection' that prevented one user from interfering with another.
Fair is fair, however.  There was another program that would
automatically notify you if anyone started to spy on your output.  It
worked in exactly the same way, by looking at the insides of the
operating system to see if anyone else was looking at the insides that
had to do with your output.  This `counterspy' program was called
JEDGAR (pronounced as two syllables: /jed'gr/), in honor of the former
head of the FBI.

But there's more. The rest of the story is that JEDGAR would ask the
user for `license to kill'.  If the user said yes, then JEDGAR would
actually gun the job of the luser who was spying.  However, people
found this made life too violent, especially when tourists learned
about it.  One of the systems hackers solved the problem by replacing
JEDGAR with another program that only pretended to do its job.  It
took a long time to do this, because every copy of JEDGAR had to be
patched, and to this day no one knows how many people never figured
out that JEDGAR had been defanged.

The Story of Mel, a Real Programmer

This was posted to USENET by Ed Nather (utastro!nather), May 21, 1983.

     A recent article devoted to the *macho* side of programming
     made the bald and unvarnished statement:

         Real Programmers write in Fortran.

     Maybe they do now,
     in this decadent era of
     Lite beer, hand calculators and "user-friendly" software
     but back in the Good Old Days,
     when the term "software" sounded funny
     and Real Computers were made out of drums and vacuum tubes,
     Real Programmers wrote in machine code.
     Not Fortran. Not RATFOR. Not, even, assembly language.
     Machine Code.
     Raw, unadorned, inscrutable hexadecimal numbers.

     Lest a whole new generation of programmers
     grow up in ignorance of this glorious past,
     I feel duty-bound to describe,
     as best I can through the generation gap,
     how a Real Programmer wrote code.
     I'll call him Mel,
     because that was his name.

     I first met Mel when I went to work for Royal McBee Computer Corp.,
     a now-defunct subsidiary of the typewriter company.
     The firm manufactured the LGP-30,
     a small, cheap (by the standards of the day)
     drum-memory computer,
     and had just started to manufacture
     the RPC-4000, a much-improved,
     bigger, better, faster --- drum-memory computer.
     Cores cost too much,
     and weren't here to stay, anyway.
     (That's why you haven't heard of the company, or the computer.)

     I had been hired to write a Fortran compiler
     for this new marvel and Mel was my guide to its wonders.
     Mel didn't approve of compilers.

     "If a program can't rewrite its own code",
     he asked, "what good is it?"

     Mel had written,
     in hexadecimal,
     the most popular computer program the company owned.
     It ran on the LGP-30
     and played blackjack with potential customers
     at computer shows.
     Its effect was always dramatic.
     The LGP-30 booth was packed at every show,
     and the IBM salesmen stood around
     talking to each other.
     Whether or not this actually sold computers
     was a question we never discussed.

     Mel's job was to re-write
     the blackjack program for the RPC-4000.
     (Port?  What does that mean?)
     The new computer had a one-plus-one
     addressing scheme,
     in which each machine instruction,
     in addition to the operation code
     and the address of the needed operand,
     had a second address that indicated where, on the revolving drum,
     the next instruction was located.
     In modern parlance,
     every single instruction was followed by a GO TO!
     Put *that* in Pascal's pipe and smoke it.

     Mel loved the RPC-4000
     because he could optimize his code:
     that is, locate instructions on the drum
     so that just as one finished its job,
     the next would be just arriving at the "read head"
     and available for immediate execution.
     There was a program to do that job,
     an "optimizing assembler",
     but Mel refused to use it.

     "You never know where its going to put things",
     he explained, "so you'd have to use separate constants".

     It was a long time before I understood that remark.
     Since Mel knew the numerical value
     of every operation code,
     and assigned his own drum addresses,
     every instruction he wrote could also be considered
     a numerical constant.
     He could pick up an earlier "add" instruction, say,
     and multiply by it,
     if it had the right numeric value.
     His code was not easy for someone else to modify.

     I compared Mel's hand-optimized programs
     with the same code massaged by the optimizing assembler program,
     and Mel's always ran faster.
     That was because the "top-down" method of program design
     hadn't been invented yet,
     and Mel wouldn't have used it anyway.
     He wrote the innermost parts of his program loops first,
     so they would get first choice
     of the optimum address locations on the drum.
     The optimizing assembler wasn't smart enough to do it that way.

     Mel never wrote time-delay loops, either,
     even when the balky Flexowriter
     required a delay between output characters to work right.
     He just located instructions on the drum
     so each successive one was just *past* the read head
     when it was needed;
     the drum had to execute another complete revolution
     to find the next instruction.
     He coined an unforgettable term for this procedure.
     Although "optimum" is an absolute term,
     like "unique", it became common verbal practice
     to make it relative:
     "not quite optimum" or "less optimum"
     or "not very optimum".
     Mel called the maximum time-delay locations
     the "most pessimum".

     After he finished the blackjack program
     and got it to run,
     ("Even the initializer is optimized",
     he said proudly)
     he got a Change Request from the sales department.
     The program used an elegant (optimized)
     random number generator
     to shuffle the "cards" and deal from the "deck",
     and some of the salesmen felt it was too fair,
     since sometimes the customers lost.
     They wanted Mel to modify the program
     so, at the setting of a sense switch on the console,
     they could change the odds and let the customer win.

     Mel balked.
     He felt this was patently dishonest,
     which it was,
     and that it impinged on his personal integrity as a programmer,
     which it did,
     so he refused to do it.
     The Head Salesman talked to Mel,
     as did the Big Boss and, at the boss's urging,
     a few Fellow Programmers.
     Mel finally gave in and wrote the code,
     but he got the test backwards,
     and, when the sense switch was turned on,
     the program would cheat, winning every time.
     Mel was delighted with this,
     claiming his subconscious was uncontrollably ethical,
     and adamantly refused to fix it.

     After Mel had left the company for greener pa$ture$,
     the Big Boss asked me to look at the code
     and see if I could find the test and reverse it.
     Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed to look.
     Tracking Mel's code was a real adventure.

     I have often felt that programming is an art form,
     whose real value can only be appreciated
     by another versed in the same arcane art;
     there are lovely gems and brilliant coups
     hidden from human view and admiration, sometimes forever,
     by the very nature of the process.
     You can learn a lot about an individual
     just by reading through his code,
     even in hexadecimal.
     Mel was, I think, an unsung genius.

     Perhaps my greatest shock came
     when I found an innocent loop that had no test in it.
     No test. *None*.
     Common sense said it had to be a closed loop,
     where the program would circle, forever, endlessly.
     Program control passed right through it, however,
     and safely out the other side.
     It took me two weeks to figure it out.

     The RPC-4000 computer had a really modern facility
     called an index register.
     It allowed the programmer to write a program loop
     that used an indexed instruction inside;
     each time through,
     the number in the index register
     was added to the address of that instruction,
     so it would refer
     to the next datum in a series.
     He had only to increment the index register
     each time through.
     Mel never used it.

     Instead, he would pull the instruction into a machine register,
     add one to its address,
     and store it back.
     He would then execute the modified instruction
     right from the register.
     The loop was written so this additional execution time
     was taken into account ---
     just as this instruction finished,
     the next one was right under the drum's read head,
     ready to go.
     But the loop had no test in it.

     The vital clue came when I noticed
     the index register bit,
     the bit that lay between the address
     and the operation code in the instruction word,
     was turned on---
     yet Mel never used the index register,
     leaving it zero all the time.
     When the light went on it nearly blinded me.

     He had located the data he was working on
     near the top of memory ---
     the largest locations the instructions could address ---
     so, after the last datum was handled,
     incrementing the instruction address
     would make it overflow.
     The carry would add one to the
     operation code, changing it to the next one in the instruction set:
     a jump instruction.
     Sure enough, the next program instruction was
     in address location zero,
     and the program went happily on its way.

     I haven't kept in touch with Mel,
     so I don't know if he ever gave in to the flood of
     change that has washed over programming techniques
     since those long-gone days.
     I like to think he didn't.
     In any event,
     I was impressed enough that I quit looking for the
     offending test,
     telling the Big Boss I couldn't find it.
     He didn't seem surprised.

     When I left the company,
     the blackjack program would still cheat
     if you turned on the right sense switch,
     and I think that's how it should be.
     I didn't feel comfortable
     hacking up the code of a Real Programmer.

This is one of hackerdom's great heroic epics, free verse or no.  In a
few spare images it captures more about the esthetics and psychology
of hacking than every scholarly volume on the subject put together.
For an opposing point of view, see the entry for <real programmer>.

A Portrait of J. Random Hacker

This profile reflects detailed comments on an earlier `trial balloon'
version from about a hundred USENET respondents.  Where comparatives
are used, the implicit `other' is a randomly selected group from the
non-hacker population of the same size as hackerdom.

General appearance:

Intelligent.  Scruffy.  Intense.  Abstracted.  Interestingly for a
sedentary profession, more hackers run to skinny than fat; both
extremes are more common than elswhere.  Tans are rare.


Casual, vaguely post-hippy; T-shirts, jeans, running shoes,
Birkenstocks (or bare feet).  Long hair, beards and moustaches are
common.  High incidence of tie-dye and intellectual or humorous
`slogan' T-shirts (only rarely computer related, that's too obvious).

A substantial minority runs to `outdoorsy' clothing --- hiking boots
("in case a mountain should suddenly spring up in the machine room",
as one famous parody put it), khakis, lumberjack or chamois shirts and
the like.

Very few actually fit the National-Lampoon-Nerd stereotype, though it
lingers on at MIT and may have been more common before 1975.  These
days, backpacks are more common than briefcases, and the hacker `look'
is more whole-earth than whole-polyester.

Hackers dress for comfort, function, and minimal maintenance hassles
rather than for appearance (some, unfortunately, take this to extremes
and neglect personal hygiene).  They have a very low tolerance of
suits or other `business' attire, in fact it is not uncommon for
hackers to quit a job rather than conform to dress codes.

Female hackers never wear visible makeup and many use none at all.

Reading habits:

Omnivorous, but usually includes lots of science and science fiction.
The typical hacker household might subscribe to `Analog',
`Scientific American', `Co-Evolution Quarterly' and
`Smithsonian'.  Hackers often have a reading range that astonishes
`liberal arts' people but tend not to talk about it as much.  Many
hackers spend as much of their spare time reading as the average
American burns up watching TV, and often keep shelves and shelves of
well-thumbed books in their homes.

Other interests:

Some hobbies are widely shared and recognized as going with the
culture. Science fiction.  Music (see the MUSIC entry).  Medievalism.
Chess, go, wargames and intellectual games of all kinds.  Role-playing
games such as Dungeons and Dragons used to be extremely popular among
hackers but have lost a bit of their former luster as they moved into
the mainstream and became heavily commercialized.  Logic puzzles.  Ham
radio.  Other interests that seem to correlate less strongly but
positively with hackerdom include: linguistics and theater teching.

Physical Activity and Sports:

Many (perhaps even most) hackers don't do sports at all and are
determinedly anti-physical.

Among those that do, they are almost always self-competitive ones
involving concentration, stamina and micromotor skills; martial arts,
bicycling, kite-flying, hiking, rock-climbing, sailing, caving,

Hackers avoid most team sports like the plague (volleyball is a
notable and unexplained exception).


Nearly all hackers past their teens are either college-degreed or
self-educated to an equivalent level.  The self-taught hacker is often
considered (at least by other hackers) to be better-motivated and more
respected than his B.Sc. counterpart.  Academic areas from which
people often gravitate into hackerdom include (besides the obvious
computer science and electrical engineering) physics, mathematics,
linguistics, and philosophy.

Things hackers detest and avoid:

IBM mainframes.  Smurfs and other forms of offensive cuteness.
Bureaucracies.  Stupid people.  Easy listening music.  Television
(except for cartoons, movies, the old `Star Trek' and the new
`Simpsons').  Business suits.  Dishonesty.  Incompetence.  Boredom.
BASIC.  Character-based menu interfaces.


Ethnic.  Spicy.  Oriental, esp.  Chinese and most especially Szechuan,
Hunan and Mandarin (hackers consider Cantonese vaguely declasse).
Thai food has experienced flurries of popularity.  Where available
high-quality Jewish delicatessen food is much esteemed.  A visible
minority of Midwestern and Southwestern hackers prefers Mexican.

For those all-night hacks, pizza and microwaved burritos are big.
Interestingly, though the mainstream culture has tended to think of
hackers as incorrigible junk-food junkies, many have at least mildly
health-foodist attitudes and are fairly discriminating about what they
eat.  This may be generational; anecdotal evidence suggests that the
stereotype was more on the mark ten years ago.


Vaguely left of center, except for the strong libertarian contingent
which rejects conventional left-right politics entirely.  The only
safe generalization is that almost all hackers are anti-authoritarian,
thus both conventional conservatism and `hard' leftism are rare.
Hackers are far more likely than most non-hackers to either a) be
aggressively apolitical, or b) entertain peculiar or idiosyncratic
political ideas and actually try to live by them day-to-day.

Gender & Ethnicity:

Hackerdom is still predominantly male.  However, the percentage of
women is clearly higher than the low-single-digit range typical for
technical professions.

Hackerdom is predominantly Caucasian with a strong minority of Jews
(east coast) and Asians (west coast).  The Jewish contingent has
exerted a particularly pervasive cultural influence (see Food, and
note that several common slang terms are obviously mutated Yiddish).

Hackers as a group are about as color-blind as anyone could ask for,
and ethnic prejudice of any kind tends to be met with extreme
hostility; the ethnic distribution of hackers is understood by them to
be a function of who tends to seek and get higher education.

It has been speculated that hackish gender- and color-blindness is
partly a positive effect of ASCII-only network channels.


Agnostic.  Atheist.  Non-observant Jewish.  Neo-pagan.  Very commonly
three or more of these are combined in the same person.  Conventional
faith-holding Christianity is rare though not unknown (at least on the
east coast, more hackers wear yarmulkes than crucifixes).

Even hackers who identify with a religious affiliation tend to be
relaxed about it, hostile to organized religion in general and all
forms of religious bigotry in particular.  Many enjoy `parody'
religions such as Discordianism and the Church of the SubGenius.

Also, many hackers are influenced to varying degrees by Zen Buddhism
or (less commonly) Taoism, and blend them easily with their `native'

There is a definite strain of mystical, almost Gnostic sensibility
that shows up even among those hackers not actively involved with
neo-paganism, Discordianism, or Zen.  Hacker folklore that pays homage
to `wizards' and speaks of incantations and demons has too much
psychological truthfulness about it to be entirely a joke.

Ceremonial chemicals:

Most hackers don't smoke tobacco and use alcohol in moderation if at
all (though there is a visible contingent of exotic-beer fanciers).
Limited use of `soft' drugs (esp. psychedelics such as marijuana, LSD,
psilocybin etc) used to be relatively common and is still regarded
with more tolerance than in the mainstream culture.  Use of `downers'
and opiates, on the other hand, appears to be particularly rare;
hackers seem in general to dislike drugs that `dumb them down'.  On
the other hand, many hackers regularly wire up on caffeine and sugar
for all-night hacking runs.

Communication style:

See the dictionary notes on `Hacker speech style'.  Though hackers
often have poor person-to-person communication skills, they are as a
rule extremely sensitive to nuances of language and very precise in
their use of it.  They are often better at written communication than

Geographical Distribution:

In the U.S., hackerdom revolves on a Bay Area/Boston axis; about half
of the hard core seems to live within a hundred miles of Cambridge or
Berkeley.  Hackers tend to cluster around large cities, especially
`university towns' such as the Raleigh/Durham area in North Carolina
or Princeton, New Jersey (this may simply reflect the fact that many
are students or ex-students living near their alma maters).

Sexual habits:

Hackerdom tolerates a much wider range of sexual and lifestyle
variation than the mainstream culture.  It includes a relatively large
gay contingent.  Hackers are more likely to live in polygynous or
polyandrous relationships, practice open marriage, or live in communes
or group houses.  In this as in some other respects (see DGeneral
Appearance) hackerdom semi-consciously maintains `counterculture'

Personality Characteristics:

The most obvious common `personality' characteristics of hackers are
high intelligence, consuming curiosity, and facility with intellectual
abstractions.  Also, most hackers are `neophiles', stimulated by and
appreciative of novelty (especially intellectual novelty).  Most are
also relatively individualistic and anti-conformist.

Contrary to stereotype, hackers are *not* usually intellectually
narrow; they tend to be interested in any subject that can provide
mental stimulation, and can often discourse knowledgeably and even
interestingly on any number of obscure subjects --- assuming you can
get them to talk at all as opposed to, say, going back to hacking.

Hackers are `control freaks' in a way that has nothing to do with the
usual coercive or authoritarian connotations of the term.  In the same
way that children delight in making model trains go forward and back
by moving a switch, hackers love making complicated things like
computers do nifty stuff for them.  But it has to be *their*
nifty stuff; they don't like tedium or nondeterminism.  Accordingly
they tend to be careful and orderly in their intellectual lives and
chaotic elsewhere.  Their code will be beautiful, even if their desks
are buried in three feet of crap.

Hackers are generally only very weakly motivated by conventional
rewards such as social approval or money.  They tend to be attracted
by challenges and excited by interesting toys, and to judge the
interest of work or other activities in terms of the challenges
offered and the toys they get to play with.

In terms of Myers-Briggs and equivalent psychometric systems,
hackerdom appears to concentrate the relatively rare INTJ and INTP
types; that is, introverted, intuitive and thinker types (as opposed
to the extroverted-sensate personalities that predominate in the
mainstream culture).  ENT[JP] types are also concentrated among
hackers but are in a minority.

Weaknesses of the hacker personality:

Relatively little ability to identify emotionally with other people.
This may be because hackers generally aren't much like `other people'.
Unsurprisingly, there is also a tendency to self-absorption,
intellectual arrogance, and impatience with people and tasks perceived
to be wasting one's time.  As a result, many hackers have difficulty
maintaining stable relationships.

As cynical as hackers sometimes wax about the amount of idiocy in the
world, they tend at bottom to assume that everyone is as rational,
`cool', and imaginative as they consider themselves.  This bias often
contributes to weakness in communication skills.  Hackers tend to be
especially poor at confrontations and negotiation.

Hackers are often monumentally disorganized and sloppy about dealing
with the physical world.  Bills don't get paid on time, clutter piles
up to incredible heights in homes and offices, and minor maintenance
tasks get deferred indefinitely.

The sort of person who uses phrases like `incompletely socialized'
usually thinks hackers are.  Hackers regard such people with contempt
when they notice them at all.


Hackers are more likely to keep cats than dogs.  Many drive incredibly
decrepit heaps and forget to wash them; richer ones drive spiffy
Porsches and RX-7s and then forget to wash them.


Here are some other books you can read to help you understand the
hacker mindset.

     Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
     Hofstadter, Douglas
     Basic Books, New York 1979
     ISBN 0-394-74502-7

This book reads like an intellectual Grand Tour of hacker
preoccupations.  Music, mathematical logic, programming, speculations
on the nature of intelligence, biology, and Zen are woven into a
brilliant tapestry themed on the concept of encoded self-reference.
The perfect left-brain companion to `Illuminatus'.

     Illuminatus (three vols)
         1.  The Golden Apple 
         2.  The Eye in the Pyramid
         3.  Leviathan
     Shea, Robert & Wilson, Robert Anton
     Dell Books, New York 1975
     ISBN 0-440-{14688-7,34691-6,14742-5}

This work of alleged fiction is an incredible berserko-surrealist
rollercoaster of world-girdling conspiracies, intelligent dolphins,
the fall of Atlantis, who really killed JFK, sex, drugs, rock and roll
and the Cosmic Giggle Factor.  First published in 3 volumes, but
there's now a one-volume trade paperback carried by most chain
bookstores under SF.  The perfect right-brain companion to Hofstadter's
`Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid'.  See <Eris>,
<Discordianism>, <random numbers>, <Church Of The Sub-Genius>.

     The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
     Douglas Adams
     Pocket Books 1981, New York
     ISBN 0-671-46149-4

This Monty-Python-in-Space spoof of SF genre traditions has been
popular among hackers ever since the original British radio show.
Read it if only to learn about Vogons (see <bogons>) and the
significance of the number 42 (see <random numbers>) --- also why the
winningest chess program of 1990 was called `Deep Thought'.

     The Tao of Programming
     James Geoffrey
     Infobooks 1987, Santa Monica,
     ISBN 0-931137-07-1

This gentle, funny spoof of the `Tao Te Ching' contains much that is
illuminating about the hacker way of thought. "When you have learned
to snatch the error code from the trap frame, it will be time for you
to leave."

     Steven Levy
     Anchor/Doubleday 1984, New York
     ISBN 0-385-19195-2

Levy's book is at its best in describing the early MIT hackers at the
Model Railroad Club and the early days of the microcomputer
revolution.  He never understood UNIX or the networks, though, and his
enshrinement of Richard Stallman as "the last true hacker" turns out
(thankfully) to have been quite misleading.  Numerous minor factual
errors also mar the text; for example, Levy's claim that the original
jargon file derived from a 1959 dictionary of Model Railroad Club
slang is incorrect (the File originated at Stanford and was brought to
MIT in 1976; the First Edition coathors had never seen the dictionary
in question).  Nevertheless this remains a useful and stimulating book
that captures the feel of several important hackish subcultures.

     The Cuckoo's Egg
     Clifford Stoll
     Doubleday 1989, New York
     ISBN 0-385-24946-2

Clifford Stoll's absorbing tale of how he tracked Markus Hess and the
Chaos Club cracking-ring nicely illustrates the difference between
`hacker' and `cracker'.  And Stoll's portrait of himself and his lady
Martha and his friends at Berkeley and on the Internet paints a
marvelously vivid picture of how hackers and the people around them
like to live and what they think.

     The Devil's DP Dictionary
     by Stan Kelly-Bootle
     McGraw-Hill Inc, 1981
     ISBN 0-07-034022-6

This pastiche of Ambrose Bierce's famous work is similar in format to
the Jargon File (and quotes several entries from jargon-1) but
somewhat different in tone and intent.  It is more satirical and less
anthropological, and largely a product of the author's literate and
quirky imagination.  For example, it defines `computer science' as
"A study akin to numerology and astrology, but lacking the precision
of the former and the success of the latter"; also as "The boring
art of coping with a large number of trivialities."

     The Devouring Fungus: Tales from the Computer Age
     by Karla Jennings
     W. W. Norton 1990, New York
     ISBN 0-393-30732-8

The author of this pioneering compendium knits together a great deal
of computer and hacker-related folklore with good writing and a few
well-chosen cartoons.  She has a keen eye for the human aspects of the
lore and is very good at illuminating the psychology and evolution of
hackerdom.  Unfortunately, a number of small errors and awkwardnesses
suggest that she didn't have the final manuscript vetted by a hackish
insider; the glossary in the back is particularly embarrassing, and at
least one classic tale (the Magic Switch story in this file's Appendix
A) is given in incomplete and badly mangled form.  Nevertheless, this
book is a win overall and can be enjoyed by hacker and non-hacker

     True Names...and Other Dangers
     by Vernor Vinge
     Baen Books 1987, New York
     ISBN 0-671-65363

Hacker demigod Richard Stallman believes the title story of this book
"expresses the spirit of hacking best".  This may well be true; it's
certainly difficult to recall anyone doing a better job.  The other
stories in this collection are also fine work by an author who is
perhaps one of today's very best practitioners of the hard-SF genre.