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

Introduction
************

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
things.

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
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:

Berkeley
University of California at Berkeley.
Cambridge
Cambridge University, England (*not* Cambridge, Mass!).
CMU
Carnegie-Mellon University
Commodore
Fidonet
See the <Fidonet> entry.
IBM
MIT
Massachusetts Institute of Technology; esp. the legendary MIT AI Lab
culture of roughly 1971 to 1983.  Some MITisms go back to the MIT
NYU
New York University.
Purdue
Purdue University.
SAIL
Stanford Artificial Intelliegence Laboratory.
Stanford
Stanford University.
Sun
Sun Microsystems.
UCLA
University of California at Los Angeles.
USENET
See the <USENET> entry.
WPI
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
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 (eric@snark.thyrsus.com) maintains the new File with
assistance from Guy L. Steele (gls@think.com); these are the persons
primarily reflected in the File's editorial we', though we take
pleasure in acknowledging the special contribution of the other
correspondence relating to the jargon file to jargon@thyrsus.com
(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
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
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 (per@front.se), 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 (jkg@osc.osc.com) 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,
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
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
diverging.

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
jargon.

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
newspapers:

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
flourish.

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
spectrum:

MONSTROSITY BRAIN-DAMAGE  SCREW  BUG  LOSE  MISFEATURE
CROCK  KLUGE  HACK  WIN  FEATURE  ELEGANCE PERFECTION

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
people.

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) {

and

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
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
clueless'.

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

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
sentences.

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.

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,
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>) =}

(also @-sign party' /at'sien partee/) 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
<boink>.

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

<'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 rasputin@kremlin.org, 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:

\begin{Flame}
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.
\end{Flame}

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").

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>.

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.

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.

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
filenames.

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

<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
horse>

<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

<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>).
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

<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
Book>.

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

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

<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
AOS system') was created, issued a part number, and allegedly
released.  It was called How to goad and levitate your chaos
system'.

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>
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*
few.

<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",
etc.

<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, cache.. %' 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 bracket.. *' 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, bithorpe.. .' 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).. V' 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 virgule.. ^' 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 <epsilon>). <autobogotiphobia> /aw'to-boh-got'@-fohbee-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 pond. <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 <foobar>. <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 programmer>. <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 foobaz'. <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 hobbyists. <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>, <MIPS>. <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 DOOD AN HE RITES REEL AWESUM THINGZ IN CAPITULL LETTRS LIKE 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. random@uk.ac.redbrick.cs'. 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:

40238726007709377354370243392300398571937486421071
46325437999104299385123986290205920442084869694048
00479988610197196058631666872994808558901323829669
94459099742450408707375991882362772718873251977950
59509952761208749754624970436014182780946464962910
56393887437886487337119181045825783647849977012476
63288983595573543251318532395846307555740911426241
74743493475534286465766116677973966688202912073791
43853719588249808126867838374559731746136085379534
52422158659320192809087829730843139284440328123155
86110369768013573042161687476096758713483120254785
89320767169132448426236131412508780208000261683151
02734182797770478463586817016436502415369139828126
48102130927612448963599287051149649754199093422215
66832572080821333186116811553615836546984046708975
60290095053761647584772842188967964624494516076535
34081989013854424879849599533191017233555566021394
50399736280750137837615307127761926849034352625200
01588853514733161170210396817592151090778801939317
81141945452572238655414610628921879602238389714760
88506276862967146674697562911234082439208160153780
88989396451826324367161676217916890977991190375403
12746222899880051954444142820121873617459926429565
81746628302955570299024324153181617210465832036786
90611726015878352075151628422554026517048330422614
39742869330616908979684825901254583271682264580665
26769958652682272807075781391858178889652208164348
34482599326604336766017699961283186078838615027946
59551311565520360939881806121385586003014356945272
24206344631797460594682573103790084024432438465657
24501440282188525247093519062092902313649327349756
55139587205596542287497740114133469627154228458623
77387538230483865688976461927383814900140767310446
64025989949022222176590433990188601856652648506179
97023561938970178600408118897299183110211712298459
01641921068884387121855646124960798722908519296819
37238864261483965738229112312502418664935314397013
74285319266498753372189406942814341185201580141233
44828015051399694290153483077644569099073152433278
28826986460278986432113908350621709500259738986355
42771967428222487575867657523442202075736305694988
25087968928162753848863396909959826280956121450994
87170124451646126037902930912088908694202851064018
21543994571568059418727489980942547421735824010636
77404595741785160829230135358081840096996372524230
56085590370062427124341690900415369010593398383577
79394109700277534720000000000000000000000000000000
00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
000000000000000000.

2. [Stanford] n. In backgammon, large numbers on the dice are
called "bignums", especially a roll of double fives or double

<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

<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

<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
<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
pattern.

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 <toy>. <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 programming>. <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 course. <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 bucket>. <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 incorrect. <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 effort. 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 Anaconda'. <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'@-fohbee-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 <random>.) 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 note". <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: /************************************************* * * 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 comments>. <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 information). <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 <NP->. 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 overflow." <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 games. In any case, in hacker's slang the word almost never refers to insects. Here is a plausible conversation that never actually happened: "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 buttocks'. <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 mind>. <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>, <BLT>. <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 meltdown>. <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 lights. <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 featurefulness. <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 rope. <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 access. <clustergeeking> /kluh'ster-geeking/ [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 horror. <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 walloper>. <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 <quadruple-bucky>. <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 shock. <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 hardware. <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 terms. <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>. <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 reverence. <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 Circus. <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>, <brain-damaged>. <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 CRLF'). <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 fiasco. <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 console'. <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 respond. <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 DATAMATION?". <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 businesslike'. <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. <grunge>. <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 computers. <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 <boa>. <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 paper>. <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, "eric@snark.thyrsus.com" 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: com' Machines at commercial organizations. edu' Machines at educational instututions. gov' U.S. Government civilian sites. mil' U.S. military sites. us' Sites in the U.S. not within one of the functional domains su' Sites in the Soviet Union (only one really active one so far!) uk' 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 <RTFM>. <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: (Vo-vo-de-o!) Control and meta, side by side, Augmented ASCII, nine bits wide! Double bucky! Half a thousand glyphs, plus a few! Oh, 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 conspiracy>. <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 performance. <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 <newsgroup>. <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 then. <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 <asymptotic>. <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 <kilo->. <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 art>. <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: do_green(); break; case PINK: do_pink(); /* FALL THROUGH */ case RED: do_red(); break; default: do_blue(); break; } 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 milder. <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> /feech@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 <ding>. <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 kreech@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 table. <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 USENET. <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 engineers: 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 gas? 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 circus>). <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 <pipeline>. <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'. <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 flamage". <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 synonymous. <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> form. <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 <gun>. <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 fooey!'. <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 <toeprint>. <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 products. <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 fossil'. <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 uunet." <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 factor>. <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 service. {= 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 <barf>. <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. <GECOS> n. See GCOS <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 algorithm. <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 <kilo->. <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 itself." <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 logic". <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 (rms@prep.ai.mit.edu). 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 (gnu@toad.com), 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 <corge>. <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 abundances. <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 lightning". <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 explained. <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 <bogus>). <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 mode>. <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 inverters. <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 keyboard>). <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 there!" <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 <hungus>. 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 SCIENCE-FICTION FANDOM. <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> community. <i14y> n. Written-only abbrev. for interoperability', which is an i' followed by 14 letters followed by y'. Used in the <X> community. <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) { <body> } "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) { <body> } "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) { <body> } "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) { <body> } 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 <hacker>-natures. <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>.

foo@bar.baz, where foo is a user name, bar is a <sitename>, and
baz is a domain' name, possibly including periods itself.
<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.

<interrupt> interj. 1. On a computer, an event which interrupts normal
processing and temporarily diverts flow-of-control through an
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
by Ralf Brown (ralf@cs.cmu.edu).  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

<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

<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
<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
Club.

<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
<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

<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>.

<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
articles which match some particularly uninteresting (or unwanted)
a person (or subject) to one's kill file" is to arrange for that
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

<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
<marketroid>.

<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
Simple".

<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
are...

<Knuth> [Donald Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming'] n. The
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, demos.su, joined USENET.  Some readers needed convincing
that it wasn't another prank.  Vadim Antonov (avg@hq.demos.su),
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
and intense version of larval stage (typically lasting about a
month) may recur when learning a new <OS> or programming
language.

<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

<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
site>.

<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>.

<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

v. 2. A deliberate act, with ulterior motives, to close a
connection.

<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,
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,
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
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
loaded' whenever the power is up, this is never used of a
<Winchester>.

<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
east!)

<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
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

<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

<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

<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
<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
enhancers).

<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

<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

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

<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
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

<management> n. 1. Corporate power elites distinguished primarily by
their distance from actual productive work and their chronic
"*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.

<management>.  Note that <system mangler> is somwhat different
in connotation.

<mango> /mang'go/ [orig. in-house slang at Symbolics] n.  A manager.

<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,

<martian> n. A packet sent on a TCP/IP network with a source address
of the test loopback interface (127.0.0.1).  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
<social science number>.

<Matrix> [Fidonet] n. What the Opus BBS software and sysops call
<Fidonet>.

<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

<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 figures. <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 tactics. <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 populations. <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> /menyoo-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, HACKER. <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-lampsn/ 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, please". <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 hacking. <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>, <tinycrud>. <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 <wannabee>. <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 obscenities. <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-aykr/ 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 "nanoagent". <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-nol@-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>, <nanobot>. <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> /neeoh-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 <demigod>. <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 "alt.tv.muppets" 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 <flamage>). <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 text. <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 UNIX. <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 alt.sex 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)"; (!!c)[*c]&&(v--||--c&&execlp(*c,*c,c[!!c]+!!c,!c)); **c=!c)write(!!*c,*c,!!**c);} 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 <wall>. <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 others. 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 <freeware>. <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 <brain-damaged>. <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. Pejorative. <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 <copyleft>. <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 <flowchart>. <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 <random>. <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 <root>." <Perl> [Practical Extraction and Report Language, aka Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister] n. An interpreted language developed by Larry Wall (lwall@jpl.nasa.gov, 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 pranks. <peta-> /pe't@/ pref. Multiplier, 10 ^ 12 or [proposed] 2 ^ 40. See <kilo->. <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 characters. <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 networks). 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 comp.sys.next. 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, "Ping...ping...ping..." 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, Lord'). <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 pistol!" <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 mines>. <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 HACKISH. <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 users?" <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> /preepend'/ [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 it... <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 joke). <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 in. <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 funeral... <psychedelicware> /siek@-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 bohgoh-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 quux. <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 art>. <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 randomness!" <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 unlikely. <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 FOOD. <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 Me'. <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 <uninteresting>. <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 (henry@zoo.toronto.edu). <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 <nanobot>. <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 running. <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 combination. <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 Thing>. <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 surprises. <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 ratio>. <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 ensue. <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'kritr/ 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 salesman? 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 pusher>. <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 <playpen>. <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 people. 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>, <crippleware>. <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 Quayle." <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 address>. <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 <background>. <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 snark.thyrsus.com, 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', Armpit-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>, <MOTSS>. <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 <OS/2>. <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 it.") 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 programmers. <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 <ASCII> <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 devices). <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 <mumble>. <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 oBscuRe. <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 <wizard>. <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 <unswizzling>. <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 simultaneously; 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 conversation. /\/\/\ 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 reported: 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: [1J^P$L$$J<.-Z;.,(S,-D.)FX1@F^BK:LIG1L>$$

(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 professor. <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 <kilo->. <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 #1). <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 screw..." <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 <multitask>. <thread> /thred/ n. [USENET, GEnie] Common abbreviation of topic thread', a more or less continuous chain of postings on a single topic. <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 file. <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 nontrivial. <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 turistic'. <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 unknown. <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>, <uninteresting>. <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>, <mode>. <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 <toggle>). <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 <brain-damaged>. <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>, <BSD UNIX>, <USG UNIX>. <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 workstations. <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 context. <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 later. <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>, <param>. <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> /vaksoh-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 architectures); 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) == sizeof(long)'. 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-festr/ [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>, <marketroid>. <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 salute>. <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 them. {= 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 file'.) <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 weenie>. <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 <wow>. <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 praise. <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 example. <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 <guru>. <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 "cross-reference". <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 zealots. <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 reset. <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 versions). 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 steel. 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 subverted. 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. So...one 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 job. * 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. B: HOW DID I KILL MABEL? V: YOU PM'ED MY MACHINE!! 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 Blah-de-blah. 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 idea. 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 since. 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." OS and JEDGAR ************* 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. Directly. 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 pature\$,
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,
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
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,
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,
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,
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
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.

Dress:
======

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.

===============

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,
juggling.

Hackers avoid most team sports like the plague (volleyball is a
notable and unexplained exception).

Education:
==========

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.

Food:
=====

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.

Politics:
=========

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.

Religion:
=========

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'
religions.

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
spoken.

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'
values.

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

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.

Miscellaneous:
==============

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.

Bibliography
************

hacker mindset.

Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
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
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."

Hackers
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
alike.

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.