term% ls -F
term% cat index.txt
============ THIS IS THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 2.8.2, 23 MAR 1991 ============

Copyright 1991 by Eric S. Raymond, all rights reserved.  Permission to
make copies and derived works for non-profit use is granted as long as
this notice is not removed.


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 technical 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.

As usual with slang, the special vocabulary of hackers helps hold
their culture together --- it helps hackers recognize each other's
places in the community and expresses shared values and experiences.
Also as usual, *not* knowing the slang (or using it
inappropriately) defines one as an outsider, a mundane, or (worst of
all in hackish vocabulary) possibly even a *suit*.  All human
cultures use slang in this threefold way --- as a tool of
communication, and of inclusion, and of exclusion.

Among hackers, though, slang has a subtler aspect paralleled perhaps
in the slang of jazz musicians and some kinds of fine artists but hard
to detect in most technical or scientific cultures; parts of it are
code for shared states of *consciousness*.  There is a whole
range of altered states and problem-solving mental stances basic to
high-level hacking which don't fit into conventional linguistic
reality any better than a Coltrane solo or one of Maurits Escher's
`trompe l'oeil' compositions (Escher is a favorite of hackers),
and hacker slang encodes these subtleties in many unobvious ways.
Take the distinction between a {kluge} and an {elegant} solution,
and the differing connotations attached to each, as a simple example.
The distinction is not only of engineering significance; it reaches
right back into the nature of the generative processes in program
design and asserts something important about two different kinds of
relationship between the hacker and the hack.  Hacker slang is
unusually rich in implications of this kind, of overtones and
undertones that illuminate the hackish psyche.

But there is more.  Hackers, as a rule, love word-play and are very
conscious and inventive in their use of language.  These traits seem
to be common in young children, but the conformity-enforcing machine
we are pleased to call an educational system bludgeons them out of
most of us before adolescence.  Thus, linguistic invention in most
subcultures of ours is a halting and largely unconscious process.
Hackers, by contrast, regard slang formation and use as a game to be
played for conscious pleasure.  Their inventions thus display an
almost unique combination of the neotenous enjoyment of language-play
with the discrimination of educated and powerful intelligence.
Further, the electronic media which knit them together are fluid,
`hot' connections, well adapted to both the dissemination of new slang
and the ruthless culling of weak and superannuated specimens.  The
results of this process give us perhaps a uniquely intense ans
accelerated view of linguistic evolution in action.

The intensity and consciousness of hackish invention makes a
compilation of hacker slang a particularly effective window into the
surrounding 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 individual entries.

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 that have been genuinely
passionate; this is deliberate.  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.

The 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
(fledgling 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 each individual must
choose by action 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.

Of Slang, Jargon, and Techspeak

Linguists usually refer to informal language as `slang' and reserve
the term `jargon' for the technical vocabularies of various
occupations.  However, the ancestor of this collection was called the
`Jargon File' and hackish slang is traditionally `the jargon'.  When
talking about the jargon there is therefore no convenient way to
distinguish what a *linguist* would call hackers' jargon --- the
formal vocabulary they learn from textbooks, technical papers, and

To make a confused situation worse, the line between hackish slang and
technical programming and computer science vocabulary is fuzzy, and
shifts over time.  Further, this technical vocabulary is shared with a
wider technical culture of programmers, many of whom are not hackers
and do not speak or recognize hackish slang.

Accordingly, this lexicon will try to be as precise as the facts of
usage permit about the distinctions between three categories:

   * `slang': informal language from mainstream English or non-techical
     subcultures (bikers, rock fans, surfers, etc.).
   * `jargon': without qualifier, denotes informal `slangy' language
     peculiar to hackers --- the subject of this lexicon.
   * `techspeak': the formal technical vocabulary of programming,
     computer science, electronics, and other fields connected to hacking.

This terminology will be consistently used throughout the remainder of
this lexicon.

The jargon/techspeak distinction is the delicate one.  A lot of
techspeak originated as jargon, and there is a steady continuing
uptake of jargon into techspeak.  On the other hand, a lot of jargon
arises from overgeneralization of techspeak terms (there is more about
this in the `Jargon Construction' section below).

In general, we have considered techspeak any term which communicates
primarily by a denotation well established in textbooks, technical
dictionaries, or standards documents.

A few obviously techspeak terms (names of operating systems, languages
or documents) are listed when they are tied to hacker folklore that
isn't covered in formal sources, or sometimes to convey critical
historical background necessary to understand other entries to which
they are cross-referenced.  Some other techspeak senses of jargon
words have been listed in order to make the jargon senses clear; where
the text does not specify that a straight technical sense is under
discussion, these are marked with `[techspeak]' as an etymology.  Many
entries have a sense #1 marked this way, with subsequent jargon
meanings explained in terms of it.

We have also tried to indicate (where known) the apparent origins of
terms.  The results are probably the least reliable information in the
lexicon, for several reasons.  For one thing, it is well known that
many hackish usages have been independently re-invented multiple
times, even among the more obscure and intricate neologisms.  It often
seems that the generative processes underlying hackish jargon
formation have an internal logic so powerful as to create substantial
parallelism across separate cultures and even in different languages!
For another, the networks tend to propagate innovations so quickly
that `first use' is often impossible to pin down.  And, finally,
compendia like this one alter what they observe by implicitly stamping
cultural approval on terms and widening their use.

Revision History

The original Jargon File was a collection of hacker jargon from
technical cultures including the MIT AI Lab, the Stanford AI lab
(SAIL), and others of the old ARPANET AI/LISP/PDP-10 communities
including Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN), 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.  From this time until
the plug was finally pulled on the SAIL computer in 1991 the File was
named AIWORD.RF[UP,DOC] there.  Some terms in it date back
considerably earlier ({frob} and some senses of {moby}, for
instance, go back to the Tech Model Railroad Club and MIT and are
believed to date at least back to the early 1960s).  The revisions of
jargon-1 were all unnumbered and may be collectively considered
`Version 1'.

In 1976, Mark Crispin, having seen an announcement about the File on
the SAIL computer, {FTP}ed a copy of the File to MIT.  He noticed that
it was hardly restricted to `AI words' and so stored the file on
his directory as AI:MRC;SAIL JARGON.

The file was quickly renamed to JARGON > (the `>' means numbered with
a version number) as a flurry of enhancements were made by Mark
Crispin and Guy L. Steele.  Unfortunately, amidst all this activity,
nobody thought of correcting the term `jargon' to `slang' until the
compendium had become widely known as the Jargon File it was too late.

Raphael Finkel 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

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 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.  Originally, this was because of a
desire to freeze the file temporarily to facilitate the production of
Steele-1983, but external conditions caused the `temporary' freeze
became permanent. 

The AI-Lab culture had been hit hard in the late 1970s by funding
cuts, and the resulting administrative decision to use vendor-supported
hardware and software instead of homebrew whenever possible.  At MIT,
most AI work had turned to dedicated LISP Machines.  At the same time,
the commercialization of AI technology lured some of the AI Labs' best
and brightest away to startups along the Route 128 strip in
Massachusetts and out west to Silicon Valley.  The startups built LISP
machines for MIT; the central MIT-AI computer became a {TWENEX}
system rather than a host for the AI hackers' beloved {ITS}.

The Stanford AI Lab had effectively ceased to exist by 1980, although
the SAIL computer continued as a Computer Science Department resource
until 1991.  Stanford became a major {TWENEX} site, at one point
operating more than a dozen TOPS-20 systems; but by the mid-1980's
most of the interesting software work was being done on the emerging
BSD Unix standard. 

In April 1983, the PDP-10-centered cultures that had nourished the
File were dealt a death-blow by the cancellation of the Jupiter
project at DEC.  The File's compilers, already dispersed, moved on to
other things.  Steele-1983 was partly a monument to what its authors
thought was a dying tradition; no one involved realized at the time
just how widely its influence was to run.

By the mid-1980s the File's content was dated, but the legend that had
grown up around it never quite died out.  The book, and softcopies
obtained off the ARPANET, circulated even in cultures far removed from
MIT's and Stanford's; the content exerted a strong and continuing
influence on hackish language 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, having passed from living
document to icon, remained essentially untouched for seven years.

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

This new version casts a wider net than the old jargon file; its aim
is to cover not just AI or PDP-10 hacker culture 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 jargon
now current in the C and UNIX communities, but special efforts have
been made to collect jargon from other cultures including IBM PC
programmers, Amiga fans, Mac enthusiasts, and even the IBM mainframe

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

     University of California at Berkeley
     The university in England (*not* the city in Massachusetts where
     MIT happens to be located!)
     Bolt, Beranek & Newman
     Carnegie-Mellon University
     Commodore Business Machines
     The Digital Equipment Corporation.
     The Fairchild Instruments Palo Alto development group.
     See the {Fidonet} entry.
     International Business Machines
     Massachusetts Institute of Technology; esp. the legendary MIT AI Lab
     culture of roughly 1971 to 1983.  See also TMRC.
     New York University
     Purdue University
     Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
     Stanford University
     Sun Microsystems
     Some MITisms go back as far as the Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) at
     MIT c.1960.  Material marked TMRC is from `An Abridged Dictionary
     of the TMRC Language', originally compiled by Pete Samson in 1959.
     University of California at Los Angeles
     See the {USENET} entry.
     Worcester Polytechnic Institute, site of a very active community of
     PDP-10 hackers during the Seventies.
     XEROX's Palo Alto Research Center, site of much pioneering research in
     user interface design and networking.
     Yale University

Some other etymology abbreviations such as {UNIX}, {PDP-10}, etc.
refer to technical cultures surrounding specific operating systems,
processors, or other environments.  Note: the fact that a term is
labelled with any of these abbreviations does not necessarily mean its
use is confined to that culture.  In particular, many terms labelled
`MIT' and `Stanford' are in quite general use. We have tried to give
some indication of speaker distribution in the usage notes.  However,
a number of factors mentioned in the introduction conspire to make
these indications less definite than might be desirable.

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

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

Some snapshot of this on-line version will become the main text of a
`New Hacker's Dictionary', to be published by MIT Press possibly as
early as Summer 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 jargon 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 co-authors.
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 the material
on Commonwealth Hackish.  This version had 9394 lines, 75954 words,
490501 characters, 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 techspeak were
deleted; this enabled the rest of Appendix B to be merged back into
main text and the appendix replaced with the Portrait of J. Random
Hacker.  More USENET submissions were added.  This version had 10728
lines, 85070 words, 558261 characters, and 1138 entries.

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

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

Version 2.6.1, Feb 13 1991: second great format change; no more <>
around headwords or references.  Merged in results of serious
copy-editing passes by Guy Steele, Mark Brader.  Still more entries
added.  This version had 15011 lines, 118277 words, 774942 characters,
and 1485 entries.

Version 2.7.1, Mar 1 1991: new section on slang/jargon/techspeak
added.  Results of Guy's 2nd edit pass merged in.  This version had
16087 lines, 126885 words, 831872 characters, and 1533 entries.

Version 2.8.1, Mar 22 1991: material from the TMRC Dictionary and
MRC's editing pass merged in.  This version had 17154 lines, 135647
words, 888333 characters, and 1602 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 (Eric S. Raymond) with
assistance from GLS (Guy L. Steele).  Someday, the next maintainer will
take over and spawn `version 3'.  Usually later versions will either
completely supersede or incorporate earlier versions, so there is
generally no point in keeping old versions around.

Our thanks to the other co-authors of Steele-1983 for oversight and
assistance; also to all the USENETters who contributed entries and
encouragement.  Special thanks go to our Scandinavian correspondent
Per Lindberg (, author of the remarkable Swedish
language 'zine `Hackerbladet', for bringing FOO! comics to our
attention and smuggling one of the IBM hacker underground's own baby
jargon files out to us.  Also, much gratitude to ace hacker/linguist
Joe Keane ( for helping us improve the pronunciation
guides; and to Maarten Litmaath for generously allowing the inclusion
of the ASCII pronunciation guide he formerly maintained.  Don Libes
contributed some appropriate material from his excellent book
`Life With UNIX'.  Linguists David Stampe and Charles Hoequist
also contributed valuable criticism.  Finally, Mark Brader
( submitted many thoughtful comments and did yeoman
service in catching typos and minor usage bobbles, and Eric Tiedemann
( contributed sage advice on rhetoric, amphigory, and

Format For New Entries

Try to conform to the format already being used --- head-words
separated from text by a colon (double colon for topic entries),
cross-references in curly brackets (doubled for topic entries),
pronunciations in slashes, etymologies in square brackets,
single-space after definition numbers and word classes, etc.  Stick to
the standard ASCII character set (7-bit printable, 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.

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 jargon!

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

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

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

Jargon Construction

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

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

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

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

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

     Boston Herald American => Horrid (or Harried) American
     Boston Globe => Boston Glob
     Houston (or San Francisco) Chronicle
             => the Crocknicle (or the Comical)
     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
     IBM 360 => IBM Three-Sickly
     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 punning jargon 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} Once, when we were at a
Chinese restaurant, Bill Gosper 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 jargon is the
frequency with which techspeak items like 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 => ferrosity
     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.  Some of these go back quite a ways; the TMRC Dictionary noted
that the defined plural of `caboose' is `cabeese'.  On a similarly
Anglo-Saxon note, almost 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; e.g.
`soxen' for a bunch of socks.  Other funny plurals are `frobbotzim'
for the plural of `frobbozz' (see {frobnitz}) 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 punning jargon is still largely confined to MIT and other
large universities, and the -P convention is found only where LISPers

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


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

Hacker Speech Style

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

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

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

     if (going) {


     if (!going) {

that when they parse the question "Aren't you going?" it seems to be
asking the opposite question from "Are you going?", and so merits an
answer in the opposite sense.  This confuses English-speaking
non-hackers because they were taught to answer as though the negative
part weren't there.  In some other languages (including Russian,
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

We've already seen that hackers often coin jargon by overgeneralizing
grammatical rules.  This is one aspect of a more general fondness for
form-versus-content language jokes that shows up particularly in
hackish writing.  One correspondent reports that he consistently
misspells `wrong' as `worng'.  Others has been known to criticize
glitches in Jargon File drafts by observing "This sentence no verb",
or "Bad speling", or "Incorrectspa cing."  Similarly, intentional
Spoonerisms are often made of phrases relating to confusion, or things
which are confusing; `dain bramage' for `brain damage' is perhaps the
most common (similarly, a hacker would be likely to write "Excuse me,
I'm cixelsyd today", rather than "I'm dyslexic...").  This sort of
thing is quite common and enjoyed by all concerned.

Hackers tend to use quotes as balanced delimiters like parentheses,
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 the hacker-like style
`new' or `logical' style quoting.

Another hacker quirk about quoting style is a tendency to distinguish
between `scare' quotes and `speech' quotes; that is, to use
British-style single quotes for marking and reserve American-style
double quotes for actual reports of speech 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
(reinforced by the fact that many character-only terminals display a
vertical single quote).

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.  In fact, to a hacker,
the contrast between `loose' form and `tight' content in jargon is a
substantial part of its humor!

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.

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

One of these is that TEXT IN ALL CAPS IS INTERPRETED AS `LOUD', and
this becomes such an ingrained synesthetic reflex that a person who
goes to caps-lock while in {talk mode} 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*?" (note that this interferes with
the common use of asterisk suffix as 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.  Yet another form emphasizes text L I K E  T H I S.
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 mentally impaired person).  See also
the lexicon entry for {emoticon}.

In a formula, `*' signifies multiplication but 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.

In on-line exchanges, hackers tend to write improper fractions in
ratio or decimal form rather than `typewriter' style: that is, `7/2'
or `3.5' rather than `3-1/2'.  The major motive here is probably that
the former are more readable in a monospaced font, and avoid the risk
that the latter might be read as `three minus one-half'.  The decimal
form is definitely preferred for fractions with a terminating decimal
representation; there may be some cultural influence here from the
high status of scientific notation.

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 a quantifying 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_."
Occasionally this underline indication is used for emphasis, like the
paired asterisks.

There is also an accepted convention for `writing under erasure'; the

     Be nice to this fool^H^H^H^Hgentleman, he's in from corporate HQ.

would be read as "Be nice to this fool, I mean this gentleman...".
This comes from the fact that the digraph ^H is often used as a print
representation for a backspace.  It parallels (and may have been
influenced by) the ironic use of `slashouts' in science-fiction fanzines.

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

Another habit is that of using angle-bracket 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...

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).  A way of escaping this dilemma
is simply to avoid using these constructions at the beginning of

Hackers also mix letters and numbers more freely than in mainstream
usage.  In particular, it is good hackish style to write a digit
sequence where you intend the reader to understand the text string
that names that number in English.  So, hackers write "1970s" rather
than "nineteen-seventies" or "1970's" (the later looks like a

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

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

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

A few other idiosyncratic quoting styles survive because they're
automatically generated.  One particularly ugly one looks like this:

     /* Written hh:mm pm  Mmm dd, yyyy by user@site in local:group */
     /* ---------- "Subject of article chopped to 35 ch" ---------- */
        <<quoted text>>
     /* End of text from local:group */

It's generated by an elderly, variant news-reading system called
`notesfiles'.  The overall trend, however, is definitely away from
such verbosity.

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

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

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

Practice is still evolving, and disputes over the `correct' inclusion
style occasionally leads to {holy wars}.  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 allusion is to the root prompt (the special
UNIX command prompt issued when one is running as the privileged

Finally, it is worth mentioning that many studies of on-line
communication have shown that electronic links have a de-inhibiting
effect on people.  Deprived of the body-language cues through which
emotional state is expressed, people tend to forget everything about
other parties except what is presented over that ASCII link.  This has
both good and bad effects.  The good one is that it encourages
honesty and tends to break down hierarchical authority relationships;
the bad is that it may encourage depersonalization and gratuitous

Perhaps in response to this, experienced netters often display a sort
of conscious formal politesse in their writing that has passed out of
fashion in other spoken and written media (for example, the phrase
"Well said, sir!" is not uncommon).

Many introverted hackers who are next to inarticulate in person
communicate with considerable fluency over the net, perhaps precisely
because they can forget on an unconscious level that they are dealing
with people and thus don't feel stressed and anxious as they would
face to face.

Though it is considered gauche to publicly criticize posters for poor
spelling or grammar, the network definitely places a premium on
literacy and clarity of expression.  It may well be that future
historians of literature will see in it a revival of the great
tradition of personal letters as art.

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 jargon from English (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 herein 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}}
reporting some general phonetic and vocabulary differences from U.S.

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 English idioms and thus comprehensible to

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' (/nooz/ or /nyooz/)

A /*/ 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 with a pronunciation of `//' are written-only usages (no,
UNIX weenies, this does *not* mean `pronounce like previous

Other Lexicon Conventions

Entries are sorted in case-blind ASCII collation order (rather than
the letter-by-letter order ignoring interword spacing common in
mainstream dictionaries), except that all entries beginning with
nonalphabetic characters are sorted to the beginning.  The
case-blindness is a feature, not a bug.

The `OED' referred to in several entries is, of course, the Oxford
English Dictionary.

In pure ASCII renderings of the Jargon File, you will see {} used
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 a reminder seems useful that the term has a jargon meaning and one
might wish to refer to its entry.

In this all-ASCII version, headwords for topic entries are
distinguished from those for ordinary entries by being followed by
"::" rather than ":"; similarly, references are surrounded by
"{{" and "}}" rather than "{" and "}".

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.

The Jargon Lexicon

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

'Snooze: /snooz/ [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-superscript symbol
   , appended to
   phrases that the author feels should be recorded for posterity,
   perhaps in future editions of this lexicon.  Sometimes used
   ironically as a form of protest against the recent spate of
   software and algorithm patents and `look and feel' lawsuits.  See
   also {UN*X}.

-oid: [from `android'] suff. Used to form faintly derisory terms
   for classes of people.  This has recently (as of 1991) gone
   mainstream (most notably in the term `trendoid' for victims of
   terminal hipness), probably under the influence of the term
   `droid' in `Star Wars' and its sequels.  However, coinages
   of this form have been common in science fiction for at least fifty
   years, and hackers (who are often science-fiction fans) have
   probably been making `-oid' jargon for almost that long [though GLS
   and I can personally only confirm that the construction was already
   common in the mid-1970s --- ESR].  See {droid}.

   This suffix is expecially used to indicate a poor imitation,
   counterfeit, or otherwise slightly bogus resemblance: "He's a
   nerdoid" means someone who superficially resembles a nerd but
   can't make the grade; a `modemoid' might be a 300-baud box (Real
   Modems run at 9600), a `computeroid' might be any {bitty box},
   etc.  The word `keyboid' could be used to describe a {chiclet
   keyboard}, but would have to be written; spoken, it would confuse
   the listener as to the speaker's city of origin.

-ware: [from `software'] suff.  Commonly used to form jargon terms
   for classes of software.  For examples, see {careware},
   {crippleware}, {crudware}, {freeware}, {fritterware},
   {guiltware}, {liveware}, {meatware}, {payware},
   {psychedelicware}, {shareware}, {shelfware}, {vaporware},

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

120 reset: [from 120 volts, U.S. wall current] n. To cycle power on
   a machine in order to reset or unjam it.  Compare {Big Red
   Switch}, {power cycle}.

2: infix. 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).

@-party: /at'par`tee/ [from the @-sign in an Internet address] n.
   (also `@-sign party' /at'sien par`tee/) Semi-closed parties thrown
   at science-fiction 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. Equivalent of {\begin} in the
   Scribe text formatting language; used as an idiom by Scribe users.

\begin: // [from the LaTeX command] With \end, used
   humorously in writing to indicate a context or to remark on the
   surrounded text.  For example:

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

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

= A =

abbrev: /*'breev/, /*'brev/ n. Common abbreviation for

abend: [ABnormal END] /ab'end/ n. Abnormal termination (of
   software); {crash}; {lossage}.  Derives from an error message
   on the IBM 360; used jokingly by hackers but seriously mainly by
   {code grinder}s.

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 that the architecture under
   discussion is quite old.  The term in full is almost 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 #b0000110]
   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.
   Generally this sense is distinguished by a following exclamation
   point.  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").

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

Ada:: n. A {{Pascal}}-descended language that has been made
   mandatory for Department of Defense software projects by the
   Pentagon.  Hackers are nearly unanimous in observing that,
   technically, it is precisely what one might expect given that kind
   of endorsement by fiat; designed by committee, crockish, difficult
   to use, and overall a disastrous, multi-billion-dollar boondoggle
   (one common description is "The PL/I of the 1980s").  Hackers find
   Ada's exception-handling and inter-process communication features
   particularly hilarious.  Ada Lovelace (the daughter of 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 almost certainly blanch at the use her name has
   been latterly put to; the kindest thing that has been said about it
   is that there is probably a good small language screaming to get
   out from inside its vast, {elephantine} bulk.

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

admin: /ad-min'/ n. Short for `administrator'; very commonly used
   in speech or on-line to refer to the systems person in charge on a
   computer.  Common constructions on this include `sysadmin' and
   `site admin' (emphasizing the administrator's role as a site
   contact for email and news) or `newsadmin' (focusing on the
   latter).  Compare {postmaster}, {sysop}, {system mangler}.

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

   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 some noun X).  "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-complete: [MIT, Stanford, by analogy with `NP-complete']
   adj.  Used to describe problems or subproblems in AI, to indicate
   that the solution presupposes a solution to the `strong AI problem'
   (that is, the synthesis of a human-level intelligence).  A problem
   that is AI-complete is, in other words, just too hard.

   Examples of AI-complete problems are `The Vision Problem',
   building a system that can see as well as a human, and `The
   Natural Language Problem', building a system that can understand
   and speak a natural language as well as a human.  These may appear
   to be modular, but all attempts so far (1991) to solve them have
   foundered on the amount of context information and `intelligence'
   they seem to require.

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

AIDS: /aydz/ 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}, {virgin}.

airplane rule: n. "Complexity increases the possibility of
   failure; a twin-engine airplane has twice as many engine problems
   as a single-engine airplane."  By analogy, in both software and
   electronics, the rule that simplicity increases robustness (see
   also {KISS Principle}).  It is correspondingly argued that the
   right way to build reliable systems is to design to put all your
   eggs in one basket, after making sure that you've built a
   *really good* basket.

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

   Historical note: Though this term is nowadays associated with C
   programming, it was already in use in a very similar sense in the
   Algol-60 and FORTRAN communities in the 1960s.

all-elbows: adj. Of a TSR (terminate-and-stay-resident) IBM PC
   program, such as the N pop-up calendar and calculator utilities
   that circulate on {BBS} systems: unsociable.  Used to describe a
   program that rudely steals the resources that it needs without
   considering that other TSRs may also be resident.  One particularly
   common form of rudeness is lock-up due to programs fighting over
   the keyboard interrupt.  See also {mess-dos}.

ALT: /awlt/ 1. n. The ALT shift key on an IBM PC or {clone}.
   2. [possibly lowercased] n. The `clover' or `Command' key on a
   Macintosh; use of this term usually reveals that the speaker hacked
   PCs before coming to the Mac (see also {command key}).  Some Mac
   hackers, confusingly, reserve `ALT' for the Option key.  3. n.obs.
   [PDP-10] 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: /awlt 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 {{book titles}}.

amoeba: /*-mee'b*/ n. Humorous term for the Commodore Amiga
   personal computer.

amp off: [Purdue] vt. To run in {background}.  From the UNIX shell `&'

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

angry fruit salad: n. A bad interface design that uses too many colors.

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
   obsolete.  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-os/, the latter
   being prevalent internally at DG.  A spoof of the standard AOS
   system administrator's manual (`How to load and generate your
   AOS system') was created, issued a part number, and allegedly
   released.  It was called `How to goad and levitate your chaos

   Historical note: AOS in sense #1 was the name of a {PDP-10}
   instruction that took any memory location in the computer and added
   one to it; AOS meant `Add One and do not Skip'.  Why, you may ask,
   does the `S' stand for `do not Skip' rather than for `Skip'?  Ah,
   here was a beloved piece of PDP-10 folklore.  There were eight such
   instructions: AOSE added one and then skipped the next instruction
   if the result was Equal to zero; AOSG added one and then skipped if
   the result was Greater than zero; AOSN added one and then skipped
   if the result was Not zero; AOSA added one and then skipped Always;
   and so on.  Just plain AOS didn't say when to skip, so it never
   skipped.  For similar reasons, AOJ meant `Add One and do not Jump'.
   Even more bizarre, SKIP meant `Do not SKIP'!  If you wanted to skip
   the next instruction, you had to say `SKIPA'.  Likewise, JUMP means
   `Do not JUMP'; the unconditional form was JUMPA.  However, hackers
   never did this.  By some quirk of the 10's design, the {JRST} (Jump
   and Restore Flag with no flag specified) was actually faster, and
   so was invariably used.  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, the name of PKARC was
   changed to PKPAK.  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 archivers with better
   compression algorithms.

archive: n. 1. A collection of several files bundled into one
   file with a program such as `ar(1)', `tar(1)',
   `cpio(1)', or {arc} for shipment or archiving (sense #2).
   See also {tar and feather}.  2. A collection of files or
   archives (sense #1) made available from an `archive site' via
   {FTP} or an email server.

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}, {parm}, {var}.

armor-plated: n. Syn. for {bulletproof}.

asbestos: adj. Used as a modifier to anything intended to protect
   one from {flame}s.  Important cases of this include {asbestos
   longjohns} and {asbestos cork award}, but it is used more

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

asbestos longjohns: n. Notional garments often donned by {USENET}
   posters just before emitting a remark they expect will elicit
   {flamage}.  This is the most common of the {asbestos} coinages.
   Also `asbestos underwear', `asbestos overcoat', etc.

ASCII:: [American Standard Code for Information Interchange]
   /as'kee/ n. The predominant character set encoding of present-day
   computers.  Uses 7 bits for each character, whereas most earlier
   codes (including one version of ASCII) used fewer.  This change
   allowed the inclusion of lowercase letters, a major {win} --- but
   it did not provide for accented letters or any other letterforms
   not used in English (such as the German sharp-S and the ae-ligature
   which is a letter in, for example, Norwegian).  It could be worse,
   though.  It could be much worse.  See {{EBCDIC}} to understand how.
   Computers are much less flexible and pickier about spelling than
   humans; thus, hackers need to be very precise when talking about
   characters, and have developed a considerable amount of verbal
   shorthand for talking about characters.  Every character has one or
   more names; some formal, some concise, some silly.  Common jargon
   names for ASCII characters are collected here.  See also individual
   entries for {bang}, {excl}, {open}, {ques}, {semi},
   {shriek}, {splat}, {twiddle}, 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/CCITT names
   are parenthesized.  Square brackets mark the particularly silly
   names introduced by {INTERCAL}.

          Common: {bang}, pling, excl, shriek, (exclamation mark).
          Rare: factorial, exclam, smash, cuss, boing, yell, wow, hey,
          wham, [spot-spark], soldier.

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

          Common: (number sign), pound, pound sign, hash, sharp,
          {crunch}, hex, [mesh], octothorpe.  Rare: flash, crosshatch,
          grid, pig-pen, tictactoe, scratchmark, thud, thump, {splat}.

          Common: dollar, (dollar sign).  Rare: currency symbol, buck,
          cash, string (from BASIC), escape (when used as the echo of
          ASCII ESC), ding, cache, [big money].

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

          Common: (ampersand), amper, and.  Rare: address (from C),
          reference (from C++), andpersand, bitand, background (from
          `sh(1)'), pretzel, amp. [INTERCAL called this `ampersand';
          what could be sillier?]

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

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

          Common: star, {splat}, (asterisk).  Rare: wildcard, gear,
          dingle, mult, spider, aster, times, twinkle, glob (see
          {glob}), {Nathan Hale}.  [INTERCAL called this `splat']

          Common: (plus), add.  Rare: cross, [intersection].

          Common: (comma).  Rare: (cedilla), [tail].

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

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

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

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

          Common: (semicolon), semi.  Rare: weenie, [hybrid].

          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), [angle/right angle].

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

          Common: query, (question mark), {ques}.  Rare: whatmark,
          [what], wildchar, huh, hook, buttonhook, hunchback.

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

          Rare: vee, [book].

          Common: left/right square bracket, (opening/closing bracket),
          bracket/unbracket, left/right bracket.  Rare: square/unsquare,
          [U turn/U turn back].

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

          Common: hat, control, uparrow, caret, (circumflex).  Rare:
          chevron, [shark (or shark-fin)], to the (`to the power of'),

          Common: (underline), underscore, underbar, under.  Rare:
          score, backarrow (from the ASCII-1963 graphic), [flatworm].

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


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

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

          Common: (tilde), squiggle, {twiddle}, not.  Rare: approx,
          wiggle, swung dash, enyay, [sqiggle (sic)].

   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 sign' (confusingly, on British keyboards the pound
   graphic happens to replace `#'; thus Britishers sometimes call `#'
   on a US-ASCII keyboard `pound', compounding the American error).
   The U.S. usage derives from an old-fashioned commercial practice of
   using a `#' suffix 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 `approximation' sign is not
   quite the same as tilde in typeset material
   but the ASCII tilde serves for both (compare {angle

   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

   The inability of ASCII text to correctly represent any of the
   world's other major languages makes the designers' choice of 7 bits
   look more and more like a serious {misfeature} as the use of
   international networks continues to increase (see {software
   rot}).  Hardware and software from the US still tends to embody the
   assumption that ASCII is the *universal* character set; this
   is a now a major irritant to people who want to use a character set
   suited to their own language.

attoparsec: n. `atto-' is the official SI prefix for
   multiplication by `10 ^ -18', a parsec (parallax-second) is 3.26
   light-years; an attoparsec is thus 3.26e-18 light years, or about
   3.1 cm (thus, 1 attoparsec/{microfortnight} equals about 1
   inch/sec).  This unit is reported to be in use (though probably not
   very seriously) among hackers in Great Britain.  See {micro-}

autobogotiphobia: /aw'to-boh-got'*-foh`bee-uh/ n. See {bogotify}.

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

avatar: [CMU, Textronix] n. Syn. {root}, {superuser}.  There
   are quite a few UNIX machines on which the name of the superuser
   account is `avatar' rather than `root'.  This quirk was originated
   by a CMU hacker who disliked the term `superuser' and propagated
   through an ex-CMU hacker at Textronix.

awk: 1. n. [UNIX techspeak] An interpreted language developed by
   Aho, Weinberg, and Kernighan (the name is from their initials).  It
   is 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. n.
   Editing term for an expression awkward to manipulate through normal
   regular expression facilities.  3. vt. To process data using

= B =

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 infamous {RTM} worm of late 1988, for example, used a back door
   in the {BSD} UNIX `sendmail(8)' 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 would
   automatically patch itself into the output executable whenever the
   compiler itself was being recompiled, and 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!  Thompson describes
   this hack as a {Trojan horse}.  This talk was published as
   `Reflections on Trusting Trust', Communications of the ACM
   27,8 (August 1984) pp. 761--763.  Although Thompson didn't say
   whether the hacked version ever made it off site, it is commonly
   believed that this back door was in fact propagated through
   hundreds of machines without any clue to it ever showing up in

   Syn. {trap door}; may also be called a `wormhole'.  See also
   {iron box}, {cracker}, {worm}, {logic bomb}.

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}.

backgammon:: See {bignum}, {moby}, and {pseudoprime}.

background: n.,adj. 1. [techspeak] 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.  2. 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.
   Some people prefer to use the term for processing that they've
   queued up for their unconscious minds (a tack that one can often
   fruitfully take when encountering an obstacle in creative work).
   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.

backward combatability: /bak'w*rd k*m-bat'*-bil'*-tee/ [corruption
   of "backward compatibility"] adj. A property pertaining to
   hardware or software in which all previous protocols, formats, and
   layouts are discarded in favor of the `new and improved'
   protocols, formats, and layouts.  Occurs usually when making the
   transition between major releases.  When the change is so drastic
   that the old formats are not retained in the new version, it is
   said to be `backward combatable'.  See {flag day}.

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 1930 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 the
   British 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. adj. `bagbiting'
   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' (under
   {barfulous}) 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.

   A program on the old MIT-AI PDP-10 called Lexiphage would first
   draw, on a selected victim's bitmapped terminal, the words "THE
   BAG" in gothic letters and then a pair of jaws biting pieces of it
   off.  This is the the first known example of a program
   *intended* to be a bagbiter.

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. The sound of magical transformation, used in virtual
   reality fora like sense #1.  3. [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 (compare
   {fencepost error}).  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}, {creeping
   featuritis}).  See also item 176 under {HAKMEM}.

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."  Compare {low-bandwidth}.  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 #b0100001),
   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 on: vt. To stress-test a piece of hardware or software, as in
   "Pete, I banged on the new version of the simulator all day
   yesterday and it didn't crash once.  I guess it is ready to
   release."  The term {pound on} is synonymous.

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 reliably (example:
   ...!{seismo, ut-sally, gatech}!rice!beta!gamma!me).  Bang paths
   of 8 to 10 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 (typically on multiple pages of fan-fold
   paper) from user-specified text, e.g. by a program such as UNIX's
   `banner([16])'.  3. On interactive software, a first screen
   containing a logo and/or author credits and/or copyright notice.

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

bare metal: n. 1. New computer hardware, unadorned with such
   snares and delusions as an {operating system}, {HLL}, or even
   assembler.  Commonly in the phrase `programming on the bare metal',
   which refers to the arduous work of {bit bashing} needed to
   create these basic tools for a new machine.  Real bare-metal
   programming involves things like building boot proms and BIOS
   chips, implementing basic monitors used to test device drivers, and
   writing the assemblers that will be used to write the compiler back
   ends that will give the new machine a real development environment.
   2. The same phrase is also used to describe a style of
   {hand-hacking} that relies on bit-level peculiarities of a
   particular hardware design, esp. tricks for speed and space
   optimization that rely on crocks such as overlapping instructions
   (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

   In the personal computing world, bare metal programming (especially
   in sense #1 but sometimes also in sense #2) is often considered a
   {Good Thing}, or at least a necessary thing (because these
   machines have frequently been sufficiently slow and poorly designed
   to make it necessary; see {ill-behaved}).  There, the term
   usually refers to bypassing the BIOS or OS interface and writing
   the application to directly access device registers and machine
   addresses.  "To get 19.2 on the serial port, you need to get down
   to the bare metal."  People who can do this sort of thing are held in
   high regard.

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' (Like, euwww!).  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, the division operation checks for an
   attempt to divide by zero, and if one is encountered it causes the
   operation to fail in some unspecified, but generally obvious,
   manner) "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}.

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?"

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

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: /bar'tl-muhd/ n. Any of the MUDs which are derived from
   the original MUD game (see {MUD}) or use the same software
   drivers.  BartleMUDs are noted for their (usually slightly offbeat)
   humor, 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 non-interactive command input 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.

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}.

baud: /bawd/ [simplified from its technical meaning] n. Bits per
   second.  Hence kilobaud or Kbaud, thousand bits per second.  The
   technical meaning is `level transitions per second'; this coincides
   with bps only for two-level modulation with no framing or stop
   bits.  Hackers are generally aware of these nuances but blithely
   ignore them.

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.

baz: /baz/ [Stanford corruption of {bar}] n. 1. The third
   metasyntactic variable, after {foo} and {bar} and before
   {quux} (or, occasionally, `qux'; or local idiosyncracies like
   `rag', `zowie', etc.).  "Suppose we have three
   functions FOO, BAR, and BAZ.  FOO calls BAR, which calls
   BAZ...."  2. interj. A 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 on personal micros, less frequently of a USENET
   {newsgroup} (in fact, use of the term for a newsgroup generally
   marks one either as a {newbie} fresh in from the BBS world or as
   a real old-timer predating USENET).  2. At CMU and other colleges
   with similar facilities, refers to campus-wide electronic bulletin
   boards.  3. The term `physical bboard' is sometimes used to
   refer to a old-fashioned, non-electronic 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 bboards 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

beige toaster: n. A Macintosh. See {toaster}; compare
   {Macintrash}, {maggotbox}.

bells and whistles: [by analogy with the toyboxes on theater
   organs] 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.

bells, whistles, and gongs: n. A standard elaborated form of
   {bells and whistles}; typically said with a pronounced and ironic
   accent on the `gongs'.

benchmark: [techspeak] 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}), Rhealstone (see {h}), the SPECmark suite and
   LINPACK.  See also {machoflops}, {MIPS}.

Berkeley Quality Software: adj. (often abbreviated `BQS') Term used
   in a pejorative sense to refer to software which was apparently
   created by rather spaced-out hackers late at night to solve some
   unique problem.  It usually has nonexistent, incomplete, or
   incorrect documentation, has been tested on at least two examples,
   and core dumps when anyone else attempts to use it.  This term was
   frequently applied to early versions of the `dbx(1)' debugger.
   See also {Berzerkeley}.

berklix: /ber'kliks/ n.,adj. [contraction of `Berkeley UNIX'] See
   {BSD}.  Not used at Berkeley itself.  May be more common among
   {suit}s 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, gets no score for
   treasure, but *does* 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},
   {Berkeley Quality Software}.

   Mainstream use of this term in reference to the cultural and
   political peculiarities of UC Berkeley as a whole has been reported
   from as far back as the 1960s.

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 1960s terminology for product cycle checkpoints,
   first used at IBM but later standard throughout the industry.
   `Alpha Test' was the unit, module, or component test phase; `Beta
   Test' was initial system test.  These themselves came from earlier
   A- and B-tests for hardware.  The A-test was a feasibility and
   manufacturability evaluation done before any commitment to design
   and development.  The B-test was a demonstration that the
   engineering model functioned as specified.  The C-test
   (corresponding to today's beta) was the B-test performed on early
   samples of the production design.

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 NeXT, {NeWS}, VisiCalc, FrameMaker, TK!solver,
   EasyWriter and others which have been raised above the hoi polloi
   of common coinage by nonstandard capitalization.  Too many
   {marketroid} types think this sort of thing is really cute, even
   the 2,317th time they do it.  Compare {studlycaps}.

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

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

Big 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 an IBM 360/91 actually
   fired a non-conducting bolt into the main power feed; the BRSes on
   more recent machines physically drop a block into place so that
   they can't be pushed back in.  People get fired for pulling them,
   especially inappropriately (see also {molly-guard}).  Compare
   {power cycle}, {three-finger salute}.

big win: n. Serendipity.  "Yes, those two physicists discovered
   high-temperature superconductivity in a batch of ceramic that had
   been prepared incorrectly according to their experimental schedule.
   Small mistake; big win!"  To `win big' (vi.) is to experience
   serendipity.  "I went shopping and won big; there was a
   two-for-one sale."  See {win}.

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 multi-byte numeric
   representation, the most significant byte comes first (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 mid-1991 are
   big-endian.  See {little-endian}, {middle-endian}, {NUXI
   problem}.  2. adj. An {{Internet address}} the wrong way round.
   Most of the world follows the Internet standard and writes email
   addresses starting with the name of the computer and ending up with
   the name of the country.  In the UK the Joint Networking Team
   decided to do it the other way round; e.g. `'.
   Most gateway sites have {ad-hockery} in their mailers to handle
   this, but can still be confused.  In particular the address above
   could be in the UK (code `uk') or Czechoslovakia (code `cs').

bignum: /big'nuhm/ [orig. from MIT MacLISP] n.  1. [techspeak] 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!"
   2. [Stanford] n. In backgammon, large numbers on the dice are
   called `bignums', especially a roll of double fives or double
   sixes.  See also {El Camino Bignum}.

   Sense #1 may require some explanation.  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 (2,147,483,648) or (on a losing {bitty box}) 2 ^ 15
   (32,768).  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:


bigot: n. A person who is religiously attached to a particular
   computer, language, operating system, editor or other tool (see
   {religious issues}).  Usually found with a specifier; thus,
   `cray bigot', `APL bigot', `VMS bigot', `EMACS
   bigot'.  True bigots can be distinguished from mere partisans or
   zealots by the fact that they refuse to learn alternatives even
   when the march of time and/or technology is threatening to
   obsolete the favored tool.  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. [techspeak] The unit of information; the amount of information
   obtained by asking a yes-or-no question for which the two outcomes
   are equally probable 2. [techspeak] 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.)
   4. More generally, a (possibly incorrect) mental state of belief.
   Example: "I have a bit set that says that you were the last guy to
   hack on EMACS."  (Meaning, "I think you were the last guy who
   hacked on EMACS, and what I am about to say is predicated on this,
   so please stop me if this isn't true.")

   "I just need one bit from you" is a polite way of indicating that
   you intend only a short interruption for a question which can
   presumably be answered with a yes or no.

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

bit bang: n. Transmission of data on a serial line, when
   accomplished by rapidly tweaking a single output bit at the
   appropriate times (popular on certain early models of Prime
   computers, presumably when UARTs were too expensive, and on archaic
   Z80 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

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

bit bucket: n. 1. 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'.  2. The place where all lost
   mail and news messages eventually go.  The selection is performed
   according to {Murphy's Law}; important mail is much more likely
   to end in the bit bucket than junk mail, which has almost 100%
   probability of getting delivered.  Routing to the bit bucket is
   automatically performed by the mail transfer agents, news systems
   and the lower layers of the network.  3. The ideal location for all
   unwanted mail responses, e.g "Flames about this article to
   /dev/null."  Such a request is guaranteed to overflow one's
   mailbox with flames.  4. Excuse for all mail that has not been
   sent.  Example: "I mailed you those figures last week, they must
   have ended in the bit bucket."

   This term is used purely in jest.  It's based on the fanciful
   notion that bits are objects that are not destroyed, but only
   misplaced.  This appears to have been a mutation of an earlier term
   `bit box', about which the same legend was current; old-time
   hackers also report that trainees used to be told that when the CPU
   stored bits into memory it was actually pulling them "out of the
   bit box".  See also {chad box}, {null device}.

   Another variant of this legend has it that due to the `parity
   preservation law' the number of 1 (one) bits that end into the bit
   bucket must equal the number of 0 (zero) bits.  Any imbalance
   results in bits filling up the bit bucket.  A qualified computer
   techinician can empty a full bit bucket as part of scheduled

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

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
   (alpha particles generated by trace radionuclides in ceramic chip
   packages, for example, 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 (and
   computers are built with error-detecting circuitry to compensate
   for them).  The notion long favored among hackers that {cosmic
   rays} are among the causes of such events turns out however to be a
   myth; see the {cosmic rays} entry.

   The term {software rot} is almost synonymous.  Software rot is
   the effect, bit rot the notional cause.

bit twiddling: n. 1. (pejorative) An exercise in {tuning} in
   which incredible amounts of time and effort go to produce little
   noticeable improvement, with the frequent result that the code has
   become incomprehensible.  2. aimless small modification to a
   program, esp. for some pointless goal.  3. Approx. syn. for {bit
   bashing}; esp. used for the act of frobbing the device control
   register of a peripheral in an attempt to get it back to a known

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 ASR-33
   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.  In order to avoid making the thing more of
   a Rube Goldberg kluge than it already was, the design had to group
   characters which shared the same basic bit pattern on one key.

   Looking at the ASCII chart, we find:

     3 high     4 low bits
      bits      0000 0001 0010 0011 0100 0101 0110 0111 1000 1001
       010     space   !    "    #    $    %    &    '    (    )
       011        0    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9

   That's why the characters !"#$%&'() appear where they do on a
   Teletype.  This was *not* the weirdest variant of the
   {QWERTY} layout widely seen, by the way; that prize should
   probably go to one of several (differing) arrangements on IBM's
   even clunkier 026 and 029 card punches.

   When electronic terminals became popular in the early 1970s 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 disuse.

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}.  Both uses are borderline techspeak.

BITNET: n. Everybody's least favorite piece of the network (see
   {network, the}).  The BITNET hosts are a collection of IBM
   dinosaurs that communicate using 80-character {{EBCDIC}} card
   images; thus, they tend to mangle the headers and text of
   third-party traffic from the rest of the ASCII/RFC-822 world with
   annoying regularity.  BITNET is also notorious as the apparent home
   of {BIFF}.

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 have only a photocopy
   of the Jargon File; does anyone know where I can get the bits?".
   See {softcopy}, {source of all good bits}.

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. Pejorative.
   More generally, the opposite of `real computer' (see {Get a real
   computer!}).  See also {mess-dos}, {toaster}, and {toy}.

bixie: /biks'ee/ n. Variant {emoticon}s used on BIX (the Byte
   Information Exchange).  The `smiley' bixie is <@_@>, apparently
   intending to represent two cartoon eyes and a mouth.  A few others
   have been reported.

black art: n. A collection of arcane, unpublished, and (by
   implication) mostly ad-hoc techniques developed for a particular
   application or systems area (compare {black magic}).  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 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

black magic: n. A technique which works, though nobody really
   understands why.  More obscure than {voodoo programming}, which
   may be done by cookbook.  Compare also {black art}, {deep
   magic}, and {magic number} (sense #2).

blast: 1. 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.

blat: n. See {thud}.

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, poss.
   via comic-strip exclamation `blech'] interj.  Term of disgust.
   Often in "Ugh, bletch".  Compare {barf}.

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}.  The term {bletcherous}
   applies to the esthetics of the thing so described; similarly for
   `cretinous'.  By contrast, something that is `losing' or
   `bagbiting' may be failing to meet objective criteria.  See also
   {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 fuer gefingerpoken und mittengrabben.
     Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und poppencorken
     mit spitzensparken.  Ist nicht fuer 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.  See also {geef}.

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-capitalized 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.

blitter: n. A special-purpose chip or hardware system built to
   perform {blit} operations, esp. used for fast implementation of
   bit-mapped graphics.  The Commodore Amiga and a few other micros
   have these, but in 1991 the trend is away from them (however, see
   {cycle of reincarnation}).  Syn. {raster blaster}.

blivet: [allegedly from 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.  5. An embaressing bug that pops up during a customer demo.

   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 process scheduling terminology in OS theory] 1. vi.
   To delay or sit idle while waiting for something.  "We're blocking
   until everyone gets here."  Compare {busy-wait}.  2. `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 an EPROM: v. To program a read-only memory, e.g. for use with
   an embedded system.  This term arises because the programming
   process for the Programmable Read-Only Memories (PROMs) that
   preceded present-day Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memories
   (EPROMs) involved intentionally blowing tiny electrical fuses on
   the chip.  Thus, one was said to "blow a PROM" and the
   terminology carried over even though the write process on EPROMs is

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
   overflow or at least go {nonlinear}.

BLT: /bee ell tee/, /bl*t/ or (rarely) /belt/ n.,vt. Synonym
   for {blit}.  This is the original form of {blit} and the
   ancestor of {bitblt}.  It referred to any large bit-field copy or
   move operation (one resource intensive memory-shuffling operation
   done on pre-paged versions of ITS, WAITS, and TOPS- 10 was
   sardonically referred to as `The Big BLT').  The jargon usage has
   outlasted the {PDP-10} BLock Transfer instruction from 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 {{book titles}}.

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 as `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. [techspeak] 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 somewhere
   nearby.  See also {parse}.

   A major reason BNF is listed here is that the term is also used
   loosely for any number of variants and extensions, possibly
   containing some or all of the {glob} wildcards.  In fact the
   example above isn't the pure form invented for the Algol-60 report;
   it uses [], which was introduced a few years later in IBM's PL/I
   definition but is now universally recognized.

   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

board: n. 1. In-context synonym for {bboard}; sometimes used
   even for USENET newsgroups.  2. An electronic circuit board
   (compare {card}).

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 archetypical perversely awful algorithm (as
   opposed to {bubble sort}, which is merely the generic *bad*
   algorithm).  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.  Used as a sort of canonical example of awfulness.
   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}.  Compare the `wankometer' described
   in the {wank} entry, also {bogus}.

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 synecdoche, used to refer 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 derivative senses 1--4.  See
   also {bogosity}, {bogus}.

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."  See
   also {bogosity}, {bogus}.

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 (one might also say "You just redlined my
   bogometer.").  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}.  See also {bogosity}, {bogus}.

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

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

bogue out: /bohg owt/ vi. To become 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."  See also {bogosity}, {bogus}.

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

   It is claimed that `bogus' was originally used in the hackish sense
   at Princeton, in the late 1960s.  It was spread to CMU and Yale by
   Michal Shamos, a migratory Princeton alumnus.  A glossary of bogus
   words was compiled at Yale when the word was first popularized (see
   {autobogotiphobia} under {bogotify}). The word spread into
   hackerdom from CMU and MIT.  By the early 1980s, it was also
   current in something like the hackish sense in West Coast teen
   slang, and it had gone mainstream by 1985.  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. from the TV series `Cheers' and
   `Moonlighting'] 1. To have sex with; compare {bounce},
   sense #3. (This is mainstream slang.) 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: 1. v. General synonym for {crash} (sense #1), esp. used
   of software or OS failures.  "Don't run Empire with less than 32K
   stack, it'll bomb out."  2. n.,v. Atari ST and Macintosh
   equivalents of a UNIX `panic' or Amiga {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 decimal (or occasionally hexadecimal) number
   indicating what went wrong, similar to the Amiga GURU MEDITATION
   number (see {guru}).  {MS-DOS} machines tend to get {locked
   up} in this situation.

bondage-and-discipline language: A language such as Pascal, Ada,
   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 hacking
   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: /bonk/, /oyf/ interj. In the {MUD} community, it has
   become traditional 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 MUDs have implemented special
   commands for bonking and oifing.  See also {talk mode},

book titles:: There is a tradition in hackerdom of informally
   tagging important textbooks and standards documents with the
   dominant color of their covers or with some other conspicuous
   feature of the cover.  Many of these are described in this lexicon
   under their own entries.

   See also {Blue Book}, {Red Book}, {Green Book}, {Silver
   Book}, {Purple Book}, {Orange Book}, {White Book}, {Yellow
   Book}, {Pink-Shirt Book}, {Aluminum Book}, {Dragon Book},
   {Wizard Book}, {Cinderella Book}.

boot: [techspeak; from `by one's bootstraps'] v.,n. To load and
   initialize the operating system on a machine.  This usage is no
   longer jargon but has given rise to some derivatives which still

   The derivative `reboot' implies that the machine hasn't been
   down for long, even that the boot is a {bounce} intended to clear
   some state of {wedgitude}.  This 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."

   Historical note: this term derives from `bootstrap loader', a short
   program which was read in from cards or paper tape, or toggled in
   from the front panel switches.  This program was always very short
   (great efforts were expended on making it short in order to
   minimize the labor and chance of error involved in toggling it in),
   but was just smart enough to read in a slightly more complex
   program (usually from a card or paper tape reader), to which it
   handed control; this program in turn was smart enough to read the
   application or operating system from a magnetic tape drive or disk
   drive.  Thus, in successive steps, the computer "pulled itself up
   by its bootstraps" to a useful operating state.  Nowadays the
   bootstrap is usually found in ROM or EPROM, and reads the first
   stage in from a fixed location on the disk, called the `boot
   block'.  When this program gains control, it is powerful enough to
   load the actual OS and hand control over to it.

bottom-up implementation: n. Hackish opposite of the techspeak 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: v. 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 the now-demolished DC Power building used by
   the Stanford AI Lab in the 1970's there was a volleyball court on
   the front lawn.  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 , "Now hear this: bounce, bounce!" followed by Brian
   McCune loudly bouncing a volleyball on the floor outside the
   offices of known volleyballers.  3. To engage in sexual
   intercourse; prob. from the expression `bouncing the mattress', but
   influenced by Piglet's psychosexually loaded "Bounce on me too,
   Tigger!" from the Winnie-the-Pooh books.  Compare {boink}.
   4. To casually reboot a system in order to clear up a transient
   problem.  Reported primarily among {VMS} users.  5. [IBM] To
   {power cycle} a peripheral in order to reset it.

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}.
   The collective `bounce mail' is also common.

box: 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. [within IBM] Without qualification but within an SNA-using site
   (see {Blue Glue}), this refers specifically to an IBM front-end
   processor or FEP /eff-ee-pee/.  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 {fall over}.) See also
   {IBM}, {fear and loathing}, {fepped out}, {Blue Glue}.

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

      * This is a boxed comment in C style

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

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

boxology: /bok-sol'*-jee/ n. 1. The fine art of drawing diagrams
   using the `box' characters (mainly, `|', `-', and
   `+') in ASCII-monospace fonts.  Also known as `character
   graphics' or `ASCII graphics'.  2. Boxological drawings.
   "His report has a lot of boxology in it".  Compare {macrology}.

bozotic: /boh-zoh'tik/ [from a TV clown even more losing than
   Ronald McDonald] adj. Resembling or having the quality of a bozo;
   that is, clownish, ludicrously wrong, unintentionally humorous.
   Compare {wonky}, {demented}.  Note that the noun `bozo' occurs
   in slang, but the mainstream adjectival form would be `bozo-like'
   or (in New England) `bozoish'; the formation `bozotic' is hackish.

BQS: /bee-kyoo-ess/ adj. Syn. {Berkeley Quality Software}.

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.  Conceptually
   analogous to an operating system {core dump} in that it saves a
   lot of useful {state} before an exit.  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).

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.

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 {jump off into
   never-never land}, {hyperspace}.

brand brand brand: n. Humorous catch-phrase from {BartleMUD}s, in which
   players 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: 1. vt. To cause to be broken (in any sense).  "Your
   latest patch to the editor broke the paragraph commands."  2. v.
   (of a program) To stop temporarily, so that it may debugged.  The
   place where it stops is a "breakpoint".  3. [techspeak] vi. To
   send an RS-232 break (125 msec. of line high) over a serial comm
   line.  4. [UNIX] vi. 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: 1. Brokenness and the consequent mess.  2. [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 machines had hardware or
   firmware that would wait for such a packet after a catastrophic

bring X to its knees: v. 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, or by any
   minor tweak to the software itself.  Also, any system which
   responds inappropriately and disastrously to expected external
   stimuli, e.g., a file system that is usually totally scrambled by a
   power failure is said to be brittle.  This term is often used to
   describe 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.  See {network

broken: adj. 1. Not working properly (of programs).  2. Behaving
   strangely; especially, (when used of people) exhibiting extreme

broket: /broh'k*t/ or /broh'ket/ [by analogy with `bracket': a
   `broken bracket'] n. Either of the characters `<' and
   `>', when used as paired enclosing delimiters.  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 the {Real World} as well, these are usually called {angle

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 IBM's OS/360 project and author of `The Mythical
   Man-Month' (Addison-Wesley, 1975, ISBN, 0-201-00650-2), an
   excellent early book on software engineering; the myth in question
   has been most tersely expressed as "Programmer time is fungible",
   and Brooks established conclusively that it is not.  Hackers have
   never forgotten his advice; too often, {management} does.

BRS: n. Syn. {Big Red Switch}.  This abbreviation is fairly
   common on-line.

brute force: adj. Describes a certain kind of primitive
   programming style; broadly speaking, one in which 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, and for
   N=1000...well, see {bignum}).  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 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 paged virtual memory, 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}.

bubble sort: n. Techspeak for a particular sorting technique.
   Because it is not very good compared to other methods, and is the
   one typically stumbled on by {naive} and untutored programmers,
   hackers consider it the canonical example of a naive algorithm.
   The canonical example of a really *bad* algorithm is
   {bogo-sort}.  A bubble sort might be used out of ignorance, but
   any use of bogo-sort could issue only from brain-damage or willful

bucky bits: /buh'kee bits/ n. 1. obs. The bits produced by the
   CONTROL and META shift keys, on a SAIL keyboard, resulting in a
   9-bit keyboard character set.  The MIT-AI TV (Knight) keyboards
   extended this with TOP and separate left and right CONTROL and META
   keys, resulting in a 12-bit character set; later, Lisp Machines
   added such keys as SUPER, HYPER, and GREEK (see {space-cadet
   keyboard}).  2. By extension, bits associated with `extra' shift
   keys on any keyboard, e.g. the ALT on an IBM PC or command and
   option keys on a Macintosh.

   It is rumored that `bucky bits' were named for Buckminster Fuller
   during a period when he was consulting at Stanford.  Actually,
   `Bucky' was Niklaus Wirth's nickname when *he* was at
   Stanford; he first suggested the idea of an EDIT key to set the 8th
   bit of an otherwise 7-bit ASCII character.  This was used in a
   number of editors written at Stanford or environs (TV-EDIT and NLS
   being the most well-known).  The term spread to MIT and CMU early
   and is now in general use.  See {double bucky}, {quadruple

buffer overflow: n. What happens when you try to stuff more data
   into a buffer (holding area) than it can handle.  This may be due
   to a mismatch in the processing rates of the producing and
   consuming processes (see {overrun}), or because the buffer is
   simply too small to hold all the data that needs to accumulate
   before a piece of it can be processed. For example, in a text
   processing tool that crunches newline-terminated lines, a short
   line buffer can result in {lossage} as input from a long line
   overflows the buffer and trashes data beyond it.  See also
   {spam}, {overrun screw}.

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."  (i.e., Fred is a good
   guy, but he has a few personality problems.)

   Some have said this term came from telephone company usage, in
   which "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;
   it 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--286.

   Interestingly, the text of the log entry (from September 9th,
   1945), which reads "1545 Relay #70 Panel F (moth) in relay.  First
   actual case of bug being found", seems to establish that the term
   was already in use at the time.  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 one
   meaning of `bug' is "A frightful object; a walking spectre"; this
   is traced to `bugbear', a Welsh term for a variety of mythological
   monster which (to complete the circle) has recently been
   reintroduced into the popular lexicon through fantasy role-playing

   In any case, in jargon the word almost never refers to insects.
   Here is a plausible conversation that never actually happened:

   "There is a bug in this ant-farm!"

   "What do you mean?  I don't see any ants in it."

   "That's the bug."

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.

bug-for-bug compatible: n. Same as {bug-compatible}, with the
   additional implication that much tedious effort went into ensuring
   that each (known) bug was replicated.

buglix: n. Pejorative term referring to DEC's ULTRIX operating
   system in its earlier *severely* 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."  "I spent half the night bumming
   the interrupt code."  2. To squeeze out excess; to remove
   something in order to improve whatever it was removed from (without
   changing function; this distinguishes the process from a
   featurectomy).  3. 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 v. {tune} (and n. {tweak}, {hack}), though none
   of these exactly capture sense #2.  Note that all 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-while' 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.

buried treasure: n. A surprising piece of code found in some
   program.  While usually not wrong, it tends to vary from {crufty}
   to {bletcherous}, and has lain undiscovered only because it was
   functionally correct, however horrible it is.  Used sarcastically,
   because what is found is anything *but* treasure.  Buried
   treasure almost always needs to be dug up and removed.  "I just
   found that the scheduler sorts it queue using {bubble sort}!
   Buried Treasure!"

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 {bathtub curve} (see {infant mortality}).
   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, sex, etc.  See {hack
   mode}, {larval stage}.

busy-wait: vi. 1. [techspeak] 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.  2. May be used of
   human behavior to convey that one is busy waiting for someone or
   something and that one intends to move instantly as soon as it
   shows up (for example, if one is waiting at the office door of a
   person in conference); thus that one cannot do anything else at the

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.  A program
   which is buzzing appears to be {catatonic}, 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}; see also
   {grovel}.  2. [ETA Systems] To test a wire or printed circuit
   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; acronym, 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 repetitive, 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:: /biet/ [techspeak] n. A unit of memory or data equal to the
   amount used to represent one character; on modern architectures
   this is usually 8 bits, but may be 9 on 36-bit machines.  Some
   older architectures used `byte' for quantities of six or seven
   bits, and the PDP-10 supported `bytes' which were actually
   bitfields of 1 to 36 bits!  These usages are now obsolete, and even
   9-bit bytes have become rare in the general trend power-of-two word

   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 promulgated as a 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. ASCII
   #b1000011.  3. The name of a programming language designed by
   Dennis Ritchie during the early 1970s and immediately used to
   re-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.
   See also {languages of choice}, {indent style}.

   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".

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
   (#b0011000) was used as a kill-job character on some early OSes.

canonical: [historically, `according to religious law'] 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
   jargon meaning is a relaxation of the technical meaning (this
   generalization is actually not confined to hackers, and may be
   found throughout academia).  Compare {vanilla}.

   A true story: One Bob Sjoberg, new at the MIT AI Lab, expressed
   some annoyance at the use of jargon.  Over his loud objections, GLS
   and RMS made a point of using it 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 expect things to be.
   Thus, a hacker may claim with a straight face that "according to
   religious law" is *not* the canonical meaning of `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

careware: n. {Shareware} for which either the author suggests
   that some payment be made to a nominated charity, or a levy
   directed to charity is included on top of the distribution charge.
   Syn. {charityware}.  Compare {crippleware}, sense #2.

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 in the South Pacific 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.  Hackish usage probably derives from Richard Feynman's
   characterization of certain practices as "cargo-cult science" in
   his book `Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman' (W. W Norton &
   Co, New York 1985, ISBN 0-393-01921-7).

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}.

   In some circles of EMACS users this is called `programming by
   Meta-W', because Meta-W is the EMACS command for copying a block of
   text to a kill buffer in preparation to pasting it in elsewhere.
   The term is condescending, implying that the programmer is acting
   mindlessly rather than thinking carefully about what is required to
   integrate the code for two similar cases.

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}; also see the AI koan about
   Tom Knight in Appendix A.

cat: [from `catenate' via {UNIX} `cat(1)'] vt.
   1. [techspeak] To spew an entire file to the screen or some other
   output sink without pause.  2. 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}.

   Among UNIX-haters, `cat(1)' is considered the {canonical}
   example of poor user-interface design.  This because it is more
   often used to {blast} a file to standard output than to
   concatenate two files.  The name `cat' for the former
   operation is just as unintuitive as, say, LISP's {cdr}.

catatonic: adj. Describes a condition of suspended animation in
   which something is so {wedged} or {hung} 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).  Compare {buzz}.

cdr: /ku'dr/ or /kuh'dr/ [from LISP] vt. To skip past the first
   item from a list of things (generalized from the LISP operation on
   binary tree structures).  In the form `cdr down', to trace down
   a list of elements.  "Shall we cdr down the agenda?"  Usage:
   silly.  See also {loop through}.

   Historical note: the instruction format of the IBM 7090 that hosted
   the original LISP implementation featured two 15-bit fields called
   the `address' and `decrement' parts.  The term `cdr' was originally
   `Contents of Decrement part of Register'.  Similarly, `car' stood
   for `Contents of Address part of Register'.

   The `cdr' and `car' operations have since become bases for
   formation of compound metaphors in non-LISP contexts.  GLS recalls,
   for example, a programming project in which strings were
   represented as linked lists; the get-character and skip-character
   operations were of course called CHAR and CHDR.

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} card punches contained boxes inside them,
   about the size of a lunchbox (or in some models a large
   wastebasket), 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} was
   notionally 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 or successor 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.

charityware: n. Syn. {careware}.

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 techspeak, but remains jargon 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 computer time on
   {number-crunching} when you'd far rather the machine were 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. A network packet that
   induces {network meltdown} (the result of a {broadcast storm}),
   in memory of the 1987 nuclear accident at Chernobyl in the Ukraine.
   The typical case of this is an IP Ethernet datagram that passes
   through a gateway with both source and destination Ether and IP
   address set as the respective broadcast addresses for the
   subnetworks being gated between.  Compare {Christmas tree

chicken head: [Commodore] n. The Commodore Business Machines logo,
   which strongly resembles a poultry part.  Rendered in ASCII as

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 IBM PCjr
   keyboard.  Vendors unanimously liked these because they were 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.

chine nual: /sheen'yu*l/ [MIT] n.,obs. The Lisp Machine Manual, so
   called because the title was wrapped around the cover so only those
   letters show.

Chinese Army technique: n. Syn. {Mongolian Hordes technique}.

choke: vt. To reject input, often ungracefully.  "I tried building
   an {EMACS} binary to use {X}, but `cpp(1)' choked on all
   those `#define's."  See {barf}, {gag}, {vi}.

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

chomper: n. Someone or something that is chomping; a loser.  See
   {loser}, {bagbiter}, {chomp}.

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

Christmas tree packet: n. A packet with every single option set for
   whatever protocol is in use.  See {kamikaze packet}, {Chernobyl

chug: vi. To run slowly; to {grind} or {grovel}.  "The disk is
   chugging like crazy."

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,
   but they certainly are `pretty' chrome!"  Distinguished from
   {bells and whistles} by the fact that the latter are usually
   added to gratify developers' own desires for featurefulness. 
   Often used as a term of contempt.

Church of the Sub-Genius: n. A mutant offshoot of {Discordianism}
   launched in 1981 as a spoof of fundamentalist Christianity by the
   `Reverend' 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
   (putatively 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.  See also {{book titles}}.

CI$: // n. Hackerism for `CIS', Compuserve Information Service.
   The dollar refers to CompuServe's rather steep line charges.  Often
   used in {sig block}s just before a CompuServe address.

Classic C: /klas'ik see/ [a play on `Classic Coke'] 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.

clean: 1. 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}.  2. v. To remove
   unneeded or undesired files in a effort to reduce clutter.  "I'm
   cleaning up my account", or "I cleaned up the garbage and now have
   100 Meg free on that partition."

CLM: /see el em/ [Sun, `Career Limiting Move'] 1. n. An action
   endangering one's future prospects of getting plum projects and
   raises, also possibly one's job.  "He used a {bubble sort}!
   What a CLM!"  2. adj. Denotes extreme severity of a bug,
   discovered by a customer and obviously due to poor testing:
   "That's a CLM bug!"

clobber: vt. To overwrite; usually unintentionally.  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.  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' or `PClone').  These invariably have much
   more bang for the buck than the IBM archetypes 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.  6. v. To make an exact copy of something.
   "Let me clone that" might mean "I want to borrow that paper so I
   can make a photocopy" or "Let me get a copy of that file before
   you {mung} it".

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

COBOL: [COmmon Business-Oriented Language] n. Synonymous with
   {evil} --- a weak, verbose, and flabby language used by {card
   walloper}s to do boring mindless things on {dinosaur} mainframes.
   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.  See also {fear and
   loathing}, {software rot}.

COBOL fingers: /koh'bol fing'grs/ n. Reported from Sweden, a
   (hypothetical) disease one might get from programming in COBOL.
   The language requires code verbose beyond all reason.  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 would 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.  In his
   native habitat, the code grinder often removes the suit jacket to
   reveal an underplumage consisting of button-down shirt (starch
   optional) and a tie.  In times of dire stress, the sleeves (if
   long) may be rolled up and the tie loosened about half an inch.  It
   seldom helps.  The {code grinder}'s milieu is about as far from
   hackerdom as you can get and still touch a computer; the term
   connotes pity.  See {Real World}, {suit}.  2. Used of or to a
   hacker, a really serious slur on the person's creative ability;
   connotes a design style characterized by primitive technique,
   rule-boundedness, and utter lack of imagination.  Compare {card

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

codewalker: n. A program component that traverses other programs for
   a living.  Compilers have codewalkers in their front ends; so do
   cross-reference generators and some database front-ends.  Other
   utility programs that 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* emphasizes 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 behavior.  This keystroke is (believe it or not)
   `control-meta-bang' (see {bang}).  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 and {automagically} be transferred 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 Communications of the ACM) that parodied the
   then-raging `structured programming' {holy wars} (see
   {considered harmful}).  Mythically, some variants are the
   `assigned come from', and the `computed come from'
   (parodying some nasty control constructs in FORTRAN and some
   extended BASICs).  Obviously, multi-tasking (or non-determinism)
   could be implemented by having more than one COME FROM statement
   coming from the same label.

   In some ways the FORTRAN DO looks like a COME FROM statement.
   After the terminating label/CONTINUE is reached, control continues
   at the statement following the DO.  Some generous FORTRANs would
   allow arbitrary statements (other than CONTINUE) for the
   label, leading to examples like this

           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)

   in which the trapdoor is just after the statement labelled 10.

   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,
   ca.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.  More horrible things had already been perpetrated
   in production languages, however; doubters need only contemplate
   COBOL's `ALTER' verb.

   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

comm mode: /kom mohd/ [from the ITS feature supporting on-line
   chat, spelled with one or two Ms] Syn. for {talk mode}.

command key: [Mac users] n. The Macintosh key with the cloverleaf
   graphic on its keytop; sometimes referred to as `flower',
   `clover', `propeller', or `beanie' (an apparent reference to the
   propeller on a beanie).  The Mac's equivalent to an {ALT} key.

comment out: vt. To surround a section of code with comment
   delimiters or to prefix every line in the section with a comment
   marker; this prevents it from being compiled or interpreted.  Often
   done 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;
   also when the code in that section is broken and you want to bypass
   it in order to debug some other part of the code.  Compare
   {condition out}, usually the preferred technique in languages
   (like {C}) that make it possible.

Commonwealth Hackish:: n. Hacker jargon 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 {newsgroup} names tend to be pronounced more
   often (so soc.wibble is /sok dot wi'bble/ rather than /sohsh
   wib'ble/).  The prefix {meta} may be pronounced /mee't*-/;
   similarly, Greek letter beta is often /bee't*/, zeta is often
   /zee't*/ 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 (see
   {foo}, sense #4).

   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 terms `parens', `brackets', and `braces' for (),
   [], and {} are uncommon; Commonwealth hackish prefers
   `brackets', `square brackets', and `curly brackets'.  Also, the
   use of `pling' for {bang} is common outside the United States.

   See also {attoparsec}, {calculator}, {chemist}, {console
   jockey}, {fish}, {grunge}, {hakspek}, {heavy metal},
   {leaky heap}, {lord high fixer}, {noddy},
   {psychedelicware}, {plingnet}, {raster blaster}, {seggie},
   {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}, {mess-dos},
   {nybble}, {proglet}, {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
   {feature}s 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 confetti: n. Syn. {chad}.  Though this term is common,
   this use of the punched-card chad is not a good idea, as the pieces
   are stiff and have sharp corners that could injure the eyes.  GLS
   reports that he once attended a wedding at MIT during which he and
   a few other guests enthusiastically threw chad instead of rice. The
   groom later grumbled that he and his bride had spent most of the
   evening trying to get the stuff out of their hair.

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-second 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.  (This may owe something to the group of fantasy stories
   by Larry Niven, beginning with `What Good is a Glass Dagger?',
   in which magic is fueled by an exhaustible natural resource called

condition out: vt. To prevent a section of code from being compiled
   by surrounding it with a conditional-compilation directive whose
   condition is always false.  The {canonical} example is
   `#if 0' and `#endif' in C.  Compare {comment out}.

condom: n. The protective plastic baggy that accompanies 3.5-inch
   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 been shown to have a high
   failure rate as drive mechanisms attempt to access the disk --- and
   can even fatally frustrate insertion!

connector conspiracy: [probably came into prominence with the
   appearance of the KL-10, none of whose connectors matched 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.  The KL-10
   Massbus connector was actually *patented* by DEC, which is
   reputed to have refused to license the design and thus effectively
   locked third parties out of competition for the lucrative Massbus
   peripherals market.  This is a source of never-ending frustration
   for the die-hards who maintain older PDP-10 or VAX systems.
   Their CPUs work fine, but they're stuck with dying, obsolescent
   disk and tape drives with low capacity and high power requirements.

   In these latter days of open-systems computing this term has fallen
   somewhat into disuse, to be replaced by the observation that
   "Standards are great!  There are so *many* of them."  Compare
   {backward combatability}.

cons: /konz/ or /kons/ [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 W. Dijkstra's infamous March 1968
   Communications of the ACM note, `Goto Statement Considered
   Harmful', fired the first salvo in the `structured programming'
   wars.  Amusingly, the 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 lexicon 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 him (almost invariably a `him') with his fingers on the keys.  Under
   UNIX and other modern timesharing OSes, such privileges are
   guarded by passwords, and the console 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).  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 that 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".  See also
   {four-color glossies}.

control-c: vi. "Stop whatever you are doing."  From the interrupt
   character used on many operating systems to abort a running
   program.  Considered silly.

control-o: vi. "Stop talking."  From the character used on many
   operating systems to abort output but allow the program to keep on
   running.  Generally means that you are not interested in hearing
   anything more from that person, at least on that topic; a standard
   respond to someone who is flaming.  Considered silly.

control-s: vi. "Stop talking for a second."  From the ASCII XOFF
   character (this is also pronounced XOFF /eks'off/).  Control-s
   differs from {control-o} in that the person is asked to stop
   talking (perhaps because you are on the phone) but will be allowed
   to continue when you're ready to listen to him, as opposed to
   control-o which has more of the meaning of "Shut up."  Considered

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 token of agreement
   between cooperating programs.  "I give him a packet, he gives me
   back a cookie."  Compare {magic cookie}; see also {fortune

cookie bear: n. Syn. {cookie monster}.

cookie file: n. A collection of {fortune cookie}s in a format
   that facilitates retrieval by a fortune program.  There are several
   different ones in public distribution, and site admins often
   assemble their own from various sources including this lexicon.

cookie monster: [from `Sesame Street'] n. Any of a family of
   early (1970s) hacks reported on {TOPS-10}, {ITS}, {Multics},
   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 --- or aluminum!  Opposed to {light
   pipe} or, say, a short-range microwave link.

copy protection: n. A class of clever methods for preventing
   incompetent pirates from stealing software and legitimate customers
   from using it.  Considered silly.

copybroke: adj. [play on `copyright'] 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.

copyleft: /kop'ee-left/ [play on `copyright'] 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 most places outside IBM, but also 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 terms in favors.  Commonwealth hackish prefers {store}.

core dump: n. [common {Iron Age} jargon, preserved by UNIX] 1. A
   copy of the contents of {core} produced when a process is aborted
   by certain kinds of 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; compare {brain dump}).  See

core leak: n. Syn. {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 multitasking
   machines before the advent of protected address segments.  See

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).

   Factual note: alpha particles cause bit rot, cosmic rays do not
   (except occasionally in spaceborne computers).  Intel could not
   explain random bit drops in their early chips, and one hypothesis
   was cosmic rays.  So they created the World's Largest Lead Safe, 25
   tons of lead, and used two identical boards for testing.  One was
   placed in the safe, one outside.  The hypothesis was that if cosmic
   rays were causing the bit drops, they should see a statistically
   significant difference between the error rates on the two boards.
   They did not observe such a difference.  Further investigation
   demonstrated conclusively that the bit drops were due to alpha
   particle emission from thorium (and to a much lesser degree
   uranium) in the encapsulation material.  Since it is impossible to
   eliminate these radioactives (they are uniformly distributed
   through the earth's crust, with the statistically insignificant
   exception of uranium mines) it became obvious that you have to
   design memories to withstand these hits.

cough and die: v. Syn. {barf}.  Connotes that the program is
   throwing its hands up by design rather than because of a bug or

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

CP/M: /see-pee-em/ n. [Control Program for Microcomputers] An
   early microcomputer {OS} written by hacker Gary Kildall for 8080-
   and Z80-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 OS for the IBM PC 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 {TOPS-10}, OS/8, RSTS, and RSX-11.  See {MS-DOS},
   {operating system}.

CPU Wars: /see-pee-yoo worz/ 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 ca.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 (or, cranks at) 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 {luser}s lost their files in last night's disk crash."
   A disk crash which involves 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?"  See {down}.  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. vi. 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 the movie `Bullitt' and
   many subsequent imitators.  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
   exclusively for alpha or {beta} testing, or reproducing bugs
   (i.e., not for 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. (properly, capitalized) One of the line of
   supercomputers designed by Cray Research.  2. Any supercomputer at
   all.  3. The {canonical} {number-crunching} machine.

   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 and image.

cray instability: n. A shortcoming of a program or algorithm which
   manifests itself only when running a large problem on a powerful
   machine.  Generally more subtle than bugs that 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. 1. 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.  2. A {computron} that participates
   only in {number-crunching}.  3. A unit of computational power
   equal to that of a single Cray-1.  There is a standard joke about
   this that derives from an old Crayola crayon promotional gimmick:
   when you buy 64 crayons you get a free sharpener.

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 truths don'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 featurism}, {second-system effect}, {tense}.

creeping featurism: /kree'ping fee'chr-izm/ n. 1. Describes a
   systematic tendency to load more {chrome} and {feature}s onto
   systems at the expense of whatever elegance they may have possessed
   when originally designed.  See also {feeping creaturism}.  "You
   know, the main problem with {BSD} UNIX has always been creeping
   featurism."  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.  A similar phenomenon sometimes
   afflicts conscious redesigns; see {second-system effect}.  See
   also {creeping elegance}.

creeping featuritis: /kree'ping fee'-chr-ie`t*s/ n. Variant of
   {creeping featurism}, with its own Spoonerization as `feeping
   creaturitis'.  Some people like to reserve this form for the
   disease as it actually manifests in software or hardware, as
   opposed to the lurking general tendency in designers' minds.  After
   all, -ism means `condition' or `pursuit of', whereas -itis usually
   means `inflammation of'.)

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

cretinous: /kre't*n-uhs/ or /kree't*n-uhs/ adj. Wrong;
   non-functional; very poorly designed.  Also used pejoratively of
   people.  Synonyms: {bletcherous}, `bagbiting' (see
   {bagbiter}), {losing}, {brain-damaged}.

crippleware: n. 1. Software that has some important functionality
   deliberately removed, so as to entice potential users to pay for a
   working version.  See also {guiltware}.  2. [Cambridge]
   {guiltware} that exhorts you to donate to some charity (compare

critical mass: n. In physics, the minimum amount of fissionable
   material required to sustain a chain reaction.  Of a software
   product, describes a condition of the software such that fixing one
   bug introduces one plus {epsilon} bugs.  When software achieves
   critical mass, it can only be discarded and rewritten.

crlf: /ker'l*f/, sometimes /kru'l*f/ or /see-ar-el-eff/ n. (often
   capitalized as `CRLF') 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)', which returns code 139 for a process that dies due
   to {segfault}).  2. 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},
   {brittle}.  Also in the adjectives `crockish' and
   `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 (this is very bad form).  Cross-posting without a
   Followup line directing responses to a single followup group 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.

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 perpetrates
   some similar fiasco.

cruft: /kruhft/ 1. [back-formation from {crufty}] 1. n. An
   unpleasant substance.  The dust that gathers under your bed is
   cruft; the TMRC dictionary correctly noted that attacking it with a
   broom only produces more.  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. n. 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 up},
   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 {hack together}, {hack up}, {kluge up},

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 fanciful theory of the origin of `crufty'
   holds that was originally a mutation of `crusty' applied to DEC
   software so old that the S characters were tall and skinny, looking
   more like `f' characters.  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
   that doesn't fit well into the scheme of things.  "A LISP property
   list is a good place to store crufties (or, collectively,
   {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 that is
   nonetheless painful to perform.  The pain may be due to the
   triviality being embedded in a loop from 1 to 1,000,000,000.
   "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 run-length encoding, the term is doubly appropriate.  (This
   meaning is usually used in the construction `file crunch(ing)' to
   distinguish it from {number-crunching}.)  See {compress}.
   3. n. The character `#'.  Usage: used at XEROX and CMU, among
   other places.  See {{ASCII}}.  4. vt. To squeeze program source
   into a minimum-size representation that will still compile or
   execute.  The term came into being specifically for a famous
   program on the BBC that crunched BASIC source in order to make it
   run more quickly (it was a wholly interpretive BASIC).
   {Obfuscated C Contest} entries are often crunched; see the first
   example under that entry.

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, meant both as a joke and
   to express some basic differences in philosophy about the way I/O
   services should be presented to user programs.

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

cube: n. 1. [short for `cubicle'] A module in the open-plan
   offices used at many programming shops.  "I've got the manuals in
   my cube".  2. A NeXT machine.

cubing: [parallel with `tubing'] vi. 1. Hacking on an IPSC (Intel
   Personal SuperComputer) hypercube.  "Louella's gone cubing
   *again*!!"  2. Hacking Rubik's Cube or related puzzles,
   either physically or mathematically.  3. An indescribable form of
   self-torture (see sense #1 or #2).

cursor dipped in X: n. There are a couple of metaphors in English
   of the form `pen dipped in X' (perhaps the most common values of X
   are `acid', `bile' and `vitriol').  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 that performs well and interfaces well to
   users is cuspy.  See {rude}.  3. [NYU] Said of an attractive
   woman, especially one regarded as available.  Implies a certain

cut a tape: [poss. fr. mainstream `cut a check' or from the
   recording industry's `cut a record'] 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 novel, `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 the future 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 (mid-1991), serious efforts to
   construct {virtual reality} interfaces modelled explicitly on
   Gibsonian 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 metaphoric 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 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 (noted hacker Bill Gosper used to describe himself as a
   "cycle junky").  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 jargon meaning comes from the observation that there are only
   so many cycles per second, and when you are sharing a computer, the
   cycles get divided up among the users.  The more cycles the
   computer spends working on your program rather than someone else's,
   the faster your program will run.  That's why every hacker wants
   more cycles: so he can spend less time waiting for the computer to

cycle crunch: n. The situation where the number of people trying to
   use the computer simultaneously has reached the point where no one
   can get enough cycles because they are spread too thin.  This is an
   inevitable result of Parkinson's Law applied to timesharing.
   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 of reincarnation: [coined by Ivan Sutherland ca.1970] 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.

cycle server: n. A powerful machine that exists primarily for
   running large batch jobs.  Implies that interactive tasks such as
   editing are done on other machines on the network, such as

= D =

daemon: /day'm*n/ or /dee'm*n/ [from the mythological
   meaning, later rationalized as the acronym `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 would then print
   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}.  While the meaning and pronunciation have drifted, we
   think this glossary reflects current (1991) usage.

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).  Usually this is because it
   formerly pointed to something which has moved or disappeared.  Used
   as jargon in a generalization of its techspeak meaning; a local
   phone number for a person who's since moved to the other coast, for

Datamation: n. A magazine that many hackers assume all {suit}s
   read.  Used to question an unbelieved quote, as in "Did you read
   that in Datamation?"  It used to publish something hackishly
   funny every once in a while, like the original paper on {COME
   FROM} in 1973; but since then it's become much more exclusively

day mode: n. See {phase} (sense #1).  Used of people only.

D. C. Power Lab: n.  The former site of the {SAIL}.  Hackers
   thought this was very funny because the obvious connection to
   electrical engineering was nonexistent --- the lab was named for a
   Donald C. Power.  Compare {Marginal Hacks}.

dd: /dee-dee/ [from IBM {JCL}] vt. Equivalent to {cat} or
   {BLT}.  This was originally the name of 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 designed 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 like somebody's idea of a joke.  The jargon
   usage is now very rare outside UNIX sites and now nearly obsolete
   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 archaic, having been widely
   displaced by `debugger' or names of individual programs like
   `dbx', `adb', or `sdb'.  2. [ITS] Under MIT's fabled
   {ITS} operating system, DDT (running under the alias HACTRN) 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

     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 after the {suit}s took over and DEC became much more

de-rezz: /dee-rez'/ [from the movie `Tron'; poss. related to
   `hi-res' used for a graphics mode on early Apples] (also `derez')
   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 jargon, and adopted in a spirit of irony by
   real hackers years after the fact.  2. vt. On a Macintosh, many
   program structures (including the code itself) are managed in small
   segments of the program file known as `resources'. The standard
   resource compiler is Rez.  The standard resource decompiler is
   DeRez.  Thus decompiling a resource is `derezzing'.  Usage: very

dead code: n. Routines that 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 report
   dead code so a maintainer can think about what it means.  Syn.

DEADBEEF: n. The hexadecimal word-fill pattern for freshly
   allocated memory under a number of IBM environments, including the
   RS/6000.  As in "Your program is...";  if you start from an odd
   half-word boundary, of course, you have BEEFDEAD.

deadlock: n. 1. [techspeak] A situation wherein two or more
   processes are unable to proceed because each is waiting for one of
   the other 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 the term `starvation' 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, while {deadlock} predominates in the United States.

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.  Copies
   still circulate of a poster printed by Mt. Xinu showing a starscape
   with a space fighter labelled 4.2BSD streaking away from a broken
   AT&T logo wreathed in flames.

   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.

DEChead: /dek'hed/ n. 1. A DEC {field servoid}.  Not flattering.
   2. [from `deadhead'] A Grateful Dead fan working at DEC.

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 hack mode: n. See {hack mode}.

deep magic: [poss. from 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 composed 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}, {catatonic},
   {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!"  2. The act of
   exiting a window system in order to get better response time from a
   full-screen program.  This comes from the dictionary meaning of
   `defenestrate', which is to throw something out a window.  3. Any
   non-reversible act of removal, usually applied to worthless
   objects, that improves matters having happened.  "I don't have any
   disk space left."  "Well, why don't you defenestrate that 100 megs
   worth of old core dumps?"  4. [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."  Compare {logical}.

dehose: vt. To clear a {hosed} condition.

delint: vt. To modify code to remove problems detected when linting.
   See {lint}.

delta: n. 1. [techspeak] A quantitative change, especially a
   small or incremental one (this use is general in physics and
   engineering).  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 jargon usage of {delta} and
   {epsilon} stems from the traditional use of these letters in
   mathematics for very small numerical quantities, particularly in
   `epsilon-delta' proofs in limit theory (as in the differential
   calculus).  The term {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.  Compare {wonky},

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 half 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}.

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. The state of being {heads down} in order to
   finish code in time for a {demo}, usually due yesterday.

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: /dee-ped'*-tayt/ [by analogy with `decapitate'] vt.
   Humorously, 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.

deserves to lose: adj. Said of someone who willfully does the
   {Wrong Thing}; humorously, if one uses a feature known to be
   {marginal}.  What is meant is that one deserves the consequences
   of one's {losing} actions.  "Boy, anyone who tries to use
   {mess-dos} deserves to {lose}!" (ITS fans used to say this of
   UNIX; many still do.)  See also {screw}, {chomp}, {bagbiter}.

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, fast
   compiles, and sophisticated debuggers, though some maintain stoutly
   that it ought to be.  Compare {eyeball search}, {vdiff},

devo: /dee'voh/ [orig. in-house jargon at Symbolics] n. A person in a
   development group.  See also {doco} and {mango}.

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

diddle: 1. vt. To work with or modify 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}.

diff: n. 1. A change listing, especially giving differences between
   (and additions to) source code or documents (the term is often used
   in the plural `diffs').  "Send me your diffs for the Jargon
   File!"  Compare {vdiff}.  2. Specifically, such a listing
   produced by the `diff(1)' command, esp. when used as
   specification input to the `patch(1)' utility (which can
   actually perform the modifications; see {patch}).  This is a
   common method of distributing patches and source updates in the
   UNIX/C world.  See also {vdiff}, {mod}.

digit: /dij'it/ n. An employee of Digital Equipment Corporation.
   See also {VAX}, {VMS}, {PDP-10}, {TOPS-10}, {DEChead},
   {double DECkers}, {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.  Indeed, the TMRC Dictionary
   defined dike as "to attack with dikes".  Among hackers this term
   has been metaphorically extended to informational 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 fans of 32-bit architectures about 16-bit
   machines.  "GNUMACS will never work on that dink machine."
   Probably derived from mainstream `dinky', which isn't sufficiently

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

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

dinosaurs mating: n. Said to occur when yet another {big iron}
   merger or buyout occurs; reflects a perception by hackers that
   these signal another stage in the long-drawn-out death throes of
   the {mainframe} industry.  In its glory days of the Sixties, it
   was `IBM and the Seven Dwarves': Burroughs, Control Data, General
   Electric, Honeywell, NCR, RCA, and Univac.  RCA and GE sold out
   early and it was `IBM and the Bunch' (Burroughs, Univac, NCR,
   Control Data, and Honeywell) for a while.  Honeywell was bought out
   by Bull; Burroughs merged with Univac to form Unisys (in 1984, this
   was when the phrase `dinosaurs mating' was coined), and at time of
   writing AT&T is attempting to recover from a disastrously 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.  Spikes, {drop-outs}, average
   voltage significantly higher or lower than nominal, or just 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
   millennia-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}.

disk farm: n. (also {laundromat}) A large room or rooms filled
   with disk drives (esp. {washing machine}s).

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.  The {hack
   value} of a display hack is proportional to the esthetic value of
   the images times the cleverness of the algorithm divided by the
   size of the code.  Syn. {psychedelicware}.

Dissociated Press: n. An algorithm for transforming any text into
   potentially humorous garbage, even more efficiently than passing it
   through a {marketroid}.  You start by printing any N consecutive
   words (or letters) in the text.  Then at every step you search for
   any random occurrence in the text of the last N words (or letters)
   already printed and then print the next one.  EMACS has a handy
   command for this.  Here is a short example of word-based
   Dissociated Press applied to this Jargon File:

     wart: n. A small, crocky {feature} that sticks out of
     an array (C has no checks for this).  This is relatively
     benign and easy to spot if the phrase is bent so as to be
     not worth paying attention to the medium in question.

   Here is a short example of letter-based Dissociated Press applied
   to this Jargon File:

     window sysIWYG: n. A bit was named aften /bee't*/ prefer
     to use the other guy's re, especially in every cast a
     chuckle on neithout getting into useful informash speech
     makes removing a featuring a move or usage actual
     abstractionsidered interj. Indeed spectace logic or problem!

   A hackish idle pastime is to apply letter-based Dissociated Press
   to a random body of text and {vgrep} the output in hopes of finding
   an interesting new word.  (In the preceding example, `window
   sysIWYG' and `informash' show some promise.)  Iterated applications
   of Dissociated Press usually yield better results.  Similar
   techniques called `travesty generators' have been employed with
   considerable satirical effect to the utterances of USENET flamers;
   see {pseudo}.

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.  3. An information-space domain
   (usually loosely correlated with geography) to which propagation of
   a USENET message is restricted; a much-underutilized feature.

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.  See {protocol}.

doc: /dok/ n. Common spoken and written shorthand for `document'.
   Often in the plural `docs' and the construction `doc file',
   documentation available on line.

doco: /do'koh/ [orig. in-house jargon 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 accompany most modern
   software or hardware products (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}, {verbiage}.

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."] 1. n. A project of minimal
   priority, undertaken as an escape from more serious work.  2. v.
   To engage in such a project.  Many games and much {freeware} get
   written this way.

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

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." (or "So don't
   do that!").  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 at programmed intervals thereafter,
   and terminate if it does not respond with the dongle's programmed
   validation code.  Thus, users can 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 (1991) 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 moved 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 that 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 jargon; 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 obsolete 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."

   This term originated on the Stanford extended-ASCII keyboard, and
   was later taken up by users of the {space-cadet keyboard} at MIT.
   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
   keyboard.  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' (Simon and
   Schuster 1971, ISBN 671-21036-X).  These lyrics were written on May
   27, 1978, in celebration of the Stanford keyboard.

     			Double Bucky

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

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

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

   See also {meta bit}, {cokebottle}, and {quadruple bucky}.

double DECkers: n. Used to describe married couples in which both
   partners work for Digital Equipment Corporation.

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" 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."  See {crash}; oppose {up}.

download: vt. To transfer data or (esp.) code from a larger `host'
   system (esp. a {mainframe}) over a digital comm link to a smaller
   `client' system, esp. a microcomputer or specialized peripheral
   device.  Oppose {upload}.

DP: n. 1. Data Processing.  Listed here because, according to
   hackers, use of it marks one immediately as a {suit}.  See
   {DPer}.  2. Common abbrev for {Dissociated Press}.

DPB: /d*-pib'/ [from the PDP-10 instruction set] vt. 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 {suit}s
   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 were, what they were
   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 OSes
   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 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' (1986); an earlier edition (sans Sethi and titled
   `Principles Of Compiler Design') was the `Green Dragon Book'
   (1977).  There is now a third edition of the Dragon Book that has
   the knight sitting in front of what, for all the world, looks like
   a video-game display of the dragon, with the real dragon behind it.
   The term `White Dragon Book' has been proposed.  See also
   {{book titles}}.

drain: [IBM] v. Syn. for {flush} (sense #2).  Has a connotation
   of finality about it; one speaks of draining a device before taking
   it offline.

dread high-bit disease: n. A condition endemic to PRIME (a.k.a
   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 eight-bit devices.  It is reported that
   PRIME adopted the reversed-eight-bit convention in order to save 25
   cents per serial line per machine.  This probably qualifies as one
   of the most {cretinous} design tradeoffs ever made.  See {meta

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

driver: n. 1. The {main loop} of an event-processing 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.

droid: n. A person (esp. a low-level bureaucrat or service-business
   employee) exhibiting most of the following characteristics: (a)
   Naive trust in the wisdom of the parent organization or `the
   system'; (b) A propensity to believe obvious nonsense emitted by
   authority figures; blind faith; (c) A rule-governed mentality, one
   unwilling or unable to look beyond the `letter of the law' in
   exceptional situations; (d) No interest in fixing that which is
   broken; an "It's not my job, man" attitude.  Compare {suit},
   {marketroid}; see {-oid}.

drool-proof paper: n. Documentation that 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}, {bit bucket}.

drop-ins: [prob. by analogy 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
   interspersed 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 (but see Appendix B).  2. Of hardware,
   very slow relative to normal performance.

drunk mouse syndrome: n. A malady exhibited by the mouse pointing
   device of some computers.  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.

   At Xerox PARC in the 1970s, most people kept a can of copier
   cleaner (isopropyl alcohol) at their desks.  When the steel ball on
   the mouse had picked up enough cruft to be unreliable, the mouse
   was doused in cleaner, which restored it for a while.  However,
   this operation left a fine residue which accelerated the accumulation
   of cruft, so the dousings became more and more frequent.  Finally,
   the mouse was declared "alcoholic" and sent to the clinic to be
   dried out (in a CFC ultrasonic bath).

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

dump: n. 1. 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.  2. A backup.  This usage is
   typical only at large timesharing installations.

dup killer: /d[y]oop 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.

dup loop: /d[y]oop 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 that renders {dup killer}s
   ineffective.  If such a duplicate message eventually reaches a
   system which it has 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}.

dusty deck: n. Old software (especially applications) with which
   one is obliged to remain compatible (or to maintain).  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 is believed to be too expensive to
   replace.  See {fossil}.

DWIM: /dwim/ [Do What I Mean] 1. adj. Able to guess, sometimes
   even correctly, the result intended when bogus input was provided.
   2. n.,obs. The BBNLISP/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 (see {legalese}).

   Warren Teitelman originally wrote DWIM to fix his typos and
   spelling errors, so it was somewhat idiosyncratic to his style, and
   would often make hash of anyone else's typos if they were
   stylistically different.  This led a number of victims of DWIM to
   claim the acronym stood for "Damn Warren's Infernal Machine!"

   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 proofs 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}.

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

= E =

earthquake: [IBM] n. The ultimate real-world shock test for
   computer hardware.  Hackish sources at IBM deny the rumor that the
   Bay Area quake of 1989 was initiated by the company to test quality
   assurance procedures 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 OSes caused them to respond to the command `make
   love' with `not war?'.  Many personal computers 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 {CPU Wars} comic; supposed to derive from a famously
   turgid line in a WWII-era anti-Nazi propaganda comic which ran
   "Eat flaming death, non-Aryan mongrels!" or something of the sort
   (however, it is also reported that the Firesign Theater's 1975
   album `In The Next World, You're On Your Own' included the
   phrase "Eat flaming death, fascist media pigs"; this may have been
   an influence).  Used in humorously overblown expressions of
   hostility. "Eat flaming death, {{EBCDIC}} users!"

EBCDIC:: /eb's*-dik/, /eb'see`dik/, or /eb'k*-dik/ [Extended Binary
   Coded Decimal Interchange Code] n. An alleged character set used on
   IBM {dinosaur}s.  It 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 adapted EBCDIC from {{punched card}} code
   in the early 1960s and promulgated it as a customer-control tactic
   (see {connector conspiracy}), spurning the already established
   ASCII standard.  Today, IBM claims to be an open-systems company,
   but IBM's own description of the EBCDIC variants and how to convert
   between them is still internally classified top-secret,
   burn-before-reading.  Hackers blanch at the very *name* of
   EBCDIC and consider it a manifestation of purest {evil}.  See
   also {fear and loathing}.

echo: [FidoNet] n. A topic group on {FidoNet}'s echomail system.  Compare

eighty-column mind: [IBM] n. The sort said to be employed by
   persons for whom the transition from card to tape was traumatic
   (nobody has dared tell them about disks yet).  It is said that
   these people, like (according to an old joke) the founder of IBM,
   will be buried `face down, 9-edge first' (the 9-edge is the bottom
   of the card).  This directive 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 {{punched card}}, {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 defines
   {logical} north and south even though it doesn't really run N/S
   many places.  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'.  In the FORTRAN language, a `real' quantity is a
   number typically precise to seven significant digits, and a `double
   precision' quantity is a larger floating-point number, precise to
   perhaps fourteen significant digits (other languages have similar
   `real' types).  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}.)

elder days: n. The heroic age of hackerdom (roughly, pre-1980); the
   era of the {PDP-10}, {TECO}, {ITS}, and the ARPANET.  This
   term has been rather consciously adopted from J. R. R. Tolkien's
   fantasy epic `The Lord of the Rings'.  Compare {Iron Age};
   see also {elvish}.

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 that 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 (and, like a pachyderm, difficult
   to maintain).  In extreme cases, hackers have been known to make
   trumpeting sounds or perform expressive proboscatory 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

elevator controller: n. Another archetypal dumb embedded-systems
   application, like {toaster} (which superseded it).  During one
   period (1983--84) in the deliberations of ANSI X3J11, the C
   standardization committee, this was the canonical example of its
   type.  "You can't require `printf(3)' to be part of the
   default runtime library --- what if you're targeting an elevator
   controller?"  Elevator controllers became important rhetorical
   weapons on both sides of several {holy wars}.

elvish: n. 1. The Tengwar of Feanor, a table of letterforms
   resembling the beautiful Celtic half-uncial hand of the {Book of
   Kells}.  These were invented and described by J. R. R. Tolkien in
   `The Lord of The Rings' as an orthography for his fictional
   `elvish' languages.  This system, which is both visually and
   phonetically elegant, has long fascinated hackers (who tend to be
   interested by artificial languages in general).  It is traditional
   for graphics printers, plotters, window systems, and the like to
   support a Feanorian font as one of their demo items.  2. By
   extension, any odd or unreadable font produced by a graphics

EMACS: /ee'maks/ [from Editing MACroS] n. The ne plus ultra of
   hacker editors, a program editor with an entire LISP system 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
   keystrokes decorated with {bucky bits}.  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/ 1. 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}.  2. vt. To send email to a person.

   Oddly enough, the word `emailed' is actually listed in the OED; it
   means "embossed (with a raised pattern) or arranged in a net work"!
   A use from 1480 is given, and the word is derived from French
   `emmailleure', network.

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 humor, laughter, or friendliness)
     :-( 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."  (GLS
   confirms that he remembers this original posting).

   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 synonymous with {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}.  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'.

   The hackish senses of `engine' are actually close to its original,
   pre-Industrial-Revolution sense of a skill, clever device, or
   instrument (the word is cognate to `ingenuity').  This sense had
   not been completely eclipsed by the modern connotation of
   power-transducing machinery in Charles Babbage's time, which
   explains why he named the stored-program computer that
   he designed in 1844 the `Analytical Engine'.

English: n.,obs. The source code for a program, which may be in any
   language, as opposed to the linkable or executable binary produced
   from it by a compiler.  The idea behind the term is that to a real
   hacker, a program written in his favorite programming language is
   at least as readable as English.  Usage: 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.  A hacker being ironic would instead call
   the fix a {feature} --- or perhaps save some effort by declaring
   the bug itself to be a feature.

ENQ: /enkw/ [from the ASCII mnemonic `ENQuire' for #b0000101] ques.
   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.
   Compare {ping}, {finger}, and the usage of "FOO?"  listed
   under {talk mode}.

EOF: /ee-oh-ef/ [acronym, End Of File] n. 1. [techspeak]
   Refers esp.  to whatever pseudo-character value is returned by C's
   sequential character input functions (and their equivalents in
   other environments) when the logical end of file has been reached
   (this was 0 under V6 UNIX but, 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."
   See also {EOL}.

EOL: /ee-oh-el/ [End Of Line] n. Syn. for {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}.  See also {EOF}.

EOU: /ee-oh-yoo/ n. 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 delimiter and
   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: [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.  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 ticks per second, a signed
   32-bit count of ticks is good only for 6.8 years.  The
   1-tick-per-second clock of UNIX is good only until January 18,
   2038, assuming word lengths don't increase by then.  See also
   {wall time}.

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."

epsilon squared: n. A quantity even smaller than {epsilon}, as
   small in comparison to it as it is to something normal; completely
   negligible.  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}.  Compare {lost in the underflow}, {lost in
   the noise}.

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. A shadowy group of mustachioed hackers named
   Eric first pinpointed as a sinister conspiracy by an infamous
   talk.bizarre posting ca. 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 (he of the `Allman style' described under {indent style}),
   and Erik Fair (co-author 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 Greek goddess of Chaos, Discord, Confusion,
   and Things You Know Not Of; her name was latinized to Discordia and
   she was worshiped by that name in Rome.  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 good electronics makes them warm.

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
   via a 'blazer to a friendly Internet site, and thou."

evil: adj. As used by hackers, implies that some system, program,
   person, or institution is sufficiently maldesigned 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 /eeee'vil/.

exa-: /ek's*/ pref. See {{quantifiers}}.

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}, {desk check}.

EXCH: /eks'ch*/ or /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 (which is usually written in lowercase).

excl: /eks'kl/ n. Abbreviation for `exclamation point'.  See
   {bang}, {shriek}, {{ASCII}}.

EXE: /eks'ee/, /eek'see/ n. 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 shell command file (this is among
   VM/CMS users).

exercise, left as an: [from technical 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 the rest) is left as
   an exercise for the reader."  This comment *has* occasionally
   been attached to unsolved research problems by authors possessed of
   either an evil sense of humor or a vast faith in the capabilities
   of their audiences.

eyeball search: n. To look for something in a mass of code or data
   {by hand}, as opposed to using some sort of pattern matcher like
   {grep} or any other automated search tool.  Also called a
   {vgrep}; compare {vdiff}, {desk check}.

= F =

fab: /fab/ [from `fabricate'] v. 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}.  To a hacker, `fab' is practically never short
   for `fabulous'.  2. `fab line': the production system
   (lithography, 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: v. (n. `fallthrough', var. `fall-through')
   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 1940s and '50s.  It may no longer be live
   jargon.  2. To fail a test that would have passed control to a
   subroutine or other distant portion of code.  3. In C,
   `fall-through' occurs when the flow of execution in a
   switch statement reaches a `case' label other than by jumping
   there from the switch header, passing a point where one would
   normally expect to find a `break'.  A trivial example:

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

   The variant spelling `/* FALL THRU */' is also common.

   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 other than `PINK', and
   (and this is the important part) `do_pink()' *and then*
   `do_red()' when color is `PINK'.  Fall-through is
   {considered harmful} by some, though there are contexts such as
   the coding of state machines in which it is natural; it is
   generally considered good practice to include a comment
   highlighting the fallthrough, 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 frenetic
   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. A compendium of accumulated
   lore, posted periodically to high-volume newsgroups in an attempt
   to forestall Frequently Asked Questions.  This lexicon 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 (the
   on-line version of this lexicon).  "How do you pronounce `char'?"
   and "What's that funny name for the `#' character?" for
   example, are both Frequently Asked Questions.

farming: [Adelaide University, Australia] n. What the heads of a
   disk drive 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. 1. 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}).  2. In the design of languages
   and other software tools, `the fascist alternative' is the most
   restrictive and structured way of capturing a particular function;
   the implication is that this may be desirable in order to simplify
   the implementation or provide tighter error checking.  Compare
   {bondage-and-discipline language}; but that term is global rather
   than local.

FAtt: // [FidoNet] n. Abbreviation for {File Attach}.

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

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

fear and loathing: [from Hunter Thompson] n. State inspired by the
   prospect of dealing with certain real-world systems and standards
   that 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!"

feature: n. 1. A good property or behavior (as of a program).
   Whether it was intended or not is immaterial.  2. An intended
   property or behavior (as of a program).  Whether it is good or not
   is immaterial (but if bad, it is also a {misfeature}).  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 Common LISP's FORMAT function is the
   ability to print numbers in two different Roman-numeral formats
   (see {bells, whistles, and gongs}).  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
   featurism}, {wart}, {green lightning}.

   The relationship between bugs, features, misfeatures, warts, and
   miswarts might be clarified by the following exchange between two
   hackers on an airplane:

   A: "This seat doesn't recline."

   B: "That's not a bug, that's a feature.  There is an emergency
   exit door built around the window behind you, and the route has to
   be kept clear."

   A: "Oh.  Then it's a misfeature; they should have increased the
   spacing between rows here."

   B: "Yes.  But if they'd only increased spacing in one section it
   would have been a wart --- they would've had to make
   nonstandard-length ceiling panels to fit over the displaced

   A: "A miswart, actually.  If they increased spacing throughout
   they'd lose several rows and a chunk out of the profit margin.  So
   unequal spacing would actually be the Right Thing."

   B: "Indeed."

   Finally, note that {undocumented feature} is a common, allegedly
   humorous euphemism for a {bug}.

feature creature: [poss. fr. slang `creature feature' for a horror
   movie] n. One who loves to add features to designs or programs,
   perhaps at the expense of coherence, concision, or {taste}.  See
   also {feeping creaturism}, {creeping featurism}.

feature shock: [from Alvin Toffler's title `Future Shock'] n.
   A user's (or programmer's!) confusion when confronted with a
   package that has too many features and poor introductory material.

featurectomy: /fee`ch*r-ek'to-mee/ n. The act of removing a feature
   from a program.  Featurectomies generally come in two varieties,
   the `righteous' and the `reluctant'.  Righteous featurectomies
   are performed because the remover believes the program would be
   more elegant without the feature, or there is already an equivalent
   and `better' way to achieve the same end.  (This is not quite the
   same thing as removing a {misfeature}.)  Reluctant featurectomies
   are performed to satisfy some external constraint such as code size
   or execution speed.

feep: /feep/ 1. n. The soft electronic `bell' sound 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.  ASR 33s (the original TTYs) do
   not feep; 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 `breedle' was sometimes heard at SAIL, where the terminal
   bleepers are not particularly `soft' (they sound more like the
   musical equivalent of a raspberry or Bronx cheer; for a close
   approximation, imagine the sound of a Star Trek communicator's beep
   lasting for five seconds).  The `feeper' on a VT-52 has been
   compared to the sound of a '52 Chevy stripping its gears.  See also

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

feeping creature: [from {feeping creaturism}] n. An unnecessary
   feature; a bit of {chrome} that, in the speaker's judgement, is
   the camel's nose for a whole horde of new features.

feeping creaturism: /fee'ping kree`ch*r-izm/ n. Deliberate
   Spoonerism for {creeping featurism}, 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. 1. A sequence of one or more distinguished
   ({out-of-band}) characters (or other data items), used to delimit
   a piece of data intended to be treated as a unit (the computer
   science literature calls this a `sentinel').  The NUL (ASCII
   #b0000000) character that terminates strings in C is a fence.  Hex
   FF is probably the most common fence character after NUL.  See
   {zigamorph}.  2. (Among users of optimizing compilers) Any
   technique, usually exploiting knowledge about the compiler, that
   blocks certain optimizations.  Used when explicit mechanisms are
   not available, or are overkill (e.g., a single-point optimization
   block in an otherwise optimized procedure, program, etc.)
   Typically a hack: "I call a dummy procedure there to force a flush
   of the optimizer's register-coloring info." can be expressed by
   the shorter "That's a fence procedure."

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 10 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 a catastrophic off-by-one error 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.

fepped out: /fept owt/ adj. The Symbolics 3600 Lisp Machine has a
   front-end processor called a `FEP' (compare sense #2 of {box}).
   When the main processor gets {wedged}, the FEP takes control of
   the keyboard and screen.  Such a machine is said to have
   `fepped out'.

FidoNet: n. A world-wide hobbyist network of personal computers
   which exchange mail, discussion groups, and files.  Founded in 1984
   and originally consisting only of IBM PCs and compatibles, FidoNet
   now includes such diverse machines as Apple ][s, Ataris, Amigas,
   and UNIX systems.  Though it is much younger than USENET, FidoNet
   is already a significant fraction of {USENET}'s size at some 8000
   systems (early 1991).

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

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

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

field servoid: [play on `android'] /fee'ld ser'voyd/ n.
   Representative of a Field Service organization (see {field
   circus}).  This has many of the implications of {droid}.

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] 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 that
   processes an input data stream into an output data stream in some
   well-defined way, and does no I/O to anywhere else except possibly
   on error conditions; one designed to be used as a stage in a

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

finger: [WAITS, 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 (where applicable).  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 in function to a FET but 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; another hackish term is {glassfet}.

firefighting: n. 1. What sysadmins have to do to correct sudden
   operational problems.  An opposite of hacking.  "Been hacking your
   new newsreader?"  "No, a power glitched hosed the network and I spent
   the whole afternoon fighting fires."  2. The act of throwing lots
   of manpower and late nights at a project, esp. to get it out
   before deadline.  See also {gang bang}, {Mongolian Hordes
   technique}; however, the term `firefighting' connotes that the
   effort is going into chasing bugs rather than adding features.

firewall code: n. The code you put in a system (say, a telephone
   switch) to make sure that the users can't do any damage. Since
   users always want to be able to do everything but never want to
   suffer for any mistakes, the construction of a firewall is not just
   a question of defensive coding but of interface presentation, so
   that users don't even get curious about those corners of a system
   where they can burn themselves.

firewall machine: n. A dedicated gateway machine with special
   security precautions on it, used to service outside network
   connections and dial-in lines.  The idea is to protect a cluster of
   more loosely administered machines `hidden' behind it from
   {cracker}s.  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.

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

FISH queue: [acronym, by analogy with FIFO (First In, First Out)]
   adj. 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.

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 (a U.S. holiday), June 14, 1966.  See also
   {backward combatability}.

flaky: adj. (var sp. `flakey') Subject to frequent {lossage}.
   This use is of course related to the common slang use of the word,
   to describe a person as eccentric, crazy, or just unreliable.  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} or {wonky}.

flamage: /flay'm*j/ n. High-noise, low-signal postings to {USENET}
   or other electronic fora.  Often in the phrase `the usual

flame: v. 1. To post an email message intended to insult and
   provoke.  2. 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

   USENETter Marc Ramsey, 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

   The term may have been independently 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
   that invites flames in reply.

flame on: vi.,interj.  1. To begin to {flame}. The punning
   reference to Marvel Comics's Human Torch is no longer widely
   recognized.  2. To continue to flame.  See {rave}, {burble}.

flame war: n. (var. `flamewar') An acrimonious dispute,
   especially when conducted on a public electronic forum such as

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-time 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.

flarp: /flarp/ [Rutgers University] n. Yet another metasyntactic
   variable (see {foo}).  Among those who use it, it is associated
   with a legend that any program not containing the word `flarp'
   somewhere will not work.  The legend is discreetly silent on the
   reliability of programs which *do* contain the magic word.

flat: adj. 1. Lacking any complex internal structure.  "That
   {bitty box} only has a flat filesystem, not a hierarchical one."
   The verb form is {flatten}.  2. Said of a memory architecture
   like the VAX or 680x0 that is one big linear address space
   (typically with each possible value of a processor register
   corresponding to a unique core address), as opposed to a
   `segmented' architecture like the 80x86 in which addresses are
   composed from a base-register/offset pair (such designs are
   generally considered {cretinous}).

flat-ASCII: adj. Said of a text file that 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}.  Compare {flat-file}.

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

flatten: vt. To remove structural information, esp. to filter
   something with an implicit tree structure into a simple sequence of
   leaves; also tends to imply mapping to {flat-ASCII}.  "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 was certainly reinforced by the
   terminology of quantum chromodynamics, 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, hackish use of `flavor' at MIT predated QCD.  3. The
   term for `class' (in the object-oriented sense) in the Lisp Machine
   Flavors system.  Though the Flavors design has been superseded
   (notably by the Common Lisp CLOS facility), the term `flavor' is
   still used as a general synonym for `class' by some LISP hackers.

flavorful: adj. Full of {flavor}; esthetically pleasing.  See
   {random} and {losing} for antonyms.  See also the entries for
   {taste} and {elegant}.

flippy: /flip'ee/ n. A single-sided 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:: [techspeak] 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, {card
   walloper}s, and other lower forms of life.  This is because (from a
   hacker's point of view) they are no easier to read than code, are
   less precise, and tend to fall out of sync with the code (so that
   they either obfuscate it rather than explaining it, or require
   extra maintenance 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."  2. [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!  3. 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."  4. To
   exclude someone from an activity, or to ignore a person.

   `Flush' was standard ITS terminology for aborting an output
   operation; one spoke of the text that would have been printed, but
   was not, as having been 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.  The UNIX/C usage, on the other hand, was
   propagated by the `fflush(3)' call in C's standard I/O library
   (though it is reported to have been in use among BLISS programmers
   at DEC and on Honeywell and IBM machines as far back as 1965).
   UNIX/C hackers find the ITS usage confusing and vice versa.

flytrap: n. See {firewall machine}.

FOAF: // [USENET] n. 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 mainstream English.

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
   wizard command `FOD <player>' results in the immediate and total
   death of <player>, usually as punishment for obnoxious behavior.
   This migrated to other circumstances, such as "I'm going to fod
   that process which is burning all the cycles."  Compare {gun}.

   In aviation, FOD means Foreign Object Damage, e.g. what happens
   when a jet engine sucks up a rock on the runway.  Finger of Death
   is an distressingly apt description of the usual results of this!

fold case: v. See {smash case}.  This term tends to be used more
   by people who don't *mind* that their tools smash case.  It
   also connotes that case is ignored but case distinctions in data
   processed by the tool in question aren't destroyed.

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. n. 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}, {corge}, {grault},
   {garply}, {waldo}, {fred}, {plugh}, {xyzzy},

   {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.  In filenames, a
   common convention is that any filename beginning `foo' is a scratch
   file which may be deleted at any time.

   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
   bowdlerized to {foobar}.  (See also {FUBAR}).

   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.

   An old-time member reports that in the semi-legendary 1959
   "Dictionary of the TMRC Language", compiled at TMRC (the Tech
   Model Railroad Club at MIT, pronounced /tmerk'/), there was an
   entry which went something like this:

   FOO: The first syllable of the sacred chant phrase "FOO MANE PADME
   HUM."  Our first obligation is to keep the foo counters turning.

   By 1962, TMRC's legendary model-railroad layout was already a
   marvel of complexity for which the control system alone featured
   about 1200 relays.  There were {scram switch}es located at
   numerous places around the room which could be pressed if something
   undesirable was about to occur, such as a train going full-bore at
   an obstruction.  Another feature of the system was a digital clock
   on the dispatch board.  Normally it ran at some multiple of real
   time, but if someone hit a scram switch the clock stopped and the
   display was replaced with the word "FOO".

   Almost the entire AI staff was involved with the TMRC, so it's not
   clear that anyone can say which group introduced the other to the
   word FOO.

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

foobar: n. Another common metasyntactic variable; see {foo}.
   Note that hackers do *not* generally use this to mean
   {FUBAR} in either slang or jargon senses!

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

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

for free: adj.  Said of a capability of a programming language or
   hardware equipment which is available by its design without needing
   cleverness to implement, e.g, "In APL, we get the matrix
   operations for free", or "And owing to the way revisions are
   stored in this system, you get revision trees for free."  Usually
   it refers to a serendipitous feature of doing things a certain way
   (compare {big win}), but may refer to an intentional but
   secondary feature.

for the rest of us: [from the Mac slogan "The computer for the
   rest of us"] adj. 1. Used to describe a {spiffy} product whose
   affordability shames other comparable products, or (more often)
   used sarcastically to describe {spiffy} but very overpriced
   products.  2. Describes a program with a limited interface,
   deliberately limited capabilities, non-orthogonality, inability to
   compose primitives, or any other limitation designed to not
   `confuse' a naive user.  This places an upper bound on how far that
   user can go before the program begins to get in the way of the task
   instead of helping accomplish it.  Used in reference to Macintosh
   software which doesn't provide obviously necessary capabilities
   (and which are obvious to implement) because it is thought that the
   users wouldn't need them, wouldn't understand them, and other
   applicable patronizing terms.  Becomes `the rest of *them*'
   when used in third-party reference; thus, "Yes, it is an
   attractive program, but it's designed for The Rest Of Them" means
   a program which superficially is neat but has no depth beyond the
   surface flash.  See {WIMP environment}, {Macintrash}.

foreground: [UNIX] adj.,vt. 1. [techspeak] 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}.
   Nowadays this term is primarily associated with {UNIX}, but it
   appears first to have been used in this sense on OS/360.  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}.  2. By extension, to
   `foreground a task' is to bring it to the top of one's
   {stack} for immediate processing, and hackers often use it in
   this sense 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.

Fortrash: n. Hackerism for the FORTRAN language, referring to its
   primitive design, gross and irregular syntax, limited control
   constructs, and slippery, exception-filled semantics.

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 lexicon have often been used as
   fortune cookies.  See {cookie file}.

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 ASCII and 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 backward-compatibility goal, this functionality has actually
   been expanded and renamed in some later {USG UNIX} releases as
   the IUCLC and OLCUC bits.  3. The FOSSIL (Fido/Opus/Seadog
   Standard Interface Level) driver 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 that use the
   {hook} but do not provide serial-port access themselves are named
   with a modifier, as in `video fossil'.

four-color glossies: 1. Literature created by {marketroid}s
   allegedly containing technical specs, but in fact as superficial as
   possible without being totally {content-free}.  "Forget the
   four-color glossies, give me the tech ref manuals."  Often applied
   even when the material is printed on ordinary paper in B&W as an
   indication of superficiality.  Four-color-glossy manuals are
   *never* useful for finding a problem.  2. [rare] Applied by
   extension to manual pages that don't contain enough information to
   diagnose why the program doesn't produce the expected or desired

fred: n. 1. 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.  Unlike
   {J. Random Hacker} or `J. Random Loser', this name has no
   positive or negative loading (but see {Mbogo, Dr. Fred}).  2. An
   acronym for `Flipping Ridiculous Electronic Device'; other F-verbs
   may be substituted for "flipping".

frednet: /fred'net/ 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. 1. Free software, often written by enthusiasts and
   distributed by users' groups, or via electronic mail, local
   bulletin boards, {USENET}, or other electronic media.  At one
   time, `freeware' was a trademark of Andrew Fluegelman, the author
   of the well-known MS-DOS comm program PC-TALK III.  It wasn't
   enforced after his mysterious disappearance in 1984.  See
   {shareware}.  2: Sometimes more specifically used for software
   which is given away with no conditions nor requests for
   contributions attached.

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] 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 noxious smoke.  However, this term is also used
   metaphorically.)  Compare {frotzed}.  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."

friode: /frie'ohdz/ [TMRC] n. A reversible (that is, fused or
   blown) diodes.  Compare {fried}.

fritterware: n. An excess of capability that serves no productive
   end.  The canonical example is font-diddling software on the Mac
   (see {macdink}); the term describes anything that eats huge
   amounts of time for quite marginal gains in function, but seduces
   people into using it anyway.

frob: /frob/ 1. n. [MIT] The TMRC definition was `FROB = a
   protruding arm or trunnion', and by metaphoric extension a frob is
   any random 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]
   A command on some MUDs that changes a player's experience level
   (this can be used to make wizards); also, 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 frequently 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'
   (/frob'n[y]ool/) and `frobule' (/frob'nool/).  Starting perhaps
   in 1979, `frobozz' /fruh-boz'/, 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.  4. n. Of people, somewhere
   in between a turkey and a toad.  5. `froggy': adj. Similar to
   `bagbiting' (see {bagbiter}), but milder.  "This froggy
   program is taking forever to run!"

front end: n. 1. An intermediary computer that does set-up and
   filtering for another (usually more powerful but less friendly)
   machine (a `back end').  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." See also {fepped out}.  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.  Compare
   {fried}.  A machine which is merely frotzed may be fixable
   without replacing parts, but a fried machine is more seriously

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. [techspeak] n. The File
   Transfer Protocol for transmitting files between systems on the
   Internet.  2. vt. To {beam} 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."

FUBAR: n. The Failed UniBus Address Register in the PDP-11
   emulation part of a VAX.  A good example of how jargon can
   occasionally be snuck past the {suit}s; see {foobar}.

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. 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 competitors' equipment or
   software.  See {IBM}.

FUD wars: /fuhd worz/ n. [from {FUD}] Political posturing engaged in
   by hardware and software vendors ostensibly committed to
   standardization but actually willing to fragment the market to
   protect their own shares.  The UNIX International vs. OSF 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 --- I'll fix it later."  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 that 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 allowed 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
   jargon, 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 that 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;
   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.  Fortunately, the plunging cost of timesharing cycles has
   made this less common.  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.  Antonym: `real

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 1980s for Internet protocol testbedding and
   experimentation.  These were used as NSFnet backbone sites in its
   early 56KB-line days; a few of these are still active on the
   Internet as of early 1990, doing odd jobs such as network time

= G =

G: pref. (on units) suff. (on numbers) See {{quantifiers}}.

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

gag: vi. Equivalent to {choke}, but connotes more disgust. "Hey,
   this is FORTRAN code.  No wonder the C compiler gagged."  See also

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

garbage collect: vi. (also `garbage collection', n.) See {GC}.

garply: /gar'plee/ [Stanford] n. Another meta-syntactic variable (see
   {foo}); formerly popular among SAIL hackers.

gas: [as in `gas chamber'] 1. interj. 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. interj. A
   suggestion that someone or something ought to be flushed out of
   mercy.  "The system's wedging every few minutes.  Gas!"  3. vt.
   To {flush} (sense #1).  "You should gas that old crufty
   software."  4. [IBM] n. Dead space in nonsequentially organized
   files that was occupied by data that has been deleted; the
   compression operation that removes it is called `degassing' (by
   analogy, perhaps, with the use of the same term in vacuum

gaseous: adj. Deserving of being {gas}sed.  Disseminated by Geoff
   Goodfellow while at SRI; became particularly popular after the
   Moscone/Milk murders in San Francisco, when it was learned that the
   defendant Dan White (a politician who had who supported Proposition
   7) would get the gas chamber under Proposition 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

   `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 accessible; 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 jargon, the full phrase is sometimes heard but the {abbrev} 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

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


gedanken: /g*-dahn'kn/ adj. Ungrounded; 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 in an elevator accelerating through space.)  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

   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.  See
   also {DWIM}.

geef: v. [ostensibly from `gefingerpoken'] vt. Syn. {mung}.  See
   also {blinkenlights}.

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., 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.  Also called a `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).

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.

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."

gensym: [from MacLisp for `generated symbol'] 1. v. To invent a new
   name for something temporary, in such a way that the name is almost
   certainly not already in conflict with one already in use.  2. n.
   The resulting name.  The canonical form of a gensym is `Gnnnn'
   where nnnn represents a number; any LISP hacker would recognize
   G0093 (for example) as a gensym.  3. A freshly generated data
   structure with a gensymmed name.  These are useful for storing or
   uniquely identifying crufties (see {cruft}).

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}, esp. as a way of
   suggesting that the target is taking some obscure issue of
   {theology} too seriously.  This exhortation was popularized by
   William Shatner on a Saturday Night Live episode in a speech which
   ended "Get a *life*!", but some respondents believe it to
   have been in use before then.

Get a real computer!: imp. Typical hacker response to news that
   somebody is having trouble getting work done on a system that (a)
   is single-tasking, (b) has no hard disk, or (c) has an address
   space smaller than 4 megabytes.  This is as of mid-1991; 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
   generally considered `unreal' in a few years (GLS points out that
   they already are in some circles).  See {essentials}, {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}.  Compare {GC}, which discards only
   provably worthless stuff.

gig: /jig/ or /gig/ n. See {{quantifiers}}.

giga-: /ji'ga/ or /gi'ga/ pref. See {{quantifiers}}.

GIGO: /gie'goh/ [acronym] 1. Garbage In, Garbage out --- usually said
   in response to {luser}s 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'.

GIPS: /gips/ or /jips/ [analogy with {MIPS}] n. Giga-Instructions
   per Second (also possibly `Gillions of Instructions per Second; see
   {gillion}).  How one pronounces this depends on whether one
   speaks {giga-} with hard or soft `g'.  In 1991 this is used of
   only a handful of highly parallel machines, but this is expected to
   change.  Compare {KIPS}.

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 a glass tty.

glassfet: /glas'fet/ [by analogy with MOSFET the acronym for
   Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistor] n.  Syn.
   {firebottle}, a humorous way to refer to a vacuum tube.

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
   jargon, 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 {WAITS}.  4. obs.  Same as {magic cookie},
   sense #2.

   All these uses of `glitch' derive from the specific technical
   meaning the term has to hardware people.  If the inputs of a
   circuit change, and the outputs change to some {random} value for
   some very brief time before they settle down to the correct value,
   then that is called a glitch.  This may or may not be harmful,
   depending on what the circuit is connected to.  This term is found
   in electronic texts.

glob: /glob/, *not* /glohb/ [UNIX] 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 also {UN*X}).
     ?    wildcard for any character (generally only read this way
          at the beginning or in the middle of a word).
     []   delimits a wildcard matching any of the enclosed characters.
     {}   alternation of comma-separated alternatives.  Thus,
          `foo{baz,qux}' would be read as `foobaz' or `fooqux'.

   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}.  Compare {regexp}.

   Historical note: the jargon usage derives from `glob', the
   name of a subprogram that expanded wildcards in archaic Bourne
   Shell versions; this was necessary because early UNIX machines had
   so little memory that the glob routine and the rest of the shell
   could not be co-resident within 64K of code plus data.

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

glue: n. Generic term for any interface logic or protocol that
   connects between two 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, `GNU's Not UNIX!',
   see {{recursive acronyms}}] A UNIX-workalike development effort of
   the Free Software Foundation headed by Richard Stallman
   (  GNU EMACS and the GNU C compiler, two
   tools designed for this project, have become very popular in
   hackerdom and elsewhere.  The GNU project was designed partly to
   proselytize 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, assign, and sell the results of their labors),
   many hackers who disagree with him have nevertheless cooperated to
   produce large amounts of high-quality software available for free
   redistribution under the Free Software Foundation imprimatur.  See
   {EMACS}, {copyleft}, {General Public Virus}.  2. Noted UNIX
   hacker John Gilmore (, founder of USENET's anarchic
   alt.* hierarchy.

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

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

go root: [UNIX] vi. To temporarily enter {root mode} in order to
   perform a privileged operation.  This use is deprecated in
   Australia, where v. `root' is roughly synonymous with `fuck'.

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}.

{Godzillagram} n. [from Japan's national hero]  1. A network packet
   that in theory is a broadcast to every machine in the universe.
   The typical case of this is an IP datagram whose destination IP
   address is [].  Fortunately, few gateways are
   foolish enough to attempt to implement this!  2. A network packet
   of maximum size.  An IP Godzillagram has 65,536 octets.

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.  Compare {platinum-iridium}.

golf-ball printer: n. A slow but letter-quality printing device and
   terminal (the IBM 2741) based on the IBM Selectric typewriter.  The
   `golf ball' was a round object bearing mirror-image embossed images
   of 88 different characters (arranged on four lines of latitude);
   one could change the font by swapping in a different golf ball.
   This was the technology that enabled APL to use a non-EBCDIC,
   non-ASCII, and in fact completely non-standard character set; this
   put it ten years ahead of its time --- where it stayed, firmly
   rooted, for the next twenty, until character displays gave way to
   programmable bit-mapped devices with the flexibility to support
   other character sets.

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; compare {gronk} (sense #4).

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: n.,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 that 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

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 selections, the arm begins to feel sore,
   cramped, and oversized, hence `gorilla arm'.  This is now
   considered a classic 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}.

gotcha: n. A {misfeature} of a system, especially a programming
   language or environment, that tends to breed bugs or mistakes
   because it behaves in an unexpected way.  For example, a classic
   gotcha in {C} is the fact that `if (a=b) {code;}' is
   syntactically valid and sometimes even correct.  It puts the value
   of b into a and then executes `code' if a is non-zero.  What
   the programmer probably meant was `if (a==b) {code;}' which
   executes `code' if a and b are equal.

GPL: n. Abbrev. for `General Public License' in widespread use; see

GPV: n. Abbrev. for {General Public Virus} in widespread use.

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

gray goo: n. A hypothetical substance composed of {sagan}s of
   sub-micron-sized 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, easily refuted by arguments
   from energy requirements and elemental abundances.  Compare {blue

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 {runes},
   {smash case}, {fold 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 "Get `N - 1' entrees"; the value of
   N, which is the number of people in the group, can be inferred from
   context (see {N}).  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 SmallTalk: `Smalltalk-80: Bits of
   History, Words of Advice', Glenn Krasner, Addison-Wesley 1983,
   QA76.8.S635S58, ISBN 0-201-11669-3 (this, too, is 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 before 1992.
   These include, among other things, the X.400 email spec and the
   Group 1 through 4 fax standards.  See also {{book titles}}.

green bytes: n. 1. Meta-information embedded 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.  The term
   comes from an IBM user's group meeting ca.1962 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.  Later
   microprocessor-driven IBM color graphics displays were actually
   *programmed* to produce green lightning!  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".  See also {feature}.

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.

Green's Theorem: [TMRC] prov. For any story, in any group of people
   there will be at least one person who has not heard the story.

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?"  See also {vgrep}.

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(1)' 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 grinds 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

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/, var. /grohk/ [from the novel `Stranger in a
   Strange Land', by Robert Heinlein, where it is a Martian word
   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 comic 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. [TMRC] To cut, sever, smash, or similarly
   disable.  3. The sound made by many 3.5-inch diskette drives.  In
   particular, the microfloppies on a Commodore Amiga go "grink,

gronked: adj. 1. Broken.  "The teletype scanner was gronked, so
   we took the system down."  2. Of people, the condition of
   feeling very tired or sick.  Compare {broken}, which means about
   the same as {gronk} used of hardware but connotes depression or
   mental/emotional problems in people.

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: /gruhnj/ n. 1. That which is grungy, or that which
   makes it so.  2. [Cambridge] 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}.

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. 1. {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.  2. {Shareware} that works.

gumby: /guhm'bee/ [from a class of Monty Python characters, poss.
   themselves named after the 1960s 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}.

gunch: [TMRC] vt. To push, prod, or poke at a device which has
   almost produced the desired result.  Implies a threat to {mung}.

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: [from SF fandom] infix. A method of `marking' common words,
   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, e.g. Dhrystone, Rhealstone,
   etc.; this is prob. patterning on the original Whetstone (the name
   of a laboratory) but influenced by the fannish/counterculture H

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.
   This lexicon 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.
   3. vt. To bear emotionally or physically.  "I can't hack this
   heat!"  4. 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 `foo'" is roughly equivalent to
   "`foo' is my major interest (or project)".  "I hack
   solid-state physics."  5. vt. To pull a prank on.  See sense #2
   and {hacker} (sense #5).  6. vi. To interact with a computer in
   a playful and exploratory, rather than goal-directed way.
   "Whatcha up to?"  "Oh, just hacking."  7. n. Short for
   {hacker}, which see.  8. [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'.

   Constructions on this term abound.  They include: `happy
   hacking', a farewell; `how's hacking?', a friendly greeting
   among hackers; and `hack, hack', a fairly content-free but
   friendly comment, often used as a temporary farewell.  For more on
   the meaning of hack see Appendix A.  See also {neat hack},
   {real hack}.

hack attack: [poss. by analogy with `Big Mac Attack'; the variant
   `big hack attack' is reported] n. Nearly synonymous with
   {hacking run}, though the latter more strongly implies an

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 (this is why every good hacker
   is part mystic).  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 a 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 code.  See also {cyberspace}
   (sense #2).

   Some aspects of hackish etiquette will appear quite odd to an
   observer unaware of the high value placed on hack mode.  For
   example, if someone appears at your door, it is perfectly okay to
   hold up a hand (without turning one's eyes away from the screen) to
   avoid being interrupted.  One may read, type, and interact with the
   computer for quite some time before further acknowledging the
   other's presence (of course, he or she is reciprocally free to
   leave without a word).  The understanding is that you might be in
   {hack mode} with a lot of delicate {state} (sense #2) in your
   head, and you dare not {swap} that context out until you have
   reached a good point to pause.

hack on: vt. To {hack}; implies that the subject is some
   pre-existing hunk of code that one is evolving, as opposed to
   something one might {hack up}.

hack together: vt. To throw something together so it will work.
   Unlike `kluge together' or {cruft together}, this does not
   necessarily have negative connotations.

hack up: vt. To {hack}, but generally implies that the result is
   a hack in sense #1 (a quick hack).  Contrast this with {hack on}.
   To `hack up on' implies a {quick and dirty} modification to an
   existing system.  Contrast {hacked up}; compare {kluge up},
   {monkey up}, {cruft together}.

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 had
   features for reading and printing Roman numerals, which were
   installed purely for hack value.  This cannot be explained.  As a
   great artist once said of jazz, if you hafta ask, you ain't never
   goin' to find out.

hack-and-slay: v. (also `hack-and-slash') 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 as a change of pace.
   This term arose on the British academic network amongst students
   who worked nights and logged onto Essex University's MUDs during
   public-access hours (2 am to 7 am).  Usually more mudding than
   work was done in these sessions.

hacked off: [analogous with `pissed 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 (as well as impressively obvious and
   stupid) way to get your sysadmin hacked off at you.

hacked up: adj. Sufficiently patched, kluged, and tweaked that the
   surgical scars are beginning to crowd out normal tissue (compare
   {critical mass}).  Note that not all programs which are hacked
   become `hacked up'; if modifications are done with some eye to
   coherence and continued maintainability, the software may emerge
   better for the experience.  Contrast {hack up}.

hacker: [originally, someone who makes furniture with an axe] n.
   1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable
   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.  5. An expert at a particular
   program, or one who frequently does work using it or on it; as in
   `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. One who enjoys the
   intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing
   limitations.  8. (deprecated) A malicious meddler who tries to
   discover sensitive information by poking around.  Hence
   `password hacker', `network hacker'.  See {cracker}.

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}).

Hacking X for Y: [ITS] n. The information ITS made publicly
   available about each user (the INQUIR record) was a sort of form in
   which the user could fill out fields.  On display, two of these
   fields were combined into a project description of the form
   "Hacking X for Y" (e.g., `"Hacking perceptrons for
   Minsky"').  This form of description became traditional and has
   since been carried over to other systems with more general
   facilities for self-advertisement (such as UNIX {plan file}s).

Hackintosh: n. 1. An Apple Lisa that has been hacked into emulating a
   Macintosh (also called a `Mac XL').  2. A Macintosh assembled
   from parts theoretically belonging to different models in the line.

hackish: /hak'ish/ adj. (also {hackishness} n.) 1. Said of
   something which is or involves 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 something 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.  See

hackitude: n. Syn. {hackishness}; this word is considered silly.

hair: [back-formation from {hairy}] n. The complications that
   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. Annoyingly 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."  See
   also {hirsute}.

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 a six-letterism for `hacks memo'.)  Some of
   them are very useful techniques, powerful theorems, or interesting
   unsolved problems, 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.

   Item 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 154 (Gosper): The myth that any given programming language is
   machine independent is easily exploded by computing the sum of
   powers of 2.  If the result loops with period = 1 with sign +, you
   are on a sign-magnitude machine.  If the result loops with period =
   1 at -1, you are on a twos-complement machine.  If the
   result loops with period greater than 1, including the beginning,
   you are on a ones-complement machine.  If the result loops with
   period greater than 1, not including the beginning, your machine
   isn't binary --- the pattern should tell you the base.  If you run
   out of memory, you are on a string or bignum system.  If arithmetic
   overflow is a fatal error, some fascist pig with a read-only mind
   is trying to enforce machine independence.  But the very ability to
   trap overflow is machine dependent.  By this strategy, consider the
   universe, or, more precisely, algebra: Let X = the sum of many
   powers of two = ...111111 Now add X to itself: X + X = ...111110
   Thus, 2X = X - 1, so X = -1.  Therefore algebra is run on a machine
   (the universe) that is two's-complement.

   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.

   Item 176 (Gosper): The "banana phenomenon" was encountered when
   processing a character string by taking the last 3 letters typed
   out, searching for a random occurrence of that sequence in the
   text, taking the letter following that occurrence, typing it out,
   and iterating.  This ensures that every 4-letter string output
   occurs in the original.  The program typed BANANANANANANANA....  We
   note an ambiguity in the phrase, "the Nth occurrence of."  In one
   sense, there are five 00's in 0000000000; in another, there are
   nine.  The editing program TECO finds five.  Thus it finds only the
   first ANA in BANANA, and is thus obligated to type N next.  By
   Murphy's Law, there is but one NAN, thus forcing A, and thus a
   loop.  An option to find overlapped instances would be useful,
   although it would require backing up N-1 characters before seeking
   the next N character string.

   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 system}s.  Syllables and whole words in a sentence are
   replaced by single ASCII characters the names of 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: [Fairchild] 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 hand-tuned 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 generated 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 start or
   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. from 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.  2. n. The act of handwaving.  "Boy, what a handwave!"

   If someone starts a sentence with "Clearly..." or
   "Obviously..." or "It is self-evident that...", it is
   a good bet he is about to handwave (alternatively, use of these
   constructions in a sarcastic tone before a paraphrase of someone
   else's argument suggests that it is a 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}.  Failing that, if a listener does object,
   you might try to dismiss the objection with a wave of your hand.

   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 in one position
   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 outrageously unsupported assumption, you might simply wave
   your hands in this way, as an accusation, far more eloquent than
   words could express, that his logic is faulty.

hang: v. 1. 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}.  2. 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."  Compare {block}.  3. To attach a peripheral
   device, esp. in the construction `hang off'.  "We're going to
   hang another tape drive off the file server".  Implies a device
   attached with cables, rather than something that's strictly inside
   the machine's chassis.

Hanlon's Razor: prov. A corollary of {Murphy's Law} similar 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.

hardcoded: adj. 1. Data inserted directly into a program, where
   it cannot be easily modified, as opposed to data in some
   {profile}, resource (see {de-rezz} sense #2), or 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
   `#define' macro (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. In software, syn. for {hardcoded}.  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 bucket: n. A notional receptacle into which more than one
   thing accessed by the same key or short code might be dropped.
   This is used as techspeak with respect to code that uses actual
   hash functions; in jargon, it is used for human associative memory
   as well.  Thus, two things "in the same hash bucket" may be
   confused with each other.  Compare {hash collision}.

hash collision: [from the technical usage] n. (var. `hash
   clash') 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."  Compare
   {hash bucket}.

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
   {hack mode} and {larval stage}, although it's not confined to
   fledgling 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.  3. The `natural' oscillation
   frequency of a computer's clock crystal, before frequency division
   down to the machine's clock rate.  4. 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 similar to "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 and/or ease of implementation 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 that 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 that {smash the stack}.

Helen Keller mode: n. State of a hardware or software system that
   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}, {catatonic}.

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
   traditional hooker's greeting to a swabbie fresh off the boat, of

hello, wall!: excl. See {wall}.

hello, world: interj. 1. The canonical minimal test message in
   the C/UNIX universe.  2. Any of the minimal programs that emit
   this message. 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} (see {X}).  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. 1. Short for {{hexadecimal}}, base 16.  2. A six-pack
   of anything (compare {quad}, sense #2).  Neither usage has
   anything to do with {magic} or {black art}, 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 1960s 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.  If we take `binary'
   to be paradigmatic, the most etymologically correct term for
   base 10, for examples, is `denary' (compare `binary'), which
   comes from `deni' (ten at a time, ten each), a Latin `distributive'
   number; the corresponding term for base-16 would be something like
   `sendenary'.  `Decimal' is from an ordinal number; the
   corresponding prefix for six would imply something like
   `sextidecimal'.  The `sexa-' prefix is Latin but incorrect in this
   context and `hexa-' is Greek.  The word `octal' is similarly
   incorrect; correct forms would be `octaval' (to go with decimal),
   or `octonary' (to go with binary).  If anyone ever implements a
   base-3 computer, computer scientists will be faced with the
   unprecedented dilemma of a choice between two *correct* forms;
   both `ternary' and `trinary' have a claim to this throne.

hexit: /hek'sit/ n. A hexadecimal digit (0--9, and A--F or a--f).
   Used by people who claim that there are only *ten* digits,
   dammit; sixteen-fingered human beings are rather rare, regardless
   of what some keyboard designs might seem to imply (see
   {space-cadet keyboard}).

hidden flag: [scientific computation] n. An 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: [from `high order bit'] n. 1. The most significant bit
   in a byte.  2. 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."  See also {meta bit}, {dread high-bit disease}.

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
   {grok}ked 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}.

hobbit: n. 1. The High Order Bit of a byte; same as the {meta
   bit}.  2. The non-ITS name of (*Hobbit*), master
   of lasers.

hog: n.,vt. Favored term to describe programs or hardware that seem
   to eat far more than their share of a system's resources, esp.
   those which noticeably degrade interactive response.  *Not*
   used of programs that 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."

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}},
   {C} vs. {LISP}, etc. ad nauseam.  The characteristic that
   distinguishes {holy wars} from normal technical disputes is that
   most participants spend their time trying to pass off personal
   value choices and cultural attachments as objective technical
   evaluations. See also {theology}.

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

hook: n. A software or hardware feature included in order to
   simplify later additions or changes by a user.  For 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 {hairy} but 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 ({EMACS},
   for example, is *all* hooks).  The term `user exit' is
   synonymous but much more formal and less hackish.

hop: n. One file transmission in a series required to get a file
   from point A to point B on a store-and-forward network.  On such
   networks (including {UUCPNET} and {FidoNet}), the important
   inter-machine metric 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 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 Mackenzie skits on SCTV.  See
   {hose}.  It is also widely used of people in the mainstream sense
   of `in an extremely unfortunate situation'.

   Once upon a time, a Cray which had been experiencing periodic
   difficulties 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.

hot spot: n. 1. [primarily C/UNIX programmers, but spreading] It
   is received wisdom that 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 heavy 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."  3. In a massively
   parallel computer with shared memory, the one location that all ten
   thousand processors are trying to read or write at once (perhaps
   because they are all doing a {busy-wait} on the same lock).

house wizard: [prob. from ad-agency lingo, `house freak'] n. A
   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 wizards.  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 respondent 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
   greater eloquence of the resulting 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 {crunch}, {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.

Humor, Hacker:: n. A distinctive style of shared intellectual humor
   found among hackers, having the following distinctive

   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 red index card in front of him/her
   with "GREEN" written on it, 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 that 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, The Marx Brothers, the early
   B-52s, and Monty Python's Flying Circus.  Humor which combines this
   trait with elements of high camp and slapstick is especially

   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 {crash}ed 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.

hungry puppy: n. Syn. {slopsucker}.

hungus: /huhng'g*s/ [perhaps related to slang `humungous'] 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 that is *far*
   away from where the program counter should be pointing, often
   inaccessible because it is not even mapped in.  "Another core
   dump... looks like the program jumped off to hyperspace
   somehow", (compare {jump off into never-never land}).  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, bypassing this universe.

= I =

I didn't change anything!: interj. An aggrieved 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,
   doesn't it?"  See also {one-line fix}.  This is also heard from
   applications programmers trying to blame an obvious applications
   problem on an unrelated systems software change, for example a
   divide-by-zero fault after terminals were added to a network.
   Usually, their statement is found to be false.  Upon close
   questioning, they will admit some major restructuring of the
   program that shouldn't have broken anything, in their opinion,
   but actually hosed the code completely.

i14y: // n. Abbrev. for `interoperability', which is an `i'
   followed by 14 letters followed by `y'.  Used in the {X}
   community.  Refers to portability and compatibility of data formats
   (even binary ones) between different programs or implementations of
   the same program on different machines.

i18n: // n. Abbrev. for `internationalization', which is
   an `i' followed by 18 letters followed by `n'.  Used in the {X}

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 does
   count 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 some
   rampantly unofficial jargon lists circulated within 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 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

ice: [coined by USENETter Tom Maddox, popularized by William
   Gibson's cyberpunk SF: acronym, `Intrusion Countermeasure
   Electronics'] Security software (in Gibson's novels, 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
   mid-1991, but many hackers find the metaphor attractive and both
   terms may develop a denotation in the 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.  See also
   {bare metal}. Oppose {well-behaved}, compare {PC-ism}.  See

IMHO: // [from SF fandom via USENET; 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 superlative 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".

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.
   See the section on inclusion styles in the front matter.
   2. Derived from C: `#include <disclaimer.h>' has appeared
   in {sig block}s to refer to a notional `standard disclaimer

include war: n. Excessive multi-leveled including within a
   discussion {thread}, a practice which tends to annoy readers.  In
   a forum with high-traffic newsgroups, such as USENET, this can lead
   to {flame}s and the urge to start a {kill file}.

indent style: [C programmers] n. The rules one uses to indent 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 or controlling statement (`if',
   `else', `for', `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, and the `One True
   Brace Style', abbr. 1TBS, by its partisans.  The basic indent shown
   here is 8 spaces (or 1 tab) per level; 4 or 2 is occasionally seen,
   but is much less common.

     if (cond) {

   `Allman style' --- Named for Eric Allman, a Berkeley hacker who
   wrote a lot of the BSD utilities in it (it is sometimes called
   `BSD style').  Resembles normal indent style in Pascal and
   Algol.  Basic indent per level shown here is 8 spaces, but 4 is
   just as common (esp. in C++ code).

     if (cond)

   `Whitesmiths style' --- popularized by the examples that came
   with Whitesmiths C, an early commercial C compiler.  Basic indent
   per level shown here is 8 spaces, but 4 is occasionally seen.

     if (cond)

   `GNU style' --- Used throughout GNU EMACS and the Free Software
   Foundation code, and just about nowhere else.  Indents are always 4
   spaces per level, with `{' and `}' halfway between the
   outer and inner indent levels.

     if (cond)

   Statistically, surveys have shown the Allman and Whitesmiths styles
   to be the most common, with about equal mind share.  K&R/1TBS 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}).
   Defenders of 1TBS argue that any putative gain in readability is
   less important than their style's relative economy with vertical
   space, which enables one to see more code on one's screen at once.
   Doubtless these issues will continue to be the subjects of {holy

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').  See {bathtub curve}, {burn-in period}.

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."  The word most likely to
   follow `infinite', though, is {hair} (it has been pointerd out
   that fractals are an excellent example of infinite hair).  These
   uses are abuses 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, not
   necessarily or even usually the simple negation of plus infinity.
   In N-bit twos-complement arithmetic, infinity is `2 ^ (N-1) -
   1' but minus infinity is `- (2 ^ (N-1))', not `-(2 ^
   (N-1) - 1)'.  Note also that this is different from `time t
   equals minus infinity', which is closer to a mathematician's usage
   of infinity.

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 most puissant of

INTERCAL: /in't*r-kal/ [said by the authors to stand for
   `Compiler Language With No Pronounceable Acronym'] n. A
   computer language designed by Don Woods and James Lyon in 1972.
   INTERCAL is purposefully 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:

   "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,
   and enjoy wringing all the irony possible out of the ancient
   Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times".  Oppose
   {trivial}, {uninteresting}.

Internet address:: [techspeak] n. 1. [techspeak] An absolute
   network address of the form foo@bar.baz, where foo is a user name,
   bar is a {sitename}, and baz is a `domain' name, possibly
   including periods itself.  Contrasts with {bang path}; see also
   {network, the} and {network address}.  All Internet machines
   and most UUCP sites can now resolve these addresses, thanks to a
   large amount of behind-the-scenes magic and PD software written
   since 1980 or so.  See also {bang path}, {domainist}.  2. More
   loosely, any network address reachable through Internet; this
   includes {bang path} addresses and some internal corporate and
   government networks.

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

          Commercial organizations.
          Educational institutions.
          U.S. government civilian sites.
          U.S. military sites.

   Note that most of the sites in the com and edu domains are in the
   U.S. or Canada.

          Sites in the U.S. outside the functional domains.
          Sites in the Soviet Union (only one really active one so far!).
          Sites in the United Kingdom.

   Within the `us' domain there are subdomains for the fifty
   states, generally with a name identical to the state's postal
   abbreviation.  Within the `uk' domain there is an `ac' subdomain for
   academic sites and a `co' domain for commercial ones.  Other
   top-level domains may be divided up in similar ways.

interrupt: 1. [techspeak] n. On a computer, an event that
   interrupts normal processing and temporarily diverts
   flow-of-control through an "interrupt handler" routine.  See also
   {trap}.  2. interj. A request for attention from a hacker.
   Often explicitly spoken.  "Interrupt --- have you seen Joe
   recently?".  See {priority interrupt}.  3. Under MS-DOS, the
   term `interrupt' is nearly synonymous with `system call', because
   the OS and BIOS routines are both called using the INT instruction
   (see {{interrupt list, the}}) and because programmers so often have
   to bypass the OS (going directly to a BIOS interrupt) to get
   reasonable performance.

interrupt list, the:: [MSDOS] n. The list of all known software
   interrupt calls (both documented and undocumented) for IBM PCs and
   compatibles maintained and made available for free redistribution
   by Ralf Brown (  As of early 1991, it had grown to
   approximately 1 megabyte in length.

interrupts locked out: adj. When someone is ignoring you.  In a
   restaurant, after several fruitless attempts to get the waitress's
   attention, a hacker might well observe that "She must have
   interrupts locked out."  The synonym `interrupts disabled' is
   also common.  Variations of this abound; "to have one's interrupt
   mask bit set" or "interrupts masked out"is also heard.  See also

iron: n. Hardware, especially older/larger hardware of
   {mainframe} class with big metal cabinets housing relatively
   low-density electronics (but also used of modern supercomputers).
   Often in the phrase {big iron}.  Oppose {silicon}.  See also

Iron Age: n. In the history of computing, 1961--1971 --- the formative
   era of commercial {mainframe} technology, when {big iron}
   {dinosaur}s ruled the earth (the hackish metaphors for the era
   aren't quite paleontologically correct).  These began with the
   delivery of the first PDP-1, coincided with the dominance of
   ferrite {core}, and ended with the introduction of the first
   commercial microprocessor (the Intel 4004) in 1971.  See also
   {Stone Age}.

iron box: [UNIX/Internet] n. A special environment set up to trap a
   {cracker} logging in over remote connections long enough to be
   traced.  May include a modified {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. Derogatory.  A hardware specialist.  Compare
   {sandbender}, {polygon pusher}.

ITS: /ie-tee-ess/ n. 1. 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
   jargon 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
   (see {high moby}).  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.  2. A mythical image of operating system
   perfection worshipped by a bizarre, fervent retro-cult of old-time
   hackers and ex-users (see {troglodyte}, sense #2).  ITS
   worshippers manage somehow to continue believing that an OS that
   supported only character I/O and monocase 6-character filenames in
   one directory per account remains superior to today's state of
   commercial art (their venom against UNIX is particularly intense).
   See also {holy wars}, {Weenix}.

IWBNI: // [acronym] It Would Be Nice If.  Compare {WIBNI}.

IYFEG: // [USENET] Abbreviation for `Insert Your Favorite Ethnic
   Group'.  Used as a meta-name when telling racist jokes on the net to
   avoid offending anyone.  See {JEDR}.

= J =

J. Random: /jay rand'm/ n. [generalized from {J. Random Hacker}]
   Arbitrary; ordinary; any one; `any old'.  `J. Random' is often
   prefixed to a noun to make a name out of it.  It means roughly
   `some particular' or `any specific one'.  "Would you let
   J. Random Loser marry your daughter?".  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 simply 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 early days of the MIT
   Model Railroad Club.

jaggies: /jag'eez/ n. The `stairstep' effect observable when an
   edge (esp. a linear edge of shallow or steep slope) is rendered on
   a pixel device (as opposed to a vector display).

JCL: n. 1. IBM's supremely {rude} `Job Control Language'.
   JCL is the script language used to control the execution of
   programs in IBM's batch systems.  JCL has a very {fascist}
   syntax, and some versions will, for example, {barf} if two spaces
   appear where it expects one.  Most programmers confronted with JCL
   simply copy a working file (or card deck), changing the file names.
   Someone who actually understands and generates unique JCL is
   regarded with the mixed respect which one gives to someone who
   memorizes the phone book.  It is reported that hackers at IBM
   itself sometimes sing "I-B-M, J-C-L, M-o-u-s-e" to the tune of
   the Mickey Mouse Club theme to express their opinion of the beast
   (think about the original lyrics).  2. Any very {rude} software
   that a hacker is expected to use.  "That's as bad as JCL."  As
   with {COBOL}, JCL is often used as an archetype of ugliness even
   by those who haven't experienced it.  See also {IBM}, {fear and

JEDR: n. Synonymous with {IYFEG}.  At one time, the
   rec.humor.funny newsgroup on USENET tended to use `JEDR' instead of
   {IYFEG} or `<ethnic>'; this stemmed from a nearly successful
   attempt to kill the group once made by a loser with initials JEDR
   after he was offended by an ethnic joke posted there (the practice
   was {retcon}ned by the expanding these initials as `Joke
   Ethnic/Denomination/Race').  After much sound and fury JEDR faded
   away; this term appears to be doing likewise.

JFCL: /jif'kl/ or /jaf'kl/ vt., obs. (alt. `jfcl') To
   cancel or annul something.  "Why don't you jfcl that out?"  The
   fastest do-nothing instruction on older models of 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 co-authors, has long had JFCL on the license plate of his
   BMW.  Usage: rare except among old-time PDP-10 hackers.

JRST: /jerst/ [based on the PDP-10 jump instruction] v., obs. To
   suddenly change subjects, with no intention of returning to the
   previous topic..  Usage: rather rare except among PDP-10 diehands, and
   considered silly.  See also {AOS}.

jiffy: n. 1. The duration 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.  "The swapper runs every 6 jiffies" means
   that the virtual memory management routine is executed once for
   every 6 ticks of the clock, or about 10 times a second.
   2. Confusingly, the term is sometimes also used for a 1-millisecond
   {wall time} interval.  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.  Oppose {nano}. See also {Real Soon Now}.

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 (i.e., by
   making himself indispensable for maintenance).  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 may 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`/ n. 1. Code that is overly {tense} and
   unmaintainable.  "{Perl} may be a handy program, but if you look
   at the source, it's complete joe code."  2. Badly written,
   possibly buggy.

   Correspondents wishing to remain anonymous have fingered a
   particular Joe at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and observed
   that usage has drifted slightly; the original sobriquet `Joe code'
   was intended in sense #1.

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, "log 1,JRN"), the
   listener would have understood that he should use his own computer
   id in place of `JRN'.

juggling eggs: vi. Keeping a lot of {state} in your head while
   modifying a program.  "Don't bother me now, I'm juggling eggs",
   meaning an interrupt is likely to result in the program being
   scrambled.  See {hack mode}.

jump off into never-never land: [from J. M. Barrie's `Peter
   Pan'] v. Same as {branch to Fishkill}, but more common in
   technical cultures associated with non-IBM computers that use the
   term `jump' rather than `branch'.  Compare {hyperspace}.

= K =

K: /kay/ [from {kilo-}] n. A kilobyte.  This is used both as a
   spoken word and a written suffix (like {meg} and {gig} for
   megabyte and gigabyte).  The formal SI metric prefix for 1000 is
   `k'; some use this strictly, reserving `K' for multiplication by
   1024 (KB is `kilobytes').  See also {{quantifiers}}.

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).  Syn.
   {White Book}, {Old Testament}.  See also {New Testament}.

kahuna: /k*-hoo'nuh/ [IBM, from the Hawaiian title for a shaman] n.
   Synonym for {wizard}, {guru}.

kamikaze packet: n. The `official' jargon for what is more commonly
   called a {Christmas tree packet}. RFC1025, `TCP and IP Bake Off'

     10 points for correctly being able to process a "Kamikaze"
     packet (AKA nastygram, christmas tree packet, lamp test
     segment, et al.).  That is, correctly handle a segment with the
     maximum combination of features at once (e.g., a SYN URG PUSH
     FIN segment with options and data).

   See also {Chernobyl packet}.

ken: /ken/ n. 1. [UNIX] Ken Thompson, principal inventor of
   UNIX.  In the early days he used to hand-cut distribution tapes,
   often with a note that read "Love, ken."  Old-timers still use his
   first name (sometimes uncapitalized) in third-person reference; it
   is widely understood (on USENET, in particular) that without a last
   name `Ken' refers only to Ken Thompson.  Similarly, Dennis without
   last name means Dennis Ritchie.  See also {net.god}, {UNIX}.
   2. A flaming user.  This was originated 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. (alt. `KILL file') Per-user file(s) used
   by some {USENET} reading programs (originally Larry Wall's
   `rn(1)') to discard summarily (without presenting for reading)
   articles which match some particularly uninteresting (or unwanted)
   patterns of subject, author, or other header lines.  Thus to "add
   a person (or subject) to one's kill file" is to arrange for that
   person to be ignored by one's newsreader in future.  By extension,
   it may be used for a decision to ignore the person or subject in
   other media.  See also {plonk}.

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 (see {poke}) in a memory-mapped
   control register; used esp. of various fairly well-known tricks on
   MMU-less {bitty box}es like the IBM PC and Commodore PET that can
   overload and trash analog electronics in the monitor.  See also

kilo-: pref. See {{quantifiers}}.

KIPS: [acronym, by analogy with {MIPS} using {K}] n. Thousands
   (*not* 1024s) of Instructions Per Second.  Usage: rare.

KISS Principle: n. "Keep It Simple, Stupid".  A maxim often
   invoked when discussing design to fend off {creeping featurism}
   and control development complexity.  Possibly related to the
   {marketroid} maxim on sales presentations, "Keep It Short and

kit: [USENET] n. A source software distribution that 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 file}.  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.  A plurality of
   hackers pronounce this word /klooj/ but spell it incorrectly as
   `kludge' (compare the pronunciation drift of {mung}).  Some
   observers consider this appropriate in view of its meaning.] 1. n.
   A Rube Goldberg (or Heath Robinson) device in hardware or software.
   (A long-ago {Datamation} article by Jackson Granholme 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}.  In fact, the TMRC dictionary
   defined `kludge' as "a crock that works'.  3. n.  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."  5. [WPI] n.  A feature that
   is implemented in a {rude} manner.

kluge around: vt. To avoid a bug or difficult condition by
   inserting a {kluge}.  Compare {workaround}.

kluge up: vt. To lash together a quick hack to perform a task; this
   is milder than {cruft together} and has some of the connotations
   of {hack up} (note, however, that the construction `kluge on'
   corresponding to {hack on} is never used).  "I've kluged up this
   routine to dump the buffer contents to a safe place."

Knights of the Lambda Calculus: n. A semi-mythical organization of
   wizardly LISP and Scheme hackers (the name refers to a mathematical
   formalism invented by Alonzo Church with which LISP is intimately
   connected).  There is no enrollment list and the criteria for
   induction are unclear, but one well-known LISPer has been known to
   give out buttons and, in general, the *members* know who they

Knuth: [Donald E. Knuth's `The Art of Computer Programming']
   n.  Mythically, the reference that answers all questions about data
   structures or algorithms.  A safe answer when you do not know, as
   in "I think you can find that in Knuth."  Contrast {literature,
   the}.  See also {bible}.

kremvax: /krem-vaks/ [from the then large number of {USENET}
   {VAXen} with names of the form `foovax'] n. A fictitious USENET
   site at the Kremlin, announced on April 1, 1984, in a posting
   ostensibly originated there by Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko.
   The posting was actually forged by Piet Beertema as an April Fool's
   joke.  Other sites mentioned in the hoax were moskvax and
   {kgbvax}, which now seems to be the one by which it is
   remembered.  This was probably the funniest of the many April
   Fool's forgeries perpetrated on USENET (which has negligible
   security against them), because the notion that USENET might ever
   penetrate the Iron Curtain seemed so totally absurd at the time.

   In fact, it was only 6 years later that the first genuine site in
   Moscow,, joined USENET.  Some readers needed convincing
   that it wasn't another prank.  Vadim Antonov (,
   the major poster from Moscow up to at least the end of 1990, was
   quite aware of all this, referred to it frequently in his own
   postings, and at one point twitted some credulous readers by
   blandly admitting that he *was* a hoax!  [Mr. Antonov also
   contributed the Russian-language material for this File --- ESR]

= L =

lace card: n. obs. A {{punched 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 restrictions and features (both useful and esoteric)
   applicable to one or more computer programming languages.  A
   language lawyer is distinguished by the ability to show you the
   five sentences scattered throughout a 200-plus page manual which
   together imply the answer to your question "if only you had
   thought to look there".  Compare {wizard}, {legal},

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 also popular in small but influential communities.

   There is also a rapidly dwindling category of older hackers with
   FORTRAN, or even assembler, 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).  Assembler is generally no longer considered
   interesting or appropriate for anything but HLL implementation,
   glue, and a few time-critical and hardware-specific uses in systems
   programs.  FORTRAN occupies a shrinking niche in scientific

   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

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, sleep, and personal hygiene, and
   a chronic case of advanced bleary-eye.  Can last from six months to
   two years, with the apparent median being around eighteen months.
   A few so afflicted never resume a more `normal' life, but the
   ordeal seems to be necessary to produce really wizardly (as opposed
   to merely competent) programmers.  See also {wannabee}.  A less
   protracted and intense version of larval stage (typically lasting
   about a month) may recur when learning a new {OS} or programming

lase: /layz/ vt. To print a given document via a laser printer.
   "OK, let's lase that sucker and see if all those graphics-macro
   calls did the right things."

laser chicken: n. Kung Pao Chicken, a standard Chinese dish
   containing chicken, peanuts, and hot red peppers in a spicy
   pepper-oil sauce.  Many hackers call it `laser chicken' for
   two reasons; it can {zap} you just like a laser, and the
   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 sauce, which is considered bright enough to glow in
   the dark (mythically, like some of the inhabitants of Chernobyl).

laundromat: n. Syn. {disk farm}; see {washing machine}.

LDB: /l*'d*b/ [from the PDP-10 instruction set] vt. To extract
   from the middle.  "LDB me a slice of cake, please" This usage has
   been kept alive by Common LISP's function of the same name.  See
   also {DPB}.

leaf site: n. A machine that merely originates and reads USENET
   news or mail, and does not relay any third-party traffic.  Often
   uttered in a critical tone; when the ratio of leaf sites to
   backbone, rib, and other relay sites gets too high, the network
   tends to develop bottlenecks.  Compare {backbone site}, {rib

leak: n. With qualifier, one of a class of resource-management bugs
   that occur when resources are not freed properly after operations
   on them are finished, leading to eventual exhaustion as new
   allocation requests come in.  {memory leak} and {fd leak} have
   their own entries; one might also refer, say, to a `window handle
   leak' in a window system.

leaky heap: [Cambridge] n. Syn. {memory leak}.

legal: adj. Loosely used to mean `in accordance with all the
   relevant rules', esp. in connection with some set of constraints
   defined by software.  Thus one very frequently hears constructions
   like `legal syntax', `legal input', etc.  Hackers often model their
   work as a sort of game played with the environment in which the
   objective is to maneuver through the thicket of `natural laws' to
   achieve a desired objective.  Their use of `legal' is flavored as
   much by this game-playing sense as by the more conventional one
   having to do with courts and lawyers.  Compare {language lawyer},

legalese: n. Dense, pedantic verbiage in a language description,
   product specification, or interface standard; text that seems
   designed to obfuscate and requires a {language lawyer} to
   {parse} it.  While hackers are not afraid of high 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, {suit}s, and situations in which
   hackers generally get the short end of the stick.

LER: /el-ee-ar/ [TMRC] n. A light emitting resistor (that is one in
   the process of burning up).  Ohm's law was broken.

LERP: /lerp/ vi.,n. Quasi-acronym for Linear Interpolation, used as a
   verb or noun for the operation.  E.g., Bresenham's algorithm lerps
   incrementally between the two endpoints of the line.

let the smoke out: v. To fry hardware (see {fried}).  See
   {magic smoke} for the mythology behind this.

lexer: /lek'sr/ n. Common hacker shorthand for `lexical
   analyzer', the input-tokenizing stage in the parser for a language
   (the part that breaks it into word-like pieces).  "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, difficult,
   and disgusting process.  First popularized by a famous quote about
   the difficulty of getting work done under one of IBM's mainframe
   OSes.  "Well, you *could* write a C compiler in COBOL, but it
   would be like kicking dead whales down the beach."  See also
   {fear and loathing}

like nailing jelly to a tree: adj. Used to describe a task thought
   to be impossible, esp. one in which the difficulty arises from poor
   specification or inherent slipperiness in the problem domain.

line eater, the: [USENET] n. 1. A bug in some now-obsolete
   versions of the netnews software that used to eat up to BUFSIZ
   bytes of the article text.  The bug was triggered by having the
   text of the article start with 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-1991) occasionally reported to be lurking in some
   mail-to-netnews gateways.  2. See {NSA line eater}.

line starve: [MIT] 1. vi. To feed paper through a printer the
   wrong way by one line (most printers 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) that suppresses a
   {newline} or other character(s) that would normally implicitly be

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 (for example) one is 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 (include directory) arguments on
   older C preprocessors.

link-dead: [MUD] adj. Said of a {MUD} character who has frozen in
   place due to a dropped Internet connection.

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 languages other than C.  See also
   {delint}.  2. n.  Excess verbiage in a document, as in "this
   draft has too much lint".

lion food: [IBM] n. Middle management or HQ staff (by extension,
   administrative drones in general).  From an old joke about two
   lions who, escaping from the zoo, split up to increase their
   chances but agreed to meet after two months.  When they finally
   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 (a)
   variable-length lists and trees as fundamental data types, and (b)
   the interpretation of code as data and vice-versa.  Invented by
   John McCarthy at MIT in the late 1950s, it is actually older
   than any other {HLL} still in use except FORTRAN.  Accordingly,
   it has undergone considerable adaptive radiation over the years;
   modern variants are quite different in detail from the original
   LISP 1.5.  The hands-down favorite of a plurality of hackers until
   the early 1980s, LISP now shares the throne with {C}.  See
   {languages of choice}.

   All LISP functions and programs are expressions that return
   values; this, together with the high memory utilization of LISPs,
   gave rise to Alan Perlis's famous quip (itself a take on an Oscar
   Wilde quote) that "LISP programmers know the value of everything
   and the cost of nothing."

literature, the: n.  Computer science journals and other
   publications vaguely gestured at to answer a question that the
   speaker believes is {trivial}.  Thus, one might answer an
   annoying question "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, bytes at lower 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 data: n. 1. Data which is written to be interpreted and takes
   over program flow when triggered by some un-obvious operation, such
   as viewing it.  One particular use of such hacks is to break
   security.  For example, some smart terminals have commands that
   allow one to download strings to program keys; this can be used to
   write `live data' which, when listed to the terminal, infects it
   with a security-breaking `virus' that is triggered the next time a
   hapless user strikes that key.  For another, there are some
   well-known bugs in vi which allow certain texts to send arbitrary
   commands back to the machine when they are simply viewed.  2. In C
   code, data which includes pointers to function {hook}s.  3. An
   object such as a {trampoline} which is constructed on the fly by
   a program and intended to be executed as code. 4. `actual
   real-world data', as opposed to `test data'.  For example, "I
   think I have the record deletion module finished."  "Have you
   tried it out on live data?"  It usually carries the connotation
   that live data is more fragile and must not be corrupted, else bad
   things will happen.  So a possible alternate response to the above
   claim might be "Well, make sure it works perfectly before we
   throw live data at it."  The implication here is that record
   deletion is something pretty significant, and a haywire record
   deletion module running amock on live data would cause great harm
   and probably require restoring from backups.

Live Free Or Die!: imp. 1. The state motto of New Hampshire, which
   used to be on its car 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: [from military slang for an M-16 with magazine
   inserted and prepared for firing] adj. Said of a removable disk
   volume properly prepared for use --- that is, locked into the drive
   and with the heads loaded.  Ironically, because their heads are
   `loaded' whenever the power is up, this description is never used
   of {{Winchester}} drives (which are named after a rifle).

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 `logical' name] adj.
   Having the role of.  If a person (say, Les Earnest at SAIL) who has
   long held a certain post left and was replaced, the replacement
   would for a while be known as the `logical' Les Earnest (this
   does not imply any judgement on the replacement).  Compare

   At Stanford, `logical' compass directions denote 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,
   by definition, El Camino Real 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 industry that has
   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 might
   describe these directions as `logical north' and `logical south',
   to indicate that they are conventional directions not corresponding
   to the usual denotation for those words.  (If you went logical
   south along the entire length of route 128, you would start out
   going northwest, curve around to the south, and finish headed due

loop through: vt. To process each element of a list of things.
   "Hold on, I've got to loop through my paper mail."  Derives from
   the computer-language notion of an iterative loop; compare `cdr
   down' (under {cdr}) which is less common among C and UNIX
   programmers.  ITS hackers used to say `IRP over' after an
   obscure pseudo-op in the MIDAS PDP-10 assembler.

lord high fixer: [primarily British, prob. from 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: [MIT] 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 or crocky.  3. Of people, to
   be obnoxious or unusually stupid (as opposed to ignorant).  See
   also {deserves to lose}.  4. n. Refers to something which is
   {losing}, especially in the phrases "That's a lose!" or "What
   a lose!".

lose lose: interj. A reply to or comment on an undesirable
   situation.  "I accidentally deleted all my files!"  "Lose,

loser: n. An unexpectedly bad situation, program, programmer, or
   person.  Someone who habitually loses (even winners can lose
   occasionally).  Someone who knows not and knows not that he knows
   not.  Emphatic forms are `real loser', `total loser', and
   `complete loser' (but not `moby loser', which would be a
   contradiction in terms).  See {luser}.

losing: adj. Said of anything which is or causes a {lose} or

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!"  Note that `moby loss'
   is OK even though `moby loser' is not used; applied to an abstract
   noun, moby is simply a magnifier, whereas when applied to a person
   it implies substance and has positive connotations.  Compare

lossage: /los'*j/ n. The result of a bug or malfunction.  This is
   a mass or 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 noise: adj. Syn. {lost in the underflow}.  This term
   is from signal processing, where signals of very small amplitude
   cannot be separated from low-intensity noise in the system.  Though
   popular among hackers, it is not confined to hackerdom; physicists,
   engineers, astronomers, and statisticians all use it.

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 magnitude.  It is also a pun on `undertow' (a kind of fast,
   cold current that sometimes runs just outshore of a beach and can
   be dangerous to swimmers).  "Well, sure, photon pressure from the
   stadium lights alters the path of a thrown baseball, but that
   effect gets lost in the underflow."  See also {overflow bit}.

lots of MIPS but no I/O: adj. Used to describe a person who is
   technically brilliant but can't seem to communicate with human
   beings effectively.  Technically it describes a machine that has
   lots of processing power but is bottlenecked on I/O.

low-bandwidth: [from communication theory] adj. Used to indicate a
   talk that although not {content-free} was not terribly
   informative.  "That was a low-bandwidth talk, but what can you
   expect for an audience of {suit}s."  Compare {zero-content},
   {bandwidth}, {math-out}.

LPT: /lip'it/ [MIT, via DEC] 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.

lunatic fringe: [IBM] n. Customers who can be relied upon to accept
   release 1 versions of software.

lurker: n. One of the `silent majority' in a electronic forum; one
   who posts occasionally or not at all but is known to read the group
   regularly.  This term is not pejorative and indeed is casually used
   reflexively: "Oh, I'm just lurking."  Often used in `the
   lurkers', the hypothetical audience for the group's
   {flamage}-emitting regulars.

luser: /loo'zr/ n. A {user}; esp. one who is 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 the death in mid-1990, except
   as a museum piece; the usage lives on, however, and the term
   `luser' is often seen in program comments.

= M =

M: pref. (on units) suff. (on numbers) See {{quantifiers}}.

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."  See also {fritterware}.

machinable: adj. Machine-readable.  Having the {softcopy} nature.

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}, {benchmark}.

Macintoy: /mak'in-toy/ n. The Apple Macintosh, considered as a
   {toy}.  Less pejorative than {Macintrash}.

Macintrash: /mak'in-trash`/ n. The Apple Macintosh, as described
   by a hacker who doesn't appreciate being kept away from the
   *real computer* by the interface.  The term `maggotbox'
   has been reported in regular use in the Research Triangle
   (Raleigh/Durham, NC).  Compare {Macintoy}. See also {WIMP
   environment}, {drool-proof paper}, {user-friendly}.

macro: /mak'roh/ [techspeak] n. A name (possibly followed by a
   formal {arg} list) that is equated to a text or symbolic
   expression to which it is to be expanded (possibly with the
   substitution of actual arguments) by a macro expander.  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
   the use of macros as a structuring and information-hiding device.
   During the early 1970s, 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 [nt]roff 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
   or Macintosh INIT/CDEV 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.

macrology: /mak-ro'l*-jee/ n. 1. Set of usually complex or crufty
   macros, e.g., as part of a large system written in {LISP},
   {TECO}, or (less commonly) assembler.  2. The art and science
   involved in comprehending a macrology in sense #1.  Sometimes
   studying the macrology of a system is not unlike archeology,
   ecology, or {theology}, hence the sound-alike construction.  See
   also {boxology}.

macrotape: /ma'kroh-tayp/ n. An industry standard reel of tape, as
   opposed to a {microtape}.

maggotbox: n. See {Macintrash}.  This is even more derogatory.

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 (this is especially called
   {black magic}).  3. [Stanford] A feature not generally
   publicized that allows something otherwise impossible, or a feature
   formerly in that category but now unveiled.  Example: The keyboard
   commands which override the screen-hiding features.  Compare
   {black magic}, {wizardly}, {deep magic}, {heavy wizardry}.

   For more about hackish `magic', see Appendix A.

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.  E.g., on non-UNIX OSes 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 passed back to the
   same or some other program later.  2. An in-band code for
   changing graphic rendition (e.g., inverse video or underlining) or
   performing other control functions.  Some older terminals would
   leave a blank on the screen corresponding to mode-change magic
   cookies; this was also called a {glitch}.  See also {cookie}.

magic number: [UNIX/C] n. 1. In source code, some non-obvious
   constant whose value is significant to the operation of a program
   and which is inserted inconspicuously in-line ({hardcoded}),
   rather than expanded in by a symbol set by a commented
   `#define'.  Magic numbers in this sense are bad style.  2. A
   number that encodes critical information used in an algorithm in
   some opaque way.  The classic examples of these are the numbers
   used in hash or CRC functions, or the coefficients in a linear
   congruential generator for pseudo-random numbers.  This sense
   actually predates and was ancestral to the more common #1.
   3. 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 file by looking for a magic number.  Only a
   {wizard} knows the magic to create magic numbers.  How do you
   choose a fresh magic number of your own?  Simple --- you pick one
   at random.  See?  It's magic!

magic smoke: n. A substance trapped inside IC packages that enables
   them to function (also called `blue smoke'; compare
   `phlogiston').  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}, {let the smoke out}.

   USENETter Jay Maynard tells the following story: "Once, while
   hacking on a dedicated Z80 system, I was testing code by blowing
   EPROMs and plugging them in the system, then seeing what happened.
   One time, I plugged one in backwards.  I only discovered that
   *after* I realized that Intel didn't put power-on lights under
   the quartz windows on the tops of their EPROMs --- the die was
   glowing white-hot.  Amazingly, the EPROM worked fine after I erased
   it, filled it full of zeros, then erased it again.  For all I know,
   it's still in service.  Of course, this is because the magic smoke
   didn't get let out."

mailing list: n. (often shortened to `list') 1. An {email}
   address that is an alias (or {macro}, though that word is never
   used in this connection) for many other email addresses.  Some
   mailing lists are simple `reflectors', redirecting mail sent to
   them to the list of recipients.  Others are filtered by humans or
   programs of varying degrees of sophistication; lists filtered by
   humans are said to be `moderated'.  2. The people who receive
   your email when you send it to such an address.

   Mailing lists are one of the primary forms of hacker interaction,
   along with {USENET}.  They predate USENET, and originated with the
   first UUCP and ARPANET connections.  They are often used for
   private information-sharing on topics that would be too specialized
   for or inappropriate to 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 then 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
   co-authors of the `The Hacker's Dictionary' first edition.

main loop: n. Software tools are often written to perform some
   actions repeatedly on whatever input is handed to them, terminating
   when there is no more input or they are explicitly told to go away.
   In such programs, the loop that gets and processes input is called
   the `main loop'.  See also {driver}.

mainframe: n. This term originally referred to the cabinet
   containing the central processor unit 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
   connotation 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, Unisys, and the other great {dinosaur}s surviving from
   computing's {Stone Age}.

   It is common wisdom among hackers that the mainframe architectural
   tradition is essentially dead (outside of the tiny market for
   {number-crunching} supercomputers (see {cray})), swamped by the
   recent huge advances in IC technology and low-cost personal
   computing.  As of 1991, corporate America hasn't quite figured this
   out yet, though the wave of failures, takeovers, and mergers among
   traditional mainframe makers are certainly straws in the wind.

management: n. 1. Corporate power elites distinguished primarily by
   their distance from actual productive work and their chronic
   failure to manage (see also {suit}).  Spoken derisively, as in
   "*Management* decided that...".  2. Mythically, a vast
   bureaucracy responsible for all the world's minor irritations.
   Hackers' satirical public notices are often signed `The Mgmt'.

manged: /mahnjed/ [probably from the French `manger' or Italian
   `mangiare', to eat; perh.  influenced by English n. `mange',
   `mangy']. adj. Refers to anything that is mangled or damaged,
   usually beyond repair.  "The disk was manged after the electrical
   storm."  Compare {mung}.

mangle: vt. Used similarly to {mung} or {scribble}, but more violent
   in its connotations; something that is mangled has been
   irreversibly and totally trashed.

mangler: [DEC] n. A manager.  Compare {mango}; see also
   {management}.  Note that {system mangler} is somewhat different
   in connotation.

mango: /mang'go/ [orig. in-house jargon at Symbolics] n. A manager.
   Compare {mangler}.  See also {devo} and {doco}.

marginal: adj. 1. Extremely small.  "A marginal increase in
   {core} can decrease {GC} time drastically."  In everyday
   terms, this means that it's a lot easier to clean off your desk if
   you have a spare place to put some of the junk while you sort
   through it.  2. Of extremely small merit.  "This proposed new
   feature seems rather marginal to me."  3. Of extremely small
   probability of {win}ning.  "The power supply was rather marginal
   anyway; no wonder it fried."

Marginal Hacks: n. Margaret Jacks Hall, a building into which the
   Stanford AI Lab was moved near the beginning of the 1980s (from the
   {D. C. Power Lab}).

marginally: adv. Slightly.  "The ravs here are only marginally
   better than at Small Eating Place."  See {epsilon}.

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 that are not actually
   scheduled for inclusion, extremely difficult to implement, and/or
   are in violation of the laws of physics; and/or one who describes
   existing features (and misfeatures) in ebullient, buzzword-laden
   adspeak.  Derogatory.  Compare {droid}.

martian: n. A packet sent on a TCP/IP network with a source address
   of the test loopback interface (  This means that it
   will come back at you labelled with a source address that is
   clearly not of this earth.  As in "The domain server is getting
   lots of packets from Mars.  Does that gateway have a martian

massage: vt. Vague term used to describe `smooth' transformations of
   a data set into a different form, esp. transformations that 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. from `white-out' (the blizzard variety)] n. A
   paper or presentation so encrusted with mathematical or other
   formal notation as to be incomprehensible.  This may be a device
   for concealing the fact that it is actually {content-free}.  See
   also {numbers}, {social science number}.

Matrix: [FidoNet] n. 1. What the Opus BBS software and sysops call
   {FidoNet}.  2. Fanciful term for a {cyberspace} expected to
   emerge from current networking experiments (see {network, the}).
   Some people refer to the totality of present networks this way.

Mbogo, Dr. Fred: [Stanford] n. The archetypal man you don't want to
   see about a problem, esp. an incompetent professional; a shyster.
   Usage: "Do you know a good eye doctor?"  "Sure, try Mbogo Eye
   Care and Professional Dry Cleaning."  The name comes from synergy
   between {bogus} and the original Dr. Mbogo, a witch doctor who
   was Gomez Addams' physician on the old `Addams Family' TV
   show.  See also {fred}.

meatware: n. Synonym for {wetware}.  Less common.

meeces: [TMRC] n. Occasional furry visitors who are not
   {urchin}s.  [That is, mice. This may no longer be in live use; it
   clearly derives from the refrain of the old Tom an Jerry cartoons
   "I hate meeces to *pieces*!" -- ESR]

meg: /meg/ n. See {{quantifiers}}.

mega-: /me'g*/ pref. See {{quantifiers}}.

megapenny: /meg'*-pen'ee/ n. $10,000 (1 cent * 10 ^ 6).  Used
   semi-humorously as a unit in comparing computer cost/performance

MEGO: /me'goh/ or /mee'goh/ [My Eyes Glaze Over, often Mine Eyes
   Glazeth (sic) Over, attributed to the futurologist Herman Kahn]
   Also `MEGO factor'.  1. n. 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.  3. Among non-hackers this term often refers not to
   behavior which causes the eyes to glaze, but the eye-glazing
   reaction itself, which may be triggered by the mere threat of
   technical detail as effectively as by an actual excess of it.

meltdown, network: n.  See {network meltdown}.

meme: /meem/ [coined on analogy with `gene' by Richard
   Dawkins] n. An idea considered as a {replicator}, esp. with the
   connotation that memes parasitize people into propagating them much
   as viruses do.  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 an
   (epidemiological) 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 millennarian Christianity have exhibited plague-like cycles
   of exponential growth followed by collapse to small reservoir

memetics: /m*-met'iks/ [from {meme}] The study of memes.  As of
   mid-1991, 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

memory leak: n. An error in a program's dynamic-store allocation
   logic that causes it to fail to reclaim discarded memory, leading
   to attempted hogging of main store and eventual collapse due to
   memory exhaustion.  Also (esp. at CMU) called {core leak}.  See
   {aliasing bug}, {fandango on core}, {smash the stack},
   {precedence lossage}, {overrun screw}, {leaky heap}.

menuitis: /men`yoo-ie'tis/ n. Notional disease suffered by software
   with an obsessively simple-minded menu interface and no escape.
   Hackers find this intensely irritating and much prefer the
   flexibility of command-line or language-style interfaces,
   especially those customizable via macros or a special-purpose
   language in which one can encode useful hacks.  See
   {user-obsequious}, {drool-proof paper}, {WIMP environment},
   {for the rest of us}.

mess-dos: /mes-dos/ 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', `mush-dos', and various combinations thereof.
   In Ireland it is even sometimes called `Domestos' after a brand of
   toilet cleanser.

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 briefly, but much hacker humor turns
   on deliberate confusion between meta-levels.  See {{Humor,

meta bit: n. The top bit of an 8-bit character, on in character
   values 128--255.  Also called {high bit}, {alt bit}, or
   {hobbit}.  Some terminals and consoles (see {space-cadet
   keyboard}) have a META shift key.  Others (including,
   *mirabile dictu*, keyboards on IBM PC-class machines) have an
   ALT key.  See also {bucky bits}.

MFTL: /em-eff-tee-ell/ [acronym: My Favorite Toy Language] 1. adj.
   Describes a talk on a programming language design which is heavy on
   syntax, frequently BNF, sometimes even talks about semantics, e.g.,
   type systems, but rarely, if ever, has any content (see
   {content-free}).  More broadly applied to talks even when the
   topic is not a programming language, but the subject matter is gone
   into in unnecessary and meticulous detail at the sacrifice of any
   conceptual content.  Usage: "Well, it was a typical MFTL talk".
   2. n. Describes a language developed by an individual or group,
   which they are passionate about, but which hardly anyone outside
   the group cares about.  Applied to the language by those outside
   the group.  "He cornered me about type resolution in his MFTL"

mickey: n. The resolution unit of mouse movement.  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.  2. As that decimal prefix, calling for
   multiplication by `10 ^ -6' (see {{quantifiers}}).
   Neither 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
   {attoparsec}, {nanoacre}, and especially {microfortnight}).
   3. 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-' (the corresponding Greek prefix meaning
   `large').  4. Local as opposed to global (or {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 mass transit, moving to
   within walking distance, or (best of all) telecommuting.

microfortnight: n. About 1.2 sec. The VMS operating system has a
   lot of tuning parameters that you can set with the SYSGEN utility,
   and one of these is TIMEPROMPTWAIT, the time the system will wait
   for an operator to set the correct date and time at boot if it
   realizes that the current value is bogus.  This time is specified
   in microfortnights!

   Multiple uses of the millifortnight (about 20 minutes) and
   {nanofortnight} have also been reported.

microfloppies: n. 3.5-inch floppies, as opposed to 5.25-inch
   {vanilla} or mini-floppies and the now-obsolete 8-inch variety.
   This term may be headed for obsolescence as 5.25-inchers pass out
   of use, only to be revived if anybody floats a sub-3-inch floppy
   standard.  See {stiffy}, {minifloppies}.

microLenat: n. See {bogosity}.

microReid: n.  See {bogosity}.

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 across.  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 coined 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 or 2-1-4-3 occasionally found in the
   packed-decimal formats of minicomputer manufacturers who shall
   remain nameless.  See {NUXI problem}.

milliLampson: /mil'i-lamp`sn/ n. A unit of talking speed
   abbreviated mL.  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.  This unit
   is sometimes used to compare the (sometimes widely disparate) rates
   at which people can generate ideas and actually emit them in
   speech.  For example, noted computer architect C. Gordon Bell
   (designer of the PDP-11) is said (with some awe) to think at about
   1200 mL but only talk at about 300; he is frequently reduced to
   fragments of sentences as his mouth tries to keep up with his
   speeding brain.

minifloppies: n. 5.25-inch {vanilla} floppy disks, as opposed to
   3.5-inch or {microfloppies} and the now-obsolescent 8-inch
   variety.  At one time, this term was a trademark of Shugart
   Associates for their SA-400 minifloppy drive.  Nobody paid any
   attention.  See {stiffy}.

MIPS: /mips/ [acronym] n. 1. A measure of computing speed;
   formally, `Million Instructions Per Second' (that's `10 ^
   6' per second, not `2 ^ 20'!); often rendered by hackers as
   `Meaningless Indication of Processor Speed' or in other
   unflattering ways.  This joke expresses a nearly universal attitude
   about the value of most {benchmark} claims, said attitude being
   one of the great cultural divides between hackers and
   {marketroid}s.  The singular is sometimes `1 MIP' even though
   this is clearly etymologically wrong.  See also {KIPS} and
   {GIPS}.  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.  Compare
   {green lightning}.

misfeature: /mis-fee'chr/ or /mis'fee`chr/ n. A feature that
   eventually causes lossage, 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 substantial 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."

Missed'em-five: n. Pejorative hackerism for AT&T System V UNIX,
   generally used by {BSD} partisans in a bigoted mood (the term
   `SysVile' is also encountered).  See {software bloat},

miswart: /mis-wort/ [from {wart} by analogy with {misbug}] n.
   A {feature} that superficially 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.

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 680[1234]0 or VAX or most modern 32-bit
   architectures, it is 4,294,967,296 8-bit bytes (4 gigabytes).  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).  Standard emphatic forms:
   `Moby foo', `moby win', `moby loss'.  `Foby moo': a
   spoonerism due to Greenblatt.

   This term entered hackerdom with the Fabritek 256K memory of the
   MIT-AI PDP-6 machine, which was considered unimaginably huge when
   it was installed in the 1960s (this was at a time when a more
   typical timesharing system was 72 kilobytes).  Thus, a moby is
   classically 256K 36-bit words, the size of a PDP-6 or PDP-10 moby
   (they had 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 address spaces
   are usually larger than the most physical 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 (esp. paging) 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 designs.  On these, a
   `moby' would be the 1-megabyte address span of a
   paragraph-plus-offset pair (by coincidence, a PDP-10 moby was
   exactly 1 megabyte of 9-bit bytes).

mod: vt.,n. 1. Short for `modify' or `modification'.  Very
   commonly used --- in fact the full 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 a {diff}.
   2. Short for {modulo} but *only* used for its techspeak sense.

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 techspeak when used to
   describe the state of a program, but the extended usage --- for
   example, to describe people --- is definitely jargon.  In
   particular, see {hack mode}, {day mode}, {night mode},
   {demo mode}, {fireworks mode}, and {yoyo mode}; also {talk

   One also often hears the verbs `enable' and `disable' used in
   connection with jargon modes.  Thus, for example, a sillier way of
   saying "I'm going to crash." is "I'm going to enable crash mode
   now."  One might also hear a request to "disable flame mode,

mode bit: n. A {flag}, usually in hardware, that selects between
   two (usually quite different) modes of operation.  The connotations
   are different from {flag} bit in that mode bits are mainly
   written during a boot or set-up phase, are seldom read, and seldom
   change over the lifetime of an ordinary program.  The classic
   example was the EBCDIC-vs.-ASCII bit (#12) of the Program Status
   Word of the IBM 360.  Another was the bit on a PDP-12 that
   controlled whether it ran the PDP-8 or LINC instruction set.

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)'.  "Well, LISP seems to work okay now,
   modulo that {GC} bug."  "I feel fine today modulo a slight

molly-guard: [University of Illinois] n. A shield to prevent
   tripping of some {Big Red Switch} by clumsy or ignorant hands.
   Originally used of some plexiglass covers improvised for the BRS on
   an IBM 4341 after a programmer's toddler daughter (named Molly)
   frobbed it twice in one day.  Later generalized to covers over
   stop/reset switches on disk drives and networking equipment.

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.  Also called `Chinese Army technique';
   see also {Brooks's Law}.

monkey up: vt. To hack together hardware for a particular task,
   especially a one-shot job.  Connotes an extremely {crufty} and
   consciously temporary solution.  Compare {hack up}, {kluge up},
   {cruft together}, {cruft together}.

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 appears 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 square inch) = 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.  See
   also {Parkinson's Law of Data}.

moria: /mor'ee-*/ n. Like {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}, {SO}.

MOTOS: /moh-tohs/ [from the 1970 U.S. census forms via USENET,
   Member Of The Opposite Sex] n. A potential or (less often) actual
   sex partner.  See {MOTAS}, {MOTSS}, {SO}.  Less common than
   MOTSS or {MOTAS}, which has largely displaced it.

MOTSS: /motss/ or /em-oh-tee-ess-ess/ [from the 1970 U.S. census
   forms via USENET, Member Of The Same Sex] n. Esp. one considered as
   a possible sexual partner, e.g. by a gay male or lesbian.  The
   gay-issues newsgroup on USENET is called `soc.motss'.  See
   {MOTOS} and {MOTAS}, which derive from it.  Also see {SO}.

mouse ahead: vi. Point-and-click analog of `type ahead'.  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 {WIMP environment} much
   more usable, assuming they are familiar with the behavior of the
   user interface.

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 belt: n. See {rat belt}.

mouse droppings: [MSDOS] n. Pixels (usually single) which are not
   properly restored when the mouse pointer moves away from a
   particular location on the screen, producing the appearance that
   the mouse pointer has left behind droppings.  The major causes for
   this problem are programs which write to the screen memory
   corresponding to the mouse pointer's current location without
   hiding the mouse pointer first and mouse drivers which do not quite
   support the graphics mode in use.

mouse elbow: n. A tennis-elbow-like fatigue syndrome resulting from
   excessive use of a {WIMP environment}.  Similarly, `mouse
   shoulder'; GLS reports that he used to get this a lot before he
   taught himself to be ambimoustrous.

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}, {braino}.

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 into 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 character 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 (the name goes back to the mid-1960s,
   when it was attached to IBM's first disk operating system for the
   360).  Some people like to pronounce DOS like "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. n. A class of {virtual reality}
   experiments accessible via the 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 1980s,
   and descendants 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 Great Britain and the British JANET
   network doesn't support {FTP} or remote login via telnet, the
   MUDs became major foci of hackish social interaction there.

   AberMUD 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).  The second wave of MUDs (TinyMUD and variants)
   tended to emphasize social interaction, puzzles, and cooperative
   world-building as opposed to combat and competition.  In 1991, over
   50% of MUD sites are of a third major variety, LPMUD, which
   synthesizes the combat/puzzle aspects of AberMUD and older systems
   with the extensibility of TinyMud. The trend towards greater
   programmability and flexibility will doubtless continue.

   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}, {link-dead},
   {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: the tactic, character, or
   wizard that in his/her view is always unfairly stopping him/her
   from becoming a wizard or beating a favorite MUD, and the MUD
   he/she is writing/going to write because all existing MUDs are so
   dreadful!  See also {wannabee}.

multician: /muhl-ti'shn/ [coined at Honeywell, ca.1970] n.
   Competent user of {Multics}.  Perhaps oddly, no one has ever
   promoted the analogous `Unician'.

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 was {CTSS}).  Honeywell commercialized Multics after
   buying out GE's computer group, but it was never very successful
   (among other things, on some versions one was commonly 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-damaged}.

multitask: n. Often used of humans in the same meaning it has for
   computers, to describe a person doing several things at once (but
   see {thrash}).  The term `multiplex' from communications
   technology (meaning to handle more than one channel at the same
   time) is used similarly.

mumblage: /muhm'bl*j/ n. The topic of one's mumbling (see {mumble}).
   "All that mumblage" is used like "all that stuff" when it is
   not quite clear what it is or how it works, or like "all that
   crap" when "mumble" is being used as an implicit replacement for

mumble: interj. 1. Said when the correct response is either too
   complicated to enunciate or the speaker has not thought it out.
   Often prefaces a longer answer, or indicates a general reluctance
   to get into a big long discussion.  "Don't you think that we could
   improve LISP performance by using a hybrid reference-count
   transaction garbage collector, if the cache is big enough and there
   are some extra cache bits for the microcode to use?"  "Well,
   mumble... I'll have to think about it."  2. Sometimes used as
   an expression of disagreement.  "I think we should buy a
   {VAX}."  "Mumble!"  Common variant: `mumble frotz' (see
   {frotz}; interestingly, one does not say `mumble frobnitz' even
   though `frotz' is short for `frobnitz').  3. Yet another
   metasyntactic variable, like {foo}.  4. When used as a
   question ("Mumble?") means "I didn't understand you."
   5. Sometimes used in `public' contexts on-line as a placefiller for
   things one is barred from giving details about.  For example, a
   poster with pre-released hardware in his machine might say "Yup,
   my machine now has an extra 16M of mem, thanks to the card I'm
   testing for Mumbleco."

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: n. Exploration of security holes of someone else's
   computer for thrills, notoriety, or to annoy the system manager.
   Compare {cracker}.  See also {hacked off}.

munching squares: n. A {display hack} dating back to the PDP-1
   (c.1962, reportedly discovered by Jackson Wright), 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.  The initial value of T is 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...."

mung: /muhng/ alt. `munge' /muhnj/ [in 1960 at MIT, `Mash Until No
   Good"; sometime after that the derivation from the {{recursive
   acronyms}} `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 is a consequence of {Murphy's Law}.  See
   {scribble}, {mangle}, {trash}, {nuke}.  Reports from
   {USENET} suggest that the pronunciation /muhnj/ is now usual in
   speech, but the spelling `mung' is still common in program comments
   (compare the widespread confusion over the proper spelling of
   {kluge}).  3. The kind of beans of which the sprouts are used
   in Chinese food.  (That's their real name!  Mung beans!  Really!)

Murphy's Law: prov. The correct, *original* Murphy's Law reads:
   "If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those
   ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it."  This
   is a principle of defensive design, cited here because it's usually
   given in mutant forms which are less descriptive of the challenges of
   design for lusers.  For example, you don't make a two-pin plug
   symmetrical and then label it `THIS WAY UP'; if it matters which way
   it's plugged in, then you make the design asymmetrical.

   Edward A. Murphy, Jr. was one of the engineers on the rocket-sled
   experiments that were done by the U.S. Air Force in 1949 to test
   human acceleration tolerances.  One experiment involved a set of 16
   accelerometers mounted to different parts of the subject's body.
   There were two ways each sensor could be glued to its mount, and
   somebody methodically installed all 16 the wrong way around.
   Murphy then made the original form of his pronouncement, which the
   test subject (Major John Paul Stapp) quoted at a news conference a
   few days later.

   Within months `Murphy's Law' had spread to various technical
   cultures connected to aerospace engineering.  Before too many years
   had gone by variants had passed into the popular imagination,
   mutating as they went.  Obviously, pop-culture versions in the vein
   of "Anything that can go wrong, will." demonstrate Murphy's Law
   acting on itself!

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 electronic music, and the sort of elaborate
   instrumental jazz/rock that used to be called `progressive' and
   isn't recorded much any more.  The hacker's musical range tends to
   be wide; many can listen with equal appreciation to (say) Talking
   Heads, Yes, Gentle Giant, Spirogyra, Scott Joplin, Tangerine Dream,
   King Sunny Ade, The Pretenders, or 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, eyes,
   or fingers of ordinary mortals.  Frequently in `mutter an
   {incantation}'.  See also {wizard}.

= N =

N: /en/ quant. 1. A large and indeterminate number of objects;
   "There were N bugs in that crock!"; also used in its original
   sense of a variable name.  "This crock has N bugs, as N goes to
   infinity."  2. A variable whose value is inherited from 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 (see
   {great-wall}).  3. `Nth': adj. The ordinal counterpart of N,
   senses #1 and #2.  "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.

nailing jelly: vi. See {like nailing jelly to a tree}.

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 is 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 inexperience; when applied to someone who
   *has* experience, there is a definite implication of stupidity.

NAK: [from the ASCII mnemonic for #b0010101] interj. 1. On-line joke
   answer to {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: [CMU] n. A brief period of time; a takeoff on `nanosecond'.
   "Be with you in a nano" means you really will be free shortly,
   i.e., implies what mainstream people mean by "in a jiffy"
   (whereas the hackish use of "jiffy" is quite different, see

nano-: [in measurement, the next quantifier below {micro-};
   meaning * 10 ^ -9] pref. Smaller than {micro-}, and used in the
   same rather loose and connotative way.  Thus, one has
   {{nanotechnology}} (coined by hacker K. Eric Drexler) by analogy
   with `microtechnology'; and a few machine architectures have a
   `nanocode' level below `microcode'.  Tom Duff at Bell Labs
   has also pointed out that "Pi seconds is a nanocentury".  See
   also {{quantifiers}}, {pico-}, {nanoacre}, {nanobot},
   {nanocomputer}, {nanofortnight}.

nanoacre: /nan'o-ay`kr/ n. An areal unit (about 2 mm square) of
   real estate on a VLSI chip.  The term gets its giggle value from
   the fact that VLSI nanoacres have costs in the same range as real
   acres once one figures in design and fabrication-setup costs.

nanobot: /nan'oh-bot/ n. A robot of microscopic proportions,
   presumably built by means of {{nanotechnology}}.  As yet, only used
   informally (and speculatively!).  Also sometimes called a

nanocomputer: /nan'oh-k*m-pyoo'tr/ n. A computer whose switching
   elements are molecular in size.  Designs for mechanical
   nanocomputers which use single-molecule sliding rods for their
   logic have been proposed.  The controller for a {nanobot} would be
   a nanocomputer.

nanofortnight: [Adelaide University] n. 1 fortnight times 10 ^ -9,
   or about 1.2 ms.  This unit was used largely by students doing
   undergraduate practicals.  See {microfortnight}, {attoparsec}
   and {micro-}.

nanotechnology:: /nan'-oh-tek-no`l*-ji/ n. A hypothetical
   fabrication technology in which objects are designed and built with
   the individual specification and placement of each separate atom.
   The first unequivocal nanofabrication experiments are taking place
   now (1990), for example with the deposition of individual xenon
   atoms on a nickel substrate to spell the logo of a certain very
   large computer company by two of its physicists.  Nanotechnology
   has been a hot topic in the hacker subculture ever since the term
   was coined by K. Eric Drexler in his book `Engines of Creation',
   where he predicted that nanotechnology could give rise to
   replicating assemblers, permitting an exponential growth of
   productivity and personal wealth.  See also {blue goo}, {gray goo},

nastygram: n. 1. A protocol packet or item of email (the latter is
   also called a `letterbomb') that takes advantage of misfeatures
   or security holes on the target system to do untoward things.
   2. Disapproving mail, esp. from a {net.god}, pursuant to a
   violation of {netiquette}.  Compare {shitogram}.  3. A status
   report from an unhappy, and probably picky, customer.  "What'd the
   Germans say in today's nastygram?"  4. [deprecated] An error reply
   by mail from a {daemon}; in particular, a {bounce message}.

Nathan Hale: n. An asterisk (See also {splat}, {{ASCII}}).  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.

nature: n. See {has the X nature}.

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).  See {hack}.

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 derived noun `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

neophilia: /nee`oh-fil'-ee-uh/ n. The trait of being excited and
   pleased by novelty.  Common trait of most hackers, SF fans, and
   members of several other connected leading-edge subcultures,
   including the pro-technology `Whole-Earth' wing of the ecology
   movement, space activists, many members 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 science fiction, {{Music}}, and {{Oriental

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 net.women with circles of on-line admirers),
   `net.lurkers', (see {lurker}), `net.person',
   `net.parties' (a synonym for {boink} sense #2 (q.v.)) and
   many similar constructs.  See also {net.police}.

net.god: /net god/ n. Used to refer to anyone who satisfies some
   combination of the following conditions: has been visible on USENET
   for more than five years, ran one of the original backbone sites,
   moderated an important newsgroup, wrote news software, or knows
   Gene, Mark, Rick, Mel, Henry, Chuq, and Greg personally.  See

net.police: n. (var. `net.cops') 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}.

nethack: /net'hak/ n. See {hack}, sense #8.

netiquette: /net'ee-ket/ or /net'i-ket/ [portmanteau from "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.

netnews: n. 1. The software that makes {USENET} run.  2. The
   content of USENET.  "I read netnews right after my mail most

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 (see {network, the}; this is
   almost always a {bang path} or {{Internet address}}).  Such an
   address is essential if one wants to be to be taken seriously by
   hackers; in particular, persons or organizations that claim to
   understand, work with, sell to, or recruit from among hackers but
   *don't* display net addresses are quietly presumed to be
   clueless poseurs and mentally flushed (see {flush}, sense #4).
   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}, {domainist}.

network meltdown: n. A state of complete network overload; the
   network equivalent of {thrash}ing.  This may be induced by a
   {Chernobyl packet}, See also {broadcast storm}, {kamikaze

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 and commercial
   time-sharing services (such as CompuServe) that gateway 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}).

   In sense #1, `network' is frequently abbreviated to `net'.  "Are
   you on the net?" is a frequent question when hackers first meet
   face to face, and "See you on the net!" is a frequent goodbye.

New Jersey: [primarily Stanford/Silicon Valley] adj. Generically,
   brain-damaged or of poor design.  This refers to the allegedly
   wretched quality 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. from British public-school &
   military 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 regular 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}.

newgroup wars: /n[y]oo'grp wohrz/ [USENET] n. Salvos of dueling
   `newgroup' and `rmgroup' messages sometimes exchanged by
   persons on opposite sides of a dispute over whether a {newsgroup}
   should be created net-wide.  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; e.g. the spinoff of
   `alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork' from `' in
   early 1990, or any number of specialized abuse groups named after
   particularly notorious {flamer}s, e.g. `alt.weemba'.

newline: /n[y]oo'lien/ n. 1. [techspeak, primarily UNIX] The
   ASCII LF character (#b0001010), 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 the term `newline' appears in
   ASCII standards, it never caught on in the general computing world
   before UNIX).  2. More generally, any magic character, character
   sequence, or operation (like Pascal's writeln procedure) required
   to terminate a text record or separate lines.  See {crlf},

NeWS: /nee'wis/, /n[y]oo'is/ or /n[y]ooz/ [acronym; the
   Network Window System] n. The road not taken in window systems, an
   elegant PostScript-based environment that would almost certainly
   have won the standards war with {X} if it hadn't been
   {proprietary} to Sun Microsystems.  There is a lesson here that
   to many software vendors haven't yet heeded.  Many hackers insist
   on the two-syllable pronunciations above as a way of distinguishing
   NeWS from `news' (the {netnews} software).

newsfroup: // [USENET] n. Silly synonym for
   {newsgroup}, originated as a typo but now in regular use on
   USENET's talk.bizarre and other lunatic-fringe groups.

newsgroup: [USENET] n. One of {USENET}'s huge collection of topic
   groups.  Among the best-known are `comp.lang.c' (the C-language
   forum), `comp.arch' (on computer architectures),
   `comp.unix.wizards' (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
   often freeze up.  Some machine tries to access the down one, and
   (getting no response) repeats indefinitely.  This causes it to
   appear dead to some messages.  Then another machine tries to reach
   either the down machine or the pseudo-down machine, and itself
   becomes pseudo-down.  The first machine to discover the down one is
   now trying both to access the down one and respond to the
   pseudo-down one, so it is even harder to reach.  This snowballs
   very fast and soon the entire network of machines is frozen --- the
   user can't even abort the file access that started the problem!
   (ITS partisans are apt to cite this as proof of UNIX's alleged
   bogosity; ITS had a working NFS-like shared file system with none
   of these problems in the early 1970s.  Of course, ITS only had
   6-character filenames and no subdirectories, so it was solving a
   simpler problem.)  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.  An IRQ 7 on the PDP-11 or
   680[01234]0; the NMI line on an 80{88|[1234]86}.  Unlike a
   {priority interrupt} (which might be ignored, although unlikely),
   an NMI is *never* ignored.

no-op: /noh-op/ alt. NOP (nop) [no operation] n. 1. (also v.) A
   machine instruction that does nothing (sometimes used in
   assembler-level programming as filler for data or patch areas, or
   to overwrite code to be removed in binaries).  See also {JFCL}.
   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."

noddy: [Great Britain; from the children's books] adj. 1. 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.  May be used of real
   hardware or software to imply that it isn't worth using.  "This
   editor's a bit noddy."  2. A program that is more or less
   instant to produce.  In this use, the term does not necessarily
   connote uselessness, but describes a {hack} sufficiently trivial
   that it can be written and debugged while carrying on (and during
   the space of) a normal conversation.  "I'll just throw
   together a noddy {awk} script to convert {crlf}s into
   {newline}s."  See {toy program}.

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 resistance 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] 1. 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 off from its
   expected course.  2. 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."  In
   this context, `go nonlinear' connotes `blow up out of proportion'
   (proportion connotes linearity).

nontrivial: adj. Requiring real thought or significant computing
   power.  Often used as an understated way of saying that a problem
   is quite difficult or impractical, or even entirely unsolvable
   ("Proving P=NP is nontrivial.").  The preferred emphatic form is
   `decidedly nontrivial'.  See {trivial}, {uninteresting},

notwork: n. A network, when it's acting {flaky} or is {down}.
   Compare {nyetwork}.  Orig. referred to a particular period of
   flakiness on IBM's VNET corporate network, ca.1988.

NP-: /en pee/ pref. Extremely.  Used to modify adjectives
   describing a level or quality of difficulty; the connotation is
   often `more so than it should be' (NP-complete problems all seem to
   be very hard, but so far no one has found a good a-priori reason
   that they should be.)  "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 that
   can be completed by a nondeterministic finite state machine in an
   amount of time that is a polynomial function of the size of the

NSA line eater: n. The NSA (National Security Agency) trawling
   program sometimes assumed to be reading {USENET} for the U.S.
   Government's spooks.  Most hackers describe it as a mythical beast,
   but some believe it actually exists, more aren't sure, and many
   believe in acting as though it exists just in case.  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 inserts a bunch
   of insidious anarcho-verbiage into your edited text.

   There's a mainstream variant of this myth involving a `Trunk Line
   Monitor', which supposedly used speech recognition to extract words
   from telephone trunks.  This one was making the rounds in the late
   1970s, spread by people who had no idea of then-current technology
   or the storage, signal-processing, or speech recognition needs of
   such a project.  On the basis of mass-storage costs alone it would
   have been cheaper to hire 50 high-school students and just let them
   listen in.  Speech recognition technology can't do this job even
   now (1991), and almost certainly won't in this millennium, either.
   The peak of silliness came with a letter to an alternative paper in
   New Haven, laying out the factoids of this Big Brotherly affair.
   The letter writer then revealed his actual agenda by offering ---
   at an amazing low price, just this once, we take VISA and
   MasterCard --- a scrambler, guaranteed to daunt the Trunk Trawler,
   and presumably allowing the would-be Baader-Meinhof gangs of the
   world to get on with their business.

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.  Often used to express a final verdict.  "What do
   you want me to do with that 80-meg {wallpaper} file?"  "Nuke
   it."  3. Used of processes as well as files; nuke is a frequent
   verbal alias for `kill -9' on UNIX.  4. On IBM PCs, a bug
   that results in {fandango on core} can trash the operating
   system, including the FAT (the in-core copy of the disk block
   chaining information).  This can utterly scramble attached disks,
   which are then said to have been `nuked'.  This term is also
   used of analogous lossages on Macintoshes and other micros without
   memory protection.

null device: [techspeak] n. A {logical} input/output device
   connected to the {bit bucket}; when you write to it nothing
   happens, when you read from it you see an end-of-file condition.
   Useful for discarding unwanted output or using interactive programs
   in a {batch} mode.  See {/dev/null}.

number-crunching: n. Computations of a numerical nature, esp.
   those that make extensive use of floating-point numbers.  The only
   thing {Fortrash} is good for.  This term is in widespread
   informal use outside hackerom and even in mainstream slang, but is
   cited here to record some additional hackish connotations: namely,
   that the computations are mindless and involve massive use of
   {brute force}.  This is not always {evil}, esp. if it involves
   ray tracing or fractals or some other use that makes {pretty
   pictures}, esp. if such pictures can be used as {wallpaper}.  See
   also {crunch}.

numbers: [scientific computation] n. Output of a computation that
   may not be significant results, 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' (e.g. when transferring data from a
   {little-endian} to a {big-endian}, or vice-versa).  See also
   {middle-endian}, {swab}, and {bytesexual}.

nybble: /nib'l/ (alt. `nibble') [from v. `nibble' by
   analogy with `bite' => `byte'] n. Four bits; one
   {hex} digit; a half-byte.  Though `byte' is now accepted
   technical jargon found in dictionaries, this useful relative is
   still jargon.  Compare {{byte}}, {crumb}, {tayste},
   {dynner}, see also {bit}, {nickle}, {deckle}.  Apparently
   this spelling is uncommon in Commonwealth Hackish, as British
   orthography suggests the pronunciation /nie'bl/.

nyetwork: [from Russian `nyet' = no] n. A network, when it's
   acting {flaky} or is {down}.  Compare {notwork}.

= O =

Ob-: /ob/ pref. Obligatory.  A piece of {netiquette} that
   acknowledges the author has been straying from the newsgroup's
   charter topic.  For example, if a posting in has nothing
   particularly to do with sex, the author may append `ObSex' (or
   `Obsex') and toss off a question or vignette about some unusual
   erotic act.  It is a sign of great winnitude when your Obs are more
   interesting than most other peoples' whole postings.

Obfuscated C Contest: n. Annual contest run since 1984 over USENET
   by Landon Curt Noll and friends.  The overall winner is whoever
   produces the most unreadable, creative, and bizarre (but 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)";

   Here's another good one:

      * Program to compute an approximation of pi
      *  by Brian Westley, 1988

     #define _ -F<00||--F-OO--;
     int F=00,OO=00;

   See also {hello, world}.

Objectionable-C: n. Hackish take on "Objective-C", the name of an
   object-oriented dialect of C in competition with the more
   well-known C++ (it is used to write native applications on the NeXT
   machine).  Objectionable-C uses a Smalltalk-like syntax, but lacks
   the flexibility of Smalltalk method calls, and (like many such
   efforts) comes frustratingly close to attaining the {Right Thing}
   without actually doing so.

obscure: adj. Used in an exaggeration of its normal meaning, to
   imply total incomprehensibility.  "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.  The construction
   `obscure in the extreme' is the preferred emphatic form.

octal forty: /ok'tl for'tee/ n. Hackish way of saying "I'm drawing
   a blank."  Octal 40 is the {{ASCII}} space character, #b0100000; by
   an odd coincidence, {hex} 40 (#b01000000) is the {{EBCDIC}} space
   character.  See {wall}.

off the trolley: adj. Describes the behavior of a program that
   malfunctions and goes catatonic, but doesn't actually {crash} or
   abort.  See {glitch}, {bug}, {deep space}.

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 something to the person next to the one who
   should have gotten it.  Often confounded with {fencepost error},
   which is properly a particular subtype of it.

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 25 years; frequently appears in {sig block}s 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 {K&R}, the
   sacred text describing {Classic C}.

one bell system (it works): This was the output from the old UNIX
   V6 `1' command.  The `1' command then did a random number roll that
   gave it a one-in-ten chance of recursively executing itself.

one-line fix: n. Used (often sarcastically) 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.  A similar amusement was practiced among {TECO} hackers.
   Ken Iverson, the inventor of APL, has been credited with the
   following one-liner: given a number N, it produces a list of the
   prime numbers from 1 to N.  It looks like this:

	(2 = 0 +.= T o.| T) / T <- iN

   where `o' is the APL null character, the assignment arrow is a
   single character, and `i' represents the APL iota.

ooblick: /oo'blik/ [from Dr. Seuss's `Bartholomew and the
   Oobleck'] n. A bizarre semi-liquid sludge made from cornstarch and
   water.  Enjoyed among hackers who make batches during 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.

   Here's a field-tested ooblick recipe contributed by GLS:

     1 cup cornstarch
     1 cup baking soda
     3/4 cup water
     N drops of food coloring

   This recipe isn't quite as non-Newtonian as a pure cornstarch
   ooblick, but has an appropriately slimy feel.

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 defun foo, open
   eks close, open, plus eks one, close close."

open switch: [IBM, prob. from railroading] n. An unresolved
   question, issue, or problem.

operating system:: [techspeak] 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 an operating system
   provides and its general design philosophy exert an extremely
   strong influence on programming style and the technical cultures
   that grows up around its host machines.  Hacker folklore has been
   shaped primarily by the UNIX, ITS, TOPS-10, TOPS-20/TWENEX, WAITS,
   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 {{book titles}}.

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}, {laser
   chicken}, {Yu-Shiang Whole Fish}.  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 PDP-11 or 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 others).  Also used
   in comments 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. n. obs. On ITS, an output spy.  See
   Appendix A.

OS/2: /oh ess too/ n. The anointed successor to MS-DOS for
   Intel-286 and 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 --- in
   unary.  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 IBM; on 29
   January they claimed the media had got the story wrong, but were
   vague about how.  It looks as though OS/2 is dead.  See
   {vaporware}, {monstrosity}, {cretinous}, {second-system

out-of-band: [from telecommunications and network theory] adj. In
   software, describes values of a function which are not in its
   `natural' range of return values, but are rather signals that some
   kind of exception has occurred.  Many C functions, for example,
   return either a nonnegative integral value or an out-of-band `-1' to
   indicate failure.  Compare {hidden flag}.

overflow bit: n. 1. [techspeak] On some processors, an attempt to
   calculate a result too large for a register to hold causes a
   particular {flag} called an {overflow bit} to be set.
   2. Hackers use the term of human thought too.  "Well, the {{Ada}}
   description was {baroque} all right, but I could hack it OK until
   they got to the exception handling...that set my overflow bit."
   3. The hypothetical bit that will be set if a hacker doesn't get to
   make a trip to the Room Of Porcelain Fixtures: "I'd better process
   an internal interrupt before the overflow bit gets set".

overrun: n. 1. [techspeak] Term for a frequent consequence of data
   arriving faster than it can be consumed, esp. in serial line
   communications.  For example, at 9600 baud there is almost exactly
   one character per millisecond, so if your {silo} can hold only
   two characters and the machine takes longer than 2 ms to get to
   service the interrupt at least one character will be lost.  2. Also
   applied to non-serial-I/O communications. "I forgot to pay my
   electric bill due to mail overrun." "Sorry, I got four phone
   calls in three minutes last night and lost your message to
   overrun."  When {thrash}ing at tasks, the next person to make a
   request might be told "Overrun!"  3. More loosely, may refer to a
   {buffer overflow} not necessarily related to processing time (as
   in {overrun screw}).

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}
   --- often resulting in {heisenbug}s of the most diabolical
   subtlety.  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 often
   a core dump on the next operation to use `stdio(3)' or
   `malloc(3)' itself.  See {spam}, {overrun}; see also
   {memory leak}, {aliasing bug}, {precedence lossage},
   {fandango on core}, {secondary damage}.

= P =

P.O.D.: /pee-oh-dee/ Acronym for `Piece Of Data' (as opposed to a
   code section). Usage: pedantic and rare.  See also {pod}.

padded cell: n. Where you put {luser}s 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. 1. 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}.
   2. Syn. `swap in'; see {swap}.

page out: [MIT] vi. 1. 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}.  2. Syn. `swap out'; see {swap}.

pain in the net: n. A {flamer}.

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 a "Paper-Net:" header just
   before the sender's postal address; common variants of this are
   "Papernet" and "P-Net".  Compare {voice-net}, {snail-mail}.

param: /p*-ram'/ n. Shorthand for `parameter'.  See also
   {parm}; Compare {arg}, {var}.

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] 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'.

Parkinson's Law of Data: prov. "Data expands to fill the space
   available for storage"; buying more memory encourages the use of
   more memory-intensive techniques.  It has been observed over the
   last ten years that the memory usage of evolving systems tends to
   double roughly once every 18 months.  Fortunately, memory density
   available for constant dollars tends to double about once every
   twelve months (see {Moore's Law}); unfortunately, the laws of
   physics guarantee that this cannot be expected to continue

parm: /parm/ n. Further-compressed form of {param}.  This term
   is an IBMism, and written use is almost unknown outside IBM shops;
   spoken /parm/ is more widely distributed, but the synonym {arg}
   is favored among hackers.  Compare {arg}, {var}.

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 languages 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
   Programming Language'.  Part of his discussion 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 separate compilation,
     Fortran-like COMMON, string data types, internal static variables,
     initialization, octal numbers, bit operators, etc., all add to the
     utility of the language for one group but destroy its portability to

     I feel that it is a mistake to use Pascal for anything much beyond its
     original target.  In its pure form, Pascal is a toy language, suitable
     for teaching but not for real programming.

   Pascal has since been almost entirely displaced (by {C}) from the
   niches it had acquired in serious applications and systems
   programming, but retains some popularity as a hobbyist language in
   the MS-DOS and Macintosh worlds.

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.  Compare {one-line
   fix}.  2. vt. To insert a patch into a piece of code.  3. [in
   the UNIX world] n. A {diff} (sense #2).  4. A set of
   modifications to binaries to be applied by a patching program.  IBM
   operating systems often receive updates to the operating system in
   the form of absolute hexadecimal patches.  If you have modified
   your OS, you have to disassemble these back to the source.  The
   patches might later be corrected by other patches on top of them
   (it was said that the patches "grow scar tissue").  The result
   was often a convoluted {patch space} and headaches galore.

   There is a classic story of a {tiger team} penetrating a secure
   military computer which illustrates the danger inherent in binary
   patches (or, indeed, any that you can't inspect and examine
   beforehand).  They couldn't find any trapdoors or way to penetrate
   security of IBM's OS, so they made a site visit to an IBM office
   (remember, these were official military types who were purportedly
   on official business), swiped some IBM stationery, and created a
   fake patch.  The patch was actually the trapdoor they needed.  The
   patch was distributed at about the right time for an IBM patch, had
   official stationery and all accompanying documentation, and was
   dutifully installed.  The installation manager very shortly
   thereafter learned something about proper procedures....

patch space: n. An unused block of bits left in a binary so that it
   can later be modified by insertion of machine-language instructions
   there (typically, the superseded code is replaced by a jump or call
   to the patched area).  In 1991, widening use of HLLs has made this
   term rare and now primarily historical outside IBM shops.  See
   {patch} (sense #4), {zap} (sense #4).

path: n. 1. A {bang path} or explicitly routed {{Internet
   address}}; 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;
   the latter is sometimes called a `relative path'). This is also
   called a `pathname'.  3. [UNIX & MS-DOS] The `search
   path', an environment variable specifying the directories in which
   the {shell} (COMMAND.COM, under MS-DOS) should look for commands.
   Other, similar constructs abound under UNIX (for example, the C
   preprocessor has a `search path' it uses in looking for
   `#include' files.

pathological: adj. 1. [scientific computation] Used of a data set
   that is grossly atypical of normal expected input, esp. one which
   exposes a weakness or bug in whatever algorithm one is using.  An
   algorithm that can be broken by pathological inputs may still be
   useful if such inputs are very unlikely to occur in practice.
   2. When used of test input, implies that it was purposefully
   engineered as a worst case.  The implication in both senses is that
   the data is spectacularly ill-conditioned or that someone had to
   explicitly set out to break the algorithm in order to come up with
   such a crazy example.  2. Also said of an unlikely collection of
   circumstances.  "If the network is down and comes up halfway
   through the execution of that command by root, the system might
   just crash."  "Yes, but that's a pathological case."  Often used
   to dismiss the case from discussion, with the implication that the
   consequences are acceptable given they will happen so infrequently
   (or not at all) that their is no justification for going to extra
   work to handle that case (see sense #1).

payware: n. Commercial software.  Oppose {shareware} or

PBD: [abbrev. of `Programmer Brain Damage'] n. Applied to bug reports
   revealing places where the program was obviously broken due to an
   incompetent or short-sighted programmer.  Compare {UBD}; see also

PC-ism: n. A piece of code or coding technique that takes advantage
   of the unprotected single-tasking environment in IBM PCs and the
   like, e.g., by busy-waiting on a hardware register, direct diddling
   of screen memory, or using hard timing loops.  Compare
   {ill-behaved}, {vaxism}, {unixism}.  Also, `pc-ware' n., a program
   full of PC-isms on a machine with a more capable operating system.

PD: /pee-dee/ adj. Common abbreviation for "public domain", applied
   to software distributed over {USENET} and from Internet archive
   sites.  Much of this software is not in fact "public domain" in
   the legal sense but travels under various copyrights granting
   reproduction and use rights to anyone who can {snarf} a copy.  See

pdl: /pid'l/ or /puhd'l/ [acronym for Push Down List] 1. In ITS
   days, the preferred MITism for {stack}.  2. Dave Lebling, one
   of the co-authors 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.  See also {{flowchart}}.

PDP-10: [Programmed Data Processor model 10] n. The machine that
   made timesharing real.  Looms large in hacker folklore due to early
   adoption in the mid-1970s 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 VAX machines
   (descendants of the PDP-11) and dropped from DEC's line in the
   early 1980s, and in mid-1991 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.  These 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 encouraged 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.  See
   also Appendix B.

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 insert an arbitrary
   string argument] 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 egotistical
   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 (, author of `patch(1)' and
   `rn(1)') and distributed over USENET.  Superficially resembles
   `awk(1)', but is much hairier (see {awk}).  UNIX sysadmins,
   who are almost always incorrigible hackers, increasingly consider
   it one of the {languages of choice}.  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 OED.

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 hand translation.  The
   implication is that the compiler is actually trying to optimize the
   program, but through excessive cleverness is doing the opposite.  A
   few pessimizing compilers have been written on purpose, however, as
   pranks or burlesques.

peta-: /pe't*/ pref. See {{quantifiers}}.

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 (as in old-style ASCII) instead of
   underscore and caret, placed the unshifted alphabet at positions
   65--90, and put the shifted alphabet at positions
   193--218, and also added 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 and/or 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 there was 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.  GLS 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 both the precise date and time and the length of the
   phase specification 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 one of the timestamp lines that exhibited this bug, but
   the typesetter `corrected' it.  This has since been described as
   the phase-of-the-moon-bug bug.

phreaking: [from "phone phreak"] n. 1. The art and science of
   cracking the phone network (so as, for example, to make free
   long-distance calls).  2. By extension, security-cracking in any
   other context (especially, but not exclusively, on communications

   At one time phreaking was a semi-respectable activity among
   hackers; there was a gentleman's agreement that phreaking as an
   intellectual game and a form of exploration was O.K., but serious
   theft of services was taboo.  There was significant crossover
   between the hacker community and the hard-core phone phreaks who
   ran semi-underground networks of their own like the legendary `TAP
   Newsletter'.  This ethos began to break down in the mid-1980s as
   wider dissemination of the techniques put them in the hands of less
   responsible phreaks.  Around the same time, changes 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 paraphernalia of the great phreaks of yore.

pico-: [in measurement, a quantifier meaning `* 10 ^ -12']
   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 should be
   instantly recognizable to any hacker.  See also {{quantifiers}},

pig, run like a: v. To run very slowly on given hardware, said of
   software.  Distinct from {hog}.

pilot error: [Sun; from aviation] n. A user's misconfiguration or
   misuse of a piece of software, producing apparently buglike results
   (compare {UBD}).  "Joe Luser reported a bug in sendmail that
   causes it to generate bogus headers."  "That's not a bug, that's
   pilot error.  His is hosed."

ping: /ping/ [from TCP/IP terminology, prob. originally contrived
   to match the submariners' term for a sonar pulse.]  1. n.
   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. vt. To verify the presence of.  3. vt. 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. vt. To send a message to all members of a {mailing list}
   requesting an {ACK} (in order to verify that everybody's
   addresses are reachable).  "We haven't heard much of anything from
   Geoff, but he did respond with an ACK both times I pinged

   The funniest use of `ping' to date was described in January 1991 by
   Steve Hayman on the USENET group  He was trying to
   isolate a faulty cable segment on a TCP/IP Ethernet hooked up to a
   NeXT machine, and got tired of having to run back to his console
   after each cabling tweak 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 for an echo,
   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, ferreted 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.  See also {{book titles}}.

PIP: /pip/ [Peripheral Interchange Program] vt.,obs. To copy; from
   the program PIP on CP/M, RSX-11, RSTS/E and OS/8 (derived from a
   utility on the PDP-6) that was used for file copying (and in OS/8
   and RT-11 for just about every other file operation you might want
   to do).  It is said that when the program was originated during the
   development of the PDP-6 in 1963 it was 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 called
   {plumbing}); this is much less effort than writing C every time,
   and the capability is considered one of UNIX's major winning

pistol: [IBM] n. A tool that makes it all too easy for you to
   shoot yourself in the foot.  "UNIX `rm *' makes such a nice

pizza 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.

   2 meg single-platter removable disk packs used to be called pizzas,
   and the huge drive they were stuck into was referred to as a pizza
   oven.  It's an index of progress that in the old days just the disk
   was pizza-sized, while now the entire computer is.

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}; compare {tea, ISO
   standard cup of}.

plain-ASCII: Syn. {flat-ASCII}.

plan file: [UNIX] n. On systems that support {finger}, the
   `.plan' file in a user's home directory is displayed when he or she
   is fingered.  This feature was originally intended to be used to
   keep potential fingerers apprised of one's location and near-future
   plans, but has been turned almost universally to humorous and
   self-expressive purposes (like a {sig block}).  See {Hacking X
   for Y}.

platinum-iridium: adj. Standard, against which all others of the
   same category are measured.  Usage: silly.  The notion is that one
   of whatever it is has actually been cast in platinum-iridium alloy
   and placed in the vault beside the Standard Kilogram at the
   International Bureau of Weights and Measures near Paris.  (From
   1889 to 1960, the meter was defined to be the distance between two
   scratches in a platinum-iridium bar kept in the same place.  From
   1960 to 1984 it was defined to be 1650763.73 wavelengths of the
   orange-red line of krypton-86 propagating in a vacuum, but it is
   now defined as the length of the path traveled by light in a vacuum
   in the time interval of 1/299,792,458 of a second.  The kilogram is
   now the only unit of measure officially defined in terms of a
   unique artifact.)  "This garbage-collection algorithm has been
   tested against the platinum-iridium cons cell in Paris."  Compare

playpen: [IBM] n. A room where programmers work.  Compare {salt

playte: /playt/ 16 bits, by analogy with {nybble} and {{byte}}.  Usage:
   rare and extremely silly.  See also {dynner} and {crumb}.

plingnet: /pling'net/ n. Syn. {UUCPNET}.  Also see
   {{Commonwealth Hackish}}, which uses `pling' for `bang' (as in
   {bang path}).

plokta: /plok'tuh/ [Acronym for "Press Lots Of Keys To Abort"] v.
   To press random keys in an attempt to get some response from the
   system.  One might plokta when the abort procedure for a program is
   not known, or after the system hangs to figure out if the system is
   just sluggish or really hung.  Plokta can also be used while trying
   to figure out any unknown key sequence for a particular operation.
   When someone goes into `plokta mode' they usualy place both hands
   flat on the keyboard and press down hoping for some useful

plonk: [USENET; possibly influenced by British slang `plonk' for
   cheap booze] 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(1)' with a little plumbing."

PM: /pee em/ 1. v. (from `preventive maintenance') 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.  See also
   {provocative maintenance}.

pod: [allegedly from acronym POD for `Prince Of Darkness'] n. A
   Diablo 630 (or, latterly, any letter-quality impact printer).  From
   the DEC-10 PODTYPE program used to feed formatted text to same.
   See also {P.O.D.}

poke: n.,vt. See {peek}.

poll: v.,n. 1. [techspeak] 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 repeatedly call or
   check with someone, e.g., "I keep polling him, but he's not
   answering his phone; he must be swapped out."  3. To ask.
   "Lunch?  I poll for a takeout order daily."

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'.

POM: /pee-oh-em/ n. Common acronym for {phase of the moon}.
   Usage: usually used in the phrase `POM-dependent' which means

pop: /pop/ [from the operation that removes the top of a stack,
   and the fact that procedure return addresses are saved on the
   stack] (also capitalized `POP') 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. When a discussion gets to too deep a level of detail such that
   the main point of the discussion is being lost, someone will shout
   "Pop!" meaning "Get back up to a higher level!".  The shout is
   frequently accompanied by an upthrust arm with a finger pointing to
   the ceiling.

POPJ: /pop'jay/ [from a {PDP-10} return-from-subroutine
   instruction] n.v. To return from a digression.  By verb doubling,
   "Popj, popj" means roughly, "Now let's see, where were we?"
   See {RTI}.

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.  For
   example, if one's character name is Firechild, one might type `:
   begins hacking on the nearest terminal' to broadcast a message that
   says `Firechild begins hacking on the nearest terminal'.

post: v. To send a message to a {mailing list} or {newsgroup}.
   Distinguished in context from `mail'; one might ask, for
   example, "Are you going to post the patch or mail it to known

posting: n. Noun corresp. to v. {post} (but note that the
   {post} 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.

postmaster: n. The email contact and maintenance person at a site
   connected to the Internet or UUCPNET.  Often, but not always, the
   same as the {admin}.  It is conventional for each machine to have
   a `postmaster' address that is aliased to this person.

pound on: vt.  Syn. {bang on}.

power cycle: vt. (also, `cycle power' or just `cycle') To
   power off a machine and then power it on immediately, with the
   intention of clearing some kind of {hung} or {gronk}ed state.
   Syn. {120 reset}; see also {Big Red Switch}.  Compare {vulcan
   nerve pinch}, {bounce}, {boot}, and see the AI Koan in Appendix
   A about Tom Knight and the novice.

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 `>>' (for this
   reason, experienced C programmers deliberately forget the
   language's {baroque} precedence hierarchy and parenthesize
   defensively).  Can always be avoided by suitable use of
   parentheses.  {LISP} fans enjoy pointing out that this can't
   happen in *their* favorite language, which eschews precedence
   entirely, requiring one to use explicit parentheses everywhere.
   See {aliasing bug}, {memory leak}, {smash the stack},
   {fandango on core}, {overrun screw}.

prepend: /pree`pend'/ [by analogy with `append'] vt. To prefix.
   Like `append', but (unlike `prefix' or `suffix' as a
   verb) the direct object is always the thing being added and not the
   original word (character string, etc).  No, this is *not*
   standard English, yet!

pretty pictures: n. [scientific computation] The next step up from
   {numbers}.  Interesting graphical output from a program which may
   not have any sensible relationship to the system the program is
   intended to model.  Good for showing to {management}.

prettyprint: /prit'ee-print/ (alt. `pretty-print') 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.

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 in order to customize
   the program's behavior.  Used to avoid {hardcoded} choices.
   2. [techspeak] A report on the amounts of time spent in each
   routine of a program, used to find and {tune} away the {hot
   spot}s in it.  This sense is often verbed.  Some profiling modes
   report units other than time (such as call counts) and/or at
   granularities other than per-routine, but the idea is similar.

proglet: [Britain] n. A short extempore program written to
   meet an immediate, transient need.  Often written in BASIC,
   rarely more than a dozen lines long, and contains no subroutines.
   The largest amount of code that can be written off the top of one's
   head that does not need any editing and that runs correctly the
   first time.  Compare {toy program}, {one-liner wars}.

program: n. 1. A magic spell cast over a computer allowing it to
   turn one's input into error messages.  2. An exercise in
   experimental epistemology.  3. A form of art, ostensibly intended
   for the instruction of computers, which is nevertheless almost
   inevitably a failure if other programmers can't understand 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

programming: n. 1. In folklore, this was classically defined as
   "the art of debugging a blank sheet of paper".  Following the
   rise of on-line editing this should probably be recast as "The art
   of debugging an empty source file."  2. n. A pastime similar to
   banging one's head against a wall, but with fewer opportunities for
   reward.  3. n. The most fun you can have with your clothes on
   (although clothes are not mandatory).

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 (originally invented by
   old-time fan Ray Faraday Nelson) 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 (that's assuming it wasn't too expensive in the first place).

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 that allow different machines
   or pieces of software to coordinate with each other without
   ambiguity.  So for example, it does include niceties about the
   proper form for addressing packets on a network or the order in
   which one should use the forks in the Dining Philosophers Problem.
   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}.

provocative maintenance: [common ironic mutation of `preventive
   maintenance'] n. Actions performed upon a machine at regularly
   scheduled intervals to insure that the system remains in a usable
   state.  So called because its all too frequently performed by a
   {field servoid} who doesn't know what he is doing; this results
   in the machine remaining in an *un*usable state for an
   indeterminate amount of time.

prowler: [UNIX] n. A {daemon} 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 (compare {Dissociated Press}).  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 forward to
   publicly 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 a 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.  It's his
   funeral....  See also {lobotomy}.

psychedelicware: /sie`k*-del'-ik-weir/ [Great Britain] n. Syn.
   {display hack}.  See also {smoking clover}.

psyton: [TMRC] n. Elementary particle carrying the sinister force.
   The probability of a process losing is proportional to the number
   of psytons falling on it.  [This term appears to have been largely
   superseded by {bogon} -- ESR]

pubic directory: [NYU] (also `pube directory' /pyoob/) n. The
   `pub' (public) directory on a machine that allows {FTP}
   access.  So called because it is the default location for {SEX}
   (sense #1).  "I'll have the source in the /pyoob/ directory by

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 is usually
   packaged with the encoder.  Oppose {huff}.

punched card:: alt. `punch card' [techspeak] n.obs. The
   signature medium of computing's {Stone Age}, now obsolescent
   outside of some 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 90 mm by 215 mm, 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}, {card walloper}.

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.  3. A design decision to defer solving a
   problem, typically because one cannot define what is desirable
   sufficiently well to frame an algorithmic solution.  "No way to
   know what the right form to to dump the graph in is --- we'll punt
   that for now."  4. To hand a tricky implementation problem off
   to some other section of the design.  "It's too hard to get the
   compiler to do that; let's punt to the runtime system."

Purple Book: n. The `System V Interface Definition'.  The covers
   of the first editions were an amazingly nauseating shade of
   off-lavender.  See also {{book titles}}.

push: [from the 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/ (the latter 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, it means the Damoclean list lof things hanging over
   his head has grown longer and heavier yet.  This may also imply
   that he will deal with it *before* other pending items;
   otherwise he might say the thing was "added to his queue".
   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. A four-pack of anything (compare {hex}, sense
   #2).  3. 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. 1. On an MIT {space-cadet keyboard},
   use of all four of the shifting keys control, meta, hyper, and
   super while typing a character key.  2. On a Stanford or MIT
   keyboard in {raw mode}, use of four shift keys while typing a
   fifth character, where the four shift keys are the control and meta
   keys on *both* sides of the keyboard.  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

   Quadruple-bucky combinations were very seldom used in practice,
   because when one invented a new command one usually assigned it to
   some character that was 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 the tapes while
   whistling Beethoven's 5th Symphony is quadruple-bucky-cokebottle."
   See {double bucky}, {bucky bits}, {cokebottle}.

quantifiers:: n. In techspeak and jargon, the standard metric
   prefixes used in scientific measurement have dual uses.  With units
   of time or things that come in powers of 10, such as money, they
   retain their usual meanings of multiplication by powers of
   `1000 = 10 ^ 3'.  But when used with bytes or other things
   that naturally come in powers of 2, they usually denote
   multiplication by powers of `1024 = 2 ^ 10'.  Here are the
   magnifying prefixes in jargon use:

     prefix  decimal           binary
     kilo-   1000^1   1024^1 = 2^10 = 1,024
     mega-   1000^2   1024^2 = 2^20 = 1,048,576
     giga-   1000^3   1024^3 = 2^30 = 1,073,741,824
     tera-   1000^4   1024^4 = 2^40 = 1,099,511,627,776
     peta-   1000^5   1024^5 = 2^50 = 1,125,899,906,842,624
     exa-    1000^6   1024^6 = 2^60 = 1,152,921,504,606,846,976

   Here are the fractional prefixes:

     {prefix  decimal     jargon usage}
     milli-  1000^-1     (not used in jargon)
     micro-	1000^-2     small or human-scale (see {micro-})
     nano-   1000^-3     even smaller (see {nano-})
     pico-   1000^-4     even smaller yet (see {pico-})
     femto-  1000^-5     (not used in jargon -- yet)
     femto-  1000^-6     (not used in jargon -- yet)

   The binary peta- and exa- loadings are not yet in common use, and
   the prefix milli- denoting multiplication by `1000^-1' has
   always been rare.  See the entries on {micro-}, {pico-}, and
   {nano-} for more information on connotative jargon use of these
   terms.  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 jargon loadings, though it is easy to predict what
   those will be once computing technology enters the required realms
   of magnitude (however, see {attoparsec}).

   There are, of course, some standard unit prefixes for powers of ten.  In
   the following table, the `decimal prefix' column is the
   international standard suffix for the appropriate power of ten; the
   second column lists jargon abbreviations and words for the
   corresponding power of 2.  The B-suffixed forms are commonly used
   for byte quantities; the words `meg' and `gig' are nouns which may
   (but do not always) pluralize with `s'.

     prefix   decimal   binary suffixes & words    pronunciation
     kilo-       k              K, KB,                 /kay/
     mega-       M              M, MB, meg             /meg/
     giga-       G              G, GB, gig           /gig/,/jig/

   Confusingly, hackers often use K as though it were a suffix or
   numeric multiplier rather than a prefix; thus "2K dollars".

   K, M, and G used alone refer to quantities of bytes; thus, 64G is
   64 gigabytes and `a K' is a kilobyte (compare mainstream use of `a
   G' as short for `a grand', that is $1000).  Whether one pronounces
   `gig' with hard or soft `g' depends on what one thinks the proper
   pronunciation of `giga-' is.

   Confusion of 1000 and 1024 (or other powers of 2 and 10 close in
   magnitude), for example, describing memory in units of 500K or 524K
   instead of 512K, is a sure sign of the {marketroid}.

quantum bogodynamics: /kwon'tm boh`goh-die-nam'iks/ n. A theory
   that 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
   also cause them to emit secondary bogons); 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.  This in turn 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 the coin was considered equal to a dollar, so
   each of these `bits' was considered worth 12.5 cents.  Syn.
   {tayste}, {crumb}, {quad}.  Usage: rare.  See also
   {nickle}, {nybble}, {{byte}}, {dynner}.

ques: /kwess/ 1. n. The question mark character (`?', ASCII
   #b0111111).  2. interj.  What?  Also frequently verb-doubled as
   "Ques ques?"  See {wall}.

quick and dirty: adj. Describes 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}.

quote chapter and verse: [by analogy with the mainstream phrase] v.
   To reproduce a relevant excerpt from an appropriate {bible}.
   "I don't care if rn gets it wrong; `Followup-To: poster' is 
   explicitly permitted by RFC1036.  I'll quote chapter and
   verse if you don't believe me."

quux: /kwuhks/ 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, using up all the
   `u' letters in Scrabble in one swell foop).] 1. Originally, a
   metasyntactic variable 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.  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. In some circles, quux is used as a punning opposite of `crux'.
   "Ah, that's the quux of the matter!" implies that the point is
   *not* crucial (compare {tip of the ice-cube}).  5. quuxy:
   adj. Of or pertaining to a quux.

qux: /kwuhks/ The fourth of the standard metasyntactic variables,
   after {baz} and before the quu(u...)x series.  See {foo},
   {bar}, {baz}, {quux}.  Note that this appears to be a recent
   mutation from {quux}, and that many versions of the standard
   series just run {foo}, {bar}, {baz}, {quux}, ....

QWERTY: /kwer'tee/ [from the keycaps at the upper left] adj.
   Pertaining to a standard English-language typewriter keyboard
   (sometimes called the Sholes keyboard after its inventor), as
   opposed to Dvorak or foreign-language layouts or a {space-cadet
   keyboard} or APL keyboard.

   Historical note: the QWERTY layout (one of the worst disasters in
   the history of human-factors design) was actually designed to be
   deliberately slow!  Sholes tried to put common digraphs far apart,
   because fast typing of near-adjacent keys jammed up early
   mechanical typewriters.  He did a poor job; `th', `er' and other
   common digraphs were close enough together to induce frequent jams.
   The QWERTY layout is therefore more than just {cretinous}, it is
   {bogus} in its very cretinosity!

= 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
   that include both an {incantation} or two and physical activity
   or motion.  Compare {magic}, {voodoo programming}, {black

random: adj. 1. Unpredictable (closest to mathematical definition);
   weird.  "The system's been behaving pretty randomly."
   2. Assorted; undistinguished.  "Who was at the conference?"
   "Just a bunch of random business types."  3. (pejorative)
   Frivolous; unproductive; undirected.  "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. In no particular order, though deterministic.  "The I/O
   channels are in a pool, and when a file is opened one is chosen
   randomly."  6. Arbitrary.  "It generates a random name for the
   scratch file."  7. 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 redundantly uses seven for values with
   non-overlapping lifetimes, so that no one else can invoke it
   without first saving four extra registers.  What {randomness}!
   8. n. A random hacker; used particularly of high school students
   who soak up computer time and generally get in the way.  9. n.
   Anyone who is not a hacker (or, sometimes, anyone not known to the
   hacker speaking); the noun form of sense #2.  "I went to the talk,
   but the audience was full of randoms asking bogus questions".
   10. n. (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

          Long described at MIT as `the least random number', see 23.
          Sacred number of Eris, Goddess of Discord (along with 17 and 5).
          The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and
          Everything. (Note that this answer is completely fortuitous.)
          From the sexual act.  This one was favored in MIT's ITS culture.
          69 hex = 105 decimal, and 69 decimal = 105 octal.
          The Number of the Beast.

   For further enlightenment, consult the `Principia Discordia',
   `The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy', `The Joy of Sex',
   and the Christian Bible's `Book Of Revelations' (chapter 13,
   verse 18).  See also {Discordianism} or consult your pineal

   One common rhetorical maneuver uses any of the canonical random
   numbers as placeholders for variables.  One might hear "The max
   function takes 42 arguments, for arbitrary values of 42." or
   "There are 69 ways to leave your lover, for 69 = 50."  This is
   especially likely when the speaker has uttered a random number and
   realizes that it was not recognized as such, but even `non-random'
   numbers are occasionally used in this fashion.  A related joke is
   that "Pi equals 3 --- for small values of pi and large values of

randomness: n. An unexplainable misfeature; gratuitous inelegance.
   Also, a {hack} or {crock} which depends on a complex combination of
   coincidences (or possibly, the combination upon which the crock
   depends for its accidental failure to malfunction).  "This hack
   can output characters 40--57 by putting the character in the
   accumulator field of an XCT and then extracting 6 bits --- the low
   two bits of the XCT opcode are the right thing."  "What

rape: vt. 1. To {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."  2. To strip a piece of hardware
   for parts.

rare: [UNIX] adj. CBREAK mode (character-by-character with
   interrupts enabled).  Distinguished from {raw mode} and
   `cooked mode'; the phrase "a sort of half-cooked (rare?)
   mode" is used in the V7/BSD manuals to describe the mode.  Usage:

raster blaster: n. [Cambridge] Specialized hardware for {bitblt}
   operations (a {blitter}).  Allegedly inspired by analogy with
   `Rasta Blasta', British slang for the sort of portable
   stereo/radio/tapedeck Americans call a `boom box' or `ghetto

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}.  6. 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 persistence or obliviousness of the
   person speaking that is annoying, while {flame} implies somewhat
   more strongly that the tone is offensive as well.

rave on!: imp. Sarcastic invitation to continue a {rave}, often by
   someone who wishes the raver would get a clue but realizes this is

ravs: /ravz/, also `Chinese ravs' n.  Jiao-zi (steamed or
   boiled) or Guo-tie (pan-fried).  A Chinese appetizer, known
   variously in the plural as dumplings, pot stickers (the literal
   translation of guo-tie), 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 includes no
   cheese, uses a thinner pasta, a pork-vegetable filling (good ones
   include Chinese chives), and is cooked differently, either by
   steaming or frying.  A rav or dumpling can be cooked any way, 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}}.

raw mode: n. A mode that allows a program to transfer bits directly
   to or from an I/O device without any processing, abstraction, or
   interpretation by the operating system.  Compare {rare}.  This is
   techspeak under UNIX, jargon elsewhere.

RE: /ar-ee/ n. Common spoken and written shorthand for {regexp}.

read-only user: n. Describes a {luser} who uses computers almost
   exclusively for reading USENET, bulletin boards, and/or email, as
   opposed to writing code or purveying useful information.  See
   {twink}, {terminal junkie}, {lurker}.

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's Adventures In Wonderland' in which
   Alice confronts magic munchies labelled "Eat Me" and "Drink

real estate: n. May be used for any critical resource measured in
   units of area.  Most frequently used of `chip real estate', the
   area available for logic on the surface of an integrated circuit
   (see also {nanoacre}).  May also be used of floor space in a
   {dinosaur pen} or even space on a crowded desktop (whether
   physical or electronic).

real hack: n. A {crock}.  This is sometimes used affectionately;
   see {hack}.

real operating system: n. An OS sharing characteristics of
   whichever one 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}, {Get a
   real computer!}.

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,
   remembers the binary opcodes for every machine he's ever
   programmed, thinks that HLLs are sissy, and 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 with its
   fiendish brilliance, even as its crockishness appalls.  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 one's
   gods/fates/other time commitments permit one to get to it (in other
   words don't hold your breath).  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}, DBASE, 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 bizarre dimension in which the standard dress
   is shirt and tie and in which a person's working hours are defined
   as 9 to 5 (see {code grinder}).  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 speaking of a deceased
   person.  See also {fear and loathing}, {mundane}, and

reality check: n. 1. The simplest kind of test of software or
   hardware; doing the equivalent of asking it what `2 + 2'
   is and seeing if you get `4'.  The software equivalent of a
   {smoke test}.  2. The act of letting a {real user} try out
   prototype software.  Compare {sanity check}.

reaper: n. A {prowler} that {GFR}s files.  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 that refer humorously to themselves or to
   other acronyms.  The classic examples were two MIT editors called
   Initially").  More recently, there is a Scheme compiler called
   LIAR (Liar Imitates Apply Recursively), and {GNU} (q.v., sense
   #1) is said to stand for "GNU's Not UNIX!"  See also {mung},

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 {{book titles}}.

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 lexicon, it is
   sufficient to note that regexps also allow complemented character
   sets using `^'; thus, one can specify any non-alphabetic
   character with `[^A-Za-z]'.  2. Name of a well-known PD
   regexp-handling package in portable C, written by revered USENETter
   Henry Spencer (

reincarnation, cycle of: n. See {cycle of reincarnation}.

reinvent the wheel: v. To design or implement a tool equivalent to
   an existing one or part of one, with the implication that doing so
   is silly or a waste of time.  This is frequently a valid criticism;
   however, automobiles don't use wooden rollers, and some kinds of
   wheel have to be re-invented many times before you get it right. On
   the other hand, it has often been pointed out that people
   reinventing the wheel tend to come up with the moral equivalent of
   a trapezoid with an offset axle....

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 {holy wars}; see also {theology}, {bigot}.

   This term 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 slammed....

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}.  It is even claimed by some that {UNIX} and {C}
   are the symbiotic halves of an extremely successful replicator; see
   {UNIX conspiracy}.

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 technical constraints of a
   nature no mere user could possibly comprehend (these claims are
   almost invariably false).

   Old-time hacker Joseph M. Newcomer ( passes
   along this wisdom: "Whenever choosing a quantifiable restriction,
   make it either a power of 2 or a power of 2 minus 1.  If you impose
   a limit of 17 items in a list, everyone knows it is a random
   number.  If the limit is 15 or 16, there is clearly some deep
   reason and you will get less {flamage}."  It has been further
   observed that this is especially true if 17 = 20 (see {{random
   numbers}}) or some other `round' number in base 10.

retcon: /ret'kon/ [`retroactive continuity', from USENET's
   rec.arts.comics] 1. n. The common situation in pulp fiction
   (esp. comics or soap operas) where a new story `reveals' 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 of Dallas was
   a dream was a retcon.  2. vt. To write such a story about (a
   character or fictitious object).  "Byrne has retconned Superman's
   cape so that it is no longer unbreakable."  "Marvelman's old
   adventures were retconned into synthetic dreams."  "Swamp Thing
   was retconned from a transformed person into a sentient

   [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 {{punched 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

RFC: /ahr ef see/ [Request For Comment] n. 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. [techspeak] Request For Enhancement.  2. [from
   `Radio Free Europe' Bellcore and Sun] Radio Free Ethernet, a system
   (originated by Peter Langston) for broadcasting audio among Sun
   SPARCstations over the ethernet.

rib site: [by analogy with {backbone 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 80*86-based machine built to IBM PC-compatible
   ISA or EISA-bus standards.

Right Thing: n. That which is *compellingly* 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.  "What's the
   right thing for LISP to do when it sees `(mod a 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.  Oppose {VR}.

roach: [Bell Labs] vt. To destroy, esp. of a data structure.  Hardware
   gets {toast}ed or {fried}, software gets roached.

robust: adj. Said of a system that has demonstrated an ability to
   recover gracefully from the whole range of exceptional inputs and
   situations 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 {nethack}.

room-temperature IQ: [IBM] quant. 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.

root: [UNIX] n. 1. The {superuser} account that ignores
   permission bits, user number zero on a UNIX system.  This account
   has the user name `root'.  The term {avatar} is also used.
   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.  See {root mode}.

root mode: n. Syn. with {wizard mode} or `wheel mode'.  Like
   these, it is often generalized to describe privileged states in
   systems other than OSes.

rot13: /rot ther'teen/ [USENET, from `rotate alphabet 13 places']
   n.,v. The simple Caesar-cypher encryption that 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 to enclose the text in a sealed wrapper
   that the reader must choose to open, e.g. for posting things that
   might offend some readers or answers to puzzles and the like.  A
   major advantage of rot13 over rot(N) for other N is that it is
   self-inverse --- thus the same code can be used for encoding and

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-ef-ay-kyoo/ [USENET; primarily written, by analogy
   with {RTFM}] imp. Abbrev. for `Read the FAQ!', an exhortation
   that the person 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 many computers including the 6502 and
   Z80.  Equivalent to "Now, where was I?" or used to end a
   conversational digression.  See {pop}; see also {POPJ}.

RTM: /ahr-tee-em/ [USENET, acronym for `Read The Manual']
   1. Politer variant of {RTFM}.  2. Robert T. Morris, perpetrator
   of the great Internet worm of 1988; villain to many, naive hacker
   gone wrong to a few.  Morris claimed that the worm which brought
   the Internet to its knees was a benign experiment that got out of
   control due to a coding error.  After the storm of negative
   publicity that followed this blunder Morris's name on ITS was
   hacked from RTM to {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 hacen't a clue how to {parse}.  Compare
   {casting the runes}, {Great 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 `Very
   Messy Syntax' or `Vachement Mauvais Systeme' (French, lit.
   "Cowlike Bad System", idiomatically "Bitchy 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 (esp. tape and the pre-Winchester removable disk packs used
   in {washing machine}s).  Compare {donuts}.

= S =

s/n ratio: n. (also `s:n ratio').  Syn. {signal-to-noise
   ratio}.  Often abbreviated `SNR'.

sacred: adj. Reserved for the exclusive use of something (an
   extension of the standard meaning).  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 if any *other* part of the program changes
   the contents of register 7 dire consequences are likely to ensue.

saga: [WPI] n. A cuspy but bogus raving story dealing with N random
   broken people.

   Here is a classic example of the saga form, as told by Guy L. Steele:

   Jon L. White (login name JONL) and I (GLS) were office mates at MIT
   for many years.  One April we both flew from Boston to California
   for a week on research business, to consult face-to-face with some
   people at Stanford, particularly our mutual friend Richard P.
   Gabriel (RPG; see {Gabriel}).

   RPG picked us up at the San Francisco airport and drove us back to
   Palo Alto (going {logical} south on route 101, parallel to {El
   Camino Bignum}).  Palo Alto is adjacent to Stanford University, and
   about forty miles south of San Francisco.  We ate at The Good
   Earth, a `health food' restaurant, very popular, the sort whose
   milkshakes all contain honey and protein powder.  JONL ordered such
   a shake --- the waitress claimed the flavor of the day was
   "lalaberry".  I still have no idea what that might be, but it
   became a running joke.  It was the color of raspberry, and JONL
   said it tasted rather bitter.  I ate a better tostada there than I
   have ever had in a Mexican restaurant.

   After this we went to the local Uncle Gaylord's Old Fashioned Ice
   Cream Parlor.  They make ice cream fresh daily, in a variety of
   intriguing flavors.  It's a chain, and they have a slogan: "If you
   don't live near an Uncle Gaylord's --- MOVE!"  Also, Uncle Gaylord (a
   real person) wages a constant battle to force big-name ice cream
   makers to print their ingredients on the package (like air and
   plastic and other non-natural garbage).  JONL and I had first
   discovered Uncle Gaylord's the previous August, when we had flown
   to a computer science conference in Berkeley, California, the first
   time either of us had been on the West Coast.  When not in the
   conference sessions, we had spent our time wandering the length of
   Telegraph Street, which, like Harvard Square in Cambridge,
   Massachusetts, in summer was lined with picturesque street vendors
   and interesting little shops.  On that street we discovered Uncle
   Gaylord's Berkeley store.  The ice cream there was very good.
   During that August visit JONL went absolutely bananas (so to
   speak) over one particular flavor, ginger honey.

   Therefore, after eating at The Good Earth --- indeed, after every
   lunch and dinner and before bed during our April visit --- a trip
   to Uncle Gaylord's (the one in Palo Alto) was mandatory.  We had
   arrived on a Wednesday, and by Thursday evening we had been there
   at least four times.  Each time JONL would get ginger honey ice
   cream, and proclaim to all bystanders that "Ginger was the spice
   that drove the Europeans mad!  That's why they sought a route to
   the East!  They used it to preserve their otherwise off-taste
   meat."  After the third or fourth repetition RPG and I were
   getting a little tired of this spiel, and began to paraphrase him:
   "Wow!  Ginger!  The spice that makes rotten meat taste good!"
   "Say!  Why don't we find some dog that's been run over and sat in
   the sun for a week and put some *ginger* on it for dinner?!"
   "Right!  With a lalaberry shake!"  And so on.  This failed to
   faze JONL; he took it in good humor, as long as we kept returning
   to Uncle Gaylord's.  He loves ginger honey ice cream.

   Now RPG and his wife KBT (Kathy Tracy) were putting us up (putting
   up with us?) in their home for our visit, so to thank them JONL and
   I took them out to a nice French restaurant of their choosing.  I
   unadventurously chose the filet mignon, and KBT had `je ne sais
   quoi du jour', but RPG and JONL had `lapin' (rabbit).
   (Waitress: "`Oui', we have fresh rabbit, fresh today."  RPG:
   "Well, JONL, I guess we won't need any *ginger*!")

   We finished the meal late, about 11 PM, which is 2 AM Boston time,
   so JONL and I were rather droopy.  But it wasn't yet midnight.  Off
   to Uncle Gaylord's!

   Now the French resturant was in Redwood City, north of Palo Alto.
   In leaving Redwood City, we somehow got onto route 101 going north
   instead of south.  JONL and I woudln't have known the difference
   had RPG not mentioned it.  We still knew very little of the local
   geography.  I did figure out, however, that we were headed in the
   direction of Berkeley, and half-jokingly suggested that we continue
   north and go to Uncle Gaylord's in Berkeley.

   RPG said "Fine!" and we drove on for a while and talked.  I was
   drowsy, and JONL actually dropped off to sleep for five minutes.
   When he awoke, RPG said, "Gee, JONL, you must have slept all the
   way over the bridge!" referring to the one spanning San Francisco
   Bay.  Just then we came to a sign that said "University Avenue".
   I mumbled something about working our way over to Telegraph Street;
   RPG said "Right!" and maneuvered some more.  Eventually we pulled
   up in front of an Uncle Gaylord's.

   Now I hadn't really been paying attention because I was so sleepy,
   and I didn't really understand what was happening until RPG let me
   in on it a few moments later, but I was just alert enough to notice
   that we had somehow some to the Palo Alto Uncle Gaylord's after

   JONL noticed the resemblance to the Palo Alto store, but hadn't
   caught on.  (The place is lit with red and yellow lights at night,
   and looks much different from the way it does in daylight.)  He
   said, "This isn't the Uncle Gaylord's I went to in Berkeley!  It
   looked like a barn!  But this place looks *just like* the one
   back in Palo Alto!"

   RPG deadpanned, "Well, this is the one *I* alwasy come to
   when I'm in Berkeley.  They've got two in San Francisco, too.
   Remember, they're a chain."

   JONL accepted this bit of wisdom.  And he was not totally ignorant
   --- he knew perfectly well that University Avenue was in Berkeley,
   not far from Telegraph Street.  What he didn't know was that there
   is a completely different University Avenue in Palo Alto.

   JONL went up to the counter and asked for ginger honey.  The guy at
   the counter asked whether JONL would like to taste it first,
   evidently their standard procedure with that flavor, as not too
   many people like it.

   JONL said, "I'm sure I like it.  Just give me a cone."  The guy
   behind the counter insisted that JONL try just a taste first.
   "Some people think it tastes like soap."  JONL insisted, "Look,
   I /love/ ginger.  I eat Chinese food.  I eat raw ginger roots.  I
   already went through this hassle with the guy back in Palo Alto.  I
   *know* I like that flavor!"

   At the words "back in Palo Alto" the guy behind the counter got a
   very strange look on his face, but said nothing.  KBT caught his
   eye and winked.  Through my stupor I still hadn't quite grasped
   what was going on, and thought RPG was rolling on the floor
   laughing and clutching his stomach just because JONL had launched
   into his spiel ("makes rotten meat a dish for princes") for the
   forty-third time.  At this point RPG clued me in fully.

   RPG, KBT, and I retreated to a table, trying to stifle our
   chuckles.  JONL remained at the counter, talking about ice cream
   with the guy b.t.c., comparing Uncle Gaylord's to other ice cream
   shops and generally having a good old time.

   At length the g.b.t.c. said, "How's the ginger honey?"  JONL
   said, "Fine!  I wonder what exactly is in it?"  Now Uncle Gaylord
   publishes all his recipes and even teaches classes on how to make
   his ice cream at home.  So the g.b.t.c. got out the recipe, and he
   and JONL pored over it for a while.  But the g.b.t.c. could
   contain his curiosity no longer, and asked again, "You really like
   that stuff, huh?"  JONL said, "Yeah, I've been eating it
   constantly back in Palo Alto for the past two days.  In fact, I
   think this batch is about as good as the cones I got back in Palo

   G.b.t.c. looked him straight in the eye and said, "You're
   *in* Palo Alto!"

   JONL turned slowly around, and saw the three of us collapse in a
   fit of giggles.  He clapped a hand to his forehead and exclaimed,
   "I've been {hack}ed!"

sagan: /say'gn/ [from Carl Sagan's TV series `Cosmos'; 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 bombs and welfare --- hard to say which
   is more destructive."

SAIL: /sayl/, not /ess ay ie el/ n. 1. Stanford Artificial
   Intelligence Lab.  An important site in the early development of
   LISP; with the MIT AI Lab, BBN, CMU, and the UNIX community, one of
   the major wellsprings of technical innovation and hacker-culture
   traditions (see the {WAITS} entry for details).  The SAIL
   machines were shut down in late May 1990, scant weeks after the MIT
   AI lab's ITS cluster were officially decommissioned.  2. The
   Stanford Artificial Intelligence Language used at SAIL (sense #1).
   It was an Algol-60 derivative with a coroutining facility and some
   new data types intended for building search trees and association

salescritter: /sayls'kri`tr/ n. Pejorative hackerism for a computer
   salesperson.  Hackers tell the following joke:

     Q. What's the difference between a used-car dealer and a computer
     A. The used-car dealer knows he's lying.

   This reflects the widespread hacker belief that salescritters are
   self-selected for stupidity (after all, if they had brains and the
   inclination to use them, they'd be in programming).  The terms
   `salesthing' and `salesdroid' are also common.  Compare
   {marketroid}, {suit}, {droid}.

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}.

salt substrate: [MIT] n. Collective noun used to refer to potato
   chips, pretzels, saltines, or any other form of snack food
   designed primarily as a carrier for sodium chloride.  From the
   technical term `chip substrate', used to refer to the silicon on the
   top of which the active parts of integrated circuits are deposited.

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}.  See also {PC-ism}.

sandbender: [IBM] n. A person involved with silicon lithography and
   the physical design of chips.  Compare {ironmonger}, {polygon

sandbox: n. (or `sandbox, the') 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. 1. The act of checking a piece of code for
   completely stupid mistakes.  Implies that the check is to make sure
   the author was sane when it was written; e.g., 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 or the coding of the formula, as a {sanity check},
   before looking at the more complex I/O or data structure
   manipulation routines, much less the algorithm itself.  Compare
   {reality check}.  2. A run-time test, either validating input
   or ensuring that the program hasn't screwed up internally
   (producing an inconsistent value or state).

Saturday night special: [from police slang for a cheap handgun] n.
   A program or feature kluged together during off hours, under a
   deadline, and in response to pressure from a {salescritter}.
   Such hacks are dangerously unreliable, but all too frequently sneak
   into a production release after insufficient review.

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 {newline}-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

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 jargon originated in SF fandom;
   see {defenestration}, {great-wall}, {cyberpunk}, {h}, {ha
   ha only serious}, {IMHO}, {mundane}, {neep-neep}, {Real
   Soon Now}.  Additionally, the jargon terms {cowboy},
   {cyberspace}, {de-rezz}, {go flatline}, {ice}, {virus},
   {wetware}, {wirehead}, and {worm} originated in SF

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 often
   initiate expensive events like Halon dumps and are installed in a
   {dinosaur pen} for use in case of electrical fire or in case some
   luckless {field servoid} should put 120 volts across himself
   while {Easter egging}.

scratch: 1. [from `scratchpad'] adj. Describes a data
   structure or recording medium attached to a machine for testing or
   temporary-use purposes; one that can be {scribble}d on without
   loss.  Usually in the combining forms `scratch memory',
   `scratch register', `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 scratch monkey.", a proverb used to advise caution when
   dealing with irreplaceable data or devices.  Used to refer to any
   non-expendable device or scratch volume hooked to a computer, in
   memory of Mabel, the Swimming Wonder Monkey who expired when a
   computer vendor {PM}ed 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.  This use
   has become quite widespread outside MIT.

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.

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: [Small Computer System Interface] n. A bus-independent
   standard for system-level interfacing between a computer and
   intelligent devices.  Typically annotated in literature with `sexy'
   (/sek'see/), `sissy' (/sis'ee/) and `scuzzy' (/skuhz'zee/) as
   pronunciation guides --- the last being the overwhelmingly
   predominant form, much to the dismay of the designers and their
   marketing people.  One can usually assume that a person who
   pronounces it /ess see ess eye/ is clueless.

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. (sometimes, more euphoniously,
   `second-system syndrome'.)  When designing the successor to a
   relatively small, elegant, and successful system, there is a
   tendency to become grandiose in one's success and design 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.  A
   similar effect can also happen in an evolving system; see
   {creeping elegance}, {creeping featurism}.  See also
   {Multics}, {OS/2}, {X}, {software bloat}.

   This version of the jargon lexicon has been described (with
   altogether too much truth for comfort) as an example of
   second-system effect run amok on jargon-1....

secondary damage: n. When a fatal error occurs (esp. a
   {segfault}) the immediate cause may be that a pointer is damaged
   due to a {fandango on core}.  However, this fandango may have
   been due to an *earlier* fandango, so no amount of analysis
   will reveal (directly) how the damage occurred.  "The data
   structure was clobbered, but it was secondary damage."

   This generalizes.  The corruption resulting from N cascaded
   fandangoes on core is `Nth-level damage'.  There is at least one
   case on record in which 17 hours of {grovel}ling with `adb'
   actually dug up the underlying bug behind an instance of 7th-level
   damage!  The hacker who accomplished this near-superhuman feat was
   presented with an award by his fellows.

security through obscurity: n. A name applied by hackers to most OS
   vendors' favorite way of coping with security holes --- namely,
   ignoring them and not documenting them and trusting that nobody
   will find out about them and that people who do find out about them
   won't exploit them.  This never works for long and occasionally
   sets the world up for debacles like the {RTM} worm of 1988, but once
   the brief moments of panic created by such events subside most
   vendors are all too willing to turn over and go back to sleep.
   After all, actually fixing the bugs would siphon off the resources
   needed to implement the next user-interface frill on Marketing's
   wish list --- besides, if they started fixing security bugs
   customers might begin to *expect* it and imagine that their
   warranties of merchantability gave them some sort of *right*
   to a system with fewer holes in it than a shotgunned Swiss cheese,
   and then where would we be?

   Historical note: this term was first used in the USENET newsgroup
   in `comp.sys.apollo' during a campaign to get HP/Apollo to fix
   rampant security problems in its UNIX-lookalike Aegis/DomainOS.
   They didn't change a thing.

SED: [TMRC] /ess-ee-dee/ n. Smoke emitting diode.  A {friode}
   that lost the war.

segfault: n.,vi. Syn. {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 prnounced more like the noun `segment'
   than like mainstream v. segment; this is because it's actually a
   noun shorthand that has been verbed.

segmentation fault: n. [UNIX] 1. Error in which a running program
   attempts to access memory not allocated to it and {core dump}s
   with a segmentation 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/ or /se'mie/ 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} that 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 (of course, these are no longer limited to exchanges of
   genetic software).  2. The rather Freudian mnemonic often used
   for Sign EXtend, a machine instruction found in the PDP-11 and many

   DEC's engineers nearly got a PDP-11 assembler that used the `SEX'
   mnemonic out the door at one time, but (for once) marketing wasn't
   asleep and forced a change.  That wasn't the last time this
   happened, either.  The author of `The Intel 8086 Primer', who
   was one of the original designers of the 8086, noted that there was
   originally a `SEX' instruction on that processor, too.  He says
   that Intel management got cold feet and decreed that it be changed,
   and thus the instruction was renamed `CBW' and `CWD' (depending on
   what was being extended).  Amusingly, the Intel 8048 (the
   microcontroller used in IBM PC keyboards) is also missing straight
   `SEX' but has logical-or and logical-and instructions `ORL' and

sex changer: n. Syn. {gender mender}.

shareware: n. {Freeware} (sense #1) 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. [techspeak] 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 (e.g. 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 shift 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.  See {Programmer's Cheer}.

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 perturbed 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 that absolutely has to
   be fixed before development can go on.  Opposite in connotation
   from its original theatrical use, which refers to something
   stunningly *good*.

shriek: n. See {excl}.  Occasional CMU usage, also in common use
   among APL fans and mathematicians, especially category theorists.

Shub-Internet: [MUD; from H. P. Lovecraft's evil fictional deity
   `Shub-Niggurath', the Black Goat with a Thousand Young] pn.
   The harsh personification of the Internet, Beast of a Thousand
   Processes, Eater of Characters, Avatar of Line Noise, and Imp of
   Call Waiting; the hideous multi-tendriled entity formed of all the
   manifold connections of the net.  A sect of MUDders worships
   Shub-Internet, sacrificing objects and praying for good
   connections.  To no avail -- its purpose is malign and evil, and is
   the cause of all network slowdown.  Often heard as in, "Freela
   casts a tac nuke at Shub-Internet for slowing her down."  (A
   forged message often follows, "Shub-Internet gulps down the tac
   nuke and burps happily.")  Also cursed by users of {FTP} and
   {telnet} when the system slows down.  The dread name of
   Shub-Internet is seldom spoken aloud, as it is said that repeating
   it three times will cause the being to wake, deep within its lair
   beneath the Pentagon.

sidecar: n. 1. Syn. {slap on the side}.  Esp. used of add-ons for
   the late and unlamented IBM PCjr.  2. The IBM PC compatibility box
   that could be bolted on to the side of an Amiga.  Designed and
   produced by Commodore and broke all of their design rules.  If it
   worked with any other peripherals, it was by {magic}.

sig block: /sig blok/ [UNIX; often written ".sig" there] n. Short
   for `signature', used specifically to refer to the electronic
   signature block that 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 block} and intended to convey
   something of one's philosophical stance, pet peeves, or sense of
   humor. "Calm down, it's only ones and zeroes."

signal-to-noise ratio: [from analog 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 war}s.
   Compare {bandwidth}.  See also {coefficient of x}, {lost in
   the noise}.

silicon: n. Hardware, esp. ICs or microprocessor-based computer
   systems (compare {iron}).  Contrasted with software.  See also

silicon foundry: n. A company that {fab}s chips to the designs of
   others.  As of the late 1980s, the combination of silicon foundries
   and good computer-aided design software made it much easier for
   hardware-designing startup companies to come into being.  The
   downside of using a silicon foundry is that the distance from the
   actual chip fabrication processes reduces designers' leverage.
   This is somewhat analogous to the use of a {HLL} versus coding in

silly walk: [from Monty Python's Flying Circus] 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, presumably because it was a storage space for
   fungible stuff that you put in the top and took out the bottom.

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 {{book titles}}.

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.  Usually the word `time' is omitted.  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 descending order).  The
   obligatory comment when discussing these is Harris's Lament: "All
   the good ones are taken!"  See also {network address}.

skulker: n. Syn. {prowler}.

slap on the side: n. (also called a {sidecar}, or abbreviated
   `SOTS'.)  A type of external expansion hardware 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. 1. [techspeak] On a timesharing system, a process that
   relinquishes its claim on the scheduler until some given event
   occurs or a specified time delay elapses is said to `go to
   sleep'.  2. In jargon, used very similarly to v. {block}; also
   in `sleep on', syn. with `block on'.  Often used to
   indicate that the speaker has relinquished a demand for resources
   until some (possibly unspecified) external event: "They can't get
   the fix I've been asking for into the next release, so I'm going to
   sleep on it until the release, then start hassling them again."

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 being on the losing side of a {fencepost
   error}.  2. The percentage of `extra' code code generated by a
   compiler over the size of equivalent assembler code produced by
   {hand-hacking}; 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.  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

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

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) (see
   also {AI-complete}).  Compare {robust} (smart programs can be

smart terminal: n. A terminal that has enough computing capability
   to render graphics or offload some kind of front-end processing
   from the computer it talks to.  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.
   Compare {hook}.

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."  Compare {fold case}.

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 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
   power is applied and the tester checks for sparks, smoke, or other
   dramatic signs of fundamental failure.  See {magic smoke}.  2. By
   extension, the first run of a piece of software after construction
   or a critical change.  See and compare {reality check}.

   Note: There is an interesting parallel to this term among
   typographers and printers.  When punchcutting new typefaces by
   hand, a `smoke test' (hold the letter in candle smoke, then press
   onto paper) is used to check out new dies.

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 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.  The color map is then repeatedly
   rotated.  This results in a striking, rainbow-hued, shimmering
   four-leaf clover.  Gosper joked about keeping it hidden from the
   FDA (the U.S.'s Food and Drug Administration) 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 enhance 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
   (to the victim) a lot of work.

SNAFU principle: [from WWII army acronym for "Situation Normal,
   all Fucked Up"] 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.  This lightly adapted version of a
   fable dating back to the early 1960s illustrates the phenomenon

     In the beginning was the plan,
            and then the specification;
     And the plan was without form,
            and the specification was void.

     And darkness
            was on the faces of the implementors thereof;
     And they spake unto their leader,
     "It is a crock of shit,
            and smells as of a sewer."

     And the leader took pity on them,
            and spoke to the project leader:
     "It is a crock of excrement,
            and none may abide the odor thereof."

     And the project leader
            spake unto his section head, saying:
     "It is a container of excrement,
            and it is very strong, such that none may abide it."

     The section head then hurried to his department manager,
            and informed him thus:
     "It is a vessel of fertilizer,
            and none may abide its strength."

     The department manager carried these words
           to his general manager,
     and spoke unto him
     "It containeth that which aideth the growth of plants,
           and it is very strong."

     And so it was that the General manager rejoiced
           and delivered the good news unto the Vice President.
     "It promoteth growth,
           and it is very powerful."

     The Vice President rushed to the President's side,
           and joyously exclaimed:
     "This powerful new software product
           will promote the growth of the company!"

     And the President looked upon the product,
           and saw that it was very good.

   After the subsequent disaster, the {suit}s protect themselves by
   saying "I was misinformed!", and the implementors are demoted or

snail: vt. To {snail-mail} something. "Snail me a copy of those
   graphics, will you?"

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 with or without the author's
   permission.  See also {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 1960s,
   meaning `to eat piggishly'.  It may still have this connotation in
   context. "He's in the snarfing phase of hacking --- ftping megs of
   stuff a day."

snarf & barf: /snarf'n-barf/ n. Under a {WIMP environment}, the
   act of grabbing a region of text and then stuffing the contents of
   that region into another region (or the same one) to avoid
   re-typing a command line.  In the late 1960s this was a mainstream
   expression for an `eat now, regret it later' cheap-restaurant

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
   (especially if it might be a boojum).  Often used to refer to an
   event or log file entry that might indicate an attempted security
   violation.  3. UUCP name of, home site of the
   Jargon File 2.*.* versions (i.e., this lexicon).

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', `Floppy-Net'.

sniff: v.,n. Synonym for {poll}.

snivitz: /sniv'itz/ n. A hiccup in hardware or software; a small,
   transient problem of unknown origin (less serious than a

SO: /ess-oh/ n. 1. (also `S.O.') Abbrev 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}.  2. The Shift Out control
   character in ASCII (^N, #b0001110).

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}, {pretty

softcopy: n. [by analogy with `hardcopy'] A machine-readable form of
   corresponding hardcopy.  See {bits}, {softcopy}.

software bloat: n. The results of {second-system effect} or
   {creeping featuritis}.  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 a while to {lose}; 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.
   Actually, related lossages often afflict centenarians that have to
   deal with computer software designed by unimaginative clods.  One
   such incident became the focus of a minor public flap in 1990, when
   a gentleman born in 1889 applied for a driver's license renewal in
   Raleigh, NC.  The new system refused to issue the card, probably
   because it did something like `if (birthyear < (thisyear -
   100)) reject();'.

   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 same things they
   used to.  ("Hey, so-and-so needs an instruction to do
   such-and-such.  We can snarf this opcode, right?  No one uses

   Another classic example of this sprang from the time an MIT hacker
   found a simple way to double the speed of the unconditional jump
   instruction on a PDP-6, so he patched the hardware.  Unfortunately,
   this broke some fragile timing software in a music-playing program,
   throwing its output out of tune.  This was fixed by adding a
   defensive initialization routine to compare the speed of a timing
   loop with the real-time clock; in other words, it figured out how
   fast the PDP-6 was that day, and corrected appropriately.

   Compare {bit rot}.

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}.

softy: [IBM] n. Hardware hackers' term for a software expert who
   is largely ignorant of the mysteries of hardware.

some random X: adj. Used to indicate a member of class X, with the
   implication that Xs are fungible.  "I think some random cracker
   tripped over the guest timeout last night."  See also
   {J. Random}.

sorcerer's apprentice mode: [from `Fantasia'] 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}, {network meltdown}.

SOS: n.,obs. /ess-oh-ess/ 1. An infamously {losing} text
   editor.  Once, back in the 1960s, 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 (`Son of
   Stopgap') of that editor; SOS 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 the early font
   editor BILOS
   /bye'lohs/ the Brother-In-Law Of Stopgap (the expansion `Bastard
   Issue, Loins of Stopgap' has been proposed).  See also {TECO}.
   2. /sos/ n. Inverse of {AOS}, from the PDP-10 instruction

source of all good bits: n. A person from whom (or place from
   which) useful 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.

space-cadet keyboard: n. The Knight keyboard, a now-legendary device
   used on MIT LISP machines, which inspired several still-current
   jargon terms and influenced the design of {EMACS}.  It was inspired
   by the Stanford keyboard and equipped with no fewer than
   *seven* shift keys: four keys for {bucky bits} (`control',
   `meta', `hyper', and `super') and three like regular shift keys,
   called `shift', `top', and `front'.  Many keys had three symbols
   on them: a letter and a symbol on the top, and a Greek letter on
   the front.  For example, the `L' key had 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 might also be typed with any
   combination of the control, meta, hyper, and super keys.  On this
   keyboard, you could type over 8000 different characters!  This
   allowed 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 reduced typing time
   (this attitude obviously shaped the interface of EMACS).  Other
   hackers, however, thought having that many bucky bits was overkill,
   and objected that such a keyboard can require three or four hands
   to operate.  See {bucky bits}, {cokebottle}, {double bucky},
   {meta bit}, {quadruple bucky}.

SPACEWAR: n. A space-combat simulation game inspired by E. E.
   "Doc" Smith's `Lensman' books in which two spaceships duel
   around a central sun, shooting torpedoes at each other and jumping
   through hyperspace.  This game was first implemented on the PDP-1
   at MIT in 1960--61.  SPACEWAR aficionados formed the core of
   the early hacker culture at MIT.  Nine 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}.  Less
   than nine years after that, SPACEWAR was commercialized as one of
   the first video games; descendants are still {feep}ing 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
   {buffer overflow}, {overrun screw}, {smash the stack}.

special-case: vt. To write unique code to handle input to or
   situations arising in program that are 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 flag}s 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 that 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 1940s, in a sense close to

spin: vi. Equivalent to {buzz}.  More common among C and UNIX

spl: /ess-pee-ell/ [abbrev, from Set Priority Level] The way
   traditional UNIX kernels implement mutual exclusion by running code
   at high interrupt levels.  Used in jargon 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."  See also {interrupts locked out}.

splat: n. 1. Name used in many places (DEC, IBM, and others) for
   the asterisk (`*') character (ASCII #b0101010).  This may
   derive from the `squashed-bug' appearance of the asterisk on many
   early line printers.  2. [MIT] Name used by some people for the
   `#' character (ASCII #b0100011).  3. [Rochester Institute
   of Technology] The command key on a Mac (same as {ALT}, sense
   #2).  4. [Stanford] Name used by some people for the Stanford/ITS
   extended ASCII
   This character is also called `blobby', and
   `frob', among other names; it is used by mathematicians as a
   notation for `cross-product'.  5. [Stanford] Name for the
   semi-mythical extended ASCII 

   character.  6. Canonical name for an output routine that outputs
   whatever the local interpretation of `splat' is.

   With ITS and WAITS gone, senses 4--6 are now obsolete.  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 spooge (sense #1).

spool: [from 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).  See also {demon}.

stack: n. A person's stack is the set of things he/she 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, 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 or trays
   sitting on a spring in a well, so that when you put one
   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, {pdl} used to be a more common synonym for {stack} in
   all these contexts, and this may still be true.  Everywhere else
   {stack} seems to be the preferred term.  {Knuth} writes (in
   `The Art of Computer Programming', 2nd 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 computers 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. 1. Condition, situation.  "What's the state of your
   latest hack?"  "It's winning away."  Or "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 "about to gronk out", or
   "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 questions would be
   `state-p?'.  Another way of phrasing the question under sense #1
   would be "state-p latest hack?".  2. Information being
   maintained in non-permanent memory (electronic or human).

stiffy: [University of Lowell] n. 3.5-inch {microfloppies}, so
   called because their jackets are more firm than the 5.25-inch and
   8-inch floppy.

stir-fried random: alt. `stir-fried mumble' n. Term used for frequent
   best dish of those hackers who can cook.  Consists of random fresh
   veggies and meat wokked with random spices.  Tasty and economical.
   See {random}, {great-wall}, {ravs}, {{Oriental Food}}; see also

stomp on: vt. To inadvertently overwrite something important, usually
   automatically.  Example: "All the work I did this weekend got
   stomped on last night by the nightly server script."  Compare
   {scribble}, {mangle}, {trash}, {scrog}, {roach}.

Stone Age: n.,adj. 1. In computer folklore, an ill-defined period
   from ENIAC (c.1943) to the mid-1950s; the great age of
   electromechanical {dinosaur}s.  Sometimes used for the entire
   period up to 1960--61 (see {Iron Age}); however, it is funnier
   and more descriptive to characterize the latter period in terms of
   a `Bronze Age' era of transistor-logic, 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} resulting in something
   (usually vital) becoming completely unusable.  "The recent system
   stoppage was caused by a {fried} transformer."

store: [poss. from techspeak `main store'] n. Preferred Commonwealth
   synonym for {core}.  Thus, `bringing a program into store' means
   not that one is returning shrink-wrapped software but that a
   program is being {swapped in}.

stubroutine: /stuhb'roo-teen/ [contr. of `stub routine'] n.
   Tiny, often vacuous placeholder for a subroutine which is to be
   written or fleshed out later.

studlycaps: /stuhd'lee-kaps/ n. A hackish form of silliness
   similar to {BiCapitalization} for trademarks, but applied
   randomly to arbitrary text rather than to 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.  Compare {shell out};
   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?"

sufficiently small: adj. Syn. {suitably small}.

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.  Compare {droid}.  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.

suitable win: n. See {win}.

suitably small: [perverted from mathematical jargon] adj. An
   expression used ironically to characterize non-quantifiable
   behavior which differs from expected or required behavior.  For
   example, suppose a newly-created program came up with a correct
   full screen display, and one publicly exclaimed "It works!".
   Then, if the program dumps core on the first mouse click, one might
   add "Well, for suitably small values of `works'...".  Compare
   the characterization of pi under {{random numbers}}.

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}.

sunspots: n. 1. Notional cause of an odd error.  "Why did the
   program suddenly turn the screen blue?"  "Sunspots, I guess".
   2. Also the cause of {bit rot}, from the myth that sunspots
   will increase {cosmic rays} that can flip single bits in memory.
   See {cosmic rays}, {phase of the moon}.

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 three orders of magnitude.  For example,
   one programmer might be able to write an average of 3 lines of
   working code in one day, while another, with the proper tools,
   might be able to write 3,000.  This range is astonishing, matched
   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 naive measures of
   productivity and to underweight creativity, ingenuity and getting
   the job *done*.  Hackers tend to prefer the terms {hacker}
   and {wizard}.

superuser: [UNIX] n. Syn. {root}, {avatar}.  This usage has
   spread to non-UNIX environments; the superuser is any account with
   all {wheel} bits on.  A more specific term than {wheel}.

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 tete-a-tete with the software's designer.

Suzie COBOL: /soo'zee koh'bol/ 1. [IBM, prob. from Frank Zappa's
   `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: /swob/ [From the mnemonic for the PDP-11 `SWap Byte'
   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. n. The program in V7 UNIX used to perform this
   action, or anything functionally equivalent to it.  See also
   {big-endian}, {little-endian}, {middle-endian},

swap: vt. 1. [techspeak] To move information from a fast-access
   memory to a slow-access memory (`swap out'), or vice versa
   (`swap in').  Often refers specifically to the use of disks as
   `virtual memory'.  As pieces of data or program are needed, they
   are swapped into {core} for processing; when they are no longer
   needed they may be swapped out again.  2. The jargon use of these
   terms analogizes people's short-term memories with core.  Cramming
   for an exam might be spoken of as swapping in.  If you temporarily
   forget someone's name, but then remember it, your excuse is that it
   was swapped out.  To `keep something swapped in' means to keep it
   fresh in your memory: "I reread the TECO manual every few months
   to keep it swapped in."  If someone interrupts you just as you got
   a good idea, you might say, "Wait a moment while I swap this
   out", implying that the piece of paper is your extra-somatic
   memory and if you don't swap the info out by writing it down, it
   will get overwritten and lost as you talk.  Compare {page in},
   {page out}.

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 in: n. See {swap}.  See also {page in}.

swapped out: n. See {swap}.  See also {page out}.

swizzle: v. To convert external names or references within a data
   structure into direct pointers when the data structure is brought
   into main memory from external storage; also called `pointer
   swizzling'; the converse operation is sometimes termed

sync: /sink/ (var. `synch') n.,vi. 1. To synchronize, to
   bring into syncronization.  2. [techspeak] To force all pending
   I/O to the disk; see {flush}, sense #2.  3. 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
   (in the database-theory sense).

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: /sis'frog/ [the PLATO system] n. Playful hackish variant
   of `sysprog', which is in turn short for `systems programmer'.

sysop: /sis'op/ 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. 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. (slang) The
   way things are usually done.  Usage: a fairly ambiguous word.
   "You can't beat the system."  6. `System hacker': one who
   hacks the system (in senses #1 and #2 only; for sense #3 one
   mentions the particular program: e.g., `LISP hacker')

system mangler: n. Humorous synonym for `system manager', poss.
   from the fact that one major IBM OS had a `root' account called
   SYSMANGR.  Refers specifically to a systems programmer in charge of
   administration, software maintainance, and updates at some site.
   Unlike {admin}, this term emphasizes the technical end of the
   skills involved.

= T =

T: /tee/ 1. [from LISP terminology for `true'] Yes.  Usage: used
   in reply to a question (particularly one asked using the `-P'
   convention).  In LISP, the constant 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 (particularly those who frequent Chinese restaurants) like
   tea at least as well as coffee --- so it's not that big a problem.
   2. See {time T} (also {since time T equals minus infinity}).
   3. [techspeak] In transaction-processing circles, an abbreviation
   for the noun `transaction'.  4. [Purdue] Alternate spelling of

tail recursion: n. If you aren't sick of it already, see {tail

talk mode: n. A feature supported by UNIX, ITS and some other OSes
   which allows two or more logged-in users to set up a real-time
   on-line conversation.  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 1920s.

     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).
     GRMBL     grumble --- expresses disquiet or disagreement.
     HELLOP    A greeting, also meaning R U THERE?  (An instance of the
               "-P" convention.)
     JAM       Just a minute... Equivalent to SEC...
     MIN       Same as JAM.
     NIL       No (see {NIL}).
     O         Over (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")
     \         Lambda (used in discussing LISPy things).
     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).
     TNXE6     Ditto.
     WRT       With Regard To or With Respect To.
     WTF       The universal interrogative particle.  WTF knows what
               it means?
     WTH       What the hell?
     <double newline> When the typing party has finished, he types two newlines
               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 or handle 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.  On a MUD, this usually means 
               `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, WTF, 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
     <gr&d>   grinning, running and ducking
     BBL      be back later
     BRB      be right back
     HHOJ     ha ha only joking
     HHOS     {ha ha only serious}
     IMHO     in my humble opinion (see {IMHO})
     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

   Most of hese are not used at universities or in the UNIX world,
   though IMHO, ROTF, and TTFN have gained some currency there;
   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, TTFN, 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
   word `re' by itself is taken as `re-greet'.  In general, though,
   MUDders express a preference for typing things out in full rather
   than using abbreviations; this may be due to the relative youth of
   the MUD cultures, which tend to include many touch typists and
   assume high-speed links.  The following uses specific to MUDs are

     UOK?      Are you OK?
     THX       Thanks (mutant of TNX).  Clearly this comes in batches of
               1138 (the Lucas K).
     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}.

talker system: n. British hackerism for software that enables
   real-time chat or {talk mode}.

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}.  When IBM introduced the PS/2 model 30 (their last
   gasp at supporting the ISA) they made the case lower and many
   industry-standard tall cards wouldn't fit; this was felt to be a
   reincarnation of the {connector conspiracy}, done with less

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 `tar(1)' (the 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, or with an oar to reduce water
   resistance; smaller files, after all, slip through comm links more

taste: [primarily MIT] n. 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 than `taste',
   though both are used.  See also {elegant}.  2. Alt. sp. of

tayste: n. Two bits; also as {taste}.  Syn. {crumb},
   {quarter}.  Compare {{byte}}, {dynner}, {playte},
   {nybble}, {quad}.

TCB: /tee see bee/ [IBM] n. 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 one teaspoon of sugar, where the milk is 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 anything.
   If one were feeling extremely silly, one might hypothesize 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.

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.

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 unspeakably hairy
   syntax.  It is literally the case that every string of characters
   is a valid TECO program (though probably not a useful one); one
   common hacker game used to be mentally working out what the TECO
   commands corresponding to human names did.  As an example of TECO's
   obtusosity, here is a TECO program that takes a list of names like

     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:

     [1 J^P$L$$
     J <.-Z; .,(S,$ -D .)FX1 @F^B $K :L I $ G1 L>$$

   (where ^B means `Control-B' (ASCII #b0000010) and $ is actually an
   {ALT} or escape (ASCII #b0011011) 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 mid-1991, 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, and remains the focus of some antiquarian
   interest.  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'.

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 Internet host
   using the {TELNET} program.  TOPS-10 people used the word IMPCOM
   since that was 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
   routine by Mike Kazar, once a grad-student hacker at CMU: "This
   routine is so tense it will bring tears to your eyes."  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?).  Actually, this term may be used of any grad
   student beginning in his seventh year.  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. See {{quantifiers}}.

teraflop club: /ter'a-flop kluhb/ [FLOP = Floating Point
   Operation] n. Mythical association 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.  Caltech
   professor James Kajiya is said to have been the founding member.
   See also {tera-}.

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},

terminal brain death: n. Extreme form of {terminal illness} (sense

terminal illness: n. 1. Syn. {raster burn}.  2. The `burn-in'
   condition your CRT tends to get if you don't have a screen saver.

terminal junkie: [Great Britain] n. A {wannabee} or early
   {larval stage} hacker who spends most of his/her time wandering
   the directory tree and writing {noddy} programs just to get
   his/her fix of computer time.  Variants include `terminal
   jockey', `console junkie', or {console jockey}.  The term
   `console jockey' seems to imply more expertise than the other
   three (possibly because of the exalted status of the {{console}}
   relative to an ordinary terminal).  See also {twink},
   {read-only user}.

terpri: /ter'pree/ [from LISP 1.5 (and later, MacLISP)] vi. To
   output a {newline}.  Now rare as jargon, though still used as
   techspeak in Common Lisp.  It is a contraction of `TERminate PRInt
   line', named for the fact that on early OSes, no characters would be
   printed until a complete line was formed, so this operation
   terminated the line and emitted the output.

test: n. 1. Real users bashing on a prototype for long enough to
   get thoroughly acquainted with it, with careful monitoring and
   followup of the results.  2. Some bored random user 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 TeXnician (TeX user),
   TeXhacker (TeX programmer), TeXmaster (competent TeX programmer),
   TeXhax, TeXnique, TeXpert.

text: n. 1. [techspeak] Executable code, esp. a `pure code'
   portion shared between multiple instances of a program running in a
   multitasking OS (compare {English}).  2. Textual material in
   the mainstream sense; data in ordinary, e.g., {{ASCII}} or
   {{EBCDIC}} representation (syn. {flat-ASCII}).  "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 smart-data vs. smart-programs
   dispute in AI.

theory: n. Used in the general sense of consensus, idea, plan,
   story, or set of rules that is currently being used to inform a
   behavior.  This is a generalization and abuse of the technical
   meaning.  "What's the theory on fixing this TECO loss?"  "What's
   the theory on dinner tonight?"  ("Chinatown, I guess.")
   "What's the current theory on letting lusers on during the day?"
   "The theory behind this change is to fix the following well-known

thinko: /thing'koh/ [by analogy with `typo'] n. A momentary,
   correctable glitch in mental processing, especially one involving
   recall of information learned by rote; a bubble in the stream of
   consciousness.  Syn. {braino}.  Compare {mouso}.

This time, for sure!: excl. Ritual affirmation frequently uttered
   during protracted debugging sessions involving numerous small
   obstacles (e.g. attempts to bring up a UUCP connection).  For the
   proper effect, this must be uttered in a fruity imitation of
   Bullwinkle J. 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 that 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 single task) may also be described as thrashing.  Compare

thread: /thred/ n. [USENET, GEnie, CI$] 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}.

thud: n. Yet another meta-syntactic variable (see {foo}).  It is
   reported that at CMU in the mid-70s the canonical series of these
   was `foo', `bar', `thud', `blat'.

thunk: /thuhnk/ [mythically, the sound made by data hitting the
   stack] n. 1. " ... a piece of coding which provides an
   address." --- P. Z. Ingerman, who invented thunks 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.  2. Later
   generalized into: an expression, frozen together with its
   environment, for later evaluation if and when needed (similar to
   what in techspeak is called a `closure').  The process of
   unfreezing these thunks is called `forcing'.  3. A {stubroutine},
   in an overlay programming environment, that loads and jumps to the
   correct overlay.  Compare {trampoline}.  4. People and activities
   scheduled in a thunklike manner.  "It occurred to me the other day
   that I am rather accurately modelled by a thunk --- I frequently
   need to be forced to completion."  --- paraphrased from a {plan

tick: n. 1. A {jiffy} (sense #1).  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
   the ordering of events.  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).  The American equivalent
   would be `checklist features', but this jargon sense of the
   phrase has not been reported.

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 VGA card's highlight handling by
   trying to set bright yellow reverse video".

tiger team: [U.S. military jargon] n. A team whose purpose is to
   penetrate security, and thus test security measures.  These people
   are paid professionals who do hacker-type tricks, e.g., leave
   cardboard signs saying "bomb" in critical defense installations,
   hand-lettered notes saying "Your codebooks have been stolen"
   (they usually haven't been) inside safes, etc.  After a successful
   penetration, some high-ranking security type shows up the next
   morning for a `security review', finds the sign, note, etc., and
   all hell breaks loose.  Serious successes of tiger teams sometimes
   lead to early retirement for base commanders and security officers.

   A subset of tiger teams are professional {cracker}s, testing the
   security of military computer installations.  Some of their
   escapades, if declassified, would probably rank among the greatest
   hacks of all times.  The term has been adopted in commercial
   computer-security circles in this more specific sense.

time sink: [poss. by analogy with `heat 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, "We can meet on
   campus and go to Louie's, or we can meet at Louie's itself a bit
   later."  (Louie's is a Chinese restaurant in Palo Alto that is a
   favorite with hackers.  Had the number 30 been used instead of the
   number 1, 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: /tie'nee-kruhd/ 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)
   inconsistent and lacking in genuine atmosphere the scenarios
   generated in user extensible 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 one of the MUD
   world's hardiest perennial {holy wars}.

tip of the ice-cube: [IBM] n. The visible part of something small and
   insignificant.  Used as an ironic comment in situations where `tip
   of the iceberg' might be appropriate if the subject were actually

tired iron: [IBM] n. Hardware that is perfectly functional but
   enough behind the state of the art to have been superseded by new
   products, presumably with enough improvement in bang-per-buck that
   the old stuff is starting to look a bit like a {dinosaur}.

tits on a keyboard: n. Small bumps on certain keycaps to keep
   touch-typists registered (usually on the `5' of a numeric keypad,
   and on the `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.  The term `SFLA' (Stupid
   Four-Letter Acronym) has also been reported.  See also {YABA}.

   The self-effacing phrase "TDM TLA" (Too Damn Many...) is often
   used to bemoan the plethora of TLAs in use.  In 1989, a random of
   the journalistic persuasion asked hacker Paul Boutin "What do you
   think will be the biggest problem in computing in the 90s?"
   Paul's straight-faced response: "There are only seventeen thousand
   three-letter acronyms."

to a first approximation: 1. [techspeak] when doing certain
   numerical computations, an approximate solution may be computed by
   any of several heuristic methods, then refined to a final value.
   By using the technique of a first approximation of the answer, an
   algorithm can be written that converges more quickly to the correct
   result.  2. In jargon, a preface to any comment that indicates that
   the comment is only approximately true.  The remark "To a first
   approximation, I feel good" might indicate that deeper questioning
   would reveal that all is not perfect (e.g., a nagging cough still
   remains after an illness).

toast: 1. n. Any completely inoperable system, esp. one that has
   just crashed; "Uh, oh...I think the serial board is toast."
   2. vt. To cause a system to crash accidentally, especially in a
   manner that requires manual rebooting.  "Rick just toasted the
   {firewall machine} again."

toaster: n. 1. The archetypal really stupid application for an
   embedded microprocessor controller; often used in comments which
   imply that a scheme is inappropriate technology (but see
   {elevator controller}).  "{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}, {Get a real computer!}, {toy}, {beige toaster}.
   3. A Macintosh, esp. the Classic Mac.  Some hold that this is
   implied by sense #2.  4. A peripheral device.  "I bought my box
   without toasters, but since then I've added two boards and a second
   disk drive."

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, manipulate, modify,
   or analyze 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 (connotes tedium).  The TMRC
   Dictionary defined this as "to set one's brain to the
   grindstone".  See {hack}.  4. [MIT] n. A student who studies too
   much and hacks too little.

toolsmith: n. The software equivalent of a tool-and-die specialist;
   one who specializes in making the {tool}s with which other
   programmers create applications.  See also {uninteresting}.

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}.

toto: n. This is reported to be the default scratch file name among
   French-speaking programmers; in other words, a Francophone {foo}.

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 {comm mode}, email, games and other trivial
   purposes.  One step below {luser}.  Note: hackers often spell
   this `turist', perhaps by some sort of tenuous analogy with `luser'
   (this also expresses the ITS culture's penchant for
   six-letterisms).  Compare {twink}, {read-only user}.

tourist information: n. Information in an on-line display that is
   not immediately useful, 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 (most of the time) is the TIME information
   in a UNIX `ps(1)' display.

touristic: adj. Having the quality of a {tourist}.  Often used as
   a pejorative, as in the phrase `losing touristic scum'.  Often
   spelled `turistic' or `turistik', so that phrase might be more
   properly rendered `lusing turistic scum'.

toy: n. A computer system; always used with qualifiers.
   1. `nice toy': One that 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.
   It is also strongly conditioned by one's expectations; Cray XMP
   users sometimes consider the Cray-1 a `toy', and certainly all RISC
   boxes and mainframes are toys by their standards.  See also {Get
   a real computer!}.

toy language: n. A language useful for instructional purposes or as
   a proof-of-concept for some aspect of computer science theory, but
   which is inadequate for general-purpose programming.  {Bad
   Thing}s 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.
   See also {MFTL}.

toy problem: [AI] n. A deliberately simplified or even
   oversimplified case of a challenging problem used to investigate,
   prototype, or test algorithms for a real problem.  Sometimes used
   pejoratively.  See also {gedanken}, {toy program}.

toy program: n. 1. One that can be readily comprehended; hence, a
   trivial program (compare {noddy}).  2. One for which the effort
   of initial coding dominates the costs through its life cycle.
   See also {noddy}.

trampoline: n. An incredibly {hairy} technique found in some
   {HLL} and program-overlay implementations (e.g., on the
   Macintosh) that involves on-the-fly generation of small executable
   (and, like as not, self-modifying) code objects to do indirection
   between code sections.  These pieces of {live data} are called
   `trampolines'.  Trampolines are notoriously difficult to understand
   in action; in fact, it is said by those who use this term that the
   trampoline which doesn't bend your brain is not the true

trap: 1. n. A program interrupt, usually used specifically to refer
   to an interrupt caused by some exceptional situation in the user
   program.  In most cases, the OS performs some action, 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 among programmers as the role of assembler continues
   to shrink.  However, it is still important to computer architects
   and systems hackers (see {system}, sense #1), who use it to
   distinguish deterministically repeatable exceptions from
   timing-dependent ones (such as I/O interrupts).

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 {suit}s are tree-killers.

trit: [by analogy with `bit'] n. One base-3 digit; the amount of
   information conveyed by a selection among 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.  Trits are sometimes
   jokingly called "three-state bits".  A trit may be semi-seriously
   referred to as "a bit and a half" though it is linearly
   equivalent to 1.5849625 bits (that is,

trivial: adj. 1. 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 terminal inverted (black on
   white) because you've been up for so many days straight that your
   eyes hurt (see {raster burn}).  Loud music blaring from a stereo
   stacked in the corner is optional but recommended.  See {larval
   stage}, {hack mode}.

Trojan horse: [coined by MIT-hacker-turned-NSA-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,
   archiver, or game (in one notorious 1990 case, a Trojan Horse was
   found in an anti-{virus} program for the Mac).  See {back
   door}, {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 compliment.  "He spent
   six hours helping me bring up UUCP and netnews on my FOOBAR 4000
   last week --- manifestly 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; this pronunciation is not considered to
   have sexual undertones] 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 Trek Classic and the occasional cheesy old
   swashbuckler (see Appendix B).  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 in 4.2.  Tunefs relates to the `tuning' of file-system
   parameters for optimum performance, and at the bottom of a few
   pages of wizardly inscriptions was a `BUGS' section consisting of
   the line "You can tune a filing system, but you can't tunafish."
   Variants of this can be seen in other BSD versions, though some
   have had it excised by humorless management {droid}s.  The
   [nt]roff source for SunOS 4.1.1 contains a comment apparently
   designed to prevent this: "Take this out and a Unix Demon will dog
   your steps from now until the time_t's wrap around."

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}.

turbo nerd: n. See {computer geek}.

turist: n. Var. sp. of {tourist}, q.v.  Also in adjectival form,
   `turistic'.  Poss. influenced by {luser} and `Turing'?

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}; also see {shotgun debugging}.  2. To {tune}
   or {bum} a program.  This is preferred usage in Great Britain.

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 for the DECSYSTEM-20 OS.  Bolt,
   Beranek, and Newman (BBN) had developed its 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 early 1980s when it commanded 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 its 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 #b1111110, `~').  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 {bit twiddling}, {toggle}).

twink: /twink/ [UCSC] n. Equivalent to {read-only user}.

two pi: quant. 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...".

two-to-the-n: quant. An amount much larger than {N}, but smaller
   than {infinity}.  "I have two-to-the-N things to do before I can
   go out for lunch." means you probably won't show up.

twonkie: n. The software equivalent of a Twinkie; a useless
   `feature' added to look sexy and placate a {marketroid}.  This
   may be related to the `The Twonky', title menace of a classic
   SF short story by Lewis Padgett (Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore),
   first published in the September 1942 `Astounding Science
   Fiction' and subsequently much anthologized.

= 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 {pilot error};
   oppose {PBD}; see also {brain-damaged}.

UN*X: n. Used to refer to the UNIX operating system (a trademark of
   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 the tm-postfix 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
   (especially Judaism) where the name of the deity is never written
   out in full, e.g., YHWH or G-d is used.  See also {glob}.

undefined external reference: excl. [UNIX] A message from UNIX's
   linker.  Used in speech to {flag} loose ends or dangling
   references 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 to enable the
   listener to {grok} 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!"

undocumented feature: n. See {feature}.

uninteresting: adj. 1. Said of a problem that, 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

   Hackers regard uninteresting problems as an intolerable waste of
   time, to be solved (if at all) by lesser mortals.  *Real*
   hackers (see {toolsmith}) generalize uninteresting problems
   enough to make them interesting and solve them --- thus solving the
   original problem as a special case.  See {WOMBAT}, {SMOP};
   compare {toy problem}, oppose {interesting}.

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
   his scavenged PDP-7.  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 during
   1972--1974, making it the first source-portable OS.  In 1991, UNIX
   is the most widely used multiuser general-purpose operating system
   in the world.  Many people consider this the single most important
   victory yet of hackerdom over industry opposition (but see {UNIX
   weenie} for an opposing point of view).  See {Version 7},
   {BSD}, {USG UNIX}.

{UNIX brain damage} n. Something that has to be done to {break} a
   network program (typically a mailer) on a non-UNIX system so that
   it will interoperate with UNIX systems, often over the vehement
   objections of its author, who points out that the program conforms
   to published standards and the UNIX program in question does not.
   UNIX brain damage happens because it's much easier for other
   (minority) systems to change their ways to match non-conforming
   behavior than it is to change all the hundreds of thousands of UNIX
   systems out there.

   An example of UNIX brain damage is a {kludge} in a mail server to
   recognize bare line feed (the UNIX newline) as an equivalent form
   to the Internet standard newline, which is a carriage return
   followed by a line feed.  Such things can make even a hardened
   {jock} weep.

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 1970s 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.  This theory was lent a substantial
   impetus in 1984 by the paper referenced in the {back door} entry.

   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 (Olsen now
   claims to have been misquoted).

UNIX weenie: [ITS] n. 1. A derogatory play 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 is
   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}.

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 virtual-memory 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 zeroed; the assumption
   that fragmentation problems won't arise from never free()ing memory
   memory; etc.  Compare {vaxocentrism}; see {New Jersey}.

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.  See also {smash the stack}.  2. People can unwind
   the stack as well, by quickly dealing with a bunch of problems:
   "Oh heck, let's do lunch.  Just a second while I unwind my

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."

up: adj. 1. Working, in order.  "The down escalator is up."
   Oppose {down}.  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 programs or data over a
   digital communications link from a smaller or peripheral `client'
   system to a larger or central `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 gusto.

upthread: adv. Earlier in the discussion (see {thread}), i.e.
   `above'. "As Joe pointed out upthread...."  See also

urchin: n. See {munchkin}.

USENET: /yoos'net/ or /yooz'net/ [from `Users' Network'] n.
   A distributed {bboard} (bulletin board) system supported mainly
   by UNIX machines, international in scope and probably the largest
   anarchic information utility in existence.  As of early 1991, it
   hosts well over 700 {newsgroup}s and an average of 16 megabytes
   (the equivalent of several thousand paper pages) 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.  [GLS
   observes: 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.

   The general theory behind this term is that there are two classes
   of people who work with a program: there are implementors (hackers)
   and {luser}s.  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 winner's.)  The term is a relative one: a skilled hacker
   may be a user with respect to some program he himself does not
   hack.  A LISP hacker might be one who maintains LISP or one who
   uses LISP (but with the skill of a hacker).  A LISP user is one who
   uses LISP, whether skillfully or not.  Thus there is some overlap
   between the two terms; the subtle distinctions must be resolved by

user-friendly: adj. Programmer-hostile.  Generally used by hackers in
   a critical tone, to describe systems which hold the user's hand so
   obsessively that they make it painful for the more experienced and
   knowledgeable to get any work done.  See {menuitis}, {drool-proof
   paper}, {Macintrash}, {user-obsequious}.

user-obsequious: adj. Emphatic form of {user-friendly}.  Connotes
   a system so verbose, inflexible, and determinedly simple-minded
   that it is nearly unusable.  "Design a system any fool can use and
   only a fool will want to use it."  See {WIMP environment},

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 connected UNIX machines (and others running some clone of
   the UUCP (UNIX-to-UNIX CoPy) 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 {admin}'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' (compare {phreaking}).

   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! 
   See also {hobbit} (sense #2).

vanilla: [from the default flavor of ice cream in the U.S.] adj.
   Ordinary {flavor}, standard.  When used of food, very often does
   not mean that the food is flavored with vanilla extract!  For
   example, `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 means what TI calls a 7400, as distinct from a
   74LS00, etc.  This word differs from {canonical} in that the
   latter means `default', 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 release
   (which may or may not actually take place).

var: /veir/ or /vahr/ n. Short for `variable'.  Compare {arg},

VAX: /vaks/ n. 1. [from Virtual Address eXtension] The most
   successful minicomputer design in industry history, possibly
   excepting its immediate ancestor, the PDP-11.  Between its release
   in 1978 and eclipse by {killer micro}s after about 1986 the VAX
   was probably the favorite hacker machine of them all, esp. after
   the 1982 release of 4.2BSD UNIX (see {BSD}).  Esp. noted for its
   large, assembler-programmer-friendly instruction set --- an asset
   that became a liability after the RISC revolution.  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 (as in "Nothing sucks like
   an...).  It is claimed, however, that DEC actually entered a
   cross-licensing deal with the vacuum-VAX people which allowed them
   to market VAX computers in the UK in return for not challenging the
   VAXuum cleaner trademark in the U.S.

VAXectomy: /vak-sek't*-mee/ [by analogy with `vasectomy'] n. A
   VAX removal.  DEC's Microvaxen, especially, are much slower than
   newer RISC-based workstations like the SPARC.  Thus, if one knows
   one has a replacement coming, VAX removal can be cause for

VAXen: /vak'sn/ [from `oxen', perhaps influenced by `vixen'] n.
   (alt. `vaxen') The plural canonically used among hackers for the
   DEC VAX computers.  "Our installation has four PDP-10s and twenty
   vaxen."  See {boxen}.

vaxism: n. A piece of code that exhibits {vaxocentrism} in critical
   areas.  Compare {PC-ism}, {unixism}.

vaxocentrism: /vak`soh-sen'trizm/ [analogy with
   `ethnocentrism'] n.  A notional disease said to afflict C
   programmers who persist in coding according to certain assumptions
   valid (esp. under UNIX) on {VAXen}, but false elsewhere. 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.  Problem:
        this may instead cause an illegal-address trap on non-VAXen, and
        even on VAXen under OSes 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
        vice-versa) and drawn back out without being truncated or mangled.
        Problem: fails on segmented architectures or word-oriented machines
        with funny pointer formats.

  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- or greater-sized object at an odd
        char address).  Problem: 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.  This
        is not only machine- but compiler-dependent.

  5.    The assumption that memory address space is globally flat and that
        the array reference foo[-1] is necessarily valid.  Problem: this fails
        at 0, or other places on segment-addressed machines like Intel chips
        (yes, segmentation is universally considered a {brain-damaged}
        way to design machines, but that is a separate issue).

  6.    The assumption that objects can be arbitrarily large with no
        special considerations.  Problem: this fails on segmented
        architectures and under non-virtual-addressing environments.

  7.    The assumption that the stack can be as large as memory.  Problem:
        fails on segmented architectures or almost anything else without
        virtual addressing and a paged stack.

  8.    The assumption that the parameters of a routine are stored in
        memory, contiguously, and in strictly ascending or descending order
        Problem: this fails on many RISC architectures.

  9.    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.  Problem: this fails on {big-endian} machines).

 10.    The assumption that it is meaningful to compare pointers to
        different objects not located within the same array, or to objects
        of different types.  Problem: the former fails on segmented
        architectures, the latter on word-oriented machines or others with
        multiple pointer formats.

 11.    The assumption that a pointer to any one type can freely be cast
        into a pointer to any other type.  Problem: fails on word-oriented
        machines or others with multiple pointer formats.

 12.    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.  Problem: fails on word-oriented machines or others with
        multiple pointer formats).

 13.    The assumption that an `int' is 32 bits, or (nearly
        equivalently) the assumption that `sizeof(int) ==
        sizeof(long)'.  Problem: this fails on 286-based systems and even
        on 386 and 68000 systems under some compilers.

 14.    The assumption that argv[] is writable.  Problem: this fails in
        some embedded-systems C environments.

 15.    The assumption that characters are signed.

   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.

vdiff: /vee'dif/ v.,n. Visual diff.  The operation of finding
   differences between two files by {eyeball search}.  See {diff}.

veeblefester: /vee'b*l-fes`tr/ [from the `Born Loser' comix via
   Commodore; prob. originally from Mad Magazine's `Veeblefetzer' ca.
   1960] n.  Any obnoxious person engaged in the alleged professions
   of marketing or management.  Antonym of {hacker}.  Compare {suit},

Venus flytrap: [after the insect-eating plant] n. See {firewall

verbage: /ver'b*j/ 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.

vgrep: /vee'grep/ v.,n. Visual grep.  The operation of finding
   patterns in a file {by hand}.  See {grep}; compare {vdiff}.

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 (one correspondent accordingly reports that he has
   often heard the editor's name pronounced /viel/).  Nevertheless it
   is still widely used (about half the respondents in a 1991 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 badly
   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. from
   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.  For example, the U.S. holiday
   Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday.  The next day is often also
   taken as a holiday or extra day off, in which case Wednesday of
   that week is a virtual Friday (and Thursday is a virtual Saturday).
   There are also `virtual Mondays' that are actually Tuesdays,
   after the three-day weekends associated with many U.S. national

virtual reality: n. 1. Computer simulations that use 3-D graphics
   and 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 hack}s).  Many nasty viruses, written by
   particularly perversely minded {cracker}s, do irreversible
   damage, like nuking all the user's files.

   In mid-1991, 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
   operating 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 {luser}s tend to blame *everything* that doesn't
   work as they had expected on virus attacks.  Accordingly, this
   sense of `virus' has passed not only into techspeak but into
   popular usage as well (where it is often incorrectly used to denote
   a {worm}).  Compare {Trojan horse}, {back door}; see also
   {UNIX conspiracy}.

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}, {AI-complete}.)  2. [IBM]
   One who reads the outside literature.  At IBM, apparently, such a
   penchant is viewed with awe and wonder.

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}.

voice: vt. To phone someone, as opposed to emailing them or
   connecting in talk mode.  "I'm busy now; I'll voice you later."

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:" or
   "Voice-Net:" header; common variants of this are "Voicenet" and
   "V-Net".  Compare {paper-net}, {snail-mail}.

voodoo programming: [from George Bush's "voodoo economics"] n.
   The use by guess or cookbook of an {obscure} or {hairy} system,
   feature or algorithm that one does not truly understand.  The
   implication is that the technique may not work, and if it doesn't,
   one will never know why.  Almost synonymous with {black magic},
   except that black magic typically isn't documented and **
   understands it.  Compare {magic}, {deep magic}, {heavy
   wizardry}, {rain dance}, {cargo-cult programming}, {wave a
   dead chicken}.

VR: [MUD] n. On-line abbrev for Virtual Reality, as opposed to

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
   some Macintoshes, it is <Cmd>-<Power switch>!  Also called
   {three-finger salute}.  Compare {quadruple bucky}.

vulture capitalist: n. Pejorative hackerism for `venture
   capitalist', deriving from the common practice of pushing
   contracts that deprive inventors of both control over their own
   innovations and most of the money they ought to have made from

= W =

wabbit: /wab'it/ [almost certainly from Elmer Fudd's immortal
   line "you wascawwy wabbit!"] n. 1. A legendary early hack
   reported on a System/360 at RPI and elsewhere around 1978.  The
   program would make two copies of itself 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}.

WAITS: n. The mutant cousin of {TOPS-10} used on a handful of
   systems at {SAIL} up to 1990.  There was never an `official'
   expansion of WAITS (the name itself having been arrived at by a
   rather sideways process), but it was frequently glossed as
   `West-Coast Alternative to ITS'.  Though WAITS was less visible
   than ITS, there was frequent exchange of people and ideas between
   the two communities and innovations pioneered at WAITS exerted
   enormous indirect influence.  The early screen modes of {EMACS},
   for example, were directly inspired by WAITS's `E' editor --- one
   of a family of editors which were the first to do `real-time
   editing', in which the editing commands were invisible and where
   one typed text at the point of insertion/overwriting.  The modern
   style of multi-region windowing is said to have originated there,
   and WAITS alumni at XEROX PARC and elsewehere played major roles in
   the developments that led to the XEROX Star, the Macintosh, and the
   Sun workstations.  {Bucky bits} were also invented there ---
   thus, the ALT key on every IBM PC is a WAITS legacy.  One notable
   WAITS feature never duplicated elsewhere was a news-wire interface
   that allowed WAITS hackers to read, store, and filter AP and UPI
   dispatches from their terminals; the system also featured a
   still-unusual level of support for what is now called `multimedia'
   computing, allowing analog and video signals to be switched to
   programming terminals.

waldo: /wol'doh/ [From Robert A. Heinlein's story `Waldo']
   1. A waldo is a mechanical agent, such as gripper arm, controlled
   by a human limb; when these were developed for the nuclear industry
   in the mid-1940s they were named after the invention described by
   Robert A. Heinlein in the story he wrote in 1942.  Now known by the
   more generic term 'telefactoring', is of intense interest to NASA
   for tasks like space station maintenance.  2. 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 huge, clunky {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).  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.

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, clearly 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.

wall follower: n. A person or algorithm which compensates for lack
   of sophistication or 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. (also `wall clock time') 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

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 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 WALL PAPER (the space was a path
   delimiter).  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.  (Even if you don't intend ever to produce a real paper copy
   of the file it is still called a `wallpaper file'.)

wango: /wang'goh/ n. Random bit-level {grovel}ling going on in
   a system during some unspecified operation.  Often used in
   combination with mumble.  For example: "You start with the `.o'
   file and mumble-wango --- and it comes out a snazzy object-oriented

wank: /wangk/ [Columbia University; prob. by mutation from
   Commonwealth slang v. `wank', to masturbate] n.,v. Used much as
   {hack} is elsewhere, as a noun denoting a clever technique or
   person or the result of such clevernes.  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 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}).  Usage: U.S. only.  In Britain and the Commonwealth
   this word is *extremely* rude and best avoided unless one
   intends to give offense.

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.]

wart: n. A small, {crock}y {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 14-inch 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}

wave a dead chicken: v. To perform a ritual in the direction of
   crashed software or hardware that one believes to be futile but
   is 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: n. [Cambridge] A naive user, one who deliberately or
   accidentally does things that are stupid or ill-advised.  Roughly
   synonymous with {loser}.

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,
   a process may become wedged if it {deadlock}s with another.
   Being wedged is slightly milder than being {hung}.  See also
   {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.

wedgie: [Fairchild] n. A bug.  Prob. related to {wedged}.

wedgitude: /wedj'i-t[y]ood/ n. The quality or state of being

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...."

   At CDC/ETA before its demise, the phrase `go off in the weeds'
   was equivalent to IBM's {branch to Fishkill} and mainstream
   hackerdom's {jump off into never-never land}.

weenie: n. 1. The semicolon character, `;' (ASCII #b0111011).
   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 considers 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}.  According to one noted ex-ITSer, it is "The
   operating system preferred by Unix Weenies: "Typified by poor
   modularity, poor reliability, hard file deletion, no file version
   numbers, case sensitivity everywhere, and users who believe that
   these are all advantages."  Some ITS fans behave as though they
   believe UNIX stole a future that rightfully belonged to them.  See

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
   nervous system, as opposed to computer hardware or software (as in
   "Wetware has 7 plus or minus 2 temporary registers.").  2. Human
   beings (programmers, operators, administrators) attached to a
   computer system, as opposed to the system's hardware or software.

wheel: n. 1. A privilege bit that canonically allows the
   possessor to perform any operation on a timesharing system, such as
   read or write any file on the system regardless of protections,
   change or look at any address in the running monitor, crash or
   reload the system, and kill/create jobs and user accounts.  The
   term was invented on the TENEX operating system, and carried over
   to TOPS-20, XEROX-IFS and others.  2. A person who posses a wheel
   bit.  "We need to find a wheel to unwedge the hung tape drives."

   This term entered the UNIX culture from TWENEX in the mid-80s 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 hacks hassle with 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: [Sun] adj. (alt. `wizzy') Describes a {cuspy} program;
   one that is 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.
   evoking `window gadget'] A user interface object in {X} graphical
   user interfaces.

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, Menu, Pointing
   device] A graphical-user-interface-based environment, as described
   by a hacker who prefers command-line interfaces for their superior
   flexibility and extensibility.  See {menuitis},

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}.  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.  Oppose {lose}; see also {big win}, which isn't
   quite just an intensification of `win'.

win big: vi. See {big win}.

win win: interj. Expresses pleasure at a {win}.

Winchester:: n. Informal generic 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 caliber and the second to the grain weight of the

winged comments: n. Comments set on the same line as code, as
   opposed to {boxed comments}.  In C, for example:

     d = sqrt(x*x + y*y);  /* compute distance of (x,y) from origin */

   Generally these refer only to the action(s) taken on that line.

winnage: /win'*j/ n. The situation when a lossage is corrected, or
   when something is winning.

winner: 1. n. An unexpectedly good situation, program, programmer or
   person.  2. `real winner': Often sarcastic, but also used as high
   praise (see also the note under {user}).

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!"

wired: n. See {hardwired}.

wirehead: n. [prob. from 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.  Compare {tick-list features}.

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}, {lord high fixer}.  See also {deep magic},
   {heavy wizardry}, {incantation}, {magic}, {mutter}, {rain
   dance}, {voodoo programming}, {wave a dead chicken}.

Wizard Book: n. Abelson and Sussman's `Structure and
   Interpretation of Computer Programs' (McGraw-Hill 1985, ISBN
   0-07-000-422-6, QA76.6.A255), an excellent CS text used in
   introductory courses at MIT.  So called because of the wizard on
   the cover of the MIT Press edition.  One of the {bible}s of the
   LISP/Scheme world.

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.

womb box: n. 1. [TMRC] Storage space for equipment.  2. [proposed]
   A variety of hard-shell equipment case with heavy interior padding
   and/or shaped carrier cutouts in a foam-rubber matrix.  Used for
   delicate test equipment, electronics, and musical instruments.

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 in {{Commonwealth Hackish}}.

wonky: /wong'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 Tengwar."  Also in
   `wonked out'.  See {funky}, {demented}, {bozotic}.

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 {fix}es; 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. 1. In conformance to a wrong or
   inappropriate specification; useful, but mis-designed.
   2. Frequently used as a sardonic comment on a program's utility.
   3. Unfortunately also used as a bogus reason for not accepting a
   criticism or suggestion.  At {IBM}, this sense is used in
   official documents!  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.  Compare {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 1988, a `benign' one that
   got out of control and hogged hundreds of Suns and VAXen
   nationwide.  See also {cracker}, {RTFM}, {Trojan horse},

wound around the axle: adj. In an infinite loop.  Often used by older
   computer types.

wrap around: vi. (also n. `wraparound' and v. shorthand `wrap')
   1. [techspeak] 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 (28-hour) days in a week (or,
   equivalently, sleeping at the rate of 10 microhertz).

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 its 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 occasionally applied to C and
   often to APL, though {INTERCAL} and {TECO} certainly deserve it

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 came
   to the attention of Signetics only 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: 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. Describes a user interface under which
   "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}.  See also {WIMP environment}.  [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[0-4]0 and 80[1-4]86 or 680?0 and 80?86 respectively; see
   {glob}).  2. [after 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.

XOFF: /eks'off/ n. Syn. {control-s}.

xor: /eks'ohr/, /kzor/ 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 exactly one of two
   arguments is true.

xref: /eks'ref/ vt.,n. Hackish standard abbreviation for

XXX: /eks-eks-eks/ n. A marker that attention is needed.
   Commonly used in program comments to indicate areas that are kluged
   up or need to be.  Some hackers liked `XXX' to the notional
   heavy-porn rating.

xyzzy: /eks-wie-zee-zee-wie/, /ik-zi'zee/, /eks-wie-ziz'ee/,
   /zi'zee/; in Commonwealth hackish, /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 OSes; 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

= 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

Yellow Book: n. The print version of this Jargon File; `The
   New Hacker's Dictionary', forthcoming from MIT Press, 1991.
   Includes all the material in the File, plus a Foreword by Guy L.
   Steele and a Preface by Eric S. Raymond.  Most importantly, the
   book version is nicely typeset and includes almost all of the
   infamous Crunchly cartoons by the Great Quux, each attached to an
   appropriate entry.

Yet Another: adj. [From UNIX's `yacc(1)', `Yet Another Compiler-
   Compiler', a 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 either the context
   switching code of the V6 UNIX kernel or the V6 tty driver (accounts

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 seen 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] 1. 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?"  2. A qualifier more
   generally attached to advice.  "I find that sending flowers works
   well, but your mileage may vary."

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.

   Sun Microsystems gave out logoized yoyos at SIGPLAN '88.  Tourists
   staying at one of Atlanta's most respectable hotels were
   subsequently treated to the sight of 200 of the country's top
   computer scientists testing yo-yo algorithms in the lobby.

Yu-Shiang Whole Fish: /yoo-shyang hohl fish/ n. obs. The character
   gamma (extended SAIL ASCII #b1001011), 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 wipe your nose for the rest of the meal.)  See {zapped}.
   4. vt. To modify, usually to correct; esp. used when the action is
   performed with a debugger or binary patching tool.  Also implies
   surgical precision.  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 M A SuPerZAP).  5. vt. To erase
   or reset.  6. To {fry} a chip with static electricity.

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; by contrast, {vanilla}
   wonton soup is hot but not 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}.  See also {guru}.

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 and LISP'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 (one of the classic instances was in the First
   Edition of {K&R}).  In recent years this trait has also been
   observed among many pure mathematicians (who have an independent
   tradition of numbering from 0).  Zero-based numbering tends to
   reduce {fencepost error}s, though it cannot eliminate them

zigamorph: /zig'*-morf/ n. Hex FF (binary #b11111111) when used
   as a delimiter or {fence} character.  Usage: primarily IBM shops.

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 that 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 can be seen in
   `ps(1)' listings occasionally.  Compare {orphan}.

zorch: [TMRC] v. 1. To attack with an inverse heat sink.  2. To
   travel, v approaching c [that is, with velocity approaching
   lightspeed --- ESR].

Zork: /zork/ n. Second of the great early experiments in computer
   fantasy gaming; see {ADVENT}.  Originally written on MIT-DM
   during the late seventies, later distributed with BSD UNIX and
   commercialized as `The Zork Trilogy' by Infocom.

zorkmid: n. The canonical unit of currency in hacker-written games.
   This originated in zork: but has spread to {nethack} and is
   referred to in several other games.

Appendix A: Hacker Folklore

This appendix contains several legends and fables which illuminate the
meaning of various entries in the lexicon.

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 easier to explain to non-hackers than the
programming kind.  Accordingly, here are some 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
sheet blanks for the card stunts.  They then had a printer run off
2300 copies of the blank.  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 made
new instructions for three of the stunts on the duplicated blanks.
Finally, they broke in once more, replacing the stolen master plans
and substituting the stack of diddled 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.

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 oxyacetylene 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 fused track and wheel!

The pranksters' plunder 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.

A rather similar hack, perpetrated by a fraternity at CMU, cost their
campus its trolley service.

Though these 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.  As such, 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."

Still another:

At Stevens Tech, a programmer, having seen the {Cookie Bear} program
on the ITS systems, proceeded to write his own version for TOPS-10.
Unlike the ITS one, this version, called TSCB (Time-Sharing Cookie
Bear) was able to simultaneously harass multiple users at a time with
numerous {bells and whistles}.  It had a mode to look for a
particular user or program name and pounce as soon as it saw either;
it accepted wildcards (e.g. the command `BOTHER [3??,*]' would sic the
bear on all Chemistry Department users); and it had commands to hide
as various other programs (making detection difficult if not

Later on, it acquired other, nastier features; the `PUNISH' command
would look for a particular user or program name and log that job out
as soon as it saw it; the `IWANT' command could grab a reserved device
from another user, etc.

This program became well-known in the Stevens folklore, and copies
ended up on just about everywhere despite the efforts of the Computer
Center administration to eradicate it.  Fortunately, this program
required privileges to work; unfortunately, the ability of Computer
Center employees to get and use these privileges with impunity lead to
a strong `us vs. them' mentality among Stevens hackers.

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 an intended 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.

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 security safeguards could be

They dug around in the operating-system listings and devised a
thoroughly devilish set of patches.  These patches were then
incorporated into a pair of programs called `Robin Hood' and `Friar
Tuck'.  Robin Hood and Friar Tuck were designed to run as `ghost jobs'
(daemons, in UNIX terminology); they would use the existing loophole
to subvert system security, install the necessary patches, and then
keep an eye on one another's statuses in order to keep the system
operator (in effect, the superuser) from aborting them.

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
   * 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}.  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

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 OS image
(the kernel 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} in the main text before continuing.

     Date: Wed 3 Sep 86 16:46:31-EDT
     From: "Art Evans" <Evans@TL-20B.ARPA>
     Subject: Always Mount a Scratch Monkey
     To: Risks@CSL.SRI.COM

My friend Bud used to be the intercept man at a computer vendor for
calls when an irate customer called.  Seems one day Bud was sitting at
his desk when the phone rang.
     Bud:       Hello.                 Voice:      YOU KILLED MABEL!!
     B:         Excuse me?             V:          YOU KILLED MABEL!!

This went on for a couple of minutes and Bud was getting nowhere, so he
decided to alter his approach to the customer.

Well, to avoid making a long story even longer, I will abbreviate what had
happened.  The customer was a Biologist at the University of Blah-de-blah,
and he had one of our computers that controlled gas mixtures that Mabel (the
monkey) breathed.  Now, Mabel was not your ordinary monkey.  The University
had spent years teaching Mabel to swim, and they were studying the effects
that different gas mixtures had on her physiology.  It turns out that the
repair folks had just gotten a new Calibrated Power Supply (used to
calibrate analog equipment), and at their first opportunity decided to
calibrate the D/A converters in that computer.  This changed some of the gas
mixtures and poor Mabel was asphyxiated.  Well, Bud then called the branch
manager for the repair folks:

     Manager:     Hello
     B:           This is Bud, I heard you did a PM at the University of
     M:           Yes, we really performed a complete PM.  What can I do
                  for you?
     B:           Can you swim?

The moral is, of course, that you should always mount a scratch monkey.


There are several morals here related to risks in use of computers.
Examples include, "If it ain't broken, don't fix it."  However, the
cautious philosophical approach implied by "always mount a scratch
monkey" says a lot that we should keep in mind.

     Art Evans
     Tartan Labs

TV Typewriters: A Tale Of Hackish Ingenuity

Here is a true story about a glass tty.  One day an MIT hacker was in
a motorcycle accident and broke his leg.  He had to stay in the
hospital quite a while, and got restless because he couldn't {hack}.
Two of his friends therefore took a terminal and modem 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, you know.

Fair enough, said the two friends, and they left again.  They were
frustrated, of course, because they knew that the terminal was as
harmless as a TV or anything else on the list... which gave them an

The next day they returned, and the same thing happened: a guard
stopped them and asked what they were carrying.  They said, "This is
a TV typewriter!"  The guard was skeptical, so they plugged it in and
demonstrated it.  "See?  You just type on the keyboard and what you
type shows up on the TV screen."  Now the guard didn't stop to think
about how utterly useless a typewriter would be that didn't produce
any paper copies of what you typed; but this was clearly a TV
typewriter, no doubt about it.  So he checked his list: "A TV is all
right, a typewriter is all right... okay, take it on in!"

Two Stories About `Magic' (by Guy Steele)

When Barbara Steele was in her fifth month of pregnancy in 1981, 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* (or {automagically})
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 knows 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 {dike}d 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 some of the funniest examples of a genre of jokes told at
the MIT AI lab about various noted hackers.  The original koans were
composed by Danny Hillis.  In reading these, it is at least useful to
know that Minsky, Sussman, and Drescher are AI researchers of note,
that Tom Knight was one of the Lisp machine's principal designers, and
that David Moon wrote much of Lisp machine Lisp.

                                 * * *

   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.

                                 * * *

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: Pure reference-count garbage collectors have problems with
   circular structures that point to themselves.]

                                 * * *

In the days when Sussman was a novice, Minsky once came to him as
he sat hacking at the PDP-6.

   "What are you doing?" asked Minsky.

   "I am training a randomly wired neural net to play Tic-Tac-Toe",
Sussman replied.

   "Why is the net wired randomly?" asked Minsky.

   "I do not want it to have any preconceptions of how to play."
Sussman said.

   Minsky then shut his eyes.

   "Why do you close your eyes?" Sussman asked his teacher.

   "So that the room will be empty."

   At that moment, Sussman was enlightened.

                                 * * *

   A disciple of another sect once came to Drescher as he was
eating his morning meal.

   "I would like to give you this personality test", said the
outsider, "because I want you to be happy."

   Drescher took the paper that was offered him and put it
into the toaster, saying:

   "I wish the toaster to be happy, too."


This story says a lot about the the ITS ethos. 

On the ITS system there was a program that allowed you to see what is
being printed on someone else's terminal.  It spied 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 at IBM too) 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 trespassing on another's
areas.  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 (a six-letterism 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.
Unfortunately, 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 its author Ed Nather (utastro!nather) on
May 21, 1983.

     A recent article devoted to the *macho* side of programming
     made the bald and unvarnished statement:

         Real Programmers write in Fortran.

     Maybe they do now,
     in this decadent era of
     Lite beer, hand calculators and "user-friendly" software
     but back in the Good Old Days,
     when the term "software" sounded funny
     and Real Computers were made out of drums and vacuum tubes,
     Real Programmers wrote in machine code.
     Not Fortran. Not RATFOR. Not, even, assembly language.
     Machine Code.
     Raw, unadorned, inscrutable hexadecimal numbers.

     Lest a whole new generation of programmers
     grow up in ignorance of this glorious past,
     I feel duty-bound to describe,
     as best I can through the generation gap,
     how a Real Programmer wrote code.
     I'll call him Mel,
     because that was his name.

     I first met Mel when I went to work for Royal McBee Computer Corp.,
     a now-defunct subsidiary of the typewriter company.
     The firm manufactured the LGP-30,
     a small, cheap (by the standards of the day)
     drum-memory computer,
     and had just started to manufacture
     the RPC-4000, a much-improved,
     bigger, better, faster --- drum-memory computer.
     Cores cost too much,
     and weren't here to stay, anyway.
     (That's why you haven't heard of the company, or the computer.)

     I had been hired to write a Fortran compiler
     for this new marvel and Mel was my guide to its wonders.
     Mel didn't approve of compilers.

     "If a program can't rewrite its own code",
     he asked, "what good is it?"

     Mel had written,
     in hexadecimal,
     the most popular computer program the company owned.
     It ran on the LGP-30
     and played blackjack with potential customers
     at computer shows.
     Its effect was always dramatic.
     The LGP-30 booth was packed at every show,
     and the IBM salesmen stood around
     talking to each other.
     Whether or not this actually sold computers
     was a question we never discussed.

     Mel's job was to re-write
     the blackjack program for the RPC-4000.
     (Port?  What does that mean?)
     The new computer had a one-plus-one
     addressing scheme,
     in which each machine instruction,
     in addition to the operation code
     and the address of the needed operand,
     had a second address that indicated where, on the revolving drum,
     the next instruction was located.
     In modern parlance,
     every single instruction was followed by a GO TO!
     Put *that* in Pascal's pipe and smoke it.

     Mel loved the RPC-4000
     because he could optimize his code:
     that is, locate instructions on the drum
     so that just as one finished its job,
     the next would be just arriving at the "read head"
     and available for immediate execution.
     There was a program to do that job,
     an "optimizing assembler",
     but Mel refused to use it.

     "You never know where its going to put things",
     he explained, "so you'd have to use separate constants".

     It was a long time before I understood that remark.
     Since Mel knew the numerical value
     of every operation code,
     and assigned his own drum addresses,
     every instruction he wrote could also be considered
     a numerical constant.
     He could pick up an earlier "add" instruction, say,
     and multiply by it,
     if it had the right numeric value.
     His code was not easy for someone else to modify.

     I compared Mel's hand-optimized programs
     with the same code massaged by the optimizing assembler program,
     and Mel's always ran faster.
     That was because the "top-down" method of program design
     hadn't been invented yet,
     and Mel wouldn't have used it anyway.
     He wrote the innermost parts of his program loops first,
     so they would get first choice
     of the optimum address locations on the drum.
     The optimizing assembler wasn't smart enough to do it that way.

     Mel never wrote time-delay loops, either,
     even when the balky Flexowriter
     required a delay between output characters to work right.
     He just located instructions on the drum
     so each successive one was just *past* the read head
     when it was needed;
     the drum had to execute another complete revolution
     to find the next instruction.
     He coined an unforgettable term for this procedure.
     Although "optimum" is an absolute term,
     like "unique", it became common verbal practice
     to make it relative:
     "not quite optimum" or "less optimum"
     or "not very optimum".
     Mel called the maximum time-delay locations
     the "most pessimum".

     After he finished the blackjack program
     and got it to run,
     ("Even the initializer is optimized",
     he said proudly)
     he got a Change Request from the sales department.
     The program used an elegant (optimized)
     random number generator
     to shuffle the "cards" and deal from the "deck",
     and some of the salesmen felt it was too fair,
     since sometimes the customers lost.
     They wanted Mel to modify the program
     so, at the setting of a sense switch on the console,
     they could change the odds and let the customer win.

     Mel balked.
     He felt this was patently dishonest,
     which it was,
     and that it impinged on his personal integrity as a programmer,
     which it did,
     so he refused to do it.
     The Head Salesman talked to Mel,
     as did the Big Boss and, at the boss's urging,
     a few Fellow Programmers.
     Mel finally gave in and wrote the code,
     but he got the test backwards,
     and, when the sense switch was turned on,
     the program would cheat, winning every time.
     Mel was delighted with this,
     claiming his subconscious was uncontrollably ethical,
     and adamantly refused to fix it.

     After Mel had left the company for greener pa$ture$,
     the Big Boss asked me to look at the code
     and see if I could find the test and reverse it.
     Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed to look.
     Tracking Mel's code was a real adventure.

     I have often felt that programming is an art form,
     whose real value can only be appreciated
     by another versed in the same arcane art;
     there are lovely gems and brilliant coups
     hidden from human view and admiration, sometimes forever,
     by the very nature of the process.
     You can learn a lot about an individual
     just by reading through his code,
     even in hexadecimal.
     Mel was, I think, an unsung genius.

     Perhaps my greatest shock came
     when I found an innocent loop that had no test in it.
     No test. *None*.
     Common sense said it had to be a closed loop,
     where the program would circle, forever, endlessly.
     Program control passed right through it, however,
     and safely out the other side.
     It took me two weeks to figure it out.

     The RPC-4000 computer had a really modern facility
     called an index register.
     It allowed the programmer to write a program loop
     that used an indexed instruction inside;
     each time through,
     the number in the index register
     was added to the address of that instruction,
     so it would refer
     to the next datum in a series.
     He had only to increment the index register
     each time through.
     Mel never used it.

     Instead, he would pull the instruction into a machine register,
     add one to its address,
     and store it back.
     He would then execute the modified instruction
     right from the register.
     The loop was written so this additional execution time
     was taken into account ---
     just as this instruction finished,
     the next one was right under the drum's read head,
     ready to go.
     But the loop had no test in it.

     The vital clue came when I noticed
     the index register bit,
     the bit that lay between the address
     and the operation code in the instruction word,
     was turned on ---
     yet Mel never used the index register,
     leaving it zero all the time.
     When the light went on it nearly blinded me.

     He had located the data he was working on
     near the top of memory ---
     the largest locations the instructions could address ---
     so, after the last datum was handled,
     incrementing the instruction address
     would make it overflow.
     The carry would add one to the
     operation code, changing it to the next one in the instruction set:
     a jump instruction.
     Sure enough, the next program instruction was
     in address location zero,
     and the program went happily on its way.

     I haven't kept in touch with Mel,
     so I don't know if he ever gave in to the flood of
     change that has washed over programming techniques
     since those long-gone days.
     I like to think he didn't.
     In any event,
     I was impressed enough that I quit looking for the
     offending test,
     telling the Big Boss I couldn't find it.
     He didn't seem surprised.

     When I left the company,
     the blackjack program would still cheat
     if you turned on the right sense switch,
     and I think that's how it should be.
     I didn't feel comfortable
     hacking up the code of a Real Programmer.

[This is one of hackerdom's great heroic epics, free verse or no.  In a
few spare images it captures more about the esthetics and psychology
of hacking than every scholarly volume on the subject put together.
For an opposing point of view, see the entry for {real programmer}.]

Appendix B: 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.  Surprisingly for a
sedentary profession, more hackers run to skinny than fat; both
extremes are more common than elsewhere.  Tans are rare.


Casual, vaguely post-hippy; T-shirts, jeans, running shoes,
Birkenstocks (or bare feet).  Long hair, beards and moustaches are
common.  High incidence of tie-dye and intellectual or humorous
`slogan' T-shirts (only rarely computer related; that's too obvious).

A substantial minority prefers `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, perhaps 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 a dress

Female hackers never wear visible makeup and many use none at all.

Reading habits:

Omnivorous, but usually includes lots of science and science fiction.
The typical hacker household might subscribe to `Analog',
`Scientific American', `Co-Evolution Quarterly', and
`Smithsonian'.  Hackers often have a reading range that astonishes
`liberal arts' people but tend not to talk about it as much.  Many
hackers spend as much of their spare time reading as the average
American burns up watching TV, and often keep shelves and shelves of
well-thumbed books in their homes.

Other interests:

Some hobbies are widely shared and recognized as going with the
culture.  Science fiction.  Music.  Medievalism.  Chess, go,
backgammon, 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 follow or do sports at all and
are determinedly anti-physical.  Among those who do, interest in
spectator sports is low to non-existent; sports are something one
*does*, not something one watches on TV.

Further, hackers avoid most team sports like the plague (though
volleyball is a notable exception, perhaps because it's non-contact
and relatively friendly).  Hacker sports are are almost always
primarily self-competitive ones involving concentration, stamina, and
micromotor skills: martial arts, bicycling, auto racing, kite-flying,
hiking, rock-climbing, sailing, caving, juggling, skiing, skating (ice
and roller).


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 may
be more respected than his school-shaped 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, Ewoks, and other forms of offensive cuteness.
Bureaucracies.  Stupid people.  Easy listening music.  Television
(except for cartoons, movies, the old `Star Trek', and the new
`Simpsons').  Business suits.  Dishonesty.  Incompetence.
Boredom.  BASIC.  Character-based menu interfaces.


Ethnic.  Spicy.  Oriental, esp. Chinese and most especially Szechuan,
Hunan and Mandarin (hackers consider Cantonese vaguely declasse).
Hackers prefer the exotic; for example, the Japanese-food fans among
them will eat with gusto such delicacies as fugu (poisonous
pufferfish) and whale.  Thai food has experienced flurries of
popularity.  Where available, high-quality Jewish delicatessen food is
much esteemed.  A visible minority of Southwestern and Pacific Coast
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 to fifteen years ago.


Vaguely left of center, except for the strong libertarian contingent
which rejects conventional left-right politics entirely.  The only
safe generalization is that almost all hackers are anti-authoritarian,
thus both conventional conservatism and `hard' leftism are rare.
Hackers are far more likely than most non-hackers to either (a) be
aggressively apolitical, or (b) entertain peculiar or idiosyncratic
political ideas and actually try to live by them day-to-day.

Gender & Ethnicity:

Hackerdom is still predominantly male.  However the percentage of
women is clearly higher than the low-single-digit range typical for
technical professions, and female hackers are generally respected and
dealt with as equals.

In the U.S., hackerdom is predominantly Caucasian with strong
minorities of Jews (east coast) and Orientals (west coast).  The
Jewish contingent has exerted a particularly pervasive cultural
influence (see Food, and note that several common jargon terms are
obviously mutated Yiddish).

The ethnic distribution of hackers is understood by them to be a
function of which subcultures tend to seek and value education.  Race
and ethnic prejudice is notably uncommon and tends to be met with
freezing contempt.

When asked, hackers often ascribe their culture's gender- and
color-blindness to a positive effect of text-only network channels.


Agnostic.  Atheist.  Non-observant Jewish.  Neo-pagan.  Very commonly,
three or more of these are combined in the same person.  Conventional
faith-holding Christianity is rare though not unknown (at least on the
east coast, more hackers wear yarmulkes than crucifixes).

Even hackers who identify with a religious affiliation tend to be
relaxed about it, hostile to organized religion in general and all
forms of religious bigotry in particular.  Many enjoy `parody'
religions such as Discordianism and the Church of the SubGenius.

Also, many hackers are influenced to varying degrees by Zen Buddhism
or (less commonly) Taoism, and blend them easily with their `native'

There is a definite strain of mystical, almost Gnostic sensibility
that shows up even among those hackers not actively involved with
neo-paganism, Discordianism, or Zen.  Hacker folklore that pays homage
to `wizards' and speaks of incantations and demons has too much
psychological truthfulness about it to be entirely a joke.

Ceremonial chemicals:

Most hackers don't smoke tobacco and use alcohol in moderation if at
all (though there is a visible contingent of exotic-beer fanciers, and
a few hackers are serious oenophiles).  Limited use of non-addictive
psychedelic drugs such as marijuana, LSD, psilocybin, nitrous oxide,
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 third
hand, many hackers regularly wire up on caffeine and/or sugar for
all-night hacking runs.

Communication style:

See the dictionary notes on `Hacker speech style'.  Though hackers
often have poor person-to-person communication skills, they are as a
rule extremely sensitive to nuances of language and very precise in
their use of it.  They are often better at written communication than

Geographical Distribution:

In the U.S., hackerdom revolves on a Bay Area/Boston axis; about half
of the hard core seems to live within a hundred miles of Cambridge
(Massachusetts) or Berkeley (California), although there are
significant contigents in Los Angeles, the Pacific Northwest, and
Washington DC.  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 somewhat 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 `General 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.

It is noticeable (and contrary to many outsiders' expectations) that
the better a hacker is at hacking, the more likely he/she is to have
outside interests at which he/she is more than merely competent.

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, nondeterminism or most of the
fussy, boring, ill-defined little tasks that go with maintaining a
normal existence.  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 by reflex to assume that everyone is as rational,
`cool', and imaginative as they consider themselves.  This bias often
contributes to weakness in communication skills.  Hackers tend to be
especially poor at confrontations and negotiation.

Hackers are often monumentally disorganized and sloppy about dealing
with the physical world.  Bills don't get paid on time, clutter piles
up to incredible heights in homes and offices, and minor maintenance
tasks get deferred indefinitely.

The sort of person who uses phrases like `incompletely socialized'
usually thinks hackers are.  Hackers regard such people with contempt
when they notice them at all.


Hackers are more likely to have cats than dogs (in fact, it is widely
grokked that cats have the hacker nature).  Many drive incredibly
decrepit heaps and forget to wash them; richer ones drive spiffy
Porsches and RX-7s and then forget to have them washed.  Almost all
hackers have terribly bad handwriting, and often grow up
block-printing everything like junior draftsmen.

Appendix C: Bibliography

Here are some other books you can read to help you understand the
hacker mindset.

     Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
     Hofstadter, Douglas
     Basic Books, 1979, New York
     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'.

     The Illuminatus Trilogy
     Shea, Robert & Wilson, Robert Anton
     Dell Books, 1988, New York
     ISBN 0-440-53981-1

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 & roll
and the Cosmic Giggle Factor.  First published in 3 volumes, but
there's now a one-volume trade paperback carried by most chain
bookstores under SF.  The perfect right-brain companion to Hofstadter's
`Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid'.  See {Eris},
{Discordianism}, {random numbers}, {Church Of The Sub-Genius}.

     The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
     Douglas Adams
     Pocket Books, 1981, New York
     ISBN 0-671-46149-4

This `Monty-Python-in-Space' spoof of SF genre traditions has been
popular among hackers ever since the original British radio show.
Read it if only to learn about Vogons (see {bogons}) and the
significance of the number 42 (see {random numbers}) --- also why the
winningest chess program of 1990 was called `Deep Thought'.

     The Tao of Programming
     James Geoffrey
     Infobooks, 1987, Santa Monica
     ISBN 0-931137-07-1

This gentle, funny spoof of the `Tao Te Ching' contains much that is
illuminating about the hacker way of thought.  "When you have learned
to snatch the error code from the trap frame, it will be time for you
to leave."

     Steven Levy
     Anchor/Doubleday 1984, New York
     ISBN 0-385-19195-2

Levy's book is at its best in describing the early MIT hackers at the
Model Railroad Club and the early days of the microcomputer
revolution.  He never understood UNIX or the networks, though, and his
enshrinement of Richard Stallman as "the last true hacker" turns out
(thankfully) to have been quite misleading.  Numerous minor factual
errors also mar the text; for example, Levy's claim that the original
Jargon File derived from the TMRC Dictionary (the File originated at
Stanford and was brought to MIT in 1976; the First Edition co-authors
had never seen the dictionary in question).  There are also numerous
misspellings in the book that inflame the passions of old-timers; as
Dan Murphy, the author of TECO, once said, "You would have thought
he'd take the trouble to spell the name of a winning editor right."
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'.  Stoll's portrait of himself, 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 native
speaker; the glossary in the back is particularly embarrassing, and at
least one classic tale (the Magic Switch story in this file's Appendix
A) is given in incomplete and badly mangled form.  Nevertheless, this
book is a win overall and can be enjoyed by hacker and non-hacker

     True Names... and Other Dangers
     by Vernor Vinge
     Baen Books 1987, New York
     ISBN 0-671-65363

Hacker demigod Richard Stallman believes the title story of this book
"expresses the spirit of hacking best".  This may well be true; it's
certainly difficult to recall anyone doing a better job.  The other
stories in this collection are also fine work by an author who is
perhaps one of today's very best practitioners of the hard-SF genre.