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#========= THIS IS THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 3.0.0, 27 JUL 1993 =========#

This is the Jargon File, a comprehensive compendium of hacker slang
illuminating many aspects of hackish tradition, folklore, and humor.

This document (the Jargon File) is in the public domain, to be freely
used, shared, and modified.  There are (by intention) no legal
restraints on what you can do with it, but there are traditions about
its proper use to which many hackers are quite strongly attached.
Please extend the courtesy of proper citation when you quote the File,
ideally with a version number, as it will change and grow over time.
(Examples of appropriate citation form: "Jargon File 3.0.0" or
"The on-line hacker Jargon File, version 3.0.0, 27 JUL 1993".)

The Jargon File is a common heritage of the hacker culture.
Over the years a number of individuals have volunteered considerable
time to maintaining the File and been recognized by the net at large
as editors of it.  Editorial responsibilities include: to collate
contributions and suggestions from others; to seek out corroborating
information; to cross-reference related entries; to keep the file in a
consistent format; and to announce and distribute updated versions
periodically.  Current volunteer editors include:

        Eric Raymond   (215)-296-5718

Although there is no requirement that you do so, it is considered good
form to check with an editor before quoting the File in a published work
or commercial product.  We may have additional information that would be
helpful to you and can assist you in framing your quote to reflect
not only the letter of the File but its spirit as well.

All contributions and suggestions about this file sent to a volunteer
editor are gratefully received and will be regarded, unless otherwise
labelled, as freely given donations for possible use as part of this
public-domain file.

From time to time a snapshot of this file has been polished, edited,
and formatted for commercial publication with the cooperation of the
volunteer editors and the hacker community at large.  If you wish to
have a bound paper copy of this file, you may find it convenient to
purchase one of these.  They often contain additional material not
found in on-line versions.  The two `authorized' editions so far are
described in the Revision History section; there may be more in the


:About This File:

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.
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 35 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.  As a simple example, take the
distinction between a {kluge} and an {elegant} solution, and the
differing connotations attached to each.  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 wordplay 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
the modern West 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 and accelerated view of
linguistic evolution in action.

Hackish slang also challenges some common linguistic and
anthropological assumptions.  For example, it has recently become
fashionable to speak of `low-context' versus `high-context'
communication, and to classify cultures by the preferred context level
of their languages and art forms.  It is usually claimed that
low-context communication (characterized by precision, clarity, and
completeness of self-contained utterances) is typical in cultures
which value logic, objectivity, individualism, and competition; by
contrast, high-context communication (elliptical, emotive,
nuance-filled, multi-modal, heavily coded) is associated with cultures
which value subjectivity, consensus, cooperation, and tradition.  What
then are we to make of hackerdom, which is themed around extremely
low-context interaction with computers and exhibits primarily
"low-context" values, but cultivates an almost absurdly high-context
slang style?

The intensity and consciousness of hackish invention make 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 15 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 volume, it is intended that the
material be enjoyable to browse.  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
wordplay to make strong, sometimes 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 is included in
{appendix A}.  The `outside' reader's attention is particularly directed
to {appendix B}, "A 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 versions of the Jargon File 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 it from what
a *linguist* would call hackers' jargon --- the formal vocabulary they
learn from textbooks, technical papers, and manuals.

To make a confused situation worse, the line between hackish slang and
the vocabulary of technical programming and computer science is fuzzy,
and shifts over time.  Further, this 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 among three categories:

   * `slang': informal language from mainstream English or non-technical
     subcultures (bikers, rock fans, surfers, etc).

   * `jargon': without qualifier, denotes informal `slangy' language
     peculiar to or predominantly found among hackers --- the subject of
     this lexicon.

   * `techspeak': the formal technical vocabulary of programming,
     computer science, electronics, and other fields connected to

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 that 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
are 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.  Some entries have a
primary sense 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 reinvented 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.

Despite these problems, the organized collection of jargon-related oral
history for the File's 2.x.x versions has enabled us to put to rest
quite a number of folk etymologies, place credit where credit is due,
and illuminate the early history of many important hackerisms such as
{kluge}, {cruft}, and {foo}.  We believe specialist lexicographers will
find many of the historical notes more than casually instructive.

: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 at 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 JARGON > (the `>' caused versioning under
ITS) as a flurry of enhancements were made by Mark Crispin and Guy L.
Steele Jr.  Unfortunately, amidst all this activity, nobody thought of
correcting the term `jargon' to `slang' until the compendium had already
become widely known as the Jargon File.

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

In Spring 1981, a hacker named Charles Spurgeon got a large chunk of the
File published in Stewart Brand's "CoEvolution Quarterly" (issue 29,
pages 26--35) with illustrations by Phil Wadler and Guy Steele
(including a couple of the Crunchly cartoons).  This appears to have
been the File's first paper publication.

A late version of jargon-1, expanded with commentary for the mass
market, was edited by Guy 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 this revision, as did Richard M. Stallman and Geoff
Goodfellow.  This book (now out of print) is hereafter referred to as
`Steele-1983' and those six as the Steele-1983 coauthors.

Shortly after the publication of Steele-1983, the File effectively
stopped growing and changing.  Originally, this was due to a desire to
freeze the file temporarily to facilitate the production of Steele-1983,
but external conditions caused the `temporary' freeze to become

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 Lab's best
and brightest away to startups along the Route 128 strip in
Massachusetts and out West in 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-1980s most
of the interesting software work was being done on the emerging BSD UNIX

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
Digital Equipment Corporation.  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 wide its influence was to be.

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 and Stanford; 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 such as 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 were dropped after
careful consultation with the editors of Steele-1983).  It merges in
about 80% of the Steele-1983 text, omitting some framing material and a
very few entries introduced in Steele-1983 that 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 world.

Eric S. Raymond <> maintains the new File with
assistance from Guy L. Steele Jr. <>; 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.)

The 2.9.6 version became the main text of "The New Hacker's
Dictionary", by Eric Raymond (ed.), MIT Press 1991, ISBN

The 3.0.0 version will be published in September 1993 as the second
edition of "The New Hacker's Dictionary", again from MIT Press
(ISBN 0-262-18154-1).

If you want the book, you should be able to find it at any of the
major bookstore chains.  Failing that, you can order by mail from

        The MIT Press
        55 Hayward Street
        Cambridge, MA 02142

or order by phone at (800)-356-0343 or (617)-625-8481.

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 high points in 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).

Version 2.9.6, Aug 16 1991: corresponds to reproduction copy for book.
This version had 18952 lines, 148629 words, 975551 characters, and 1702

Version 2.9.8, Jan 01 1992: first public release since the book,
including over fifty new entries and numerous corrections/additions to
old ones.  Packaged with version 1.1 of vh(1) hypertext reader.  This
version had 19509 lines, 153108 words, 1006023 characters, and 1760

Version 2.9.9, Apr 01 1992: folded in XEROX PARC lexicon.  This version
had 20298 lines, 159651 words, 1048909 characters, and 1821 entries.

Version 2.9.10, Jul 01 1992: lots of new historical material.  This
version had 21349 lines, 168330 words, 1106991 characters, and 1891

Version 2.9.11, Jan 01 1993: lots of new historical material.  This
version had 21725 lines, 171169 words, 1125880 characters, and 1922

Version 2.9.12, May 10 1993: a few new entries & changes, marginal
MUD/IRC slang and some borderline techspeak removed, all in preparation
for 2nd Edition of TNHD.  This version had 22238 lines, 175114 words,
1152467 characters, and 1946 entries.

Version 3.0.0, Jul 27 1993: manuscript freeze for 2nd edition of TNHD.
This version had 22548 lines, 177520 words, 1169372 characters, and 1961

Version numbering: Version numbers should be read 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, Jr.) leading
up to and including the second paper edition.  From now on, major
version number N.00 will probably correspond to the Nth paper edition.
Usually later versions will either completely supersede or incorporate
earlier versions, so there is generally no point in keeping old versions

Our thanks to the coauthors of Steele-1983 for oversight and assistance,
and to the hundreds of USENETters (too many to name here) who
contributed entries and encouragement.  More thanks go to several of the
old-timers on the USENET group alt.folklore.computers, who contributed
much useful commentary and many corrections and valuable historical
perspective: Joseph M. Newcomer <>, Bernie Cosell
<>, Earl Boebert <>, and Joe Morris

We were fortunate enough to have the aid of some accomplished
linguists.  David Stampe <> and Charles
Hoequist <> contributed valuable criticism; Joe Keane
<> helped us improve the pronunciation guides.

A few bits of this text quote previous works.  We are indebted to Brian
A. LaMacchia <> for obtaining permission for us to
use material from the "TMRC Dictionary"; also, Don Libes
<> contributed some appropriate material from his
excellent book "Life With UNIX".  We thank 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.  Thanks also to
Maarten Litmaath for generously allowing the inclusion of the ASCII
pronunciation guide he formerly maintained.  And our gratitude to Marc
Weiser of XEROX PARC <> for securing us
permission to quote from PARC's own jargon lexicon and shipping us a

It is a particular pleasure to acknowledge the major contributions of
Mark Brader <> and Steve Summit <> to the File
and Dictionary; they have read and reread many drafts, checked facts,
caught typos, submitted an amazing number of thoughtful comments, and
did yeoman service in catching typos and minor usage bobbles.  Their
rare combination of enthusiasm, persistence, wide-ranging technical
knowledge, and precisionism in matters of language has been of
invaluable help.  The sustained volume and quality of Mr. Brader's input
over many months, especially, has only allowed him to escape co-editor
credit by the slimmest of margins.

Finally, George V. Reilly <> helped with TeX
arcana and painstakingly proofread some 2.7 and 2.8 versions, and Eric
Tiedemann <> contributed sage advice throughout on
rhetoric, amphigory, and philosophunculism.

:How Jargon Works:

:Jargon Construction:

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

: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.

The {USENET} culture has one *tripling* convention unrelated to
this; the names of `joke' topic groups often have a tripled last
element.  The first and paradigmatic example was
alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork (a "Muppet Show" reference);
other infamous examples have included:


: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 newspapers:

     Boston Herald => Horrid (or Harried)
     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:

     Data General => Dirty Genitals
     IBM 360 => IBM Three-Sickly
     Government Property --- Do Not Duplicate (on keys)
            => Government Duplicity --- Do Not Propagate
     for historical reasons => for hysterical raisins
     Margaret Jacks Hall (the CS building at Stanford)
            => 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!"

     At any time:
           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 such as 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

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

Another class of common construction uses the suffix `-itude' to
abstract a quality from just about any adjective or noun.  This usage
arises especially in cases where mainstream English would perform the
same abstraction through `-iness' or `-ingness'.  Thus:

win =>winnitude (a common exclamation)loss =>lossitudecruft
=>cruftitudelame =>lameitude Some hackers cheerfully reverse this
transformation; they argue, for example, that the horizontal degree
lines on a globe ought to be called `lats' --- after all, they're
measuring latitude!

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.

However, hackers avoid the unimaginative verb-making techniques
characteristic of marketroids, bean-counters, and the Pentagon; a hacker
would never, for example, `productize', `prioritize', or `securitize'
things.  Hackers have a strong aversion to bureaucratic bafflegab and
regard those who use it with contempt.

Similarly, all verbs can be nouned.  This is only a slight
overgeneralization in modern English; in hackish, however, it is good
form to mark them in some standard nonstandard way.  Thus:

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

Further, note the prevalence of certain kinds of nonstandard plural
forms.  Some of these go back quite a ways; the TMRC Dictionary includes
an entry which implies that the plural of `mouse' is {meeces}, and notes
that the defined plural of `caboose' is `cabeese'.  This latter has
apparently been standard (or at least a standard joke) among railfans
(railroad enthusiasts) for many years.

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 `Twenices'
(rather than `Unixes' and `Twenexes'; see {UNIX}, {TWENEX} in main
text).  But note that `Unixen' and `Twenexen' are never used; it has
been suggested that this is because `-ix' and `-ex' are Latin singular
endings that attract a Latinate plural.  Finally, it has been suggested
to general approval that the plural of `mongoose' ought to be

The pattern here, as with other hackish grammatical quirks, is
generalization of an inflectional rule that in English is either an
import or a fossil (such as the Hebrew plural ending `-im', or the
Anglo-Saxon plural suffix `-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.  It is done not to impress but to
amuse, and never at the expense of clarity.

: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 electronic mail (interestingly, the same sorts of
constructions have been showing up with increasing frequency in comic
strips).  Another expression sometimes heard is "Complain!", meaning "I
have a complaint!"

:Anthromorphization: -------------------- Semantically, one rich source
of jargon constructions is the hackish tendency to anthropomorphize
hardware and software.  This isn't done in a naive way; hackers don't
personalize their stuff in the sense of feeling empathy with it, nor do
they mystically believe that the things they work on every day are
`alive'.  What *is* common is to hear hardware or software talked about
as though it has homunculi talking to each other inside it, with
intentions and desires.  Thus, one hears "The protocol handler got
confused", or that programs "are trying" to do things, or one may say of
a routine that "its goal in life is to X".  One even hears explanations
like "...  and its poor little brain couldn't understand X, and it
died."  Sometimes modelling things this way actually seems to make them
easier to understand, perhaps because it's instinctively natural to
think of anything with a really complex behavioral repertoire as `like a
person' rather than `like a thing'.

Of the six listed constructions, verb doubling, peculiar noun
formations, anthromorphization, 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 flourish.

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

     monstrosity  brain-damage  screw  bug  lose  misfeature
     crock  kluge  hack  win  feature  elegance  perfection

The last is spoken of as a mythical absolute, approximated but never
actually attained.  Another similar scale is used for describing the
reliability of software:

     broken  flaky  dodgy  fragile  brittle
     solid  robust  bulletproof  armor-plated

Note, however, that `dodgy' is primarily Commonwealth Hackish (it is
rare in the U.S.) and may change places with `flaky' for some speakers.

Coinages for describing {lossage} seem to call forth the very finest in
hackish linguistic inventiveness; it has been truly said that hackers
have even more words for equipment failures than Yiddish has for
obnoxious people.

: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 have been known to criticize glitches in
Jargon File drafts by observing (in the mode of Douglas Hofstadter)
"This sentence no verb", or "Too repetetetive", or "Bad speling", or
"Incorrectspa cing."  Similarly, intentional spoonerisms are often made
of phrases relating to confusion or things that 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 today").  This sort of thing is quite common and is
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 are "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);
however, 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 discussions of 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.

Consider, for example, a sentence in a {vi} tutorial that looks like this:

     Then delete a line from the file by typing "dd".

Standard usage would make this

     Then delete a line from the file by typing "dd."

but that would be very bad --- because the reader would be prone to type
the string d-d-dot, and it happens that in `vi(1)' dot repeats the last
command accepted.  The net result would be to delete *two* lines!

The Jargon File follows hackish usage 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' quoting.

Another hacker habit 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 indiscriminately 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 (single quotes) 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 the apostrophe in typewriter style, as a vertical
single quote).

One quirk that shows up frequently in the {email} style of UNIX hackers
in particular is a tendency for some things that 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

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!

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 unusual characters to signify
emphasis.  The asterisk is most common, as in "What the *hell*?" even
though this interferes with the common use of the asterisk suffix as a
footnote mark.  The underscore is also common, suggesting underlining
(this is particularly common with book titles; for example, "It is often
alleged that Joe Haldeman wrote _The_Forever_War_ as a rebuttal to
Robert Heinlein's earlier novel of the future military,
_Starship_Troopers_.").  Other forms exemplified by "=hell=", "\hell/",
or "/hell/" are occasionally seen (it's claimed that in the last example
the first slash pushes the letters over to the right to make them
italic, and the second keeps them from falling over).  Finally, words
may also be emphasized L I K E T H I S, or by a series of carets (^)
under them on the next line of the text.

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 a mentally impaired person).  Bracketing a word with
the `*' character may also indicate that the writer wishes readers to
consider that an action is taking place or that a sound is being made.
Examples: *bang*, *hic*, *ring*, *grin*, *kick*, *stomp*, *mumble*.

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...

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

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

reads roughly as "Be nice to this fool, er, 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

A related habit uses editor commands to signify corrections to
previous text.  This custom is fading as more mailers get good editing
capabilities, but one occasionally still sees things like this:

     I've seen that term used on alt.foobar often.
     Send it to Erik for the File.  Oops...s/Erik/Eric/.

The s/Erik/Eric/ says "change Erik to Eric in the preceding".  This
syntax is borrowed from the UNIX editing tools `ed' and `sed', but is
widely recognized by non-UNIX hackers as well.

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 the caret; this was picked up by Kemeny and
Kurtz's original BASIC, which in turn influenced the design of the
`bc(1)' and `dc(1)' UNIX tools, which have probably done most to
reinforce the convention on USENET.  The notation is mildly confusing to
C programmers, because `^' means bitwise {XOR} in C.  Despite this, it
was favored 3:1 over ** in a late-1990 snapshot of USENET.  It is used
consistently in this lexicon.

In on-line exchanges, hackers tend to use decimal forms or improper
fractions (`3.5' or `7/2') rather than `typewriter style' mixed
fractions (`3-1/2').  The major motive here is probably that the former
are more readable in a monospaced font, together with a desire to 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'.

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, and occasionally one sees `/=' for
not-equals (from Ada, Common Lisp, and Fortran 90).  The use of prefix
`!' as a loose synonym for `not-' or `no-' is particularly common; thus,
`!clue' is read `no-clue' or `clueless'.

A related practice borrows syntax from preferred programming languages
to express ideas in a natural-language text.  For example, one might
see the following:

     In <> J. R. Hacker wrote:
     >I recently had occasion to field-test the Snafu
     >Systems 2300E adaptive gonkulator.  The price was
     >right, and the racing stripe on the case looked
     >kind of neat, but its performance left something
     >to be desired.

     Yeah, I tried one out too.

     #ifdef FLAME
     Hasn't anyone told those idiots that you can't get
     decent bogon suppression with AFJ filters at today's
     net volumes?
     #endif /* FLAME */

     I guess they figured the price premium for true
     frame-based semantic analysis was too high.
     Unfortunately, it's also the only workable approach.
     I wouldn't recommend purchase of this product unless
     you're on a *very* tight budget.

     #include <disclaimer.h>
                      == Frank Foonly (Fubarco Systems)

In the above, the `#ifdef'/`#endif' pair is a conditional compilation
syntax from C; here, it implies that the text between (which is a
{flame}) should be evaluated only if you have turned on (or defined on)
the switch FLAME.  The `#include' at the end is C for "include standard
disclaimer here"; the `standard disclaimer' is understood to read,
roughly, "These are my personal opinions and not to be construed as the
official position of my employer."

The top section in the example, with > at the left margin, is an example
of an inclusion convention we'll discuss below.

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 prefer to write `1970s'
rather than `nineteen-seventies' or `1970's' (the latter looks like a

It should also be noted that hackers exhibit much less reluctance to use
multiply nested parentheses than is normal in English.  Part of this is
almost certainly due to influence from LISP (which uses deeply nested
parentheses (like this (see?)) in its syntax a lot), 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.

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.  A good one is that it encourages honesty and
tends to break down hierarchical authority relationships; a bad one is
that it may encourage depersonalization and gratuitous rudeness.
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 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.

:Email Quotes and Inclusion Conventions:

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 owing to its use in `ed(1)' to display tabs
(alternatively, it may derive from the `>' that some early UNIX mailers
used to quote lines starting with "From" in text, so they wouldn't look
like the beginnings of new message headers).  Inclusions within
inclusions keep their `>' leaders, so the `nesting level' of a quotation
is visually apparent.

The practice of including text from the parent article when posting a
followup 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, around 1984,
new news-posting software evolved 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.

In 1991 practice is still evolving, and disputes over the `correct'
inclusion style occasionally lead 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

:Hacker Speech Style:

Hackish speech generally 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 are essential.  One should use just enough
jargon to communicate precisely and identify oneself as a member of the
culture; overuse of jargon or a breathless, excessively gung-ho attitude
is 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.  In contrast with the methods of jargon construction, it is
fairly constant throughout hackerdom.

It has been observed that many hackers are confused by negative
questions --- or, at least, that the people to whom they are talking are
often confused by the sense of their answers.  The problem is that they
have done so much programming 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 double
negatives, even if they live in a region where colloquial usage allows
them.  The thought of uttering something that logically ought to be an
affirmative knowing it will be misparsed as a negative tends to disturb

In a related vein, hackers sometimes make a game of answering
questions containing logical connectives with a strictly literal
rather than colloquial interpretation.  A non-hacker who is indelicate
enough to ask a question like "So, are you working on finding that
bug *now* or leaving it until later?"  is likely to get the
perfectly correct answer "Yes!" (that is, "Yes, I'm doing it either
now or later, and you didn't ask which!").

: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 hackish'.  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. hackish.

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

A few notes on hackish usages in Russian have been added where they are
parallel with English idioms and thus comprehensible to

:How to Use the Lexicon:

:Pronunciation Guide:

Pronunciation keys are provided in the jargon listings for all entries
that are neither dictionary words pronounced as in standard English nor
obvious compounds thereof.  Slashes bracket phonetic pronunciations,
which are to be interpreted using the following conventions:

  1. Syllables are hyphen-separated, except that an accent or back-accent
     follows each accented syllable (the back-accent marks a secondary
     accent in some words of four or more syllables).  If no accent is
     given, the word is pronounced with equal accentuation on all syllables
     (this is common for abbreviations).

  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.  The digraph `kh' is the guttural of
     "loch" or "l'chaim".  The digraph 'gh' is the aspirated g+h of
     "bughouse" or "ragheap" (rare in English).

  3. Uppercase letters are pronounced as their English letter names; thus
     (for example) /H-L-L/ is equivalent to /aitch el el/.  /Z/ may
     be pronounced /zee/ or /zed/ depending on your local dialect.

  4. Vowels are represented as follows:

            back, that
            father, palm (see note)
            far, mark
            flaw, caught
            bake, rain
            less, men
            easy, ski
            their, software
            trip, hit
            life, sky
            block, stock (see note)
            flow, sew
            loot, through
            more, door
            out, how
            boy, coin
            but, some
            put, foot
            yet, young
            few, chew
            /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/.

Note that the above table reflects mainly distinctions found in standard
American English (that is, the neutral dialect spoken by TV network
announcers and typical of educated speech in the Upper Midwest,
Chicago, Minneapolis/St.Paul and Philadelphia).  However, we separate
/o/ from /ah/, which tend to merge in standard American.  This may
help readers accustomed to accents resembling British Received

Entries with a pronunciation of `//' are written-only usages.  (No, UNIX
weenies, this does *not* mean `pronounce like previous pronunciation'!)

: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 after Z.  The case-blindness is a feature, not a

The beginning of each entry is marked by a colon (`:') at the
left margin.  This convention helps out tools like hypertext browsers
that benefit from knowing where entry boundaries are, but aren't as
context-sensitive as humans.

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 "}".

Defining instances of terms and phrases appear in `slanted type'.  A
defining instance is one which occurs near to or as part of an
explanation of it.

Prefix ** is used as linguists do; to mark examples of incorrect usage.

We follow the `logical' quoting convention described in the Writing
Style section above.  In addition, we reserve double quotes for actual
excerpts of text or (sometimes invented) speech.  Scare quotes (which
mark a word being used in a nonstandard way), and philosopher's quotes
(which turn an utterance into the string of letters or words that name
it) are both rendered with single quotes.

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 of the manuals
have changed roles frequently and in any case are not referred to in any
of the entries.

Various abbreviations used frequently in the lexicon are summarized here:

     synonym (or synonymous with)
     verb (may be transitive or intransitive)
     intransitive verb
     transitive verb

Where alternate spellings or pronunciations are given, alt.
separates two possibilities with nearly equal distribution, while
var. prefixes one that is markedly less common than the primary.

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 and its feeder groups, including the
     Tech Model Railroad Club
     Naval Research Laboratories
     New York University
     The Oxford English Dictionary
     Purdue University
     Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (at Stanford
     From Syst`eme International, the name for the standard
     conventions of metric nomenclature used in the sciences
     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
     the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland)
     See the {USENET} entry
     Worcester Polytechnic Institute, site of a very active community of
     PDP-10 hackers during the 1970s
     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} and {PDP-10}
refer to technical cultures surrounding specific operating systems,
processors, or other environments.  The fact that a term is labelled
with any one 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 the distribution of speakers in the usage notes;
however, a number of factors mentioned in the introduction conspire to
make these indications less definite than might be desirable.

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

:Format For New Entries:

All contributions and suggestions about the Jargon File will be
considered donations to be placed in the public domain as part of this
File, and may be used in subsequent paper editions.  Submissions may
be edited for accuracy, clarity and concision.

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.

The Jargon File will be regularly maintained and made available for
FTP over Internet, and will include a version number.  Read it, pass
it around, contribute --- this is *your* monument!

The Jargon Lexicon

= A =

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

:ABEND: [ABnormal END] /o'bend/, /*-bend'/ 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.  Usually capitalized, but may
   appear as `abend'.  Hackers will try to persuade you that ABEND is
   called `abend' because it is what system operators do to the
   machine late on Friday when they want to call it a day, and hence
   is from the German `Abend' = `Evening'.

:accumulator: n. 1. Archaic term for a register.  On-line use of it
   as a synonym for `register' 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 the term `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.  2. A register being used for arithmetic or
   logic (as opposed to addressing or a loop index), especially one
   being used to accumulate a sum or count of many items.  This use is
   in context of a particular routine or stretch of code.  "The
   FOOBAZ routine uses A3 as an accumulator."  3. One's in-basket
   (esp. among old-timers who might use sense 1).  "You want this
   reviewed?  Sure, just put it in the accumulator."  (See {stack}.)

:ACK: /ak/ interj. 1. [from the ASCII mnemonic for 0000110]
   Acknowledge.  Used to register one's presence (compare mainstream
   *Yo!*).  An appropriate response to {ping} or {ENQ}.
   2. [from the comic strip "Bloom County"] An exclamation of
   surprised disgust, esp. in "Ack pffft!"  Semi-humorous.
   Generally this sense is not spelled in caps (ACK) and 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".

   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.  For example, fuzzy-matching against input
   tokens that might be typing errors against a symbol table can make
   it look as though a program knows how to spell.  2. Special-case
   code to cope with some awkward input that 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/), `ad-crockery'.  See also
   {ELIZA effect}.

: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 Charles Babbage on the design of his mechanical
   computing engines in the mid-1800s) would almost certainly blanch
   at the use to which her name has latterly been put; 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: /aj'r/ [UCLA] vt. To make a bonehead move with
   consequences that could have been foreseen with even slight 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 specifically
   on news).  Compare {postmaster}, {sysop}, {system

: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 permitted only six-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

:AFJ: // n. Written-only abbreviation for "April Fool's Joke".
   Elaborate April Fool's hoaxes are a long-established tradition on
   USENET and Internet; see {kremvax} for an example.  In fact,
   April Fool's Day is the *only* seasonal holiday marked by
   customary observances on the hacker networks.

:AI: /A-I/ n. Abbreviation for `Artificial Intelligence', so
   common that the full form is almost never written or spoken among

:AI-complete: /A-I k*m-pleet'/ [MIT, Stanford: by analogy with
   `NP-complete' (see {NP-})] 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 (1993) to solve them have
   foundered on the amount of context information and `intelligence'
   they seem to require. See also {gedanken}.

:AI koans: /A-I koh'anz/ 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 (several are included
   under "{A Selection of AI Koans}" in {Appendix
   A}).  See also {ha ha only serious}, {mu}, and {{Humor,

:AIDS: /aydz/ n. Short for A* Infected Disk Syndrome (`A*' is a
   {glob} pattern that matches, but is not limited to, Apple),
   this condition is quite often the result of practicing unsafe
   {SEX}.  See {virus}, {worm}, {Trojan horse},

:AIDX: n. /aydkz/ n. Derogatory term for IBM's perverted version
   of UNIX, AIX, especially for the AIX 3.? used in the IBM RS/6000
   series (some hackers think it is funnier just to pronounce "AIX"
   as "aches").  A victim of the dreaded "hybridism" disease, this
   attempt to combine the two main currents of the UNIX stream
   ({BSD} and {USG UNIX}) became a {monstrosity} to haunt
   system administrators' dreams.  For example, if new accounts are
   created while many users are logged on, the load average jumps
   quickly over 20 due to silly implementation of the user databases.
   For a quite similar disease, compare {HP-SUX}.  Also, compare
   {Macintrash} {Nominal Semidestructor}, {Open DeathTrap},
   {ScumOS}, {sun-stools}.

: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.  It is
   correspondingly argued that the right way to build reliable systems
   is to put all your eggs in one basket, after making sure that
   you've built a really *good* basket.  See also {KISS

:aliasing bug: n. A class of subtle programming errors that can
   arise in code that does dynamic allocation, esp. via
   `malloc(3)' or equivalent.  If several pointers address
   (`aliases for') a given hunk of storage, it may happen that the
   storage is freed or reallocated (and thus moved) through one alias
   and then referenced through another, which may lead 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, or 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}, {memory smash},
   {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: [MS-DOS] 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 {rude}, also

:alpha particles: n. See {bit rot}.

:alt: /awlt/ 1. n. The alt shift key on an IBM PC or {clone}
   keyboard; see {bucky bits}, sense 2 (though typical PC usage does
   not simply set the 0200 bit).  2. 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 {feature
   key}).  Some Mac hackers, confusingly, reserve `alt' for the Option
   key (and it is so labeled on some Mac II keyboards).  3. n.obs.
   [PDP-10; often capitalized to ALT] Alternate name for the ASCII
   ESC character (ASCII 0011011), after the keycap labeling on some
   older terminals; also `altmode' (/awlt'mohd/).  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 usage probably arose 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}.

:altmode: n. Syn. {alt} sense 3.

:Aluminum Book: [MIT] n. "Common LISP: The Language", by
   Guy L.  Steele Jr. (Digital Press, first edition 1984, second
   edition 1990).  Note that due to a technical screwup some printings
   of the second edition are actually of a color the author describes
   succinctly as "yucky green".  See also {{book titles}}.

:amoeba: n. Humorous term for the Commodore Amiga personal computer.

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

:amper: n. Common abbreviation for the name of the ampersand (`&',
   ASCII 0100110) character.  See {{ASCII}} for other synonyms.

:angle brackets: n. Either of the characters `<' (ASCII
   0111100) and `>' (ASCII 0111110) (ASCII less-than or
   greater-than signs).  Typographers in the {Real World} use angle
   brackets which are either taller and slimmer (the ISO `Bra' and
   `Ket' characters), or significantly smaller (single or double
   guillemets) than the less-than and greater-than signs.
   See {broket}, {{ASCII}}.

:angry fruit salad: n. A bad visual-interface design that uses too
   many colors.  (This term derives, of course, from the bizarre
   day-glo colors found in canned fruit salad.)  Too often one sees
   similar effects from interface designers using color window systems
   such as {X}; there is a tendency to create displays that are
   flashy and attention-getting but uncomfortable for long-term

:annoybot: /*-noy-bot/ [IRC] n. See {robot}.

: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.  Now largely supplanted by {bump}.  See {SOS}.
   2. n. A {{Multics}}-derived OS supported at one time by Data
   General.  This was pronounced /A-O-S/ or /A-os/.  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 circulated as photocopy folklore; it was called "How to
   Goad and Levitate your CHAOS System".  3. n. Algebraic Operating
   System, in reference to those calculators which use infix instead
   of postfix (reverse Polish) notation.

   Historical note: AOS in sense 1 was the name of a {PDP-10}
   instruction that took any memory location in the computer and added
   1 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 1 and then skipped the next instruction
   if the result was Equal to zero; AOSG added 1 and then skipped if
   the result was Greater than 0; AOSN added 1 and then skipped
   if the result was Not 0; AOSA added 1 and then skipped Always;
   and so on.  Just plain AOS didn't say when to skip, so it never

   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 meant
   `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.  Apps are what systems vendors are forever chasing
   developers to create 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 to be apps.  (Broadly, an app is often a
   self-contained environment for performing some well-defined task
   such as `word processing'; hackers tend to prefer more
   general-purpose tools.) Oppose {tool}, {operating

: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 `malloc: corrupt arena'
   message emitted when some early versions detected an impossible
   value in the free block list.  See {overrun screw}, {aliasing
   bug}, {memory leak}, {memory smash}, {smash the

: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 1 arg, but the
   arc-tangent function can take either 1 or 2 args."  Compare
   {param}, {parm}, {var}.

:ARMM: [acronym, `Automated Retroactive Minimal Moderation'] n. A
   USENET robot created by Dick Depew of Munroe Falls, Ohio.  ARMM was
   intended to automatically cancel posts from anonymous-posting
   sites.  Unfortunately, the robot's recognizer for anonymous
   postings triggered on its own automatically-generated control
   messages!  Transformed by this stroke of programming ineptitude
   into a monster of Frankensteinian proportions, it broke loose on
   the night of March 31, 1993 and proceeded to {spam}
   news.admin.policy with a recursive explosion of over 200

   ARMM's bug produced a recursive {cascade} of messages each of which
   mechanically added text to the ID and Subject and some other
   headers of its parent.  This produced a flood of messages in which
   each header took up several screens and each message ID and subject
   line got longer and longer and longer.

   Reactions varied from amusement to outrage.  The pathological
   messages crashed at least one mail system, and upset people paying
   line charges for their USENET feeds.  One poster described the ARMM
   debacle as "instant USENET history" (also establishing the term
   {despew}), and it has since been widely cited as a cautionary
   example of the havoc the combination of good intentions and
   incompetence can wreak on a network.  Compare {Great Worm, The};
   {sorcerer's apprentice mode}.  See also {software laser},
   {network meltdown}.

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

:asbestos: adj. Used as a modifier to anything intended to protect
   one from {flame}s; also in other highly {flame}-suggestive
   usages.  See, for example, {asbestos longjohns} and {asbestos
   cork award}.

: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'.  (Any reader in
   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 is no agreement on *which*

:asbestos longjohns: n. Notional garments 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',

:ASCII:: [American Standard Code for Information Interchange]
   /as'kee/ n. The predominant character set encoding of present-day
   computers.  The modern version uses 7 bits for each character,
   whereas most earlier codes (including an early 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
   or 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 pickier and less flexible 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 them.  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 2.3 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 that are reported but rarely seen; official ANSI/CCITT names
   are surrounded by brokets: <>.  Square brackets mark the
   particularly silly names introduced by {INTERCAL}.  The
   abbreviations "l/r" and "o/c" stand for left/right and
   "open/close" respectively.  Ordinary parentheticals provide some
   usage information.

          Common: {bang}; pling; excl; shriek; <exclamation mark>.
          Rare: factorial; exclam; smash; cuss; boing; yell; wow; hey;
          wham; eureka; [spark-spot]; soldier.

          Common: double quote; quote.  Rare: literal mark;
          double-glitch; <quotation marks>; <dieresis>; dirk;
          [rabbit-ears]; double prime.

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

          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: l/r paren; l/r parenthesis; left/right; open/close;
          paren/thesis; o/c paren; o/c parenthesis; l/r parenthesis; l/r
          banana.  Rare: so/already; lparen/rparen; <opening/closing
          parenthesis>; o/c round bracket, l/r round bracket,
          [wax/wane]; parenthisey/unparenthisey; l/r ear.

          Common: star; [{splat}]; <asterisk>.  Rare: wildcard; gear;
          dingle; mult; spider; aster; times; twinkle; glob (see
          {glob}); {Nathan Hale}.

          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: dots; [two-spot].

          Common: <semicolon>; semi.  Rare: weenie; [hybrid],

     < >
          Common: <less/greater than>; bra/ket; l/r angle; l/r angle
          bracket; l/r 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: [book].

     [ ]
          Common: l/r square bracket; l/r bracket; <opening/closing
          bracket>; bracket/unbracket.  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');
          fang; pointer (in Pascal).

          Common: <underline>; underscore; underbar; under.  Rare:
          score; backarrow; skid; [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: o/c brace; l/r brace; l/r squiggly; l/r squiggly
          bracket/brace; l/r curly bracket/brace; <opening/closing
          brace>.  Rare: brace/unbrace; curly/uncurly; leftit/rytit; l/r
          squirrelly; [embrace/bracelet].

          Common: bar; or; or-bar; v-bar; pipe; vertical bar.  Rare:
          <vertical line>; gozinta; thru; pipesinta (last three 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 U.S.-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.

   The `uparrow' name for circumflex and `leftarrow' name for
   underline are historical relics from archaic ASCII (the 1963
   version), which had these graphics in those character positions
   rather than the modern punctuation characters.

   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 `#',
   `$', `>', and `&' characters, for example, are all
   pronounced "hex" in different communities because various
   assemblers use them as a prefix tag for hexadecimal constants (in
   particular, `#' in many assembler-programming cultures,
   `$' in the 6502 world, `>' at Texas Instruments, and
   `&' on the BBC Micro, Sinclair, and some Z80 machines).  See
   also {splat}.

   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 U.S. still tends to embody
   the assumption that ASCII is the universal character set and that
   characters have 7 bits; this is a a major irritant to people who
   want to use a character set suited to their own languages.
   Perversely, though, efforts to solve this problem by proliferating
   `national' character sets produce an evolutionary pressure to use
   a *smaller* subset common to all those in use.

:ASCII art: n. The fine art of drawing diagrams using the ASCII
   character set (mainly `|', `-', `/', `\', and
   `+').  Also known as `character graphics' or `ASCII
   graphics'; see also {boxology}.  Here is a serious example:

         o----)||(--+--|<----+   +---------o + D O
           L  )||(  |        |   |             C U
         A I  )||(  +-->|-+  |   +-\/\/-+--o -   T
         C N  )||(        |  |   |      |        P
           E  )||(  +-->|-+--)---+--)|--+-o      U
              )||(  |        |          | GND    T

         A power supply consisting of a full wave rectifier circuit
         feeding a capacitor input filter circuit

                               Figure 1.

   And here are some very silly examples:

       |\/\/\/|     ____/|              ___    |\_/|    ___
       |      |     \ o.O|   ACK!      /   \_  |` '|  _/   \
       |      |      =(_)=  THPHTH!   /      \/     \/      \
       | (o)(o)        U             /                       \
       C      _)  (__)                \/\/\/\  _____  /\/\/\/
       | ,___|    (oo)                       \/     \/
       |   /       \/-------\         U                  (__)
      /____\        ||     | \    /---V  `v'-            oo )
     /      \       ||---W||  *  * |--|   || |`.         |_/\

         ====___\   /.. ..\   /___====      Klingons rule OK!
       //        ---\__O__/---        \\
       \_\                           /_/

                               Figure 2.

   There is an important subgenre of ASCII art that puns on the
   standard character names in the fashion of a rebus.

     |      ^^^^^^^^^^^^                                      |
     | ^^^^^^^^^^^            ^^^^^^^^^                       |
     |                 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^            ^^^^^^^^^^^^^ |
     |        ^^^^^^^         B       ^^^^^^^^^               |
     |  ^^^^^^^^^          ^^^            ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^      |
                  " A Bee in the Carrot Patch "

                               Figure 3.

   Within humorous ASCII art, there is for some reason an entire
   flourishing subgenre of pictures of silly cows.  Four of these are
   reproduced in Figure 2; here are three more:

              (__)              (__)              (__)
              (\/)              ($$)              (**)
       /-------\/        /-------\/        /-------\/
      / | 666 ||        / |=====||        / |     ||
     *  ||----||       *  ||----||       *  ||----||
        ~~    ~~          ~~    ~~          ~~    ~~
     Satanic cow    This cow is a Yuppie   Cow in love

                               Figure 4.

:ASCIIbetical order: /as'kee-be'-t*-kl or'dr/ adj.,n. Used to
   indicate that data is sorted in ASCII collated order rather than
   alphabetical order.  This lexicon is sorted in something close to
   ASCIIbetical order, but with case ignored and entries beginning
   with non-alphabetic characters moved to the end.

:atomic: [from Gk. `atomos', indivisible] adj. 1. Indivisible;
   cannot be split up.  For example, an instruction may be said to do
   several things `atomically', i.e., all the things are done
   immediately, and there is no chance of the instruction being
   half-completed or of another being interspersed.  Used esp. to
   convey that an operation cannot be screwed up by interrupts.
   "This routine locks the file and increments the file's semaphore
   atomically."  2. [primarily techspeak] Guaranteed to complete
   successfully or not at all, usu. refers to database transactions.
   If an error prevents a partially-performed transaction from
   proceeding to completion, it must be "backed out," as the database
   must not be left in an inconsistent state.

   Computer usage, in either of the above senses, has none of the
   connotations that `atomic' has in mainstream English (i.e.  of
   particles of matter, nuclear explosions etc.).

:attoparsec: n. About an inch.  `atto-' is the standard SI
   prefix for multiplication by 10^(-18).  A parsec
   (parallax-second) is 3.26 light-years; an attoparsec is thus
   3.26 * 10^(-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 the U.K.  See {micro-}.

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

:automagically: /aw-toh-maj'i-klee/ or /aw-toh-maj'i-k*l-ee/ adv.
   Automatically, but in a way that, 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, Tektronix] 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 was propagated through an ex-CMU hacker at Tektronix.

:awk: 1. n. [UNIX techspeak] An interpreted language for massaging
   text data developed by Alfred Aho, Peter Weinberger, and Brian
   Kernighan (the name derives from their initials).  It is
   characterized by C-like syntax, a declaration-free 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
   {regexp} facilities (for example, one containing a
   {newline}).  3. vt. To process data using `awk(1)'.

= B =

:back door: n. A hole in the security of a system deliberately left
   in place by designers or maintainers.  The motivation for such
   holes is not always sinister; some operating systems, for example,
   come out of the box with privileged accounts intended for use by
   field service technicians or the vendor's maintenance programmers.
   Syn. {trap door}; may also be called a `wormhole'.  See also
   {iron box}, {cracker}, {worm}, {logic bomb}.

   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 C compiler contained code that would recognize when the
   `login' command was being recompiled and insert some code
   recognizing a password chosen by Thompson, giving him entry to the
   system whether or not an account had been created for him.

   Normally such a back door could be removed by removing it from the
   source code for the compiler and recompiling the compiler.  But to
   recompile the compiler, you have to *use* the compiler --- so
   Thompson also arranged that the compiler would *recognize when
   it was compiling a version of itself*, and insert into the
   recompiled compiler the code to insert into the recompiled
   `login' the code to allow Thompson entry --- and, of course, the
   code to recognize itself and do the whole thing again the next time
   around!  And having done this once, he was then able to recompile
   the compiler from the original sources; the hack perpetuated itself
   invisibly, leaving the back door in place and active but with no
   trace in the sources.

   The talk that revealed this truly moby hack was published as
   "Reflections on Trusting Trust", "Communications of the
   ACM 27", 8 (August 1984), pp. 761--763.

: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.

:backbone site: n. A key USENET and email site; one that processes
   a large amount of third-party traffic, especially if it is the home
   site of any of the regional coordinators for the USENET maps.
   Notable backbone sites as of early 1993 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} (sense 3), {moby} (sense 4), and

:background: n.,adj.,vt.  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.  "For now, we'll just print a list of nodes and
   links; I'm working on the graph-printing problem in background."
   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 have
   queued up for their unconscious minds (a tack that one can often
   fruitfully take upon encountering an obstacle in creative work).
   Compare {amp off}, {slopsucker}.

   Technically, 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 to have been first used
   in this sense on OS/360.

: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/ [from
   `backward compatibility'] n.  A property of hardware or software
   revisions in which previous protocols, formats, layouts, etc. are
   irrevocably discarded in favor of `new and improved' protocols,
   formats, and layouts, leaving the previous ones not merely
   deprecated but actively defeated.  (Too often, the old and new
   versions cannot definitively be distinguished, such that lingering
   instances of the previous ones yield crashes or other infelicitous
   effects, as opposed to a simple "version mismatch" message.)  A
   backwards compatible change, on the other hand, allows old versions
   to coexist without crashes or error messages, but too many major
   changes incorporating elaborate backwards compatibility processing
   can lead to extreme {software bloat}.  See also {flag

:BAD: /B-A-D/ [IBM: acronym, `Broken As Designed'] adj. Said
   of a program that is {bogus} because of bad design and misfeatures
   rather than because of bugginess.  See {working as designed}.

:Bad Thing: [from the 1930 Sellar & Yeatman parody "1066 And
   All That"] n. Something that 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.

:bag on the side: n. An extension to an established hack that is
   supposed to add some functionality to the original.  Usually
   derogatory, implying that the original was being overextended and
   should have been thrown away, and the new product is ugly,
   inelegant, or bloated.  Also v. phrase, `to hang a bag on the side
   [of]'.  "C++?  That's just a bag on the side of C ...."
   "They want me to hang a bag on the side of the accounting

:bagbiter: /bag'bi:t-*r/ n. 1. Something, such as a program or a
   computer, that fails to work, or works in a remarkably clumsy
   manner.  "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. `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.

   ITS's {lexiphage} program is the first and to date only known
   example of a program *intended* to be a bagbiter.

:bagbiting: adj. Having the quality of a {bagbiter}.  "This
   bagbiting system won't let me compute the factorial of a negative
   number."  Compare {losing}, {cretinous}, {bletcherous},
   `barfucious' (under {barfulous}) and `chomping' (under

: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.

:banana label: n. The labels often used on the sides of {macrotape}
   reels, so called because they are 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 item 176 under {HAKMEM}, which describes a
   banana problem in a {Dissociated Press} implementation.  Also,
   see {one-banana problem} for a superficially similar but
   unrelated usage.

: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 items posted by others
   are a waste of bandwidth.

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

:bang on: vt. To stress-test a piece of hardware or software: "I
   banged on the new version of the simulator all day yesterday and it
   didn't crash once.  I guess it is ready for 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, for example, the path ...!bigsite!foovax!barbox!me
   directs people 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

   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, ihnp4}!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.  Also called
   a `burst page', because it indicates where to burst (tear apart)
   fanfold paper to separate one user's printout from the next.  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({1,6})'.  3. On interactive software, a first screen
   containing a logo and/or author credits and/or a 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}, an {HLL}, or
   even assembler.  Commonly used 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. `Programming on the bare metal' 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
   {The Story of Mel, a Real Programmer} (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 such as industrial embedded systems, and
   in the code of hackers who just can't let go of that low-level
   control.  See {Real Programmer}.

   In the world of personal computing, bare metal programming
   (especially in sense 1 but sometimes also in sense 2) is often
   considered a {Good Thing}, or at least a necessary evil
   (because these machines have often 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 kilobaud on the
   serial port, you need to get down to the bare metal."  People who
   can do this sort of thing well 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 Val\-speak "gag me with a spoon". (Like,
   euwww!)  See {bletch}.  2. vi. 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, perhaps with a suitable error message, perhaps not.
   Examples: "The division operation barfs if you try to divide by
   0."  (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}.  In Commonwealth
   Hackish, `barf' is generally replaced by `puke' or `vom'.
   {barf} is sometimes also used as a {metasyntactic variable},
   like {foo} or {bar}.

:barfmail: n. Multiple {bounce message}s accumulating to the
   level of serious annoyance, or worse.  The sort of thing that
   happens when an inter-network mail gateway goes down or

:barfulation: /bar`fyoo-lay'sh*n/ 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: /bar'fyoo-l*s/ adj. (alt. `barfucious',
   /bar-fyoo-sh*s/) Said of something that would make anyone barf,
   if only for esthetic reasons.

:barney: n. In Commonwealth hackish, `barney' is to {fred}
   (sense #1) as {bar} is to {foo}.  That is, people who
   commonly use `fred' as their first metasyntactic variable will
   often use `barney' second.  The reference is, of course, to Fred
   Flintstone and Barney Rubble in the Flintstones cartoons.

: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.  "Metafont even has
   features to introduce random variations to its letterform output.
   Now *that* is baroque!"  See also {rococo}.

:BASIC: [acronym, from Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction
   Code] n. A programming language, originally designed for
   Dartmouth's experimental timesharing system in the early 1960s,
   which has since become the leading cause of brain-damage in
   proto-hackers.  This is another case (like {Pascal}) of the
   cascading lossage that happens when a language deliberately
   designed as an educational toy gets taken too seriously.  A novice
   can write short BASIC programs (on the order of 10--20 lines) very
   easily; writing anything longer is (a) very painful, and (b)
   encourages bad habits that will make it harder to use more powerful
   languages well.  This wouldn't be so bad if historical accidents
   hadn't made BASIC so common on low-end micros.  As it is, it ruins
   thousands of potential wizards a year.

:batch: adj. 1. 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.  2. Performance of dreary tasks all at one sitting.
   "I finally sat down in batch mode and wrote out checks for all
   those bills; I guess they'll turn the electricity back on next
   week..." 3. `batching up': Accumulation of a number of small
   tasks that can be lumped together for greater efficiency.  "I'm
   batching up those letters to send sometime" "I'm batching up
   bottles to take to the recycling center."

: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 0 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, thousands of 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.  Most hackers are aware of these nuances but blithely
   ignore them.

   Historical note: `baud' was originally a unit of telegraph signalling
   speed, set at one pulse per second.  It was proposed at the
   International Telegraph Conference of 1927, and named after J.M.E.
   Baudot (1845--1903), the French engineer who constructed the first
   successful teleprinter.
: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/ n. 1. The third {metasyntactic variable} "Suppose we
   have three functions: FOO, BAR, and BAZ.  FOO calls BAR, which
   calls BAZ...." (See also {fum}) 2. interj. A term of mild
   annoyance.  In this usage the term is often drawn out for 2 or 3
   seconds, producing an effect not unlike the bleating of a sheep;
   /baaaaaaz/.  3. Occasionally appended to {foo} to produce

   Earlier versions of this lexicon derived `baz' as a Stanford
   corruption of {bar}.  However, Pete Samson (compiler of the
   {TMRC} lexicon) reports it was already current when he joined TMRC
   in 1958.  He says "It came from "Pogo".  Albert the Alligator,
   when vexed or outraged, would shout `Bazz Fazz!' or `Rowrbazzle!'
   The club layout was said to model the (mythical) New England
   counties of Rowrfolk and Bassex (Rowrbazzle mingled with

: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 this 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 an old-fashioned, non-electronic cork-and-thumbtack 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: /B-B-S/ [abbreviation, `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 group}s.  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 such as CompuServe and 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.  See also {bboard}.
: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}.

:beanie key: [Mac users] n. See {command key}.

: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."  No one seems to know what distinguishes a bell from a

: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, Rhealstone (see {h}), the Gabriel LISP
   benchmarks (see {gabriel}), the SPECmark suite, and LINPACK.  See
   also {machoflops}, {MIPS}, {smoke and mirrors}.

:Berkeley Quality Software: adj. (often abbreviated `BQS') Term used
   in a pejorative sense to refer to software that 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}.

   Note to British and Commonwealth readers: that's /berk'lee/, not
   /bark'lee/ as in British Received Pronunciation.

:berklix: /berk'liks/ 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'.

:Berzerkeley: /b*r-zer'klee/ [from `berserk', via 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: /bay't*/, /be't*/ or (Commonwealth) /bee't*/ n.
   1. Mostly working, but still under test; usu. used with `in': `in
   beta'.  In the {Real World}, systems (hardware or software)
   software often go through two stages of release testing: Alpha
   (in-house) and Beta (out-house?).  Beta releases are generally made
   to a small number of lucky (or unlucky), trusted customers.
   2. Anything that is new and experimental.  "His girlfriend is in
   beta" means that he is still testing for compatibility and
   reserving judgment.  3. Flaky; dubious; suspect (since beta
   software is notoriously buggy).

   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: /B-F-I/ n. See {brute force and ignorance}.  Also
   encountered in the variants `BFMI', `brute force and
   *massive* ignorance' and `BFBI' `brute force and bloody

: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: n. The act said to have been performed on
   trademarks (such as {PostScript}, NeXT, {NeWS}, VisiCalc,
   FrameMaker, TK!solver, EasyWriter) that have been raised above the
   ruck 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 uppercase letters sprinkled liberally with bangs, typos,
   `cute' misspellings (EVRY BUDY LUVS GOOD OLD BIFF CUZ HE"S A
   THIS!!!), use (and often misuse) of fragments of {talk mode}
   abbreviations, a long {sig block} (sometimes even a {doubled
   sig}), and unbounded naivet'e.  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.

   [1993: Now It Can Be Told!  My spies inform me that BIFF was
   originally created by Joe Talmadge <>, also the
   author of the infamous and much-plagiarized "Flamer's Bible".
   The BIFF filter he wrote was later passed to Richard Sexton, who
   posted BIFFisms much more widely.  Versions have since been posted
   for the amusement of the net at large. --- ESR]

:biff: /bif/ vt. To notify someone of incoming mail.  From the
   BSD utility `biff(1)', which was in turn named after a
   friendly golden Labrador who used to chase frisbees in the halls at
   UCB while 4.2BSD was in development (it had a well-known habit of
   barking whenever the mailman came).  No relation to

:Big Gray Wall: n. What faces 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 the addition of
   layered products such as compilers, databases, multivendor
   networking, and programming tools.  Recent (since VMS version 5)
   DEC documentation comes with gray binders; under VMS version 4 the
   binders were orange (`big orange wall'), and under version 3 they
   were blue.  See {VMS}.  Often contracted to `Gray Wall'.

: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 abbreviated 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 mainframes 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}, {120 reset}; see
   also {scram switch}.

:Big Room, the: n. The extremely large room with the blue ceiling
   and intensely bright light (during the day) or black ceiling with
   lots of tiny night-lights (during the night) found outside all
   computer installations.  "He can't come to the phone right now,
   he's somewhere out in the Big Room."

: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!" See {win big}.

:big-endian: [From Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" via the famous
   paper "On Holy Wars and a Plea for Peace" by Danny Cohen,
   USC/ISI IEN 137, dated April 1, 1980] adj. 1. Describes a computer
   architecture in which, within a given multi-byte numeric
   representation, the most significant byte has the lowest address
   (the word is stored `big-end-first').  Most processors,
   including the IBM 370 family, the {PDP-10}, the Motorola
   microprocessor families, and most of the various RISC designs
   current in mid-1993, are big-endian.  See {little-endian},
   {middle-endian}, {NUXI problem}, {swab}.  2. 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 U.K.  the Joint Networking Team had decided to do
   it the other way round before the Internet domain standard was
   established; 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
   U.K. (domain uk) or Czechoslovakia (domain cs).

:bignum: /big'nuhm/ [orig. from MIT MacLISP] n. 1. [techspeak] A
   multiple-precision computer representation for very large
   integers.  2. More generally, any very large number.  "Have you ever
   looked at the United States Budget?  There's bignums for you!"
   3. [Stanford] In backgammon, large numbers on the dice especially a
   roll of double fives or double sixes (compare {moby}, sense 4).
   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 than 2^(31) (2,147,483,648) or (on a
   {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', `ITS bigot', `APL bigot', `VMS bigot',
   `Berkeley bigot'.  Real 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 truly said "You
   can tell a bigot, but you can't tell him much."  Compare

: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 0 and 1.
   3. A mental flag: a reminder that something should be done
   eventually.  "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.  "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 to hack 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 that can
   presumably be answered yes or no.

   A bit is said to be `set' if its value is true or 1, and
   `reset' or `clear' if its value is false or 0.  One speaks of
   setting and clearing bits.  To {toggle} or `invert' a bit is
   to change it, either from 0 to 1 or from 1 to 0.  See also
   {flag}, {trit}, {mode bit}.

   The term `bit' first appeared in print in the computer-science
   sense in 1949, and seems to have been coined by early computer
   scientist John Tukey.  Tukey records that it evolved over a lunch
   table as a handier alternative to `bigit' or `binit'.

:bit bang: n. Transmission of data on a serial line, when
   accomplished by rapidly tweaking a single output bit, in software,
   at the appropriate times.  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 bang was used 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.  In an interesting instance of the
   {cycle of reincarnation}, this technique is now (1991) coming
   back into use on some RISC architectures because it consumes such
   an infinitesimal part of the processor that it actually makes sense
   not to have a UART.

:bit bashing: n. (alt. `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).  Discarded, lost, or
   destroyed data is said to have `gone 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 {Finagle's Law}; important mail is much more likely
   to end up in the bit bucket than junk mail, which has an almost
   100% probability of getting delivered.  Routing to the bit bucket
   is automatically performed by mail-transfer agents, news systems,
   and the lower layers of the network.  3. The ideal location for all
   unwanted mail responses: "Flames about this article to the bit
   bucket."  Such a request is guaranteed to overflow one's mailbox
   with flames.  4. Excuse for all mail that has not been sent.  "I
   mailed you those figures last week; they must have landed in the
   bit bucket."  Compare {black hole}.

   This term is used purely in jest.  It is 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}.

   Another variant of this legend has it that, as a consequence of the
   `parity preservation law', the number of 1 bits that go to the bit
   bucket must equal the number of 0 bits.  Any imbalance results in
   bits filling up the bit bucket.  A qualified computer technician
   can empty a full bit bucket as part of scheduled maintenance.

:bit decay: n. See {bit rot}.  People with a physics background
   tend to prefer this variant 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 to be a myth;
   see the {cosmic rays} entry for details.

   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 (see
   {tune}) in which incredible amounts of time and effort go to
   produce little noticeable improvement, often with the result that
   the code becomes 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 state.
:bit-paired keyboard: n. obs. (alt. `bit-shift keyboard') A
   non-standard keyboard layout that 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 that could be modified
   by flipping bits if the SHIFT or the CTRL key was pressed.  In
   order to avoid making the thing more of a Rube Goldberg kluge than
   it already was, the design had to group characters that shared the
   same basic bit pattern on one key.

   Looking at the ASCII chart, we find:

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

   This is why the characters !"#$%&'() appear where they do on a
   Teletype (thankfully, they didn't use shift-0 for space).  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

   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 family
   of closely related 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: /bit'net/ [acronym: Because It's Time NETwork] n.
   Everybody's least favorite piece of the network (see {network,
   the}).  The BITNET hosts are a collection of IBM dinosaurs and
   VAXen (the latter with lobotomized comm hardware) that communicate
   using 80-character {{EBCDIC}} card images (see {eighty-column
   mind}); 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: 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} See also {bit}.

: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 software on or for it.  Especially
   used of small, obsolescent, single-tasking-only personal machines
   such as 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: /bik'see/ 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. What a piece of email or netnews has fallen into if
   it disappears mysteriously between its origin and destination sites
   (that is, without returning a {bounce message}).  "I think
   there's a black hole at foovax!" conveys 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 that 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).

:blargh: /blarg/ [MIT] n. The opposite of {ping}, sense 5; an
   exclamation indicating that one has absorbed or is emitting a
   quantum of unhappiness.  Less common than {ping}.

: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. 1. Syn. {blast}, sense 1.  2. See {thud}.

:bletch: /blech/ [from Yiddish/German `brechen', to vomit, poss.
   via comic-strip exclamation `blech'] interj.  Term of disgust.
   Often used in "Ugh, bletch".  Compare {barf}.

:bletcherous: /blech'*-r*s/ 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}, {bagbiting}, {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

:blinkenlights: /blink'*n-li:tz/ n. Front-panel diagnostic lights
   on a computer, esp. a {dinosaur}.  Derives from the last word
   of the famous blackletter-Gothic sign in mangled pseudo-German that
   once graced about half the computer rooms in the English-speaking
   world.  One version ran in its entirety as follows:

              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 das cotten-pickenen 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 1960s,
   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'.

   In an amusing example of turnabout-is-fair-play, German hackers
   have developed their own versions of the blinkenlights poster in
   fractured English, one of which is reproduced here:

        This room is fullfilled mit special electronische equippment.
        Fingergrabbing and pressing the cnoeppkes from the computers is
        allowed for die experts only!  So all the "lefthanders" stay away
        and do not disturben the brainstorming von here working
        intelligencies.  Otherwise you will be out thrown and kicked
        anderswhere!  Also: please keep still and only watchen astaunished
        the blinkenlights.
   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 then blits 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. Sometimes
   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.  Its creators liked to claim that "Blit"
   stood for the Bacon, Lettuce, and Interactive Tomato.)

:blitter: /blit'r/ 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

:blivet: /bliv'*t/ [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 that 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 embarrassing bug that pops up
   during a customer demo.  6. In the subjargon of computer security
   specialists, a denial-of-service attack performed by hogging
   limited resources that have no access controls (for example, shared
   spool space on a multi-user system).

   This term has other meanings in other technical cultures; 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 that
   appears to depict a three-dimensional object until one realizes
   that the parts fit together in an impossible way.

:BLOB: [acronym, Binary Large OBject] n. Used by database people to
   refer to any random large block of bits that needs to be stored in
   a database, such as a picture or sound file.  The essential point
   about a BLOB is that it's an object that cannot be interpreted
   within the database itself.

: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: [from the television series
   "Dr. Who"] n. 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

:Bloggs Family, the: n.  An imaginary family consisting of Fred and
   Mary Bloggs and their children.  Used as a standard example in
   knowledge representation to show the difference between extensional
   and intensional objects.  For example, every occurrence of "Fred
   Bloggs" is the same unique person, whereas occurrences of
   "person" may refer to different people.  Members of the Bloggs
   family have been known to pop up in bizarre places such as the DEC
   Telephone Directory.  Compare {Mbogo, Dr. Fred}.

:blow an EPROM: /bloh *n ee'prom/ v. (alt. `blast an EPROM',
   `burn an EPROM') To program a read-only memory, e.g. for use
   with an embedded system.  This term arose 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.  The usage lives on (it's too vivid and expressive to
   discard) even though the write process on EPROMs is

:blow away: vt. To remove (files and directories) from permanent
   storage, generally by accident.  "He reformatted the wrong
   partition and blew away last night's netnews."  Oppose {nuke}.

:blow out: [prob. from mining and tunneling jargon] vi. Of
   software, to fail spectacularly; almost as serious as {crash and
   burn}.  See {blow past}, {blow up}, {die

:blow past: vt. To {blow out} despite a safeguard.  "The server blew
   past the 5K reserve buffer."

:blow up: vi. 1. [scientific computation] To become unstable.  Suggests
   that the computation is diverging so rapidly that it will soon
   overflow or at least go {nonlinear}.  2.  Syn. {blow out}.

:BLT: /B-L-T/, /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 three official guides are known as the
   {Green Book}, the {Red Book}, and the {White Book} (sense
   2).  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 book also has green and red siblings).
   3. Any of the 1988 standards issued by the CCITT's ninth plenary
   assembly.  These include, among other things, the X.400 email spec
   and the Group 1 through 4 fax standards.  See also {{book

:Blue Glue: [IBM] n. IBM's SNA (Systems Network Architecture), an
   incredibly {losing} and {bletcherous} communications protocol
   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 common in {dinosaur pen}s.  A correspondent at
   U. Minn. reports that the CS department there has about 80 bottles
   of the stuff 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 promote
   truth, justice, and the American way, etc.  See

:blue wire: [IBM] n. Patch wires added to circuit boards at the factory to
   correct design or fabrication problems.  These may be necessary if
   there hasn't been time to design and qualify another board version.
   Compare {purple wire}, {red wire}, {yellow wire}.

:blurgle: /bler'gl/ [Great Britain] n. Spoken {metasyntactic
   variable}, to indicate some text that is obvious from context, or
   which is already known. If several words are to be replaced,
   blurgle may well be doubled or trebled. "To look for something in
   several files use `grep string blurgle blurgle'."  In each case,
   "blurgle blurgle" would be understood to be replaced by the file
   you wished to search.  Compare {mumble}, sense 7.

:BNF: /B-N-F/ 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 U.S. postal address:

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

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

      <name-part> ::= <personal-part> <last-name> [<jr-part>] <EOL>
                    | <personal-part> <name-part>

      <street-address> ::= [<apt>] <house-num> <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 personal-part consists of either a first name or
   an initial followed by a dot.  A name-part consists of either: a
   personal-part followed by a last name followed by an optional
   `jr-part' (Jr., Sr., or dynastic number) and end-of-line, or a
   personal part followed by a name part (this rule illustrates the
   use of recursion in BNFs, covering the case of people who use
   multiple first and middle names and/or initials).  A street address
   consists of an optional apartment specifier, followed by a street
   number, followed by a street name.  A zip-part consists of a
   town-name, followed by a comma, followed by a state code, followed
   by a ZIP-code followed by an end-of-line."  Note that many things
   (such as the format of a personal-part, apartment specifier, or
   ZIP-code) are left unspecified.  These are presumed to be obvious
   from context or detailed somewhere nearby.  See also {parse}.
   2. Any of a number number of variants and extensions of BNF proper,
   possibly containing some or all of the {regexp} wildcards such
   as `*' or `+'.  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.  3. In {{science-fiction fandom}}, a
   `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 channel cables for the 370 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 (but see usage note under {bboard},
   sense 1).  2. An electronic circuit board.

:boat anchor: n. 1. Like {doorstop} but more severe; implies
   that the offending hardware is irreversibly dead or useless.
   "That was a working motherboard once.  One lightning strike later,
   instant boat anchor!"  2. A person who just takes up space.
   3. Obsolete but still working hardware, especially when used of an
   old S100-bus hobbyist system; originally a term of annoyance, but
   became more and more affectionate as the hardware became more and
   more obsolete.

:BOF: /B-O-F/ or /bof/ n. Abbreviation for the phrase "Birds
   Of a Feather" (flocking together), an informal discussion group
   and/or bull session scheduled on a conference program.  It is not
   clear where or when this term originated, but it is now associated
   with the USENIX conferences for UNIX techies and was already
   established there by 1984.  It was used earlier than that at DECUS
   conferences and is reported to have been common at SHARE meetings
   as far back as the early 1960s.

:bogo-sort: /boh`goh-sort'/ n. (var. `stupid-sort') The
   archetypical perversely awful algorithm (as opposed to {bubble
   sort}, which is merely the generic *bad* algorithm).
   Bogo-sort is equivalent to repeatedly throwing a deck of cards in
   the air, picking them up at random, and then testing whether they
   are in order.  It serves as a sort of canonical example of
   awfulness.  Looking at a program and seeing a dumb algorithm, one
   might say "Oh, I see, this program uses bogo-sort."  Compare
   {bogus}, {brute force}, {Lasherism}.

:bogometer: /boh-gom'-*t-er/ n. A notional instrument for
   measuring {bogosity}.  Compare the `wankometer' described in
   the {wank} entry; see 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 the Bibliography in {Appendix C}] n.
   1. The elementary particle of bogosity (see {quantum
   bogodynamics}).  For instance, "the Ethernet is emitting bogons
   again" means 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};
   compare {psyton}, {fat electrons}, {magic smoke}.

   The bogon has become the type case for a whole bestiary of nonce
   particle names, including the `clutron' or `cluon' (indivisible
   particle of cluefulness, obviously the antiparticle of the bogon)
   and the futon (elementary particle of {randomness}, or sometimes
   of lameness).  These are not so much live usages in themselves as
   examples of a live meta-usage: that is, it has become a standard
   joke or linguistic maneuver to "explain" otherwise mysterious
   circumstances by inventing nonce particle names.  And these imply
   nonce particle theories, with all their dignity or lack thereof (we
   might note parenthetically that this is a generalization from
   "(bogus particle) theories" to "bogus (particle theories)"!).
   Perhaps such particles are the modern-day equivalents of trolls and
   wood-nymphs as standard starting-points around which to construct
   explanatory myths.  Of course, playing on an existing word (as in
   the `futon') yields additional flavor.  Compare {magic

:bogon filter: /boh'gon fil'tr/ n. Any device, software or hardware,
   that limits or suppresses the flow and/or emission of bogons.
   "Engineering hacked a bogon filter between the Cray and
   the VAXen, and now we're getting fewer dropped packets."  See
   also {bogosity}, {bogus}.

:bogon flux: /boh'gon fluhks/ n. A measure of a supposed field of
   {bogosity} emitted by a speaker, measured by a {bogometer};
   as a speaker starts to wander into increasing bogosity a listener
   might say "Warning, warning, bogon flux is rising".  See
   {quantum bogodynamics}.

:bogosity: /boh-go's*-tee/ n. 1. The degree to which something is
   {bogus}.  At CMU, bogosity is measured with a {bogometer}; 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}.  2. The
   potential field generated by a {bogon flux}; see {quantum
   bogodynamics}.  See also {bogon flux}, {bogon filter},

:bogotify: /boh-go't*-fi:/ 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 had better not use it any more.  This coinage led to the
   notional `autobogotiphobia' 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 {random} --- mostly the negative ones.)

   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
   Michael 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 from
   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 10-pound note".

:Bohr bug: /bohr buhg/ [from quantum physics] n. A repeatable
   {bug}; one that manifests reliably under a possibly unknown but
   well-defined set of conditions.  Antonym of {heisenbug}; see also
   {mandelbug}, {schroedinbug}.

:boink: /boynk/ [USENET: variously ascribed to the TV series
   "Cheers" "Moonlighting", and "Soap"] 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}.  3. Var of `bonk';
   see {bonk/oif}.

:bomb: 1. v. General synonym for {crash} (sense 1) except that
   it is not used as a noun; esp. used of software or OS failures.
   "Don't run Empire with less than 32K stack, it'll bomb."
   2. n.,v. Atari ST and Macintosh equivalents of a UNIX `panic' or
   Amiga {guru} (sense 2), in which icons of little black-powder
   bombs or mushroom clouds are displayed, indicating that 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.  {{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".  See {{Pascal}}; oppose {languages of

:bonk/oif: /bonk/, /oyf/ interj. In the {MUD} community, it
   has become traditional to express pique or censure by `bonking'
   the offending person.  Convention holds that one should acknowledge
   a bonk by saying `oif!' and there is 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 {Aluminum Book}, {Blue Book},
   {Cinderella Book}, {Devil Book}, {Dragon Book}, {Green
   Book}, {Orange Book}, {Pink-Shirt Book}, {Purple Book},
   {Red Book}, {Silver Book}, {White Book}, {Wizard Book},
   {Yellow Book}, and {bible}; see also {rainbow

: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 (having passed into techspeak) but has given rise to
   some derivatives that are still jargon.

   The derivative `reboot' implies that the machine hasn't been down
   for long, or that the boot is a {bounce} (sense 4) intended to
   clear some state of {wedgitude}.  This is sometimes used of
   human thought processes, as in the following exchange: "You've
   lost me."  "OK, reboot.  Here's the theory...."

   This term is 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

   Another variant: `soft boot', reinitialization of only part of a
   system, under control of other software 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."  "I recommend booting it
   hard."  One often hard-boots by performing a {power cycle}.

   Historical note: this term derives from `bootstrap loader', a short
   program that 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 feeder: n. Syn. for {slopsucker}, derived from the
   fishermen's and naturalists' term for finny creatures who subsist
   on the primordial ooze.

: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 that 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. [perhaps by analogy to a bouncing check] An
   electronic mail message that is undeliverable and returns an error
   notification to the sender is said to `bounce'.  See also
   {bounce message}.  2. [Stanford] To play volleyball.  The
   now-demolished {D. C. Power Lab} building used by the Stanford
   AI Lab in the 1970s had a volleyball court on the front lawn.  From
   5 P.M. to 7 P.M. was the scheduled maintenance time for the
   computer, so every afternoon at 5 would come over the intercom the
   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
   Roo's psychosexually loaded "Try bouncing me, 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.  [VM/CMS programmers]
   *Automatic* warm-start of a machine after an error.  "I
   logged on this morning and found it had bounced 7 times during the
   night" 6. [IBM] To {power cycle} a peripheral in order to reset

: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}, sense 1).  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} and {software laser}.  The terms `bounce
   mail' and `barfmail' are also common.

:boustrophedon: [from a Greek word for turning like an ox while
   plowing] n. An ancient method of writing using alternate
   left-to-right and right-to-left lines.  This term is actually
   philologists' techspeak and typesetters' jargon.  Erudite hackers
   use it for an optimization performed by some computer typesetting
   software and moving-head printers.  The adverbial form
   `boustrophedonically' is also found (hackers purely love
   constructions like this).

: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.)  "We
   preprocess the data on UNIX boxes before handing it up to the
   mainframe."  2. [IBM] Without qualification but within an
   SNA-using site, this refers specifically to an IBM front-end
   processor or FEP /F-E-P/.  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

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

      * This is a boxed comment in C style

   Common variants of this style omit the asterisks in column 2 or add
   a matching row of asterisks closing the right side of the box.  The
   sparest variant omits all but the comment delimiters themselves;
   the `box' is implied.  Oppose {winged comments}.

: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. Syn. {ASCII art}.  This term
   implies a more restricted domain, that of box-and-arrow drawings.
   "His report has a lot of boxology in it."  Compare

:bozotic: /boh-zoh'tik/ or /boh-zo'tik/ [from the name of 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)

:BQS: /B-Q-S/ 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.  "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 fart: n. The actual result of a {braino}, as opposed to
   the mental glitch that is the braino itself.  E.g., typing
   `dir' on a UNIX box after a session with DOS.

:brain-damaged: 1. [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.  "Only six
   monocase characters per file name?  Now *that's*
   brain-damaged!"  2. [esp. in the Mac world] May refer to free
   demonstration software that has been deliberately crippled in some
   way so as not to compete with the commercial product it is
   intended to sell.  Syn.  {crippleware}.

:brain-dead: adj. Brain-damaged in the extreme.  It tends to imply
   terminal design failure rather than malfunction or simple
   stupidity.  "This comm program doesn't know how to send a break
   --- how brain-dead!"

:braino: /bray'no/ n. Syn. for {thinko}. See also {brain

:branch to Fishkill: [IBM: from the location of one of the
   corporation's facilities] n. Any unexpected jump in a program that
   produces catastrophic or just plain weird results.  See {jump
   off into never-never land}, {hyperspace}.

:bread crumbs: n. Debugging statements inserted into a program that
   emit output or log indicators of the program's {state} to a file
   so you can see where it dies or pin down the cause of surprising
   behavior. The term is probably a reference to the Hansel and Gretel
   story from the Brothers Grimm; in several variants, a character
   leaves a trail of bread crumbs so as not to get lost in the

: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 (two character widths 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), delete or {control-C} does this.  5. `break break'
   may be said to interrupt a conversation (this is an example of verb
   doubling).  This usage comes from radio communications, which in
   turn probably came from landline telegraph/teleprinter usage, as
   badly abused in the Citizen's Band craze a few years ago.

:break-even point: n. in the process of implementing a new computer
   language, the point at which the language is sufficiently effective
   that one can implement the language in itself.  That is, for a new
   language called, hypothetically, FOOGOL, one has reached break-even
   when one can write a demonstration compiler for FOOGOL in FOOGOL,
   discard the original implementation language, and thereafter use
   working versions of FOOGOL to develop newer ones.  This is an
   important milestone; see {MFTL}.

   [Since this entry was first written, several correspondents have
   reported that there actually was a compiler for a tiny Algol-like
   language called Foogol floating around on various {vaxen} in the
   early and mid-1980s.  The above example may not, after all, be
   hypothetical. -- ESR]

:breath-of-life packet: [XEROX PARC] n. An Ethernet packet that
   contains bootstrap (see {boot}) code, periodically sent out
   from a working computer to infuse the `breath of life' into any
   computer on the network that has happened to crash.  Machines
   depending on such packets have sufficient hardware or firmware code
   to wait for (or request) such a packet during the reboot process.
   See also {dickless workstation}.

   The notional `kiss-of-death packet', with a function
   complementary to that of a breath-of-life packet, is recommended
   for dealing with hosts that consume too many network resources.
   Though `kiss-of-death packet' is usually used in jest, there is
   at least one documented instance of an Internet subnet with limited
   address-table slots in a gateway machine in which such packets were
   routinely used to compete for slots, rather like Christmas shoppers
   competing for scarce parking spaces.

:breedle: n. See {feep}.

:bring X to its knees: v. To present a machine, operating system,
   piece of software, or algorithm with a load so extreme or
   {pathological} that it grinds 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 is functional but easily
   broken by changes in operating environment or configuration, or by
   any minor tweak to the software itself.  Also, any system that
   responds inappropriately and disastrously to abnormal but 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 it can be applied to commercially
   developed software, which displays the quality far more often than
   it ought to.  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

:brochureware: n. Planned but non-existent product like
   {vaporware}, but with the added implication that marketing is
   actively selling and promoting it (they've printed brochures).
   Brochureware is often deployed as a strategic weapon; the idea is
   to con customers into not committing to an existing product of the
   competition's.  It is a safe bet that when a brochureware product
   finally becomes real, it will be more expensive than and inferior
   to the alternatives that had been available for years.

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

:broken arrow: [IBM] n. The error code displayed on line 25 of a
   3270 terminal (or a PC emulating a 3270) for various kinds of
   protocol violations and "unexpected" error conditions (including
   connection to a {down} computer).  On a PC, simulated with
   `->/_', with the two center characters overstruck.

   Note: to appreciate this term fully, it helps to know that `broken
   arrow' is also military jargon for an accident involving nuclear

: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 expected
   advantage from splitting work among N programmers is
   O(N) (that is, proportional to N), but the complexity
   and communications cost associated with coordinating and then
   merging their work is O(N^2) (that is, proportional to the
   square of N).  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} still does.  See
   also {creationism}, {second-system effect},

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

:brute force: adj. Describes a primitive programming style, one in
   which the programmer relies on the computer's processing power
   instead of using his or 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 term
   can also be used in reference to programming style: brute-force
   programs are written in a heavyhanded, tedious way, full of
   repetition and devoid of any elegance or useful abstraction (see
   also {brute force and ignorance}).

   The {canonical} example of a brute-force algorithm is associated
   with the `traveling salesman problem' (TSP), a classical
   {NP-}hard problem: Suppose a person is in, say, Boston, and
   wishes to drive to N other cities.  In what order should the
   cities be visited 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 very
   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}).  Sometimes,
   unfortunately, there is no better general solution than brute
   force.  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.

   Whether brute-force programming should actually be considered
   stupid or not depends on the context; if the problem is not
   terribly 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.  Additionally, 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
   {brittle} `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 judgment.

: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 this sort of thing.  Characteristic of early {larval
   stage} programming; unfortunately, many never outgrow it.  Often
   abbreviated BFI: "Gak, they used a {bubble sort}!  That's
   strictly from BFI."  Compare {bogosity}.

:BSD: /B-S-D/ n. [abbreviation for `Berkeley System Distribution'] a
   family of {{UNIX}} versions for the {DEC} {VAX} and PDP-11
   developed by Bill Joy and others at {Berzerkeley} 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 the 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}.

:BUAF: // [abbreviation, from] n. Big
   Ugly ASCII Font --- a special form of {ASCII art}.  Various
   programs exist for rendering text strings into block, bloob, and
   pseudo-script fonts in cells between four and six character cells
   on a side; this is smaller than the letters generated by older
   {banner} (sense 2) programs.  These are sometimes used to render
   one's name in a {sig block}, and are critically referred to as
   `BUAF's.  See {warlording}.

:BUAG: // [abbreviation, from] n. Big Ugly
   ASCII Graphic.  Pejorative term for ugly {ASCII ART}, especially
   as found in {sig block}s.  For some reason, mutations of the
   head of Bart Simpson are particularly common in the least
   imaginative {sig block}s. See {warlording}.

:bubble sort: n. Techspeak for a particular sorting technique in
   which pairs of adjacent values in the list to be sorted are
   compared and interchanged if they are out of order; thus, list
   entries `bubble upward' in the list until they bump into one with a
   lower sort value.  Because it is not very good relative 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 perversity.

:bucky bits: /buh'kee bits/ n. 1. obs. The bits produced by the
   CONTROL and META shift keys on a SAIL keyboard (octal 200 and 400
   respectively), 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 has long been rumored that `bucky bits' were named for
   Buckminster Fuller during a period when he was consulting at
   Stanford.  Actually, bucky bits were invented by Niklaus Wirth when
   *he* was at Stanford in 1964--65; he first suggested the idea
   of an EDIT key to set the 8th bit of an otherwise 7-bit ASCII
   character.  best-known).  It seems that, unknown to Wirth, certain
   Stanford hackers had privately nicknamed him `Bucky' after a
   prominent portion of his dental anatomy, and this nickname
   transferred to the bit.  Bucky-bit commands were used in a number
   of editors written at Stanford, including most notably TV-EDIT and

   The term spread to MIT and CMU early and is now in general use.
   Ironically, Wirth himself remained unaware of its derivation for
   nearly 30 years, until GLS dug up this history in early 1993!  See
   {double bucky}, {quadruple bucky}.

: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} and {firehose syndrome}),
   or because the buffer is simply too small to hold all the data that
   must accumulate before a piece of it can be processed.  For example,
   in a text-processing tool that {crunch}es a line at a time, a
   short line buffer can result in {lossage} as input from a long
   line overflows the buffer and trashes data beyond it.  Good
   defensive programming would check for overflow on each character
   and stop accepting data when the buffer is full up.  The term is
   used of and by humans in a metaphorical sense.  "What time did I
   agree to meet you?  My buffer must have overflowed."  Or "If I
   answer that phone my buffer is going to overflow."  See also
   {spam}, {overrun screw}.

:bug: n. An unwanted and unintended property of a program or piece
   of hardware, esp. one that 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).

   Historical note: Admiral Grace Hopper (an early computing pioneer
   better known for inventing {COBOL}) liked to tell a story in
   which a technician solved a {glitch} in the Harvard Mark II
   machine by pulling an actual insect 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 (NSWC).  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", Vol. 3, No. 3 (July 1981),
   pp. 285--286.

   The text of the log entry (from September 9, 1947), reads "1545
   Relay #70 Panel F (moth) in relay.  First actual case of bug being
   found".  This wording establishes that the term was already
   in use at the time in its current specific sense --- and Hopper
   herself reports that the term `bug' was regularly applied to
   problems in radar electronics during WWII.

   Indeed, the use of `bug' to mean an industrial defect was already
   established in Thomas Edison's time, and a more specific and rather
   modern use can be found in an electrical handbook from 1896
   ("Hawkin's New Catechism of Electricity", Theo. Audel & Co.)
   which says: "The term `bug' is used to a limited extent to
   designate any fault or trouble in the connections or working of
   electric apparatus."  It further notes that the term is "said to
   have originated in quadruplex telegraphy and have been transferred
   to all electric apparatus."

   The latter observation may explain a common folk etymology of the
   term; that it came from telephone company usage, in which "bugs in
   a telephone cable" were blamed for noisy lines.  Though this
   derivation seems to be mistaken, it may well be a distorted memory
   of a joke first current among *telegraph* operators more than
   a century ago!

   Actually, use of `bug' in the general sense of a disruptive event
   goes back to Shakespeare!  In the first edition of Samuel 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 games.

   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."

   [There has been a widespread myth that the original bug was moved
   to the Smithsonian, and an earlier version of this entry so
   asserted.  A correspondent who thought to check discovered that the
   bug was not there.  While investigating this in late 1990, your
   editor discovered that the NSWC still had the bug, but had
   unsuccessfully tried to get the Smithsonian to accept it --- and
   that the present curator of their History of American Technology
   Museum didn't know this and agreed that it would make a worthwhile
   exhibit.  It was moved to the Smithsonian in mid-1991, but due to
   space and money constraints has not yet been exhibited.  Thus, the
   process of investigating the original-computer-bug bug fixed it in
   an entirely unexpected way, by making the myth true!  --- ESR]

:bug-compatible: adj. Said of a design or revision that 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. "MS-DOS 2.0 used \ as a path
   separator to be bug-compatible with some cretin's choice of / as an
   option character in 1.0."

: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: /buhg'liks/ n. Pejorative term referring to {DEC}'s ULTRIX
   operating system in its earlier *severely* buggy versions.
   Still used to describe ULTRIX, but without nearly so much venom.
   Compare {AIDX}, {HP-SUX}, {Nominal Semidestructor},
   {Telerat}, {sun-stools}.

:bulletproof: adj. Used of an algorithm or implementation
   considered extremely {robust}; lossage-resistant; capable of
   correctly recovering from any imaginable exception condition --- 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."  In {elder days}, John McCarthy (inventor
   of {LISP}) used to compare some efficiency-obsessed hackers
   among his students to "ski bums"; thus, optimization became
   "program bumming", and eventually just "bumming".  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.  All these uses are rare in Commonwealth hackish,
   because in the parent dialects of English `bum' is 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'

:burble: [from Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky"] v. Like {flame},
   but connotes that the source is truly clueless and ineffectual
   (mere flamers can be competent).  A term of deep contempt.
   "There's some guy on the phone burbling about how he got a DISK
   FULL error and it's all our comm software's fault."  This
   is mainstream slang in some parts of England.

: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 its 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, etc.  Warning:
   Excessive burn-in can lead to burn-out.  See {hack mode},
   {larval stage}.

:burst page: n. Syn. {banner}, sense 1.

:busy-wait: vi. Used of human behavior, conveys that the subject is
   busy waiting for someone or something, intends to move instantly as
   soon as it shows up, and thus cannot do anything else at the
   moment.  "Can't talk now, I'm busy-waiting till Bill gets off the

   Technically, `busy-wait' means 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.  This
   is a wasteful technique, best avoided on time-sharing systems where
   a busy-waiting program may {hog} the processor.

: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
   that is buzzing appears to be {catatonic}, but never gets out
   of catatonia, while a buzzing loop may eventually end of its own
   accord.  "The program buzzes for about 10 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 rather than DC signal.  Some wire
   faults will pass DC tests but fail a buzz test.  3. To process an
   array or list in sequence, doing the same thing to each element.
   "This loop buzzes through the tz array looking for a terminator

:BWQ: /B-W-Q/ [IBM: abbreviation, `Buzz Word Quotient'] The
   percentage of buzzwords in a speech or documents.  Usually roughly
   proportional to {bogosity}.  See {TLA}.

:by hand: adv. 1. Said of an operation (especially a repetitive,
   trivial, and/or tedious one) that 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."  This does not necessarily mean the speaker has to
   retype a copy of the message; it might refer to, say, dropping into
   a subshell from the mailer, making a copy of one's mailbox
   file, reading that into an editor, locating the top and bottom of
   the message in question, deleting the rest of the file, inserting
   `>' characters on each line, writing the file, leaving the editor,
   returning to the mailer, reading the file in, and later remembering
   to delete the file.  Compare {eyeball search}.  2. By extension,
   writing code which does something in an explicit or low-level way
   for which a presupplied library routine ought to have been
   available.  "This cretinous B-tree library doesn't supply a decent
   iterator, so I'm having to walk the trees by hand."

:byte:: /bi:t/ [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 6 or 7 bits, and
   the PDP-10 supported `bytes' that 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 toward power-of-2 word sizes.

   Historical note: The term was coined by Werner Buchholz in 1956
   during the early design phase for the IBM Stretch computer;
   originally it was described as 1 to 6 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 word was
   coined by mutating the word `bite' so it would not be
   accidentally misspelled as {bit}.  See also {nybble}.

:bytesexual: /bi:t`sek'shu-*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}.

:bzzzt, wrong: /bzt rong/ [USENET/Internet] From a Robin Williams
   routine in the movie "Dead Poets Society" spoofing radio or
   TV quiz programs, such as *Truth or Consequences*, where an
   incorrect answer earns one a blast from the buzzer and condolences
   from the interlocutor.  A way of expressing mock-rude disagreement,
   usually immediately following an included quote from another
   poster.  The less abbreviated "*Bzzzzt*, wrong, but thank you for
   playing" is also common; capitalization and emphasis of the
   buzzer sound varies.

= C =

:C: n. 1. The third letter of the English alphabet.  2. ASCII
   1000011.  3. The name of a programming language designed by
   Dennis Ritchie during the early 1970s and immediately used to
   reimplement {{UNIX}}; so called because many features derived
   from an earlier compiler 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 that combines
   all the elegance and power of assembly language with all the
   readability and maintainability of assembly language".

:C Programmer's Disease: n. The tendency of the undisciplined C
   programmer to set arbitrary but supposedly generous static limits
   on table sizes (defined, if you're lucky, by constants in header
   files) rather than taking the trouble to do proper dynamic storage
   allocation.  If an application user later needs to put 68 elements
   into a table of size 50, the afflicted programmer reasons that he
   or she can easily reset the table size to 68 (or even as much as
   70, to allow for future expansion) and recompile.  This gives the
   programmer the comfortable feeling of having made the effort to
   satisfy the user's (unreasonable) demands, and often affords the
   user multiple opportunities to explore the marvelous consequences
   of {fandango on core}.  In severe cases of the disease, the
   programmer cannot comprehend why each fix of this kind seems only
   to further disgruntle the user.

:calculator: [Cambridge] n. Syn. for {bitty box}.

:can: vt. To abort a job on a time-sharing system.  Used esp.
   when the person doing the deed is an operator, as in "canned from
   the {{console}}".  Frequently used in an imperative sense, as in
   "Can that print job, the LPT just popped a sprocket!"  Synonymous
   with {gun}.  It is said that the ASCII character with mnemonic
   CAN (0011000) was used as a kill-job character on some early OSes.
   Alternatively, this term may derive from mainstream slang
   `canned' for being laid off or fired.

:can't happen: The traditional program comment for code executed
   under a condition that should never be true, for example a file
   size computed as negative.  Often, such a condition being true
   indicates data corruption or a faulty algorithm; it is almost
   always handled by emitting a fatal error message and terminating or
   crashing, since there is little else that can be done.  Some case
   variant of "can't happen" is also often the text emitted if the
   `impossible' error actually happens!  Although "can't happen"
   events are genuinely infrequent in production code, programmers
   wise enough to check for them habitually are often surprised at how
   frequently they are triggered during development and how many
   headaches checking for them turns out to head off. See also
   {firewall code} (sense 2).

:candygrammar: n. A programming-language grammar that is mostly
   {syntactic sugar}; the term is also a play on `candygram'.
   {COBOL}, Apple's Hypertalk language, and a lot of the so-called
   `4GL' database languages share this property.  The usual intent
   of such designs is that they be as English-like as possible, on the
   theory that they will then be easier for unskilled people to
   program.  This intention comes to grief on the reality that syntax
   isn't what makes programming hard; it's the mental effort and
   organization required to specify an algorithm precisely that
   costs.  Thus the invariable result is that `candygrammar'
   languages are just as difficult to program in as terser ones, and
   far more painful for the experienced hacker.

   [The overtones from the old Chevy Chase skit on Saturday Night Live
   should not be overlooked.  This was a "Jaws" parody.
   Someone lurking outside an apartment door tries all kinds of bogus
   ways to get the occupant to open up, while ominous music plays in
   the background.  The last attempt is a half-hearted "Candygram!"
   When the door is opened, a shark bursts in and chomps the poor
   occupant.  There is a moral here for those attracted to
   candygrammars.  Note that, in many circles, pretty much the same
   ones who remember Monty Python sketches, all it takes is the word
   "Candygram!", suitably timed, to get people rolling on the
   floor. --- GLS]

: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.  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, a relaxation of the technical meaning, acquired its
   present loading in computer-science culture largely through its
   prominence in Alonzo Church's work in computation theory and
   mathematical logic (see {Knights of the Lambda Calculus}).
   Compare {vanilla}.

   This word has an interesting history.  Non-technical academics do
   not use the adjective `canonical' in any of the senses defined
   above with any regularity; they do however use the nouns `canon'
   and `canonicity' (not **canonicalness or **canonicality). The
   `canon' of a given author is the complete body of authentic works
   by that author (this usage is familiar to Sherlock Holmes fans as
   well as to literary scholars).  `*The* canon' is the body of
   works in a given field (e.g., works of literature, or of art, or of
   music) deemed worthwhile for students to study and for scholars to

   The word `canon' derives ultimately from the Greek
   (akin to the English `cane') referring to a reed.  Reeds were used
   for measurement, and in Latin and later Greek the word `canon'
   meant a rule or a standard.  The establishment of a canon of
   scriptures within Christianity was meant to define a standard or a
   rule for the religion.  The above non-techspeak academic usages
   stem from this instance of a defined and accepted body of work.
   Alongside this usage was the promulgation of `canons' (`rules')
   for the government of the Catholic Church.  The techspeak usages
   ("according to religious law") derive from this use of the Latin
   Hackers invest this term with a playfulness that makes an ironic
   contrast with its historical meaning.  A true story: One Bob
   Sjoberg, new at the MIT AI Lab, expressed some annoyance at the
   incessant use of jargon.  Over his loud objections, GLS and RMS
   made a point of using as much of it 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 it 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 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: /keir'weir/ 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 apparently avoided the bug was ever fully understood
   (compare {shotgun debugging}, {voodoo programming}).

   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).

:cascade: n. 1. A huge volume of spurious error-message output
   produced by a compiler with poor error recovery.  Too frequently,
   one trivial syntax error (such as a missing `)' or `}') throws the
   parser out of synch so that much of the remaining program text is
   interpreted as garbaged or ill-formed.  2. A chain of USENET
   followups, each adding some trivial variation or riposte to the text
   of the previous one, all of which is reproduced in the new message;
   an {include war} in which the object is to create a sort of
   communal graffito.

: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.

   At DEC, this is sometimes called `clone-and-hack' coding.

:casters-up mode: [IBM, prob. fr. slang belly up] n. Yet another
   synonym for `broken' or `down'.  Usually connotes a major
   failure.  A system (hardware or software) which is `down' may be
   already being restarted before the failure is noticed, whereas one
   which is `casters up' is usually a good excuse to take the rest
   of the day off (as long as you're not responsible for fixing

:casting the runes: n. What a {guru} does when you ask him or
   her 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 "{A Selection
   of AI Koans}" ({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 fans, `cat(1)' is considered an excellent example
   of user-interface design, because it delivers the file contents
   without such verbosity as spacing or headers between the files, and
   because it does not require the files to consist of lines of text,
   but works with any sort of data.

   Among UNIX haters, `cat(1)' is considered the {canonical}
   example of *bad* user-interface design, because of its
   woefully unobvious name.  It is far 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}.

   Of such oppositions are {holy wars} made....

:catatonic: adj. Describes a condition of suspended animation in
   which something is so {wedged} or {hung} that it makes no
   response.  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).
   "There I was in the middle of a winning game of {nethack} and it
   went catatonic on me!  Aaargh!" Compare {buzz}.

:cd tilde: /C-D til-d*/ vi.  To go home.  From the UNIX C-shell
   and Korn-shell command `cd ~', which takes one to
   one's `$HOME' (`cd' with no arguments happens to do the
   same thing).  By extension, may be used with other arguments; thus,
   over an electronic chat link, `cd ~coffee' would
   mean "I'm going to the coffee machine."

: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, which returns a list
   consisting of all but the first element of its argument).  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. A metal box about the size of a lunchbox (or in some
   models a large wastebasket), for collecting the {chad} (sense 2)
   that accumulated in {Iron Age} card punches.  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
   gray-and-blue box.

:chain: 1. [orig. from BASIC's `CHAIN' statement] vi. To hand
   off execution to a child or successor without going through the
   {OS} command interpreter that invoked it.  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'.  2. A series of linked data areas within an
   operating system or application.  `Chain rattling' is the process
   of repeatedly running through the linked data areas searching for
   one which is of interest to the executing program.  The implication
   is that there is a very large number of links on the chain.

:channel: [IRC] n. The basic unit of discussion on {IRC}.  Once
   one joins a channel, everything one types is read by others on that
   channel.  Channels can either be named with numbers or with strings
   that begin with a `#' sign and can have topic descriptions (which
   are generally irrelevant to the actual subject of discussion).
   Some notable channels are `#initgame', `#hottub', and
   `#report'.  At times of international crisis, `#report'
   has hundreds of members, some of whom take turns listening to
   various news services and typing in summaries of the news, or in
   some cases, giving first-hand accounts of the action (e.g., Scud
   missile attacks in Tel Aviv during the Gulf War in 1991).

:channel hopping: [IRC, GEnie] n. To rapidly switch channels on
   {IRC}, or a GEnie chat board, just as a social butterfly might hop
   from one group to another at a party.  This term may derive from the TV
   watcher's idiom, `channel surfing'.

:channel op: /chan'l op/ [IRC] n. Someone who is endowed with
   privileges on a particular {IRC} channel; commonly abbreviated
   `chanop' or `CHOP'.  These privileges include the right to
   {kick} users, to change various status bits, and to make others
   into CHOPs.

:chanop: /chan'-op/ [IRC] n. See {channel op}.

: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: /cha'rit-ee-weir`/ 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 techspeak, but it remains jargon when
   used of human networks.  "I'm chasing pointers.  Bob said you
   could tell me who to talk to about...." See {dangling
   pointer} and {snap}.  2. [Cambridge] `pointer chase' or
   `pointer hunt': The process of going through a {core dump}
   (sense 1), interactively or on a large piece of paper printed with
   hex {runes}, following dynamic data-structures.  Used only in a
   debugging context.

:check: n. A hardware-detected error condition, most commonly used
   to refer to actual hardware failures rather than software-induced
   traps.  E.g., a `parity check' is the result of a
   hardware-detected parity error.  Recorded here because the word
   often humorously extended to non-technical problems. For example,
   the term `child check' has been used to refer to the problems
   caused by a small child who is curious to know what happens when
   s/he presses all the cute buttons on a computer's console (of
   course, this particular problem could have been prevented with

: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 chicken: n. See {laser chicken}.

:Chernobyl packet: /cher-noh'b*l pak'*t/ n. A network packet that
   induces a {broadcast storm} and/or {network meltdown},
   in memory of the April 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl
   in Ukraine.  The typical scenario involves 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
   `C='.  With the arguable exception of the Amiga (see {amoeba}),
   Commodore's machines are notoriously crocky little {bitty box}es
   (see also {PETSCII}).  Thus, this usage may owe something to
   Philip K. Dick's novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"
   (the basis for the movie "Blade Runner"; the novel is now sold
   under that title), in which a `chickenhead' is a mutant with
   below-average intelligence.

:chiclet keyboard: n. A keyboard with a small, flat rectangular or
   lozenge-shaped rubber or plastic keys that look like pieces of
   chewing gum.  (Chiclets is the brand name of a variety of chewing
   gum that does in fact resemble the keys of chiclet keyboards.)
   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 showed on the front.

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

:choke: v. 1. To reject input, often ungracefully.  "NULs make System
   V's `lpr(1)' choke."  "I tried building an {EMACS} binary to
   use {X}, but `cpp(1)' choked on all those `#define's."
   See {barf}, {gag}, {vi}.   2. [MIT] More generally, to fail at any
   endeavor, but with some flair or bravado; the popular definition is
   "to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory."

:chomp: vi. 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.  To perform it, hold the
   four fingers together and place the thumb against their tips.  Now
   open and close your hand rapidly to suggest a biting action (much
   like what Pac-Man does in the classic video game, though this
   pantomime seems to predate that).  The gesture alone means `chomp
   chomp' (see "{Verb Doubling}" in the "{Jargon
   Construction}" section of the Prependices).  The hand may be
   pointed at the object of complaint, and for real emphasis you can
   use both hands at once.  Doing 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

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

:CHOP: /chop/ [IRC] n. See {channel op}.

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

:Christmas tree packet: n. A packet with every single option set for
   whatever protocol is in use.  See {kamikaze packet}, {Chernobyl
   packet}.  (The term doubtless derives from a fanciful image of each
   little option bit being represented by a different-colored light
   bulb, all turned on.)

:chrome: [from automotive slang via wargaming] n. Showy features
   added to attract users but contributing 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.

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

:Church of the SubGenius: 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 SubGenius theory is concerned with the
   acquisition of the mystical substance or quality of {slack}.

: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 coming out of it.  On the back cover, the device
   is in shambles after she has (inevitably) pulled on the rope.  See
   also {{book titles}}.

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

:Classic C: /klas'ik C/ [a play on `Coke Classic'] n. The
   C programming language as defined in the first edition of {K&R},
   with some small additions.  It is also known as `K&R C'.  The name
   came into use while C was being standardized by the ANSI X3J11
   committee.  Also `C Classic'.

   An analogous construction 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 that
   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."  "I cleaned up the garbage and now have
   100 Meg free on that partition."

:CLM: /C-L-M/ [Sun: `Career Limiting Move'] 1. n. An action
   endangering one's future prospects of getting plum projects and
   raises, and possibly one's job:  "His Halloween costume was a
   parody of his manager.  He won the prize for `best CLM'."
   2. adj.  Denotes extreme severity of a bug, discovered by a
   customer and obviously missed earlier because of poor testing:
   "That's a CLM bug!"

:clobber: vt. To overwrite, usually unintentionally: "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; one good reason for this is that clock speeds for various
   models of the machine may increase as technology improves, and it
   is usually the relative times one is interested in when discussing
   the instruction set.  Compare {cycle}.

:clone: n. 1. An exact duplicate: "Our product is a clone of
   their product."  Implies a legal reimplementation from
   documentation or by reverse-engineering.  Also connotes lower
   price.  2. A shoddy, spurious copy: "Their product is a
   clone of our product."  3. A blatant ripoff, most likely violating
   copyright, patent, or trade secret protections: "Your
   product is a clone of my product."  This use implies legal
   action is pending.  4. `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 without 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".

:clone-and-hack coding: [DEC] n. Syn. {case and paste}.

:clover key: [Mac users] n. See {feature key}.

:clustergeeking: /kluh'st*r-gee`king/ [CMU] n. Spending more time
   at a computer cluster doing CS homework than most people spend

:COBOL: /koh'bol/ [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 that 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'grz/ n. Reported from Sweden, a
   (hypothetical) disease one might get from coding in COBOL.  The
   language requires code verbose beyond all reason (see
   {candygrammar}); thus it is alleged that programming too much in
   COBOL causes one's fingers to wear down to stubs by the endless
   typing.  "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 its
   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 one 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, {brute force}, and utter lack of imagination.
   Compare {card walloper}; contrast {hacker}, {real

:code police: [by analogy with George Orwell's `thought police'] n.
   A mythical team of Gestapo-like storm troopers that might burst
   into one's office and arrest one for violating programming 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 {weenie}s.  "Dike out that goto or the code
   police will get you!"  The ironic usage is perhaps more common.

:codes: [scientific computing] n. Programs.  This usage is common
   in people who hack supercumputers and heavy-duty
   {number-crunching}, rare to unknown elsewhere (if you say
   "codes" to hackers outside scientific computing, their
   first association is likely to be "and cyphers").

: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 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
   among 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 (or someone else's good luck overpowering
   your own).

   `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 you can't type because it it isn't on your
   keyboard.  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(1)', 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}.

:cold boot: n. See {boot}.

: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 R.L. Clark's "A Linguistic Contribution to
   GOTO-less programming", which appeared in a 1973 {Datamation}
   issue (and was reprinted in the April 1984 issue of
   "Communications of the ACM").  This 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).  Of course,
   multi-tasking (or non-determinism) could be implemented by having
   more than one `COME FROM' statement coming from the same

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

           DO 10 I=1,LIMIT
     C imagine many lines of code here, leaving the
     C original DO 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 labeled 10.
   (This is particularly surprising because the label doesn't appear
   to have anything to do with the flow of control at all!)

   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 (though a roughly similar feature existed on the IBM 7040
   ten years earlier).  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 the `ALTER' verb in {COBOL}.

   `COME FROM' was supported under its own name for the first
   time 15 years later, in C-INTERCAL (see {INTERCAL},
   {retrocomputing}); knowledgeable observers are still reeling
   from the shock.

:comm mode: /kom mohd/ [ITS: from the feature supporting on-line
   chat; the term may spelled with one or two m's] Syn. for {talk

:command key: [Mac users] n. Syn. {feature 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 is being left 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
   (such as {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 truncations like
   `char' and `soc', etc., as spelled (/char/, /sok/), as
   opposed to American /keir/ and /sohsh/.  Dots in {newsgroup}
   names (especially two-component names) tend to be pronounced more
   often (so soc.wibble is /sok dot wib'l/ rather than /sohsh
   wib'l/).  The prefix {meta} may be pronounced /mee't*/;
   similarly, Greek letter beta is usually /bee't*/, zeta is usually
   /zee't*/, and so forth.  Preferred {metasyntactic variable}s
   include {blurgle}, `eek', `ook', `frodo', and
   `bilbo'; `wibble', `wobble', and in emergencies
   `wubble'; `banana', `tom', `dick',
   `harry', `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' (examples: "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}, {go-faster stripes},
   {grunge}, {hakspek}, {heavy metal}, {leaky heap},
   {lord high fixer}, {loose bytes}, {muddie}, {nadger},
   {noddy}, {psychedelicware}, {plingnet}, {raster
   blaster}, {RTBM}, {seggie}, {spod}, {sun lounge},
   {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}, {hamster}, {hardwarily}, {mess-dos},
   {nybble}, {proglet}, {root}, {SEX}, {tweak}, and

: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.
   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 (thus, some fans of {Classic C} maintain
   that ANSI C is no longer compact).

:compiler jock: n. See {jock} (sense 2).

:compress: [UNIX] vt. When used without a qualifier, generally
   refers to {crunch}ing of a file using a particular
   C implementation of compression by James A. Woods et al. and
   widely circulated via {USENET}; use of {crunch} itself in
   this sense is rare among UNIX hackers.  Specifically, compress is
   built around the Lempel-Ziv-Welch algorithm as described in "A
   Technique for High Performance Data Compression", Terry A. Welch,
   "IEEE Computer", vol. 17, no. 6 (June 1984), pp. 8--19.

:Compu$erve: n. See {CI$}.  Synonyms CompuSpend and
   Compu$pend are also reported.

:computer confetti: n. Syn. {chad}.  Though this term is common,
   this use of 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 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 {propeller head},
   {clustergeeking}, {geek out}, {wannabee}, {terminal
   junkie}, {spod}, {weenie}.

: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 also {bogon}).  An
   elaborate pseudo-scientific theory of computrons has been developed
   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, it should be
   possible 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: the
   computrons there have been all used up by the other hardware.
   (This theory probably owes something to the "Warlock" stories
   by Larry Niven, the best known being "What Good is a Glass
   Dagger?", in which magic is fueled by an exhaustible natural
   resource called `mana'.)

:con: [from SF fandom] n. A science-fiction convention.  Not used
   of other sorts of conventions, such as professional meetings.  This
   term, unlike many others of SF-fan slang, is widely recognized even
   by hackers who aren't {fan}s. "We'd been corresponding on the
   net for months, then we met face-to-face at a con."

: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} examples of
   these directives are `#if 0' (or `#ifdef notdef', though
   some find the latter {bletcherous}) and `#endif' in C.
   Compare {comment out}.

:condom: n. 1. The protective plastic bag that accompanies 3.5-inch
   microfloppy diskettes.  Rarely, also used of (paper) disk
   envelopes.  Unlike the write protect tab, the condom (when left on)
   not only impedes the practice of {SEX} but has also been shown
   to have a high failure rate as drive mechanisms attempt to access
   the disk --- and can even fatally frustrate insertion.  2. The
   protective cladding on a {light pipe}.  3. `keyboard condom':
   A flexible, transparent plastic cover for a keyboard, designed to
   provide some protection against dust and {programming fluid} without
   impeding typing.  4. `elephant condom': the plastic shipping bags
   used inside cardboard boxes to protect hardware in transit.

:confuser: n. Common soundalike slang for `computer'.  Usually
   encountered in compounds such as `confuser room', `personal
   confuser', `confuser guru'.  Usage: silly.

:connector conspiracy: [probably came into prominence with the
   appearance of the KL-10 (one model of the {PDP-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 that 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 reputedly refused to license
   the design and thus effectively locked third parties out of
   competition for the lucrative Massbus peripherals market.  This
   policy is a source of never-ending frustration for the diehards who
   maintain older PDP-10 or VAX systems.  Their CPUs work fine, but
   they are stuck with dying, obsolescent disk and tape drives with
   low capacity and high power requirements.

   (A closely related phenomenon, with a slightly different intent, is
   the habit manufacturers have of inventing new screw heads so that
   only Designated Persons, possessing the magic screwdrivers, can
   remove covers and make repairs or install options.  Older Apple
   Macintoshes took this one step further, requiring not only a hex
   wrench but a specialized case-cracking tool to open the box.)

   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 to choose
   from!"  Compare {backward combatability}.

:cons: /konz/ or /kons/ [from LISP] 1. vt. To add a new element
   to a specified list, esp. at the top.  "OK, cons picking a
   replacement for the console TTY onto the agenda."  2. `cons up':
   vt. To synthesize from smaller pieces: "to cons up an example".

   In LISP itself, `cons' is the most fundamental operation for
   building structures.  It takes any two objects and returns a
   `dot-pair' or two-branched tree with one object hanging from each
   branch.  Because the result of a cons is an object, it can be used
   to build binary trees of any shape and complexity.  Hackers think
   of it as a sort of universal constructor, and that is where the
   jargon meanings spring from.

:considered harmful: adj. Edsger W. Dijkstra's note in the
   March 1968 "Communications of the ACM", "Goto Statement
   Considered Harmful", fired the first salvo in the structured
   programming wars.  Amusingly, the ACM considered the resulting
   acrimony sufficiently harmful that it will (by policy) no longer
   print an article taking so 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

:console:: n. 1. The operator's station of a {mainframe}.  In
   times past, this was a privileged location that conveyed godlike
   powers to anyone with fingers on its keys.  Under UNIX and other
   modern timesharing OSes, such privileges are guarded by passwords
   instead, 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 the console
   (on UNIX, /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: [by analogy with techspeak `context-free'] adj.
   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 that 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 other professional manipulators.
   "Content-free?  Uh... that's anything printed on glossy
   paper."  (See also {four-color glossies}.)  "He gave a talk on
   the implications of electronic networks for postmodernism and the
   fin-de-siecle aesthetic.  It was content-free."

:control-C: vi. 1. "Stop whatever you are doing."  From the
   interrupt character used on many operating systems to abort a
   running program.  Considered silly.  2. interj. Among BSD UNIX
   hackers, the canonical humorous response to "Give me a break!"

:control-O: vi. "Stop talking."  From the character used on some
   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
   response to someone who is flaming.  Considered silly.  Compare

:control-Q: vi. "Resume."  From the ASCII DC1 or {XON}
   character (the pronunciation /X-on/ is therefore also used), used
   to undo a previous {control-S}.

:control-S: vi. "Stop talking for a second."  From the ASCII DC3
   or XOFF character (the pronunciation /X-of/ is therefore also
   used).  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 silly.

: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 4-pass compiler".

   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 card decks and listings
   because they all had SAVE written on them.

:cookbook: [from amateur electronics and radio] n. A book of small
   code segments that the reader can use to do various {magic}
   things in programs.  One current example is the
   "{{PostScript}} Language Tutorial and Cookbook" by Adobe
   Systems, Inc (Addison-Wesley, ISBN 0-201-10179-3), also known as
   the {Blue Book} which has recipes for things like wrapping text
   around arbitrary curves and making 3D fonts.  Cookbooks, slavishly
   followed, can lead one into {voodoo programming}, but are useful
   for hackers trying to {monkey up} small programs in unknown
   languages.  This function is analogous to the role of phrasebooks
   in human languages.

:cooked mode: [UNIX, by opposition with {raw mode}] n. The
   normal character-input mode, with interrupts enabled and with
   erase, kill and other special-character interpretations performed
   directly by the tty driver.  Oppose {raw mode}, {rare mode}.
   This term is techspeak under UNIX but jargon elsewhere; other
   operating systems often have similar mode distinctions, and the
   raw/rare/cooked way of describing them has spread widely along with
   the C language and other UNIX exports.  Most generally, `cooked
   mode' may refer to any mode of a system that does extensive
   preprocessing before presenting data to a program.

: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."  The claim check you get from a dry-cleaning shop
   is a perfect mundane example of a cookie; the only thing it's
   useful for is to relate a later transaction to this one (so you get
   the same clothes back).  Compare {magic cookie}; see also
   {fortune cookie}.

: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 cookie files in public distribution, and site admins
   often assemble their own from various sources including this

:cookie jar: n. An area of memory set aside for storing {cookie}s.
   Most commonly heard in the Atari ST community; many useful ST
   programs record their presence by storing a distinctive {magic
   number} in the jar.  Programs can inquire after the presence or
   otherwise of other programs by searching the contents of the jar.

:cookie monster: [from the children's TV program "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

:copious free time: [Apple; orig. fr. the intro to Tom Lehrer's
   song "It Makes A Fellow Proud To Be A Soldier"] n. 1. [used
   ironically to indicate the speaker's lack of the quantity in
   question] A mythical schedule slot for accomplishing tasks held to
   be unlikely or impossible.  Sometimes used to indicate that the
   speaker is interested in accomplishing the task, but believes that
   the opportunity will not arise.  "I'll implement the automatic
   layout stuff in my copious free time."  2. [Archly] Time reserved
   for bogus or otherwise idiotic tasks, such as implementation of
   {chrome}, or the stroking of {suit}s.  "I'll get back to him
   on that feature in my copious free time."

:copper: n. Conventional electron-carrying network cable with a
   core conductor of copper --- or aluminum!  Opposed to {light
   pipe} or, say, a short-range microwave link.

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

:copybroke: /kop'ee-brohk/ adj. 1. [play on `copyright'] Used
   to describe an instance of a copy-protected program that has been
   `broken'; that is, a copy with the copy-protection scheme
   disabled.  Syn.  {copywronged}.  2. Copy-protected software
   which is unusable because of some bit-rot or bug that has confused
   the anti-piracy check.  See also {copy protection}.

: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 reuse
   and reproduction rights to all comers (but see also {General
   Public Virus}).  2. By extension, any copyright notice intended to
   achieve similar aims.

:copywronged: /kop'ee-rongd/ [play on `copyright'] adj. Syn. for

:core: n. Main storage or RAM.  Dates from the days of
   ferrite-core memory; now archaic as techspeak most places outside
   IBM, but also still used in the UNIX community and by old-time
   hackers or those who would sound like them.  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 favor.  Some
   varieties of Commonwealth hackish prefer {store}.

:core cancer: n. A process that exhibits a slow but inexorable
   resource {leak} --- like a cancer, it kills by crowding out
   productive `tissue'.

:core dump: n. [common {Iron Age} jargon, preserved by UNIX]
   1. [techspeak] 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 X 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 (syn. {brain dump}), esp. in a lecture or
   answer to an exam question.  "Short, concise answers are better
   than core dumps" (from the instructions to an exam at Columbia).
   See {core}.

: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.  Popularized by A. K. Dewdney's column
   in "Scientific American" magazine, this was actually devised
   by Victor Vyssotsky, Robert Morris Sr., and Dennis Ritchie in the
   early 1960s (their original game was called `Darwin' and ran on a
   PDP-1 at Bell Labs).  See {core}.

:corge: /korj/ [originally, the name of a cat] n. Yet another
   {metasyntactic 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 that 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,
   using 25 tons of the stuff, 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 emissions 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 lodes) it became obvious that
   one has 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
   oversight.  "The parser saw a control-A in its input where it was
   looking for a printable, so it coughed and died."  Compare
   {die}, {die horribly}, {scream and die}.

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

:CP/M:: /C-P-M/ 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 but virtually
   wiped out by MS-DOS after the release of the IBM PC in 1981.
   Legend has it that Kildall's company blew its chance to write the
   OS for the IBM PC because Kildall decided to spend a day IBM's reps
   wanted to meet with him enjoying the perfect flying weather in his
   private plane.  Many of CP/M's 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: /C-P-U 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 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}.

:crack root: v. To defeat the security system of a UNIX machine and
   gain {root} privileges thereby; see {cracking}.

:cracker: n. One who breaks security on a system.  Coined ca. 1985
   by hackers in defense against journalistic misuse of {hacker}
   (q.v., sense 8).  An earlier attempt to establish `worm' in this
   sense around 1981--82 on USENET was largely a failure.

   Use of both these neologisms reflects a strong revulsion against
   the theft and vandalism perpetrated by cracking rings.  While it is
   expected that any real hacker will have done some playful cracking
   and knows many of the basic techniques, anyone past {larval
   stage} is expected to have outgrown the desire to do so except for
   immediate practical reasons (for example, if it's necessary to get
   around some security in order to get some work done).

   Thus, there is far less overlap between hackerdom and crackerdom
   than the {mundane} reader misled by sensationalistic journalism
   might expect.  Crackers tend to gather in small, tight-knit, very
   secretive groups that have little overlap with the huge, open
   poly-culture this lexicon describes; though crackers often like to
   describe *themselves* as hackers, most true hackers consider
   them a separate and lower form of life.

   Ethical considerations aside, hackers figure that anyone who can't
   imagine a more interesting way to play with their computers than
   breaking into someone else's has to be pretty {losing}.  Some
   other reasons crackers are looked down on are discussed in the
   entries on {cracking} and {phreaking}.  See also
   {samurai}, {dark-side hacker}, and {hacker ethic,

:cracking: n. The act of breaking into a computer system; what a
   {cracker} does.  Contrary to widespread myth, this does not
   usually involve some mysterious leap of hackerly brilliance, but
   rather persistence and the dogged repetition of a handful of fairly
   well-known tricks that exploit common weaknesses in the security of
   target systems.  Accordingly, most crackers are only mediocre

: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."

:CrApTeX: /krap'tekh/ [University of York, England] n. Term of
   abuse used to describe TeX and LaTeX when they don't work (when
   used by TeXhackers), or all the time (by everyone else).  The
   non-TeX enthusiasts generally dislike it because it is more verbose
   than other formatters (e.g. {{troff}}) and because (particularly
   if the standard Computer Modern fonts are used) it generates vast
   output files.  See {religious issues}, {{TeX}}.

:crash: 1. n. A sudden, usually drastic failure.  Most often said
   of the {system} (q.v., sense 1), esp. of magnetic disk drives
   (the term originally described what happened when the air gap of a
   hard disk collapses).  "Three {luser}s lost their files in last
   night's disk crash."  A disk crash that 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. v. To fail
   suddenly.  "Has the system just crashed?"  "Something crashed
   the OS!" 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 out}.

:crash and burn: vi.,n. A spectacular crash, in the mode of the
   conclusion of the car-chase scene in the movie "Bullitt" and
   many subsequent imitators (compare {die horribly}).  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 is
   kept obstinately alive by forces beyond the control of the hackers
   at a site.  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

: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 that
   manifests itself only when a large problem is being run on a
   powerful machine (see {cray}).  Generally more subtle than bugs
   that can be detected in smaller problems running on a workstation
   or mini.

:crayola: /kray-oh'l*/ 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}.

:crayola books: n. The {rainbow series} of National Computer
   Security Center (NCSC) computer security standards (see {Orange
   Book}).  Usage: humorous and/or disparaging.

:crayon: n. 1. Someone who works on Cray supercomputers.  More
   specifically, it implies a programmer, probably of the CDC ilk,
   probably male, and almost certainly wearing a tie (irrespective of
   gender).  Systems types who have a UNIX background tend not to be
   described as crayons.  2. A {computron} (sense 2) 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 usage that derives from an old Crayola
   crayon promotional gimmick: When you buy 64 crayons you get a free

:creationism: n. The (false) belief that large, innovative software
   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.

:creep: v. To advance, grow, or multiply inexorably.  In hackish usage
   this verb has overtones of menace and silliness, evoking the
   creeping horrors of low-budget monster movies.

:creeping elegance: n. Describes a tendency for parts of a design
   to become {elegant} past the point of diminishing return,
   something which often happens at the expense of the less
   interesting parts of the design, the 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-i:`t*s/ n. Variant of
   {creeping featurism}, with its own spoonerization: `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: /kret'in/ 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
   /kret'in/ over standard American /kree'tn/; it is thought this may
   be due to the insidious phonetic influence of Monty Python's Flying

:cretinous: /kret'n-*s/ or /kreet'n-*s/ adj. Wrong; stupid;
   non-functional; very poorly designed.  Also used pejoratively of
   people.  See {dread high-bit disease} for an example.
   Approximate synonyms: {bletcherous}, {bagbiting} {losing},

:crippleware: n. 1. Software that has some important functionality
   deliberately removed, so as to entice potential users to pay for a
   working version.  2. [Cambridge] {Guiltware} that exhorts you to
   donate to some charity (compare {careware}, {nagware}).
   3. Hardware deliberately crippled, which can be upgraded to a more
   expensive model by a trivial change (e.g., cutting a jumper).

   An excellent example of crippleware (sense 3) is Intel's 486SX
   chip, which is a standard 486DX chip with the co-processor dyked
   out (in some early versions it was present but disabled).  To
   upgrade, you buy a complete 486DX chip with *working*
   co-processor (its identity thinly veiled by a different pinout) and
   plug it into the board's expansion socket.  It then disables the
   SX, which becomes a fancy power sink.  Don't you love Intel?

: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.  (This malady has many
   causes: {creeping featurism}, ports to too many disparate
   environments, poor initial design, etc.)  When software achieves
   critical mass, it can never be fixed; it can only be discarded and

:crlf: /ker'l*f/, sometimes /kru'l*f/ or /C-R-L-F/ n. (often
   capitalized as `CRLF') A carriage return (CR, ASCII 0001101)
   followed by a line feed (LF, ASCII 0001010).  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 American scatologism `crock of shit'] n. 1. An
   awkward feature or programming technique that ought to be made
   cleaner.  For 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, a too-clever programmer might write an
   assembler which mapped instruction mnemonics to numeric opcodes
   algorithmically, a trick which depends far too intimately on the
   particular bit patterns of the opcodes.  (For another example of
   programming with a dependence on actual opcode values, see {The
   Story of Mel, a Real Programmer} in {Appendix A}.)  Many crocks
   have a tightly woven, almost completely unmodifiable structure.
   See {kluge}, {brittle}.  The adjectives `crockish' and
   `crocky', and the nouns `crockishness' and `crockitude', are
   also used.

:cross-post: [USENET] vi. To post a single article simultaneously to
   several newsgroups.  Distinguished from posting the article
   repeatedly, once to each newsgroup, which causes people to see it
   multiple times (which is very bad form).  Gratuitous cross-posting
   without a Followup-To line directing responses to a single followup
   group is frowned upon, as it tends to cause {followup} articles
   to go to inappropriate newsgroups when 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!"

:cruft: /kruhft/ [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; used esp. of redundant or superseded code.

   This term is one of the oldest in the jargon and no one is sure of
   its etymology, but it is suggestive that there is a Cruft Hall at
   Harvard University which is part of the old physics building; it's
   said to have been the physics department's radar lab during WWII.
   To this day (early 1993) the windows appear to be full of random
   techno-junk.  MIT or Lincoln Labs people may well have coined the
   term as a knock on the competition.

: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
   10 minutes."  See {hack together}, {hack up}, {kluge up},

:cruftsmanship: /kruhfts'm*n-ship / n. [from {cruft}] The
   antithesis of craftsmanship.

:crufty: /kruhf'tee/ [origin unknown; poss. from `crusty']
   adj. 1. Poorly built, possibly over-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}.  Considered silly.  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's 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 something 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 `#'.  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 micro that crunched BASIC source in order
   to make it run more quickly (it was a wholly interpretive BASIC, so
   the number of characters mattered).  {Obfuscated C Contest}
   entries are often crunched; see the first example under that

: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
   groveling hardware.  See {wugga wugga}, {grind} (sense 3).

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

:CTSS: /C-T-S-S/ n. Compatible Time-Sharing System.  An early
   (1963) experiment in the design of interactive time-sharing
   operating systems, 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 /C-T-Y/ 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, 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 (which resembles a matte-black cube).

: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).  "Talk about a {nastygram}!  He
   must've had his cursor dipped in acid when he wrote that one!"

:cuspy: /kuhs'pee/ [WPI: from the {DEC} abbreviation 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 curvaceousness.

:cut a tape: vi. To write a software or document distribution on
   magnetic tape for shipment.  Has nothing to do with physically
   cutting the medium!  Early versions of this lexicon claimed that
   one never analogously speaks of `cutting a disk', but this has
   since been reported as live usage.  Related slang usages are
   mainstream business's `cut a check', the recording industry's
   `cut a record', and the military's `cut an order'.

   All of these usages reflect physical processes in obsolete
   recording and duplication technologies.  The first stage in
   manufacturing an old-style vinyl record involved cutting grooves in
   a stamping die with a precision lathe.  More mundanely, the
   dominant technology for mass duplication of paper documents in
   pre-photocopying days involved "cutting a stencil", punching away
   portions of the wax overlay on a silk screen.  More directly,
   paper tape with holes punched in it was an important early storage

:cybercrud: /si:'ber-kruhd/ n. 1. [coined by Ted Nelson]
   Obfuscatory tech-talk.  Verbiage with a high {MEGO} factor.  The
   computer equivalent of bureaucratese.  2. Incomprehensible stuff
   embedded in email.  First there were the "Received" headers that
   show how mail flows through systems, then MIME (Multi-purpose
   Internet Mail Extensions) headers and part boundaries, and now huge
   blocks of hex for PEM (Privacy Enhanced Mail) or PGP (Pretty Good
   Privacy) digital signatures and certificates of authenticity.  This
   stuff all services a purpose and good user interfaces should hide
   it, but all too often users are forced to wade through it.

:cyberpunk: /si:'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 "{True Names ... and Other Dangers}" in
   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 na"ive and tremendously stimulating.
   Gibson's work was widely imitated, in particular by the short-lived
   but innovative "Max Headroom" TV series.  See
   {cyberspace}, {ice}, {jack in}, {go flatline}.

   Since 1990 or so, popular culture has included a movement or
   fashion trend that calls itself `cyberpunk', associated especially
   with the rave/techno subculture.  Hackers have mixed feelings about
   this.  On the one hand, self-described cyberpunks too often seem to
   be shallow trendoids in black leather who have substituted
   enthusiastic blathering about technology for actually learning and
   *doing* it.  Attitude is no substitute for competence.  On the
   other hand, at least cyberpunks are excited about the right things
   and properly respectful of hacking talent in those who have it.
   The general consensus is to tolerate them politely in hopes that
   they'll attract people who grow into being true hackers.

:cyberspace: /si:'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 the time of this writing (mid-1991),
   serious efforts to construct {virtual reality} interfaces
   modeled 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 deny outright 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: 1. n. The basic unit of computation.  What every hacker
   wants more of (noted hacker Bill Gosper describes himself as a
   "cycle junkie"). One can describe an instruction as taking so
   many `clock cycles'.  Often 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
   respond.  2. By extension, a notional unit of *human* thought
   power, emphasizing that lots of things compete for the typical
   hacker's think time.  "I refused to get involved with the Rubik's
   Cube back when it was big.  Knew I'd burn too many cycles on it if
   I let myself."  3. vt. Syn. {bounce} (sense 4), {120 reset};
   from the phrase `cycle power'. "Cycle the machine again, that
   serial port's still hung."

:cycle crunch: n. A situation wherein the number of people trying
   to use a computer simultaneously has reached the point where no one
   can get enough cycles because they are spread too thin and the
   system has probably begun to {thrash}.  This scenario 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 since the mid-1980s, 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 it could also occur because part of the computer is
   temporarily not working, leaving fewer cycles to go around.
   "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 toward
   more computing power as it does its job, then somebody notices that
   it is 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.  See also
   {blitter}, {bit bang}.

: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 =

:D. C. Power Lab: n. The former site of {{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}.

:daemon: /day'mn/ or /dee'mn/ [from the mythological meaning,
   later rationalized as the acronym `Disk And Execution MONitor'] n.
   A program that is not invoked explicitly, but 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 wanting (in this example) files printed need neither
   compete for access to nor understand any idiosyncrasies of 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.

   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}.  Although the
   meaning and the pronunciation have drifted, we think this glossary
   reflects current (1993) 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 happens because it
   formerly pointed to something that has moved or disappeared.  Used
   as jargon in a generalization of its techspeak meaning; for
   example, a local phone number for a person who has since moved to
   the other coast is a dangling pointer.

:dark-side hacker: n. A criminal or malicious hacker; a
   {cracker}.  From George Lucas's Darth Vader, "seduced by the
   dark side of the Force".  The implication that hackers form a
   sort of elite of technological Jedi Knights is intended.  Oppose

:Datamation: /day`t*-may'sh*n/ 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, and Ed Post's "Real
   Programmers Don't Use Pascal" ten years later, but it has since
   become much more exclusively {suit}-oriented and boring.

:DAU: /dow/ [German Fidonet] n. German acronym for D"ummster
   Anzunehmender User (stupidest imaginable user).  From the
   engineering-slang GAU for Gr"osster Anzunehmender Unfall, worst
   foreseeable accident, esp. of a LNG tank farm plant or something
   with similarly disastrous consequences.  In popular German, GAU is
   used only to refer to worst-case nuclear acidents such as a core
   meltdown. See {cretin}, {fool}, {loser} and {weasel}.
:day mode: n. See {phase} (sense 1).  Used of people only.

:dd: /dee-dee/ [UNIX: from IBM {JCL}] vt. Equivalent to
   {cat} or {BLT}.  Originally the name of a UNIX copy command
   with special options suitable for block-oriented devices; it was
   often used in heavy-handed system maintenance, 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 an elaborate DD
   `Dataset Definition' specification for I/O devices); though the
   command filled a need, the interface design was clearly a prank.
   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 exact replacement).  The term has been
   displaced by {BLT} or simple English `copy'.

:DDT: /D-D-T/ n. 1. Generic term for a program that assists in
   debugging 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
   `adb', `sdb', `dbx', or `gdb'.  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 that illuminates the origin of
   the term:

     Historical footnote: DDT was developed at MIT for the PDP-1
     computer in 1961.  At that time DDT stood for "DEC Debugging
     Tape".  Since then, the idea of an on-line debugging program has
     propagated throughout the computer industry.  DDT programs are now
     available for all DEC computers.  Since media other than tape are
     now frequently used, the more descriptive name "Dynamic Debugging
     Technique" has been adopted, retaining the DDT abbreviation.
     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.

   (The `tape' referred to was, incidentally, not magnetic but paper.)
   Sadly, this quotation was removed from later editions of the
   handbook after the {suit}s took over and DEC became much more

   The history above is known to many old-time hackers.  But there's
   more: Peter Samson, compiler of the original {TMRC} lexicon,
   reports that he named `DDT' after a similar tool on the TX-0
   computer, the direct ancestor of the PDP-1 built at MIT's Lincoln
   Lab in 1957.  The debugger on that ground-breaking machine (the
   first transistorized computer) rejoiced in the name FLIT
   (FLexowriter Interrogation Tape).

:de-rezz: /dee-rez'/ [from `de-resolve' via the movie
   "Tron"] (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. The
   Macintosh resource decompiler.  On a Macintosh, many program
   structures (including the code itself) are managed in small
   segments of the program file known as `resources'; `Rez' and
   `DeRez' are a pair of utilities for compiling and decompiling
   resource files.  Thus, decompiling a resource is `derezzing'.
   Usage: very common.

:dead: adj. 1. Non-functional; {down}; {crash}ed.  Especially
   used of hardware.  2. At XEROX PARC, software that is working but
   not undergoing continued development and support.

:dead code: n. Routines that can never be accessed because all
   calls to them have been removed, or code that cannot be reached
   because it is guarded by a control structure that 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.
   (Sometimes it simply means that an *extremely* defensive
   programmer has inserted {can't happen} tests which really can't
   happen --- yet.)  Syn. {grunge}.

:DEADBEEF: /ded-beef/ n. The hexadecimal word-fill pattern for
   freshly allocated memory (decimal -21524111) under a number of
   IBM environments, including the RS/6000.  As in "Your program is
   DEADBEEF" (meaning gone, aborted, flushed from memory); if you
   start from an odd half-word boundary, of course, you have

:deadlock: n. 1. [techspeak] A situation wherein two or more
   processes are unable to proceed because each is waiting for one of
   the others 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', in which 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 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 code: n. A routine whose job is to set everything in the
   computer --- registers, memory, flags, everything --- to zero,
   including that portion of memory where it is running; its last act
   is to stomp on its own "store zero" instruction.  Death code
   isn't very useful, but writing it is an interesting hacking
   challenge on architectures where the instruction set makes it
   possible, such as the PDP-8 (it has also been done on the DG Nova).

   Perhaps the ultimate death code is on the TI 990 series, where all
   registers are actually in RAM, and the instruction "store
   immediate 0" has the opcode "0". The PC will immediately wrap
   around core as many times as it can until a user hits HALT.  Any
   empty memory location is death code.  Worse, the manufacturer
   recommended use of this instruction in startup code (which would be
   in ROM and therefore survive).

:Death Star: [from the movie "Star Wars"] 1. 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 labeled 4.2 BSD streaking away from
   a broken AT&T logo wreathed in flames.  2. AT&T's internal
   magazine, "Focus", uses `death star' to describe 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: n. Digital Equipment Corporation.  Before the {killer
   micro} revolution of the late 1980s, hackerdom was closely
   symbiotic with DEC's pioneering timesharing machines.  The first of
   the group of cultures described by this lexicon nucleated around
   the PDP-1 (see {TMRC}.  Subsequently, the PDP-6, {PDP-10},
   {PDP-20}, PDP-11 and {VAX} were all foci of large and
   important hackerdoms, and DEC machines long dominated the ARPANET
   and Internet machine population.  DEC was the technological leader
   of the minicomputer era (roughly 1967 to 1987), but its failure to
   embrace microcomputers and UNIX early cost it heavily in profits
   and prestige after {silicon} got cheap.  However, the
   microprocessor design tradition owes a heavy debt to the PDP-11
   instruction set, and every one of the major general-purpose
   microcomputer OSs so far (CP/M, MS-DOS, UNIX, OS/2) were either
   genetically descended from a DEC OS, or incubated on DEC hardware,
   or both.  Accordingly, DEC is still regarded with a certain wry
   affection even among many hackers too young to have grown up on DEC
   machines.  The contrast with {IBM} is instructive.

:dec: /dek/ v. Verbal (and only rarely written) shorthand for
   decrement, i.e. `decrease by one'.  Especially used by
   assembly programmers, as many assembly languages have a `dec'
   mnemonic.  Antonym: {inc}.
: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 and Tarr's failure to
   exploit a great premise more thoroughly) posted a
   3-times-longer complete rewrite called "UNIX WARS"; the
   two are often confused.

:decay: [from nuclear physics] n.,vi. An automatic conversion which
   is applied to most array-valued expressions in {C}; they `decay
   into' pointer-valued expressions pointing to the array's first
   element.  This term is borderline techspeak, but is not used in the
   official standard for the language.

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

:deckle: /dek'l/ [from dec- and {nybble}; the original
   spelling seems to have been `decle'] 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.

:DED: /D-E-D/ n.  Dark-Emitting Diode (that is, a burned-out
   LED).  Compare {SED}, {LER}, {write-only memory}.  In the
   early 1970s both Signetics and Texas instruments released DED spec
   sheets as {AFJ}s (suggested uses included "as a power-off

: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
   neither generally published nor available to hackers at large (compare
   {black art}); one that 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: n. 1. Describes the notional location of any program
   that has gone {off the trolley}.  Esp. used of programs that
   just sit there silently grinding long after either failure or some
   output is expected.  "Uh oh.  I should have gotten a prompt ten
   seconds ago.  The program's in deep space somewhere." 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 or she no longer responds
   coherently to normal communication.  Compare {page out}.

:defenestration: [from the traditional Czechoslovakian 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. The
   act of discarding something under the assumption that it will
   improve matters.  "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.
   "It has to run on a VT100."  "Curses!  I've been

:defined as: adj. In the role of, usually in an organization-chart
   sense.  "Pete is currently defined as bug prioritizer."  Compare

:dehose: /dee-hohz/ vt. To clear a {hosed} condition.

:delint: /dee-lint/ v. To modify code to remove problems detected
   when {lint}ing.  Confusingly, this process is also referred to
   as `linting' code.

:delta: n. 1. [techspeak] A quantitative change, especially a small
   or incremental one (this use is general in physics and
   engineering).  "I just doubled the speed of my program!"  "What
   was the delta on program size?"  "About 30 percent."  (He
   doubled the speed of his program, but increased its size by only 30
   percent.)  2. [UNIX] A {diff}, especially a {diff} stored
   under the set of version-control tools called SCCS (Source Code
   Control System) or RCS (Revision 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.  "The cost
   isn't epsilon, but it's delta" means that the cost isn't totally
   negligible, but it is nevertheless very small.  Common
   constructions include `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.  Said, for example, of a program
   that generates large numbers of meaningless error messages,
   implying that it is on the brink of imminent collapse.  Compare
   {wonky}, {bozotic}.

:demigod: n. A 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.  "I've gotta give a demo of the drool-proof interface;
   how does it work again?"  3. n. Esp. as `demo version', can
   refer either to an early, barely-functional version of a program
   which can be used for demonstration purposes as long as the
   operator uses *exactly* the right commands and skirts its numerous
   bugs, deficiencies, and unimplemented portions, or to a special
   version of a program (frequently with some features crippled) which
   is distributed at little or no cost to the user for enticement

:demo mode: [Sun] n. 1. The state of being {heads down} in order
   to finish code in time for a {demo}, usually due yesterday.
   2. A mode in which video games sit by themselves running through a
   portion of the game, also known as `attract mode'.  Some serious
   {app}s have a demo mode they use as a screen saver, or may go
   through a demo mode on startup (for example, the Microsoft Windows
   opening screen --- which lets you impress your neighbors without
   actually having to put up with {Microsloth Windows}).

:demon: n. 1. [MIT] A portion of a program that is not invoked
   explicitly, but that 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.  2. [outside MIT] Often used
   equivalently to {daemon} --- especially in the {{UNIX}} world,
   where the latter spelling and pronunciation is considered mildly

   Demons in sense 1 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.

:depeditate: /dee-ped'*-tayt/ [by (faulty) analogy with
   `decapitate'] vt.  Humorously, to cut off the feet of.  When one is
   using some computer-aided typesetting 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: adj. 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.  This term appears with
   distressing frequency in standards documents when the committees
   writing the documents realize that large amounts of extant (and
   presumably happily working) code depend on the feature(s) that have
   passed out of favor.  See also {dusty deck}.
: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
   the same thing 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}, {vgrep}.

:despew: /d*-spyoo'/ [USENET] v. To automatically generate a
   large amount of garbage to the net, esp. from an automated posting
   program gone wild.  See {ARMM}.

:Devil Book: n. "The Design and Implementation of the 4.3BSD
   UNIX Operating System", by Samuel J. Leffler, Marshall Kirk
   McKusick, Michael J. Karels, and John S. Quarterman (Addison-Wesley
   Publishers, 1989, ISBN 0-201-06196-1) --- the standard reference
   book on the internals of {BSD} UNIX.  So called because the
   cover has a picture depicting a little devil (a visual play on
   {daemon}) in sneakers, holding a pitchfork (referring to one of
   the characteristic features of UNIX, the `fork(2)' system

: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
   computers; typically, they cannot even {boot} themselves without
   help (in the form of some kind of {breath-of-life packet}) from
   the server.

:dictionary flame: [USENET] n. An attempt to sidetrack a debate
   away from issues by insisting on meanings for key terms that
   presuppose a desired conclusion or smuggle in an implicit premise.
   A common tactic of people who prefer argument over definitions to
   disputes about reality.  Compare {spelling flame}.

: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}.

:die: v. Syn. {crash}.  Unlike {crash}, which is used
   primarily of hardware, this verb is used of both hardware and
   software.  See also {go flatline}, {casters-up mode}.

:die horribly: v. The software equivalent of {crash and burn},
   and the preferred emphatic form of {die}.  "The converter
   choked on an FF in its input and died horribly".

:diff: /dif/ 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.  3. v. To compare (whether or not by use of automated
   tools on machine-readable files); see also {vdiff},

:digit: 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
   is "When in doubt, dike it out".  (The implication is that it is
   usually more effective to attack software problems by reducing
   complexity than by increasing it.)  The word `dikes' is widely
   used among mechanics and engineers to mean `diagonal cutters',
   esp. the heavy-duty metal-cutting version, but may also refer to a
   kind of wire-cutters used by electronics techs.  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: 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 trivial.  "I was dinged for having a
   messy desk."

:dink: /dink/ adj. Said of a machine that has the {bitty box}
   nature; a machine too small to be worth bothering with ---
   sometimes the system you're currently forced to work on.  First
   heard from an MIT hacker 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 pejorative.  See {macdink}.

:dinosaur: n. 1. Any hardware requiring raised flooring and special
   power.  Used especially of old minis and mainframes, in contrast
   with newer microprocessor-based machines.  In a famous quote from
   the 1988 UNIX EXPO, Bill Joy compared the liquid-cooled 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, slow dying of the
   {mainframe} industry.  In its glory days of the 1960s, 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 in
   1991 AT&T absorbed NCR.  More such earth-shaking unions of doomed
   giants seem inevitable.

:dirtball: [XEROX PARC] n. A small, perhaps struggling outsider;
   not in the major or even the minor leagues.  For example, "Xerox
   is not a dirtball company".

   [Outsiders often observe in the PARC culture an institutional
   arrogance which usage of this term exemplifies.  The brilliance and
   scope of PARC's contributions to computer science have been such
   that this superior attitude is not much resented.  --- ESR]

:dirty power: n. Electrical mains voltage that 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
   (these are collectively known as {power hit}s).

:disclaimer: n. [USENET] n. Statement ritually appended to many USENET
   postings (sometimes automatically, by the posting software) reiterating
   the fact (which should be obvious, but is easily forgotten) that the
   article reflects its author's opinions and not necessarily those of
   the organization running the machine through which the article
   entered the network.

:Discordianism: /dis-kor'di-*n-ism/ n. The veneration of
   {Eris}, a.k.a. Discordia; widely popular among hackers.
   Discordianism was popularized by Robert Shea and Robert Anton
   Wilson's novel "{Illuminatus!}" 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.
   Consider, for example, the Fifth Commandment of the Pentabarf, from
   "Principia Discordia": "A Discordian is Prohibited of
   Believing What he Reads."  Discordianism is 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 {Religion} under {Appendix B}, {Church of the
   SubGenius}, 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(1)' 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: [play on `Associated Press'; perhaps inspired
   by a reference in the 1949 Bugs Bunny cartoon "What's Up,
   Doc?"] n. An algorithm for transforming any text into potentially
   humorous garbage even more efficiently than by passing it through a
   {marketroid}.  The algorithm starts by printing any N
   consecutive words (or letters) in the text.  Then at every step it
   searches for any random occurrence in the original text of the
   last N words (or letters) already printed and then prints
   the next word or letter.  {EMACS} has a handy command for this.
   Here is a short example of word-based Dissociated Press applied to
   an earlier version of 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 the same source:

     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 (but not {BBS} {fora}); 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.

:disusered: adj. [USENET] Said of a person whose account on a computer
   has been removed, esp. for cause rather than through normal
   attrition.  "He got disusered when they found out he'd been
   cracking through the school's Internet access."  The verbal form
   `disuser' is live but less common.  Both usages probably derive
   from the DISUSER account status flag on VMS; setting it disables
   the account.

:do protocol: [from network protocol programming] vi. 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
   `documentation'.  Often used in the plural `docs' and in the
   construction `doc file' (i.e., 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.  A common comment on
   this predilection is "You can't {grep} dead trees".  See
   {drool-proof paper}, {verbiage}, {treeware}.

:dodgy: adj. Syn. with {flaky}.  Preferred outside the U.S.

:dogcow: /dog'kow/ n. See {Moof}.

:dogpile: [USENET: prob. fr. mainstream "puppy pile"] v. When
   many people post unfriendly responses in short order to a single
   posting, they are sometimes said to "dogpile" or "dogpile on"
   the person to whom they're responding.  For example, when a
   religious missionary posts a simplistic appeal to alt.atheism,
   he can expect to be dogpiled.

:dogwash: /dog'wosh/ [From a quip in the `urgency' field of a very
   optional software change request, ca. 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: /doh-mayn'ist/ 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.  See also {big-endian}, sense
   2.  2. Said of a site, mailer, or routing program which knows how
   to handle domainist addresses.  3. Said of a person (esp. a site
   admin) who prefers domain addressing, supports a domainist mailer,
   or proselytizes for domainist addressing and disdains {bang
   path}s.  This term is now (1993) semi-obsolete, as most sites have

:Don't do that, then!: [from an old doctor's office joke about a
   patient with a trivial complaint] 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 or {copy protection}
   device for commercial microcomputer programs consisting of a
   serialized EPROM and some drivers in a D-25 connector shell, which
   must be connected to an I/O port of the computer while the program
   is run.  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 it was initially a
   failure, as users disliked tying up a serial port this way.  Almost
   all dongles on the market today (1993) 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 transferable ID required for a program to function.  Common
   variations on this theme have used parallel or even joystick
   ports.  See {dongle-disk}.

   [Note: in early 1992, advertising copy from Rainbow Technologies (a
   manufacturer of dongles) included a claim that the word derived from
   "Don Gall", allegedly the inventor of the device.  The company's
   receptionist will cheerfully tell you that the story is a myth
   invented for the ad copy.  Nevertheless, I expect it to haunt my
   life as a lexicographer for at least the next ten years. --- ESR]

:dongle-disk: /don'gl disk/ n.  A special floppy disk that is
   required in order to perform some task.  Some contain special
   coding that allows an application to identify it uniquely, others
   *are* special code that does something that normally-resident
   programs don't or can't.  (For example, AT&T's "Unix PC" would
   only come up in {root mode} with a special boot disk.)  Also
   called a `key disk'.  See {dongle}.

:donuts: n.obs. A collective noun for any set of memory bits.  This
   usage is extremely archaic and may no longer be live jargon; it
   dates from the days of ferrite-{core} memories in which each bit
   was implemented by a doughnut-shaped magnetic flip-flop.

: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 ADM 3 will turn into a doorstop."
   Compare {boat anchor}.

:dot file: [UNIX] n. A file that is not visible by default to
   normal directory-browsing tools (on UNIX, files named with a
   leading dot are, by convention, not normally presented in directory
   listings).  Many programs define one or more dot files in which
   startup or configuration information may be optionally recorded; a
   user can customize the program's behavior by creating the
   appropriate file in the current or home directory.  (Therefore, dot
   files tend to {creep} --- with every nontrivial application
   program defining at least one, a user's home directory can be
   filled with scores of dot files, of course without the user's
   really being aware of it.)  See also {profile} (sense 1), {rc

: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 type only 512 different characters on a
   Stanford keyboard.  An obvious way to address this was simply to
   add more shifting keys, and this was eventually done; but 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 implemented as pedals; typing on such a keyboard would be
   very much like playing a full pipe organ.  This idea is mentioned
   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 0-671-21036-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

: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 commonly, 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, and "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
   term 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 from the
   {console} that every hacker hates to hear from the operator is
   "System going down in 5 minutes".  3. `take down', `bring
   down' vt. To deactivate purposely, usually for repair work or
   {PM}.  "I'm taking the system down to work on that bug in the
   tape drive."  Occasionally one hears the word `down' by itself
   used as a verb in this vt. sense.  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.
   Oppose {upload}.

   However, note that ground-to-space communications has its own usage
   rule for this term.  Space-to-earth transmission is always `down'
   and the reverse `up' regardless of the relative size of the
   computers involved.  So far the in-space machines have invariably
   been smaller; thus the upload/download distinction has been
   reversed from its usual sense.

:DP: /D-P/ n. 1. Data Processing.  Listed here because,
   according to hackers, use of the term marks one immediately as a
   {suit}.  See {DPer}.  2. Common abbrev for {Dissociated

:DPB: /d*-pib'/ [from the PDP-10 instruction set] vt. To plop
   something down in the middle.  Usage: silly.  "DPB yourself into
   that couch there."  The connotation would be that the couch is
   full except for one slot just big enough for one last person 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.  Hackish usage has been kept alive by the Common LISP function
   of the same name.

:DPer: /dee-pee-er/ 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

:Dragon Book: n. The classic text "Compilers: Principles,
   Techniques and Tools", by Alfred V. Aho, Ravi Sethi, and Jeffrey D.
   Ullman (Addison-Wesley 1986; ISBN 0-201-10088-6), so called because
   of the cover design featuring a dragon labeled `complexity of
   compiler design' and a knight bearing the lance `LALR parser
   generator' among his other trappings.  This one is more
   specifically known as the `Red Dragon Book' (1986); an earlier
   edition, sans Sethi and titled "Principles Of Compiler Design"
   (Alfred V. Aho and Jeffrey D. Ullman; Addison-Wesley, 1977; ISBN
   0-201-00022-9), was the `Green Dragon Book' (1977).  (Also `New
   Dragon Book', `Old Dragon Book'.)  The horsed knight and the
   Green Dragon were warily eying each other at a distance; now the
   knight is typing (wearing gauntlets!) at a terminal showing a
   video-game representation of the Red Dragon's head while the rest
   of the beast extends back in normal space.  See also {{book

: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 that 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 8-bit devices.  Folklore had it that PRIME
   adopted the reversed-8-bit convention in order to save 25 cents per
   serial line per machine; PRIME old-timers, on the other hand, claim
   they inherited the disease from Honeywell via customer NASA's
   compatibility requirements and struggled heroically to cure it.
   Whoever was responsible, this probably qualifies as one of the
   most {cretinous} design tradeoffs ever made.  See {meta bit}.
   A few other machines have exhibited similar brain damage.

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

:driver: n. 1. The {main loop} of an event-processing program;
   the code that gets commands and dispatches them for execution.
   2. [techspeak] In `device driver', code designed to handle a
   particular peripheral device such as a magnetic disk or tape unit.
   3. In the TeX world and the computerized typesetting world in
   general, a program that translates some device-independent or other
   common format to something a real device can actually

:droid: [from `android', SF terminology for a humanoid robot of
   essentially biological (as opposed to mechanical/electronic)
   construction] 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 blind-faith propensity to
   believe obvious nonsense emitted by authority figures (or
   computers!); (c) a rule-governed mentality, one unwilling or unable
   to look beyond the `letter of the law' in exceptional
   situations; (d) a paralyzing fear of official reprimand or worse
   if Procedures are not followed No Matter What; and (e) no interest
   in doing anything above or beyond the call of a very
   narrowly-interpreted duty, or in particular in fixing that which is
   broken; an "It's not my job, man" attitude.

   Typical droid positions include supermarket checkout assistant and
   bank clerk; the syndrome is also endemic in low-level government
   employees.  The implication is that the rules and official
   procedures constitute software that the droid is executing;
   problems arise when the software has not been properly debugged.
   The term `droid mentality' is also used to describe the mindset
   behind this behavior. Compare {suit}, {marketroid}; see

: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.  "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 as a result of line
   noise or a system malfunction of some sort.  Esp. used when these
   are interspersed with one's own typed input.  Compare
   {drop-outs}, sense 2.
:drop-outs: n. 1. A variety of `power glitch' (see {glitch});
   momentary 0 voltage on the electrical mains.  2. Missing characters
   in typed input due to software malfunction or system saturation
   (one cause of such behavior under UNIX when a bad connection to a
   modem swamps the processor with spurious character interrupts; see
   {screaming tty}).  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 toward {brain-damaged}.  Often accompanied by a
   pantomime of toking a joint (but see {Appendix B}).  2. Of hardware,
   very slow relative to normal performance.

:drum: adj, n.  Ancient techspeak term referring to slow,
   cylindrical magnetic media that were once state-of-the-art storage
   devices.  Under BSD UNIX the disk partition used for swapping is
   still called `/dev/drum'; this has led to considerable humor
   and not a few straight-faced but utterly bogus `explanations'
   getting foisted on {newbie}s.  See also "{The Story of Mel, a
   Real Programmer}" in {Appendix A}.

:drunk mouse syndrome: (also `mouse on drugs') 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 in
   random directions and not in sync with the motion of the actual
   mouse.  Can usually be corrected by unplugging the mouse and
   plugging it back again.  Another recommended fix for optical mice
   is to rotate your 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 that 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.

:Duff's device: n. The most dramatic use yet seen of {fall
   through} in C, invented by Tom Duff when he was at Lucasfilm.
   Trying to {bum} all the instructions he could out of an inner
   loop that copied data serially onto an output port, he decided to
   unroll it.  He then realized that the unrolled version could
   be implemented by *interlacing* the structures of a switch and
   a loop:

        register n = (count + 7) / 8;      /* count > 0 assumed */

        switch (count % 8)
        case 0:        do {  *to = *from++;
        case 7:              *to = *from++;
        case 6:              *to = *from++;
        case 5:              *to = *from++;
        case 4:              *to = *from++;
        case 3:              *to = *from++;
        case 2:              *to = *from++;
        case 1:              *to = *from++;
                           } while (--n > 0);

   Shocking though it appears to all who encounter it for the first
   time, the device is actually perfectly valid, legal C.  C's default
   {fall through} in case statements has long been its most
   controversial single feature; Duff observed that "This code forms
   some sort of argument in that debate, but I'm not sure whether it's
   for or against."

   [For maximal obscurity, the outermost pair of braces above could be
   actually be removed --- GLS]

:dumb terminal: n. A terminal that is one step above a {glass tty},
   having a minimally addressable cursor but no on-screen editing or
   other features normally supported by a {smart terminal}.  Once upon a
   time, when glass ttys were common and addressable cursors were
   something special, what is now called a dumb terminal could pass for
   a smart terminal.

:dumbass attack: /duhm'as *-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}.

:dumbed down: adj. Simplified, with a strong connotation of
   *over*simplified.  Often, a {marketroid} will insist that
   the interfaces and documentation of software be dumbed down after
   the designer has burned untold gallons of midnight oil making it
   smart.  This creates friction.  See {user-friendly}.

: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 of hex or octal {runes} describing the
   byte-by-byte state of memory, mass storage, or some file.  In
   {elder days}, debugging was generally done by `groveling over'
   a dump (see {grovel}); increasing use of high-level languages
   and interactive debuggers has made such tedium uncommon, and the
   term `dump' now has a faintly archaic flavor.  2. A backup.  This
   usage is typical only at large timesharing installations.

:dumpster diving: /dump'-ster di:'-ving/ n. 1. The practice of
   sifting refuse from an office or technical installation to extract
   confidential data, especially security-compromising information
   (`dumpster' is an Americanism for what is elsewhere called a
   `skip').  Back in AT&T's monopoly days, before paper shredders
   became common office equipment, phone phreaks (see {phreaking})
   used to organize regular dumpster runs against phone company plants
   and offices.  Discarded and damaged copies of AT&T internal manuals
   taught them much.  The technique is still rumored to be a favorite
   of crackers operating against careless targets.  2. The practice of
   raiding the dumpsters behind buildings where producers and/or
   consumers of high-tech equipment are located, with the expectation
   (usually justified) of finding discarded but still-valuable
   equipment to be nursed back to health in some hacker's den.
   Experienced dumpster-divers not infrequently accumulate basements
   full of moldering (but still potentially useful) {cruft}.

:dup killer: /d[y]oop kill'r/ [FidoNet] n. Software that is
   supposed to detect and delete duplicates of a message that may
   have reached the FidoNet system via different routes.

:dup loop: /d[y]oop loop/ (also `dupe loop') [FidoNet] n. An
   infinite stream of duplicated, near-identical messages on a FidoNet
   {echo}, the only difference being unique or mangled identification
   information applied by a faulty or incorrectly configured system or
   network gateway, thus rendering {dup killer}s ineffective.  If
   such a duplicate message eventually reaches a system through which
   it has already passed (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) which one is
   obliged to remain compatible with, or to maintain ({DP} types
   call this `legacy code', a term hackers consider smarmy and
   excessively reverent).  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};
   compare {crawling horror}.

:DWIM: /dwim/ [acronym, `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.  Some victims of DWIM thus claimed that
   the acronym stood for `Damn Warren's Infernal Machine!'.

   In one notorious incident, Warren added a DWIM feature to the
   command interpreter used at Xerox PARC.  One day another hacker
   there typed `delete *$' to free up some disk space.  (The
   editor there named backup files by appending `$' to the
   original file name, so he was trying to delete any backup files
   left over from old editing sessions.)  It happened that there
   weren't any editor backup files, so DWIM helpfully reported
   `*$ not found, assuming you meant 'delete *'.' It then started
   to delete all the files on the disk!  The hacker managed to stop it
   with a {Vulcan nerve pinch} after only a half dozen or so files
   were lost.

   The disgruntled victim later said he had been sorely tempted to go
   to Warren's office, tie Warren down in his chair in front of his
   workstation, and then type `delete *$' twice.

   DWIM is often suggested in jest as a desired feature for a complex
   program; it is 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

: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: [from the custom of the Easter Egg hunt observed in
   the U.S. and many parts of Europe] 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 components
   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.  See also the jokes
   under {field circus}.  Compare {shotgun debugging}.

:eat flaming death: imp. A construction popularized among hackers by
   the infamous {CPU Wars} comic; supposedly derive from a famously
   turgid line in a WWII-era anti-Nazi propaganda comic that 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/ [abbreviation,
   Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code] n. An alleged
   character set used on IBM {dinosaur}s.  It exists in at least 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 varies 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 {newsgroup}.

:eighty-column mind: [IBM] n. The sort said to be possessed by
   persons for whom the transition from {punched card} to tape was
   traumatic (nobody has dared tell them about disks yet).  It is said
   that these people, including (according to an old joke) the founder
   of IBM, will be buried `face down, 9-edge first' (the 9-edge being
   the bottom of the card).  This directive is inscribed on IBM's
   1402 and 1622 card readers and is referenced in a famous bit of
   doggerel called "The Last Bug", the climactic lines of which
   are as follows:

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

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

:El Camino Bignum: /el' k*-mee'noh big'nuhm/ n. The road
   mundanely called El Camino Real, a road through the San Francisco
   peninsula that originally extended all the way down to Mexico City
   and many portions of which are still intact.  Navigation on the San
   Francisco peninsula is usually done relative to El Camino Real,
   which defines {logical} north and south even though it isn't
   really north-south 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-ol'/)
   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, 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} and {Great Worm, the}.

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

   The French aviator, adventurer, and author Antoine de
   Saint-Exup'ery, probably best known for his classic children's
   book "The Little Prince", was also an aircraft designer.  He
   gave us perhaps the best definition of engineering elegance when he
   said "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there
   is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take

:elephantine: adj. Used of programs or systems that are both
   conspicuous {hog}s (owing 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 (as in 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. An 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 a
   really stupid, memory-limited computation environment.  "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}.

:ELIZA effect: /*-li:'z* *-fekt'/ [AI community] n. The tendency of
   humans to attach associations to terms from prior experience.
   For example, there is nothing magic about the symbol `+' that
   makes it well-suited to indicate addition; it's just that people
   associate it with addition.  Using `+' or `plus' to mean addition
   in a computer language is taking advantage of the ELIZA effect.

   This term comes from the famous ELIZA program by Joseph Weizenbaum,
   which simulated a Rogerian psychoanalyst by rephrasing many of the
   patient's statements as questions and posing them to the patient.
   It worked by simple pattern recognition and substitution of key
   words into canned phrases.  It was so convincing, however, that
   there are many anecdotes about people becoming very emotionally
   caught up in dealing with ELIZA.  All this was due to people's
   tendency to attach to words meanings which the computer never put
   there.  The ELIZA effect is a {Good Thing} when writing a
   programming language, but it can blind you to serious shortcomings
   when analyzing an Artificial Intelligence system.  Compare
   {ad-hockery}; see also {AI-complete}.

:elvish: n. 1. The Tengwar of Feanor, a table of letterforms
   resembling the beautiful Celtic half-uncial hand of the "Book
   of Kells".  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 intrigued
   by artificial languages in general).  It is traditional for
   graphics printers, plotters, window systems, and the like to
   support a Feanorian typeface as one of their demo items.  See also
   {elder days}.  2. By extension, any odd or unreadable typeface
   produced by a graphics device.  3. The typeface mundanely called
   `B"ocklin', an art-decoish display font.

:EMACS: /ee'maks/ [from Editing MACroS] n. The ne plus ultra of
   hacker editors, a programmable text editor with an entire LISP
   system inside it.  It was originally written by Richard Stallman in
   {TECO} under {{ITS}} at the MIT AI lab; AI Memo 554 described
   it as "an advanced, self-documenting, customizable, extensible
   real-time display editor".  It has since been reimplemented any
   number of times, by various hackers, and versions exist that run
   under most major operating systems.  Perhaps the most widely used
   version, also written by Stallman and now called "{GNU} EMACS"
   or {GNUMACS}, runs principally 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.  Other variants include {GOSMACS}, CCA EMACS, UniPress
   EMACS, Montgomery EMACS, jove, epsilon, and MicroEMACS.

   Some EMACS versions running under window managers iconify as an
   overflowing kitchen sink, perhaps to suggest the one feature the
   editor does not (yet) 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 acronym}}).  See
   also {vi}.

:email: /ee'mayl/ (also written `e-mail') 1. n. Electronic mail
   automatically passed through computer networks and/or via modems
   over common-carrier lines.  Contrast {snail-mail},
   {paper-net}, {voice-net}.  See {network address}.
   2. vt. To send electronic mail.

   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. The word is derived from French
   `emmailleure', network.

:emoticon: /ee-moh'ti-kon/ n. An ASCII glyph used to indicate an
   emotional state in email or news.  Although originally intended
   mostly as jokes, emoticons (or some other explicit humor
   indication) are virtually required under certain circumstances in
   high-volume text-only communication forums such as USENET; the lack
   of verbal and visual cues can otherwise cause what were intended to
   be humorous, sarcastic, ironic, or otherwise non-100%-serious
   comments to be badly misinterpreted (not always even by
   {newbie}s), resulting in arguments and {flame war}s.

   Hundreds of emoticons have been proposed, but only a few are in
   common use.  These include:

          `smiley face' (for humor, laughter, friendliness,
          occasionally sarcasm)

          `frowney face' (for sadness, anger, or upset)

          `half-smiley' ({ha ha only serious});
          also known as `semi-smiley' or `winkey face'.

          `wry face'

   (These may become more comprehensible if you tilt your head
   sideways, to the left.)

   The first two listed 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 term synonymous with {emoticon}, as well as specifically
   for the happy-face emoticon.

   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].

   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.  Five or six
   multi-player variants of varying degrees of sophistication exist,
   and one single-player version implemented for both UNIX and VMS;
   the latter 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: 1. 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: mostly by
   old-time hackers, though recognizable in context.  2. The official
   name of the database language used by the Pick Operating System,
   actually a sort of crufty, brain-damaged SQL with delusions of
   grandeur.  The name permits {marketroid}s to say "Yes, and you
   can program our computers in English!" to ignorant {suit}s
   without quite running afoul of the truth-in-advertising laws.

: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/ or /enk/ [from the ASCII mnemonic ENQuire for
   0000101] 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), and expect 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: /E-O-F/ [abbreviation, `End Of File'] n. 1. [techspeak] The
   {out-of-band} value returned by C's sequential character-input
   functions (and their equivalents in other environments) when end of
   file has been reached.  This value is -1 under C
   libraries postdating V6 UNIX, but was originally 0.  2. [UNIX] The
   keyboard character (usually control-D, the ASCII EOT (End Of
   Transmission) character) that is mapped by the terminal driver into
   an end-of-file condition.  3. Used by extension in non-computer
   contexts when a human is doing something that can be modeled 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: /E-O-L/ [End Of Line] n. Syn. for {newline}, derived
   perhaps from the original CDC6600 Pascal.  Now rare, but widely
   recognized and occasionally used for brevity.  Used in the
   example entry under {BNF}.  See also {EOF}.

:EOU: /E-O-U/ n. The mnemonic of a mythical ASCII control
   character (End Of User) that would make an ASR-33 Teletype explode
   on receipt.  This construction parodies the numerous obscure
   delimiter and control characters left in ASCII from the days when
   it was associated more 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: prob. from astronomical timekeeping] n. The time
   and date corresponding to 0 in an operating system's clock and
   timestamp values.  Under most UNIX versions the epoch is 00:00:00
   GMT, January 1, 1970; under VMS, it's 00:00:00 of November 17, 1858
   (base date of the U.S. Naval Observatory's ephemerides); on a
   Macintosh, it's the midnight beginning January 1 1904.  System time
   is measured in seconds or {tick}s past the epoch.  Weird
   problems may ensue when the clock wraps around (see {wrap
   around}), which is not 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 at least some software
   continues to consider it signed and that word lengths don't
   increase by then.  See also {wall time}.

:epsilon: [see {delta}] 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, even closer than being `within delta
   of'.  "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 epsilon as epsilon 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 them
   is epsilon squared.  Compare {lost in the underflow}, {lost
   in the noise}.

:era, the: Syn. {epoch}.  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
   fifteen others by email, and the organization line `Eric
   Conspiracy Secret Laboratories' now emanates regularly from more
   than one site.

:Eris: /e'ris/ n. 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 reinvented 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 SubGenius}.

:erotics: /ee-ro'tiks/ n. [Helsinki University of Technology,
   Finland] n. English-language university slang for electronics.
   Often used by hackers in Helsinki, maybe because good electronics
   excites them and makes them warm.

:error 33: [XEROX PARC] n. 1. Predicating one research effort upon
   the success of another.  2. Allowing your own research effort to be
   placed on the critical path of some other project (be it a research
   effort or not).

: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
   usage is more an esthetic and engineering judgment 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/.  Compare {evil and rude}.

:evil and rude: adj. Both {evil} and {rude}, but with the
   additional connotation that the rudeness was due to malice rather
   than incompetence.  Thus, for example: Microsoft's Windows NT is
   evil because it's a competent implementation of a bad design;
   it's rude because it's gratuitously incompatible with UNIX in
   places where compatibility would have been as easy and effective to
   do; but it's evil and rude because the incompatibilities are
   apparently there not to fix design bugs in UNIX but rather to lock
   hapless customers and developers into the Microsoft way.  Hackish
   evil and rude is close to the mainstream sense of

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

:examining the entrails: n. The process of {grovel}ling through
   a {core dump} or hex image in an attempt to discover the bug that
   brought a program or system down.  The reference is to divination
   from the entrails of a sacrified animal.  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 are probably thinking instead of the
   {{PostScript}} exchange operator (which is usually written in

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

:EXE: /eks'ee/ or /eek'see/ or /E-X-E/ n. An executable
   binary file.  Some operating systems (notably MS-DOS, VMS, and
   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 suffix.

:exec: /eg-zek'/ vt., n.  1. [UNIX: from `execute'] Synonym for
   {chain}, derives from the `exec(2)' call.  2. [from
   `executive'] obs. The command interpreter for an {OS} (see
   {shell}); term esp. used around mainframes, and prob.
   derived from UNIVAC's archaic EXEC 2 and EXEC 8 operating systems.
   3. At IBM and VM/CMS shops, the equivalent of a shell command file
   (among VM/CMS users).

   The mainstream `exec' as an abbreviation for (human) executive is
   *not* used.  To a hacker, an `exec' is a always a program,
   never a person.

: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.

:external memory: n. A memo pad or written notes.  "Hold on while
   I write that to external memory".  The analogy is with store or
   DRAM versus nonvolatile disk storage on computers.

:eyeball search: n.,v. To look for something in a mass of code or data
   with one's own native optical sensors, as opposed to using some
   sort of pattern matching software like {grep} or any other
   automated search tool.  Also called a {vgrep}; compare
   {vdiff}, {desk check}.

= F =

: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."

:factor: n. See {coefficient of X}.

: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,
   dating from the 1940s and 1950s.  2. To fail a test that would have
   passed control to a subroutine or some 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 the above 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 fall-through where one would normally expect a
   break.  See also {Duff's Device}.

:fan: n.  Without qualification, indicates a fan of science
   fiction, especially one who goes to {con}s and tends to hang out
   with other fans.  Many hackers are fans, so this term has been
   imported from fannish slang; however, unlike much fannish slang it
   is recognized by most non-fannish hackers.  Among SF fans the
   plural is correctly `fen', but this usage is not automatic to
   hackers.  "Laura reads the stuff occasionally but isn't really a

: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}, {memory smash},
   {overrun screw}, {core}.
:FAQ: /F-A-Q/ or /fak/ [USENET] n. 1. A Frequently Asked Question.
   2. A compendium of accumulated lore, posted periodically to
   high-volume newsgroups in an attempt to forestall such questions.
   Some people prefer the term `FAQ list' or `FAQL' /fa'kl/,
   reserving `FAQ' for sense 1.

   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 FAQ
   posting.  Examples: "What is the proper type of NULL?"  and
   "What's that funny name for the `#' character?" are both
   Frequently Asked Questions.  Several FAQs refer readers to
   this file.

:FAQ list: /F-A-Q list/ or /fak list/ [USENET] n. Syn {FAQ},
   sense 2.

:FAQL: /fa'kl/ n. Syn. {FAQ list}.

:faradize: /far'*-di:z/ [US Geological Survey] v. To start any
   hyper-addictive process or trend, or to continue adding current to
   such a trend.  Telling one user about a new octo-tetris game you
   compiled would be a faradizing act --- in two weeks you might find
   your entire department playing the faradic game.

:farkled: /far'kld/ [DeVry Institute of Technology, Atlanta] adj.
   Syn. {hosed}.  Poss. owes something to Yiddish `farblondjet'
   and/or the `Farkle Family' skits on Saturday Nite Live.

: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}, although that term is global
   rather than local.

:fat electrons: n. Old-time hacker David Cargill's theory on the
   causation of computer glitches.  Your typical electric utility
   draws its line current out of the big generators with a pair of
   coil taps located near the top of the dynamo.  When the normal tap
   brushes get dirty, they take them off line to clean them up, and use
   special auxiliary taps on the *bottom* of the coil.  Now,
   this is a problem, because when they do that they get not ordinary
   or `thin' electrons, but the fat'n'sloppy electrons that are
   heavier and so settle to the bottom of the generator.  These flow
   down ordinary wires just fine, but when they have to turn a sharp
   corner (as in an integrated-circuit via), they're apt to get stuck.
   This is what causes computer glitches.  [Fascinating.  Obviously,
   fat electrons must gain mass by {bogon} absorption --- ESR]
   Compare {bogon}, {magic smoke}.

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

:fd leak: /F-D 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 of them.  See {leak}.

:fear and loathing: [from Hunter S. Thompson] n. A 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 (a.k.a. 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 that 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!" is a common catchphrase.  See also
   {feetch feetch}, {creeping featurism}, {wart}, {green

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

   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 increased spacing in only 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."

   `Undocumented feature' is a common, allegedly humorous euphemism
   for a {bug}.

:feature creature: [poss. fr. slang `creature feature' for a
   horror movie] n. 1. One who loves to add features to designs or
   programs, perhaps at the expense of coherence, concision, or
   {taste}.  2. Alternately, a mythical being that induces
   otherwise rational programmers to perpetrate such crocks.  See also
   {feeping creaturism}, {creeping featurism}.

:feature key: n. The Macintosh key with the cloverleaf graphic on
   its keytop; sometimes referred to as `flower', `pretzel',
   `clover', `propeller', `beanie' (an apparent reference to the
   major feature of a propeller beanie), {splat}, or the `command
   key'.  The Mac's equivalent of an {alt} key (and so labeled on
   on some Mac II keyboards).  The proliferation of terms for this
   creature may illustrate one subtle peril of iconic interfaces.

   Many people have been mystified by the cloverleaf-like symbol that
   appears on the feature key.  Its oldest name is `cross of St.
   Hannes', but it occurs in pre-Christian Viking art as a decorative
   motif.  Throughout Scandinavia today the road agencies use it to
   mark sites of historical interest.  Apple picked up the symbol from
   an early Mac developer who happened to be Swedish.  Apple
   documentation gives the translation "interesting feature"!

   There is some dispute as to the proper (Swedish) name of this
   symbol.  It technically stands for the word `sev"ardhet'
   (interesting feature) many of these are old churches. Some Swedes
   report as an idiom for it the word `kyrka', cognate to English
   `church' and Scots-dialect `kirk' but pronounced /shir'k*/ in
   modern Swedish.  Others say this is nonsense.

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

:featurectomy: /fee`ch*r-ek't*-mee/ n. The act of removing a
   feature from a program.  Featurectomies come in two flavors, 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.  (Doing so 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 judgment, is
   the camel's nose for a whole horde of new features.

:feeping creaturism: /fee'ping kree`ch*r-izm/ n. A 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: /feech feech/ 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 0000000) character that terminates strings in C is a fence.
   Hex FF is also (though slightly less frequently) used this way.
   See {zigamorph}.  2. An extra data value inserted in an array or
   other data structure in order to allow some normal test on the
   array's contents also to function as a termination test.  For
   example, a highly optimized routine for finding a value in an array
   might artificially place a copy of the value to be searched for
   after the last slot of the array, thus allowing the main search
   loop to search for the value without having to check at each pass
   whether the end of the array had been reached.  3. [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.  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. A problem with 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 {zeroth}
   and {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. [rare] An error
   induced by unexpected regularities in input values, which can (for
   instance) completely thwart a theoretically efficient binary tree or
   hash table implementation.  (The error here involves the difference
   between expected and worst case behaviors of an algorithm.)

: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' or `dropped into the fep'.

:FidoNet: n. A worldwide hobbyist network of personal computers
   which exchanges 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 (in early 1991) a significant fraction of
   USENET's size at some 8000 systems.

: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 one tire at a time to see which one is flat.

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

   [See {Easter egging} for additional insight on these jokes.]

   There is also the `Field Circus Cheer' (from the {plan file} for
   DEC on MIT-AI):

     Maynard! Maynard!
     Don't mess with us!
     We're mean and we're tough!
     If you get us confused
     We'll screw up your stuff.

   (DEC's service HQ is located in Maynard, Massachusetts.)

: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 a 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.  Often abbreviated `FReq'; 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.

:file signature: n. A {magic number}, sense 3.

:filk: /filk/ [from SF fandom, where a typo for `folk' was
   adopted as a new word] n.,v. 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 rather sophisticated technical humor.
   See {double bucky} for an example.  Compare {grilf},
   {hing} and {newsfroup}.

:film at 11: [MIT: in parody of TV newscasters] 1. 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."
   2. Also widely used outside MIT to indicate that additional
   information will be available at some future time, *without*
   the implication of anything particularly ordinary about the
   referenced event.  For example, "The mail file server died this
   morning; we found garbage all over the root directory.  Film at
   11." would indicate that a major failure had occurred but that the
   people working on it have no additional information about it as
   yet; use of the phrase in this way suggests gently that the problem
   is liable to be fixed more quickly if the people doing the fixing
   can spend time doing the fixing rather than responding to
   questions, the answers to which will appear on the normal "11:00
   news", if people will just be patient.

: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
   `pipeline' (see {plumbing}).  Compare {sponge}.

:Finagle's Law: n. The generalized or `folk' version of
   {Murphy's Law}, fully named "Finagle's Law of Dynamic
   Negatives" and usually rendered "Anything that can go wrong,
   will".  One variant favored among hackers is "The perversity of
   the Universe tends towards a maximum" (but see also {Hanlon's
   Razor}).  The label `Finagle's Law' was popularized by SF author
   Larry Niven in several stories depicting a frontier culture of
   asteroid miners; this `Belter' culture professed a religion
   and/or running joke involving the worship of the dread god Finagle
   and his mad prophet Murphy.

: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
   information about 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
   (see also {Hacking X for Y}).  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.

:finn: [IRC] v. To pull rank on somebody based on the amount of
   time one has spent on {IRC}.  The term derives from the fact
   that IRC was originally written in Finland in 1987.

: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 glitch 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.

:firehose syndrome: n. In mainstream folklore it is observed that
   trying to drink from a firehose can be a good way to rip your lips
   off.  On computer networks, the absence or failure of flow control
   mechanisms can lead to situations in which the sending system
   sprays a massive flood of packets at an unfortunate receiving
   system, more than it can handle.  Compare {overrun}, {buffer

:firewall code: n. 1. 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 a question not only of defensive coding but also of
   interface presentation, so that users don't even get curious about
   those corners of a system where they can burn themselves.
   2. Any sanity check inserted to catch a {can't happen} error.
   Wise programmers often change code to fix a bug twice: once to fix
   the bug, and once to insert a firewall which would have arrested
   the bug before it did quite as much damage.

: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.

:firmy: /fer'mee/ Syn. {stiffy} (a 3.5-inch floppy disk).

:fish: [Adelaide University, Australia] n. 1. Another {metasyntactic
   variable}.  See {foo}.  Derived originally from the Monty Python
   skit in the middle of "The Meaning of Life" entitled
   "Find the Fish".  2. A pun for `microfiche'.  A microfiche
   file cabinet may be referred to as a `fish tank'.

:FISH queue: [acronym, by analogy with FIFO (First In, First Out)]
   n. `First In, Still Here'.  A joking way of pointing out that
   processing of a particular sequence of events or requests has
   stopped dead.  Also `FISH mode' and `FISHnet'; the latter
   may be applied to any network that is running really slowly or
   exhibiting extreme flakiness.
:FITNR: // [Thinking Machines, Inc.] Fixed In the Next Release.
   A written-only notation attached to bug reports.  Often wishful

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

:FIXME: imp. A standard tag often put in C comments near a piece of
   code that needs work.  The point of doing so is that a `grep'
   or a similar pattern-matching tool can find all such places quickly.

     FIXME: note this is common in {GNU} code.

   Compare {XXX}.

: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.
   "This flag controls whether to clear the screen before printing
   the message."  "The program status word contains several flag
   bits."  Used of humans analogously to {bit}.  See also
   {hidden flag}, {mode bit}.

:flag day: n. A software change that is neither forward- nor
   backward-compatible, and which is costly to make and costly to
   reverse.  "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 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. Flaming verbiage, esp. high-noise,
   low-signal postings to {USENET} or other electronic {fora}.
   Often in the phrase `the usual flamage'.  `Flaming' is the act
   itself; `flamage' the content; a `flame' is a single flaming
   message.  See {flame}.

:flame: 1. vi. 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.  3. vt. Either of senses 1 or 2, directed with
   hostility at a particular person or people.  4. n. An instance of
   flaming.  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.

   It is possible that the hackish sense of `flame' is much older than
   that.  The poet Chaucer was also what passed for a wizard hacker in
   his time; he wrote a treatise on the astrolabe, the most advanced
   computing device of the day.  In Chaucer's "Troilus and
   Cressida", Cressida laments her inability to grasp the proof of a
   particular mathematical theorem; her uncle Pandarus then observes
   that it's called "the fleminge of wrecches."  This phrase seems
   to have been intended in context as "that which puts the wretches
   to flight" but was probably just as ambiguous in Middle English as
   "the flaming of wretches" would be today.  One suspects that
   Chaucer would feel right at home on USENET.

: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 {flame}s.  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 {microtape}s 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 also {macrotape}.  Modern cartridge tapes no
   longer actually flap, but the usage has remained.  (The term could
   well be re-applied to DEC's TK50 cartridge tape drive, a
   spectacularly misengineered contraption which makes a loud flapping
   sound, almost like an old reel-type lawnmower, in one of its many
   tape-eating failure modes.)

: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} has only a flat filesystem, not a hierarchical
   one."  The verb form is {flatten}.  2. Said of a memory
   architecture (like that of 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 that of the 80x86) in which
   addresses are composed from a base-register/offset pair (segmented
   designs are generally considered {cretinous}).

   Note that sense 1 (at least with respect to filesystems) is usually
   used pejoratively, while sense 2 is a {Good Thing}.

: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 markup language, or output device, and no
   {meta}-characters).  Syn. {plain-ASCII}.  Compare

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

: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} (sense 2); 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.

:flood: [IRC] v. To dump large amounts of text onto an {IRC}
   channel.  This is especially rude when the text is uninteresting
   and the other users are trying to carry on a serious conversation.

: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 attitude follows
   from the observations that flowcharts (at least from a hacker's
   point of view) 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.

:flower key: [Mac users] n. See {feature key}.

:flush: v. 1. To delete something, usually superfluous, or to abort
   an operation.  "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 or deletion 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 could 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.

:flypage: /fli:'payj/ n. (alt. `fly page') A {banner}, sense

:Flyspeck 3: n. Standard name for any font that is so tiny as to be
   unreadable (by analogy with names like `Helvetica 10' for
   10-point Helvetica).  Legal boilerplate is usually printed in
   Flyspeck 3.

:flytrap: n. See {firewall machine}.

:FM: /F-M/ n. *Not* `Frequency Modulation' but rather an
   abbreviation for `Fucking Manual', the back-formation from
   {RTFM}. Used to refer to the manual itself in the {RTFM}.
   "Have you seen the Networking FM lately?"

:fnord: [from the "Illuminatus Trilogy"] n. 1. A word used in
   email and news postings to tag utterances as surrealist mind-play
   or humor, esp. in connection with {Discordianism} and elaborate
   conspiracy theories.  "I heard that David Koresh is sharing an
   apartment in Argentina with Hitler. (Fnord.)" "Where can I fnord
   get the Principia Discordia from?"  2. A {metasyntactic variable},
   commonly used by hackers with ties to {Discordianism} or the
   {Church of the SubGenius}.

:FOAF: // [USENET] n. Acronym for `Friend Of A Friend'.  The
   source of an unverified, possibly untrue story.  This term 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: /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 usage migrated to other circumstances, such as "I'm going to fod
   the process that 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 or a bird in
   flight.  Finger of Death is a distressingly apt description of
   what this generally does to the engine.

: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}.

:fontology: [XEROX PARC] n. The body of knowledge dealing with the
   construction and use of new fonts (e.g., for window systems and
   typesetting software).  It has been said that fontology
   recapitulates file-ogeny.

   [Unfortunately, this reference to the embryological dictum that
   "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" is not merely a joke.  On the
   Macintosh, for example, System 7 has to go through contortions to
   compensate for an earlier design error that created a whole
   different set of abstractions for fonts parallel to `files' and
   `folders' --- ESR]

:foo: /foo/ 1. interj. Term of disgust.  2. Used very generally
   as a sample name for absolutely anything, esp. programs and files
   (esp. scratch files).  3. First on the standard list of
   {metasyntactic variable}s used in syntax examples.  See also
   {bar}, {baz}, {qux}, {quux}, {corge}, {grault},
   {garply}, {waldo}, {fred}, {plugh}, {xyzzy},
   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 Repair'), 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 the 1938 cartoon "The Daffy Doc", a very
   early version of Daffy Duck holds up a sign saying "SILENCE IS
   FOO!"; oddly, this seems to refer to some approving or positive
   affirmative use of foo.  It has been suggested that this might be
   related to the Chinese word `fu' (sometimes transliterated
   `foo'), which can mean "happiness" when spoken with the proper
   tone (the lion-dog guardians flanking the steps of many Chinese
   restaurants are properly called "fu dogs").

   Earlier versions of this entry suggested the possibility that
   hacker usage actually sprang from "FOO, Lampoons and Parody",
   the title of a comic book first issued in September 1958, a joint
   project of Charles and Robert Crumb.  Though Robert Crumb (then in
   his mid-teens) later became one of the most important and
   influential artists in underground comics, this venture was hardly
   a success; indeed, the brothers later burned most of the existing
   copies in disgust.  The title FOO was featured in large letters on
   the front cover.  However, very few copies of this comic actually
   circulated, and students of Crumb's `oeuvre' have established
   that this title was a reference to the earlier Smokey Stover

   An old-time member reports that in the 1959 "Dictionary of the
   TMRC Language", compiled at {TMRC} there was an entry that 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.

   For more about the legendary foo counters, see {TMRC}.  Almost
   the entire staff of what became the MIT AI LAB was involved with
   TMRC, and probably picked the word up there.

   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}.
   Hackers do *not* generally use this to mean {FUBAR} in
   either the slang or jargon sense.

: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}, {fool file, the}.

:fool file, the: [USENET] n. A notional repository of all the most
   dramatically and abysmally stupid utterances ever.  An entire
   subgenre of {sig block}s consists of the header "From the fool
   file:" followed by some quote the poster wishes to represent as an
   immortal gem of dimwittery; for this usage to be really effective,
   the quote has to be so obviously wrong as to be laughable.  More
   than one USENETter has achieved an unwanted notoriety by being
   quoted in this way.

:Foonly: n. 1. The {PDP-10} successor that was to have been
   built by the Super Foonly project at the Stanford Artificial
   Intelligence Laboratory along with a new operating system.  The
   intention was to leapfrog from the old DEC timesharing system SAIL
   was then running to a new generation, bypassing TENEX which at that
   time was the ARPANET standard.  ARPA funding for both the Super
   Foonly and the new operating system was cut in 1974.  Most of the
   design team went to DEC and contributed greatly to the design of
   the PDP-10 model KL10.  2. The name of the company formed by Dave
   Poole, one of the principal Super Foonly designers, and one of
   hackerdom's more colorful personalities.  Many people remember the
   parrot which sat on Poole's shoulder and was a regular companion.
   3. Any of the machines built by Poole's company.  The first was the
   F-1 (a.k.a.  Super Foonly), which was the computational engine used
   to create the graphics in the movie "TRON".  The F-1 was the
   fastest PDP-10 ever built, but only one was ever made.  The effort
   drained Foonly of its financial resources, and the company turned
   towards building smaller, slower, and much less expensive
   machines.  Unfortunately, these ran not the popular {TOPS-20}
   but a TENEX variant called Foonex; this seriously limited their
   market.  Also, the machines shipped were actually wire-wrapped
   engineering prototypes requiring individual attention from more
   than usually competent site personnel, and thus had significant
   reliability problems.  Poole's legendary temper and unwillingness
   to suffer fools gladly did not help matters.  By the time of the
   Jupiter project cancellation in 1983, Foonly's proposal to build
   another F-1 was eclipsed by the {Mars}, and the company never
   quite recovered.  See the {Mars} entry for the continuation and
   moral of this story.

: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 that is available by its design without needing
   cleverness to implement: "In APL, we get the matrix operations for
   free."  "And owing to the way revisions are stored in this
   system, you get revision trees for free."  The term usually refers
   to a serendipitous feature of doing things a certain way (compare
   {big win}), but it may refer to an intentional but secondary

: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 obvious capabilities
   because it is thought that the poor lusers might not be able to
   handle them.  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 that
   superficially looks neat but has no depth beyond the surface flash.
   See also {WIMP environment}, {Macintrash},
   {point-and-drool interface}, {user-friendly}.

:for values of: [MIT] A common rhetorical maneuver at MIT is to use
   any of the canonical {random numbers} as placeholders for
   variables.  "The max function takes 42 arguments, for arbitrary
   values of 42."  "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 3.

   Historical note: this usage probably derives from the programming
   language MAD (Michigan Algorithm Decoder), an Algol-like language
   that was the most common choice among mainstream (non-hacker) users
   at MIT in the mid-60s.  It had a control structure FOR VALUES OF X
   = 3, 7, 99 DO ... that would repeat the indicated instructions for
   each value in the list (unlike the usual FOR that only works for
   arithmetic sequences of values).  MAD is long extinct, but similar
   for-constructs still flourish (e.g., in UNIX's shell languages).

:fora: pl.n. Plural of {forum}.

:foreground: [UNIX] vt. To bring a task to the top of one's
   {stack} for immediate processing, and hackers often use it in
   this sense for non-computer tasks. "If your presentation is due
   next week, I guess I'd better foreground writing up the design

   Technically, 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}.

:fork bomb: [UNIX] n. A particular species of {wabbit} that can
   be written in one line of C (`main() {for(;;)fork();}') or shell
   (`$0 & $0 &') on any UNIX system, or occasionally created by an
   egregious coding bug.  A fork bomb process `explodes' by
   recursively spawning copies of itself (using the UNIX system call
   `fork(2)').  Eventually it eats all the process table entries
   and effectively wedges the system.  Fortunately, fork bombs are
   relatively easy to spot and kill, so creating one deliberately
   seldom accomplishes more than to bring the just wrath of the gods
   down upon the perpetrator.  See also {logic bomb}.

:forked: [UNIX; prob. influenced by a mainstream expletive] adj.
   Terminally slow, or dead.  Originated when one system was slowed to
   a snail's pace by an inadvertent {fork bomb}.

:Fortrash: /for'trash/ n. Hackerism for the FORTRAN (FORmula
   TRANslator) language, referring to its primitive design, gross and
   irregular syntax, limited control constructs, and slippery,
   exception-filled semantics.

:fortune cookie: [WAITS, via 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}.

:forum: n. [USENET, GEnie, CI$; pl. `fora' or `forums'] Any
   discussion group accessible through a dial-in {BBS}, a
   {mailing list}, or a {newsgroup} (see {network, the}).  A
   forum functions much like a bulletin board; users submit
   {posting}s for all to read and discussion ensues.  Contrast
   real-time chat via {talk mode} or point-to-point personal

: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 MS-DOS {BBS} software
   in preference to the `supported' ROM routines, which do not support
   interrupt-driven operation or setting speeds above 9600; the use of
   a semistandard FOSSIL library is preferable to the {bare metal}
   serial port programming otherwise required.  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

:four-color glossies: 1. Literature created by {marketroid}s
   that allegedly contains technical specs but which is in fact as
   superficial as possible without being totally {content-free}.
   "Forget the four-color glossies, give me the tech ref manuals."
   Often applied as an indication of superficiality even when the
   material is printed on ordinary paper in black and white.
   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 output.

:fragile: adj. Syn {brittle}.

:fred: n. 1. The personal name most frequently used as a
   {metasyntactic variable} (see {foo}).  Allegedly popular
   because it's easy for a non-touch-typist 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}).  See also {barney}.  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. 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 and presumed death
   in 1984.  See {shareware}.

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

   There are more specific constructions on this term.  A `feature
   freeze', for example, locks out modifications intended to introduce
   new features but still allows bugfixes and completion of existing
   features; a `code freeze' connotes no more changes at all.  At
   Sun Microsystems and elsewhere, one may also hear references to
   `code slush' --- that is, an almost-but-not-quite frozen state.

: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 some other electrical
   event.  (Sometimes this literally happens to electronic circuits!
   In particular, resistors can burn out and transformers can melt
   down, emitting noxious smoke --- see {friode}, {SED} and
   {LER}.  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."  Esp. common in
   conjunction with `brain': "My brain is fried today, I'm very
   short on sleep."
:frink: /frink/ v. The unknown ur-verb, fill in your own meaning.
   Found esp. on the USENET newsgroup, where it is
   said that the lemurs know what `frink' means, but they aren't
   telling.  Compare {gorets}.

:friode: /fri:'ohd/ [TMRC] n. A reversible (that is, fused or
   blown) diode.  Compare {fried}; see also {SED}, {LER}.

: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.  See also {window shopping}.

:frob: /frob/ 1. n. [MIT] The {TMRC} definition was "FROB = a
   protruding arm or trunnion"; by metaphoric extension, a `frob'
   is any random small thing; an object that you can comfortably hold
   in one hand; something you can frob (sense 2).  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.  The command is actually
   `frobnicate' but is universally abbreviated to the shorter

: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
   2-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/, plural `frobnitzem' /frob'nit-zm/ or
   `frobni' /frob'ni:/ [TMRC] 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'yool/).  Starting perhaps in 1979, `frobozz'
   /fr*-boz'/ (plural: `frobbotzim' /fr*-bot'zm/) has also
   become very popular, largely through its exposure as a name via
   {Zork}.  These variants can also be applied to nonphysical
   objects, such as data structures.

   Pete Samson, compiler of the original {TMRC} lexicon, adds,
   "Under the TMRC [railroad] layout were many storage boxes, managed
   (in 1958) by David R. Sawyer.  Several had fanciful designations
   written on them, such as `Frobnitz Coil Oil'.  Perhaps DRS intended
   Frobnitz to be a proper name, but the name was quickly taken for
   the thing".  This was almost certainly the origin of the

: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}, but milder.  "This froggy program is taking
   forever to run!"

:frogging: [University of Waterloo] v. 1. Partial corruption of a
   text file or input stream by some bug or consistent glitch, as
   opposed to random events like line noise or media failures.  Might
   occur, for example, if one bit of each incoming character on a tty
   were stuck, so that some characters were correct and others were
   not.  See {terminak} for a historical example.  2. By extension,
   accidental display of text in a mode where the output device emits
   special symbols or mnemonics rather than conventional ASCII.  This
   often happens, for example, when using a terminal or comm program
   on a device like an IBM PC with a special `high-half' character set
   and with the bit-parity assumption wrong.  A hacker sufficiently
   familiar with ASCII bit patterns might be able to read the display

: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 that 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) that interfaced with mainframes.

:frotz: /frots/ 1. n. See {frobnitz}.  2. `mumble frotz': An
   interjection of mildest disgust.

:frotzed: /frotst/ adj. {down} because of hardware problems.  Compare
   {fried}.  A machine that is merely frotzed may be fixable
   without replacing parts, but a fried machine is more seriously

:frowney: n. (alt. `frowney face')  See {emoticon}.

: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,
   but compare {fried}.

:FTP: /F-T-P/, *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 a copy of "Wuthering
   Heights" ftp'd from uunet."

:FUBAR: n. The Failed UniBus Address Register in a VAX.  A good
   example of how jargon can occasionally be snuck past the {suit}s;
   see {foobar}, and {foo} for a fuller etymology.

:fuck me harder: excl. Sometimes uttered in response to egregious
   misbehavior, esp. in software, and esp. of misbehaviors which
   seem unfairly persistent (as though designed in by the imp of the
   perverse).  Often theatrically elaborated: "Aiighhh! Fuck me with
   a piledriver and 16 feet of curare-tipped wrought-iron fence
   *and no lubricants*!" The phrase is sometimes heard
   abbreviated `FMH' in polite company.

   [This entry is an extreme example of the hackish habit of coining
   elaborate and evocative terms for lossage. Here we see a quite
   self-conscious parody of mainstream expletives that has become a
   running gag in part of the hacker culture; it illustrates the
   hackish tendency to turn any situation, even one of extreme
   frustration, into an intellectual game (the point being, in this
   case, to creatively produce a long-winded description of the
   most anatomically absurd mental image possible --- the short forms
   implicitly allude to all the ridiculous long forms ever spoken).
   Scatological language is actually relatively uncommon among
   hackers, and there was some controversy over whether this entry
   ought to be included at all.  As it reflects a live usage
   recognizably peculiar to the hacker culture, we feel it is
   in the hackish spirit of truthfulness and opposition to all
   forms of censorship to record it here. --- ESR & GLS]

: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 implicit coercion was traditionally
   accomplished 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
   is but one outstanding 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}}.

:fum: [XEROX PARC] n. At PARC, often the third of the standard
   {metasyntactic variable}s (after {foo} and {bar}).  Competes
   with {baz}, which is more common outside PARC.

: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."

: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).  In New Zealand and Germany
   the odd usage `paper money' has been recorded; in Germany, the
   particularly amusing synonym `transfer ruble' commemmorates the
   funny money used for trade between COMECON countries back when the
   Soviet Bloc still existed.  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 money'.

:furrfu: // [USENET] excl. Written-only equivalent of
   "Sheesh!"; it is, in fact, "sheesh" modified by {rot13}.
   Evolved in mid-1992 as a response to notably silly postings
   repeating urban myths on the USENET newsgroup
   alt.folklore.urban, after some posters complained that
   "Sheesh!" as a response to {newbie}s was being overused.  See
   also {FOAF}.

:fuzzball: [TCP/IP hackers] n. A DEC LSI-11 running a particular
   suite of homebrewed software written 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 are still active
   on the Internet as of early 1991, doing odd jobs such as network
   time service.

= G =

:G: [SI] pref.,suff. 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 combing
   one's 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.  Though 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; the inevitable result is
   enormous buggy masses of code entirely lacking in
   {orthogonal}ity.  When market-driven managers make a list of all
   the features the competition has and assign one programmer to
   implement each, the probability of maintaining a coherent (or even
   functional) design goes infinitesimal.  See also {firefighting},
   {Mongolian Hordes technique}, {Conway's Law}.

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

:garply: /gar'plee/ [Stanford] n. Another metasyntactic variable (see
   {foo}); once 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 getting {wedged} 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 since been
   deleted; the compression operation that removes it is called
   `degassing' (by analogy, perhaps, with the use of the same term
   in vacuum technology).  5. [IBM] n. Empty space on a disk that has
   been clandestinely allocated against future need.

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

:GC: /G-C/ [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 techspeak for a
   particular class of strategies for dynamically but transparently
   reallocating computer memory (i.e., without requiring explicit
   allocation and deallocation by higher-level software).  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 is 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:: /jee'kohs/ n. A {quick-and-dirty} {clone} of
   System/360 DOS that emerged from GE around 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, and this led 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 used GCOS machines for print spooling and
   various other services; the field added to `/etc/passwd' to
   carry GCOS ID information was called the `GECOS field' and
   survives today as the `pw_gecos' member used for the user's
   full name and other human-ID information.  GCOS later played a
   major role in keeping Honeywell a dismal also-ran in the mainframe
   market, and was itself ditched for UNIX in the late 1980s when
   Honeywell retired its aging {big iron} designs.

:GECOS:: /jee'kohs/ n. See {{GCOS}}.
: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 it can
   be reasoned about 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 must be used with care.  It's too easy to idealize
   away some important aspect of the real world in constructing the

   Among hackers, accordingly, the word has a pejorative connotation.
   It is typically used of a project, especially one in artificial
   intelligence research, that 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 {AI-complete},

: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 or say something
   highly technical and don't have time to explain: "Pardon me while
   I geek out for a moment."  See {computer geek}; see also
   {propeller head}.

: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 `gender bender',
   `gender blender', `sex changer', and even `homosexual
   adapter'; however, there appears to be some confusion as to whether
   a `male homosexual adapter' has pins on both sides (is doubly
   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.  Recent (July 1991) changes in the language of
   the version 2.00 license may eliminate this problem.

: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: /jen'sim/ [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 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.  Gensymmed names are useful
   for storing or uniquely identifying crufties (see

:Get a life!: imp. Hacker-standard way of suggesting that the
   person to whom it is directed 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 that ended "Get a *life*!", but some respondents
   believe it to have been in use before then.  It was certainly in
   wide use among hackers for at least five years before achieving
   mainstream currency in early 1992.

: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 16 megabytes.  This is as of mid-1993; 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 {bitty box} and

:GFR: /G-F-R/ vt. [ITS: from `Grim File Reaper', an ITS and LISP
   Machine 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 name-space
   clutter (the original GFR actually moved files to tape).  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/ [SI] n. See {{quantifiers}}.

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

:GIGO: /gi:'goh/ [acronym] 1. `Garbage In, Garbage Out' ---
   usually said in response to {luser}s who complain that a program
   didn't "do the right thing" when given imperfect input or
   otherwise mistreated in some way.  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.

:gilley: [USENET] n. The unit of analogical bogosity.  According to
   its originator, the standard for one gilley was "the act of
   bogotoficiously comparing the shutting down of 1000 machines for a
   day with the killing of one person".  The milligilley has been
   found to suffice for most normal conversational exchanges.

:gillion: /gil'y*n/ or /jil'y*n/ [formed from {giga-} by analogy
   with mega/million and tera/trillion] n. 10^9. Same as an
   American billion or a British `milliard'.  How one pronounces
   this depends on whether one speaks {giga-} with a hard or
   soft `g'.

:GIPS: /gips/ or /jips/ [analogy with {MIPS}] n.
   Giga-Instructions per Second (also possibly `Gillions of
   Instructions per Second'; see {gillion}).  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" (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.  Compare {grok},

:glass: [IBM] n. Synonym for {silicon}.

:glass tty: /glas T-T-Y/ or /glas ti'tee/ n. A terminal that
   has a display screen but which, because of hardware or software
   limitations, behaves like a teletype or some 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}; compare {dumb terminal}, {smart
   terminal}.  See "{TV Typewriters}" (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' (also {power hit}), of
   grave concern because it usually crashes all the computers.  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, esp.
   several lines at a time.  {{WAITS}} terminals used to do this in
   order to avoid continuous scrolling, which is distracting to the
   eye.  4. obs.  Same as {magic cookie}, sense 2.

   All these uses of `glitch' derive from the specific technical
   meaning the term has in the electronic hardware world, where it is
   now techspeak.  A glitch can occur when 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.  If
   another circuit inspects the output at just the wrong time, reading
   the random value, the results can be very wrong and very hard to
   debug (a glitch is one of many causes of electronic {heisenbug}s).

: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 the

          wildcard for any string (see also {UN*X})

          wildcard for any single character (generally read this way
          only 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).  "I don't read talk.politics.*" (any of the
   talk.politics subgroups on {USENET}).  Other examples are given
   under the entry for {X}.  Note that glob patterns are similar,
   but not identical, to those used in {regexp}s.

   Historical note: The jargon usage derives from `glob', the
   name of a subprogram that expanded wildcards in archaic pre-Bourne
   versions of the UNIX shell.

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

:glue: n. Generic term for any interface logic or protocol that
   connects two component blocks.  For example,  {Blue
   Glue} is IBM's SNA protocol, and hardware designers call anything
   used to connect large VLSI's or circuit blocks `glue logic'.

:gnarly: /nar'lee/ adj. Both {obscure} and {hairy} (sense
   1).  "{Yow!} --- 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 acronym}}] 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 RMS have nevertheless cooperated to produce large
   amounts of high-quality software for free redistribution under the
   Free Software Foundation's imprimatur.  See {EMACS},
   {copyleft}, {General Public Virus}.  2. Noted UNIX hacker
   John Gilmore <>, founder of USENET's anarchic alt.*

: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' refers to animal sex.
:go-faster stripes: [UK] Syn. {chrome}.  Mainstream in some
   parts of UK.  .

:gobble: vt. 1. To consume, usu. used with `up'.  "The output
   spy gobbles characters out of a {tty} output buffer."  2. To
   obtain, usu. used with `down'.  "I guess I'll gobble down a copy
   of the documentation tomorrow."  See also {snarf}.

:Godzillagram: /god-zil'*-gram/ 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 is an IP datagram whose
   destination IP address is [].  Fortunately, few
   gateways are foolish enough to attempt to implement this case!  2. A
   network packet of maximum size.  An IP Godzillagram has
   65,536 octets.  Compare {super source quench}.

:golden: adj. [prob. 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. The IBM 2741, a slow but letter-quality
   printing device and terminal based on the IBM Selectric
   typewriter.  The `golf ball' was a little spherical frob bearing
   reversed embossed images of 88 different characters arranged on
   four parallels 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 10 years ahead of its time --- where it
   stayed, firmly rooted, for the next 20, 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.  In German the term is
   (mythically) `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 out}.

: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'zoh/ [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}, but without the
   implication of obscurity or complexity.

: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

:gorets: /gor'ets/ n. The unknown ur-noun, fill in your own
   meaning.  Found esp. on the USENET newsgroup alt.gorets, which
   seems to be a running contest to redefine the word by implication
   in the funniest and most peculiar way, with the understanding that
   no definition is ever final.  [A correspondent from the Former
   Soviet Union informs me that `gorets' is Russian for `mountain
   dweller' --- ESR] Compare {frink}.

:gorilla arm: n. The side-effect that destroyed touch-screens as a
   mainstream input technology despite a promising start in the early
   1980s.  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 --- the operator looks like a gorilla while using the
   touch screen and feels like one afterwards.  This is now considered
   a classic cautionary tale to human-factors designers; "Remember
   the gorilla arm!" is shorthand for "How is this going to 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-izm/ A hack, invention, or saying due to
   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 both enticingly easy to invoke and completely unexpected
   and/or unreasonable in its outcome.  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: /G-P-L/ n. Abbreviation for `General Public License' in
   widespread use; see {copyleft}, {General Public
:GPV: /G-P-V/ n. Abbrev. for {General Public Virus} in
   widespread use.

:grault: /grawlt/ n. Yet another {metasyntactic 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} in 1985 on which all of the
   non-local groups on the {USENET} had their names changed from
   the net.- format to the current multiple-hierarchies scheme.  Used
   esp. in discussing the history of newsgroup names.  "The oldest
   sources group is comp.sources.misc; before the Great Renaming,
   it was net.sources."

:Great Runes: n. Uppercase-only text or display messages.  Some
   archaic operating systems still emit these.  See also {runes},
   {smash case}, {fold case}.

   Decades ago, back in the days when it was the sole supplier of
   long-distance hardcopy transmittal devices, the Teletype
   Corporation was faced with a major design choice.  To shorten code
   lengths and cut complexity in the printing mechanism, it had been
   decided that teletypes would use a monocase font, either ALL UPPER
   or all lower.  The Question Of The Day was therefore, which one to
   choose.  A study was conducted on readability under various
   conditions of bad ribbon, worn print hammers, etc.  Lowercase won;
   it is less dense and has more distinctive letterforms, and is thus
   much easier to read both under ideal conditions and when the
   letters are mangled or partly obscured.  The results were filtered
   up through {management}.  The chairman of Teletype killed the
   proposal because it failed one incredibly important criterion:

        "It would be impossible to spell the name of the Deity

   In this way (or so, at least, hacker folklore has it) superstition
   triumphed over utility.  Teletypes were the major input devices on
   most early computers, and terminal manufacturers looking for
   corners to cut naturally followed suit until well into the 1970s.
   Thus, that one bad call stuck us with Great Runes for thirty years.

:Great Worm, the: n. The 1988 Internet {worm} perpetrated by
   {RTM}.  This is a play on Tolkien (compare {elvish},
   {elder days}).  In the fantasy history of his Middle Earth
   books, there were dragons powerful enough to lay waste to entire
   regions; two of these (Scatha and Glaurung) were known as "the
   Great Worms".  This usage expresses the connotation that the RTM
   hack was a sort of devastating watershed event in hackish history;
   certainly it did more to make non-hackers nervous about the
   Internet than anything before or since.

: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", bylined
   `Adobe Systems' (Addison-Wesley, 1988; QA76.73.P67P66 ISBN
   0-201-14396-8); see also {Red Book}, {Blue Book}, and the
   {White Book} (sense 2).  2. Informal name for one of the three
   standard references on SmallTalk: "Smalltalk-80: Bits of
   History, Words of Advice", by 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", which
   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 issued by the CCITT's tenth
   plenary assembly.  These include, among other things, the
   X.400 email standard and the Group 1 through 4 fax standards.  See
   also {{book titles}}.

:green bytes: n. (also `green words') 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) at which 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." Compare
   {out-of-band}, {zigamorph}, {fence} (sense 1).

:green card: n. [after the "IBM System/360 Reference Data"
   card] A 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..

: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.  "Motorola calls the CISC cruft in the 88000
   architecture `compatibility logic', but I call it green
   lightning".  See also {feature} (sense 6).

: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.  A refinement of the theorem states that there will be
   *exactly* one person (if there were more than one, it wouldn't be
   as bad to re-tell the story).  [The name of this theorem is a play
   on a fundamental theorem in calculus. --- ESR]

: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 set of
   files looking for a particular string or pattern (when browsing
   through a large set of files, one may speak of `grepping
   around').  By extension, to look for something by pattern.  "Grep
   the bulletin board for the system backup schedule, would you?"
   See also {vgrep}.

:grilf: // n.  Girl-friend.  Like {newsfroup} and {filk}, a
   typo incarnated as a new word.  Seems to have originated sometime
   in 1992.

:grind: vt. 1. [MIT and Berkeley] To prettify hardcopy of code,
   especially LISP code, by reindenting lines, printing keywords and
   comments in distinct fonts (if available), etc.  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.  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.  "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 toward 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 for a bit when you got near the code of
   interest, poke at some registers using the console typewriter, and
   then keep on cranking.

:gripenet: [IBM] n. A wry (and thoroughly unofficial) name for IBM's
   internal VNET system, deriving from its common use by IBMers to
   voice pointed criticism of IBM management that would be taboo in
   more formal channels.

: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 A. 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}, which is similar
   supernal understanding experienced as a single brief flash.  See also
   {glark}.  2. Used of programs, may connote merely sufficient
   understanding.  "Almost all C compilers grok the `void' type
   these days."

:gronk: /gronk/ [popularized by Johnny Hart's comic strip
   "B.C." but the word apparently predates that] vt. 1. To
   clear the state of a wedged device and restart it.  More severe
   than `to {frob}' (sense 2).  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, gronk".

: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."

: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 (less commonly) sick.  "I've been chasing that bug
   for 17 hours now and I am thoroughly gronked!"  Compare
   {broken}, which means about the same as {gronk} used of
   hardware, but connotes depression or mental/emotional problems in

:grovel: vi. 1. To work interminably and without apparent progress.
   Often used transitively with `over' or `through'.  "The file
   scavenger has been groveling through the /usr directories for 10
   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 inaccessible due to changes in
   other parts of the program.  The preferred term in North America is
   {dead code}.

:gubbish: /guhb'*sh/ [a portmanteau of `garbage' and
   `rubbish'; may have originated with SF author Philip K. Dick]
   n. Garbage; crap; nonsense.  "What is all this gubbish?"  The
   opposite portmanteau `rubbage' is also reported.

:guiltware: /gilt'weir/ n. 1. A piece of {freeware} decorated
   with a message telling one how long and hard the author worked on
   it 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. with some influence from the 1960s claymation character] n.
   An act of minor but conspicuous stupidity, often in `gumby
   maneuver' or `pull a gumby'.

:gun: [ITS: from the `:GUN' command] 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: /guhnch/ [TMRC] vt. To push, prod, or poke at a device
   that has almost (but not quite) 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. [UNIX] An expert.  Implies not only {wizard} skill but
   also 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'.  See {source of all good bits}.

:guru meditation: n. Amiga equivalent of `panic' in UNIX
   (sometimes just called a `guru' or `guru event').  When the
   system crashes, a cryptic message of the form "GURU MEDITATION
   #XXXXXXXX.YYYYYYYY" may appear, 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

   This term is (no surprise) an in-joke from the earliest days of the
   Amiga.  There used to be a device called a `Joyboard' which was
   basically a plastic board built onto a joystick-like device; it
   was sold with a skiing game cartridge for the Atari game machine.
   It is said that whenever the prototype OS crashed, the system
   programmer responsible would calm down by concentrating on a
   solution while sitting cross-legged on a Joyboard trying to keep
   the board in balance.  This position resembled that of a
   meditating guru.  Sadly, the joke was removed in AmigaOS 2.04.

:gweep: /gweep/ [WPI] 1. v. To {hack}, usually at night.  At
   WPI, from 1977 onwards, one who gweeped coud often be found at the
   College Computing Center punching cards or crashing the {PDP-10}
   or, later, the DEC-20.  The term has survived the demise of those
   technologies, however, and is still alive in late 1991.  "I'm
   going to go gweep for a while.  See you in the morning." "I gweep
   from 8 PM till 3 AM during the week."  2. n. One who habitually
   gweeps in sense 1; a {hacker}.  "He's a hard-core gweep,
   mumbles code in his sleep."

= 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.  Originated in the fannish
   catchphrase "Bheer is the One True Ghod!" from decades ago.
   H-infix marking of `Ghod' and other words spread into the 1960s
   counterculture via underground comix, and into early hackerdom
   either from the counterculture or from SF fandom (the three
   overlapped heavily at the time).  More recently, the h infix has
   become an expected feature of benchmark names (Dhrystone,
   Rhealstone, etc.); this is prob. patterning on the original
   Whetstone (the name of a laboratory) but influenced by the
   fannish/counterculture h infix.

:ha ha only serious: [from SF fandom, orig. as mutation of HHOK,
   `Ha Ha Only Kidding'] A phrase (often seen abbreviated as HHOS)
   that aptly captures the flavor of much hacker discourse.  Applied
   especially to parodies, absurdities, and ironic jokes that are both
   intended and perceived to contain a possibly disquieting amount of
   truth, or truths that 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 an immediate sense: "What are you doing?"  "I'm hacking
   TECO."  In a general (time-extended) sense: "What do you do
   around here?"  "I hack TECO."  More generally, "I hack
   `foo'" is roughly equivalent to "`foo' is my major interest
   (or project)".  "I hack solid-state physics."  See {Hacking X
   for Y}.  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}.  8. See
   {nethack}.  9. [MIT] v. To explore the basements, roof ledges,
   and steam tunnels of a large, institutional building, to the dismay
   of Physical Plant workers and (since this is usually performed at
   educational institutions) the Campus Police.  This activity has
   been found to be eerily similar to playing adventure games such as
   Dungeons and Dragons and {Zork}.  See also {vadding}.

   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 this
   totipotent term see "{The Meaning of `Hack'}".  See
   also {neat hack}, {real hack}.

:hack attack: [poss. by analogy with `Big Mac Attack' from ads
   for the McDonald's fast-food chain; the variant `big hack attack'
   is reported] n. Nearly synonymous with {hacking run}, though the
   latter more strongly implies an all-nighter.

: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 that
   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 hack
   mode 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. See also {juggling eggs}.

: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.  See {display hack} for one
   method of computing hack value, but this cannot really be
   explained, only experienced.  As Louis Armstrong once said when
   asked to explain jazz: "Man, if you gotta ask you'll never know."
   (Feminists please note Fats Waller's explanation of rhythm: "Lady,
   if you got to ask you ain't got it.")

:hacked off: [analogous to `pissed off'] adj. Said of system
   administrators who have become annoyed, upset, or touchy owing 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}).  Not all programs that 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 through 5 are correlated, and people who
   fit them congregate.)  6. An expert or enthusiast 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'.  The correct term is {cracker}.

   The term `hacker' also tends to connote membership in the global
   community defined by the net (see {network, the} and
   {Internet address}).  It also implies that the person described
   is seen to subscribe to some version of the hacker ethic (see
   {hacker ethic, the}.

   It is better to be described as a hacker by others than to describe
   oneself that way.  Hackers consider themselves something of an
   elite (a meritocracy based on ability), though one to which new
   members are gladly welcome.  There is thus a certain ego
   satisfaction to be had in identifying yourself as a hacker (but if
   you claim to be one and are not, you'll quickly be labeled
   {bogus}).  See also {wannabee}.

:hacker ethic, the: n. 1. The belief that information-sharing
   is a powerful positive good, and that it is an ethical duty of
   hackers to share their expertise by writing free software and
   facilitating access to information and to computing resources
   wherever possible.  2. The belief that system-cracking for fun
   and exploration is ethically OK as long as the cracker commits
   no theft, vandalism, or breach of confidentiality.

   Both of these normative ethical principles are widely, but by no
   means universally, accepted among hackers. Most hackers subscribe
   to the hacker ethic in sense 1, and many act on it by writing and
   giving away free software.  A few go further and assert that
   *all* information should be free and *any* proprietary
   control of it is bad; this is the philosophy behind the {GNU}

   Sense 2 is more controversial: some people consider the act of
   cracking itself to be unethical, like breaking and entering.  But
   the belief that `ethical' cracking excludes destruction at least
   moderates the behavior of people who see themselves as `benign'
   crackers (see also {samurai}).  On this view, it may be one of
   the highest forms of hackerly courtesy to (a) break into a system,
   and then (b) explain to the sysop, preferably by email from a
   {superuser} account, exactly how it was done and how the hole
   can be plugged --- acting as an unpaid (and unsolicited) {tiger

   The most reliable manifestation of either version of the hacker
   ethic is that almost all hackers are actively willing to share
   technical tricks, software, and (where possible) computing
   resources with other hackers.  Huge cooperative networks such as
   {USENET}, {FidoNet} and Internet (see {Internet address})
   can function without central control because of this trait; they
   both rely on and reinforce a sense of community that may be
   hackerdom's most valuable intangible asset.

: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. Ritual phrasing of part of the
   information which ITS made publicly available about each user.
   This information (the INQUIR record) was a sort of form in which
   the user could fill out various fields.  On display, two of these
   fields were always 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

: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 that is or involves a hack.  2. Of or pertaining to
   hackers or the hacker subculture.  See also {true-hacker}.

:hackishness: n. The quality of being or involving a hack.  This
   term is considered mildly silly.  Syn. {hackitude}.

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

: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}.

   A well-known result in topology called the Brouwer Fixed-Point
   Theorem states that any continuous transformation of a surface into
   itself has at least one fixed point.  Mathematically literate
   hackers tend to associate the term `hairy' with the informal
   version of this theorem; "You can't comb a hairy ball smooth."

   The adjective `long-haired' is well-attested to have been in
   slang use among scientists and engineers during the early 1950s; it
   was equivalent to modern `hairy' senses 1 and 2, and was very
   likely ancestral to the hackish use.  In fact the noun
   `long-hair' was at the time used to describe a person satisfying
   sense 3.  Both senses probably passed out of use when long hair
   was adopted as a signature trait by the 1960s counterculture,
   leaving hackish `hairy' as a sort of stunted mutant relic.

: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 6-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.  Here is 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 (Bill 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 2 =
   ...111111 (base 2).  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.

   Note: This last item refers to a {Dissociated Press}
   implementation.  See also {banana problem}.

   HAKMEM also contains some rather more complicated mathematical and
   technical items, but these examples show some of its fun flavor.

:hakspek: /hak'speek/ n. A shorthand method of spelling 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, while 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 slowness of available talker systems, which
   operated on archaic machines with outdated operating systems and
   no standard methods of communication.  Has become rarer since.
   See also {talk mode}.

:hammer: vt. Commonwealth hackish syn. for {bang on}.

:hamster: n. 1. [Fairchild] 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.  2. A
   tailless mouse; that is, one with an infrared link to a receiver on
   the machine, as opposed to the conventional cable.  3. [UK] Any
   item of hardware made by Amstrad, a company famous for its cheap
   plastic PC-almost-compatibles.

:hand cruft: [pun on `hand craft'] vt. See {cruft}, sense 3.

: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}, {by
   hand}; 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

:handle: n. 1. [from CB slang] An electronic pseudonym; a `nom
   de guerre' intended to conceal the user's true identity.  Network
   and BBS handles function as the same sort of simultaneous
   concealment and display one finds on Citizen's Band radio, from
   which the term was adopted.  Use of grandiose handles is
   characteristic of {cracker}s, {weenie}s, {spod}s, and
   other lower forms of network life; true hackers travel on their own
   reputations rather than invented legendry.  Compare
   {nick}. 2. [Mac] A pointer to a pointer to dynamically-allocated
   memory; the extra level of indirection allows on-the-fly memory
   compaction (to cut down on fragmentation) or aging out of unused
   resources, with minimal impact on the (possibly multiple) parts of
   the larger program containing references to the allocated memory.
   Compare {snap} (to snap a handle would defeat its purpose); see
   also {aliasing bug}, {dangling pointer}.

:hand-roll: [from obs. mainstream slang `hand-rolled' in
   opposition to `ready-made', referring to cigarettes] v. To
   perform a normally automated software installation or configuration
   process {by hand}; implies that the normal process failed due to
   bugs in the configurator or was defeated by something exceptional
   in the local environment.  "The worst thing about being a gateway
   between four different nets is having to hand-roll a new sendmail
   configuration every time any of them upgrades."

: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 have 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. 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 is strictly inside the machine's chassis.

:Hanlon's Razor: prov. A corollary of {Finagle'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 {sig
   block}s, {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
   well-intentioned but short-sighted people.  Compare {Sturgeon's

:happily: adv.  Of software, used to emphasize that a program is
   unaware of some important fact about its environment, either
   because it has been fooled into believing a lie, or because it
   doesn't care.  The sense of `happy' here is not that of elation,
   but rather that of blissful ignorance.  "The program continues to
   run, happily unaware that its output is going to /dev/null."

:haque: /hak/ [USENET] n. Variant spelling of {hack}, used
   only for the noun form and connoting an {elegant} hack. that is
   a {hack} in sense 2.

:hard boot: n. See {boot}.

:hardcoded: adj. 1. Said of 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'*-lee/ adv. In a way pertaining to
   hardware.  "The system is hardwarily unreliable."  The adjective
   `hardwary' is *not* traditionally used, though it has recently
   been reported from the U.K.  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!"  See also {the X that can be Y
   is not the true X}.

:hash bucket: n.  A notional receptacle, a set of which might be
   used to apportion data items for sorting or lookup purposes.  When
   you look up a name in the phone book (for example), you typically
   hash it by extracting its first letter; the hash buckets are the
   alphabetically ordered letter sections.  This term 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' are more difficult to
   discriminate, and may be confused.  "If you hash English words
   only by length, you get too many common grammar words in the first
   couple of hash buckets." 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}.

:hat: n. Common (spoken) name for the circumflex (`^', ASCII
   1011110) character.  See {ASCII} for other synonyms.

:HCF: /H-C-F/ 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 an HCF opcode
   became widely known.  This instruction caused the processor to
   {toggle} a subset of the bus lines as rapidly as it could; in
   some configurations this could actually cause lines to burn

: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 this mode is hardly
   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 is still alive.
   Sometimes hardware is designed to reboot the machine if it stops
   hearing a heartbeat.  See also {breath-of-life packet}.

:heatseeker: [IBM] n. A customer who can be relied upon to buy,
   without fail, the latest version of an existing product (not quite
   the same as a member of the {lunatic fringe}).  A 1993 example of a
   heatseeker is someone who, owning a 286 PC and Windows 3.0, goes
   out and buys Windows 3.1 (which offers no worthwhile benefits
   unless you have a 386).  If all customers were heatseekers, vast
   amounts of money could be made by just fixing the bugs in each
   release (n) and selling it to them as release (n+1).

:heavy metal: [Cambridge] n. Syn. {big iron}.

:heavy wizardry: n. Code or designs that 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
   source-code comments of the form "Heavy wizardry begins here".
   Compare {voodoo programming}.

:heavyweight: adj. High-overhead; {baroque}; code-intensive;
   featureful, but costly.  Esp. used of communication protocols,
   language designs, and any sort of implementation in which maximum
   generality and/or ease of implementation has been pushed at the
   expense of mundane considerations such as speed, memory
   utilization, and startup time.  {EMACS} is a heavyweight editor;
   {X} is an *extremely* heavyweight window system.  This term
   isn't pejorative, but one hacker's heavyweight is another's
   {elephantine} and a third's {monstrosity}.  Oppose
   `lightweight'.  Usage: now borders on techspeak, especially in
   the compound `heavyweight process'.

:heisenbug: /hi:'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.  (This usage
   is not even particularly fanciful; the use of a debugger sometimes
   alters a program's operating environment significantly enough that
   buggy code, such as that which relies on the values of
   uninitialized memory, behaves quite differently.)  Antonym of
   {Bohr bug}; see also {mandelbug}, {schroedinbug}.  In C,
   nine out of ten heisenbugs result from uninitialized auto
   variables, {fandango on core} phenomena (esp. lossage related
   to corruption of the malloc {arena}) or errors that {smash
   the stack}.

:Helen Keller mode: n. 1. 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}.  2. On IBM PCs under DOS, refers
   to a specific failure mode in which a screen saver has kicked in
   over an {ill-behaved} application which bypasses the very
   interrupts the screen saver watches for activity.  Your choices are
   to try to get from the program's current state through a successful
   save-and-exit without being able to see what you're doing, or to
   re-boot the machine.  This isn't (strictly speaking) a

: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.  Traditionally, 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}).  3. 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 6-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 surplus 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 example, is `denary', 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 6 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; a correct form 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, despite what
   some keyboard designs might seem to imply (see {space-cadet

:HHOK: See {ha ha only serious}.

:HHOS: See {ha ha only serious}.

: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.  The use of hidden flags can make a
   program very hard to debug and understand, but is all too common
   wherever programs are hacked on in a hurry.

:high bit: [from `high-order bit'] n. 1. The most significant
   bit in a byte.  2. By extension, the most significant part of
   something other than a data byte: "Spare me the whole {saga},
   just give me the high bit."  See also {meta bit}, {hobbit},
   {dread high-bit disease}, and compare the mainstream slang
   `bottom line'.

:high moby: /hi:' mohb'ee/ n. The high half of a 512K
   {PDP-10}'s physical 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.

:hing: // [IRC] n. Fortuitous typo for `hint', now in wide
   intentional use among players of {initgame}.  Compare
   {newsfroup}, {filk}.

:hirsute: adj. Occasionally used humorously as a synonym for {hairy}.

:HLL: /H-L-L/ 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 stands for
   `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' stands
   for `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} or {high bit}.  2. The non-ITS name of
   (*Hobbit*), master of lasers.

:hog: n.,vt. 1. 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 that 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'.  "A controller that never gives up the I/O bus
   gets killed after the bus-hog timer expires."   2. Also said
   of *people* who use more than their fair share of resources
   (particularly disk, where it seems that 10% of the people use 90%
   of the disk, no matter how big the disk is or how many people use
   it).  Of course, once disk hogs fill up one filesystem, they
   typically find some other new one to infect, claiming to the
   sysadmin that they have an important new project to complete.

: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. FORTRAN, etc., ad nauseam.  The
   characteristic that distinguishes holy wars from normal technical
   disputes is that in a holy wars most of the participants spend
   their time trying to pass off personal value choices and cultural
   attachments as objective technical evaluations.  See also

:home box: n. A hacker's personal machine, especially one he or she
   owns.  "Yeah?  Well, *my* home box runs a full 4.2 BSD, so

:home machine: n. 1. Syn. {home box}.  2. The machine that
   receives your email.  These senses might be distinct, for example,
   for a hacker who owns one computer at home, but reads email at
: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
   10, 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 5.  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: 1. 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}), an
   important inter-machine metric is the number of hops in the
   shortest path between them, which can be more significant than
   their geographical separation.  See {bang path}. 2. v. To log in
   to a remote machine, esp. via rlogin or telnet. "I'll hop over to
   foovax to FTP that."

:hose: 1. vt. To make non-functional or greatly degraded in
   performance.  "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, but this
   usage predated SCTV by years in hackerdom (it was certainly already
   live at CMU in the 1970s).  See {hose}.  It is also widely used
   of people in the mainstream sense of `in an extremely unfortunate

   Once upon a time, a Cray that 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.
   See also {dehose}.

:hot spot: n. 1. [primarily used by 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. A screen region that is sensitive to mouse clicks, which trigger
   some action.  Hypertext help screens are an example, in which a hot
   spot exists in the vicinity of any word for which additional
   material is available.  4. In a massively parallel computer with
   shared memory, the one location that all 10,000 processors are
   trying to read or write at once (perhaps because they are all doing
   a {busy-wait} on the same lock).  5. More generally, any place
   in a hardware design that turns into a performance bottleneck due
   to resource contention.

:house wizard: [prob. from ad-agency tradetalk, `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: /H-P suhks/ n. Unflattering hackerism for HP-UX,
   Hewlett-Packard's UNIX port, which features some truly unique bogosities
   in the filesystem internals and elsewhere (these occasionally create
   portability problems).  HP-UX is often referred to as `hockey-pux'
   inside HP, and one respondent claims that the proper pronunciation
   is /H-P ukkkhhhh/ as though one were about to spit.  Another such
   alternate spelling and pronunciation is "H-PUX" /H-puhks/.
   Hackers at HP/Apollo (the former Apollo Computers which 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 {AIDX}, {buglix}.  See also {Nominal Semidestructor},
   {Telerat}, {Open DeathTrap}, {ScumOS}, {sun-stools}.

: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 the early 1980s) but was later sighted on
   early UNIX systems.

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

   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 a red index card in front of him/her
   with "GREEN" written on it, or vice-versa (note, however, that
   this is funny only 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},

   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 that 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 6 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 `humongous'] adj.
   Large, unwieldy, usually unmanageable.  "TCP is a hungus piece of
   code."  "This is a hungus set of modifications."

:hyperspace: /hi:'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.  The variant
   `east hyperspace' is recorded among CMU and Bliss hackers.

:hysterical reasons: (also `hysterical raisins') n.  A variant on
   the stock phrase "for historical reasons", indicating
   specifically that something must be done in some stupid way for
   backwards compatibility, and moreover that the feature it must be
   compatible with was the result of a bad design in the first place.
   "All IBM PC video adapters have to support MDA text mode for
   hysterical reasons."  Compare {bug-for-bug compatible}.

= 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-0 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 which actually {hosed} the code completely.

:I see no X here.: Hackers (and the interactive computer games they
   write) traditionally favor this slightly marked usage over other
   possible equivalents such as "There's no X here!" or "X is
   missing."  or "Where's the X?".  This goes back to the original
   PDP-10 {ADVENT}, which would respond in this wise if you asked
   it to do something involving an object not present at your location
   in the game.

:IBM: /I-B-M/ 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 toward the `industry leader'
   (see {fear and loathing}).

   What galls hackers about most IBM machines above the PC level isn't
   so much that they are 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 attributed to `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

:ICBM address: n. (Also `missile address') The form used to
   register a site with the USENET mapping project includes a blank
   for longitude and latitude, preferably to seconds-of-arc accuracy.
   This is actually used for generating geographically-correct maps of
   USENET links on a plotter; however, it has become traditional to
   refer to this as one's `ICBM address' or `missile address', and
   many people include it in their {sig block} with that name.
   (A real missile address would include target altitude.)

:ice: [coined by USENETter Tom Maddox, popularized by William
   Gibson's cyberpunk SF novels: a contrived acronym for `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-1993, but many hackers
   find the metaphor attractive, and each may develop a denotation in
   the future. In the meantime, the speculative usage could be
   confused with `ICE', an acronym for "in-circuit emulator".

:idempotent: [from mathematical techspeak] adj. Acting as if used
   only once, even if used multiple times.  This term is often used
   with respect to {C} header files, which contain common
   definitions and declarations to be included by several source
   files.  If a header file is ever included twice during the same
   compilation (perhaps due to nested #include files), compilation
   errors can result unless the header file has protected itself
   against multiple inclusion; a header file so protected is said to
   be idempotent.  The term can also be used to describe an
   initialization subroutine that is arranged to perform some
   critical action exactly once, even if the routine is called several

:If you want X, you know where to find it.: There is a legend that
   Dennis Ritchie, inventor of {C}, once responded to demands for
   features resembling those of what at the time was a much more
   popular language by observing "If you want PL/I, you know where to
   find it."  Ever since, this has been hackish standard form for
   fending off requests to alter a new design to mimic some older
   (and, by implication, inferior and {baroque}) one.  The case X =
   {Pascal} manifests semi-regularly on USENET's comp.lang.c
   newsgroup.  Indeed, the case X = X has been reported in
   discussions of graphics software (see {X}).

:ifdef out: /if'def owt/ v. Syn. for {condition out}, specific
   to {C}.

:ill-behaved: adj. 1. [numerical analysis] Said of an algorithm or
   computational method that tends to blow up because of accumulated
   roundoff error or poor convergence properties.  2. Software that
   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
   (owing 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; abbreviation for `In My Humble
   Opinion']  "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).

:Imminent Death Of The Net Predicted!: [USENET] prov. Since
   {USENET} first got off the ground in 1980--81, it has grown
   exponentially, approximately doubling in size every year.  On the
   other hand, most people feel the {signal-to-noise ratio} of
   USENET has dropped steadily.  These trends led, as far back as
   mid-1983, to predictions of the imminent collapse (or death) of the
   net.  Ten years and numerous doublings later, enough of these
   gloomy prognostications have been confounded that the phrase
   "Imminent Death Of The Net Predicted!" has become a running joke,
   hauled out any time someone grumbles about the {S/N ratio} or
   the huge and steadily increasing volume, or the possible loss of a
   key node or link, or the potential for lawsuits when ignoramuses
   post copyrighted material, etc., etc., etc.

:in the extreme: adj. A preferred superlative suffix for many hackish
   terms.  See, for example, `obscure in the extreme' under {obscure},
   and compare {highly}.

:inc: /ink/ v. Verbal (and only rarely written) shorthand for
   increment, i.e. `increase by one'.  Especially used by
   assembly programmers, as many assembly languages have an `inc'
   mnemonic.  Antonym: {dec}.

:incantation: n. Any particularly arbitrary or obscure command that
   one must mutter 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 that they must be learned
   from a {wizard}.  "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 discussion of inclusion styles under "Hacker
   Writing Style".  2. [from {C}] `#include <disclaimer.h>'
   has appeared in {sig block}s to refer to a notional `standard
   {disclaimer} file'.

:include war: n. Excessive multi-leveled including within a
   discussion {thread}, a practice that 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.  There are four major C indent styles,
   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 to 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' (abbrev. 1TBS) by its partisans.  The basic indent
   shown here is eight spaces (or one tab) per level; four spaces are
   occasionally seen, but are 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 eight spaces, but four
   spaces are 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 eight spaces, but four spaces are
   occasionally seen.

     if (cond)

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

     if (cond)

   Surveys have shown the Allman and Whitesmiths styles to be the most
   common, with about equal mind shares.  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 subject of {holy wars}.

:index: n. See {coefficient of X}.

:infant mortality: n. It is common lore among hackers (and in the
   electronics industry at large; this term is possibly techspeak by
   now) that the chances of sudden hardware failure drop off
   exponentially with a machine's time since first use (that is, until
   the relatively distant time at which enough mechanical wear in I/O
   devices and thermal-cycling stress in components has accumulated
   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 pointed 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}.

:infinite loop: n. One that never terminates (that is, the machine
   {spin}s or {buzz}es forever and goes {catatonic}).  There
   is a standard joke that has been made about each generation's
   exemplar of the ultra-fast machine: "The Cray-3 is so fast it can
   execute an infinite loop in under 2 seconds!"

:Infinite-Monkey Theorem: n. "If you put an {infinite} number
   of monkeys at typewriters, eventually one will bash out the script
   for Hamlet."  (One may also hypothesize a small number of monkeys
   and a very long period of time.)  This theorem asserts nothing about
   the intelligence of the one {random} monkey that eventually
   comes up with the script (and note that the mob will also type out
   all the possible *incorrect* versions of Hamlet).  It may be
   referred to semi-seriously when justifying a {brute force}
   method; the implication is that, with enough resources thrown at
   it, any technical challenge becomes a {one-banana problem}.

   This theorem was first popularized by the astronomer Sir Arthur
   Eddington.  It became part of the idiom of through the classic short
   story "Inflexible Logic" by Russell Maloney, and many younger
   hackers know it through a reference in Douglas Adams's
   "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".

: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.

:initgame: /in-it'gaym/ [IRC] n. An {IRC} version of the
   venerable trivia game "20 questions", in which one user changes
   his {nick} to the initials of a famous person or other named
   entity, and the others on the channel ask yes or no questions, with
   the one to guess the person getting to be "it" next.  As a
   courtesy, the one picking the initials starts by providing a
   4-letter hint of the form sex, nationality, life-status,
   reality-status.  For example, MAAR means "Male, American, Alive,
   Real" (as opposed to "fictional").  Initgame can be surprisingly
   addictive.  See also {hing}.

: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 Lyons in 1972.
   INTERCAL is purposely different from all other computer
   languages in all ways but one; it is purely a written language,
   being totally unspeakable.  An excerpt from the INTERCAL Reference
   Manual will make the style of the language clear:

     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 reimplemented 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 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:: 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.  Contrast 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

   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 ex-Soviet Union (see {kremvax}).
          sites in the United Kingdom

   Within the us domain, there are subdomains for the fifty
   states, each 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, 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

:interrupt list, the:: [MS-DOS] 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 late 1992, it had grown to
   approximately two megabytes 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 "She must have interrupts
   locked out".  The synonym `interrupts disabled' is also common.
   Variations abound; "to have one's interrupt mask bit set" and
   "interrupts masked out" are also heard.  See also {spl}.

:IRC: /I-R-C/ [Internet Relay Chat] n. A worldwide "party
   line" network that allows one to converse with others in real
   time.  IRC is structured as a network of Internet servers, each of
   which accepts connections from client programs, one per user.  The
   IRC community and the {USENET} and {MUD} communities overlap
   to some extent, including both hackers and regular folks who have
   discovered the wonders of computer networks.  Some USENET jargon
   has been adopted on IRC, as have some conventions such as
   {emoticon}s.  There is also a vigorous native jargon,
   represented in this lexicon by entries marked `[IRC]'.  See also
   {talk mode}.

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

:Iron Age: n. In the history of computing, 1961--1971 --- the
   formative era of commercial {mainframe} technology, when
   ferrite-core {dinosaur}s ruled the earth.  The Iron Age began,
   ironically enough, with the delivery of the first minicomputer (the
   PDP-1) and ended with the introduction of the first commercial
   microprocessor (the Intel 4004) in 1971.  See also {Stone Age};
   compare {elder days}.

: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 cracker'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 "{The Cuckoo's Egg}" of how he made and used
   one (see the Bibliography in appendix C).  Compare {padded

:ironmonger: [IBM] n. A hardware specialist (derogatory).  Compare
   {sandbender}, {polygon pusher}.

:ITS:: /I-T-S/ n. 1. Incompatible Time-sharing System, an
   influential but highly idiosyncratic operating system written for
   PDP-6s and PDP-10s at MIT and long used at the MIT AI Lab.  Much
   AI-hacker jargon derives from ITS folklore, and to have been `an
   ITS hacker' qualifies one instantly as an old-timer of the most
   venerable sort.  ITS pioneered many important innovations,
   including transparent file sharing between machines and
   terminal-independent I/O.  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
   (however, {{WAITS}} is a credible rival for this palm).  See
   {Appendix A}.  2. A mythical image of operating-system perfection
   worshiped by a bizarre, fervent retro-cult of old-time hackers and
   ex-users (see {troglodyte}, sense 2).  ITS worshipers manage
   somehow to continue believing that an OS maintained by
   assembly-language hand-hacking that supported only 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},

:IWBNI: // [abbreviation] `It Would Be Nice If'.  Compare {WIBNI}.

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

= J =

:J. Random: /J 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] /J 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 by `J. Fred Muggs', a show-biz chimpanzee whose name was a
   household word back in the early days of {TMRC}, and was
   probably influenced by `J. Presper Eckert' (one of the co-inventors
   of the electronic computer).

:jack in: v. To log on to a machine or connect to a network or
   {BBS}, esp. for purposes of entering a {virtual reality}
   simulation such as a {MUD} or {IRC} (leaving is "jacking
   out").  This term derives from {cyberpunk} SF, in which it was
   used for the act of plugging an electrode set into neural sockets
   in order to interface the brain directly to a virtual reality.
   It is primarily used by MUD and IRC fans and younger hackers on BBS

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

:JCL: /J-C-L/ 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 one gives to someone who
   memorizes the phone book.  It is reported that hackers at IBM
   itself sometimes sing "Who's the breeder of the crud that mangles
   you and me?  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.  2. A comparative for 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, people in
   the USENET newsgroup rec.humor.funny tended to use `JEDR'
   instead of {IYFEG} or `<ethnic>'; this stemmed from a public
   attempt to suppress 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.  JEDR's only
   permanent effect on the net.culture was to discredit
   `sensitivity' arguments for censorship so thoroughly that more
   recent attempts to raise them have met with immediate and
   near-universal rejection.

:JFCL: /jif'kl/, /jaf'kl/, /j*-fi'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, had JFCL on the license plate of his
   BMW for years.  Usage: rare except among old-time PDP-10

:jiffy: n. 1. The duration of one tick of the system clock on the
   computer (see {tick}).  Often one 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 ten times a second.
   2. Confusingly, the term is sometimes also used for a 1-millisecond
   {wall time} interval.  Even more confusingly, physicists
   semi-jokingly use `jiffy' to mean the time required for light to
   travel one foot in a vacuum, which turns out to be close to one
   *nanosecond*.  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. A 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.

: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 code.

   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.

:jolix: n. /joh'liks/ n.,adj. 386BSD, the freeware port of the
   BSD Net/2 release to the Intel i386 architecture by Bill Jolitz and
   friends.  Used to differentiate from BSDI's port based on the same
   source tape, which is called BSD/386.  See {BSD}.

:JR[LN]: /J-R-L/, /J-R-N/ n. The names JRL and JRN were
   sometimes used as example names when discussing a kind of user ID
   used under {{TOPS-10}} and {WAITS}; they were understood to be
   the initials of (fictitious) programmers named `J. Random Loser'
   and `J. Random Nerd' (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'.
: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 diehards,
   and considered silly.  See also {AOS}.

:juggling eggs: vi. Keeping a lot of {state} in your head while
   modifying a program.  "Don't bother me now, I'm juggling eggs",
   means that an interrupt is likely to result in the program's being
   scrambled.  In the classic first-contact SF novel "The Mote in
   God's Eye", by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, an alien describes
   a very difficult task by saying "We juggle priceless eggs in
   variable gravity."  See also {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}.

:jupiter: [IRC] vt. To kill an {IRC} {robot} or user and
   then take its place by adopting its {nick} so that it cannot
   reconnect.  Named after a particular IRC user who did this to
   NickServ, the robot in charge of preventing people from
   inadvertently using a nick claimed by another user.

= K =

:K: /K/ [from {kilo-}] n. A kilobyte.  Used both as a spoken
   word and a written suffix (like {meg} and {gig} for megabyte
   and gigabyte).  See {{quantifiers}}.

:K&R: [Kernighan and Ritchie] n. Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie's
   book "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'n*/ [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}. {RFC}-1025, "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}.

:kangaroo code: n. Syn. {spaghetti code}.

: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, because it's a login name
   and mail address) 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 (and he is often known as dmr).  See
   also {demigod}, {{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: /K-G-B'vaks/ n. See {kremvax}.

:KIBO: /ki:'boh/ 1. [acronym] Knowledge In, Bullshit Out.  A
   summary of what happens whenever valid data is passed through an
   organization (or person) that deliberately or accidentally
   disregards or ignores its significance.  Consider, for example,
   what an advertising campaign can do with a product's actual
   specifications.  Compare {GIGO}; see also {SNAFU principle}.
   2. James Parry <>, a USENETter infamous for
   various surrealist net.pranks and an uncanny, machine-assisted
   knack for joining any thread in which his nom de guerre is

:kiboze: [USENET] v. To {grep} the USENET news for a string,
   especially with the intention of posting a follow-up.  This activity was
   popularised by Kibo (see {KIBO}, sense 2).

:kick: [IRC] v. To cause somebody to be removed from a {IRC}
   channel, an option only available to {CHOP}s.  This is an
   extreme measure, often used to combat extreme {flamage} or
   {flood}ing, but sometimes used at the chop's whim.  Compare

: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 matching 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.

   The popularity of the phrase `attack of the killer micros' is
   doubtless reinforced by the movie title "Attack Of The Killer
   Tomatoes" (one of the {canonical} examples of
   so-bad-it's-wonderful among hackers).  This has even more flavor
   now that killer micros have gone on the offensive not just
   individually (in workstations) but in hordes (within massively
   parallel computers).

:killer poke: n. A recipe for inducing hardware damage on a machine
   via insertion of invalid values (see {poke}) into a memory-mapped
   control register; used esp. of various fairly well-known tricks
   on {bitty box}es without hardware memory management (such as the
   IBM PC and Commodore PET) that can overload and trash analog
   electronics in the monitor.  See also {HCF}.

:kilo-: [SI] pref. See {{quantifiers}}.

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

:KISS Principle: /kis' prin'si-pl/ 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 Simple".

:kit: [USENET; poss. fr. DEC slang for a full software
   distribution, as opposed to a patch or upgrade] 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.

:klone: /klohn/ n. See {clone}, sense 4.

:kludge: /klooj/ or /kluhj/ n. Common (but incorrect) variant
   of {kluge}, q.v.

:kluge: /klooj/ [from the German `klug', clever] 1. n.  A Rube
   Goldberg (or Heath Robinson) device, whether 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.

   Nowadays this term is often encountered in the variant spelling
   `kludge'.  Reports from {old fart}s are consistent that
   `kluge' was the original spelling, reported around computers as
   far back as the mid-1950s and, at that time, used exclusively of
   *hardware* kluges.  In 1947, the "New York Folklore
   Quarterly" reported a classic shaggy-dog story `Murgatroyd the
   Kluge Maker' then current in the Armed Forces, in which a `kluge'
   was a complex and puzzling artifact with a trivial function.  Other
   sources report that `kluge' was common Navy slang in the WWII era
   for any piece of electronics that worked well on shore but
   consistently failed at sea.

   However, there is reason to believe this slang use may be a decade
   older.  Several respondents have connected it to the brand name of
   a device called a "Kluge paper feeder" dating back at least to
   1935, an adjunct to mechanical printing presses.  The Kluge feeder
   was designed before small, cheap electric motors and control
   electronics; it relied on a fiendishly complex assortment of cams,
   belts, and linkages to both power and synchronize all its
   operations from one motive driveshaft.  It was accordingly
   tempermental, subject to frequent breakdowns, and devilishly
   difficult to repair --- but oh, so clever!  One traditional
   folk etymology of `kluge' makes it the name of a design engineer;
   in fact, `Kluge' is a surname in German, and the designer of the
   Kluge feeder may well have been the man behind this myth.

   {TMRC} and the MIT hacker culture of the early '60s seems to
   have developed in a milieu that remembered and still used some WWII
   military slang (see also {foobar}).  It seems likely that
   `kluge' came to MIT via alumni of the many military electronics
   projects that had been located in Cambridge (many in MIT's
   venerable Building 20, in which {TMRC} is also located) during
   the war.

   The variant `kludge' was apparently popularized by the
   {Datamation} article mentioned above; it was titled "How
   to Design a Kludge" (February 1962, pp. 30, 31).  Some people
   who encountered the word first in print or on-line jumped to the
   reasonable but incorrect conclusion that the word should be
   pronounced /kluhj/ (rhyming with `sludge').  The result of this
   tangled history is a mess; in 1993, many (perhaps even most)
   hackers pronounce the word correctly as /klooj/ but spell it
   incorrectly as `kludge' (compare the pronunciation drift of
   {mung}).  Some observers consider this appropriate in view of
   its meaning.

: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 are....

:Knuth: /knooth/ [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: "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. Originally, 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 fictitious sites mentioned
   in the hoax were moskvax and {kgbvax}.  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 six years later that the first genuine site in
   Moscow,, joined USENET.  Some readers needed
   convincing that the postings from it weren't just another prank.
   Vadim Antonov, senior programmer at Demos and the major poster from
   there up to mid-1991, was quite aware of all this, referred to it
   frequently in his own postings, and at one point twitted some
   credulous readers by blandly asserting that he *was* a

   Eventually he even arranged to have the domain's gateway site
   *named* kremvax, thus neatly turning fiction into truth
   and demonstrating that the hackish sense of humor transcends
   cultural barriers.  [Mr. Antonov also contributed the
   Russian-language material for this lexicon. --- ESR]

   In an even more ironic historical footnote, kremvax became an
   electronic center of the anti-communist resistance during the
   bungled hard-line coup of August 1991.  During those three days the
   Soviet UUCP network centered on kremvax became the only
   trustworthy news source for many places within the USSR.  Though
   the sysops were concentrating on internal communications,
   cross-border postings included immediate transliterations of Boris
   Yeltsin's decrees condemning the coup and eyewitness reports of the
   demonstrations in Moscow's streets.  In those hours, years of
   speculation that totalitarianism would prove unable to maintain its
   grip on politically-loaded information in the age of computer
   networking were proved devastatingly accurate --- and the original
   kremvax joke became a reality as Yeltsin and the new Russian
   revolutionaries of `glasnost' and `perestroika' made
   kremvax one of the timeliest means of their outreach to the

:kyrka: /shir'k*/ [Swedish] n. See {feature key}.

= L =

:lace card: n. obs. A {{punched card}} with all holes punched
   (also called a `whoopee card' or `ventilator card').  Card
   readers tended to jam 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 owing 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

: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 through a 200-plus-page manual that
   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}.  Nearly every
   hacker knows one of these, and most good ones are fluent in both.
   Smalltalk and Prolog are also popular in small but influential

   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 programming.

   Most hackers tend to frown on 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 even remotely connected with {COBOL} or
   other traditional {card walloper} languages as a total and
   unmitigated {loss}.

:larval stage: n. Describes a period of monomaniacal concentration
   on coding apparently passed through by all fledgling hackers.
   Common symptoms include the perpetration of more than one 36-hour
   {hacking run} in a given week; neglect of all other activities
   including usual basics like food, sleep, and personal hygiene; and
   a chronic case of advanced bleary-eye.  Can last from 6 months to 2
   years, the apparent median being around 18 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 one is learning a new {OS} or
   programming language.

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

:laser chicken: n. Kung Pao Chicken, a standard Chinese dish
   containing chicken, peanuts, and hot red peppers in a spicy
   pepper-oil sauce.  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 some 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 (as,
   mythically, do some of the inhabitants of Chernobyl).

:Lasherism: [Harvard] n. A program that solves a standard problem
   (such as the Eight Queens puzzle or implementing the {life}
   algorithm) in a deliberately nonstandard way.  Distinguished from a
   {crock} or {kluge} by the fact that the programmer did it on
   purpose as a mental exercise.  Such constructions are quite popular
   in exercises such as the {Obfuscated C contest}, and
   occasionally in {retrocomputing}.  Lew Lasher was a student at
   Harvard around 1980 who became notorious for such behavior.

: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.
   Considered silly.  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, so they effectively disappear (leak out).
   This leads to eventual exhaustion as new allocation requests come
   in.  {memory leak} and {fd leak} have their own entries; one
   might also refer, to, say, a `window handle leak' in a window

:leaky heap: [Cambridge] n. An {arena} with a {memory leak}.

:leapfrog attack: n. Use of userid and password information
   obtained illicitly from one host (e.g., downloading a file of
   account IDs and passwords, tapping TELNET, etc.) to compromise
   another host.  Also, the act of TELNETting through one or more
   hosts in order to confuse a trace (a standard cracker procedure).

:legal: adj. Loosely used to mean `in accordance with all the
   relevant rules', esp. in connection with some set of constraints
   defined by software.  "The older =+ alternate for += is no longer
   legal syntax in ANSI C."  "This parser processes each line of
   legal input the moment it sees the trailing linefeed."  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}.

: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.  Though 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: /L-E-R/ [TMRC, from `Light-Emitting Diode'] n. A
   light-emitting resistor (that is, one in the process of burning
   up).  Ohm's law was broken.  See also {SED}.

:LERP: /lerp/ vi.,n. Quasi-acronym for Linear Interpolation, used as a
   verb or noun for the operation. "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 a discussion of the underlying mythology.

:letterbomb: 1. n. A piece of {email} containing {live data}
   intended to do nefarious things to the recipient's machine or
   terminal.  It is possible, for example, to send letterbombs that
   will lock up some specific kinds of terminals when they are viewed,
   so thoroughly that the user must cycle power (see {cycle}, sense
   3) to unwedge them.  Under UNIX, a letterbomb can also try to get
   part of its contents interpreted as a shell command to the mailer.
   The results of this could range from silly to tragic.  See also
   {Trojan horse}; compare {nastygram}.  2. Loosely, a

: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 `=-'."

:lexiphage: /lek'si-fayj`/ n. A notorious word {chomper} on
   ITS.  See {bagbiter}.  This program would draw on a selected
   victim's bitmapped terminal the words "THE BAG" in ornate
   letters, followed a pair of jaws biting pieces of it off.

:life: n. 1. A cellular-automata game invented by John Horton
   Conway and first introduced publicly by Martin Gardner
   ("Scientific American", October 1970); the game's popularity
   had to wait a few years for computers on which it could reasonably
   be played, as it's no fun to simulate the cells by hand.  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, who even implemented
   life in {TECO}!; 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!}"

:Life is hard: [XEROX PARC] prov. This phrase has two possible
   interpretations: (1) "While your suggestion may have some merit, I
   will behave as though I hadn't heard it."  (2) "While your
   suggestion has obvious merit, equally obvious circumstances prevent
   it from being seriously considered."  The charm of the phrase lies
   precisely in this subtle but important ambiguity.

:light pipe: n. Fiber optic cable.  Oppose {copper}.

:lightweight: adj. Opposite of {heavyweight}; usually found in
   combining forms such as `lightweight process'.

:like kicking dead whales down the beach: adj. Describes 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.
   "Trying to display the `prettiest' arrangement of nodes and arcs
   that diagrams a given graph is like nailing jelly to a tree,
   because nobody's sure what `prettiest' means algorithmically."

:line 666: [from Christian eschatological myth] n. The notional
   line of source at which a program fails for obscure reasons,
   implying either that *somebody* is out to get it (when you are
   the programmer), or that it richly deserves to be so gotten (when
   you are not).  "It works when I trace through it, but seems to
   crash on line 666 when I run it."  "What happens is that whenever
   a large batch comes through, mmdf dies on the Line of the Beast.
   Probably some twit hardcoded a buffer size."

: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 beginning with a space or
   tab wasn't actually eaten, since the bug was avoided; but if there
   *was* a space or tab before it, then the line eater would eat
   the food *and* the beginning of the text 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 noise: n. 1. [techspeak] Spurious characters due to
   electrical noise in a communications link, especially an RS-232
   serial connection.  Line noise may be induced by poor connections,
   interference or crosstalk from other circuits, electrical storms,
   {cosmic rays}, or (notionally) birds crapping on the phone
   wires.  2. Any chunk of data in a file or elsewhere that looks like
   the results of line noise in sense 1.  3. Text that is
   theoretically a readable text or program source but employs syntax
   so bizarre that it looks like line noise in senses 1 or 2.  Yes,
   there are languages this ugly.  The canonical example is {TECO};
   it is often claimed that "TECO's input syntax is indistinguishable
   from line noise."  Other non-{WYSIWYG} editors, such as Multics
   `qed' and Unix `ed', in the hands of a real hacker, also
   qualify easily, as do deliberately obfuscated languages such as

: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.
   "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.  ASCII 0011010, also called SUB or control-Z,
   was one common line-starve character in the days before
   microcomputers and the X3.64 terminal standard.  Unlike `line
   feed', `line starve' is *not* standard {{ASCII}}
   terminology.  Even among hackers it is considered a bit silly.
   3. [proposed] A sequence such as \c (used in System V echo, as well
   as {{nroff}} and {{troff}}) that suppresses a {newline} or
   other character(s) that would normally be emitted.

:link farm: [UNIX] n. A directory tree that contains many links to
   files in a master directory tree of files.  Link farms save space
   when one is maintaining several nearly identical copies of the same
   source tree --- for example, when the only difference is
   architecture-dependent object files.  "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-file directory) arguments on older
   C preprocessors.  However, they can also get completely out of
   hand, becoming the filesystem equivalent of {spaghetti

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

:lint: [from UNIX's `lint(1)', named for the bits of fluff it
   supposedly 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) it has become a shorthand for {desk check}
   at some non-UNIX shops, even in languages other than C.  Also as
   v. {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 (or, 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 agree to meet after 2 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!"

:Lions Book: n. "Source Code and Commentary on UNIX level 6",
   by John Lions.  The two parts of this book contained (1) the entire
   source listing of the UNIX Version 6 kernel, and (2) a commentary
   on the source discussing the algorithms.  These were circulated
   internally at the University of New South Wales beginning 1976--77,
   and were, for years after, the *only* detailed kernel
   documentation available to anyone outside Bell Labs.  Because
   Western Electric wished to maintain trade secret status on the
   kernel, the Lions book was never formally published and was only
   supposed to be distributed to affiliates of source licensees (it is
   still possible to get a Bell Labs reprint of the book by sending a
   copy of a V6 source license to the right person at Bellcore, but
   *real* insiders have the UNSW edition).  In spite of this, it
   soon spread by samizdat to a good many of the early UNIX

:LISP: [from `LISt Processing language', but mythically from
   `Lots of Irritating Superfluous Parentheses'] n. 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 dominant HLL
   among 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".

   One significant application for LISP has been as a proof by example
   that most newer languages, such as {COBOL} and {Ada}, are full
   of unnecessary {crock}s.  When the {Right Thing} has already
   been done once, there is no justification for {bogosity} in newer

: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 by saying "It's in the literature."  Oppose
   {Knuth}, which has no connotation of triviality.

:lithium lick: n. [NeXT] n. Steve Jobs.  Employees who have gotten
   too much attention from their esteemed founder are said to have
   `lithium lick' when they begin to show signs of Jobsian fervor and
   repeat the most recent catch phrases in normal conversation --- for
   example, "It just works, right out of the box!"
: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 often, bits within a byte.

:live data: n. 1. Data that is written to be interpreted and takes
   over program flow when triggered by some un-obvious operation, such
   as viewing it.  One 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 that, 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} that allow certain texts to send
   arbitrary commands back to the machine when they are simply viewed.
   2. In C code, data that includes pointers to function {hook}s
   (executable code).  3. An object, such as a {trampoline}, that 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?"  This usage usually
   carries the connotation that live data is more fragile and must not
   be corrupted, or bad things will happen.  So a more appropriate
   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 amok on live data would
   probably cause great harm.

:Live Free Or Die!: imp. 1. The state motto of New Hampshire, which
   appears on that state's automobile 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: /li:v'lok/ 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 have been serviced but
   before it can clear its queue.  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 can never catch up.

:liveware: /li:v'weir/ n. 1. Synonym for {wetware}.  Less
   common.  2. [Cambridge] Vermin. "Waiter, there's some liveware in
   my salad..."

: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.

:locals, the: pl.n. The users on one's local network (as opposed, say,
   to people one reaches via public Internet or UUCP connects).  The
   marked thing about this usage is how little it has to do with
   real-space distance. "I have to do some tweaking on this mail
   utility before releasing it to the locals."

:locked and loaded: [from military slang for an M-16 rifle 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 into an application or
   OS that 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 had long held a certain post left and were replaced, the
   replacement would for a while be known as the `logical' Les
   Earnest.  (This does not imply any judgment on the replacement.)
   Compare {virtual}.

   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
   labeled 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 3-quarters circle
   surrounding Boston at a radius of 10 miles, terminating near the
   coastline at each end.  It would be most precise to describe the
   two directions along this highway as `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 east, passing along
   one infamous stretch of pavement that is simultaneously route 128
   south and Interstate 93 north, and is signed as such!)

: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.

:loose bytes: n. Commonwealth hackish term for the padding bytes or
   {shim}s many compilers insert between members of a record or
   structure to cope with alignment requirements imposed by the
   machine architecture.

:lord high fixer: [primarily British, 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 that is
   {losing}, especially in the phrases "That's a lose!" and "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 that is or causes a {lose} or

:loss: n. Something (not a person) that loses; a situation in which
   something is losing.  Emphatic forms include `moby loss', and
   `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.  The former is slightly more
   particular to the speaker's present circumstances; the latter
   implies a continuing {lose} of which the speaker is currently a
   victim.  Thus (for example) a temporary hardware failure is a loss,
   but bugs in an important tool (like a compiler) are serious

: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 `floating underflow', a
   condition 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 offshore 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."  Compare {epsilon}, {epsilon squared}; 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 input-output (in
   1991, the IBM Rios, a.k.a. RS/6000, is a notorious recent

: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: /L-P-T/ or /lip'it/ or /lip-it'/ n. Line printer, of
   course.  Rare under UNIX, more common among hackers who grew up
   with ITS, MS-DOS, CP/M and other operating systems that were
   strongly influenced by early DEC conventions.

:Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic Entomology: prov. "There is *always*
   one more bug."

: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's postings 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 around 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 printed out some
   status information, including how many people were 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: [SI] 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.  Often the
   subject of the macdinking would be better off without them.  "When
   I left at 11 P.M. last night, he was still macdinking the
   slides for his presentation."  See also {fritterware},
   {window shopping}.

: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 area of North
   Carolina.  Compare {Macintoy}. See also {beige toaster},
   {WIMP environment}, {point-and-drool interface},
   {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 {HLL}s, 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), and for macro-like entities
   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-rol'*-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: /mak'roh-tayp/ n. An industry-standard reel of tape, as
   opposed to a {microtape}. See also {round tape}.

:maggotbox: /mag'*t-boks/ 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 8-bit
   byte in three instructions."  2. Characteristic of something that
   works although 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.  Compare {black
   magic}, {wizardly}, {deep magic}, {heavy wizardry}.

   For more about hackish `magic', see {A Story About `Magic'}
   (in {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 that 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 (see also {cookie}).  Some
   older terminals would leave a blank on the screen corresponding to
   mode-change magic cookies; this was also called a {glitch} (or
   occasionally a `turd'; compare {mouse droppings}).  See also

:magic number: [UNIX/C] n. 1. In source code, some non-obvious
   constant whose value is significant to the operation of a program
   and that 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 sense 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.  Once upon
   a time, these magic numbers were PDP-11 branch instructions that
   skipped over header data to the start of executable code; 0407,
   for example, was octal for `branch 16 bytes relative'.  Nowadays
   only a {wizard} knows the spells 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!

   *The* magic number, on the other hand, is 7+/-2.  See
   "The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some limits on
   our capacity for processing information" by George Miller, in the
   "Psychological Review" 63:81-97 (1956).  This classic paper
   established the number of distinct items (such as numeric digits)
   that humans can hold in short-term memory.  Among other things,
   this strongly influenced the interface design of the phone system.

:magic smoke: n. A substance trapped inside IC packages that enables
   them to function (also called `blue smoke'; this is similar to
   the archaic `phlogiston' hypothesis about combustion).  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."  Compare the original phrasing of {Murphy's

:mailbomb: (also mail bomb) [USENET] 1. v. To send, or urge
   others to send, massive amounts of {email} to a single system or
   person, esp. with intent to crash or {spam} the recipient's
   system.  Sometimes done in retaliation for a perceived serious
   offense.  Mailbombing is itself widely regarded as a serious
   offense --- it can disrupt email traffic or other facilities for
   innocent users on the victim's system, and in extreme cases, even
   at upstream sites.  2. n. An automatic procedure with a similar
   effect.  3. n. The mail sent.  Compare {letterbomb},

:mailing list: n. (often shortened in context 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, having 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.  Though
   some of these maintain almost 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 many 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 (until they get very large,
   at which point they can become interesting torture tests for mail
   software).  Thus, they are often created temporarily by working
   groups, the members of which can then collaborate on a project
   without ever needing to meet face-to-face.  Much of the material in
   this lexicon was criticized and polished on just such a mailing
   list (called `jargon-friends'), which included all the co-authors
   of Steele-1983.

:main loop: n. The top-level control flow construct in an input- or
   event-driven program, the one which receives and acts or dispatches
   on the program's input.  See also {driver}.

:mainframe: n. Term originally referring 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 1970s, 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 has been common wisdom among hackers since the late 1980s that
   the mainframe architectural tradition is essentially dead (outside
   of the tiny market for {number-crunching} supercomputers (see
   {cray})), having been swamped by the recent huge advances in IC
   technology and low-cost personal computing.  As of 1993, corporate
   America is just beginning to figure this out --- the wave of
   failures, takeovers, and mergers among traditional mainframe makers
   have certainly provided sufficient omens (see {dinosaurs

: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 Mgt'; this
   derives from the "Illuminatus" novels (see the Bibliography in
   {Appendix C}).

:mandelbug: /man'del-buhg/ [from the Mandelbrot set] n. A bug
   whose underlying causes are so complex and obscure as to make its
   behavior appear chaotic or even non-deterministic.  This term
   implies that the speaker thinks it is a {Bohr bug}, rather than a
   {heisenbug}.  See also {schroedinbug}.

:manged: /mahnjd/ [probably from the French `manger' or Italian
   `mangiare', to eat; perhaps 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}.

:manularity: /man`yoo-la'ri-tee/ [prob. fr. techspeak `manual'
   + `granularity'] n. A notional measure of the manual labor
   required for some task, particularly one of the sort that
   automation is supposed to eliminate.  "Composing English on paper
   has much higher manularity than using a text editor, especially in
   the revising stage."  Hackers tend to consider manularity a symptom
   of primitive methods; in fact, a true hacker confronted with an
   apparent requirement to do a computing task {by hand} will
   inevitably seize the opportunity to build another tool (see

:marbles: [from mainstream "lost all his/her marbles"] pl.n. The
   minimum needed to build your way further up some hierarchy of tools
   or abstractions.  After a bad system crash, you need to determine
   if the machine has enough marbles to come up on its own, or enough
   marbles to allow a rebuild from backups, or if you need to rebuild
   from scratch.  "This compiler doesn't even have enough marbles to
   compile {hello, world}."

:marginal: adj. 1. Extremely small.  "A marginal increase in
   {core} can decrease {GC} time drastically."  In everyday
   terms, this means that it is 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',
   `marketeer', `marketing droid', `marketdroid'. n. A 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, are 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}.

:Mars: n. A legendary tragic failure, the archetypal Hacker Dream
   Gone Wrong.  Mars was the code name for a family of PDP-10
   compatible computers built by Systems Concepts (now, The SC Group):
   the multi-processor SC-30M, the small uniprocessor SC-25M, and the
   never-built superprocessor SC-40M.  These machines were marvels of
   engineering design; although not much slower than the unique
   {Foonly} F-1, they were physically smaller and consumed less
   power than the much slower DEC KS10 or Foonly F-2, F-3, or F-4
   machines.  They were also completely compatible with the DEC KL10,
   and ran all KL10 binaries (including the operating system) with no
   modifications at about 2--3 times faster than a KL10.

   When DEC cancelled the Jupiter project in 1983, Systems Concepts
   should have made a bundle selling their machine into shops with a
   lot of software investment in PDP-10s, and in fact their spring
   1984 announcement generated a great deal of excitement in the
   PDP-10 world.  TOPS-10 was running on the Mars by the summer of
   1984, and TOPS-20 by early fall.  Unfortunately, the hackers
   running Systems Concepts were much better at designing machines
   than at mass producing or selling them; the company allowed itself
   to be sidetracked by a bout of perfectionism into continually
   improving the design, and lost credibility as delivery dates
   continued to slip.  They also overpriced the product ridiculously;
   they believed they were competing with the KL10 and VAX 8600 and
   failed to reckon with the likes of Sun Microsystems and other
   hungry startups building workstations with power comparable to the
   KL10 at a fraction of the price.  By the time SC shipped the first
   SC-30M to Stanford in late 1985, most customers had already made
   the traumatic decision to abandon the PDP-10, usually for VMS or
   UNIX boxes.  Most of the Mars computers built ended up being
   purchased by CompuServe.

   This tale and the related saga of {Foonly} hold a lesson for hackers:
   if you want to play in the {Real World}, you need to learn Real World

: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 labeled with a source address that is
   clearly not of this earth.  "The domain server is getting lots of
   packets from Mars.  Does that gateway have a martian filter?"

:massage: vt. Vague term used to describe `smooth' transformations of
   a data set into a 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}).
   3. The totality of present-day computer networks.

:maximum Maytag mode: What a {washing machine} or, by extension,
   any hard disk is in when it's being used so heavily that it's
   shaking like an old Maytag with an unbalanced load.  If prolonged
   for any length of time, can lead to disks becoming {walking

:Mbogo, Dr. Fred: /*m-boh'goh, dok'tr fred/ [Stanford] n. The
   archetypal man you don't want to see about a problem, esp. an
   incompetent professional; a shyster.  "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.  Compare {Bloggs Family,
   the}, see also {fred}.

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

:meeces: /mees'*z/ [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 early-1960s cartoon
   character Mr. Jinx: "I hate meeces to *pieces*!" --- ESR]

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

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

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

: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. A {handwave} 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, often refers not
   to behavior that causes the eyes to glaze, but to 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 by 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 that form an
   organized belief system, such as a religion.  This lexicon 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 that 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
   collapses to small reservoir populations.

:memetics: /me-met'iks/ [from {meme}] The study of memes.  As of
   mid-1993, 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 for speculation among hackers, who like to see
   themselves as the architects of the new information ecologies in
   which memes live and replicate.

:memory farts: n. The flatulent sounds that some DOS box BIOSes
   (most notably AMI's) make when checking memory on bootup.

:memory leak: n. An error in a program's dynamic-store allocation
   logic that causes it to fail to reclaim discarded memory, leading
   to eventual collapse due to memory exhaustion.  Also (esp. at
   CMU) called {core leak}.  These problems were severe on older
   machines with small, fixed-size address spaces, and special "leak
   detection" tools were commonly written to root them out.  With the
   advent of virtual memory, it is unfortunately easier to be sloppy
   about wasting a bit of memory (although when you run out of memory
   on a VM machine, it means you've got a *real* leak!).  See
   {aliasing bug}, {fandango on core}, {smash the stack},
   {precedence lossage}, {overrun screw}, {leaky heap},

:memory smash: [XEROX PARC] n. Writing through a pointer that
   doesn't point to what you think it does.  This occasionally reduces
   your machine to a rubble of bits.  Note that this is subtly
   different from (and more general than) related terms such as a
   {memory leak} or {fandango on core} because it doesn't imply
   an allocation error or overrun condition.

:menuitis: /men`yoo-i:'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 banishing "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 and the U.K. 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.,pref. One level of description up.  A
   metasyntactic 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, which is 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}.

   Historical note: although in modern usage shaped by a universe of
   8-bit bytes the meta bit is invariably hex 80 (octal 0200), things
   were different on earlier machines with 36-bit words and 9-bit
   bytes.  The MIT and Stanford keyboards (see {space-cadet
   keyboard}) generated hex 100 (octal 400) from their meta keys.

:metasyntactic variable: n. 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.  The word {foo} is
   the {canonical} example.  To avoid confusion, hackers never
   (well, hardly ever) use `foo' or other words like it as permanent
   names for anything.  In filenames, a common convention is that any
   filename beginning with a metasyntactic-variable name is a
   {scratch} file that may be deleted at any time.

   To some extent, the list of one's preferred metasyntactic variables
   is a cultural signature.  They occur both in series (used for
   related groups of variables or objects) and as singletons.  Here
   are a few common signatures:

     {foo}, {bar}, {baz}, {quux}, quuux, quuuux...:
             MIT/Stanford usage, now found everywhere (thanks largely to early
             versions of this lexicon!).  At MIT (but not at Stanford), {baz}
             dropped out of use for a while in the 1970s and '80s. A common
             recent mutation of this sequence inserts {qux} before
     bazola, ztesch:
             Stanford (from mid-'70s on).
     {foo}, {bar}, thud, grunt:
             This series was popular at CMU.  Other CMU-associated variables
             include {gorp}.
     {foo}, {bar}, fum:
             This series is reported to be common at XEROX PARC.
     {fred}, {barney}:
             See the entry for {fred}.  These tend to be Britishisms.
     {toto}, titi, tata, tutu:
             Standard series of metasyntactic variables among francophones.
     {corge}, {grault}, {flarp}:
             Popular at Rutgers University and among {GOSMACS} hackers.
     zxc, spqr, {wombat}:
             Cambridge University (England).
             Berkeley, GeoWorks, Ingres.  Pronounced /shme/ with a short /e/.
     {foo}, {bar}, zot
             Helsinki University of Technology, Finland.
     blarg, wibble
             New Zealand

   Of all these, only `foo' and `bar' are universal (and {baz}
   nearly so).  The compounds {foobar} and `foobaz' also enjoy
   very wide currency.

   Some jargon terms are also used as metasyntactic names; {barf}
   and {mumble}, for example.  See also {{Commonwealth Hackish}}
   for discussion of numerous metasyntactic variables found in Great
   Britain and the Commonwealth.

:MFTL: /M-F-T-L/ [abbreviation: `My Favorite Toy Language'] 1. adj.
   Describes a talk on a programming language design that is heavy on
   the syntax (with lots of 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 --- in which the subject
   matter is gone into in unnecessary and meticulous detail at the
   sacrifice of any conceptual content.  "Well, it was a typical MFTL
   talk".  2. n. Describes a language about which the developers are
   passionate (often to the point of prosyletic zeal) but no one else
   cares about.  Applied to the language by those outside the
   originating group.  "He cornered me about type resolution in his

   The first great goal in the mind of the designer of an MFTL is
   usually to write a compiler for it, then bootstrap the design away
   from contamination by lesser languages by writing a compiler for it
   in itself.  Thus, the standard put-down question at an MFTL talk is
   "Has it been used for anything besides its own compiler?".  On
   the other hand, a language that *cannot* be used to write
   its own compiler is beneath contempt.  See {break-even point}.

   (On a related note, Doug McIlroy once proposed a test of the
   generality and utility of a language and the operating system under
   which it is compiled: "Is the output of a FORTRAN program
   acceptable as input to the FORTRAN compiler?"  In other words, can
   you write programs that write programs? (See {toolsmith}.)
   Alarming numbers of (language, OS) pairs fail this test,
   particularly when the language is FORTRAN; aficionados are quick to
   point out that {UNIX} (even using FORTRAN) passes it handily.
   That the test could ever be failed is only surprising to those who
   have had the good fortune to have worked only under modern systems
   which lack OS-supported and -imposed "file types".)

:mickey: n. The resolution unit of mouse movement.  It has been
   suggested that the `disney' will become a benchmark unit for
   animation graphics performance.

:mickey mouse program: n. North American equivalent of a {noddy}
   (that is, trivial) program.  Doesn't necessarily have the
   belittling connotations of mainstream slang "Oh, that's just
   mickey mouse stuff!"; sometimes trivial programs can be very

:micro-: pref. 1. Very small; this is the root of its use as a
   quantifier prefix.  2. A quantifier 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 is 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 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.

:MicroDroid: [USENET] n. A Microsoft employee, esp. one who posts
   to various operating-system advocacy newsgroups. MicroDroids post
   follow-ups to any messages critical of Microsoft's operating
   systems, and often end up sounding like visiting Mormon

: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}.

:microfortnight: n. 1/1000000 of the fundamental unit of time in
   the Furlong/Firkin/Fortnight system of measurement; 1.2096 sec.  (A
   furlong is 1/8th of a mile; a firkin is 1/4th of a barrel; the mass
   unit of the system is taken to be a firkin of water).  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.

:microLenat: /mi:`-kroh-len'-*t/ n. The unit of {bogosity},
   written uL; the consensus is that this is the largest unit
   practical for everyday use.  The microLenat, originally invented by
   David Jefferson, was promulgated as an attack against noted
   computer scientist Doug Lenat by a {tenured graduate student} at
   CMU.  Doug had failed the student on an important exam for giving
   only "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 is only one millionth of a Lenat.
   Others have suggested that the unit should be redesignated after
   the grad student, as the microReid.

:microReid: /mi:'kroh-reed/ n. See {bogosity}.

:Microsloth Windows: /mi:'kroh-sloth` win'dohz/ n. Hackerism for
   `Microsoft Windows', a windowing system for the IBM-PC which is
   so limited by bug-for-bug compatibility with {mess-dos} that it
   is agonizingly slow on anything less than a fast 486.  Also just
   called `Windoze', with the implication that you can fall asleepm
   waiting for it to do anything; the latter term is extremely common
   on USENET. Compare {X}, {sun-stools}.

:microtape: /mi:'kroh-tayp/ n. Occasionally used to mean a
   DECtape, as opposed to a {macrotape}.  A DECtape is a small
   reel, about 4 inches in diameter, of magnetic tape about an inch
   wide.  Unlike those for today's {macrotape}s, microtape
   drivers allowed random access to the data, and therefore could be
   used to support file systems and even for swapping (this was
   generally done purely for {hack value}, as they were far too
   slow for practical use).  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}s; another
   version of the story holds that someone discovered a conflict with
   another company's `microtape' trademark.

:middle-endian: adj. Not {big-endian} or {little-endian}.
   Used of perverse byte orders such as 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'*-lamp`sn/ n. A unit of talking speed,
   abbreviated mL.  Most people run about 200 milliLampsons.  The
   eponymous 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/ [abbreviation] 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. Computers, especially large computers, considered
   abstractly as sources of {computron}s.  "This is just a
   workstation; the heavy MIPS are hidden in the basement."  3. The
   corporate name of a particular RISC-chip company; among other
   things, they designed the processor chips used in DEC's 3100
   workstation series.  4. Acronym for `Meaningless Information per
   Second' (a joke, prob. from sense 1).

: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}.  See {miswart}.
: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 that has evolved.  Since it results from a
   deliberate and properly implemented feature, a misfeature is not a
   bug.  Nor is it a simple unforeseen side effect; the term implies
   that the feature in question was carefully planned, but its
   long-term consequences were not accurately or adequately predicted
   (which is quite different from not having thought ahead at all).  A
   misfeature can be a particularly stubborn problem to resolve,
   because fixing it usually involves a substantial philosophical
   change to the structure of the system involved.

   Many misfeatures (especially in user-interface design) arise
   because the designers/implementors mistake their personal tastes
   for laws of nature.  Often a former feature becomes a misfeature
   because trade-offs were made whose parameters subsequently change
   (possibly only in the judgment of the implementors).  "Well, yeah,
   it is 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
   synonym `SysVile' is also encountered.)  See {software bloat},

:missile address: n. See {ICBM address}.

: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 character under the cursor with the one before it 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 "{The Meaning of `Hack'}").  2. n. obs. The
   maximum address space of a machine (see below).  For a 680[234]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 3): 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 Richard Greenblatt.  5. The largest
   available unit of something which is available in discrete
   increments.  Thus, ordering a "moby Coke" at the local fast-food
   joint is not just a request for a large Coke, it's an explicit
   request for the largest size they sell.

   This term entered hackerdom with the Fabritek 256K memory added to
   the MIT AI PDP-6 machine, which was considered unimaginably huge
   when it was installed in the 1960s (at a time when a more typical
   memory size for a timesharing system was 72 kilobytes).  Thus, a
   moby is classically 256K 36-bit words, the size of a PDP-6 or
   PDP-10 moby.  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 6 mobies" meaning that the ratio of physical
   memory to address space is 6, 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 one 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 widely-used 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 segment/offset
   pair (by coincidence, a PDP-10 moby was exactly 1 megabyte of 9-bit

:mockingbird: n. Software that intercepts communications
   (especially login transactions) between users and hosts and
   provides system-like responses to the users while saving their
   responses (especially account IDs and passwords).  A special case
   of {Trojan Horse}.

: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 used *only* 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."  In its
   jargon sense, `mode' is most often attributed to people, though
   it is sometimes applied to programs and inanimate objects. In
   particular, see {hack mode}, {day mode}, {night mode},
   {demo mode}, {fireworks mode}, and {yoyo mode}; also
   {talk mode}.

   One also often hears the verbs `enable' and `disable' used in
   connection with 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,

   In a usage much closer to techspeak, a mode is a special state
   that certain user interfaces must pass into in order to perform
   certain functions.  For example, in order to insert characters into a
   document in the UNIX editor `vi', one must type the "i" key,
   which invokes the "Insert" command.  The effect of this command
   is to put vi into "insert mode", in which typing the "i" key
   has a quite different effect (to wit, it inserts an "i" into the
   document).  One must then hit another special key, "ESC", in
   order to leave "insert mode".  Nowadays, modeful interfaces are
   generally considered {losing} but survive in quite a few
   widely used tools built in less enlightened times.

: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 explicitly 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 the LINC instruction set.

:modulo: /mod'yu-loh/ prep. Except for.  An overgeneralization of
   mathematical terminology; one can consider saying that
   4 equals 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 headache."

:molly-guard: /mol'ee-gard/ [University of Illinois] n. A shield
   to prevent tripping of some {Big Red Switch} by clumsy or
   ignorant hands.  Originally used of the 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: [poss. from the Sixties counterculture
   expression `Mongolian clusterfuck' for a public orgy]
   n. Development by {gang bang}.  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}.

:monkey, scratch: n. See {scratch monkey}.

:monstrosity: 1. n. A ridiculously {elephantine} program or
   system, esp. one that is buggy or only marginally functional.
   2. The quality of being monstrous (see `Overgeneralization' in the
   discussion of jargonification).  See also {baroque}.

:monty: /mon'tee/ [US Geological Survey] n.  A program with a
   ludicrously complex user interface written to perform extremely
   trivial tasks.  An example would be a menu-driven, button clicking,
   pulldown, pop-up windows program for listing directories.  The
   original monty was an infamous weather-reporting program, Monty the
   Amazing Weather Man, written at the USGS.  Monty had a
   widget-packed X-window interface with over 200 buttons; and all
   monty actually *did* was {FTP} files off the network.

:Moof: /moof/ [MAC users] 1. n. A semi-legendary creature, also
   called the `dogcow', 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.  2. adj. Used to flag software that's a hack,
   something untested and on the edge.  On one Apple CD-ROM, certain
   folders such as "Tools & Apps (Moof!)" and "Development
   Platforms (Moof!)", are so marked to indicate that they contain
   software not fully tested or sanctioned by the powers that be.
   When you open these folders you cross the boundary into

: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^((t - 1962)) where t
   is time in years; that is, the amount of information storable on
   a given amount of silicon has roughly doubled every year since the
   technology was invented.  See also {Parkinson's Law of

:moose call: n. See {whalesong}.

: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.  The name is
   from Tolkien's Mines of Moria; compare {elder days},
   {elvish}.  The game is extremely addictive and a major consumer
   of time better used for hacking.

:MOTAS: /moh-tahz/ [USENET: Member Of The Appropriate Sex, after
   {MOTOS} and {MOTSS}] n. A potential or (less often) actual sex
   partner.  See also {SO}.

:MOTOS: /moh-tohs/ [acronym 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 have largely displaced it.

:MOTSS: /mots/ or /M-O-T-S-S/ [from the 1970 U.S. census forms
   via USENET] n. Member Of The Same Sex, esp. one considered as a
   possible sexual partner.  The gay-issues newsgroup on USENET is
   called soc.motss.  See {MOTOS} and {MOTAS}, which derive
   from it.  See also {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 the users 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: [MS-DOS] n. Pixels (usually single) that 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 droppings behind.  The major causes for
   this problem are programs that write to the screen memory
   corresponding to the mouse pointer's current location without
   hiding the mouse pointer first, and mouse drivers that 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:: /M-S-dos/ [MicroSoft Disk Operating System] n. A
   {clone} of {{CP/M}} for the 8088 crufted together in 6 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
   or more 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).  The name further annoys those who know what
   the term {operating system} does (or ought to) connote; DOS is
   more properly a set of relatively simple interrupt services.  Some
   people like to pronounce DOS like "dose", as in "I don't work on
   dose, man!", or to compare it to a dose of brain-damaging drugs
   (a slogan button in wide circulation among hackers exhorts:
   "MS-DOS: Just say No!").  See {mess-dos}, {ill-behaved}.

:mu: /moo/ The correct answer to the classic trick question
   "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?".  Assuming that you
   have no wife or you have never beaten your wife, the answer "yes"
   is wrong because it implies that you used to beat your wife and
   then stopped, but "no" is worse because it suggests that you have
   one and are still beating her.  According to various Discordians
   and Douglas Hofstadter the correct answer is usually "mu", a
   Japanese word alleged to mean "Your question cannot be answered
   because it depends on incorrect assumptions".  Hackers tend to be
   sensitive to logical inadequacies in language, and many have
   adopted this suggestion with enthusiasm.  The word `mu' is
   actually from Chinese, meaning `nothing'; it is used in
   mainstream Japanese in that sense, but native speakers do not
   recognize the Discordian question-denying use.  It almost certainly
   derives from overgeneralization of the answer in the following
   well-known Rinzei Zen teaching riddle:

     A monk asked Joshu, "Does a dog have the Buddha nature?"
     Joshu retorted, "Mu!"

   See also {has the X nature}, {AI Koans}, and Douglas
   Hofstadter's "G"odel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid"
   (pointer in the Bibliography in {Appendix C}).

:MUD: /muhd/ [acronym, Multi-User Dungeon; alt. Multi-User
   Dimension] 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.  The acronym MUD is often lowercased 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 a hack by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw on the
   University of Essex's DEC-10 in the early 1980s; descendants of
   that game still exist today and are sometimes generically called
   BartleMUDs.  There is a widespread myth (repeated,
   unfortunately, by earlier versions of this lexicon) that the name
   MUD was trademarked to the commercial MUD run by Bartle on British
   Telecom (the motto: "You haven't *lived* 'til you've
   *died* on MUD!"); however, this is false --- Richard Bartle
   explicitly placed `MUD' in PD in 1985.  BT was upset at this, as
   they had already printed trademark claims on some maps and posters,
   which were released and created the myth.

   Students on the European academic networks quickly improved on the
   MUD concept, spawning several new MUDs (VAXMUD, AberMUD, LPMUD).
   Many of these had associated bulletin-board systems for social
   interaction.  Because these had an image as `research' they
   often survived administrative hostility to BBSs in general.  This,
   together with the fact that USENET feeds have been spotty and
   difficult to get in the U.K., made the MUDs major foci of hackish
   social interaction there.
   AberMUD and other variants crossed the Atlantic around 1988 and
   quickly gained popularity in the U.S.; 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 toward 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 {bonk/oif}, {FOD}, {link-dead},
   {mudhead}, {talk mode}.

:muddie: n. Syn. {mudhead}.  More common in Great Britain, possibly
   because system administrators there like to mutter "bloody
   muddies" when annoyed at the species.

:mudhead: n. Commonly used to refer to a {MUD} player who eats,
   sleeps, and breathes MUD.  Mudheads have been known to fail their
   degrees, drop out, etc., with the consolation, however, that they
   made wizard level.  When encountered in person, on a MUD, or in a
   chat system, all a mudhead will talk about is three topics: the
   tactic, character, or wizard that is supposedly always unfairly
   stopping him/her from becoming a wizard or beating a favorite MUD;
   why the specific game he/she has experience with is so much better
   than any other; and the MUD he or she is writing or going to write
   because his/her design ideas are so much better than in any
   existing MUD.  See also {wannabee}.

   To the anthropologically literate, this term may recall the
   Zuni/Hopi legend of the mudheads or `koyemshi', mythical
   half-formed children of an unnatural union.  Figures representing
   them act as clowns in Zuni sacred ceremonies.

: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.  Multics was 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} and {GCOS}.

: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 how the subject of discussion
   works, or like "all that crap" when `mumble' is being used as
   an implicit replacement for pejoratives.

:mumble: interj. 1. Said when the correct response is 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 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. [MIT] Expression
   of not-quite-articulated agreement, often used as an informal vote
   of consensus in a meeting: "So, shall we dike out the COBOL
   emulation?"  "Mumble!"  3. Sometimes used as an expression of
   disagreement (distinguished from sense 2 by tone of voice and other
   cues).  "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').  4. Yet another {metasyntactic variable}, like
   {foo}.  5. When used as a question ("Mumble?") means "I
   didn't understand you".  6. 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
   memory, thanks to the card I'm testing for Mumbleco." 7. A
   conversational wild card used to designate something one doesn't
   want to bother spelling out, but which can be {glark}ed from
   context.  Compare {blurgle}.  8. [XEROX PARC] A colloquialism
   used to suggest that further discussion would be fruitless.

: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
   (ca. 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 hacking 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...."  See also {Real World}.

:mung: /muhng/ [in 1960 at MIT, `Mash Until No Good'; sometime
   after that the derivation from the {{recursive acronym}} `Mung
   Until No Good' became standard] vt. 1. To make changes to a file,
   esp. large-scale and irrevocable changes.  See {BLT}.  2. To
   destroy, usually accidentally, occasionally maliciously.  The
   system only mungs things maliciously; this is a consequence of
   {Finagle'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!)

   Like many early hacker terms, this one seems to have originated at
   {TMRC}; it was already in use there in 1958.  Peter Samson
   (compiler of the original TMRC lexicon) thinks it may originally
   have been onomatopoeic for the sound of a relay spring (contact)
   being twanged.  However, it is known that during the World Wars,
   `mung' was army slang for the ersatz creamed chipped beef better
   known as `SOS'.

:munge: /muhnj/ vt. 1. [derogatory] To imperfectly transform
   information.  2. A comprehensive rewrite of a routine, data
   structure or the whole program.

   This term is often confused with {mung} and may derive from it,
   or possibly vice-versa.

: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 is
   usually given in mutant forms 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 is plugged in, then you make the design asymmetrical (see
   also the anecdote under {magic smoke}).

   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 (USAF project MX981).  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,
   changing as they went.  Most of these are variants on "Anything
   that can go wrong, will"; this is sometimes referred to as
   {Finagle's Law}.  The memetic drift apparent in these mutants
   clearly demonstrates Murphy's Law acting on itself!

:music:: n. A common extracurricular interest of hackers (compare
   {{science-fiction fandom}}, {{oriental food}}; see also
   {filk}).  Hackish folklore has long claimed that musical and
   programming abilities are closely related, and there has been at
   least one large-scale statistical study that supports this.
   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, Pat Metheny,
   Scott Joplin, Tangerine Dream, King Sunny Ade, The Pretenders, or
   the 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.  Often used in `mutter an
   {incantation}'.  See also {wizard}.

= N =

:N: /N/ 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."  (The true number of bugs is always
   at least N + 1; see {Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic
   Entomology}.)  2. A variable whose value is inherited from the
   current context.  For example, when a meal is being ordered 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}.

:nadger: /nad'jr/ [Great Britain] v. Of software or hardware (not
   people), to twiddle some object in a hidden manner, generally so
   that it conforms better to some format.  For instance, string
   printing routines on 8-bit processors often take the string text
   from the instruction stream, thus a print call looks like `jsr
   print:"Hello world"'.  The print routine has to `nadger' the
   saved instruction pointer so that the processor doesn't try to
   execute the text as instructions when the subroutine returns.

:nagware: /nag'weir/ [USENET] n. The variety of {shareware}
   that displays a large screen at the beginning or end reminding you
   to register, typically requiring some sort of keystroke to continue
   so that you can't use the software in batch mode.  Compare

: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 trait is completely unrelated to general
   maturity or competence, or even competence at any other specific
   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

:naive user: n. A {luser}.  Tends to imply someone who is
   ignorant mainly owing to inexperience.  When this is applied to
   someone who *has* experience, there is a definite implication
   of stupidity.

:NAK: /nak/ [from the ASCII mnemonic for 0010101] 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: /nan'oh/ [CMU: from `nanosecond'] n. A brief period of
   time.  "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 {jiffy}).

:nano-: [SI: 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'oh-ay`kr/ n. A 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 called a `nanoagent'.

:nanocomputer: /nan'oh-k*m-pyoo'tr/ n. A computer with
   molecular-sized switching elements.  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 * 10^-9,
   or about 1.2 msec.  This unit was used largely by students doing
   undergraduate practicals.  See {microfortnight}, {attoparsec},
   and {micro-}.

:nanotechnology:: /nan'-oh-tek-no`l*-jee/ 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 took place
   in 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.  Nanotechnology has been a hot topic in the
   hacker subculture ever since the term was coined by K. Eric Drexler
   in his book "Engines of Creation", where he predicted that
   nanotechnology could give rise to replicating assemblers,
   permitting an exponential growth of productivity and personal
   wealth.  See also {blue goo}, {gray goo}, {nanobot}.

:nasal demons: n. Recognized shorthand on the USENET group
   comp.std.c for any unexpected behavior of a C compiler on
   encountering an undefined construct.  During a discussion on that
   group in early 1992, a regular remarked "When the compiler
   encounters [a given undefined construct] it is legal for it to make
   demons fly out of your nose" (the implication is that the compiler
   may choose any arbitrarily bizarre way to interpret the code
   without violating the ANSI C standard).  Someone else followed up
   with a reference to "nasal demons", which quickly became

:nastygram: /nas'tee-gram/ 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} or a
   complaint about failure to correct some mail- or news-transmission
   problem.  Compare {shitogram}, {mailbomb}.  3. A status
   report from an unhappy, and probably picky, customer.  "What'd
   Corporate say in today's nastygram?"  4. [deprecated] An error
   reply by mail from a {daemon}; in particular, a {bounce

: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. 1. A clever technique.  2. A brilliant practical
   joke, where neatness is correlated with cleverness, harmlessness,
   and surprise value.  Example: the Caltech Rose Bowl card display
   switch (see "{The Meaning of `Hack'}", appendix A).  See
   also {hack}.

:neats vs. scruffies: n. The label used to refer to one of the
   continuing {holy wars} in AI research.  This conflict tangles
   together two separate issues.  One is the relationship between
   human reasoning and AI; `neats' tend to try to build systems
   that `reason' in some way identifiably similar to the way humans
   report themselves as doing, while `scruffies' profess not to
   care whether an algorithm resembles human reasoning in the least as
   long as it works.  More importantly, neats tend to believe that
   logic is king, while scruffies favor looser, more ad-hoc methods
   driven by empirical knowledge.  To a neat, scruffy methods appear
   promiscuous, successful only by accident, and not productive of
   insights about how intelligence actually works; to a scruffy, neat
   methods appear to be hung up on formalism and irrelevant to the
   hard-to-capture `common sense' of living intelligences.

:neep-neep: /neep neep/ [onomatopoeic, from New York SF fandom]
   n. One who is fascinated by computers.  Less specific than
   {hacker}, as it need not imply more skill than is required to
   boot games on a PC.  The derived noun `neeping' applies
   specifically to the long conversations about computers that tend to
   develop in the corners at most SF-convention parties (the term
   `neepery' is also in wide use).  Fandom has a related proverb to
   the effect that "Hacking is a conversational black hole!".

:neophilia: /nee`oh-fil'-ee-*/ n. The trait of being excited and
   pleased by novelty.  Common among 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
   food}}.  The opposite tendency is `neophobia'.

:net.-: /net dot/ pref. [USENET] Prefix used to describe people and
   events related to USENET.  From the time before the {Great
   Renaming}, when most 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), and
   many similar constructs.  See also {net.police}.

:net.god: /net god/ n. Accolade referring to anyone who satisfies
   some combination of the following conditions: has been visible on
   USENET for more than 5 years, ran one of the original backbone
   sites, moderated an important newsgroup, wrote news software, or
   knows Gene, Mark, Rick, Mel, Henry, Chuq, and Greg personally.  See
   {demigod}.  Net.goddesses such as Rissa or the Slime Sisters
   have (so far) been distinguished more by personality than by

:net.personality: /net per`sn-al'-*-tee/ n. Someone who has made a name
   for him or herself on {USENET}, through either longevity or
   attention-getting posts, but doesn't meet the other requirements of

:net.police: /net-p*-lees'/ 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}.

:NetBOLLIX: [from bollix: to bungle] n. {IBM}'s NetBIOS, an
   extremely {brain-damaged} network protocol that, like {Blue
   Glue}, is used at commercial shops that don't know any better.

:netburp: [IRC] n. When {netlag} gets really bad, and delays
   between servers exceed a certain threshhold, the {IRC} network
   effectively becomes partitioned for a period of time, and large
   numbers of people seem to be signing off at the same time and then
   signing back on again when things get better.  An instance of this
   is called a `netburp' (or, sometimes, {netsplit}).

:netdead: [IRC] n. The state of someone who signs off {IRC},
   perhaps during a {netburp}, and doesn't sign back on until
   later.  In the interim, he is "dead to the net".

:nethack: /net'hak/ [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
   (nethack is probably the most widely distributed of the freeware
   dungeon games).  The earliest versions, written by Jay Fenlason and
   later considerably enhanced by Andries Brouwer, were simply called
   `hack'.  The name changed when maintenance was taken over by a
   group of hackers originally organized by Mike Stephenson; the
   current contact address (as of mid-1993) is

:netiquette: /net'ee-ket/ or /net'i-ket/ [portmanteau from "network
   etiquette"] n. The conventions of politeness recognized on {USENET},
   such as avoidance of cross-posting to inappropriate groups and
   refraining from commercial pluggery outside the biz groups.

:netlag: [IRC, MUD] n. A condition that occurs when the delays in
   the {IRC} network or on a {MUD} become severe enough that
   servers briefly lose and then reestablish contact, causing messages
   to be delivered in bursts, often with delays of up to a minute.
   (Note that this term has nothing to do with mainstream "jet lag",
   a condition which hackers tend not to be much bothered by.)

:netnews: /net'n[y]ooz/ n. 1. The software that makes {USENET}
   run.  2. The content of USENET.  "I read netnews right after my
   mail most mornings."

:netrock: /net'rok/ [IBM] n. A {flame}; used esp. on VNET,
   IBM's internal corporate network.

:netsplit: n. Syn. {netburp}.

:netter: n. 1. Loosely, anyone with a {network address}.  2. More
   specifically, a {USENET} regular.  Most often found in the
   plural.  "If you post *that* in a technical group, you're
   going to be flamed by angry netters for the rest of time!"

: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 signal that one identifies with
   hackerdom (like lodge pins among Masons or tie-dyed T-shirts among
   Grateful Dead fans).  Net addresses are often used in email text as
   a more concise substitute for personal names; indeed, hackers may
   come to know each other quite well by network names without ever
   learning each others' `legal' monikers.  See also {sitename},

:network 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 "Schr"odinger'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 often 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. 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 Murray Hill, New Jersey).  "This compiler bites the bag, but
   what can you expect from a compiler designed in New Jersey?"
   Compare {Berkeley Quality Software}.  See also {UNIX

: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 and
   military slang variant of `new boy'] A USENET neophyte.
   This term surfaced 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'groop worz/ [USENET] n. The 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, or (even more
   frequently) whether an obsolete one should be removed.  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.,

:newline: /n[y]oo'li:n/ n. 1. [techspeak, primarily UNIX] The
   ASCII LF character (0001010), used under {{UNIX}} as a text line
   terminator.  A Bell-Labs-ism rather than a Berkeleyism;
   interestingly (and unusually for UNIX jargon), it is said to have
   originally 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}, {terpri}.

: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
   too 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).

:news: n. See {netnews}.

:newsfroup: // [USENET] n. Silly synonym for {newsgroup},
   originally a typo but now in regular use on USENET's talk.bizarre
   and other lunatic-fringe groups.  Compare {hing}, {grilf},
   and {filk}.

:newsgroup: [USENET] n. One of {USENET}'s huge collection of
   topic groups or {fora}.  Usenet groups can be `unmoderated'
   (anyone can post) or `moderated' (submissions are automatically
   directed to a moderator, who edits or filters and then posts the
   results).  Some newsgroups have parallel {mailing list}s for
   Internet people with no netnews access, with postings to the group
   automatically propagated to the list and vice versa.  Some
   moderated groups (especially those which are actually gatewayed
   Internet mailing lists) are distributed as `digests', with groups
   of postings periodically collected into a single large posting with
   an index.

   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}).

:nick: [IRC] n. Short for nickname.  On {IRC}, every user must
   pick a nick, which is sometimes the same as the user's real name or
   login name, but is often more fanciful.  Compare {handle}.

:nickle: /ni'kl/ [from `nickel', common name for the U.S.
   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 (what is actually happening is that it
   is locked up in what should have been a brief excursion to a higher
   {spl} level).  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 to respond to the
   pseudo-down one, so it is even harder to reach.  This situation
   snowballs very quickly, and soon the entire network of machines is
   frozen --- worst of all, the user can't even abort the file access
   that started the problem!  Many of NFS's problems are excused by
   partisans as being an inevitable result of its statelessness, which
   is held to be a great feature (critics, of course, call it a great
   {misfeature}).  (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.)  See also
   {broadcast storm}.

:NIL: /nil/ No.  Used in reply to a question, particularly one
   asked using the `-P' convention.  Most hackers assume this derives
   simply from LISP terminology for `false' (see also {T}), but
   NIL as a negative reply was well-established among radio hams
   decades before the advent of LISP.  The historical connection
   between early hackerdom and the ham radio world was strong enough
   that this may have been an influence.

:Ninety-Ninety Rule: n. "The first 90% of the code accounts
   for the first 90% of the development time.  The remaining 10% of
   the code accounts for the other 90% of the development time."
   Attributed to Tom Cargill of Bell Labs, and popularized by Jon
   Bentley's September 1985 "Bumper-Sticker Computer Science"
   column in "Communications of the ACM".  It was there called
   the "Rule of Credibility", a name which seems not to have stuck.

:NMI: /N-M-I/ n. Non-Maskable Interrupt.  An IRQ 7 on the PDP-11
   or 680[01234]0; the NMI line on an 80[1234]86.  In contrast with a
   {priority interrupt} (which might be ignored, although that is
   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."  Hot-and-sour soup (see
   {great-wall}) that is insufficiently either is `no-op soup';
   so is wonton soup if everybody else is having hot-and-sour.

:noddy: /nod'ee/ [UK: from the children's books] adj.
   1. Small and un-useful, but demonstrating a point.  Noddy programs
   are often written by people 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 dump all the first fields."  In North
   America this might be called a {mickey mouse program}.  See
   {toy program}.

:NOMEX underwear: /noh'meks uhn'-der-weir/ [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.

:Nominal Semidestructor: n. Soundalike slang for `National
   Semiconductor', found among other places in the 4.3BSD networking
   sources.  During the late 1970s to mid-1980s this company marketed
   a series of microprocessors including the NS16000 and NS32000 and
   several variants.  At one point early in the great microprocessor
   race, the specs on these chips made them look like serious
   competition for the rising Intel 80x86 and Motorola 680x0 series.
   Unfortunately, the actual parts were notoriously flaky and never
   implemented the full instruction set promised in their literature,
   apparently because the company couldn't get any of the mask
   steppings to work as designed.  They eventually sank without trace,
   joining the Zilog Z8000 and a few even more obscure also-rans in
   the graveyard of forgotten microprocessors.  Compare {HP-SUX},
   {AIDX}, {buglix}, {Macintrash}, {Telerat}, {Open
   DeathTrap}, {ScumOS}, {sun-stools}.

: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; unstable.  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},

:not ready for prime time: adj. Usable, but only just so; not very
   robust; for internal use only.  Said of a program or device.  Often
   connotes that the thing will be made more solid {Real Soon
   Now}.  This term comes from the ensemble name of the original cast
   of "Saturday Night Live", the "Not Ready for Prime Time
   Players".  It has extra flavor for hackers because of the special
   (though now semi-obsolescent) meaning of {prime time}.  Compare

:notwork: /not'werk/ n. A network, when it is acting {flaky}
   or is {down}.  Compare {nyetwork}.  Said at IBM to have
   originally referred to a particular period of flakiness on IBM's
   VNET corporate network ca. 1988; but there are independent reports
   of the term from elsewhere.

:NP-: /N-P/ 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.)  "Coding a BitBlt implementation 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
   Turing machine in an amount of time that is a polynomial function
   of the size of the input; a solution for one NP-complete problem
   would solve all the others.  Note, however, that the NP- prefix is,
   from a complexity theorist's point of view, the wrong part of
   `NP-complete' to connote extreme difficulty; it is the completeness,
   not the NP-ness, that puts any problem it describes in the
   `hard' category.

:nroff:: /N'rof/ [UNIX, from "new roff" (see {{troff}})] n. A
   companion program to the UNIX typesetter {{troff}}, accepting
   identical input but preparing output for terminals and line

:NSA line eater: n. The National Security Agency trawling program
   sometimes assumed to be reading the net 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 `KGB', `Uzi', `nuclear materials',
   `Palestine', `cocaine', and `assassination' in their {sig
   block}s in a (probably futile) 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 is 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 (1993), and almost certainly won't in this millennium,
   either.  The peak of silliness came with a letter to an alternative
   paper in New Haven, Connecticut, 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.

:nude: adj. Said of machines delivered without an operating system
   (compare {bare metal}).  "We ordered 50 systems, but they all
   arrived nude, so we had to spend a an extra weekend with the
   installation tapes."  This usage is a recent innovation reflecting
   the fact that most PC clones are now delivered with DOS or
   Microsoft Windows pre-installed at the factory.  Other kinds of
   hardware are still normally delivered without OS, so this term is
   particular to PC support groups.

:nuke: /n[y]ook/ 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.

: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 hackerdom and even in mainstream slang, but
   has 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'bl*m/ n. 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 techspeak, 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 /ni:'bl/.

:nyetwork: /nyet'werk/ [from Russian `nyet' = no] n. A network,
   when it is acting {flaky} or is {down}.  Compare {notwork}.

= O =

:Ob-: /ob/ pref. Obligatory.  A piece of {netiquette}
   acknowledging that the author has been straying from the
   newsgroup's charter topic.  For example, if a posting in is
   a response to a part of someone else's posting that 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 considered a sign of great {winnitude} when
   one's Obs are more interesting than other people's whole postings.

:Obfuscated C Contest: (in full, the `International Obfuscated C
   Code Contest', or IOCCC) n. An 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.  C's terse syntax and macro-preprocessor facilities give
   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;
   Note that this program works by computing its own area.  For more
   digits, write a bigger program.  See also {hello, world}.

:obi-wan error: /oh'bee-won` er'*r/ [RPI, from `off-by-one' and
   the Obi-Wan Kenobi character in "Star Wars"] n. A loop of
   some sort in which the index is off by 1.  Common when the index
   should have started from 0 but instead started from 1.  A kind of
   {off-by-one error}.  See also {zeroth}.

:Objectionable-C: n. Hackish take on "Objective-C", the name of
   an object-oriented dialect of C in competition with the
   better-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 something 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,
   0100000; by an odd coincidence, {hex} 40 (01000000) 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.  "Let's take this
   discussion offline."  Specifically used on {USENET} to suggest
   that a discussion be moved off a public newsgroup to email.

:ogg: /og/ [CMU] v. 1. In the multi-player space combat game
   Netrek, to execute kamikaze attacks against enemy ships which are
   carrying armies or occupying strategic positions.  Named during a
   game in which one of the players repeatedly used the tactic while
   playing Orion ship G, showing up in the player list as "Og".
   This trick has been roundly denounced by those who would return to
   the good old days when the tactic of dogfighting was dominant, but
   as Sun Tzu wrote, "What is of supreme importance in war is to
   attack the enemy's strategy."  However, the traditional answer to
   the newbie question "What does ogg mean?" is just "Pick up some
   armies and I'll show you."  2. In other games, to forcefully
   attack an opponent with the expectation that the resources expended
   will be renewed faster than the opponent will be able to regain his
   previous advantage.  Taken more seriously as a tactic since it has
   gained a simple name.  3. To do anything forcefully, possibly
   without consideration of the drain on future resources.  "I guess
   I'd better go ogg the problem set that's due tomorrow."  "Whoops!
   I looked down at the map for a sec and almost ogged that oncoming

: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; often appears in {sig block}s attached to
   Jargon File contributions of great archeological significance.
   This is a term of insult in the second or third person but one of
   pride in first person.

:Old Testament: [C programmers] n. The first edition of {K&R}, the
   sacred text describing {Classic C}.

:one-banana problem: n. At mainframe shops, where the computers
   have operators for routine administrivia, the programmers and
   hardware people tend to look down on the operators and claim that a
   trained monkey could do their job.  It is frequently observed that
   the incentives that would be offered said monkeys can be used as a
   scale to describe the difficulty of a task.  A one-banana problem
   is simple; hence, "It's only a one-banana job at the most; what's
   taking them so long?"

   At IBM, folklore divides the world into one-, two-, and
   three-banana problems.  Other cultures have different hierarchies
   and may divide them more finely; at ICL, for example, five grapes
   (a bunch) equals a banana.  Their upper limit for the in-house
   {sysape}s is said to be two bananas and three grapes (another
   source claims it's three bananas and one grape, but observes
   "However, this is subject to local variations, cosmic rays and
   ISO").  At a complication level any higher than that, one asks the
   manufacturers to send someone around to check things.

   See also {Infinite-Monkey Theorem}.
: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. A game popular among hackers who code in the
   language APL (see {write-only language} and {line noise}).
   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 and is now popular among
   {Perl} aficionados.

   Ken Iverson, the inventor of APL, has been credited with a
   one-liner that, given a number N, produces a list of the
   prime numbers from 1 to N inclusive.  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 the Dr. Seuss title "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 is 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.

   Some, however, insist that the notion of an ooblick *recipe*
   is far too mechanical, and that it is best to add the water in
   small increments so that the various mixed states the cornstarch
   goes through as it *becomes* ooblick can be grokked in
   fullness by many hands.  For optional ingredients of this
   experience, see the "{Ceremonial Chemicals}" section of
   {Appendix B}.

:op: /op/ n. 1. In England and Ireland, common verbal
   abbreviation for `operator', as in system operator.  Less common in
   the U.S., where {sysop} seems to be preferred.  2. [IRC] Someone
   who is endowed with privileges on {IRC}, not limited to a
   particular channel.  These are generally people who are in charge
   of the IRC server at their particular site.  Sometimes used
   interchangeably with {CHOP}.  Compare {sysop}.

: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 DeathTrap: n. Abusive hackerism for the Santa Cruz
   Operation's `Open DeskTop' product, a Motif-based graphical
   interface over their UNIX.  The funniest part is that this was
   coined by SCO's own developers....  Compare {AIDX},
   {Macintrash} {Nominal Semidestructor}, {ScumOS},
   {sun-stools}, {HP-SUX}.

: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 on the technical cultures
   that grow 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

:optical diff: n. See {vdiff}.

:optical grep: n. See {vgrep}.

:optimism: n. What a programmer is full of after fixing
   the last bug and just before actually discovering the *next*
   last bug.  Fred Brooks's book "The Mythical Man-Month" (See
   "Brooks's Law") contains the following paragraph that describes
   this extremely well:

     All programmers are optimists.  Perhaps this
     modern sorcery especially attracts those who believe in happy
     endings and fairy god-mothers.  Perhaps the hundreds of nitty
     frustrations drive away all but those who habitually focus on the
     end goal.  Perhaps it is merely that computers are young,
     programmers are younger, and the young are always optimists.  But
     however the selection process works, the result is indisputable:
     "This time it will surely run," or "I just found the last bug.".

   See also {Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic Entomology}.

:Orange Book: n. The U.S. Government's standards document
   "Trusted Computer System Evaluation Criteria, DOD standard
   5200.28-STD, December, 1985" which characterize secure computing
   architectures and defines levels A1 (most secure) through D
   (least).  Stock UNIXes are roughly C1, and can be upgraded to
   about C2 without excessive pain.  See also {{crayola books}},
   {{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 that 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 three times out of four.
   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}.

:orphaned i-node: /or'f*nd i:'nohd/ [UNIX] n. 1. [techspeak] A
   file that retains storage but no longer appears in the directories
   of a filesystem.  2. By extension, a pejorative for any person no
   longer serving a useful function within some organization, esp.
   {lion food} without subordinates.

: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 that, 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: /O-S/ 1. [{Operating System}] n. An abbreviation heavily
   used in email, occasionally in speech.  2. n.,obs. On ITS, an
   output spy.  See "{OS and JEDGAR}" (in {Appendix

:OS/2: /O S 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.  Often called `Half-an-OS'.
   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 3 years after introduction you could still count the
   major {app}s shipping for it on the fingers of two hands --- in
   unary.  The 2.x versions are said to have improved somewhat, and
   informed hackers now rate them superior to Microsoft Windows (an
   endorsement which, however, could easily be construed as damning
   with faint praise).  See {monstrosity}, {cretinous},
   {second-system effect}.

:out-of-band: [from telecommunications and network theory] adj.
   1. 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 a nonnegative integral value, but indicate failure
   with an out-of-band return value of -1.  Compare {hidden
   flag}, {green bytes}, {fence}.  2. Also sometimes used to
   describe what communications people call `shift characters',
   such as the ESC that leads control sequences for many terminals, or
   the level shift indicators in the old 5-bit Baudot codes.  3. In
   personal communication, using methods other than email, such as
   telephones or {snail-mail}.

:overflow bit: n. 1. [techspeak] A {flag} on some processors
   indicating an attempt to calculate a result too large for a
   register to hold.  2. More generally, an indication of any kind of
   capacity overload condition.  "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".

:overflow pdl: [MIT] n. The place where you put things when your
   {pdl} is full.  If you don't have one and too many things get
   pushed, you forget something.  The overflow pdl for a person's
   memory might be a memo pad.  This usage inspired the following

     Hey, diddle, diddle
     The overflow pdl
        To get a little more stack;
     If that's not enough
     Then you lose it all,
        And have to pop all the way back.
                                    --The Great Quux

   The term {pdl} seems to be primarily an MITism; outside MIT this
   term is replaced by `overflow {stack}'.

: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 a {silo} can hold only two
   characters and the machine takes longer than 2 msec 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 3 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!"  Compare {firehose
   syndrome}.  3. More loosely, may refer to a {buffer overflow}
   not necessarily related to processing time (as in {overrun

:overrun screw: [C programming] n. A variety of {fandango on
   core} produced by scribbling past the end of an array (C
   implementations typically have no checks for this error).  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}, {memory
   smash}, {aliasing bug}, {precedence lossage}, {fandango on
   core}, {secondary damage}.

= P =

:P-mail: n. Physical mail, as opposed to {email}.  Synonymous
   with {snail-mail}.

:P.O.D.: /P-O-D/ 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 USG UNIX).  Note that this is different
   from an {iron box} because it is overt and not aimed at
   enforcing security so much as protecting others (and the luser)
   from the consequences of the luser's boundless naivet'e (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: "Eric pages in, {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 sometimes include a "Paper-Net:" header just
   before the sender's postal address; common variants of this are
   "Papernet" and "P-Net".  Note that the standard {netiquette}
   guidelines discourage this practice as a waste of bandwidth, since
   netters are quite unlikely to casually use postal addresses.
   Compare {voice-net}, {snail-mail}, {P-mail}.

:param: /p*-ram'/ n. Shorthand for `parameter'.  See also
   {parm}; compare {arg}, {var}.


:parent message: n. What a {followup} follows up.

:parity errors: pl.n. 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.  Parity errors can also afflict mass storage and
   serial communication lines; this is more serious because not always

: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 10 years that the memory usage of evolving systems tends to
   double roughly once every 18 months.  Fortunately, memory density
   available for constant dollars also tends to double about once
   every 12 months (see {Moore's Law}); unfortunately, the laws of
   physics guarantee that the latter cannot continue indefinitely.

: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}.

:parse: [from linguistic terminology] vt. 1. To determine the
   syntactic structure of a sentence or other utterance (close to the
   standard English meaning).  "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.  "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

: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 probably 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", which was turned down by the
   technical journals but circulated widely via photocopies.  It was
   eventually published in "Comparing and Assessing Programming
   Languages", edited by Alan Feuer and Narain Gehani (Prentice-Hall,
   1984).  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, Kernighan 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 others.

     I feel that it is a mistake to use Pascal for anything much beyond
     its original target.  In its pure form, Pascal is a toy language,
     suitable for teaching but not for real programming.

   Pascal has since been almost entirely displaced (by {C}) from the
   niches it had acquired in serious applications and systems
   programming, but retains some popularity as a hobbyist language in
   the MS-DOS and Macintosh worlds.

:pastie: /pay'stee/ n. An adhesive-backed label designed to be
   attached to a key on a keyboard to indicate some non-standard
   character which can be accessed through that key.  Pasties are
   likely to be used in APL environments, where almost every key is
   associated with a special character.  A pastie on the R key, for
   example, might remind the user that it is used to generate the rho
   character.  The term properly refers to nipple-concealing devices
   formerly worn by strippers in concession to indecent-exposure
   laws; compare {tits on a keyboard}.

: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.  Distinguished from a
   {diff} or {mod} by the fact that a patch is generated by more
   primitive means than the rest of the program; the classical
   examples are instructions modified by using the front panel
   switches, and changes made directly to the binary executable of a
   program originally written in an {HLL}.  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 (patches were
   said to "grow scar tissue").  The result was often a convoluted
   {patch space} and headaches galore.  5. [UNIX] the
   `patch(1)' program, written by Larry Wall, which automatically
   applies a patch (sense 3) to a set of source code.

   There is a classic story of a {tiger team} penetrating a secure
   military computer that illustrates the danger inherent in binary
   patches (or, indeed, any patches that you can't --- or don't ---
   inspect and examine before installing).  They couldn't find any
   {trap door}s or any 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 patch space is modified to
   contain new code, and the superseded code is patched to contain a
   jump or call to the patch space).  The widening use of HLLs has
   made this term rare; it is now primarily historical outside IBM
   shops.  See {patch} (sense 4), {zap} (sense 4), {hook}.

: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 and 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 that
   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.  3. 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 may 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, since they will happen so infrequently
   (if at all) that it doesn't seem worth going to the extra trouble
   to handle that case (see sense 1).

:payware: /pay'weir/ n. Commercial software.  Oppose {shareware}
   or {freeware}.

:PBD: /P-B-D/ [abbrev. of `Programmer Brain Damage'] n. Applied
   to bug reports revealing places where the program was obviously
   broken by an incompetent or short-sighted programmer.  Compare
   {UBD}; see also {brain-damaged}.
:PC-ism: /P-C-izm/ n. A piece of code or coding technique that
   takes advantage of the unprotected single-tasking environment in
   IBM PCs and the like, e.g., by busy-waiting on a hardware register,
   direct diddling of screen memory, or using hard timing loops.
   Compare {ill-behaved}, {vaxism}, {unixism}.  Also,
   `PC-ware' n., a program full of PC-isms on a machine with a more
   capable operating system.  Pejorative.

:PD: /P-D/ 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: /P-D-L/, /pid'l/, /p*d'l/ or /puhd'l/ 1. n. `Program
   Design Language'.  Any of a large class of formal and profoundly
   useless pseudo-languages in which {management} forces one to
   design programs.  Too often, management expects PDL descriptions to
   be maintained in parallel with the code, imposing massive overhead
   to little or no benefit.  See also {{flowchart}}.  2. v. To design
   using a program design language.  "I've been pdling so long my
   eyes won't focus beyond 2 feet."  3. n. `Page Description
   Language'.  Refers to any language which is used to control a
   graphics device, usually a laserprinter.  The most common example
   is, of course, Adobe's {{PostScript}} language, but there are many
   others, such as Xerox InterPress, etc.

:pdl: /pid'l/ or /puhd'l/ [abbreviation for `Push Down List'] n.
   1. In ITS days, the preferred MITism for {stack}.  See
   {overflow pdl}.  2. Dave Lebling, one of the co-authors of
   {Zork}; (his {network address} on the ITS machines was at one
   time pdl@dms).  3. Rarely, any sense of {PDL}, as these are not
   invariably capitalized.

:PDP-10: [Programmed Data Processor model 10] n. The machine that
   made timesharing real.  It looms large in hacker folklore because
   of its 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.  The 10
   was eventually eclipsed by the VAX machines (descendants of the
   PDP-11) when DEC recognized that the 10 and VAX product lines were
   competing with each other and decided to concentrate its software
   development effort on the more profitable VAX.  The machine was
   finally dropped from DEC's line in 1983, following the failure of
   the Jupiter Project at DEC to build a viable new model.  (Some
   attempts by other companies to market clones came to nothing; see
   {Foonly} and {Mars}.)  This event spelled the doom of
   {{ITS}} and the technical cultures that had spawned the original
   Jargon File, but by mid-1991 it had become something of a badge of
   honorable old-timerhood among hackers to have cut one's teeth on a
   PDP-10.  See {{TOPS-10}}, {{ITS}}, {AOS}, {BLT}, {DDT},
   {DPB}, {EXCH}, {HAKMEM}, {JFCL}, {LDB}, {pop},
   {push}, {Appendix A}.

:PDP-20: n. The most famous computer that never was.  {PDP-10}
   computers running the {{TOPS-10}} operating system were labeled
   `DECsystem-10' as a way of differentiating them from the PDP-11.
   Later on, those systems running {TOPS-20} were labeled
   `DECSYSTEM-20' (the block capitals being the result of a lawsuit
   brought against DEC by Singer, which once made a computer called
   `system-10'), but contrary to popular lore there was never a
   `PDP-20'; the only difference between a 10 and a 20 was the
   operating system and the color of the paint.  Most (but not all)
   machines sold to run TOPS-10 were painted `Basil Blue', whereas
   most TOPS-20 machines were painted `Chinese Red' (often mistakenly
   called orange).

: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} (peek reads memory, poke modifies it).  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}).

   Since a {real operating system} provides useful, higher-level
   services for the tasks commonly performed with peeks and pokes on
   micros, and real languages tend not to encourage low-level memory
   groveling, a question like "How do I do a peek in C?" is
   diagnostic of the {newbie}.  (Of course, OS kernels often have to
   do exactly this; a real C hacker would unhesitatingly, if
   unportably, assign an absolute address to a pointer variable and
   indirect through it.)

: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.  All 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 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' es'/ [From the code 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. Syn. {chad} (sense 1).  The term `perfory'
   /per'f*-ree/ is also heard.  The term {perf} may also refer to
   the perforations themselves, rather than the chad they produce when

: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 at solving {toy
   problem}s).  "Of course my program is correct, there is no need to
   test it."  "Yes, I can see there may be a problem here, but
   *I'll* never type `rm -r /' while in {root mode}."

:Perl: /perl/ [Practical Extraction and Report Language, a.k.a
   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

:person of no account: [University of California at Santa Cruz] n.
   Used when referring to a person with no {network address}, frequently
   to forestall confusion.  Most often as part of an introduction:
   "This is Bill, a person of no account, but he used to be".  Compare {return from the dead}.

:pessimal: /pes'im-l/ [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'*-mi:z`ing k*m-pi:l'r/ [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*/ [SI] 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, put the shifted alphabet at positions 193--218, and added
   graphics characters.

:phage: n. A program that modifies other programs or databases in
   unauthorized ways; esp. one that propagates a {virus} or
   {Trojan horse}.  See also {worm}, {mockingbird}.  The
   analogy, of course, is with phage viruses in biology.

:phase: 1. n. The offset of one's waking-sleeping schedule with
   respect to the standard 24-hour cycle; 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 6
   hours per day on a regular basis.  "What's your phase?"  "I've
   been getting in about 8 P.M. 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
   is *shortening* your day or night that is really hard (see
   {wrap around}).  The `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 traveling.

: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."  See also

   True story: Once upon a time there was a bug that really did depend
   on the phase of the moon.  There was 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 of 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.

:phase-wrapping: [MIT] n. Syn. {wrap around}, sense 2.

:phreaking: /freek'ing/ [from `phone phreak'] n. 1. The art and
   science of cracking the phone network (so as, for example, to make
   free long-distance calls).  2. By extension, security-cracking in
   any other context (especially, but not exclusively, on
   communications networks) (see {cracking}).

   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 OK, 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 through such media as
   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 such as 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-: [SI: a quantifier
   meaning * 10^-12]
   pref. Smaller than {nano-}; used in the same rather loose
   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: [from the TCP/IP acronym `Packet INternet Groper', 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 alertness of
   another (the UNIX command `ping(8)' can be used to do this
   manually).  Occasionally used as a phone greeting.  See {ACK},
   also {ENQ}.  2. vt. To verify the presence of.  3. vt. To get
   the attention of.  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 jargon-friends."  5. n. A quantum packet of happiness.
   People who are very happy tend to exude pings; furthermore, one can
   intentionally create pings and aim them at a needy party (e.g., a
   depressed person).  This sense of ping may appear as an
   exclamation; "Ping!" (I'm happy; I am emitting a quantum of
   happiness; I have been struck by a quantum of happiness).  The form
   "pingfulness", which is used to describe people who exude pings,
   also occurs.  (In the standard abuse of language, "pingfulness"
   can also be used as an exclamation, in which case it's a much
   stronger exclamation than just "ping"!).  Oppose {blargh}.

   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(8)', 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, TOPS-10, 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'; this played on
   the Nahuatl word `atlatl' for a spear-thrower, with connotations
   of utility and primitivity that were no doubt quite intentional).
   See also {BLT}, {dd}, {cat}.

: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.

   Two 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}.

:plaid screen: [XEROX PARC] n. A `special effect' that occurs
   when certain kinds of {memory smash}es overwrite the control
   blocks or image memory of a bit-mapped display.  The term "salt and
   pepper" may refer to a different pattern of similar origin.
   Though the term as coined at PARC refers to the result of an error,
   some of the {X} demos induce plaid-screen effects deliberately
   as a {display hack}.

:plain-ASCII: /playn-as'kee/ Syn. {flat-ASCII}.

:plan file: [UNIX] n. On systems that support {finger}, the
   `.plan' file in a user's home directory is displayed when the user
   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 also
   {Hacking X for Y}.

   A recent innovation in plan files has been the introduction of
   "scrolling plan files" which are one-dimensional animations made
   using only the printable ASCII character set, carriage return and
   line feed, avoiding terminal specific escape sequences, since the
   {finger} command will (for security reasons; see
   {letterbomb}) not pass the escape character.

   Scrolling .plan files have become art forms in miniature, and some
   sites have started competitions to find who can create the longest
   running, funniest, and most original animations.  Various animation
   characters include:

     Andalusian Video Snail:

   and a compiler (ASP) is available on USENET for producing them.
   See also {twirling baton}.

: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 that same vault --- this
   replaced an earlier definition as 10^(-7) times the distance
   between the North Pole and the Equator along a meridian through
   Paris; unfortunately, this had been based on an inexact value of
   the circumference of the Earth.  From 1960 to 1984 it was defined
   to be 1650763.73 wavelengths of the orange-red line of krypton-86
   propagating in a vacuum.  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 {golden}.
: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't*/ [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 when trying 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.
   Someone going into `plokta mode' usually places both hands flat
   on the keyboard and mashes them down, hoping for some useful

   A slightly more directed form of plokta can often be seen in mail
   messages or USENET articles from new users --- the text might end


   as the user vainly tries to find the right exit sequence, with the
   incorrect tries piling up at the end of the message....

:plonk: [USENET: possibly influenced by British slang `plonk' for
   cheap booze, or `plonker' for someone behaving stupidly] The sound
   a {newbie} makes as he falls to the bottom of a {kill file}.
   Used almost exclusively in the {newsgroup} talk.bizarre,
   this term (usually written "*plonk*") is a form of public

:plugh: /ploogh/ [from the {ADVENT} game] v. See {xyzzy}.

:plumbing: [UNIX] n. Term used for {shell} code, so called
   because of the prevalence of `pipelines' that feed the output of
   one program to the input of another.  Under UNIX, user utilities
   can often be implemented or at least prototyped by a suitable
   collection of pipelines and temp-file grinding encapsulated in a
   shell script; this is much less effort than writing C every time,
   and the capability is considered one of UNIX's major winning
   features.  A few other OSs such as IBM's VM/CMS support similar
   facilities.  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."  See also {tee}.

:PM: /P-M/ 1. v. (from `preventive maintenance') To bring down
   a machine for inspection or test purposes.  See {provocative
   maintenance}; see also {scratch monkey}.  2. n. Abbrev. for
   `Presentation Manager', an {elephantine} OS/2 graphical user

:pnambic: /p*-nam'bik/ [Acronym from the scene in the film
   version of "The Wizard of Oz" in which the true nature of the
   wizard is first discovered: "Pay no attention to the man behind
   the curtain."]  1. A stage of development of a process or function
   that, owing to incomplete implementation or to the complexity of
   the system, requires human interaction to simulate or replace some
   or all of the actions, inputs, or outputs of the process or
   function.  2. Of or pertaining to a process or function whose
   apparent operations are wholly or partially falsified.
   3. Requiring {prestidigitization}.

   The ultimate pnambic product was "Dan Bricklin's Demo", a program
   which supported flashy user-interface design prototyping.  There is
   a related maxim among hackers: "Any sufficiently advanced
   technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo."  See
   {magic}, sense 1, for illumination of this point.

:pod: [allegedly from abbreviation 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 it.  Not
   to be confused with {P.O.D.}.

:point-and-drool interface: n. Parody of the techspeak term
   `point-and-shoot interface', describing a windows, icons, and
   mouse-based interface such as is found on the Macintosh.  The
   implication, of course, is that such an interface is only suitable
   for idiots.  See {for the rest of us}, {WIMP environment},
   {Macintrash}, {drool-proof paper}.  Also `point-and-grunt

: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: "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 or her
   time at the physical layout level (which requires drawing
   *lots* of multi-colored polygons).  Also `rectangle

:POM: /P-O-M/ n. Common abbreviation for {phase of the moon}.  Usage:
   usually in the phrase `POM-dependent', which means {flaky}.

:pop: /pop/ [from the operation that removes the top of a stack,
   and the fact that procedure return addresses are usually saved on
   the stack] (also capitalized `POP') 1. vt. To remove something from
   a {stack} or {pdl}.  If a person says he/she has popped
   something from his stack, that means he/she has finally finished
   working on it and can now remove it from the list of things hanging
   overhead.  2. When a discussion gets to a level of detail so deep
   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'J/ [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}.

: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

:postcardware: n. {Shareware} that borders on {freeware}, in
   that the author requests only that satisfied users send a postcard
   of their home town or something.  (This practice, silly as it might
   seem, serves to remind users that they are otherwise getting
   something for nothing, and may also be psychologically related to
   real estate `sales' in which $1 changes hands just to keep the
   transaction from being a gift.)

:posting: n. Noun corresp. to v. {post} (but note that
   {post} can be nouned).  Distinguished from a `letter' or ordinary
   {email} message by the fact that it is broadcast rather than
   point-to-point.  It is not clear 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 is 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}.  The Internet standard for electronic mail
   ({RFC}-822) requires each machine to have a `postmaster' address;
   usually it is aliased to this person.

:PostScript:: n. A Page Description Language ({PDL}), based on
   work originally done by John Gaffney at Evans and Sutherland in
   1976, evolving through `JaM' (`John and Martin', Martin Newell) at
   {XEROX PARC}, and finally implemented in its current form by
   John Warnock et al. after he and Chuck Geschke founded Adobe
   Systems Incorporated in 1982.  PostScript gets its leverage by
   using a full programming language, rather than a series of
   low-level escape sequences, to describe an image to be printed on a
   laser printer or other output device (in this it parallels
   {EMACS}, which exploited a similar insight about editing
   tasks).  It is also noteworthy for implementing on-the fly
   rasterization, from Bezier curve descriptions, of high-quality
   fonts at low (e.g.  300 dpi) resolution (it was formerly believed
   that hand-tuned bitmap fonts were required for this task).  Hackers
   consider PostScript to be among the most elegant hacks of all time,
   and the combination of technical merits and widespread availability
   has made PostScript the language of choice for graphical

: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} (sense 4), and {boot}, and
   see the AI Koan in "{A Selection of AI Koans}" (in
   {Appendix A}) about Tom Knight and the novice.

:power hit: n. A spike or drop-out in the electricity supplying
   your machine; a power {glitch}.  These can cause crashes and
   even permanent damage to your machine(s).

:PPN: /P-P-N/, /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

: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},
   {memory smash}, {smash the stack}, {fandango on core},
   {overrun screw}.

:prepend: /pree`pend'/ [by analogy with `append'] vt. To
   prefix.  As with `append' (but not `prefix' or `suffix' as a
   verb), the direct object is always the thing being added and not
   the original word (or character string, or whatever).  "If you
   prepend a semicolon to the line, the translation routine will pass
   it through unaltered."

:prestidigitization: /pres`t*-di`j*-ti:-zay'sh*n/ n. 1. The act
   of putting something into digital notation via sleight of hand.
   2. Data entry through legerdemain.

:pretty pictures: n. [scientific computation] The next step up from
   {numbers}.  Interesting graphical output from a program that 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 1) program code, and most esp. for LISP code.
   2. To format in some particularly slick and nontrivial way.

:pretzel key: [Mac users] n. See {feature key}.

:prime time: [from TV programming] n. Normal high-usage hours on a
   timesharing system; the day shift.  Avoidance of prime time was
   traditionally given as a major reason for {night mode} hacking.
   The rise of the personal workstation has rendered this term, along
   with timesharing itself, almost obsolete.  The hackish tendency to
   late-night {hacking run}s has changed not a bit.

:printing discussion: [XEROX PARC] n. A protracted, low-level,
   time-consuming, generally pointless discussion of something only
   peripherally interesting to all.

: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: 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 (see also {dot
   file}, {rc file}).  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 report at granularities other than per-routine, but the idea
   is similar.

:proglet: /prog'let/ [UK] n. A short extempore program
   written to meet an immediate, transient need.  Often written in
   BASIC, rarely more than a dozen lines long, and containing 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 (this amount varies significantly
   according to one's skill and the language one is using).  Compare
   {toy program}, {noddy}, {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. The art of debugging a blank sheet of paper (or,
   in these days of on-line editing, the art of debugging an empty
   file).  2. A pastime similar to banging one's head against a
   wall, but with fewer opportunities for reward.  3. The most fun
   you can have with your clothes on (although clothes are not

:programming fluid: n. 1. Coffee.  2. Cola.  3. Any caffeinacious
   stimulant.  Many hackers consider these essential for those
   all-night hacking runs.  See {unleaded}, {wirewater}.

: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).

:propeller key: [Mac users] n. See {feature key}.

:proprietary: adj. 1. In {marketroid}-speak, superior; implies a
   product imbued with exclusive magic by the unmatched brilliance of
   the company's own 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 that puts the
   customer at the mercy of a vendor able to gouge freely on service
   and upgrade charges after the initial sale has locked the customer

:protocol: n. As used by hackers, this never refers to niceties
   about the proper form for addressing letters to the Papal Nuncio or
   the order in which one should use the forks in a Russian-style
   place setting; hackers don't care about such things.  It is used
   instead to describe any set of rules 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 is some common message format and an 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 ensure that the system remains in a usable
   state.  So called because it is all too often performed by a
   {field servoid} who doesn't know what he is doing; such
   `maintenance' often *induces* problems, or otherwise
   results in the machine's remaining in an *un*usable state for
   an indeterminate amount of time.  See also {scratch monkey}.

:prowler: [UNIX] n. A {daemon} that is run periodically (typically
   once a week) to seek out and erase {core} files, 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},

:pseudo: /soo'doh/ [USENET: truncation of `pseudonym'] n. 1. An
   electronic-mail or {USENET} persona adopted by a human for
   amusement value or as a means of avoiding negative repercussions of
   one's 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 yet 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; it was based on large samples of their back postings
   (compare {Dissociated Press}).  A significant number of people
   were fooled by the forgeries, and the debate over their
   authenticity was settled only when the perpetrator came forward to
   publicly admit the hoax.

:pseudoprime: n. A backgammon prime (six consecutive occupied
   points) with one point missing.  This term is an esoteric pun
   derived from a mathematical method that, 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: /soo'doh-s[y]oot`/ n. A {suit} wannabee; a hacker
   who has 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: /si:`k*-del'-ik-weir/ [UK] n. Syn.
   {display hack}.  See also {smoking clover}.

:psyton: /si:'ton/ [TMRC] n. The elementary particle carrying the
   sinister force.  The probability of a process losing is
   proportional to the number of psytons falling on it.  Psytons are
   generated by observers, which is why demos are more likely to fail
   when lots of people are watching.  [This term appears to have been
   largely superseded by {bogon}; see also {quantum bogodynamics}.
   --- ESR]

:pubic directory: [NYU] (also `pube directory' /pyoob'
   d*-rek't*-ree/) 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
   pube directory by Friday."

: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 in 1801 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.  There is a widespread myth
   that it was designed to fit in the currency trays used for that
   era's larger dollar bills, but recent investigations have falsified

   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.  Other coding schemes, sizes of card, and
   hole shapes were tried at various times.

   The 80-column width of most character terminals is a legacy of the
   IBM 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!"] v. 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 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. 1. The "System V Interface Definition".  The
   covers of the first editions were an amazingly nauseating shade of
   off-lavender.  2. Syn. {Wizard Book}.  See also {{book

:purple wire: [IBM] n. Wire installed by Field Engineers to work
   around problems discovered during testing or debugging.  These are
   called `purple wires' even when (as is frequently the case) their
   actual physical color is yellow....  Compare {blue wire},
   {yellow wire}, and {red wire}.

:push: [from the operation that puts the current information on a
   stack, and the fact that procedure return addresses are saved on a
   stack] (Also PUSH /push/ or PUSHJ /push'J/, the latter based on
   the PDP-10 procedure call instruction.) 1. To put something onto a
   {stack} or {pdl}.  If one says that something has been pushed
   onto one's stack, it means that the Damoclean list of things
   hanging over ones's head has grown longer and heavier yet.  This
   may also imply that one will deal with it *before* other
   pending items; otherwise one might say that the thing was `added
   to my 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.  Former Ivy-Leaguers and
   Oxford 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 Fifth Symphony is
   quadruple-bucky-cokebottle."  See {double bucky}, {bucky
   bits}, {cokebottle}.

:quantifiers:: In techspeak and jargon, the standard metric
   prefixes used in the SI (Syst`eme International) conventions for
   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 SI magnifying prefixes, along with the corresponding
   binary interpretations in common 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
     zetta-  1000^7   1024^7 = 2^70 = 1,180,591,620,717,411,303,424
     yotta-  1000^8   1024^8 = 2^80 = 1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176

   Here are the SI fractional prefixes:

     *prefix  decimal     jargon usage*
     milli-  1000^-1     (seldom 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)
     atto-   1000^-6     (not used in jargon---yet)
     zepto-  1000^-7     (not used in jargon---yet)
     yocto-  1000^-8     (not used in jargon---yet)

   The prefixes zetta-, yotta-, zepto-, and yocto- have been included
   in these tables purely for completeness and giggle value; they were
   adopted in 1990 by the `19th Conference Generale des Poids et
   Mesures'.  The binary peta- and exa- loadings, though well
   established, are not in jargon use either --- yet.  The prefix
   milli-, denoting multiplication by 1000^(-1), has always
   been rare in jargon (there is, however, a standard joke about the
   `millihelen' --- notionally, the amount of beauty required to
   launch one ship).  See the entries on {micro-}, {pico-}, and
   {nano-} for more information on connotative jargon use of these
   terms.  `Femto' and `atto' (which, interestingly, derive not
   from Greek but from Danish) 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

   There are, of course, some standard unit prefixes for powers of
   10.  In the following table, the `prefix' column is the
   international standard suffix for the appropriate power of ten; the
   `binary' 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 that may
   (but do not always) pluralize with `s'.

     prefix   decimal   binary       pronunciation
     kilo-       k      K, KB,       /kay/
     mega-       M      M, MB, meg   /meg/
     giga-       G      G, GB, gig   /gig/,/jig/

   Confusingly, hackers often use K or M as though they were suffix or
   numeric multipliers rather than a prefix; thus "2K dollars", "2M
   of disk space".  This is also true (though less commonly) of G.

   Note that the formal SI metric prefix for 1000 is `k'; some use
   this strictly, reserving `K' for multiplication by 1024 (KB is
   thus `kilobytes').

   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.

   Confusing 1000 and 1024 (or other powers of 2 and 10 close in
   magnitude) --- for example, describing a memory in units of
   500K or 524K instead of 512K --- is a sure sign of the
   {marketroid}.  One example of this: it is common to refer to the
   capacity of 3.5" {microfloppies} as `1.44 MB' In fact, this is a
   completely {bogus} number.  The correct size is 1440 KB, that
   is, 1440 * 1024 = 1474560 bytes.  So the `mega' in `1.44 MB' is
   compounded of two `kilos', one of which is 1024 and the other of
   which is 1000.  The correct number of megabytes would of course be
   1440 / 1024 = 1.40625.  Alas, this fine point is probably lost on
   the world forever.

   [1993 update: hacker Morgan Burke has proposed, to general
   approval on USENET, the following additional prefixes:


   We observe that this would leave the prefixes zeppo-, gummo-, and
   chico- available for future expansion.  Sadly, there is little
   immediate prospect that Mr. Burke's eminently sensible proposal
   will be ratified.]

:quantum bogodynamics: /kwon'tm boh`goh-di:-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 both 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 often
   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 silver crowns that could
   be broken into eight pie-slice-shaped `bits' to make change.
   Early in American history the Spanish 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: /kwes/ 1. n. The question mark character (`?', ASCII
   0111111).  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}.

:quine: /kwi:n/ [from the name of the logician Willard V. Quine, via
   Douglas Hofstadter] n. A program that generates a copy of
   its own source text as its complete output.  Devising the shortest
   possible quine in some given programming language is a common
   hackish amusement.  Here is one classic quine:

     ((lambda (x)
       (list x (list (quote quote) x)))
         (lambda (x)
           (list x (list (quote quote) x)))))

   This one works in LISP or Scheme.  It's relatively easy to write
   quines in other languages such as Postscript which readily handle
   programs as data; much harder (and thus more challenging!) in
   languages like C which do not.  Here is a classic C quine for ASCII


   For excruciatingly exact quinishness, remove the interior line
   breaks.  Some infamous {Obfuscated C Contest} entries have been
   quines that reproduced in exotic ways.

:quote chapter and verse: [by analogy with the mainstream phrase]
   v. To cite a relevant excerpt from an appropriate {bible}.  "I
   don't care if `rn' gets it wrong; `Followup-To: poster' is
   explicitly permitted by {RFC}-1036.  I'll quote chapter and
   verse if you don't believe me."  See also {legalese},
   {language lawyer}, {RTFS} (sense 2).

:quotient: n. See {coefficient of X}.

: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 in all,
   using up all the `u' letters in Scrabble).]  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, 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
   variable}, after {baz} and before the quu(u...)x series.
   See {foo}, {bar}, {baz}, {quux}.  This appears to be a
   recent mutation from {quux}, and many versions (especially older
   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 is a fine example of a {fossil}.
   It is sometimes said that it was designed to slow down the typist,
   but this is wrong; it was designed to allow *faster* typing
   --- under a constraint now long obsolete.  In early typewriters,
   fast typing using nearby type-bars jammed the mechanism.  So Sholes
   fiddled the layout to separate the letters of many common digraphs
   (he did a far from perfect job, though; `th', `tr', `ed', and `er',
   for example, each use two nearby keys).  Also, putting the letters
   of `typewriter' on one line allowed it to be typed with particular
   speed and accuracy for {demo}s.  The jamming problem was
   essentially solved soon afterward by a suitable use of springs, but
   the keyboard layout lives on.

= R =

:rabbit job: [Cambridge] n. A batch job that does little, if any,
   real work, but creates one or more copies of itself, breeding like
   rabbits.  Compare {wabbit}, {fork bomb}.

: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
   art}, {cargo cult programming}, {wave a dead chicken}.

:rainbow series: n. Any of several series of technical manuals
   distinguished by cover color.  The original rainbow series was the
   NCSC security manuals (see {Orange Book}, {crayola books});
   the term has also been commonly applied to the PostScript reference
   set (see {Red Book}, {Green Book}, {Blue Book}, {White
   Book}).  Which books are meant by "`the' rainbow series"
   unqualified is thus dependent on one's local technical culture.

: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; poorly chosen; 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 the following:

          Long described at MIT as `the least random number'; see 23.
          Sacred number of Eris, Goddess of Discord (along with 17 and
          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
          69 hex = 105 decimal, and 69 decimal = 105 octal.
          The Number of the Beast.

   For further enlightenment, study the "Principia Discordia",
   "{The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy}", "The Joy
   of Sex", and the Christian Bible (Revelation 13:18).  See also
   {Discordianism} or consult your pineal gland.  See also {for
   values of}.

:randomness: n. 1. An inexplicable misfeature; gratuitous
   inelegance.  2. A {hack} or {crock} that 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 four-bit accumulator field of an XCT and then extracting
   six bits --- the low 2 bits of the XCT opcode are the right
   thing."  "What randomness!"  3. Of people, synonymous with
   `flakiness'.  The connotation is that the person so described is
   behaving weirdly, incompetently, or inappropriately for reasons
   which are (a) too tiresome to bother inquiring into, (b) are
   probably as inscrutable as quantum phenomena anyway, and (c) are
   likely to pass with time. "Maybe he has a real complaint, or maybe
   it's just randomness.  See if he calls back."

:rape: vt. 1. To {screw} someone or something, violently; in
   particular, to destroy a program or information irrecoverably.
   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.
   3. [CMU/Pitt] To mass-copy files from an anonymous ftp site.
   "Last night I raped Simtel's dskutl directory."

:rare mode: [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: rare.

:raster blaster: n. [Cambridge] Specialized hardware for
   {bitblt} operations (a {blitter}).  Allegedly inspired by
   `Rasta Blasta', British slang for the sort of portable stereo
   Americans call a `boom box' or `ghetto blaster'.

:raster burn: n. Eyestrain brought on by too many hours of looking at
   low-res, poorly tuned, or glare-ridden monitors, esp. graphics
   monitors.  See {terminal illness}.

:rat belt: n. A cable tie, esp. the sawtoothed, self-locking plastic
   kind that you can remove only by cutting (as opposed to a random
   twist of wire or a twist 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 or content 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, has 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 (or, under {bogus} systems
   that make a distinction, a disk file) without any processing,
   abstraction, or interpretation by the operating system.  Compare
   {rare mode}, {cooked mode}.  This is techspeak under UNIX,
   jargon elsewhere.

:rc file: /R-C fi:l/ [UNIX: from the startup script
   `/etc/rc', but this is commonly believed to have been named
   after older scripts to `run commands'] n. Script file containing
   startup instructions for an application program (or an entire
   operating system), usually a text file containing commands of the
   sort that might have been invoked manually once the system was
   running but are to be executed automatically each time the system
   starts up.  See also {dot file}, {profile} (sense 1).

:RE: /R-E/ 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,
   rather than writing code or purveying useful information.  See
   {twink}, {terminal junkie}, {lurker}.

:README file: n. Hacker's-eye introduction traditionally included
   in the top-level directory of a UNIX source distribution,
   containing a pointer to more detailed documentation, credits,
   miscellaneous revision history, notes, etc.  (The file may be named
   README, or READ.ME, or rarely ReadMe or readme.txt or some other
   variant.)  In the Mac and PC worlds, software is not usually
   distributed in source form, and the README is more likely to
   contain user-oriented material like last-minute documentation
   changes, error workarounds, and restrictions.  When asked, hackers
   invariably relate the README convention to the famous scene in
   Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland" in which
   Alice confronts magic munchies labeled "Eat Me" and "Drink Me".

:real: adj. Not simulated.  Often used as a specific antonym to
   {virtual} in any of its jargon senses.

: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. The sort the speaker is used to.  People
   from the BSDophilic 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 object "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 toward 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 has 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 are 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, a Real Programmer}" in {Appendix A}.  The term itself
   was popularized by a 1983 Datamation article "Real
   Programmers Don't Use Pascal" by Ed Post, still circulating on
   USENET and Internet in on-line form.

:Real Soon Now: [orig. from SF's fanzine community, popularized by
   Jerry Pournelle's column in "BYTE"] adv. 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, or other time commitments permit one to get to it (in
   other words, don't hold your breath).  Often abbreviated RSN.

:real time: 1. [techspeak] adj. Describes an application which
   requires a program to respond to stimuli within some small upper
   limit of response time (typically milli- or microseconds).  Process
   control at a chemical plant is the classic example.  Such
   applications often require special operating systems (because
   everything else must take a back seat to response time) and
   speed-tuned hardware.  2. adv. In jargon, refers to 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 (a research project, a course, etc.)
   other than pure exploration.  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. 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
   generating payroll checks and invoices.  2. 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. 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.  It is also noteworthy that on the
   campus of Cambridge University in England, there is a gaily-painted
   lamp-post which bears the label `REALITY CHECKPOINT'.  It marks the
   boundary between university and the Real World; check your notions
   of reality before passing.  This joke is funnier because the
   Cambridge `campus' is actually coextensive with the center of
   Cambridge.  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 acronym:: pl.n. A hackish (and especially MIT) tradition
   is to choose acronyms/abbreviations that refer humorously to
   themselves or to other acronyms/abbreviations.  The classic
   examples were two MIT editors called EINE ("EINE Is Not EMACS")
   and ZWEI ("ZWEI Was EINE Initially").  More recently, there is a
   Scheme compiler called LIAR (Liar Imitates Apply Recursively), and
   {GNU} (q.v., sense 1) stands for "GNU's Not UNIX!" --- and a
   company with the name CYGNUS, which expands to "Cygnus, Your GNU
   Support".  See also {mung}, {EMACS}.

: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, or the 1990 second edition ISBN 0-201-18127-4); the
   others are known as the {Green Book}, the {Blue Book}, and
   the {White Book} (sense 2).  2. Informal name for one of the 3
   standard references on Smalltalk ("Smalltalk-80: The
   Interactive Programming Environment" by Adele Goldberg
   (Addison-Wesley, 1984; QA76.8.S635G638; ISBN 0-201-11372-4); this
   too is associated with blue and green books).  3. Any of the
   1984 standards issued by the CCITT eighth plenary assembly.  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, a.k.a ISO 9945-1 --- is
   (because of the color and the fact that it is printed on A4 paper)
   known in the U.S.A. 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".  5. The NSA "Trusted Network Interpretation" companion
   to the {Orange Book}.  See also {{book titles}}.

:red wire: [IBM] n. Patch wires installed by programmers who have
   no business mucking with the hardware.  It is said that the only
   thing more dangerous than a hardware guy with a code patch is a
   {softy} with a soldering iron....  Compare {blue wire},
   {yellow wire}, {purple wire}.

: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 <>.

:register dancing: n. Many older processor architectures suffer
   from a serious shortage of general-purpose registers.  This is
   especially a problem for compiler-writers, because their generated
   code needs places to store temporaries for things like intermediate
   values in expression evaluation.  Some designs with this problem,
   like the Intel 80x86, do have a handful of special-purpose
   registers that can be pressed into service, providing suitable care
   is taken to avoid unpleasant side effects on the state of the
   processor: while the special-purpose register is being used to hold
   an intermediate value, a delicate minuet is required in which the
   previous value of the register is saved and then restored just before
   the official function (and value) of the special-purpose register is
   again needed.

: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 often a valid criticism.
   On the other hand, automobiles don't use wooden rollers, and some
   kinds of wheel have to be reinvented many times before you get them
   right.  On the third hand, people reinventing the wheel do tend to
   come up with the moral equivalent of a trapezoid with an offset
:religion of CHI: n. /ki:/ [Case Western Reserve University] n.
   Yet another hackish parody religion (see also {Church of the
   SubGenius}, {Discordianism}).  In the mid-70s, the canonical
   "Introduction to Programming" courses at CWRU were taught in
   Algol, and student exercises were punched on cards and run on a
   Univac 1108 system using a homebrew operating system named CHI.
   The religion had no doctrines and but one ritual: whenever the
   worshipper noted that a digital clock read 11:08, he or she would
   recite the phrase "It is 11:08; ABS, ALPHABETIC, ARCSIN, ARCCOS,
   ARCTAN."  The last five words were the first five functions in the
   appropriate chapter of the Algol manual; note the special
   pronunciations /obz/ and /ark'sin/ rather than the more common
   /ahbz/ and /ark'si:n/.  Using an alarm clock to warn of 11:08's
   arrival was {considered harmful}.

: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)?", "What about that Heinlein guy, eh?",
   "What should we add to the new Jargon File?"  See {holy wars};
   see also {theology}, {bigot}.

   This term is a prime 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 {quine}, {worm}, {wabbit}, {fork bomb},
   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 advises that whenever choosing a
   quantifiable but arbitrary restriction, you should 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 will know it is a random number --- on
   the other hand, a limit of 15 or 16 suggests some deep reason
   (involving 0- or 1-based indexing in binary) and you will get less
   {flamage} for it.  Limits which are round numbers in base 10 are
   always especially suspect.

:retcon: /ret'kon/ [short for `retroactive continuity', from
   the USENET newsgroup 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.  For
   example, 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 vegetable."
   "Darth Vader was retconned into Luke Skywalker's father in
   "The Empire Strikes Back".

   [This term is included because it is 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]

   [1993 update: some comics fans on the net now claim that retcon was
   independently in use in comics fandom before rec.arts.comics.
   In lexicography, nothing is ever simple. --- ESR]

:RETI: v. Syn. {RTI}

: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,
   written mostly for {hack value}, 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 running.

:return from the dead: v. To regain access to the net after a long
   absence.  Compare {person of no account}.

:RFC: /R-F-C/ [Request For Comment] n. One of a long-established
   series of numbered Internet informational documents and standards
   widely followed by commercial software and freeware 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 as standards.
   The RFC tradition of pragmatic, experience-driven, after-the-fact
   standard writing done by individuals or small working groups has
   important advantages over the more formal, committee-driven process
   typical of ANSI or ISO.  Emblematic of some of these advantages is
   the existence of a flourishing tradition of `joke' RFCs; usually
   at least one a year is published, usually on April 1st.  Well-known
   joke RFCs have included 527 ("ARPAWOCKY", R. Merryman, UCSD; 22
   June 1973), 748 ("Telnet Randomly-Lose Option", Mark R. Crispin;
   1 April 1978), and 1149 ("A Standard for the Transmission of IP
   Datagrams on Avian Carriers", D. Waitzman, BBN STC; 1 April
   1990).  The first was a Lewis Carroll pastiche; the second a parody
   of the TCP-IP documentation style, and the third a deadpan
   skewering of standards-document legalese, describing protocols for
   transmitting Internet data packets by carrier pigeon.

   The RFCs are most remarkable for how well they work --- they manage to
   have neither the ambiguities that are usually rife in informal
   specifications, nor the committee-perpetrated misfeatures that often
   haunt formal standards, and they define a network that has grown to
   truly worldwide proportions.

:RFE: /R-F-E/ n. 1. [techspeak] Request For Enhancement (compare
   {RFC}).  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

:rib site: [by analogy with {backbone site}] n. A machine that
   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 80x86-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-0 error?"  Oppose
   {Wrong Thing}.

:RL: // [MUD community] n. Real Life.  "Firiss laughs in RL"
   means that 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.

:robot: [IRC, MUD] n. An {IRC} or {MUD} user who is actually
   a program.  On IRC, typically the robot provides some useful
   service.  Examples are NickServ, which tries to prevent random
   users from adopting {nick}s already claimed by others, and
   MsgServ, which allows one to send asynchronous messages to be
   delivered when the recipient signs on.  Also common are
   `annoybots', such as KissServ, which perform no useful function
   except to send cute messages to other people.  Service robots are
   less common on MUDs; but some others, such as the `Julia' robot
   active in 1990--91, have been remarkably impressive Turing-test
   experiments, able to pass as human for as long as ten or fifteen
   minutes of conversation.

: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}.
   Carries the additional connotation of elegance in addition to just
   careful attention to detail.  Compare {smart}, oppose

: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.  Alan Perlis said: "Every program eventually
   becomes rococo, and then rubble."  Compare {critical

:rogue: [UNIX] n. A 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 also {nethack}.

:room-temperature IQ: [IBM] quant. 80 or below.  Used in describing the
   expected intelligence range of the {luser}.  "Well, but
   how's this interface going to 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 (with user name
   `root') that ignores permission bits, user number 0 on a UNIX
   system.  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}, {go root}, see also {wheel}.

: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 {spoiler}s.  A
   major advantage of rot13 over rot(N) for other N is
   that it is self-inverse, so the same code can be used for encoding
   and decoding.

: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}.

:round tape: n. Industry-standard 1/2-inch magnetic tape (7- or
   9-track) on traditional circular reels.  See {macrotape}, oppose
   {square tape}.

:RSN: /R-S-N/ adj. See {Real Soon Now}.

:RTBM: /R-T-B-M/ [UNIX] imp. Commonwealth Hackish variant of
   {RTFM}; expands to `Read The Bloody Manual'.  RTBM is often the
   entire text of the first reply to a question from a {newbie};
   the *second* would escalate to "RTFM".

:RTFAQ: /R-T-F-A-Q/ [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.

:RTFB: /R-T-F-B/ [UNIX] imp. Acronym for `Read The Fucking
   Binary'.  Used when neither documentation nor source for the
   problem at hand exists, and the only thing to do is use some
   debugger or monitor and directly analyze the assembler or even
   the machine code.  "No source for the buggy port driver?   Aaargh! I
   *hate* proprietary operating systems.  Time to RTFB."

   Of the various RTF? forms, `RTFB' is the least pejorative against
   anyone asking a question for which RTFB is the answer; the anger
   here is directed at the absence of both source *and* adequate

:RTFM: /R-T-F-M/ [UNIX] imp. Acronym for `Read The Fucking
   Manual'.  1. Used by {guru}s 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 {FM},
   {RTFAQ}, {RTFB}, {RTFS}, {RTM}, all of which mutated
   from RTFM, and compare {UTSL}.

:RTFS: /R-T-F-S/ [UNIX] 1. imp. Acronym for `Read The Fucking
   Source'.  Variant form of {RTFM}, used when the problem at hand
   is not necessarily obvious and not answerable from the manuals ---
   or the manuals are not yet written and maybe never will be.  For
   even trickier situations, see {RTFB}.  Unlike RTFM, the anger
   inherent in RTFS is not usually directed at the person asking the
   question, but rather at the people who failed to provide adequate
   documentation.  2. imp. `Read The Fucking Standard'; this oath can
   only be used when the problem area (e.g., a language or operating
   system interface) has actually been codified in a ratified
   standards document.  The existence of these standards documents
   (and the technically inappropriate but politically mandated
   compromises that they inevitably contain, and the impenetrable
   {legalese} in which they are invariably written, and the
   unbelievably tedious bureaucratic process by which they are
   produced) can be unnerving to hackers, who are used to a certain
   amount of ambiguity in the specifications of the systems they use.
   (Hackers feel that such ambiguities are acceptable as long as the
   {Right Thing} to do is obvious to any thinking observer; sadly,
   this casual attitude towards specifications becomes unworkable when
   a system becomes popular in the {Real World}.)  Since a hacker
   is likely to feel that a standards document is both unnecessary and
   technically deficient, the deprecation inherent in this term may be
   directed as much against the standard as against the person who
   ought to read it.

:RTI: /R-T-I/ interj. The mnemonic for the `return from
   interrupt' instruction on many computers including the 6502 and
   6800.  The variant `RETI' is found among former Z80 hackers
   (almost nobody programs these things in assembler anymore).
   Equivalent to "Now, where was I?" or used to end a
   conversational digression.  See {pop}; see also {POPJ}.

:RTM: /R-T-M/ [USENET: abbreviation for `Read The Manual']
   1. Politer variant of {RTFM}.  2. Robert T. Morris Jr.,
   perpetrator of the great Internet worm of 1988 (see {Great Worm,
   the}); villain to many, naive hacker gone wrong to a few.  Morris
   claimed that the worm that brought the Internet to its knees was a
   benign experiment that got out of control as the result of a coding
   error.  After the storm of negative publicity that followed this
   blunder, Morris's username on ITS was hacked from RTM to

:rude: [WPI] adj. 1. (of a program) Badly written.  2. Functionally
   poor, e.g., a program that is very difficult to use because of
   gratuitously poor (random?) design decisions.  Oppose {cuspy}.
   3. Anything that manipulates a shared resource without regard for
   its other users in such a way as to cause a (non-fatal) problem.
   Examples: programs that change tty modes without resetting them on
   exit, or windowing programs that keep forcing themselves to the top
   of the window stack.  Compare {all-elbows}.

:runes: pl.n. 1. Anything that requires {heavy wizardry} or
   {black art} to {parse}: core dumps, JCL commands, APL, or
   code in a language you haven't a clue how to read.  Not quite as
   bad as {line noise}, but close.  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 Syst`eme' (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', `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.  The comment "Register 7 is sacred to the interrupt
   handler" appearing in a program would be interpreted by a hacker
   to mean that 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 about N random
   broken people.

   Here is a classic example of the saga form, as told by Guy L.

     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 40 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 Avenue, which (like Harvard Square in Cambridge) 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 then-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 P.M., which is 2 A.M Boston
     time, so JONL and I were rather droopy.  But it wasn't yet
     midnight.  Off to Uncle Gaylord's!

     Now the French restaurant 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 wouldn'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 5 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 Avenue;
     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 come 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* always 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 Avenue.  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 Alto!"

     G.b.t.c. looked him straight in the eye and said, "You're *in* Palo

     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 hacked!"

   [My spies on the West Coast inform me that there is a close relative
   of the raspberry found out there called an `ollalieberry' --- ESR]

   [Ironic footnote: it appears that the {meme} about ginger vs.
   rotting meat may be an urban legend.  It's not borne out by an
   examination of medieval recipes or period purchase records for
   spices, and appears full-blown in the works of Samuel Pegge, a
   gourmand and notorious flake case who originated numerous food
   myths. --- ESR]

: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
   U.S. Government spends sagans on bombs and welfare --- hard to say
   which is more destructive."

:SAIL:: /sayl/, not /S-A-I-L/ n. 1. The Stanford Artificial
   Intelligence Lab.  An important site in the early development of
   LISP; with the MIT AI Lab, BBN, CMU, XEROX PARC, 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 was 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 lists.

: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 salesman?
     A. The used-car dealer knows he's lying.  [Some versions add:
        ...and probably knows how to drive.]

   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: n. A tiny bit of near-random data inserted where too much
   regularity would be undesirable; a data {frob} (sense 1).  For example,
   the Unix crypt(3) man page mentions that "the salt string is
   used to perturb the DES algorithm in one of 4096 different ways."

: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 used to describe long response
   time, particularly with respect to {{MS-DOS}} system calls (which
   ought to require only a tiny fraction of a second to execute).
   Such response time is a major incentive for programmers to write
   programs that are not {well-behaved}.  See also {PC-ism}.

:samizdat: [Russian, literally "self publishing"] n. The process
   of disseminating documentation via underground channels.
   Originally referred to photocopy duplication and distribution of
   banned books in the former Soviet Union; now refers by obvious
   extension to any less-than-official promulgation of textual
   material, esp. rare, obsolete, or never-formally-published computer
   documentation.  Samizdat is obviously much easier when one has
   access to high-bandwidth networks and high-quality laser printers.
   Note that samizdat is properly used only with respect to documents
   which contain needed information (see also {hacker ethic, the})
   but which are for some reason otherwise unavailable, but *not*
   in the context of documents which are available through normal
   channels, for which unauthorized duplication would be unethical
   copyright violation.  See {Lions Book} for a historical example.

:samurai: n. A hacker who hires out for legal cracking jobs,
   snooping for factions in corporate political fights, lawyers
   pursuing privacy-rights and First Amendment cases, and other
   parties with legitimate reasons to need an electronic locksmith.
   In 1991, mainstream media reported the existence of a loose-knit
   culture of samurai that meets electronically on BBS systems, mostly
   bright teenagers with personal micros; they have modeled
   themselves explicitly on the historical samurai of Japan and on the
   "net cowboys" of William Gibson's {cyberpunk} novels.  Those
   interviewed claim to adhere to a rigid ethic of loyalty to their
   employers and to disdain the vandalism and theft practiced by
   criminal crackers as beneath them and contrary to the hacker ethic;
   some quote Miyamoto Musashi's "Book of Five Rings", a classic
   of historical samurai doctrine, in support of these principles.
   See also {Stupids}, {social engineering}, {cracker},
   {hacker ethic, the}, and {dark-side hacker}.

:sandbender: [IBM] n. A person involved with silicon lithography and
   the physical design of chips.  Compare {ironmonger}, {polygon

:sandbox: n. 1. (also `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}.  2. Syn. {link farm}.

:sanity check: n. 1. The act of checking a piece of code (or
   anything else, e.g., a USENET posting) 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 {quick-and-dirty} 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 often sneak into a production release after
   insufficient review.

:say: vt. 1. 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').  2. 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

:scag: vt. To destroy the data on a disk, either by corrupting the
  filesystem or by causing media damage.  "That last power hit scagged
  the system disk."  Compare {scrog}, {roach}.

:scanno: /skan'oh/ n. An error in a document caused by a scanner
   glitch, analogous to a typo or {thinko}.

:schroedinbug: /shroh'din-buhg/ [MIT: from the Schroedinger's Cat
   thought-experiment in quantum physics] n. A design or
   implementation bug in a program that doesn't manifest until someone
   reading source or using the program in an unusual way notices that
   it never should have worked, at which point the program promptly
   stops working for everybody until fixed.  Though (like {bit
   rot}) this sounds impossible, it happens; some programs have
   harbored latent schroedinbugs for years.  Compare {heisenbug},
   {Bohr bug}, {mandelbug}.

: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 such as 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},
   {phage}, {virus}, {wetware}, {wirehead}, and {worm}
   originated in SF stories.

: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 (such as 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}.  (See also {molly-guard},

: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 also {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 scratch volume hooked to a computer during any risky operation
   as a replacement for some precious resource or data that might
   otherwise get trashed.

   This term preserves the memory of Mabel, the Swimming Wonder
   Monkey, star of a biological research program at the University of
   Toronto.  Mabel was not (so the legend goes) your ordinary monkey;
   the university had spent years teaching her how to swim, breathing
   through a regulator, in order to study the effects of different gas
   mixtures on her physiology.  Mabel suffered an untimely demise one
   day when a DEC engineer troubleshooting a crash on the program's VAX
   inadvertently interfered with some custom hardware that was wired
   to Mabel.

   It is reported that, after calming down an understandably irate
   customer sufficiently to ascertain the facts of the matter, a DEC
   troubleshooter called up the {field circus} manager responsible
   and asked him sweetly, "Can you swim?"

   Not all the consequences to humans were so amusing; the sysop of
   the machine in question was nearly thrown in jail at the behest of
   certain clueless droids at the local `humane' society.  The moral
   is clear: When in doubt, always mount a scratch monkey.

   [There is a version of this story, complete with reported dialogue
   between one of the project people and DEC field service, that has
   been circulating on Internet since 1986.  It is hilarious and
   mythic, but gets some facts wrong.  For example, it reports the
   machine as a PDP-11 and alleges that Mabel's demise occurred when
   DEC {PM}ed the machine.  Earlier versions of this entry were
   based on that story; this one has been corrected from an interview
   with the hapless sysop. --- ESR]

:scream and die: v. Syn. {cough and die}, but connotes that an
   error message was printed or displayed before the program crashed.

:screaming tty: [UNIX] n. A terminal line which spews an infinite
   number of random characters at the operating system.  This can
   happen if the terminal is either disconnected or connected to a
   powered-off terminal but still enabled for login; misconfiguration,
   misimplementation, or simple bad luck can start such a terminal
   screaming.  A screaming tty or two can seriously degrade the
   performance of a vanilla UNIX system; the arriving "characters"
   are treated as userid/password pairs and tested as such.  The UNIX
   password encryption algorithm is designed to be computationally
   intensive in order to foil brute-force crack attacks, so although
   none of the logins succeeds; the overhead of rejecting them all can
   be substantial.

: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 a 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 list header got scrogged."  Also reported
   as `skrog', and ascribed to the comic strip "The Wizard of
   Id".  Compare {scag}; possibly the two are related.  Equivalent
   to {scribble} or {mangle}.

:scrool: /skrool/ [from the pioneering Roundtable chat system in
   Houston ca. 1984; prob. originated as a typo for `scroll'] n. The
   log of old messages, available for later perusal or to help one get
   back in synch with the conversation.  It was originally called the
   `scrool monster', because an early version of the roundtable
   software had a bug where it would dump all 8K of scrool on a user's

: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!"

:scruffies: n. See {neats vs. scruffies}.

: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' (/skuh'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 /S-C-S-I/ is clueless.

:ScumOS: /skuhm'os/ or /skuhm'O-S/ n. Unflattering hackerism
   for SunOS, the UNIX variant supported on Sun Microsystems's UNIX
   workstations (see also {sun-stools}), and compare {AIDX},
   {Macintrash}, {Nominal Semidestructor}, {Open DeathTrap},
   {HP-SUX}.  Despite what this term might suggest, Sun was
   founded by hackers and still enjoys excellent relations with
   hackerdom; usage is more often in exasperation than outright

:search-and-destroy mode: n. Hackerism for a noninteractive
   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 one is 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 "The Mythical Man-Month:
   Essays on Software Engineering" (Addison-Wesley, 1975; ISBN
   0-201-00650-2).  It described the jump from a set of nice, simple
   operating systems on the IBM 70xx series to OS/360 on the
   360 series.  A similar effect can also happen in an evolving
   system; see {Brooks's Law}, {creeping elegance}, {creeping
   featurism}.  See also {{Multics}}, {OS/2}, {X}, {software

   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 has been
   trashed due to a previous {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."

   By extension, 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
   seventh-level damage!  The hacker who accomplished this
   near-superhuman feat was presented with an award by his fellows.

:security through obscurity: alt. `security by obscurity' n. A
   term applied by hackers to most OS vendors' favorite way of coping
   with security holes --- namely, ignoring them, documenting neither
   any known holes nor the underlying security algorithms, trusting
   that nobody will find out about them and that people who do find
   out about them won't exploit them.  This "strategy" never works
   for long and occasionally sets the world up for debacles like the
   {RTM} worm of 1988 (see {Great Worm, the}), 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
   --- and 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: There are conflicting stories about the origin of
   this term.  It has been claimed that it was first used in the
   USENET newsgroup in comp.sys.apollo during a campaign to get
   HP/Apollo to fix security problems in its UNIX-{clone}
   Aegis/DomainOS (they didn't change a thing).  {ITS} fans, on the
   other hand, say it was coined years earlier in opposition to the
   incredibly paranoid {Multics} people down the hall, for whom
   security was everything.  In the ITS culture it referred to (1) the
   fact that that by the time a tourist figured out how to make
   trouble he'd generally gotten over the urge to make it, because he
   felt part of the community; and (2) (self-mockingly) the poor
   coverage of the documentation and obscurity of many commands.  One
   instance of *deliberate* security through obscurity is
   recorded; the command to allow patching the running ITS system
   ({altmode} altmode control-R) echoed as $$^D.  If you actually
   typed alt alt ^D, that set a flag that would prevent patching the
   system even if you later got it right.

:SED: [TMRC, from `Light-Emitting Diode'] /S-E-D/ n.
   Smoke-emitting diode.  A {friode} that lost the war.  See also

:segfault: n.,vi. Syn. {segment}, {segmentation fault}.

: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 pronounced more like the noun `segment'
   than like mainstream v. segment; this is because it is actually a
   noun shorthand that has been verbed.

:segmentation fault: n. [UNIX] 1. An 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} (actually, in this case, `segmentation violation').

:self-reference: n. See {self-reference}.

:selvage: /sel'v*j/ [from sewing and weaving] n. See {chad}
   (sense 1).

:semi: /se'mee/ or /se'mi:/ 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. A prefix used 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

:semi-infinite: n. See {infinite}.

:senior bit: [IBM] n. Syn. {meta bit}.

:server: n. A kind of {daemon} that performs a service for the
   requester and 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: /seks/ [Sun Users' 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).  In general, SEX parties are a
   {Good Thing}, but unprotected SEX can propagate a {virus}.
   See also {pubic directory}.  2. The rather Freudian mnemonic
   often used for Sign EXtend, a machine instruction found in the
   PDP-11 and many other architectures.  The RCA 1802 chip used in the
   early Elf and SuperElf personal computers had a `SEt X register'
   SEX instruction, but this seems to have had little folkloric

   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 `ANL'.

   The Motorola 6809, used in the U.K.'s `Dragon 32' personal
   computer, actually had an official `SEX' instruction; the 6502
   in the Apple II with which it competed did not.  British hackers
   thought this made perfect mythic sense; after all, it was commonly
   observed, you could (on some theoretical level) have sex with a
   dragon, but you can't have sex with an apple.

:sex changer: n. Syn. {gender mender}.

:shambolic link: /sham-bol'ik link/ n. A UNIX symbolic link,
   particularly when it confuses you, points to nothing at all, or
   results in your ending up in some completely unexpected part of the

:sharchive: /shar'ki:v/ [UNIX and USENET; from /bin/sh archive]
   n. A {flatten}ed representation of a set of one or more files,
   with the unique property that it can be unflattened (the original
   files restored) by feeding it through a standard UNIX shell; thus,
   a sharchive can be distributed to anyone running UNIX, and no
   special unpacking software is required.  Sharchives are also
   intriguing in that they are typically created by shell scripts; the
   script that produces sharchives is thus a script which produces
   self-unpacking scripts, which may themselves contain scripts.  (The
   downsides of sharchives are that they are an ideal venue for
   {Trojan horse} attacks and that, for recipients not running
   UNIX, no simple un-sharchiving program is possible; sharchives can
   and do make use of arbitrarily-powerful shell features.)
   Sharchives are also commonly referred to as `shar files' after the
   name of the most common program for generating them.

:Share and enjoy!: imp. 1. Commonly found at the end of software
   release announcements and {README file}s, this phrase indicates
   allegiance to the hacker ethic of free information sharing (see
   {hacker ethic, the}, sense 1).  2. The motto of the Sirius
   Cybernetics Corporation (the ultimate gaggle of incompetent
   {suit}s) in Douglas Adams's "Hitch Hiker's Guide to the
   Galaxy".  The irony of using this as a cultural recognition signal
   appeals to freeware hackers.

:shareware: /sheir'weir/ 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 also {careware}, {charityware},
   {crippleware}, {guiltware}, {postcardware}, and
   {-ware}; compare {payware}.

:shelfware: /shelfweir/ n. Software purchased on a whim (by an
   individual user) or in accordance with policy (by a corporation or
   government agency), but not actually required for any particular
   use.  Therefore, it often ends up on some shelf.

:shell: [orig. {{Multics}} techspeak, widely propagated via UNIX] n.
   1. [techspeak] The command interpreter used to pass commands to an
   operating system; so called because it is the part of the operating
   system that interfaces with the outside world.  2. More generally,
   any interface program that 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)."  Often
   used without the `logical', or as `left shift' instead of
   `shift left'.  Sometimes heard as LSH /lish/, from the {PDP-10}
   instruction set.  See {Programmer's Cheer}.

:shim: n. A small piece of data inserted in order to achieve a
   desired memory alignment or other addressing property.  For
   example, the PDP-11 UNIX linker, in split I&D (instructions and
   data) mode, inserts a two-byte shim at location 0 in data space so
   that no data object will have an address of 0 (and be confused with
   the C null pointer).  See also {loose bytes}.

: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.

:shovelware: /shuh'v*l-weir`/ n. Extra software dumped onto a
   CD-ROM or tape to fill up the remaining space on the medium after
   the software distribution it's intended to carry, but not
   integrated with the distribution.

: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: /shuhb in't*r-net/ [MUD: from H. P. Lovecraft's
   evil fictional deity `Shub-Niggurath', the Black Goat with a
   Thousand Young] n. 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 response often follows along the lines of:
   "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 onto the side of an Amiga.  Designed and
   produced by Commodore, it broke all of the company's own design
   rules.  If it worked with any other peripherals, it was by

:SIG: /sig/ n. (also common as a prefix in combining forms) A Special
   Interest Group, in one of several technical areas, sponsored by the
   Association for Computing Machinery; well-known ones include
   SIGPLAN (the Special Interest Group on Programming Languages),
   SIGARCH (the Special Interest Group for Computer Architecture) and
   SIGGRAPH (the Special Interest Group for Computer Graphics).
   Hackers, not surprisingly, like to overextend this naming
   convention to less formal associations like SIGBEER (at ACM
   conferences) and SIGFOOD (at University of Illinois).

: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 {automagically} 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},
   {fool file, the}); 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.  See also {doubled sig}.

: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."

:sig virus: n. A parasitic {meme} embedded in a {sig block}.
   There was a {meme plague} or fad for these on USENET in late
   1991.  Most were equivalents of "I am a .sig virus.  Please reproduce
   me in your .sig block.".  Of course, the .sig virus's memetic hook
   is the giggle value of going along with the gag; this, however,
   was a self-limiting phenomenon as more and more people picked up
   on the idea.  There were creative variants on it; some people
   stuck `sig virus antibody' texts in their sigs, and there was at
   least one instance of a sig virus eater.

: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

:silly walk: [from Monty Python's Flying Circus] vi. 1. 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."  2. Syn. {fandango on

: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 went in at the top and came out at the bottom.

:Silver Book: n. Jensen and 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}}, {Pascal}.
:since time T equals minus infinity: adv. 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}; contrast {epoch}.

:sitename: /si:t'naym/ [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}.

:skrog: v. Syn. {scrog}.

:skulker: n. Syn. {prowler}.

:slack: n. 1. Space allocated to a disk file but not actually used
   to store useful information.  The techspeak equivalent is `internal
   fragmentation'.  2. In the theology of the {Church of the
   SubGenius}, a mystical substance or quality that is the
   prerequisite of all human happiness.

   Since UNIX files are stored compactly, except for the unavoidable
   wastage in the last block or fragment, it might be said that "Unix
   has no slack".  See {ha ha only serious}.

: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 the Amiga 500/1000
   series and IBM for the hideous failure called `PCjr').  Various
   SOTS boxes provided necessities such as memory, hard drive
   controllers, and conventional expansion slots.

:slash: n. Common name for the slant (`/', ASCII 0101111)
   character.  See {ASCII} for other synonyms.

:sleep: vi. 1. [techspeak] To relinquish a claim (of a process on a
   multitasking system) for service; to indicate to the scheduler that
   a process may be deactivated until some given event occurs or a
   specified time delay elapses.  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 in only one of two directions.  For example, if you need
   a piece of wire 10 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 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 common.

:slopsucker: /slop'suhk-r/ n. A lowest-priority task that
   waits 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'
   or `bottom feeder'.  One common variety of slopsucker hunts for
   large prime numbers.  Compare {background}.

: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."  See also {sponge}.

: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 {AI-complete}).  Compare {robust} (smart programs can be

:smart terminal: n. 1. A terminal that has enough computing
   capability to render graphics or to 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 or PCs with respect to
   programs that execute almost entirely out of a remote {server}'s
   storage, using said devices as displays.  2. obs. Any terminal with
   an addressable cursor; the opposite of a {glass tty}.  Today, a
   terminal with merely an addressable cursor, but with none of the
   more-powerful features mentioned in sense 1, is called a {dumb

   There is 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. To corrupt the execution stack
   by writing past the end of a local array or other data structure.
   Code that smashes the stack can cause a return from the routine to
   jump to a random address, resulting in some of the most insidious
   data-dependent bugs known to mankind.  Variants include `trash'
   the stack, {scribble} the stack, {mangle} the stack; the term
   **{mung} the stack is not used, as this is never done
   intentionally.  See {spam}; see also {aliasing bug},
   {fandango on core}, {memory leak}, {memory smash},
   {precedence lossage}, {overrun screw}.

:smiley: n. See {emoticon}.

:smoke: vi. 1. To {crash} or blow up, usually spectacularly. "The
   new version smoked, just like the last one."  Used for both hardware
   (where it often describes an actual physical event), and software
   (where it's merely colorful).  2. [from automotive slang] To be
   conspicuously fast.  "That processor really smokes."  Compare
   {magic smoke}.

:smoke and mirrors: n. Marketing deceptions.  The term is
   mainstream in this general sense.  Among hackers it's strongly
   associated with bogus demos and crocked {benchmark}s (see also
   {MIPS}, {machoflops}).  "They claim their new box cranks 50
   MIPS for under $5000, but didn't specify the instruction mix ---
   sounds like smoke and mirrors to me."  The phrase has been said to
   derive from carnie slang for magic acts and `freak show' displays
   that depend on `trompe l'oeil' effects, but also calls to mind
   the fierce Aztec god Tezcatlipoca (lit. "Smoking Mirror") for
   whom the hearts of huge numbers of human sacrificial victims were
   regularly cut out.  Upon hearing about a rigged demo or yet another
   round of fantasy-based marketing promises, hackers often feel
   analogously disheartened.

: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

   There is an interesting semi-parallel to this term among
   typographers and printers: When new typefaces are being punch-cut by
   hand, a `smoke test' (hold the letter in candle smoke, then press
   it 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 its
   hallucinogenic properties cause it to be banned.

:SMOP: /S-M-O-P/ [Simple (or Small) Matter of Programming] n.
   1. A piece of code, not yet written, whose anticipated length is
   significantly greater than its complexity.  Used to refer to a
   program that could obviously be written, but is not worth the
   trouble.  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.  "It's easy to enhance a FORTRAN compiler to
   compile COBOL as well; it's just an 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.

:smurf: /smerf/ [from the soc.motss newsgroup on USENET,
   after some obnoxiously gooey cartoon characters] n. A newsgroup
   regular with a habitual style that is irreverent, silly, and
   cute.  Like many other hackish terms for people, this one may
   be praise or insult depending on who uses it.  In general, being
   referred to as a smurf is probably not going to make your day
   unless you've previously adopted the label yourself in a spirit of
   irony.  Compare {old fart}.

:SNAFU principle: /sna'foo prin'si-pl/ [from a WWII Army
   acronym for `Situation Normal, All Fucked Up'] n. "True
   communication is possible only 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 why
   authoritarian hierarchies screw up so reliably and systematically.
   The effect of the SNAFU principle is a progressive disconnection of
   decision-makers from reality.  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' (from `U.S. Mail'), for which there have even been
   parody posters and stamps made.  Oppose {email}.

:snap: v. To replace a pointer to a pointer with a direct pointer;
   to replace an old address with the forwarding address found there.
   If you telephone the main number for an institution and ask for a
   particular person by name, the operator may tell you that person's
   extension before connecting you, in the hopes that you will `snap
   your pointer' and dial direct next time.  The underlying metaphor
   may be that of a rubber band stretched through a number of
   intermediate points; if you remove all the thumbtacks in the
   middle, it snaps into a straight line from first to last.  See
   {chase pointers}.

   Often, the behavior of a {trampoline} is to perform an error
   check once and then snap the pointer that invoked it so as
   henceforth to bypass the trampoline (and its one-shot error check).
   In this context one also speaks of `snapping links'.  For
   example, in a LISP implementation, a function interface trampoline
   might check to make sure that the caller is passing the correct
   number of arguments; if it is, and if the caller and the callee are
   both compiled, then snapping the link allows that particular path
   to use a direct procedure-call instruction with no further

:snarf: /snarf/ vt. 1. To grab, esp. to grab a large document
   or file for the purpose of using it with or without the author's
   permission.  See also {BLT}.  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 --- {FTP}ing
   megs of stuff a day."  3. To acquire, with little concern for
   legal forms or politesse (but not quite by stealing).  "They
   were giving away samples, so I snarfed a bunch of them."
   4. Syn. for {slurp}.  "This program starts by snarfing the
   entire database into core, then...."  5. [GEnie] To spray
   food or {programming fluid}s due to laughing at the wrong
   moment.  "I was drinking coffee, and when I read your post I
   snarfed all over my desk."  "If I keep reading this topic, I think
   I'll have to snarf-proof my computer with a keyboard {condom}."
   [This sense appears to be widespread among mundane teenagers ---

: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
   retyping a command line.  In the late 1960s, this was a mainstream
   expression for an `eat now, regret it later' cheap-restaurant

:snarf down: v. To {snarf}, with the connotation of absorbing,
   processing, or understanding.  "I'll snarf down the latest
   version of the {nethack} user's guide --- it's been a while
   since I played last and I don't know what's changed recently."

:snark: [Lewis Carroll, via the Michigan Terminal System] n. 1. A
   system failure.  When a user's process bombed, the operator would
   get the 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 a log file entry that might indicate an attempted security
   violation.  See {snivitz}.  3. UUCP name of, home site of the Jargon File 2.*.* versions
   (i.e., this lexicon).
:sneakernet: /snee'ker-net/ 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' or `Shoenet'.

: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
   {snark}).  Compare {glitch}.

:SO: /S-O/ n. 1. (also `S.O.') Abbrev. for Significant
   Other, almost invariably written abbreviated and pronounced
   /S-O/ 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 (Control-N, 0001110).

:social engineering: n. Term used among {cracker}s and
   {samurai} for cracking techniques that rely on weaknesses in
   {wetware} rather than software; the aim is to trick people into
   revealing passwords or other information that compromises a target
   system's security.  Classic scams include phoning up a mark who has
   the required information and posing as a field service tech or a
   fellow employee with an urgent access problem.  See also the
   {tiger team} story in the {patch} entry.

:social science number: [IBM] n. A statistic that 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

:soft boot: n. See {boot}.

:softcopy: /soft'kop-ee/ n. [by analogy with `hardcopy'] A
   machine-readable form of corresponding hardcopy.  See {bits},

: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 laser: n. An optical laser works by bouncing photons back
   and forth between two mirrors, one totally reflective and one
   partially reflective.  If the lasing material (usually a crystal)
   has the right properties, photons scattering off the atoms in the
   crystal will excite cascades of more photons, all in lockstep.
   Eventually the beam will escape through the partially-reflective
   mirror.  One kind of {sorcerer's apprentice mode} involving
   {bounce message}s can produce closely analogous results, with a
   {cascade} of messages escaping to flood nearby systems.  By
   mid-1993 there had been at least two publicized incidents of this

:software rot: n. Term used to describe the tendency of software
   that 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, owing to endemic shortsightedness in the design of
   COBOL programs, most will succumb to software rot when their
   2-digit year counters {wrap around} at the beginning of the
   year 2000.  Actually, related lossages often afflict centenarians
   who 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, North Carolina.  The new system
   refused to issue the card, probably because with 2-digit years the
   ages 101 and 1 cannot be distinguished.

   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
   once did.  ("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 interchangeable.  "I think some random
   cracker tripped over the guest timeout last night."  See also
   {J. Random}.

:sorcerer's apprentice mode: [from Friedrich Schiller's "Der
   Zauberlehrling" via the film "Fantasia"] n. A bug in a
   protocol where, under some circumstances, the receipt of a message
   causes multiple messages 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}, {software
   laser}, {ARMM}.

:SOS: n.,obs. /S-O-S/ 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, 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 alternate expansion
   `Bastard Issue, Loins of Stopgap' has been proposed).  2. /sos/
   vt. To decrease; inverse of {AOS}, from the PDP-10 instruction

:source of all good bits: n. A person from whom (or a place from
   which) useful information may be obtained.  If you need to know
   about a program, a {guru} might be the source of all good bits.
   The title is often applied to a particularly competent secretary.

:space-cadet keyboard: n. A now-legendary device used on MIT LISP
   machines, which inspired several still-current jargon terms and
   influenced the design of {EMACS}.  It was 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.  By pressing this key with the right hand while playing
   an appropriate `chord' with the left hand on the shift keys, you
   could get the following results:

          lowercase l

          uppercase L

          lowercase lambda

          uppercase lambda

          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}.

   Note: early versions of this entry incorrectly identified the
   space-cadet keyboard with the `Knight keyboard'.  Though both
   were designed by Tom Knight, the latter term was properly applied
   only to a keyboard used for ITS on the PDP-10 and modeled
   on the Stanford keyboard (as described under {bucky bits}).  The
   true space-cadet keyboard evolved from the Knight keyboard.

: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. 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, doubtless because such code
   has so many jumps in it.

: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. 1. To crash a program by
   overrunning a fixed-size buffer with excessively large input data.
   See also {buffer overflow}, {overrun screw}, {smash the
   stack}.  2. To cause a newsgroup to be flooded with irrelevant or
   inappropriate messages. You can spam a newsgroup with as little as
   one well- (or ill-) planned message (e.g. asking "What do you
   think of abortion?" on soc.women).  This is often done with
   {cross-post}ing (e.g. any message which is crossposted to
   alt.rush-limbaugh and alt.politics.homosexuality will
   almost inevitably spam both groups).

:special-case: vt. To write unique code to handle input to or
   situations arising in a 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}.

:speedometer: n. A pattern of lights displayed on a linear set of
   LEDs (today) or nixie tubes (yesterday, on ancient mainframes).
   The pattern is shifted left every N times the operating
   system goes through its {main loop}.  A swiftly moving pattern
   indicates that the system is mostly idle; the speedometer slows
   down as the system becomes overloaded.  The speedometer on Sun
   Microsystems hardware bounces back and forth like the eyes on one
   of the Cylons from the wretched "Battlestar Galactica" TV

   Historical note: One computer, the GE 600 (later Honeywell 6000)
   actually had an *analog* speedometer on the front panel,
   calibrated in instructions executed per second.

:spell: n. Syn. {incantation}.

:spelling flame: [USENET] n. A posting ostentatiously correcting a
   previous article's spelling as a way of casting scorn on the point
   the article was trying to make, instead of actually responding to
   that point (compare {dictionary flame}).  Of course, people who
   are more than usually slovenly spellers are prone to think
   *any* correction is a spelling flame.  It's an amusing comment
   on humAn nature that spelling flames themselves often contain
   spelling errors.

: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 a program that is perceived to have little more
   than a flashy interface going for it.  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 1.

:spike: v. To defeat a selection mechanism by introducing a
   (sometimes temporary) device that forces a specific result.  The
   word is used in several industries; telephone engineers refer to
   spiking a relay by inserting a pin to hold the relay in either the
   closed or open state, and railroaders refer to spiking a
   track switch so that it cannot be moved.  In programming
   environments it normally refers to a temporary change, usually for
   testing purposes (as opposed to a permanent change, which would be
   called {hardwired}).

:spin: vi. Equivalent to {buzz}.  More common among C and UNIX

:spl: /S-P-L/ [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
   that he is very hard to interrupt.  "Wait till I finish this; I'll
   spl down then."  See also {interrupts locked out}.

:splash screen: [Mac] n. Syn. {banner}, sense 3.

:splat: n. 1. Name used in many places (DEC, IBM, and others) for
   the asterisk (`*') character (ASCII 0101010).  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 0100011).  3. [Rochester Institute of
   Technology] The {feature key} on a Mac (same as {alt},
   sense 2).  4. obs. Name used by some people for the
   Stanford/ITS extended ASCII
   character.  This character is also called `blobby' and `frob',
   among other names; it is sometimes used by mathematicians as a
   notation for `tensor product'.  5. obs. Name for the
   semi-mythical Stanford extended ASCII
   character.  See also {{ASCII}}.

:spod: [Great Britain] n. A lower form of life found on {talker
   system}s and {MUD}s.  The spod has few friends in {RL} and
   uses talkers instead, finding communication easier and preferable
   over the net.  He has all the negative traits of the {computer
   geek} without having any interest in computers per se.  Lacking any
   knowledge of or interest in how networks work, and considering his
   access a God-given right, he is a major irritant to sysadmins,
   clogging up lines in order to reach new MUDs, following passed-on
   instructions on how to sneak his way onto Internet ("Wow!  It's in
   America!") and complaining when he is not allowed to use busy
   routes.  A true spod will start any conversation with "Are you
   male or female?" (and follow it up with "Got any good
   numbers/IDs/passwords?") and will not talk to someone physically
   present in the same terminal room until they log onto the same
   machine that he is using and enter talk mode.  Compare {newbie},
   {tourist}, {weenie}, {twink}, {terminal junkie}.

:spoiler: [USENET] n. 1. A remark which reveals important plot
   elements from books or movies, thus denying the reader (of the
   article) the proper suspense when reading the book or watching the
   movie.  2. Any remark which telegraphs the solution of a problem or
   puzzle, thus denying the reader the pleasure of working out the
   correct answer (see also {interesting}).  Either sense readily
   forms compounds like `total spoiler', `quasi-spoiler' and even

   By convention, articles which are spoilers in either sense should
   contain the word `spoiler' in the Subject: line, or guarantee via
   various tricks that the answer appears only after several
   screens-full of warning, or conceal the sensitive information via
   {rot13}, or some combination of these techniques.

:sponge: [UNIX] n. A special case of a {filter} that reads its
   entire input before writing any output; the canonical example is a
   sort utility.  Unlike most filters, a sponge can conveniently
   overwrite the input file with the output data stream.  If a file
   system has versioning (as ITS did and VMS does now) the
   sponge/filter distinction loses its usefulness, because directing
   filter output would just write a new version.  See also {slurp}.
:spoo: n. Variant of {spooge}, sense 1.

: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
   On-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.  Without qualification, the spooler 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) and occasionally even for input devices.  See
   also {demon}.

:spool file: n. Any file to which data is {spool}ed to await the
   next stage of processing.  Especially used in circumstances where
   spooling the data copes with a mismatch between speeds in two
   devices or pieces of software.  For example, when you send mail
   under UNIX, it's typically copied to a spool file to await a
   transport {demon}'s attentions.  This is borderline techspeak.

:square tape: n. Mainframe magnetic tape cartridges for use with
   IBM 3480 or compatible tape drives; or QIC tapes used on
   workstations and micros.  The term comes from the square (actually
   rectangular) shape of the cartridges; contrast {round tape}.

:stack: n. The set of things a person 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 more 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}
   ("The Art of Computer Programming", second edition, vol. 1,
   p. 236) says:

        Many people who realized the importance 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 processor architectures are said to `puke their
   guts onto the stack' to save their internal state during exception
   processing.  The Motorola 68020, for example, regurgitates up to
   92 bytes on a bus fault.  On a pipelined machine, this can take a

: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."  "The system tried to read
   and write the disk simultaneously and got into a totally {wedged}
   state."  The standard question "What's your state?" means
   "What are you doing?" or "What are you about to do?"  Typical
   answers are "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 first question under sense 1 would be
   "state-p latest hack?".  2. Information being maintained in
   non-permanent memory (electronic or human).

:steam-powered: adj. Old-fashioned or underpowered; archaic.  This
   term does not have a strong negative loading and may even be used
   semi-affectionately for something that clanks and wheezes a lot
   but hangs in there doing the job.

:stiffy: [University of Lowell, Massachusetts.] n. 3.5-inch
   {microfloppies}, so called because their jackets are more rigid
   than those of the 5.25-inch and the (now totally obsolete) 8-inch
   floppy.  Elsewhere this might be called a `firmy'.

:stir-fried random: alt. `stir-fried mumble' n. Term used for the
   best dish of many 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}, {{laser
   chicken}}, {{oriental food}}; see also {mumble}.

:stomp on: vt. To inadvertently overwrite something important, usually
   automatically.  "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 (ca. 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).

:stone knives and bearskins: [from the Star Trek Classic episode
   "The City on the Edge of Forever"] n. A term traditionally
   used to describe (and deprecate) computing environments that are
   grotesquely primitive in light of what is known about good ways to
   design things.  As in "Don't get too used to the facilities here.
   Once you leave SAIL it's stone knives and bearskins as far as the
   eye can see".  Compare {steam-powered}.

:stoppage: /sto'p*j/ n. Extreme {lossage} that renders
   something (usually something vital) completely unusable.  "The
   recent system stoppage was caused by a {fried} transformer."

:store: [prob. from techspeak `main store'] n. In some
   varieties of Commonwealth hackish, the preferred synonym for
   {core}.  Thus, `bringing a program into store' means not that
   one is returning shrink-wrapped software but that a program is
   being {swap}ped in.

:strided: /str:'d*d/ [scientific computing] adj. Said of a
   sequence of memory reads and writes to addresses, each of which is
   separated from the last by a constant interval called the `stride
   length'.  These can be a worst-case access pattern for the standard
   memory-caching schemes when the stride length is a multiple of the
   cache line size.  Strided references are often generated by loops
   through an array, and (if youre data is large enough that
   access-time is significant) it can be worthwhile to tune for better
   locality by inverting double loops or by partially unrolling the
   outer loop of a loop nest.  This usage is borderline techspeak; the
   related term `memory stride' is definitely techspeak.

:stroke: n. Common name for the slant (`/', ASCII 0101111)
   character.  See {ASCII} for other synonyms.

:strudel: n. Common (spoken) name for the at-sign (`@', ASCII
   1000000) character.  See {ASCII} for other synonyms.

:stubroutine: /stuhb'roo-teen/ [contraction of `stub
   subroutine'] n. Tiny, often vacuous placeholder for a subroutine
   that is to be written or fleshed out later.

:studly: adj. Impressive; powerful.  Said of code and designs which
   exhibit both complexity and a virtuoso flair.  Has connotations
   similar to {hairy} but is more positive in tone.  Often in the
   emphatic `most studly' or as noun-form `studliness'.  "Smail
   3.0's configuration parser is most studly."

:studlycaps: /stuhd'lee-kaps/ n. A hackish form of silliness
   similar to {BiCapitalization} for trademarks, but applied
   randomly and 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

:stupid-sort: n. Syn. {bogo-sort}.

:Stupids: n. Term used by {samurai} for the {suit}s who
   employ them; succinctly expresses an attitude at least as common,
   though usually better disguised, among other subcultures of
   hackers.  There may be intended reference here to an SF story
   originally published in 1952 but much anthologized since, Mark
   Clifton's "Star, Bright".  In it, a super-genius child
   classifies humans into a very few `Brights' like herself, a huge
   majority of `Stupids', and a minority of `Tweens', the merely
   ordinary geniuses.

:Sturgeon's Law: prov. "Ninety percent of everything is crap".
   Derived from a quote by science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon,
   who once said, "Sure, 90% of science fiction is crud.  That's
   because 90% of everything is crud."  Oddly, when Sturgeon's Law is
   cited, the final word is almost invariably changed to `crap'.
   Compare {Hanlon's Razor}, {Ninety-Ninety Rule}.  Though this
   maxim originated in SF fandom, most hackers recognize it and are
   all too aware of its truth.

:sucking mud: [Applied Data 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 oilfield 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 that 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}, {management}, {Stupids}, {SNAFU
   principle}, and {brain-damaged}.  English, by the way, is
   relatively kind; our Moscow 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 unquantifiable
   behavior that 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 dumped 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 lounge: [Great Britain] n. The room where all the Sun
   workstations live.  The humor in this term comes from the fact
   that it's also in mainstream use to describe a solarium, and all
   those Sun workstations clustered together give off an amazing
   amount of heat.

: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}, which can flip single bits in memory.
   See also {phase of the moon}.

:super source quench: n.  A special packet designed to shut up an Internet
   host.  The Internet Protocol (IP) has a control message called Source
   Quench that asks a host to transmit more slowly on a particular
   connection to avoid congestion.  It also has a Redirect control
   message intended to instruct a host to send certain packets to a
   different local router.  A "super source quench" is actually a
   redirect control packet, forged to look like it came from a local
   router, that instructs a host to send all packets to its own local
   loopback address.  This will effectively tie many Internet hosts up in
   knots.  Compare {godzillagram}, {breath-of-life packet}.

: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; it is
   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* --- and to sidestep the question of
   whether the 3,000 lines of code do more or less useful work than
   three lines that do the {Right Thing}.  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 or
   she will usually know the software and the relevant manuals better
   than the support people (sadly, this is *not* a joke or
   exaggeration).  A hacker's idea of `support' is a
   t^ete-`a-t^ete 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 value 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 a piece of paper is your extra-somatic
   memory and that if you don't swap the idea 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, array indices, or references
   within a data structure into address pointers when the data
   structure is brought into main memory from external storage (also
   called `pointer swizzling'); this may be done for speed in
   chasing references or to simplify code (e.g., by turning lots of
   name lookups into pointer dereferences).  The converse operation is
   sometimes termed `unswizzling'.  See also {snap}.

:sync: /sink/ (var. `synch') n., vi. 1. To synchronize, to
   bring into synchronization.  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 salt: n. The opposite of {syntactic sugar}, a feature
   designed to make it harder to write bad code.  Specifically,
   syntactic salt is a hoop the programmer must jump through just to
   prove that he knows what's going on, rather than to express a
   program action.  Some programmers consider required type
   declarations to be syntactic salt.  A requirement to write
   `end if', `end while', `end do', etc. to terminate
   the last block controlled by a control construct (as opposed to
   just `end') would definitely be syntactic salt.  Syntactic salt
   is like the real thing in that it tends to raise hackers' blood
   pressures in an unhealthy way.  Compare {candygrammar}.  .

:syntactic sugar: [coined by Peter Landin] n. Features added to a
   language or other formalism to make it `sweeter' for humans,
   features which 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.  C's `a[i]' notation is
   syntactic sugar for `*(a + i)'.  "Syntactic sugar causes
   cancer of the semicolon." --- Alan Perlis.

   The variants `syntactic saccharin' and `syntactic syrup' are
   also recorded.  These denote something even more gratuitous, in
   that syntactic sugar serves a purpose (making something more
   acceptable to humans), but syntactic saccharin or syrup serve no
   purpose at all.  Compare {candygrammar}, {syntactic salt}.

:sys-frog: /sis'frog/ [the PLATO system] n. Playful variant of
   `sysprog', which is in turn short for `systems programmer'.

:sysadmin: /sis'ad-min/ n. Common contraction of `system
   admin'; see {admin}.

:sysape: /sys'ayp/ n. A rather derogatory term for a computer
   operator; a play on {sysop} common at sites that use the banana
   hierarchy of problem complexity (see {one-banana

:sysop: /sis'op/ n. [esp. in the BBS world] The operator (and
   usually the 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
   around the world.

: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. `System
   hacker': one who hacks the system (in senses 1 and 2 only; for
   sense 3 one mentions the particular program: e.g., `LISP

:systems jock: n. See {jock}, sense 2.

: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 maintenance, and updates at some site.
   Unlike {admin}, this term emphasizes the technical end of the
   skills involved.

:SysVile: /sis-vi:l'/ n. See {Missed'em-five}.

= T =

:T: /T/ 1. [from LISP terminology for `true'] Yes.  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 is 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
   {tee}.  5. A dialect of {LISP} developed at Yale.

: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 that allows two or more logged-in users to set up a real-time
   on-line conversation.  It combines the immediacy of talking with
   all the precision (and verbosity) that written language entails.
   It is difficult to communicate inflection, though conventions have
   arisen for some of these (see the section on writing style in the
   Prependices for details).

   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
   since the 1920s.

          be seeing you
          by the way
          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)
          see you later
          are you busy?  (expects `ACK' or `NAK' in return)
          are you there? (often used on unexpected links, meaning also
          "Sorry if I butted in ..." (linker) or "What's up?"  (linkee))
          for what it's worth
          for your information
          for your amusement
          go ahead (used when two people have tried to type
          simultaneously; this cedes the right to type to the other)
          grumble (expresses disquiet or disagreement)
          hello? (an instance of the `-P' convention)
          just a minute (equivalent to `SEC....')
          same as `JAM'
          no (see {NIL})
          over to you
          over and out
          another form of "over to you" (from x/y as "x over y")
          lambda (used in discussing LISPy things)
          oh, by the way
     R U THERE?
          are you there?
          wait a second (sometimes written `SEC...')
          yes (see the main entry for {T})
     TNX 1.0E6
          thanks a million (humorous)
          another form of "thanks a million"
          with regard to, or with respect to.
          the universal interrogative particle; WTF knows what it means?
          what the hell?
     <double newline>
          When the typing party has finished, he/she types two newlines
          to signal that he/she is done; this leaves a blank line
          between `speeches' in the conversation, making it easier to
          reread the preceding text.
          When three or more terminals are linked, it is conventional
          for each typist to {prepend} his/her login name or handle and
          a colon (or a hyphen) to each line to indicate who is typing
          (some conferencing facilities do this automatically).  The
          login name is often 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

   Most of the above sub-jargon is used at both Stanford and MIT.
   Several of these expressions 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 the following:

          grinning, running, and ducking
          be back later
          be right back
          ha ha only joking
          ha ha only kidding
          {ha ha only serious}
          in my humble opinion (see {IMHO})
          laughing out loud
          Never Heard of Him/Her (often used in {initgame})
          rolling on the floor
          rolling on the floor laughing
          away from keyboard
     CU l8tr
          see you later
          male or female?
          ta-ta for now
          talk to you later
          oh, I see
          hello again

   Most of these are not used at universities or in the UNIX world,
   though ROTF and TTFN have gained some currency there and IMHO is
   common; 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
   `regreet'.  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 to assume high-speed links.  The
   following uses specific to MUDs are reported:

     CU l8er
          see you later (mutant of `CU l8tr')
          fuck off and die (use of this is generally OTT)
          over the top (excessive, uncalled for)
          abbrev for "people"
          thanks (mutant of `TNX'; clearly this comes in batches of 1138
          (the Lucasian K)).
          are you OK?

   Some {BIFF}isms (notably the variant spelling `d00d')
   appear to be passing into wider use among some subgroups of

   One final note on talk mode style: neophytes, when in talk mode,
   often seem to think they must produce letter-perfect prose because
   they are typing rather than speaking.  This is not the best
   approach.  It can be very frustrating to wait while your partner
   pauses to think of a word, or repeatedly makes the same spelling
   error and backs up to fix it.  It is usually best just to leave
   typographical errors behind and plunge forward, unless severe
   confusion may result; in that case it is often fastest just to type
   "xxx" and start over from before the mistake.

   See also {hakspek}, {emoticon}.

:talker system: n. British hackerism for software that enables
   real-time chat or {talk mode}.

:tall card: n. A PC/AT-size 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 (its 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" comic strip.

:TANSTAAFL: /tan'stah-fl/ [acronym, from Robert Heinlein's
   classic "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress".]  "There Ain't No
   Such Thing As A Free Lunch", often invoked when someone is balking
   at the prospect of using an unpleasantly {heavyweight}
   technique, or at the poor quality of some piece of free software,
   or at the {signal-to-noise ratio} of unmoderated USENET
   newsgroups.  "What? Don't tell me I have to implement a database
   back end to get my address book program to work!"  "Well,
   TANSTAAFL you know."  This phrase owes some of its popularity to
   the high concentration of science-fiction fans and political
   libertarians in hackerdom (see {Appendix B}).

: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 action is
   dubbed `feathering' partly for euphony and (if only for contrived
   effect) 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 a program that 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 judgment 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: /tayst/ n. Two bits; also as {taste}.  Syn. {crumb},
   {quarter}.  Compare {{byte}}, {dynner}, {playte},
   {nybble}, {quad}.

:TCB: /T-C-B/ [IBM] n. 1. Trouble Came Back.  An intermittent or
   difficult-to-reproduce problem that has failed to respond to
   neglect or {shotgun debugging}.  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.

   Like many ISO standards, this one has a faintly alien ring in North
   America, where 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: /tek'ref/ [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. [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.
   With all the dialects included, TECO may have been the 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 game used to be
   mentally working out what the TECO commands corresponding to human
   names did.  2. vt. Originally, to edit using the TECO editor in one
   of its infinite variations (see below).  3. vt.,obs.  To edit even
   when TECO is *not* the editor being used!  This usage is rare
   and now primarily historical.

   As an example of TECO's obscurity, here is a TECO program that
   takes a list of names such as:

     Loser, J. Random
     Quux, The Great
     Dick, Moby

   sorts them alphabetically according to surname, and then puts the
   surname last, removing the comma, to produce the following:

     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 0000010) and $ is actually
   an {alt} or escape (ASCII 0011011) character).

   In fact, this very program was used to produce the second, sorted
   list from the first list.  The first hack at it had a {bug}: GLS
   (the author) had accidentally omitted the `@' in front
   of `F^B', which as anyone can see is clearly the {Wrong Thing}.  It
   worked fine the second time.  There is no space to describe all the
   features of TECO, but it may be of interest that `^P' means
   `sort' and `J<.-Z; ... L>' is an idiomatic series of commands
   for `do once for every line'.

   In mid-1991, TECO is pretty much one with the dust of history,
   having been replaced in the affections of hackerdom by {EMACS}.
   Descendants of an early (and somewhat lobotomized) version adopted
   by DEC can still be found lurking on VMS and a couple of crufty
   PDP-11 operating systems, however, and ports of the more advanced
   MIT versions remain the focus of some antiquarian interest.  See
   also {retrocomputing}, {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}).  Can also mean `save one for me',
   as in "Tee a slice for me!"  Also spelled `T'.

:teledildonics: /tel`*-dil-do'-niks/ n. Sex in a computer
   simulated virtual reality, esp. computer-mediated sexual
   interaction between the {VR} presences of two humans.  This
   practice is not yet possible except in the rather limited form of
   erotic conversation on {MUD}s and the like.  The term, however,
   is widely recognized in the VR community as a {ha ha only
   serious} projection of things to come.  "When we can sustain a
   multi-sensory surround good enough for teledildonics, *then*
   we'll know we're getting somewhere."

:Telerat: /tel'*-rat/ n. Unflattering hackerism for `Teleray', a
   line of extremely losing terminals.  Compare {AIDX},
   {Macintrash} {Nominal Semidestructor}, {Open DeathTrap},
   {ScumOS}, {sun-stools}, {HP-SUX}.

:TELNET: /tel'net/ vt. To communicate with another Internet host
   using the TELNET ({RFC} 854) protocol (usually using a program
   of the same name).  TOPS-10 people used the word IMPCOM, since that
   was the program name for them.  Sometimes abbreviated to TN
   /T-N/.  "I usually TN over to SAIL just to read the AP News."

:ten-finger interface: n. The interface between two networks that
   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 10 years (the usual maximum is 5 or 6): 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
   untenured professor.

:tera-: /te'r*/ [SI] pref. See {{quantifiers}}.

:teraflop club: /te'r*-flop kluhb/ [FLOP = Floating Point
   Operation] n. A 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 founder.

:terminak: /ter'mi-nak`/ [Caltech, ca. 1979] n. Any
   malfunctioning computer terminal.  A common failure mode of
   Lear-Siegler ADM 3a 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 {AIDX},
   {Nominal Semidestructor}, {Open DeathTrap}, {ScumOS},
   {sun-stools}, {Telerat}, {HP-SUX}.

:terminal brain death: n. The extreme form of {terminal illness}
   (sense 1).  What someone who has obviously been hacking
   continuously for far too long is said to be suffering from.

: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: [UK] n. A {wannabee} or early {larval
   stage} hacker who spends most of his or her time wandering the
   directory tree and writing {noddy} programs just to get a fix of
   computer time.  Variants include `terminal jockey', `console
   junkie', and {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

: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 some early OSes and hardware, 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 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 or her shoulder,
   ready to pounce on mistakes.  Judging by the quality of most
   software, the second definition is far more prevalent.  See also

: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}}, the other favored formatter, even at many
   UNIX installations).  TeX fans insist on the correct (guttural)
   pronunciation, and the correct spelling (all caps, squished
   together, with the E depressed below the baseline; the
   mixed-case `TeX' is considered an acceptable kluge on ASCII-only
   devices).  Fans like to proliferate names from the word `TeX'
   --- such as TeXnician (TeX user), TeXhacker (TeX
   programmer), TeXmaster (competent TeX programmer), TeXhax,
   and TeXnique.

   Knuth began TeX because he had become annoyed at the declining
   quality of the typesetting in volumes I--III of his monumental
   "Art of Computer Programming" (see {Knuth}, also
   {bible}).  In a manifestation of the typical hackish urge to
   solve the problem at hand once and for all, he began to design his
   own typesetting language.  He thought he would finish it on his
   sabbatical in 1978; he was wrong by only about 8 years.  The
   language was finally frozen around 1985, but volume IV of "The
   Art of Computer Programming" has yet to appear as of mid-1993.  The
   impact and influence of TeX's design has been such that nobody
   minds this very much.  Many grand hackish projects have started as
   a bit of {toolsmith}ing on the way to something else; Knuth's
   diversion was simply on a grander scale than most.

   TeX has also been a noteworthy example of free, shared, but
   high-quality software.  Knuth used to offer monetary awards to people
   who found and reported bugs in it; as the years wore on and the few
   remaining bugs were fixed (and new ones even harder to find), the
   bribe went up.  Though well-written, TeX is so large (and so full of
   cutting edge technique) that it is said to have unearthed at least
   one bug in every Pascal system it has been compiled with.

: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 {{ASCII}} or {{EBCDIC}}
   representation (see {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}.

:That's not a bug, that's a feature!: The {canonical} first
   parry in a debate about a purported bug.  The complainant, if
   unconvinced, is likely to retort that the bug is then at best a
   {misfeature}.  See also {feature}.

:the X that can be Y is not the true X: Yet another instance of
   hackerdom's peculiar attraction to mystical references --- a common
   humorous way of making exclusive statements about a class of
   things.  The template is from the "Tao te Ching": "The
   Tao which can be spoken of is not the true Tao."  The implication
   is often that the X is a mystery accessible only to the
   enlightened.  See the {trampoline} entry for an example, and
   compare {has the X nature}.

:theology: n. 1. Ironically or humorously used to refer to
   {religious issues}.  2. Technical fine points of an abstruse
   nature, esp. those where the resolution is of theoretical
   interest but is 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, such as the smart-data vs.
   smart-programs dispute in AI.

:theory: n. The consensus, idea, plan, story, or set of rules that
   is currently being used to inform a behavior.  This usage is a
   generalization and (deliberate) 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}; see also {brain fart}.
   Compare {mouso}.

:This can't happen: Less clipped variant of {can't happen}.

: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: n. [USENET, GEnie, CompuServe] Common abbreviation of
   `topic thread', a more or less continuous chain of postings on a
   single topic.  To `follow a thread' is to read a series of USENET
   postings sharing a common subject or (more correctly) which are
   connected by Reference headers.  The better newsreaders can present
   news in thread order automatically.

:three-finger salute: n. Syn. {Vulcan nerve pinch}.

:thud: n. 1. Yet another {metasyntactic variable} (see {foo}).
   It is reported that at CMU from the mid-1970s the canonical series of
   these was `foo', `bar', `thud', `blat'.  2. Rare term
   for the hash character, `#' (ASCII 0100011).  See {ASCII} for
   other synonyms.

:thumb: n. The slider on a window-system scrollbar.  So called
   because moving it allows you to browse through the contents of a
   text window in a way analogous to thumbing through a book.

:thunk: /thuhnk/ n. 1. "A piece of coding which provides an
   address", according to 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 which computes the expression and leaves 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 modeled by
   a thunk --- I frequently need to be forced to completion." ---
   paraphrased from a {plan file}.

   Historical note: There are a couple of onomatopoeic myths
   circulating about the origin of this term.  The most common is that
   it is the sound made by data hitting the stack; another holds that
   the sound is that of the data hitting an accumulator.  Yet another
   suggests that it is the sound of the expression being unfrozen at
   argument-evaluation time.  In fact, according to the inventors, it
   was coined after they realized (in the wee hours after hours of
   discussion) that the type of an argument in Algol-60 could be
   figured out in advance with a little compile-time thought,
   simplifying the evaluation machinery.  In other words, it had
   `already been thought of'; thus it was christened a `thunk',
   which is "the past tense of `think' at two in the morning".

: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.  3. In the FORTH
   language, a single quote character.

: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
   itself 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. 1. Originally, 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' and 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 (see the {patch} entry for an example).
   2. Recently, and more generally, any official inspection team or
   special {firefighting} group called in to look at a problem.

   A subset of tiger teams are professional {cracker}s, testing the
   security of military computer installations by attempting remote
   attacks via networks or supposedly `secure' comm channels.  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 bomb: n. A subspecies of {logic bomb} that is triggered by
   reaching some preset time, either once or periodically.  There are
   numerous legends about time bombs set up by programmers in their
   employers' machines, to go off if the programmer is fired or laid
   off and is not present to perform the appropriate suppressing
   action periodically.

   Interestingly, the only such incident for which we have been
   pointed to documentary evidence took place in the Soviet Union in
   1986!  A disgruntled programmer at the Volga Automobile Plant
   (where the Fiat clones called Ladas were manufactured) planted a
   time bomb which, a week after he'd left on vacation, stopped the
   entire main assembly line for a day.  The case attracted lots of
   attention in the Soviet Union because it was the first cracking
   case to make it to court there.  The perpetrator got 3 years in

:time sink: [poss. by analogy with `heat sink' or `current sink'] n.
   A project that consumes unbounded amounts of time.

:time T: /ti:m T/ 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 was a Chinese restaurant in Palo Alto
   that was 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 30 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}.

:times-or-divided-by: [by analogy with `plus-or-minus'] quant.
   Term occasionally used when describing the uncertainty associated
   with a scheduling estimate, for either humorous or brutally honest
   effect.  For a software project, the scheduling uncertainty factor
   is usually at least 2.

: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 at all

:tired iron: [IBM] n. Hardware that is perfectly functional but
   far enough behind the state of the art to have been superseded by new
   products, presumably with sufficient 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;
   but the Mac, perverse as usual, has them on the `D' and
   `K' keys).

:TLA: /T-L-A/ [Three-Letter Acronym] n. 1. Self-describing
   abbreviation for a species with which computing terminology is
   infested.  2. Any confusing acronym.  Examples include MCA, FTP,
   SNA, CPU, MMU, SCCS, DMU, FPU, NNTP, TLA.  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
   17,000 three-letter acronyms." (To be exact, there are 26^3
   = 17,576.)

:TMRC: /tmerk'/ n. The Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT, one of
   the wellsprings of hacker culture.  The 1959 "Dictionary of
   the TMRC Language" compiled by Peter Samson included several terms
   that became basics of the hackish vocabulary (see esp. {foo},
   {mung}, and {frob}).

   By 1962, TMRC's legendary layout was already a marvel of complexity
   (and has grown in the thirty years since; all the features
   described here are still present).  The control system alone
   featured about 1200 relays.  There were {scram switch}es located
   at numerous places around the room that could be thwacked 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, which was itself something of
   a wonder in those bygone days before cheap LEDS and seven-segment
   displays.  When someone hit a scram switch the clock stopped and
   the display was replaced with the word `FOO'; at TMRC the scram
   switches are therefore called `foo switches'.

   Steven Levy, in his book "Hackers" (see the Bibliography in
   {Appendix C}), gives a stimulating account of those early
   years.  TMRC's Power and Signals group included most of the early
   PDP-1 hackers and the people who later bacame the core of the MIT
   AI Lab staff.  Thirty years later that connection is still very
   much alive, and this lexicon accordingly includes a number of
   entries from a recent revision of the TMRC dictionary.

:TMRCie: /tmerk'ee/, [MIT] n. A denizen of {TMRC}.

:to a first approximation: 1. [techspeak] When one is 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 starting point of a first approximation of the answer,
   one can write an algorithm 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 not all is perfect (e.g., a
   nagging cough still remains after an illness).

:to a zeroth approximation: [from `to a first approximation'] A
   *really* sloppy approximation; a wild guess.  Compare
   {social science number}.

:toast: 1. n. Any completely inoperable system or component, esp.
   one that has just crashed and burned: "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."
   Compare {fried}.

:toaster: n. 1. The archetypal really stupid application for an
   embedded microprocessor controller; often used in comments that
   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 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 used primarily to create, manipulate,
   modify, or analyze other programs, such as a compiler or an editor
   or a 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}, {plumbing}).  3. [MIT: general to students
   there] 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.  (MIT's student humor magazine
   rejoices in the name "Tool and Die".)

: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.  Many hackers consider this
   more fun than applications per se; to understand why, see
   {uninteresting}.  Jon Bentley, in the "Bumper-Sticker Computer
   Science" chapter of his book "More Programming Pearls",
   quotes Dick Sites from DEC as saying "I'd rather write programs to
   write programs than write programs".

:topic drift: n. Term used on GEnie, USENET and other electronic
   fora to describe the tendency of a {thread} to drift away from
   the original subject of discussion (and thus, from the Subject
   header of the originating message), or the results of that
   tendency.  Often used in gentle reminders that the discussion has
   strayed off any useful track.  "I think we started with a question
   about Niven's last book, but we've ended up discussing the sexual
   habits of the common marmoset.  Now *that's* topic drift!"

:topic group: n. Syn. {forum}.

: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: /toh-toh'/ n. Reportedy the default scratch file name
   among French-speaking programmers --- in other words, a francophone
   {foo}.  It is reported that the phonetic mutations "titi",
   "tata", and "tutu" canonically follow `toto', analogously to
   {bar}, {baz} and {quux} in English.

:tourist: [ITS] 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}.  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 depends partly 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 `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 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 such as programming Turing
   machines also qualify as toy languages in a less negative sense.
   See also {MFTL}.

:toy problem: [AI] n. A deliberately 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, likely 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 that doesn't bend your brain is not the true
   trampoline.  See also {snap}.

:trap: 1. n. A program interrupt, usually 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'
   or `exception' 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. 1. Syn. {back door} --- a
   {Bad Thing}.  2. [techspeak] A `trap-door function' is one
   which is easy to compute but very difficult to compute the inverse
   of.  Such functions are {Good Thing}s with important
   applications in cryptography, specifically in the construction of
   public-key cryptosystems.

: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}.

:trawl: v. To sift through large volumes of data (e.g., USENET
   postings, FTP archives, or the Jargon File) looking for something
   of interest.

:tree-killer: [Sun] n. 1. A printer.  2. A person who wastes
   paper.  This epithet 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.  The negative loading of this term may reflect the
   epithet `tree-killer' applied by Treebeard the Ent to the Orcs
   in J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" (see also
   {elvish}, {elder days}).

:treeware: /tree'weir/ n. Printouts, books, and other information
   media made from pulped dead trees.  Compare {tree-killer}, see

:trit: /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}).  Trits arise, for
   example, in the context of a {flag} that should actually be able
   to assume *three* values --- such as yes, no, or unknown.  Trits are
   sometimes jokingly called `3-state bits'.  A trit may be
   semi-seriously referred to as `a bit and a half', although 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.  4. Any problem one has already solved (some claim that
   hackish `trivial' usually evaluates to `I've seen it before').
   Hackers' notions of triviality may be quite at variance with those
   of non-hackers.  See {nontrivial}, {uninteresting}.

:troff:: /T'rof/ or /trof/ [UNIX] n. The gray eminence of UNIX
   text processing; a formatting and phototypesetting program, written
   originally in PDP-11 assembler and then in barely-structured early
   C by the late Joseph Ossanna, modeled after the earlier ROFF which
   was in turn modeled after Multics' RUNOFF by Jerome Saltzer
   (*that* name came from the expression "to run off a copy").  A
   companion program, {nroff}, formats output for terminals and
   line printers.

   In 1979, Brian Kernighan modified `troff' so that it could
   drive phototypesetters other than the Graphic Systems CAT.  His
   paper describing that work ("A Typesetter-independent troff,"
   AT&T CSTR #97) explains troff's durability.  After discussing the
   program's "obvious deficiencies --- a rebarbative input syntax,
   mysterious and undocumented properties in some areas, and a
   voracious appetite for computer resources" and noting the ugliness
   and extreme hairiness of the code and internals, Kernighan

     None of these remarks should be taken as denigrating
     Ossanna's accomplishment with TROFF.  It has proven a
     remarkably robust tool, taking unbelievable abuse from a
     variety of preprocessors and being forced into uses that
     were never conceived of in the original design, all with
     considerable grace under fire.

   The success of {{TeX}} and desktop publishing systems have
   reduced `troff''s relative importance, but this tribute
   perfectly captures the strengths that secured `troff' a place
   in hacker folklore; indeed, it could be taken more generally as an
   indication of those qualities of good programs that, in the long
   run, hackers most admire.

:troglodyte: [Commodore] n. 1. A hacker who never leaves his
   cubicle.  The term `Gnoll' (from Dungeons & Dragons) is also
   reported.  2. A curmudgeon attached to an obsolescent computing
   environment.  The combination `ITS troglodyte' was 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 malicious, security-breaking program that is disguised as
   something benign, such as a directory lister, archiver, game, or
   (in one notorious 1990 case on the Mac) a program to find and
   destroy viruses!  See {back door}, {virus}, {worm},
   {phage}, {mockingbird}.

:tron: [NRL, CMU; prob. fr. the movie "Tron"] v. To become
   inaccessible except via email or `talk(1)', especially when
   one is normally available via telephone or in person.  Frequently
   used in the past tense, as in: "Ran seems to have tronned on us
   this week" or "Gee, Ran, glad you were able to un-tron
   yourself".  One may also speak of `tron mode'; compare

: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
   6 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: /T-T-Y/ [UNIX], /tit'ee/ [ITS, but some UNIX people say it
   this way as well; this pronunciation is not considered to have
   sexual undertones] n. 1. A 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.  3. [UNIX] Any
   serial port, whether or not the device connected to it is a
   terminal; so called because under UNIX such devices have names of
   the form tty*.  Ambiguity between senses 2 and 3 is common but
   seldom bothersome.

:tube: 1. n. A CRT terminal.  Never used in the mainstream sense of
   TV; real hackers don't watch TV, except for Loony Toons, Rocky &
   Bullwinkle, Trek Classic, the Simpsons, and the occasional cheesy
   old swashbuckler movie (see {Appendix B}).  2. [IBM] To send
   a copy of something to someone else's terminal.  "Tube me that

: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 manual pages of
   `tunefs(8)' in the original {BSD} 4.2 distribution.  The
   joke was removed in later releases once commercial sites started
   using 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 file system, but you can't tunafish".
   Variants of this can be seen in other BSD versions, though it has
   been excised from some versions 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 use), or
   `tune for configuration' (most efficient use of hardware).  See
   {bum}, {hot spot}, {hand-hacking}.

:turbo nerd: n. See {computer geek}.

:Turing tar-pit: n. 1. A place where anything is possible but
   nothing of interest is practical.  Alan Turing helped lay the
   foundations of computer science by showing that all machines and
   languages capable of expressing a certain very primitive set of
   operations are logically equivalent in the kinds of computations
   they can carry out, and in principle have capabilities that differ
   only in speed from those of the most powerful and elegantly
   designed computers.  However, no machine or language exactly
   matching Turing's primitive set has ever been built (other than
   possibly as a classroom exercise), because it would be horribly
   slow and far too painful to use.  A `Turing tar-pit' is any
   computer language or other tool that shares this property.  That
   is, it's theoretically universal --- but in practice, the harder
   you struggle to get any real work done, the deeper its inadequacies
   suck you in.  Compare {bondage-and-discipline language}.  2. The
   perennial {holy wars} over whether language A or B is