term% ls -F
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#======= THIS IS THE JARGON FILE, VERSION  3.3.3,  25 MAR 1996 =======#

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 3.3.3" or "The
on-line hacker Jargon File, version 3.3.3, 25 MAR 1996".)

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


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 40 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.

Hacker 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 slang definitions.

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, {Hacker Folklore}. The `outside' reader's attention is
particularly directed to Appendix B, {A Portrait of J. Random Hacker}.
Appendix C, the {Bibliography}, lists some 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 hacker 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 hacker 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 new compilations 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 coinages.

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 permanent.

The AI Lab culture had been hit hard in the late 1970s by funding cuts
and the resulting administrative decision to use vendor-supported
hardware and software instead of homebrew whenever possible.  At MIT,
most AI work had turned to dedicated LISP Machines.  At the same time,
the commercialization of AI technology lured some of the AI 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 standard.

In April 1983, the PDP-10-centered cultures that had nourished the
File were dealt a death-blow by the cancellation of the Jupiter
project at 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 hacker 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

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

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

(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 was published in September 1993 as the second
edition of "The New Hacker's Dictionary", again from MIT Press (ISBN

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

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.

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

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

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 entries.

Version 3.1.0, Oct 15 1994: interim release to test WWW conversion.
This version had 23197 lines, 181001 words, 1193818 characters, and
1990 entries.

Version 3.2.0, Mar 15 1995: Spring 1995 update.  This version had
23822 lines, 185961 words, 1226358 characters, and 2031 entries.

Version 3.3.0, Jan 20 1996: Winter 1996 update.  This version had
24055 lines, 187957 words, 1239604 characters, and 2045 entries.

Version 3.3.1, Jan 25 1996: Copy-corrected improvement on 3.3.0
shipped to MIT Press as a step towards TNHD III.  This version had
24147 lines, 188728 words, 1244554 characters, and 2050 entries.

Version 3.3.2, Mar 20 1996: A number of new entries pursuant on 3.3.2.
This version had 24442 lines, 190867 words, 1262468 characters, and
2061 entries.

Version 3.3.3, Mar 25 1996: Cleanup before TNHD III manuscript freeze.
This version had 24584 lines, 191932 words, 1269996 characters, and
2064 entries.

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 around.

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 copy.

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
done 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.  Indeed, the sustained volume and quality of
Mr. Brader's input over several years and several different editions
has only allowed him to escape co-editor credit by the slimmest of

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 verb
doubling, soundalike slang, the `-P' convention, overgeneralization,
spoken inarticulations, and anthromorphization.  Each is discussed
below.  We also cover the standard comparatives for design quality.

Of these six, verb doubling, overgeneralization, anthromorphization,
and (especially) spoken inarticulations have become quite general; but
soundalike slang is still largely confined to MIT and other large
universities, and the `-P' convention is found only where LISPers

: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]


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 kind.

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

     porous => porosity
     generous => generosity

hackers happily generalize:

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

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 => lossitude
     cruft => cruftitude
     lame => 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 `polygoose'.

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!"


Semantically, one rich source of jargon constructions is the hackish
tendency to anthromorphize 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'.


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

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

     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*,

One might also see the above sound effects as <bang>, <hic>, <ring>,
<grin>, <kick>, <stomp>, <mumble>.  This use of angle brackets to mark
their contents originally derives from conventions used in {BNF}, but
since about 1993 it has been reinforced by the HTML markup used on the
World Wide Web.

Angle-bracket enclosure is also used to indicate that a term stands
for some {random} member of a larger class (this is straight from
{BNF}). Examples 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 exclusive-or 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.

More recently, following on the huge popularity of the World Wide Web,
pseudo-HTML markup has become popular for similar purposes:

     The flame goes here.

You'll even see this with an HTML-style modifier:

     <flame intensity="100%">
     This is an extremely hot flame.

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 possessive).

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 super-user).

: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 them.
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.

On the other hand, English often gives rise to grammatical and
vocabulary mutations in the native language.  For example, Italian
hackers often use the nonexistent verbs `scrollare' (to scroll) and
`deletare' (to delete) rather than native Italian `scorrere' and
`cancellare'.  Similarly, the English verb `to hack' has been seen
conjugated in Swedish.  European hackers report that this happens
partly because the English terms make finer distinctions than are
available in their native vocabularies, and partly because deliberate
language-crossing makes for amusing wordplay.

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

From the late 1980s onward, a flourishing culture of local,
MS-DOS-based bulletin boards has been developing separately from
Internet hackerdom.  The BBS culture has, as its seamy underside, a
stratum of `pirate boards' inhabited by {cracker}s, phone phreaks, and
{warez d00dz}.  These people (mostly teenagers running PC-clones from
their bedrooms) have developed their own characteristic jargon,
heavily influenced by skateboard lingo and underground-rock slang.

Though crackers often call themselves `hackers', they aren't (they
typically have neither significant programming ability, nor Internet
expertise, nor experience with UNIX or other true multi-user systems).
Their vocabulary has little overlap with hackerdom's.  Nevertheless,
this lexicon covers much of it so the reader will be able to
understand what goes by on bulletin-board systems.

Here is a brief guide to cracker and {warez d00dz} usage:

   * Misspell frequently.  The substitutions

               phone => fone
               freak => phreak

     are obligatory.
   * Always substitute `z's for `s's.  (i.e. "codes" -> "codez").
   * Type random emphasis characters after a post line (i.e. "Hey
   * Use the emphatic `k' prefix ("k-kool", "k-rad", "k-awesome")
   * Abbreviate compulsively ("I got lotsa warez w/ docs").
   * Substitute `0' for `o' ("r0dent", "l0zer").

These traits are similar to those of {B1FF}, who originated as a
parody of naive BBS users.  For further discussion of the pirate-board
subculture, see {lamer}, {elite}, {leech}, {poser}, {cracker}, and
especially {warez d00dz}.

: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

  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 /aych 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

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 Pronunciation.

The intent of this scheme is to permit as many readers as possible to
map the pronunciations into their local dialect by ignoring some
subset of the distinctions we make.  Speakers of British RP, for
example, can smash terminal /r/ and all unstressed vowels.  Speakers
of many varieties of southern American will automatically map /o/ to
/aw/; and so forth.  (Standard American makes a good reference dialect
for this purpose because it has crisp consonents and more vowel
distinctions than other major dialects, and tends to retain
distinctions between unstressed vowels.  It also happens to be what
your editor speaks.)

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

:Other Lexicon Conventions:

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

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.

Prefixed ** is used as linguists do; to mark examples of incorrect

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

     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:

Amateur Packet Radio
     A technical culture of ham-radio sites using AX.25 and TCP/IP for
     wide-area networking and BBS systems.
     University of California at Berkeley
     Bolt, Beranek & Newman
     the university in England (*not* the city in Massachusetts where
     MIT happens to be located!)
     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
     The World-Wide-Web.
     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 jargon.

: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 in the ASCII on-line version
--- 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.

There is now an HTML version of the File available at  Please send us URLs for materials related
to the entries, so we can enrich the File's link structure.

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: /o'bend/, /*-bend'/ /n./  [ABnormal END] 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. obs./  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").

:Acme: /n./  The canonical supplier of bizarre, elaborate, and
   non-functional gadgetry -- where Rube Goldberg and Heath Robinson
   shop.  Describing some X as an "Acme X" either means "This is
   {insanely great}", or, more likely, "This looks {insanely
   great} on paper, but in practice it's really easy to shoot yourself
   in the foot with it."  Compare {pistol}.

   This term, specially cherished by American hackers and explained
   here for the benefit of our overseas brethren, comes from the
   Warner Brothers' series of "Roadrunner" cartoons.  In these
   cartoons, the famished Wile E. Coyote was forever attempting to
   catch up with, trap, and eat the Roadrunner.  His attempts usually
   involved one or more high-technology Rube Goldberg devices --
   rocket jetpacks, catapults, magnetic traps, high-powered
   slingshots, etc.  These were usually delivered in large cardboard
   boxes, labeled prominently with the Acme name.  These devices
   invariably malfunctioned in violent and improbable ways.

:acolyte: /n. obs./  [TMRC] An {OSU} privileged enough to
   submit data and programs to a member of the {priesthood}.

:ad-hockery: /ad-hok'*r-ee/ /n./  [Purdue] 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 of
   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/ /vt./  [UCLA mutant of {nadger}, poss. from
   the middle name of an infamous {tenured graduate student}] 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 mangler}.

:ADVENT: /ad'vent/ /n./  The prototypical computer adventure
   game, first designed by Will Crowther on the {PDP-10} in the
   mid-1970s as an attempt at computer-refereed fantasy gaming, and
   expanded into a puzzle-oriented game by Don Woods at Stanford in
   1976.  Now better known as Adventure, but the {{TOPS-10}}
   operating system permitted only six-letter filenames.  See also
   {vadding}, {Zork}, and {Infocom}.

   This game defined the terse, dryly humorous style since 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

:AFAIK: // /n./ [Usenet] Abbrev. for "As Far As I Know".

: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
   consistently marked by customary observances on Internet and other
   hacker networks.

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

:AI-complete: /A-I k*m-pleet'/ /adj./  [MIT, Stanford: by
   analogy with `NP-complete' (see {NP-})] 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 (1996) 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 {AI Koans} in Appendix A).  See also {ha ha
   only serious}, {mu}, and {{Humor, Hacker}}.

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

:AIDX: /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: /adj./  [MS-DOS] 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 {mess-dos}.

: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).  4. The alt hierarchy on Usenet, the tree of
   newsgroups created by users without a formal vote and approval
   procedure.  There is a myth, not entirely implausible, that
   alt is acronymic for "anarchists, lunatics, and terrorists";
   but in fact it is simply short for "alternative".

:alt bit: /awlt bit/ [from alternate] /adj./  See {meta

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

:Aluminum Book: /n./  [MIT] "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

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

: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/ /n./  [IRC] See {robot}.

:ANSI: /an'see/  1. /n./ [techspeak] The American National
   Standards Institute. ANSI, along with the International Standards
   Organization (ISO), standardized the C programming language (see
   {K&R}, {Classic C}), and promulgates many other important
   software standards.  2. /n./ [techspeak] A terminal may be said to
   `ANSI' if it meets the ANSI X.364 standard for terminal control.
   Unfortunately, this standard was both over-complicated and too
   permissive.  It has been retired and replaced by the ECMA-48
   standard, which shares both flaws.  3. /n./ [BBS jargon] The set of
   screen-painting codes that most MS-DOS and Amiga computers accept.
   This comes from the ANSI.SYS device driver that must be loaded on
   an MS-DOS computer to view such codes.  Unfortunately, neither DOS
   ANSI nor the BBS ANSIs derived from it exactly match the ANSI X.364
   terminal standard.  For example, the ESC-[1m code turns on the bold
   highlight on large machines, but in IBM PC/MS-DOS ANSI, it turns on
   `intense' (bright) colors.  Also, in BBS-land, the term `ANSI' is
   often used to imply that a particular computer uses or can emulate
   the IBM high-half character set from MS-DOS.  Particular use
   depends on context. Occasionally, the vanilla ASCII character set
   is used with the color codes, but on BBSs, ANSI and `IBM
   characters' tend to go together.

:AOS: 1. /aws/ (East Coast), /ay'os/ (West Coast) /vt. obs./ 
   To increase the amount of something. "AOS the campfire."
   [based on a PDP-10 increment instruction] 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
   to those calculators which use infix instead of postfix (reverse
   Polish) notation.  4. A {BSD}-like operating system for the IBM

   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 system}.

: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 stack}.

:arg: /arg/ /n./  Abbreviation for `argument' (to a
   function), used so often as to have become a new word (like
   `piano' from `pianoforte').  "The sine function takes 1 arg,
   but the arc-tangent function can take either 1 or 2 args."
   Compare {param}, {parm}, {var}.

:ARMM: /n./  [acronym, `Automated Retroactive Minimal
   Moderation'] 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', etc.

:ASCII:: /as'kee/ /n./  [acronym: American Standard Code for
   Information Interchange] 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; {splat}.

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

          Common: percent; <percent sign>; mod; grapes.  Rare:

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

          Common: single quote; quote; <apostrophe>.  Rare: prime;
          glitch; tick; irk; pop; [spark]; <closing single quotation
          mark>; <acute accent>.

     ( )

          Common: 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.  There are more culture wars over the correct
   pronunciation of this character than any other, which has led to
   the {ha ha only serious} suggestion that it be pronounced
   `shibboleth' (see Judges 12.6 in a Christian Bible).

   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

         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

   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__/---        \\
       \_\                           /_/

   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 "

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

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

   There is a newsgroup,, devoted to this
   genre; however, see also {warlording}.

: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: /adj./  [from Gk. `atomos', indivisible]
   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

:automagically: /aw-toh-maj'i-klee/ /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."

   This term is quite old, going back at least to the mid-70s and
   probably much earlier.  The word `automagic' occured in advertising
   (for a shirt-ironing gadget) as far back as the late 1940s.

:avatar: /n./ Syn.  1. Among people working on virtual reality
   and {cyberspace} interfaces, an "avatar" is an icon or
   representation of a user in a shared virtual reality.  The term is
   sometimes used on {MUD}s.  2. [CMU, Tektronix] {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

:awk: /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.
   Ken Thompson's 1983 Turing Award lecture to the ACM admitted the
   existence of a back door in early Unix versions that may have
   qualified as the most fiendishly clever security hack of all time.
   In this scheme, 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 suggested this truly moby hack was published as
   "Reflections on Trusting Trust", "Communications of the ACM
   27", 8 (August 1984), pp. 761--763.  Ken Thompson has since
   confirmed that this hack was implemented and that the Trojan Horse
   code did appear in the login binary of a Unix Support group
   machine.  Ken says the crocked compiler was never distributed.
   Your editor has heard two separate reports that suggest that the
   crocked login did make it out of Bell Labs, notably to BBN, and
   that it enabled at least one late-night login across the network by
   someone using the login name `kt'.

: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, when this sense of
   the term was beginning to pass out of general use due to wide
   availability of cheap Internet connections, included 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}.

   [1996 update: This term is seldom heard any more.  The UUCP network
   world that gave it meaning has nearly disappeared; everyone is on
   the Internet now and network traffic is distributed in very
   different patterns. --ESR]

:backgammon::  See {bignum} (sense 3), {moby} (sense 4),
   and {pseudoprime}.

: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/ /n./ 
   [CMU, Tektronix: from `backward compatibility'] 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 day}.

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

:Bad Thing: /n./  [from the 1930 Sellar & Yeatman parody "1066
   And All That"] 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
   [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 {chomp}).

:balloonian variable: /n./  [Commodore users; perh. a deliberate
   phonetic mangling of `boolean variable'?] Any variable that
   doesn't actually hold or control state, but must nevertheless be
   declared, checked, or set.  A typical balloonian variable started
   out as a flag attached to some environment feature that either
   became obsolete or was planned but never implemented.
   Compatibility concerns (or politics attached to same) may require
   that such a flag be treated as though it were {live}.

:bamf: /bamf/  1. [from X-Men comics; originally "bampf"]
   /interj./ Notional sound made by a person or object teleporting in
   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 MUDs. 3. In
   MUD circles, "bamf" is also used to refer to the act by which a
   MUD server sends a special notification to the MUD client to switch
   its connection to another server ("I'll set up the old site to
   just bamf people over to our new location.").  4. Used by MUDders
   on occasion in a more general sense related to sense 3, to refer to
   directing someone to another location or resource ("A user was
   asking about some technobabble so I bamfed them to")

: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 barbox.

   In the bad old days of not so long ago, before autorouting mailers
   became commonplace, people often published compound bang addresses
   using the { } convention (see {glob}) to give paths from
   *several* big machines, in the hopes that one's correspondent
   might be able to get mail to one of them reliably (example:
   ...!{seismo, ut-sally, 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 {foobar}.

: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/ /n.,v./  [from mainstream slang meaning `vomit']
   1. /interj./ Term of disgust.  This is the closest hackish
   equivalent of the Valspeak "gag me with a spoon". (Like, euwww!)
   See {bletch}.  2. /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 wonky.

: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: /bay'-sic/ /n./  [acronym: Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic
   Instruction Code] 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.  Edsger W. Dijkstra observed in "Selected
   Writings on Computing: A Personal Perspective" that "It is
   practically impossible to teach good programming style to students
   that have had prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers
   they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration."  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
   (a) is 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

   [1995: Some languages called `BASIC' aren't quite this nasty any
   more, having acquired Pascal- and C-like procedures and control
   structures and shed their line numbers. -- ESR]

: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/ /n./  [simplified from its technical meaning]
   /n./ Bits per second.  Hence kilobaud or Kbaud, thousands of bits
   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 `foobaz'.

   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/ /n./  [contraction of `bulletin board']
   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/ /n./  [abbreviation, `Bulletin Board System'] 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: /vt./  [from Star Trek Classic's "Beam me up, Scotty!"]
   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: /n./  [Mac users] See {command key}.

:beep: /n.,v./  Syn. {feep}.  This term is techspeak under
   MS-DOS and OS/2, and seems to be generally preferred among micro

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

:bells and whistles: /n./  [by analogy with the toyboxes on theater
   organs] 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/ /n./  [from `berserk', via the
   name of a now-deceased record label] 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 group 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 (or self-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}.

:B1FF: /bif/ [Usenet] (alt. `BIFF') /n./  The most famous
   {pseudo}, and the prototypical {newbie}.  Articles from B1FF
   feature by all uppercase letters sprinkled liberally with bangs,
   typos, `cute' misspellings (EVRY BUDY LUVS GOOD OLD BIFF CUZ
   LIKE THIS!!!), use (and often misuse) of fragments of {talk mode}
   abbreviations, a long {sig block} (sometimes even a {doubled
   sig}), and unbounded naivete.  B1FF posts articles using his
   elder brother's VIC-20.  B1FF'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
   B1FF is a denizen of BITNET is supported by B1FF's (unfortunately
   invalid) electronic mail address: B1FF@BIT.NET.

   [1993: Now It Can Be Told!  My spies inform me that B1FF 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.  There was a legend that it
   had a habit of barking whenever the mailman came, but the author of
   `biff' says this is not true.  No relation to {B1FF}.

: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: /n./  [IBM] 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: /adj./  [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] 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 late 1995, are big-endian.  Big-endian byte order is
   also sometimes called `network order'. 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.  Most gateway sites have {ad-hockery} in their
   mailers to handle this, but can still be confused.  In particular,
   the address could be interpreted in
   JANET's big-endian way as one in the U.K. (domain uk) or in the
   standard little-endian way as one in the domain as (American
   Samoa) on the opposite side of the world.

:bignum: /big'nuhm/ /n./  [orig. from MIT MacLISP]
   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: /n./  [from the mainstream meaning and `Binary digIT']
   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 returned to use in the
   early 1990s on some RISC architectures because it consumes such
   an infinitesimal part of the processor that it actually makes sense
   not to have a UART.  Compare {cycle of reincarnation}.

: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

: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

:BITNET: /bit'net/ /n./  [acronym: Because It's Time NETwork]
   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 was also notorious as the
   apparent home of {B1FF}.

:bits: /pl.n./  1. Information.  Examples: "I need some bits
   about file formats."  ("I need to know about file formats.")
   Compare {core dump}, sense 4.  2. Machine-readable
   representation of a document, specifically as contrasted with
   paper: "I have only a photocopy of the Jargon File; does anyone
   know where I can get the bits?".  See {softcopy}, {source of
   all good bits} 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 bucket}.

: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).

:Black Thursday: n.  February 8th, 1996 -- the day of the
   signing into law of the {CDA}, so called by analogy with the
   catastrophic "Black Friday" in 1929 that began the Great

:blammo: /v./  [Oxford Brookes University and alumni, UK] To
   forcibly remove someone from any interactive system, especially
   talker systems. The operators, who may remain hidden, may `blammo'
   a user who is misbehaving.  Very similar to MIT {gun}; in fact,
   the `blammo-gun' is a notional device used to `blammo' someone.
   While in actual fact the only incarnation of the blammo-gun is the
   command used to forcibly eject a user, operators speak of different
   levels of blammo-gun fire; e.g., a blammo-gun to `stun' will
   temporarily remove someone, but a blammo-gun set to `maim' will
   stop someone coming back on for a while.

:blargh: /blarg/ /n./  [MIT] 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. /v.,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/ /interj./  [from Yiddish/German `brechen', to
   vomit, poss.  via comic-strip exclamation `blech'] 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 above.

:blink: /vi.,n./  To use a navigator or off-line message reader
   to minimize time spent on-line to a commercial network service.
   As of late 1994, this term was said to be in wide use in the UK,
   but is rare or unknown in the US.

: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

                   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}.

   Old-time hackers sometimes get nostalgic for blinkenlights because
   they were so much more fun to look at than a blank panel.  Sadly,
   very few computers still have them (the three LEDs on a PC keyboard
   certainly don't count). The obvious reasons (cost of wiring, cost
   of front-panel cutouts, almost nobody needs or wants to interpret
   machine-register states on the fly anymore) are only part of the
   story.  Another part of it is that radio-frequency leakage from the
   lamp wiring was beginning to be a problem as far back as transistor
   machines.  But the most fundamental fact is that there are very few
   signals slow enough to blink an LED these days!  With slow CPUs,
   you could watch the bus register or instruction counter tick, but
   at 33/66/150MHz it's all a blur.

: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 sine 1990 the trend is away from
   them (however, see {cycle of reincarnation}).  Syn. {raster

:blivet: /bliv'*t/ /n./  [allegedly from a World War II
   military term meaning "ten pounds of manure in a five-pound bag"]
   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:  1. /n./ [acronym: Binary Large OBject] 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.  2. /v./ To {mailbomb}
   someone by sending a BLOB to him/her; esp. used as a mild threat.
   "If that program crashes again, I'm going to BLOB the core dump to

:block: /v./  [from process scheduling terminology in OS theory]
   1. /vi./ To delay or sit idle while waiting for something.  "We're
   blocking until everyone gets here."  Compare {busy-wait}.
   2. `block on' /vt./ To block, waiting for (something).  "Lunch is
   blocked on Phil's arrival."

:block transfer computations: /n./  [from the television series
   "Dr. Who"] 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 nondestructive.

: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

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

: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

: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 box:  /n./ 1. obs. Once upon a time, before
   all-digital switches made it possible for the phone companies to
   move them out of band, one could actually hear the switching tones
   used to route long-distance calls.  Early {phreaker}s built
   devices called `blue boxes' that could reproduce these tones,
   which could be used to commandeer portions of the phone network.
   (This was not as hard as it may sound; one early phreak acquired
   the sobriquet `Captain Crunch' after he proved that he could
   generate switching tones with a plastic whistle pulled out of a box
   of Captain Crunch cereal!) There were other colors of box with more
   specialized phreaking uses; red boxes, black boxes, silver boxes,
   etc.  2. /n./ An {IBM} machine, especially a large (non-PC)

:Blue Glue: /n./  [IBM] 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.  The term
   `Blue Goo' can be found in Dr. Seuss's "Fox In Socks" to
   refer to a substance much like bubblegum.  `Would you like to
   chew blue goo, sir?'.  See {{nanotechnology}}.

:blue wire: /n./  [IBM] 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/ /n./  [UK] 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 tripled. "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 `Anaconda'.

: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.

:bodysurf code: /n./  A program or segment of code written
   quickly in the heat of inspiration without the benefit of formal
   design or deep thought.  Like its namesake sport, the result is
   too often a wipeout that leaves the programmer eating sand.

: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.

:BOFH: // /n./  Acronym, Bastard Operator From Hell.  A system
   administrator with absolutely no tolerance for {luser}s.  "You
   say you need more filespace?  <massive-global-delete> Seems to me
   you have plenty left..."  Many BOFHs (and others who would be
   BOFHs if they could get away with it) hang out in the newsgroup
   alt.sysadmin.recovery, although there has also been created a
   top-level newsgroup hierarchy (bofh.*) of their own.

   Several people have written stories about BOFHs. The set usually
   considered canonical is by Simon Travaglia and may be found at the
   Bastard Home Page,

: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/ /n./  [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 and note that Arthur Dent actually mispronounces
   `Vogons' as `Bogons' at one point] 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}, {bogus}.

: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/ /n./  [from quantum physics] 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. /v./ To have sex with; compare {bounce}, sense 3. (This is
   mainstream slang.) In Commonwealth hackish the variant `bonk' is
   more common.  2. /n./ 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: /n./  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 choice}.

: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},
   {Camel 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 series}.  Since about 1983 this tradition has gotten a
   boost from the popular O'Reilly Associates line of technical books,
   which usually feature some kind of exotic animal on the

:boot: /v.,n./  [techspeak; from `by one's bootstraps'] 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: /n./  [Unix] 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: /n./  [from a Greek word for turning like an ox
   while plowing] 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 Glue}.

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

: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: /adj./  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 fart}.

:branch to Fishkill: /n./  [IBM: from the location of one of the
   corporation's facilities] 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 woods.

: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
   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.  A FOOGOL implementation is available at the
   Retrocomputing Museum

:breath-of-life packet: /n./  [XEROX PARC] 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 meltdown}; compare {mail storm}.

: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 depression.

:broken arrow: /n./  [IBM] 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

:BrokenWindows: /n./  Abusive hackerism for the {crufty} and
   {elephantine} {X} environment on Sun machines; properly
   called `OpenWindows'.

:broket: /broh'k*t/ or /broh'ket`/ /n./  [by analogy with
   `bracket': a `broken bracket'] 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 brackets}.)

: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}, {optimism}.

:browser: /n./  A program specifically designed to help users view
   and navigate hypertext, on-line documentation, or a database.
   While this general sense has been present in jargon for a long
   time, the proliferation of browsers for the World Wide Web after
   1992 has made it much more popular and provided a central or
   default meaning of the word previously lacking in hacker usage.
   Nowadays, if someone mentions using a `browser' without
   qualification, one may assume it is a Web browser.

: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 Software
   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.  Note that
   BSD versions going back to 2.9 are often referred to by their
   version numbers, without the BSD prefix.  See {4.2}, {{Unix}},
   {USG Unix}.

:BUAF: // /n./  [abbreviation, from] 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: // /n./  [abbreviation, from] 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).  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 NLS.

   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 chuck: /n./  Shorter and ruder syn. for {buffer

: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!

   Or perhaps not a joke.  Historians of the field inform us that the
   term "bug" was regularly used in the early days of telegraphy to
   refer to a variety of semi-automatic telegraphy keyers that would
   send a string of dots if you held them down.  In fact, the
   Vibroplex keyers (which were among the most common of this type)
   even had a graphic of a beetle on them!  While the ability to send
   repeated dots automatically was very useful for professional morse
   code operators, these were also significantly trickier to use than
   the older manual keyers, and it could take some practice to ensure
   one didn't introduce extraneous dots into the code by holding the
   key down a fraction too long.  In the hands of an inexperienced
   operator, a Vibroplex "bug" on the line could mean that a lot
   of garbled Morse would soon be coming your way.

   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."

   A careful discussion of the etymological issues can be found in a
   paper by Fred R. Shapiro, 1987, "Entomology of the Computer Bug:
   History and Folklore", American Speech 62(4):376-378.

   [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.

:bug-of-the-month club: /n./  [from "book-of-the-month
   club", a time-honored mail-order-marketing technique in the U.S.]
   A mythical club which users of `sendmail(1)' (the UNIX mail
   daemon) belong to; this was coined on the Usenet newsgroup at a time when sendmail security holes, which
   allowed outside {cracker}s access to the system, were being
   uncovered at an alarming rate, forcing sysadmins to update very
   often.  Also, more completely, `fatal security bug-of-the-month

: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: /v./  [from Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky"] 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}.

   Historical note: the origin of "burn-in" (sense 1) is apparently
   the practice of setting a new-model airplane's brakes on fire, then
   extinguishing the fire, in order to make them hold better.  This
   done on the first version of the U.S. spy-plane, the U-2.

: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 phone."

   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/ /n./  [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/ /n./  [techspeak] 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

:bzzzt, wrong: /bzt rong/ /excl./  [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.
   (BCPL was in turn descended from an earlier Algol-derived language,
   CPL.)  Before Bjarne Stroustrup settled the question by designing
   {C++}, there was a humorous debate over whether C's successor
   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.

:C++: /C'-pluhs-pluhs/ /n./  Designed by Bjarne Stroustrup
   of AT&T Bell Labs as a successor to {C}.  Now one of the
   {languages of choice}, although many hackers still grumble that
   it is the successor to either Algol 68 or {Ada} (depending on
   generation), and a prime example of {second-system effect}.
   Almost anything that can be done in any language can be done in
   C++, but it requires a {language lawyer} to know what is and
   what is not legal-- the design is *almost* too large to hold
   in even hackers' heads.  Much of the {cruft} results from C++'s
   attempt to be backward compatible with C.  Stroustrup himself has
   said in his retrospective book "The Design and Evolution of
   C++" (p. 207), "Within C++, there is a much smaller and cleaner
   language struggling to get out."  [Many hackers would now add
   "Yes, and it's called Java" --ESR]

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

:Camel Book: /n./  Universally recognized nickname for the book
   "Programming Perl", by Larry Wall and Randal L. Schwartz,
   O'Reilly Associates 1991, ISBN 0-937175-64-1.  The definitive
   reference on {Perl}.

: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: /adj./  [historically, `according to religious law']
   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}.

   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 investigate.

   The word `canon' has an interesting history.  It 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

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

:careware: /keir'weir/ /n./  A variety of {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

   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: /n./  [from `cut and paste'] 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: /n./  [IBM, prob. fr. slang belly up] 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 it).

: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 "{AI Koans}"
   (Appendix A).

   A correspondent from England tells us that one of ICL's most
   talented systems designers used to be called out occasionally to
   service machines which the {field circus} had given up on.
   Since he knew the design inside out, he could often find faults
   simply by listening to a quick outline of the symptoms.  He used to
   play on this by going to some site where the field circus had just
   spent the last two weeks solid trying to find a fault, and
   spreading a diagram of the system out on a table top.  He'd then
   shake some chicken bones and cast them over the diagram, peer at
   the bones intently for a minute, and then tell them that a certain
   module needed replacing.  The system would start working again
   immediately upon the replacement.

: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."

:CDA: /C-D-A/   The "Communications Decency Act" of 1996,
   passed on {Black Thursday} as section 502 of a major
   telecommunications reform bill. The CDA made it a federal crime in
   the U.S.A to send a communication which is "obscene,
   lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent, with intent to annoy, abuse,
   threaten, or harass another person." It also threatens with
   imprisonment anyone who "knowingly" makes accessible to minors
   any message that "describes, in terms patently offensive as
   measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or excretory
   activities or organs".
   While the CDA was sold as a measure to protect minors from the
   putative evils of pornography, the repressive political aims of the
   bill were laid bare by the Hyde amendment, which intended to
   outlaw discussion of abortion on the Internet.

   To say that this direct attack on First Amendment free-speech
   rights was not well received on the Internet would be putting it
   mildly.  A firestorm of protest followed, including a February 29th
   mass demonstration by thousands of netters who turned their {home
   page}s black for 48 hours.  Several civil-rights groups and
   computing/telecommunications companies sought an immediate
   injunction to block enforcement of the CDA pending a constitutional
   challenge.  This injunction was granted on the likelihood that
   plaintiffs would prevail on the merits of the case.  At time of
   writing (early), the fate of the CDA, and its effect on the
   Internet, is still unknown. See also {Exon}.

   To join the fight against the CDA, visit the Center for Democracy
   and Technology Home Page at

:cdr: /ku'dr/ or /kuh'dr/ /vt./  [from LISP] 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 704 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 has also been
   called `chaff', `computer confetti', and `keypunch
   droppings'.  This use may now be mainstream; it has been reported
   seen (1993) in directions for a card-based voting machine in

   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'.  There is a
   legend that the word was originally acronymic, standing for
   "Card Hole Aggregate Debris", but this has all the earmarks of
   a bogus folk etymology.

: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. /vi./ [orig. from BASIC's `CHAIN' statement]
   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. /n./ 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: /n./  [IRC] The basic unit of discussion on {IRC}.
   Once one joins a channel, everything one types is read by others on
   that channel.  Channels are named 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: /n./  [IRC, GEnie] 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/ /n./  [IRC] 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/ /n./  [IRC] 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.

:chawmp: /n./  [University of Florida] 16 or 18 bits (half of a
   machine word).  This term was used by FORTH hackers during the late
   1970s/early 1980s; it is said to have been archaic then, and may
   now be obsolete.  It was coined in revolt against the promiscuous
   use of `word' for anything between 16 and 32 bits; `word' has
   an additional special meaning for FORTH hacks that made the
   overloading intolerable.  For similar reasons, /gaw'bl/ (spelled
   `gawble' or possibly `gawbul') was in use as a term for 32 or
   48 bits (presumably a full machine word, but our sources are
   unclear on this).  These terms are more easily understood if one
   thinks of them as faithful phonetic spellings of `chomp' and
   `gobble' pronounced in a Florida or other Southern U.S. dialect.
   For general discussion of similar terms, see {nybble}.

: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: /n./  [Cambridge] 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

: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 packet}.

:chicken head: /n./  [Commodore] 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/ /n. obs./  [MIT] 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

:choad: /chohd/ /n./  Synonym for `penis' used in
   alt.tasteless and popularized by the denizens thereof.  They
   say: "We think maybe it's from Middle English but we're all too
   damned lazy to check the OED."  [I'm not.  It isn't. -- ESR] This
   term is alleged to have been inherited through 1960s underground
   comics, and to have been recently sighted in the Beavis and
   Butthead cartoons.  Speakers the Hindi, Bengali and Gujarati
   languages have confirmed that `choad' is in fact an Indian
   vernacular word equivalent to `fuck'; it is therefore likely to
   have entered English slang via the British Raj.

: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/ /n./  [IRC] 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: /n./  [from automotive slang via wargaming] 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

: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: /n./ [DEC] Syn. {case and paste}.

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

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

:COBOL: /koh'bol/ /n./  [COmmon Business-Oriented Language]
   (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.  One popular one is Edsger W.
   Dijkstra's famous observation that "The use of COBOL cripples the
   mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal
   offense." (from "Selected Writings on Computing: A Personal
   Perspective") See also {fear and loathing}, {software

: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 Programmer}.

:Code of the Geeks: /n./ see {geek code}.

:code police: /n./  [by analogy with George Orwell's `thought
   police'] 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: /n./  [scientific computing] Programs.  This usage is common
   in people who hack supercomputers 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. Lawrence 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/ /n./  [ITS: from the feature supporting
   on-line chat; the term may spelled with one or two m's] Syn. for
   {talk mode}.

:command key: /n./  [Mac users] 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'; `flob', `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./  1. 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}.
   2. Some self-described computer geeks use this term in a positive
   sense and protest sense 1 (this seems to be a post-1990
   development).  For one such argument, see

: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.  5. /n. obs./ A dummy directory `/usr/tmp/sh', created
   to foil the Great Worm by exploiting a portability bug in one
   of its parts.  So named in the title of a comp.risks article by
   Gene Spafford during the Worm crisis, and again in the text of
   "The Internet Worm Program: An Analysis", Purdue Technical
   Report CSD-TR-823.  See {Great Worm, the}.

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

:connector conspiracy: /n./  [probably came into prominence with
   the appearance of the KL-10 (one model of the {PDP-10}), none of
   whose connectors matched anything else] 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.  A good 1990s
   example is the use of Torx screws for cable-TV set-top boxes.
   Older Apple Macintoshes took this one step further, requiring not
   only a hex wrench but a specialized case-cracking tool to open the

   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

   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: /adj./  [by analogy with techspeak
   `context-free'] Used of a message that adds nothing to the
   recipient's knowledge.  Though this adjective is sometimes applied
   to {flamage}, it more usually connotes derision for
   communication styles 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

: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-S}.

: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".

   The law was named after 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.)

   There is also Tom Cheatham's amendment of Conway's Law:
   If a group of N persons implements a COBOL compiler, there will be
   N-1 passes.  Someone in the group has to be the manager.

:cookbook: /n./  [from amateur electronics and radio] 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: /n./  [Unix, by opposition from {raw mode}] 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. obs./  Original term, pre-Sesame-Street, for
   what is now universally called a {cookie monster}. A
   correspondent observes "In those days, hackers were actually
   getting their yucks from...sit down now...Andy Williams.
   Yes, *that* Andy Williams.  Seems he had a rather hip (by the
   standards of the day) TV variety show. One of the best parts of the
   show was the recurring `cookie bear' sketch. In these sketches, a
   guy in a bear suit tried all sorts of tricks to get a cookie out of
   Williams. The sketches would always end with Williams shrieking
   (and I don't mean figuratively), `No cookies! Not now, not
   ever...NEVER!!!' And the bear would fall down.  Great stuff."

: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: /n./  [from the children's TV program
   "Sesame Street"] 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.  Folklorist Jan Brunvand (see {FOAF}) has described
   these programs as urban legends (implying they probably never
   existed) but they existed, all right, in several different
   versions.  See also {wabbit}.  Interestingly, the term `cookie
   monster' appears to be a {retcon}; the original term was
   {cookie bear}.

:copious free time: /n./  [Apple; orig. fr. the intro to Tom
   Lehrer's song "It Makes A Fellow Proud To Be A Soldier"]
   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/ /n./  [play on `copyright'] 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/ /adj./  [play on `copyright']
   Syn. for {copybroke}.

: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/ /n./  [originally, the name of a cat] 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: /n./  [Sun, from William Gibson's {cyberpunk} SF]
   Synonym for {hacker}.  It is reported that at Sun this word is
   often said with reverence.

:CP/M:: /C-P-M/ /n./  [Control Program/Monitor; later
   {retcon}ned to 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

   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, benign, practical reasons (for example, if it's
   necessary to get around some security in order to get some work

   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,
   the}.  For a portrait of the typical teenage cracker, see

: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 hackers.

:crank: /vt./  [from automotive slang] 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/ /n./  [University of York, England] 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./  1. 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.  2. More specifically, a shortcoming of
   algorithms which are well behaved when run on gentle floating point
   hardware (such as IEEE-standard or DEC) but which break down badly
   when exposed to a Cray's unique `rounding' rules.

: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 Circus.

: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}, {brain-damaged}.

:crippleware: /n./  1. Software that has some important
   functionality deliberately removed, so as to entice potential users
   to pay for a working version.  2. [Cambridge] Variety of
   {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 rewritten.

: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: /n./  [from the American scatologism `crock of shit']
   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.  5. [University
   of Wisconsin] /n./ Cruft is to hackers as gaggle is to geese; that
   is, at UW one properly says "a cruft of hackers".

: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/ /adj./  [origin unknown; poss. from
   `crusty' or `cruddy'] 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)."

   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.

:crumb: /n./  Two binary digits; a {quad}.  Larger than a
   {bit}, smaller than a {nybble}.  Considered silly.
   Syn. {tayste}.  General discussion of such terms is under

: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 entry.

:cruncha cruncha cruncha: /kruhn'ch* kruhn'ch* kruhn'ch*/ /interj./ 
   An encouragement sometimes muttered to a machine
   bogged down in a serious {grovel}.  Also describes a notional
   sound made by 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 console'.

: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: /vi./  [parallel with `tubing'] 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/ /adj./  [WPI: from the {DEC}
   abbreviation CUSP, for `Commonly Used System Program', i.e., a
   utility program used by many people] 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/ /n.,adj./  [orig. by SF writer
   Bruce Bethke and/or editor Gardner Dozois] 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 the {Bibliography} 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:'br-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.  Serious efforts to
   construct {virtual reality} interfaces modeled explicitly on
   Gibsonian cyberspace are 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. The
   Internet or {Matrix} (sense #2) as a whole, considered as a
   crude cyberspace (sense 1).  Although this usage became widely
   popular in the mainstream press during 1994 when the Internet
   exploded into public awareness, it is strongly deprecated among
   hackers because the Internet does not meet the high, SF-inspired
   standards they have for true cyberspace technology. Thus, this use
   of the term usually tags a {wannabee} or outsider.
   3. 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: /n./  [coined in a paper by T. H. Myer
   and I.E. Sutherland "On the Design of Display Processors", Comm.
   ACM, Vol. 11, no. 6, June 1968)] 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 compute-, disk-, or memory-intensive jobs.
   Implies that interactive tasks such as editing are done on other
   machines on the network, such as workstations.

:cypherpunk: /n./  [from {cyberpunk}] Someone interested in the
   uses of encryption via electronic ciphers for enhancing personal
   privacy and guarding against tyranny by centralized, authoritarian
   power structures, especially government.  There is an active
   cypherpunks mailing list at
   coordinating work on public-key encryption freeware, privacy, and
   digital cash.  See also {tentacle}.

= 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/ /n./  [from the mythological
   meaning, later rationalized as the acronym `Disk And Execution
   MONitor'] 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 (1996) usage.

:daemon 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
   call).  Also known as the {Devil Book}.

:dahmum: /dah'mum/ /n./  [Usenet] The material of which
   protracted {flame war}s, especially those about operating
   systems, is composed.  Homeomorphic to {spam}.  The term
   `dahmum' is derived from the name of a militant {OS/2}
   advocate, and originated when an extensively crossposted
   OS/2-versus-{Linux} debate was fed through {Dissociated

: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.  Compare {dead link}.

: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?'" (But see
   below; this slur may be dated by the time you read this.) 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 for
   a long time after that it was much more exclusively
   {suit}-oriented and boring.  Following a change of editorship in
   1994, Datamation is trying for more of the technical content and
   irreverent humor that marked its early days.

   Datamation now has a WWW page at
   worth visiting for its selection of computer humor, including
   "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal" and the `Bastard Operator
   From Hell' stories by Simon Travaglia (see {BOFH}).

: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 assumable 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

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

:dd: /dee-dee/ /vt./  [Unix: from IBM {JCL}] 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, a six-letterism for `Hack Translator') 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./
   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.
   3. Useless; inaccessible.  Antonym: `live'.  Compare {dead

: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}.  See also {dead}, and
   {The Story of Mel, a Real Programmer}.

:dead link: /n./  [WWW] A World-Wide-Web URL that no longer
   points to the information it was written to reach.  Usually this
   happens because the document has been moved or deleted.  Lots of
   dead links make a WWW page frustrating and useless and are the #1
   sign of poor page maintainance. Compare {dangling pointer}.

: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.  Some modern debugging
   tools deliberately fill freed memory with this value as a way of
   converting {heisenbug}s into {Bohr bug}s.  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
   BEEFDEAD.  See also the anecdote under {fool}.

: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 Square: /n./  The corporate logo of Novell, the people
   who acquired USL after AT&T let go of it (Novell eventually sold
   the Unix group to SCO).  Coined by analogy with {Death Star},
   because many people believed Novell was bungling the lead in Unix
   systems exactly as AT&T did for many years.

:Death Star: /n./  [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:: /dek/ /n./  Commonly used abbreviation for Digital
   Equipment Corporation, now deprecated by DEC itself in favor of
   "Digital".  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.  Nevertheless, 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, Windows NT)
   was 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

   [1996 update: DEC has gradually been reclaiming some of its old
   reputation among techies in the last five years.  The success of
   the Alpha, an innovatively-designed and very high-performance
   {killer micro}, has helped a lot.  So has DEC's newfound
   receptiveness to Unix and open systems in general. --ESR]

: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

:decay: /n.,vi/  [from nuclear physics] 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/ /n./  [from dec- and {nybble}; the original
   spelling seems to have been `decle'] 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.  See {nybble} for other such terms.

: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: /n./  [poss. from C. S. Lewis's "Narnia"
   books] 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

:defenestration: /n./  [from the traditional Czechoslovakian
   method of assassinating prime ministers, via SF fandom] 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. Under a GUI, the act of dragging something out of a window
   (onto the screen). "Next, defenestrate the MugWump icon."
   5. [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 {logical}.

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

:delint: /dee-lint/ /v. obs./  To modify code to remove
   problems detected when {lint}ing.  Confusingly, this process is
   also referred to as `linting' code.  This term is no longer in
   general use because ANSI C compilers typically issue compile-time
   warnings almost as detailed as lint warnings.

: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 world-wide
   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}), Richard M. Stallman
   (inventor of {EMACS}), Linus Torvalds (inventor of Linux), and
   most recently James Gosling (inventor of Java).  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 purposes.

:demo mode: /n./  1. [Sun] 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 archaic.

   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.

:demon dialer: /n./  A program which repeatedly calls the same
   telephone number.  Demon dialing may be benign (as when a number of
   communications programs contend for legitimate access to a {BBS}
   line) or malign (that is, used as a prank or denial-of-service
   attack).  This term dates from the {blue box} days of the 1970s
   and early 1980s and is now semi-obsolescent among {phreaker}s;
   see {war dialer} for its contemporary progeny.

:depeditate: /dee-ped'*-tayt/ /n./  [by (faulty) analogy with
   `decapitate'] 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

:derf: /derf/ /v.,n./  [PLATO] The act of exploiting a
   terminal which someone else has absentmindedly left logged on, to
   use that person's account, especially to post articles intended to
   make an ass of the victim you're impersonating.

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

:Devil Book: /n./  See {daemon book}, the term preferred by
   its authors.

: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: /n./  [Usenet] 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
   tools on machine-readable files); see also {vdiff}, {mod}.

: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 {boa}.

:dinosaurs mating: /n./  Said to occur when yet another {big
   iron} merger or buyout occurs; reflects a perception by hackers
   that these signal another stage in the long, 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: /n./  [XEROX PARC] 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] 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} in 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: /n./  [play on `Associated Press'; perhaps
   inspired by a reference in the 1949 Bugs Bunny cartoon
   "What's Up, Doc?"] 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

     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.  Compare {star out}.

:do protocol: /vi./  [from network protocol programming] 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).

: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

:dogcow: /dog'kow/ /n./  See {Moof}.  The dogcow is a
   semi-legendary creature that lurks in the depths of the Macintosh
   Technical Notes Hypercard stack V3.1.  The full story of the dogcow
   is told in technical note #31 (the particular dogcow 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.

:dogpile: /v./  [Usenet: prob. fr. mainstream "puppy pile"]
   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. [USENET, by pointed
   analogy with "sexist", "racist", etc.] Someone who judges
   people by the domain of their email addresses; esp. someone who
   dismisses anyone who posts from a public internet provider. "What
   do you expect from an article posted from"  2. 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.

   The meaning of this term has drifted.  At one time sense 2 was
   primary.  In elder days it was also used of a site, mailer, or
   routing program which knew how to handle domainist addresses; or of
   a person (esp. a site admin) who preferred domain addressing,
   supported a domainist mailer, or proselytized for domainist
   addressing and disdained {bang path}s.  These senses are now
   (1996) obsolete, as effectively all sites have converted.

:Don't do that, then!: /imp./  [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. ---

: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 {B1FF}, {pseudo}.

:down:  1. /adj./ Not operating.  "The up escalator is down"
   is considered a humorous thing to say (unless of course you were
   expecting to use it), 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 confined to techies (e.g. boiler mechanics may speak of a
   boiler being down).  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'/ /vt./  [from the PDP-10 instruction set] 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: /v./  [IBM] 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 some
   now-obsolete computers and peripherals (including ASR-33 teletypes
   and PRIME minicomputers) that results in all characters having
   their high (0x80) bit forced on.  This of course makes transporting
   files to other systems much more difficult, not to mention the
   problems these machines have talking with true 8-bit devices.

   This term was originally used specifically of PRIME (a.k.a.  PR1ME)
   minicomputers.  Folklore has it that PRIME adopted the
   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}.

:DRECNET: /drek'net/ /n./  [from Yiddish/German `dreck',
   meaning filth] 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: /n./  [from `android', SF terminology for a humanoid
   robot of essentially biological (as opposed to
   mechanical/electronic) construction] 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

:drop-ins: /n./  [prob. by analogy with {drop-outs}]
   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.  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: /n./  (also `mouse on drugs') 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

        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'/ /n./  [Purdue] 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

: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/ /n./  [FidoNet] 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') /n./  [FidoNet]
   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
   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/ /n./  32 bits, by analogy with {nybble} and
   {{byte}}.  Usage: rare and extremely silly.  See also {playte},
   {tayste}, {crumb}.  General discussion of such terms is under

= E =

:earthquake: /n./  [IBM] The ultimate real-world shock test for
   computer hardware.  Hackish sources at IBM deny the rumor that the
   Bay Area quake of 1989 was initiated by the company to test
   quality-assurance procedures at its California plants.

:Easter egg: /n./  [from the custom of the Easter Egg hunt
   observed in the U.S. and many parts of Europe] 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: /n./  [IBM] 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/ /n./ 
   [abbreviation, Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code] 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

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

:eighty-column mind: /n./  [IBM] 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

        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, running along San Francisco
   peninsula.  It originally extended all the way down to Mexico City
   many portions of the old road 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 in many places.  El Camino Real runs right past
   Stanford University and so is familiar to hackers.

   The Spanish word `real' (which has two syllables: /ray-ahl'/)
   means `royal'; El Camino Real is `the royal road'.  In the FORTRAN
   language, a `real' quantity is a number typically precise to seven
   significant digits, and a `double precision' quantity is a larger
   floating-point number, precise to perhaps fourteen significant
   digits (other languages have similar `real' types).

   When a hacker from MIT visited Stanford in 1976, 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}.)
   In recent years, the synonym `El Camino Virtual' has been
   reported as an alternate at IBM and Amdahl sites in the Valley.

   [GLS has since let slip that the unnamed hacker in this story was
   in fact he -- ESR]

: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,

:elegant: /adj./  [from mathematical usage] 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 {baroque}.

: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}.

:elite: /adj./  Clueful.  Plugged-in.  One of the cognoscenti.
   Also used as a general positive adjective.  This term is not
   actually hacker slang in the strict sense; it is used primarily by
   crackers and {warez d00dz}.  Cracker usage is probably related to
   a 19200cps modem called the `Courier Elite' that was widely popular
   on pirate boards before the V.32bis standard.  A true hacker would
   be more likely to use `wizardly'. Oppose {lamer}.

:ELIZA effect: /*-li:'z* *-fekt'/ /n./  [AI community] 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 psychotherapist 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/ /n./  [from Editing MACroS] 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' and `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 perh. arranged in a
   net or open work".  A use from 1480 is given. The word is probably
   derived from French `'emaill'e' (enameled) and related to Old
   French `emmaille"ure' (network).  A French correspondent tells
   us that in modern French, `email' is a hard enamel obtained by
   heating special paints in a furnace; an `emailleur' (no final e) is
   a craftsman who makes email (he generally paints some objects
   (like, say, jewelry) and cooks them in a furnace).

   There are numerous spelling variants of this word.  In Internet
   traffic up to 1995, `email' predominates, `e-mail' runs a
   not-too-distant second, and `E-mail' and `Email' are a distant
   third and fourth.

: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./  Common {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/ /n./  [abbreviation, `End Of File']
   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}.

:EOL: /E-O-L/ /n./  [End Of Line] 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: /n./  [Unix: prob. from astronomical timekeeping] 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: /n./  Syn. {epoch}.  Webster's Unabridged makes these
   words almost synonymous, but `era' more often connotes a span of
   time rather than a point in time, whereas the reverse is true for
   {epoch}.  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. 1987; 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.  See the Eric Conspiracy Web Page at for full details.

: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

: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 `evil'.

:exa-: /ek's*/ /pref./ [SI] 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 lowercase).

: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'/ or /eks'ek/ 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: /adj./  [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.

:Exon: /eks'on/ /excl./  A generic obscenity that quickly
   entered wide use on the Internet and Usenet after {Black
   Thursday}. From the last name of Senator James Exon
   (Democrat-Nevada), primary author of the {CDA}.

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

:eye candy:  /i:' kand`ee/ /n./  [from mainstream slang
   "ear candy"] A display of some sort that's presented to {luser}s
   to keep them distracted while the program performs necessary
   background tasks.  "Give 'em some eye candy while the back-end
   {slurp}s that {BLOB} into core."

: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: /vi./  [IBM] 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

     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: /n./  [Unix/C hackers, from the Mexican
   dance] 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/ /n./  [Usenet] 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/ /n./  [Usenet] Syn
   {FAQ}, sense 2.

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

:faradize: /far'*-di:z/ /v./  [US Geological Survey] 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/ /adj./  [DeVry Institute of Technology,
   Atlanta] Syn. {hosed}.  Poss. owes something to Yiddish
   `farblondjet' and/or the `Farkle Family' skits on "Rowan
   and Martin's Laugh-In", a popular comedy show of the late 1960s.

:farming: /n./  [Adelaide University, Australia] 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: /n./  [from Hunter S. Thompson] 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

: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}.  There's a related joke that is sometimes referred
   to as the "one-question geek test".  You say to someone "I saw a
   Volkswagen Beetle today with a vanity license plate that read
   FEATURE".  If he/she laughs, he/she is a geek (see {computer
   geek}, sense #2).

:feature creature: /n./  [poss. fr. slang `creature feature'
   for a horror movie] 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.
   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.  Another idiom
   reported for the sign is `runsten' /roon'stn/, derived from
   the fact that many of the interesting features are Viking

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

:featurectomy: /fee`ch*r-ek'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: /n./  [from {feeping creaturism}] 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

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

     Q: How can you recognize a DEC field circus engineer
        with a flat tire?
     A: He's changing 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: /n./  [FidoNet] 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
   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/ /n.,v./  [from SF fandom, where a typo for
   `folk' was adopted as a new word] 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: /n./  [orig. {{Unix}}, now also in {{MS-DOS}}] 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.  Some technical and scientific cultures
   (e.g., paleontologists) know it under the name `Sod's Law'; this
   usage may be more common in Great Britain.

:fine: /adj./  [WPI] 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
   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 trouble: /n./  Mistyping, typos, or generalized keyboard
   incompetence (this is surprisingly common among hackers, given the
   anount of time they spend at keyboards). "I keep putting colons at
   the end of statements instead of semicolons", "Finger trouble
   again, eh?".

: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: /v./  [IRC] 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.  There may be
   some influence from the `Finn' character in William Gibson's
   seminal cyberpunk novel "Count Zero", who at one point says to
   another (much younger) character "I have a pair of shoes older
   than you are, so shut up!"

: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

: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 overflow}.

: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/ /n./  Syn. {stiffy} (a 3.5-inch floppy

:fish: /n./  [Adelaide University, Australia] 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: /n./  [acronym, by analogy with FIFO (First In,
   First Out)] `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: // /adj./  [Thinking Machines, Inc.] Fixed In The 
   Often Next Release.  A written-only notation attached to bug
   wishful thinking.

: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}, also {dahmum}.

: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
   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 speak).

   The term may have been independently invented at several different
   places.  It has been reported from MIT, Carleton College and RPI
   (among many other places) from as far back as 1969.

   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.  See also {troll}.

: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},

: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/ /n./  [Rutgers University] 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: /v./  [IRC] 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
:flowchart:: /n./  [techspeak] 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: /n./  [Mac users] 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 1.

: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./  1. *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?"
   2. Abbreviation for "Fucking Magic", used in the sense of
   {black magic}.

:fnord: /n./  [from the "Illuminatus Trilogy"] 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: // /n./  [Usenet] 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: /n./  [XEROX PARC] 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").

   Paul Dickson's excellent book "Words" (Dell, 1982, ISBN
   0-440-52260-7) traces "Foo" to an unspecified British naval
   magazine in 1946, quoting as follows: "Mr. Foo is a mysterious
   Second World War product, gifted with bitter omniscience and

   Other sources confirm that `FOO' was a semi-legendary subject of
   WWII British-army graffiti more-or-less equivalent to the American
   Kilroy.  Where British troops went, the graffito "FOO was here"
   or something similar showed up.  Several slang dictionaries aver
   that FOO probably came from Forward Observation Officer.  In this
   connection, the later American military slang `foo fighters' is
   interesting; at least as far back as the 1950s, radar operators
   used it for the kind of mysterious or spurious trace that would
   later be called a UFO (the older term resurfaced in popular
   American usage in 1995 via the name of one of the better
   grunge-rock bands).

   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

   For more about the legendary foo counters, see {TMRC}.  Almost
   the entire staff of what later 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}.

   The Algol 68-R compiler used to initialize its storage to the
   character string "F00LF00LF00LF00L..."  because as a pointer or as
   a floating point number it caused a crash, and as an integer or a
   character string it was very recognizable in a dump.  Sadly, one
   day a very senior professor at Nottingham University wrote a
   program that called him a fool.  He proceeded to demonstrate the
   correctness of this assertion by lobbying the university (not quite
   successfully) to forbid the use of Algol on its computers.  See
   also {DEADBEEF}.

:fool file, the: /n./  [Usenet] 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 {toeprint}.
   3. "RAM footprint": The minimum amount of RAM which an OS or other
   program takes; this figure gives one one an idea of how much will
   be left for other applications.  How actively this RAM is used is
   another matter entirely.  Recent tendencies to featuritis and
   software bloat can expand the RAM footprint of an OS to the point
   of making it nearly unusable in practice.  [This problem is,
   thankfully, limited to operating systems so stupid that they don't
   do virtual memory -- ESR]

: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 feature.

:for the rest of us: /adj./  [from the Mac slogan "The computer
   for the rest of us"] 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: at MIT this usage has traditionally been traced to
   the programming language MAD (Michigan Algorithm Decoder), an
   Algol-58-like language that was the most common choice among
   mainstream (non-hacker) users at MIT in the mid-60s.  It inherited
   from Algol-58 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: /vt./  [Unix] 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: /n./  [Unix] 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: /adj./  [Unix; prob. influenced by a mainstream
   expletive] 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: /n./  [WAITS, via Unix] 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: /n./  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}, {FRS}.

: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/ /n./  [TMRC] 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

: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 form.

: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/, /pl./ `frobnitzem' /frob'nit-zm/ or
   `frobni' /frob'ni:/ /n./ [TMRC] 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 damaged.

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

:FRS: // /n./  Abbreviation for "Freely Redistributable
   Software" which entered general use on the Internet in 1995 after
   years of low-level confusion over what exactly to call software
   written to be passed around and shared (contending terms including
   {freeware}, {shareware}, and `sourceware' were never
   universally felt to be satisfactory for various subtle reasons).
   The first formal conference on freely redistributable software was
   held in Cambridge, Massachussetts in February 1996 (sponsored by
   Free Software Foundation). The conference organizers used the FRS
   abbreviation heavily in its calls for papers and other literature
   during 1995; this was probably critical in helping establish the

: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}.

:FSF: /F-S-F/ /abbrev./  Common abbreviation (both spoken and
   written) for the name of the Free Software Foundation, a nonprofit
   educational association formed to support the {GNU}

: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}}.

:Full Monty, the: /n./ See {monty}, sense 2.

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

: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: // /excl./  [Usenet] 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: /n./  [TCP/IP hackers] 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 were still
   active on the Internet as late as mid-1993, doing odd jobs such as
   network time service.

= G =

:G: /pref.,suff./ [SI] See {{quantifiers}}.

:g-file: /n./  [Commodore BBS culture] Any file that is written
   with the intention of being read by a human rather than a machine,
   such as the Jargon File, documentation, humor files, hacker lore,
   and technical materials.

   This term survives from the nearly-forgotten Commodore 64
   underground and BBS community. In the early 80s, C-Net had emerged
   as the most popular C64 BBS software for systems which encouraged
   messaging (as opposed to file transfer).  There were three main
   options for files: Program files (p-files), which served the same
   function as `doors' in today's systems, UD files (the user
   upload/download section), and g-files.  Anything that was meant to
   be read was included in g-files.

:gabriel: /gay'bree-*l/ /n./  [for Dick Gabriel, SAIL LISP
   hacker and volleyball fanatic] 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 {barf}.

:gang bang: /n./  The use of large numbers of loosely coupled
   programmers in an attempt to wedge a great many features into a
   product in a short time.  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

:garply: /gar'plee/ /n./  [Stanford] 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./
   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
   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

:gawble: /gaw'bl/ /n./ See {chawmp}.

: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 code: /n./  (also "Code of the Geeks"). A set of
   codes commonly used in {sig block}s to broadcast the interests,
   skills, and aspirations of the poster.  Features a G at the left
   margin followed by numerous letter codes, often suffixed with
   plusses or minuses.  Because many net users are involved in
   computer science, the most common prefix is `GCS'.  To see a copy
   of the current code, finger  Here is a
   sample geek code (that or Robert Hayden, the code's inventor) from
   that page:

     -----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
     Version: 3.1
     GED/J d-- s:++>: a- C++(++++)$ ULUO++ P+>+++ L++ !E---- W+(---) N+++
     o+ K+++ w+(---) O- M+$>++ V-- PS++(+++)>$ PE++(+)>$ Y++ PGP++ t- 5+++
     X++ R+++>$ tv+ b+ DI+++ D+++ G+++++>$ e++$>++++ h r-- y+**
     ------END GEEK CODE BLOCK------

   The geek code originated in 1993; it was inspired (according to the
   inventor) by previous "bear", "smurf" and "twink"
   style-and-sexual-preference codes from lesbian and gay
   {newsgroup}s. It has in turn spawned imitators; there is now
   even a "Saturn geek code" for owners of the Saturn car.  See also
   {computer geek}.

: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."

:Genius From Mars Technique: /n./  [TMRC] A visionary quality
   which enables one to ignore the standard approach and come up with
   a totally unexpected new algorithm.  An attack on a problem from an
   offbeat angle that no one has ever thought of before, but that in
   retrospect makes total sense.  Compare {grok}, {zen}.

: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
   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 {cruft}).

: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 early 1996; note
   that the threshold for `real computer' rises with time.  See
   {bitty box} and {toy}.

: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.

:GIFs at 11:  [Fidonet] Fidonet alternative to {film at
   11}, especially in echoes (Fidonet topic areas) where uuencoded
   GIFs are permitted.  Other formats, especially JPEG and MPEG,
   may be referenced instead.

:gig: /jig/ or /gig/ /n./ [SI] See {{quantifiers}}.

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

: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: /n./  [Usenet] 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/ /n./  [formed from
   {giga-} by analogy with mega/million and tera/trillion]
   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/ /n./  [analogy with {MIPS}]
   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}, {zen}.

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

:glitch: /glich/  [from German `glitschig' 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/ /v.,n./  [Unix] 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},
   {Linux}.  2. Noted Unix hacker John Gilmore <>,
   founder of Usenet's anarchic alt.* hierarchy.

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

:go flatline: /v./  [from cyberpunk SF, refers to flattening of
   EEG traces upon brain-death] (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: /vi./  [Unix] 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: /n./  [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}.

:Godwin's Law: /prov./  [Usenet] "As a Usenet discussion grows
   longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler
   approaches one."  There is a tradition in many groups that, once
   this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis
   has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress.  Godwin's
   Law thus practically guarantees the existence of an upper bound on
   thread length in those groups.

: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. obs./  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.  The print element spun and
   jerked alarmingly in action and when in motion was sometimes
   described as an `infuriated 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/ /vi.,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/ /n./  [from the old
   "Hogan's Heroes" TV series] 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/ /adj./  [from Hunter S. Thompson]
   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

:gopher: /n./  A type of Internet service first floated around
   1991 and now (1994) being obsolesced by the World Wide Web. Gopher
   presents a menuing interface to a tree or graph of links;
   the links can be to documents, runnable programs, or other gopher
   menus arbitrarily far across the net.

   Some claim that the gopher software, which was originally developed
   at the University of Minnesota, was named after the Minnesota
   Gophers (a sports team).  Others claim the word derives from
   American slang `gofer' (from "go for", dialectical "go fer"),
   one whose job is to run and fetch things.  Finally, observe that
   gophers (aka woodchucks) dig long tunnels, and the idea of
   tunneling through the net to find information was a defining
   metaphor for the developers.  Probably all three things were true,
   but with the first two coming first and the gopher-tunnel metaphor
   serendipitously adding flavor and impetus to the project as it
   developed out of its concept stage.

:gopher hole: /n./  1. Any access to a {gopher}.  2. [Amateur
   Packet Radio] The terrestrial analog of a {wormhole} (sense
   2), from which this term was coined.  A gopher hole links two
   amateur packet relays through some non-ham radio medium.

: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/ /n./  [CMU: perhaps from the canonical hiker's
   food, Good Old Raisins and Peanuts] Another {metasyntactic
   variable}, like {foo} and {bar}.

:GOSMACS: /goz'maks/ /n./  [contraction of `Gosling EMACS']
   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} and the programming
   language Java; the latter earned him {demigod} status.

:Gosperism: /gos'p*r-izm/ /n./  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 {corge}.

: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 goo}.

: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: /vi.,n./  [from SF fandom] 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: /n./  [IBM] 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: /prov./  [TMRC] 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/ /vt./  [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)'] 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./  Girlfriend.  Like {newsfroup} and
   {filk}, a typo reincarnated as a new word.  Seems to have
   originated sometime in 1992 on {Usenet}.  [A friend tells me
   there was a Lloyd Biggle SF novel "Watchers Of The Dark", in
   which alien species after species goes insane and begins to chant
   "Grilf!  Grilf!".  A human detective eventually determines that
   the word means "Liar!"  I hope this has nothing to do with the
   popularity of the Usenet term. --ESR]

: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: /n./  [IBM] 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/  [MIT] 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).

   Interestingly, this word seems to have a separate history from
   {glitch}, with which it is often confused.  Back in the early
   1960s, when `glitch' was strictly a hardware-tech's term of art,
   the Burton House dorm at M.I.T. maintained a "Gritch Book", a
   blank volume, into which the residents hand-wrote complaints,
   suggestions, and witticisms.  Previous years' volumes of this
   tradition were maintained, dating back to antiquity.  The word
   "gritch" was described as a portmanteau of "gripe" and
   "bitch".  Thus, sense 3 above is at least historically incorrect.

:grok: /grok/, var. /grohk/ /vt./  [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'] The emphatic form is `grok in
   fullness'. 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/ /vt./  [popularized by Johnny Hart's comic
   strip "B.C." but the word apparently predates that] 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

: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/ /n./  [a portmanteau of `garbage' and
   `rubbish'; may have originated with SF author Philip K. Dick]
   Garbage; crap; nonsense.  "What is all this gubbish?"  The
   opposite portmanteau `rubbage' is also reported; in fact, it was
   British slang during the 19th century and appears in Dickens.

: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. A piece of {shareware} that works.

:gumby: /guhm'bee/ /n./  [from a class of Monty Python
   characters, poss. with some influence from the 1960s claymation
   character] An act of minor but conspicuous stupidity, often in
   `gumby maneuver' or `pull a gumby'.  2. [NRL] /n./ A bureaucrat,
   or other technical incompetent who impedes the progress of real
   work.  3. /adj./ Relating to things typically associated with
   in sense 2.  (e.g.  "Ran would be writing code, but Richard gave
   him gumby work that's due on Friday", or, "Dammit!  Travel
   screwed up my plane tickets.  I have to go out on gumby patrol.")

:gun: /vt./  [ITS: from the `:GUN' command] 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."  Usage: now rare.  Compare {can}, {blammo}.

:gunch: /guhnch/ /vt./  [TMRC] 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.  Sometimes a
   {guru} event must be followed by a {Vulcan nerve pinch}.

   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 (actually in
   2.00, a buggy post-2.0 release on the A3000 only).

:gweep: /gweep/  [WPI] 1. /v./ To {hack}, usually at night.
   At WPI, from 1975 onwards, one who gweeped could often be found at
   the College Computing Center punching cards or crashing the
   {PDP-10} or, later, the DEC-20.  A correspondent who was there at
   the time opines that the term was originally onomatopoetic,
   describing the keyclick sound of the Datapoint terminals long
   connected to the PDP-10.  The term has survived the demise of those
   technologies, however, and was 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] 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: /n./  [poss. by analogy with `Big Mac Attack'
   from ads for the McDonald's fast-food chain; the variant `big
   hack attack' is reported] 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: /adj./  [analogous to `pissed off'] 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.

   It has been pointed out that there is precedent for this usage in
   U.S. Navy slang, in which officers under discipline are sometimes
   said to be "in hack" and one may speak of "hacking off the C.O.".

: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: /n./  [originally, someone who makes furniture with an
   axe] 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 for this sense is

   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: /n./  [analogy with `bombing run' or `speed
   run'] 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: /n./  [ITS] 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 file}s).

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

:hackish: /hak'ish/ /adj./  (also {hackishness} n.) 1. Said
   of something 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

:hair: /n./  [back-formation from {hairy}] 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!")

:hairball: /n./  [Fidonet] A large batch of messages that a
   store-and-forward network is failing to forward when it should.
   Often used in the phrase "Fido coughed up a hairball today",
   meaning that the stuck messages have just come unstuck, producing a
   flood of mail where there had previously been drought.

: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

   An HTML transcription of the document</A> is available at

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

: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 humans.

:hand-roll: /v./  [from obs. mainstream slang `hand-rolled' in
   opposition to `ready-made', referring to cigarettes] 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."

: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 {warez d00dz}, {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

: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

: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."  Also
   used to suggest that a program or device would really rather be
   doing something destructive, and is being given an opportunity to
   do so.  "If you enter an O here instead of a zero, the program
   will happily erase all your data."

:haque: /hak/ /n./  [Usenet] 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: /n./  [from the techspeak] (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 up.

:heads down: [Sun] /adj./  Concentrating, usually so heavily and
   for so long that everything outside the focus area is missed.  See
   also {hack mode} and {larval stage}, although 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: /n./  [IBM] 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: /n./ [Cambridge] 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/ /n./  [from Heisenberg's
   Uncertainty Principle in quantum physics] 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 crash.

: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 keyboard}).

:HHOK:  See {ha ha only serious}.

:HHOS:  See {ha ha only serious}.

:hidden flag: /n./  [scientific computation] 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: /n./  [from `high-order bit'] 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: /adv./  [scientific computation] 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: // /n./  [IRC] Fortuitous typo for `hint', now in
   wide intentional use among players of {initgame}.  Compare
   {newsfroup}, {filk}.

:hired gun: /n./  A contract programmer, as opposed to a
   full-time staff member.  All the connotations of this term
   suggested by innumerable spaghetti Westerns are intentional.

:hirsute: /adj./  Occasionally used humorously as a synonym for

: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}.

:hoarding: /n./ See {software hoarding}.

: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.

:hole: /n./  A region in an otherwise {flat} entity which is
   not actually present.  For example, some Unix filesystems can store
   large files with holes so that unused regions of the file are never
   actually stored on disk.  (In techspeak, these are referred to as
   `sparse' files.)  As another example, the region of memory in IBM
   PCs reserved for memory-mapped I/O devices which may not actually
   be present is called `the I/O hole', since memory-management
   systems must skip over this area when filling user requests for

:hollised: /hol'list/ /adj./  [Usenet:]
   To be hollised is to have been ordered by one's employer not to
   post any even remotely job-related material to USENET (or, by
   extension, to other Internet media).  The original and most
   notorious case of this involved one Ken Hollis, a Lockheed
   employee and space-program enthusiast who posted publicly available
   material on access to Space Shuttle launches to
   He was gagged under threat of being fired in 1994 at the behest of
   NASA public-relations officers. The result was, of course, a huge
   publicity black eye for NASA.  Nevertheless several other NASA
   contractor employees were subsequently hollised for similar
   activities.  Use of this term carries the strong connotation that
   the persons doing the gagging are bureaucratic idiots blinded to
   their own best interests by territorial reflexes.

:holy wars: /n./  [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 war
   most of the participants spend their time trying to pass off
   personal value choices and cultural attachments as objective
   technical evaluations.  See also {theology}.

:home box: /n./  A hacker's personal machine, especially one he
   or she owns.  "Yeah?  Well, *my* home box runs a full 4.2
   BSD, so there!"

: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

:home page: /n./  1. One's personal billboard on the World Wide
   Web.  The term `home page' is perhaps a bit misleading because home
   directories and physical homes in {RL}) are private, but home
   pages are designed to be very public.  2. By extension, a WWW
   repository for information and links related to a project or
   organization.  Compare {home box}.

: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
   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 situation'.

   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 chat: /n./  Sexually explicit one-on-one chat.  See

: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 gestures, which
   trigger some action.  World Wide Web pages are now provide the
   {canonical} examples; WWW browsers present hypertext links as
   hot spots which, when clicked on, point the browser at another
   document (these are specifically called {hotlink}s).  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

:hotlink: /hot'link/ /n./  A {hot spot} on a World Wide Web
   page; an area, which, when clicked or selected, chases a URL.
   Also spelled `hot link'.  Use of this term focuses on the link's
   role in an immediate part of your display, as opposed to the
   timeless sense of logical connection suggested by {web
   pointer}. Your screen shows hotlinks and your document has web
   pointers, not (in normal usage) the other way around.

:house wizard: /n./  [prob. from ad-agency tradetalk, `house
   freak'] 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},

: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.  Compare the U.K's {wibble}.

: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 {A Portrait of J.
   Random Hacker} in 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

:hung: /adj./  [from `hung up'] 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/ /adj./  [perhaps related to slang
   `humongous'] 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,
   especially a place that is inaccessible because it is not even
   mapped in by the virtual-memory system.  "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: /n./  (also `hysterical raisins') 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 rise.

: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: /n./  [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 immobilize or even literally kill the intruder).  Hence,
   `icebreaker': a program designed for cracking security on a

   Neither term is in serious use yet as of early 1996, 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-c ircuit

   In ironic reference to the speculative usage, however, some hackers
   and computer scientists formed ICE (International Cryptographic
   Experiment) in 1994. ICE is a consortium to promote uniform
   international access to strong cryptography.  ICE has a home page

:idempotent: /adj./  [from mathematical techspeak] 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 times.

: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 {mess-dos}.

:IMHO: // /abbrev./  [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!: /prov./  [Usenet] 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

: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: /n./  [C programmers] 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 techies via the classic
   SF 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.

:inflate: /vt./  To decompress or {puff} a file.  Rare among
   Internet hackers, used primarily by MS-DOS/Windows types.

:Infocom: /n./  A now-legendary games company, active from 1979 to
   1989, that commercialized the MDL parser technology used for
   {Zork} to produce a line of text adventure games that remain
   favorites among hackers.  Infocom's games were intelligent, funny,
   witty, erudite, irreverent, challenging, satirical, and most
   thoroughly hackish in spirit.  The physical game packages from
   Infocom are now prized collector's items.  The software,
   thankfully, is still extant; Infocom games were written in a kind
   of P-code and distributed with a P-code interpreter core, and
   freeware emulators for that interpreter have been written to permit
   the P-code to be run on platforms the games never originally

:initgame: /in-it'gaym/ /n./  [IRC] 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}.

   [1996 update: a recognizable version of the initgame has become a
   staple of some radio talk shows in the U.S.  We had it first!  --

: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 {hacker}-natures.

:INTERCAL: /in't*r-kal/ /n./  [said by the authors to stand
   for `Compiler Language With No Pronounceable Acronym'] 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.

   An INTERCAL implementation is available at the Retrocomputing

: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 networks.

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

          commercial organizations
          educational institutions
          U.S. government civilian sites
          U.S. military sites

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

          sites in the U.S. outside the functional domains
          sites in the 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
   directly to a BIOS interrupt) to get reasonable

:interrupt list, the:: /n./  [MS-DOS] 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

:IRC: /I-R-C/ /n./  [Internet Relay Chat] 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: /n./  [Unix/Internet] 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: /n./  [IBM] A hardware specialist (derogatory).
   Compare {sandbender}, {polygon pusher}.

:ISP: /I-S-P/  Common abbreviation for Internet Service
   Provider, a kind of company that barely existed before 1993.  ISPs
   sell Internet access to the mass market.  While the big nationwide
   commercial BBSs with Internet access (like America Online,
   CompuServe, GEnie, Netcom, etc.) are technically ISPs, the term is
   usually reserved for local or regional small providers (often run
   by hackers turned entrepreneurs) who resell Internet access cheaply
   without themselves being information providers or selling
   advertising.  Compare {NSP}.

:ITS:: /I-T-S/ /n./  1. Incompatible Time-sharing System, an
   influential though highly idiosyncratic operating system written
   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).  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}, {Weenix}.

:IWBNI: //  Abbreviation for `It Would Be Nice If'.  Compare

: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: /J rand'm hak'r/ /n./  [MIT] 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

   A (poorly documented, naturally) shell simulating JCL syntax is
   available at the Retrocomputing Museum

: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 Steele-1983 co-authors, had JFCL on the license plate of his
   BMW for years.  Usage: rare except among old-time PDP-10 hackers.

:jiffy: /n./  1. The duration of one tick of the system clock on
   your 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.

   1994 update: This term has now generalized to `<name> code', used
   to designate code with distinct characteristics traceable to its
   author. "This section doesn't check for a NULL return from
   Oh.  No wonder! It's Ed code!". Used most often with a programmer
   who has left the shop and thus is a convenient scapegoat for
   anything that is wrong with the project.

:jolix: /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 used to be called BSD/386 and is now
   BSD/OS.  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/ /v. obs./  [based on the PDP-10 jump
   instruction] 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: /v./  [from J. M. Barrie's
   "Peter Pan"] 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

:jupiter: /vt./  [IRC] 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/ /n./  [from {kilo-}] 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}.

:k-: /pref./  Extremely.  Not commonly used among hackers, but
   quite common among crackers and {warez d00dz} in compounds such
   as `k-kool' /K'kool'/, `k-rad' /K'rad'/, and
   `k-awesome' /K'aw`sm/.  Also used to intensify negatives; thus,
   `k-evil', `k-lame', `k-screwed', and `k-annoying'.  Overuse
   of this prefix, or use in more formal or technical contexts, is
   considered an indicator of {lamer} status.

:kahuna: /k*-hoo'n*/ /n./  [IBM: from the Hawaiian title for a
   shaman] 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" says:

     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: /v./  [Usenet] 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).

:kibozo: /ki:-boh'zoh/ /n./  [Usenet] One who
   {kiboze}s but is not Kibo (see {KIBO}, sense 2).

:kick: /v./  [IRC] 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: /n./  [Usenet] (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: /n./  [popularized by Eugene Brooks] 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 title of the movie "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).

   [1996 update: Eugene Brooks was right.  Since this term first
   entered the Jargon File in 1990, the minicomputer has effectively
   vanished, the {mainframe} sector is in deep and apparently
   terminal decline (with IBM but a shadow of its former self), and
   even the supercomputer business has contracted into a smaller
   niche.  It's networked killer micros as far as the eye can see.

: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-: /pref./ [SI] See {{quantifiers}}.

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

: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: /n./  [Usenet; poss. fr. DEC slang for a full software
   distribution, as opposed to a patch or upgrade] 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: 1. /klooj/ /n./  Incorrect (though regrettably
   common) spelling of {kluge} (US).  These two words have been
   confused in American usage since the early 1960s, and widely
   confounded in Great Britain since the end of World War II.
   2. [TMRC] A {crock} that works. (A long-ago "Datamation"
   article by Jackson Granholme similarly said: "An ill-assorted
   collection of poorly matching parts, forming a distressing
   whole.")  3. /v./ To use a kludge to get around a problem.  "I've
   kludged around it for now, but I'll fix it up properly later."

   This word appears to have derived from Scots `kludge' or
   `kludgie' for a common toilet, via British military slang.  It
   apparently became confused with U.S. {kluge} during or after
   World War II; some Britons from that era use both words in
   definably different ways, but {kluge} is now uncommon in Great
   Britain.  `Kludge' in Commonwealth hackish differs in meaning from
   `kluge' in that it lacks the positive senses; a kludge is something
   no Commonwealth hacker wants to be associated too closely with.
   Also, `kludge' is more widely known in British mainstream slang
   than `kluge' is in the U.S.

:kluge: /klooj/  [from the German `klug', clever; poss.
   related to Polish `klucza', a trick or hook] 1. /n./ A Rube
   Goldberg (or Heath Robinson) device, whether in hardware or
   software.  2. /n./ A clever programming trick intended to solve a
   particular nasty case in an expedient, if not clear, manner.  Often
   used to repair bugs.  Often involves {ad-hockery} and verges on
   being a {crock}.  3. /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", an adjunct to mechanical
   printing presses.  Legend has it that 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 temperamental, subject to
   frequent breakdowns, and devilishly difficult to repair -- but oh,
   so clever!  People who tell this story also aver that `Kluge' was
   the name of a design engineer.

   There is in fact a Brandtjen & Kluge Inc., an old family business
   that manufactures printing equipment -- interestingly, their name
   is pronounced /kloo'gee/!  Henry Brandtjen, president of the
   firm, told me (ESR, 1994) that his company was co-founded by his
   father and an engineer named Kluge /kloo'gee/, who built and
   co-designed the original Kluge automatic feeder in 1919.
   Mr. Brandtjen claims, however, that this was a *simple* device
   (with only four cams); he says he has no idea how the myth of its
   complexity took hold.

   {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).  This spelling was
   probably imported from Great Britain, where {kludge} has an
   independent history (though this fact was largely unknown to
   hackers on either side of the Atlantic before a mid-1993 debate in
   the Usenet group alt.folklore.computers over the First and
   Second Edition versions of this entry; everybody used to think
   {kludge} was just a mutation of {kluge}).  It now appears that
   the British, having forgotten the etymology of their own `kludge'
   when `kluge' crossed the Atlantic, repaid the U.S. by lobbing the
   `kludge' orthography in the other direction and confusing their
   American cousins' spelling!

   The result of this history is a tangle.  Many younger U.S. hackers
   pronounce the word as /klooj/ but spell it, incorrectly for its
   meaning and pronunciation, as `kludge'. (Phonetically, consider
   huge, refuge, centrifuge, and deluge as opposed to sludge, judge,
   budge, and fudge.  Whatever its failings in other areas, English
   spelling is perfectly consistent about this distinction.)  British
   hackers mostly learned /kluhj/ orally, use it in a restricted
   negative sense and are at least consistent.  European hackers have
   mostly learned the word from written American sources and tend to
   pronounce it /kluhj/ but use the wider American meaning!

   Some observers consider this mess appropriate in view of the word's

: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

: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'/ /n./  [Donald E. Knuth's "The Art of
   Computer Programming"] 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}.  There is a Donald
   Knuth home page at

:kremvax: /krem-vaks/ /n./  [from the then large number of
   {Usenet} {VAXen} with names of the form foovax]
   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 fact
   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*/ /n./  [Swedish] 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

:lamer: /n./ [prob. originated in skateboarder slang]  Synonym
   for {luser}, not used much by hackers but common among {warez
   d00dz}, crackers, and {phreaker}s.  Oppose {elite}.  Has the
   same connotations of self-conscious elitism that use of {luser}
   does among hackers.

   Crackers also use it to refer to cracker {wannabee}s. In phreak
   culture, a lamer is one who scams codes off others rather than
   doing cracks or really understanding the fundamental concepts.  In
   {warez d00dz} culture, where the ability to wave around cracked
   commercial software within days of (or before) release to the
   commercial market is much esteemed, the lamer might try to upload
   garbage or shareware or something incredibly old (old in this
   context is read as a few years to anything older than 3

: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}, {C++}, {LISP}, and
   {Perl}.  Nearly every hacker knows one of C or LISP, and most
   good ones are fluent in both.  C++, despite some serious drawbacks,
   is generally preferred to other object-oriented languages (though
   1996 it looks as though Java may soon displace it in the affections
   of hackers, if not everywhere).  Since around 1990 Perl has rapidly
   been gaining favor, especially as a tool for systems-administration
   utilities and rapid prototyping.  Smalltalk and Prolog are also
   popular in small but influential communities.

   There is also a rapidly dwindling category of older hackers with
   FORTRAN, or even assembler, as their language of choice.  They
   often prefer to be known as {Real Programmer}s, and other
   hackers consider them a bit odd (see "{The Story of Mel,
   a Real Programmer}" in Appendix A).  Assembler is generally
   no longer considered interesting or appropriate for anything but
   {HLL} implementation, {glue}, and a few time-critical and
   hardware-specific uses in systems programs.  FORTRAN occupies a
   shrinking niche in scientific 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: /n./  [Harvard] 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

:LDB: /l*'d*b/ /vt./  [from the PDP-10 instruction set] 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 system.

:leaky heap: /n./  [Cambridge] An {arena} with a {memory

: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).

:leech: /n./  Among BBS types, crackers and {warez d00dz},
   one who consumes knowledge without generating new software, cracks,
   or techniques.  BBS culture specifically defines a leech as someone
   who downloads files with few or no uploads in return, and who does
   not contribute to the message section.  Cracker culture extends
   this definition to someone (a {lamer}, usually) who constantly
   presses informed sources for information and/or assistance, but has
   nothing to contribute.

: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/  /n./ [TMRC, from `Light-Emitting Diode'] 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: /prov./  [XEROX PARC] 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

   The hackers' use of this term may recall mainstream slang
   originated early in the 20th century by President Theodore
   Roosevelt.  There is a legend that, weary of inconclusive talks
   with Colombia over the right to dig a canal through its
   then-province Panama, he remarked, "Negotiating with those pirates
   is like trying to nail currant jelly to the wall."  Roosevelt's
   government subsequently encouraged the anti-Colombian insurgency
   that created the nation of Panama.

: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: /n. obs./  [Usenet] 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 was still occasionally reported to be lurking in some
   mail-to-netnews gateways as late as 1991.  2. See {NSA line

: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.

:linearithmic: /adj./  Of an algorithm, having running time that
   is O(N log N).  Coined as a portmanteau of `linear' and
   `logarithmic' in "Algorithms In C" by Robert Sedgewick
   (Addison-Wesley 1990, ISBN 0-201-51425-7).

:link farm: /n./  [Unix] 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 code}.

:link-dead: /adj./  [MUD] 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".

:Linux:: /lee'nuhks/ or /li'nux/, *not* /li:'nuhks/
   /n./ The free Unix workalike created by Linus Torvalds and
   friends starting about 1990 (the pronunciation /lee'nuhks/ is
   preferred because the name `Linus' has an /ee/ sound in Swedish).
   This may be the most remarkable hacker project in history -- an
   entire clone of Unix for 386, 486 and Pentium micros, distributed
   for free with sources over the net (ports to Alpha and Sparc-based
   machines are underway).  This is what {GNU} aimed to be, but the
   Free Software Foundation has not (as of early 1996) produced the
   kernel to go with its Unix toolset (which Linux uses).  Other,
   similar efforts like FreeBSD and NetBSD have been much less
   successful.  The secret of Linux's success seems to be that Linus
   worked much harder early on to keep the development process open
   and recruit other hackers, creating a snowball effect.

:lion food: /n./  [IBM] 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 hackers.

:LISP: /n./  [from `LISt Processing language', but mythically
   from `Lots of Irritating Superfluous Parentheses'] 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

:list-bomb: /v./  To {mailbomb} someone by forging
   messages causing the victim to become a subscriber to many mailing
   lists.  This is a self-defeating tactic; it merely forces mailing
   list servers to require confirmation by return message for every

: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] 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: /li:v/ /adj.,adv./  Opposite of `test'.  Refers to
   actual real-world data or a program working with it.  For example,
   the response to "I think the record deleter is finished." might
   be "Is it live yet?" or "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 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-deleter running amok live would probably cause great

: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.

: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.  Recently (1994) an inferior imitation of these
   has been put in circulation with a red corporate logo added.

: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: /adj./  [from military slang for an M-16
   rifle with magazine inserted and prepared for firing] 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: /adj./  [from the technical term `logical device',
   wherein a physical device is referred to by an arbitrary
   `logical' name] 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 (the same IRP op
   can nowadays be found in Microsoft's 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: /n./  [primarily British, from Gilbert &
   Sullivan's `lord high executioner'] 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 {lossage}.

: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}.

: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 example).

:low-bandwidth: /adj./  [from communication theory] 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: /n./  [IBM] 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.  When a lurker speaks up
   for the first time, this is called `delurking'.

: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

= M =

:M: /pref./ (on units) suff. (on numbers)  [SI] See

:macdink: /mak'dink/ /vt./  [from the Apple Macintosh, which
   is said to encourage such behavior] 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}

:machoflops: /mach'oh-flops/ /n./  [pun on `megaflops', a
   coinage for `millions of FLoating-point Operations Per Second']
   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

   For more about hackish `magic', see {A Story About `Magic'}
   in Appendix A.

:magic cookie: /n./  [Unix] 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: /n./  [Unix/C] 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'.  Many other kinds of files now have magic numbers
   somewhere; some magic numbers are, in fact, strings, like the
   `!<arch>' at the beginning of a Unix archive file or the
   `%!' leading PostScript files.  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

:mail storm: /n./  [from {broadcast storm}, influenced by
   `maelstrom'] What often happens when a machine with an Internet
   connection and active users re-connects after extended downtime ---
   a flood of incoming mail that brings the machine to its knees.
   See also {hairball}.

: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}, {nastygram}, {BLOB} (sense 2),

: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
   mating} and {killer micro}).

: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/ /n./  [from the Mandelbrot set] 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/ /n./  [probably from the French `manger'
   or Italian `mangiare', to eat; perhaps influenced by English
   `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: /n./  [DEC] A manager.  Compare 
   {management}.  Note that {system mangler} is somewhat
   different in connotation.

:manularity: /man`yoo-la'ri-tee/ /n./  [prob. fr. techspeak
   `manual' + `granularity'] 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: /pl.n./  [from mainstream "lost all his/her
   marbles"] 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/ /n./  alt. `marketing slime',
   `marketeer', `marketing droid', `marketdroid'. 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 moves.
: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: /n./  [poss. from `white-out' (the blizzard variety)]
   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: /n./  [FidoNet] 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

:maximum Maytag mode: /n./  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 drives}.

:Mbogo, Dr. Fred: /*m-boh'goh, dok'tr fred/ /n./  [Stanford]
   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/ /n./  [TMRC] 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*!" ---

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

:mega-: /me'g*/ /pref./ [SI] 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/ /n./  [coined by analogy with `gene', by
   Richard Dawkins] 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/ /n./  [from {meme}] The study of
   memes.  As of early 1996, 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}, {leak}.

:memory smash: /n./  [XEROX PARC] 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*/ adj.,/pref./ 
   [from analytic philosophy] 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, Hacker}}.

: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 {quux}.
     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.
     {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
          Brown Universtity, early 1970s.
     {foo}, {bar}, zot
          Helsinki University of Technology, Finland.
     blarg, wibble
          New Zealand.
     toto, titi, tata, tutu
     pippo, pluto, paperino
          Italy.  Pippo /pee'po/ and Paperino /pa-per-ee'-no/ are the
          Italian names for Goofy and Donald Duck.
     aap, noot, mies
          The Netherlands.  These are the first words a child used to
          learn to spell on a Dutch spelling board.

   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 MFTL."

   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 even 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: /n./  [Usenet] 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 asleep 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}.  Non-US hackers use this term to describe the American
   mm/dd/yy style of writing dates.

: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/ /n./  [abbreviation] 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/ /n./  [MIT] 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/ /n./  [from {wart} by analogy with
   {misbug}] 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).
   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 bytes).

: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/ /n./  [University of Illinois] 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: /n./  [poss. from the Sixties
   counterculture expression `Mongolian clusterfuck' for a public
   orgy] 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. /adj./ The quality of being monstrous (see `Overgeneralization'
   the discussion of jargonification).  See also {baroque}.

:monty: /mon'tee/ /n./  1. [US Geological Survey] 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.
   2. [Great Britain; commonly capitalized as `Monty' or as `the
   Full Monty'] 16 megabytes of memory, when fitted to an IBM-PC or
   compatible.  A standard PC-compatible using the AT- or ISA-bus with
   a normal BIOS cannot access more than 16 megabytes of RAM.
   Generally used of a PC, Unix workstation, etc. to mean `fully
   populated with' memory, disk-space or some other desirable
   resource.  This usage is possibly derived from a TV commercial for
   Del Monte fruit juice, in which one of the characters insisted on
   "the full Del Monte".  Compare American {moby}.

:Moof: /moof/  [Macintosh users] 1. /n./ The call of a
   semi-legendary creature, properly called the {dogcow}.  (Some
   previous versions of this entry claimed, incorrectly, that Moof was
   the name of the *creature*.) 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
   hackerland.  3. /v./ On the Microsoft Network, the term `moof' has
   gained popularity as a verb meaning `to be suddenly disconnected by
   the system'.  One might say "I got moofed".

: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.  This relation, first uttered in 1964 by
   semiconductor engineer Gordon Moore (who co-founded Intel four
   years later) held until the late 1970s, at which point the doubling
   period slowed to 18 months.  It remained at that value through time
   of writing (late 1995).  See also {Parkinson's Law of Data}.

: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/ /n./  [Usenet: Member Of The Appropriate
   Sex, after {MOTOS} and {MOTSS}] A potential or (less often)
   actual sex partner.  See also {SO}.

:MOTOS: /moh-tohs/ /n./  [acronym from the 1970 U.S. census
   forms via Usenet: Member Of The Opposite Sex] A potential or (less
   often) actual sex partner.  See {MOTAS}, {MOTSS}, {SO}.
   Less common than MOTSS or {MOTAS}, which have largely displaced

:MOTSS: /mots/ or /M-O-T-S-S/ /n./  [from the 1970
   U.S. census forms via Usenet] 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: /n./  [MS-DOS] 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/ /n./  [MicroSoft Disk Operating System] A
   {clone} of {{CP/M}} for the 8088 crufted together in 6 weeks by
   hacker Tim Paterson at Seattle Computer Products, who called the
   original QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) and is said to
   have regretted it ever since.  Microsoft licensed QDOS order to
   have something to demo for IBM on time, and the rest is history.
   Numerous features, including vaguely Unix-like but rather broken
   support for subdirectories, I/O redirection, and pipelines, were
   hacked into Microsoft's 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 appalling 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/ /n./  [acronym, Multi-User Dungeon; alt.
   Multi-User Dimension] 1.  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
   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 the public domain 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 were often 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.  By 1991, over
   50% of MUD sites were of a third major variety, LPMUD, which
   synthesizes the combat/puzzle aspects of AberMUD and older systems
   with the extensibility of TinyMud.  In 1996 the cutting edge of the
   technology is Pavel Curtis's MOO, even more extensible using a
   built-in object-oriented language.  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.
   Around 1991 there was an unsuccessful movement to deprecate the
   term {MUD} itself, as newer designs exhibit an exploding variety
   of names corresponding to the different simulation styles being
   explored.  It survived.  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.  Others may recall
   the `High School Madness' sequence from the Firesign Theater album
   "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers", in which there
   is a character named "Mudhead".

:multician: /muhl-ti'shn/ /n./  [coined at Honeywell,
   ca. 1970] 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: /vt./  [often confused with {mung}, q.v.] 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

:munchkin: /muhnch'kin/ /n./  [from the squeaky-voiced little
   people in L. Frank Baum's "The Wizard of Oz"] 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: /n./  [from SF fandom] 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/ /vt./  [in 1960 at MIT, `Mash Until No Good';
   sometime after that the derivation from the {{recursive acronym}}
   `Mung Until No Good' became standard; but see {munge}] 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 the sprouts of which 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 U.S. army slang for the ersatz creamed chipped beef
   better known as `SOS', and it seems quite likely that the word in
   fact goes back to Scots-dialect {munge}.

:munge: /muhnj/ /vt./  1. [derogatory] To imperfectly
   transform information.  2. A comprehensive rewrite of a routine,
   data structure or the whole program.  3. To modify data in some way
   the speaker doesn't need to go into right now or cannot describe
   succinctly (compare {mumble}).

   This term is often confused with {mung}, which probably was
   derived from it.  However, it also appears the word `munge' was in
   common use in Scotland in the 1940s, and in Yorkshire in the 1950s,
   as a verb, meaning to munch up into a masticated mess, and
   as a noun, meaning the result of munging something up (the
   parallel with the {kluge}/{kludge} pair is amusing).

: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 {luser}s.  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 correctly 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, Dream Theater, King Sunny
   Ade, The Pretenders, Screaming Trees, 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/ /v./  [UK] 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.

   Apparently this word originated on a now-legendary 1950s radio
   comedy program called "The Goon Show".  The Goon Show usage
   of "nadger" was definitely in the sense of "jinxed"
   "clobbered" "fouled up".  The American mutation {adger}
   seems to have preserved more of the original flavor.

:nagware: /nag'weir/ /n./  [Usenet] 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: /adj./  [like a trophy] 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/ /interj./  [from the ASCII mnemonic for 0010101]
   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

:nano: /nan'oh/ /n./  [CMU: from `nanosecond'] 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-: /pref./  [SI: the next quantifier below {micro-};
   meaning * 10^(-9)] 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

: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: /n./  [Adelaide University] 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/ /n./  [onomatopoeic, from New York SF
   fandom] 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'.

:nerd: /n./  1. [mainstream slang] Pejorative applied to anyone
   with an above-average IQ and few gifts at small talk and ordinary
   social rituals.  2. [jargon] Term of praise applied (in conscious
   ironic reference to sense 1) to someone who knows what's really
   important and interesting and doesn't care to be distracted by
   trivial chatter and silly status games.  Compare the two senses of
   {computer geek}.

   The word itself appears to derive from the line "And then, just to
   show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo / And Bring Back an It-Kutch, a
   and a Proo, / A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker, too!" in the
   Dr. Seuss book "If I Ran the Zoo" (1950). (The spellings
   `nurd' and `gnurd' also used to be current at MIT.) How it
   developed its mainstream meaning is unclear, but sense 1 seems to
   have entered mass culture in the early 1970s (there are reports
   that in the mid-1960s it meant roughly "annoying misfit"
   without the connotation of intelligence).

   An IEEE Spectrum article (4/95, page 16) once derived `nerd' in its
   variant form `knurd' from the word `drunk' backwards, but this
   bears all the earmarks of a bogus folk etymology.

   Hackers developed sense 2 in self-defense perhaps ten years later,
   and some actually wear "Nerd Pride" buttons, only half as a
   joke.  At MIT one can find not only buttons but (what else?) pocket
   protectors bering the slogan and the MIT seal.

: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 authority.

: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.god}hood.

: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: /n./  [from bollix: to bungle] {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: /n./  [IRC] 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: /n./  [IRC] 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/ /n./  [Unix] 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 early 1996) is

:netiquette: /net'ee-ket/ or /net'i-ket/ /n./  [portmanteau
   from "network etiquette"] 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: /n./  [IRC, MUD] 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/ /n./  [IBM] 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 used to include {bang path} addresses but now almost
   always implies an {{Internet address}}).

   Display of a network 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}, {domainist}.

   [1996 update: the lodge-pin function of the network address has
   been gradually eroding in the last two years as Internet and World
   Wide Web usage have become common outside hackerdom. -- ESR]

: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 meltdown is often a result of network designs that are
   optimized for a steady state of moderate load and don't cope well
   with the very jagged, bursty usage patterns of the real world.  One
   amusing instance of this is triggered by the the popular and very
   bloody shoot-'em-up game Doom on the PC.  When used in
   multiplayer mode over a network, the game uses broadcast packets to
   inform other machines when bullets are fired.  This causes problems
   with weapons like the chain gun which fire rapidly -- it can blast
   the network into a meltdown state just as easily as it shreds
   opposing monsters.

: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: /adj./  [primarily Stanford/Silicon Valley]
   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 conspiracy}.

:New Testament: /n./  [C programmers] The second edition of
   K&R's "The C Programming Language" (Prentice-Hall, 1988; ISBN
   0-13-110362-8), describing ANSI Standard C.  See {K&R}; this
   version is also called `K&R2'.

: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 {B1FF}.

:newgroup wars: /n[y]oo'groop worz/ /n./  [Usenet] 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/ /n./  [acronym;
   the `Network Window System'] 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: // /n./  [Usenet] 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: /n./  [Usenet] 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.written and siblings (for
   science-fiction fans), and talk.politics.misc (miscellaneous
   political discussions and {flamage}).

:nick: /n./  [IRC] 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/ /n./  [from `nickel', common name for the
   U.S.  5-cent coin] 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}, and {nybble} for names of other bit units.

: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.  Except, that
   is, on {clone} boxes, where NMI is often ignored on the
   motherboard because flaky hardware can generate many spurious

:no-op: /noh'op/ /n.,v./  alt. NOP /nop/ [no operation]
   1. 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/ /adj./  [UK: from the children's books]
   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}.

:node: /n./  1. [Internet, UUCP] A host machine on the network.
   2. [MS-DOS BBSes] A dial-in line on a BBS.  Thus an MS-DOS {sysop}
   might say that his BBS has 4 nodes even though it has a single
   machine and no Internet link, confusing an Internet hacker no end.

:NOMEX underwear: /noh'meks uhn'-der-weir/ /n./  [Usenet] 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 Networking/2
   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}, {interesting}.

: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/  /n./ [Unix, from "new roff" (see
   {{troff}})] A companion program to the Unix typesetter {{troff}},
   accepting identical input but preparing output for terminals and
   line printers.

: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 (1996), 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.

:NSP: /N-S-P/ /n./  Common abbreviation for `Network Service
   Provider', one of the big national or regional companies that
   maintains a portion of the Internet backbone and resells
   connectivity to {ISP}s.  In 1996, major NSPs include ANS, MCI,
   UUNET, and Sprint.  An Internet wholesaler.

: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: /n./  [scientific computation] 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') /n./  [from
   /v./ `nibble' by analogy with `bite' => `byte'] Four
   bits; one {hex} digit; a half-byte.  Though `byte' is now
   techspeak, this useful relative is still jargon.  Compare
   {{byte}}; see also {bit}, Apparently the `nybble' spelling is
   uncommon in Commonwealth Hackish, as British orthography suggests
   the pronunciation /ni:'bl/.

   Following `bit', `byte' and `nybble' there have been quite a few
   analogical attempts to construct unambiguous terms for bit blocks
   of other sizes.  All of these are strictly jargon, not techspeak,
   and not very common jargon at that (most hackers would recognize
   them in context but not use them spontaneously).  We collect them
   here for reference together with the ambiguous techspeak terms
   `word', `half-word' and `quadwords'; some (indicated) have
   substantial information separate entries.
     2 bits:
          {crumb}, {quad} {quarter}, tayste
     4 bits:
     5 bits:
     10 bits:
     16 bits:
          playte, {chawmp} (on a 32-bit machine), word (on a 16-bit
          machine), half-word (on a 32-bit machine).
     18 bits:
          {chawmp} (on a 36-bit machine), half-word (on a 36-bit machine)
     32 bits:
          dynner, {gawble} (on a 32-bit machine), word (on a 32-bit
          machine), longword (on a 16-bit machine).
          word (on a 36-bit machine)
     48 bits:
          {gawble} (under circumstances that remain obscure)

   The fundamental motivation for most of these jargon terms (aside
   from the normal hackerly enjoyment of punning wordplay) is the
   extreme ambiguity of the term `word' and its derivatives.

:nyetwork: /nyet'werk/ /n./  [from Russian `nyet' = no] A
   network, when it is acting {flaky} or is {down}.  Compare

= 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: /n./  (in full, the `International
   Obfuscated C Code Contest', or IOCCC) 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}.

   The IOCC has an official home page at

:obi-wan error: /oh'bee-won` er'*r/ /n./  [RPI, from
   `off-by-one' and the Obi-Wan Kenobi character in "Star
   Wars"] 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/ /v./  [CMU] 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: /n./  [C programmers] 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/ /n./  [from the Dr. Seuss title
   "Bartholomew and the Oobleck"; the spelling `oobleck' is still
   current in the mainstream] 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: /n./  [IBM: prob. from railroading] An
   unresolved question, issue, or problem.

:operating system:: /n./  [techspeak] (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 Unix).

:optical diff: /n./ See {vdiff}.

:optical grep: /n./  See {vgrep}.

:optimism: /n./  What a programmer is full of after fixing the
   last bug and before 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
     godmothers.  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

: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: /n./  [Unix] A process whose parent has died; one
   inherited by `init(1)'.  Compare {zombie}.

:orphaned i-node: /or'f*nd i:'nohd/ /n./  [Unix]
   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: /adj./  [from mathematics] 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 A.

: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}.

:OSU: /O-S-U/ /n. obs./  [TMRC] Acronym for Officially
   Sanctioned User; a user who is recognized as such by the computer
   authorities and allowed to use the computer above the objections of
   the security monitor.

:OTOH: //  [USENET] On The Other Hand.

:out-of-band: /adj./  [from telecommunications and network
   theory] 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: /n./  [MIT] 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 screw}).

:overrun screw: /n./  [C programming] 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 naivete (see
   {naive}).  Also `padded cell environment'.

:page in: /v./  [MIT] 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: /vi./  [MIT] 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

:pain in the net: /n./ A {flamer}.

:Pangloss parity: /n./  [from Dr. Pangloss, the eternal optimist
   in Voltaire's "Candide"] In corporate DP shops, a common
   condition of severe but equally shared {lossage} resulting from
   the theory that as long as everyone in the organization has the
   exactly the *same* model of obsolete computer, everything will
   be fine.

: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}.

:PARC: /n./  See {XEROX PARC}.

: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

: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},

: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

     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/ /n./  [abbrev. of `Programmer Brain Damage']
   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 {copyleft}.

: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/ /n./  [abbreviation for `Push Down
   List'] 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: /n./  [Programmed Data Processor model 10] 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}.

: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.

: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'/ /n./  [From the code in C's
   `printf(3)' library function used to insert an arbitrary
   string argument] An unspecified person or object.  "I was just
   talking to some percent-s in administration."  Compare

: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 torn (philatelists use it this way).

: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

:Perl: /perl/ /n./  [Practical Extraction and Report Language,
   a.k.a. Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister] An interpreted
   language developed by Larry Wall (<>, author
   of `patch(1)' and `rn(1)') and distributed over Usenet.
   Superficially resembles {awk}, but is much hairier, including
   many facilities reminiscent of `sed(1)' and shells and a
   comprehensive Unix system-call interface.  Unix sysadmins, who are
   almost always incorrigible hackers, increasingly consider it one of
   the {languages of choice}.  Perl has been described, in a parody
   of a famous remark about `lex(1)', as the "Swiss-Army
   chainsaw" of Unix programming.  See also {Camel Book}.

:person of no account: /n./  [University of California at Santa
   Cruz] 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

:pessimal: /pes'im-l/ /adj./  [Latin-based antonym for
   `optimal'] 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/ /n./  A
   compiler that produces object [antonym of `optimizing compiler']
   code that is worse than the straightforward or obvious hand
   translation.  The implication is that the compiler is actually
   trying to optimize the program, but through excessive cleverness is
   doing the opposite.  A few pessimizing compilers have been written
   on purpose, however, as pranks or burlesques.

:peta-: /pe't*/ pref [SI] See {{quantifiers}}.

:PETSCII: /pet'skee/ /n./  [abbreviation of PET ASCII] 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

: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 {heisenbug}.

   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: /n./ [MIT] Syn. {wrap around}, sense 2.

:phreaker: /freek'r/ /n./  One who engages in

:phreaking: /freek'ing/ /n./  [from `phone phreak'] 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-: /pref./  [SI: a quantifier
   meaning * 10^-12]
   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: /n./  [Sun: from aviation] 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 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 (note
   that `ping(8)''s author denies the widespread folk etymology
   that the name was ever intended as acronym `Packet INternet
   Groper').  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/ vt.,obs.  [Peripheral Interchange Program] 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: /n./  [IBM] A tool that makes it all too easy for you to
   shoot yourself in the foot.  "Unix `rm *' makes such a nice

:pixel sort: /n./  [Commodore users] Any compression routine
   which irretrievably loses valuable data in the process of
   {crunch}ing it.  Disparagingly used for `lossy' methods such as
   JPEG. The theory, of course, is that these methods are only used on
   photographic images in which minor loss-of-data is not visible to
   the human eye.  The term `pixel sort' implies distrust of this
   theory.  Compare {bogo-sort}.

:pizza box: /n./  [Sun] 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: /n./  [XEROX PARC] 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: /n./  [Unix] 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

:playpen: /n./  [IBM] 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}.  General discussion of such terms is under

:plingnet: /pling'net/ /n./  Syn. {UUCPNET}.  Also see
   {{Commonwealth Hackish}}, which uses `pling' for {bang} (as
   in {bang path}).

:plokta: /plok't*/ /v./  [acronym: Press Lots Of Keys To
   Abort] 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: excl.,vt.  [Usenet: possibly influenced by British
   slang `plonk' for cheap booze, or `plonker' for someone
   behaving stupidly (latter is lit. equivalent to Yiddish
   `schmuck')] The sound a {newbie} makes as he falls to the
   bottom of a {kill file}.  While it originated in the
   {newsgroup} talk.bizarre, this term (usually written
   "*plonk*") is now (1994) widespread on Usenet as a form of public

:plugh: /ploogh/ /v./  [from the {ADVENT} game] See

:plumbing: /n./  [Unix] 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 interface.

: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: /n./  [allegedly from abbreviation POD for `Prince Of
   Darkness'] 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

: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/ /n.,v./  [from a {PDP-10}
   return-from-subroutine instruction] To return from a digression.
   By verb doubling, "Popj, popj" means roughly "Now let's see,
   where were we?"  See {RTI}.

:poser: /n./  A {wannabee}; not hacker slang, but used among
   crackers, phreaks and {warez d00dz}.  Not as negative as
   {lamer} or {leech}.  Probably derives from a similar usage
   among punk-rockers and metalheads, putting down those who "talk
   the talk but don't walk the walk".

:post: /v./  To send a message to a {mailing list} or
   {newsgroup}.  Distinguished in context from `mail'; one might
   ask, for example: "Are you going to post the patch or mail it to
   known users?"

:postcardware: /n./  A kind of {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 output.

: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 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/ /n. obs./  [from `Project-Programmer
   Number'] A user-ID under {{TOPS-10}} and its various mutant
   progeny at SAIL, BBN, CompuServe, and elsewhere.  Old-time hackers
   from the PDP-10 era sometimes use this to refer to user IDs on
   other systems as well.

:precedence lossage: /pre's*-dens los'*j/ /n./  [C
   programmers] 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'/ /vt./  [by analogy with `append'] 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/ /v./  (alt. `pretty-print')
   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: /n./  [Mac users] See {feature key}.

:priesthood: /n. obs./  [TMRC] The select group of system
   managers responsible for the operation and maintenance of a batch
   operated computer system.  On these computers, a user never had
   direct access to a computer, but had to submit his/her data and
   programs to a priest for execution.  Results were returned days or
   even weeks later.  See {acolyte}.

:prime time: /n./  [from TV programming] 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: /n./  [XEROX PARC] A protracted,
   low-level, time-consuming, generally pointless discussion of
   something only peripherally interesting to all.

:priority interrupt: /n./  [from the hardware term] 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

: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.  3.[techspeak] A subset of a standard used
   for a particular purpose.  This sense confuses hackers who wander
   into the weird world of ISO standards no end!

:progasm: /proh'gaz-m/ /n./  [University of Wisconsin] The
   euphoria experienced upon the completion of a program or other
   computer-related project.

:proglet: /prog'let/ /n./  [UK] 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 it.

: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).  "Bloody instructions which, being taught, return
   to plague their inventor" ("Macbeth", Act 1, Scene 7) 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 mandatory).

:programming fluid: /n./  1. Coffee.  2. Cola.  3. Any
   caffeinacious stimulant.  Many hackers consider these essential for
   those all-night hacking runs.  See {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

:propeller key: /n./  [Mac users] 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 in.

:protocol: /n./  As used by hackers, this never refers to
   niceties about the proper form for addressing letters to the Papal
   Nuncio or the order in which one should use the forks in a
   Russian-style place setting; hackers don't care about such things.
   It is used instead to describe any set of rules 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: /n./  [common ironic mutation of
   `preventive maintenance'] 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: /n./  [Unix] 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/ /n./  [Usenet: truncation of `pseudonym']
   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 {B1FF}.  See also
   {tentacle}.  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 was, before about 1985,
   called a `pseudoprime' (the terminology used by number theorists
   has since changed slightly; pre-1985 pseudoprimes are now
   `probable primes' and `pseudoprime' has a more restricted meaning
   in modular arithmetic).  The hacker backgammon usage stemmed 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

: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/ /n./  [UK] Syn.
   {display hack}.  See also {smoking clover}.

:psyton: /si:'ton/ /n./  [TMRC] 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: /pyoob'ik d*-rek't*-ree/) /n./  [NYU]
   (also `pube directory' /pyoob' d*-rek't*-ree/) 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}, see

:punched card:: n.obs.  [techspeak] (alt. `punch card') 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: /v./  [from the punch line of an old joke referring to
   American football: "Drop back 15 yards and punt!"] 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}.  Donald Lewine's
   "POSIX Programmer's Guide" (O'Reilly, 1991, ISBN
   0-937175-73-0).  See also {{book titles}}.

:purple wire: /n./  [IBM] 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 nose.

   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}, {psyton}.

: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.  General discussion of such terms is under {nybble}.

:ques: /kwes/  1. /n./ The question mark character (`?',
   ASCII 0111111).  2. /interj./ What?  Also frequently verb-doubled
   "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/ /n./  [from the name of the logician Willard
   van Orman Quine, via Douglas Hofstadter] 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: /v./  [by analogy with the mainstream
   phrase] 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/ /n./  [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/ /adj./  [from the keycaps at the upper
   left] 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: /n./  [Cambridge] 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}; see
   also {casting the runes}.

: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

: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: /adj./  [Unix] 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'.

:rat dance: /n./  [From the "Dilbert" comic strip of November
   14, 1995] A {hacking run} that produces results which, while
   superficially coherent, have little or nothing to do with its
   original objectives.  There are strong connotations that the coding
   process and the objectives themselves were pretty {random}.  (In
   the original comic strip, the Ratbert character is invited to dance
   of Dilbert's keyboard in order to produce bugs for him to fix, and
   authors a Web browser instead.)

   This term seems to have become widely recognized quite rapidly
   after the original strip, a fact which testifies to Dilbert's huge
   popularity among hackers.  All too many find the perverse
   incentives and Kafkaesque atmosphere of Dilbert's mythical
   workplace reflective of their own experiences.

:rave: /vi./  [WPI] 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 unlikely.

: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', and 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/ /n./  [Unix: from `runcom files' on
   the {CTSS} system ca.1955, via the startup script
   `/etc/rc'] 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

: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?"  Only
   {MS-DOS} is universally considered unreal.  See {holy wars},
   {religious issues}, {proprietary}, {Get a real computer!}

:Real Programmer: /n./   [indirectly, from the book
   "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche"] 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.

   You can browse "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal" from the
   Datamation home page

:Real Soon Now: /adv./  [orig. from SF's fanzine community,
   popularized by Jerry Pournelle's column in "BYTE"] 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.  Compare {copious free time}.

: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
   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 town.  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

:recursive acronym:: /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: /n./  [IBM] 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/ /n./  [Unix] (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 axle.

:religion of CHI: /ki:/ /n./  [Case Western Reserve
   University] 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
   107 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
   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.

   A tasty selection of retrocomputing programs are made available at
   the Retrocomputing Museum

:return from the dead: /v./  To regain access to the net after a
   long absence.  Compare {person of no account}.

:RFC: /R-F-C/ /n./  [Request For Comment] 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 ethernet.

:rib site: /n./  [by analogy with {backbone site}] 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: /n./  [from ham radio slang] 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: // /n./  [MUD community] Real Life.  "Firiss laughs in
   RL" means that Firiss's player is laughing.  Oppose {VR}.

:roach: /vt./  [Bell Labs] To destroy, esp. of a data
   structure.  Hardware gets {toast}ed or {fried}, software gets

:robot: /n./  [IRC, MUD] 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 {brittle}.

:rococo: /adj./  Terminally {baroque}.  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 mass}.

:rogue: /n./  [Unix] 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: /quant./  [IBM] 80 or below (nominal room
   temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit, 22 degrees Celsius).  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

:root: /n./  [Unix] 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; historically the home directory
   of the root user, but probably named after the root of an
   (inverted) tree.  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/ /n.,v./  [Usenet: from `rotate
   alphabet 13 places'] 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: /n./  [Commodore] 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/ /imp./  [Unix] 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/ /imp./  [Usenet: primarily written, by
   analogy with {RTFM}] 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/ /imp./  [Unix] 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/ /imp./  [Unix] 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';
   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

:RTS: /R-T-S/ /imp./  Acronym for `Read The Screen'.  Mainly
   used by hackers in the microcomputer world.  Refers to what one
   would like to tell the {suit} one is forced to explain an
   extremely simple application to.  Particularly appropriate when the
   suit failed to notice the `Press any key to continue' prompt, and
   wishes to know `why won't it do anything'.  Also seen as `RTFS' in
   especially deserving cases.

: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

: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).  3. [borderline techspeak]
   16-bit characters from the Unicode multilingual character set.

: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
   idiom, "Hugely 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}.

:rusty wire: /n./  [Amateur Packet Radio] Any very noisy network
   medium, in which the packets are subject to frequent corruption.
   Most prevalent in reference to wireless links subject to all the
   vagaries of RF noise and marginal propagation conditions. "Yes,
   but how good is your whizbang new protocol on really rusty

= 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: /n./  [WPI] 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

     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 all.

     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

     G.b.t.c. looked him straight in the eye and said, "You're
     *in* Palo Alto!"

     JONL turned slowly around, and saw the three of us collapse in a
     fit of giggles.  He clapped a hand to his forehead and exclaimed,
     "I've been 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/ /n./  [from Carl Sagan's TV series
   "Cosmos"; think "billions and billions"] 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: /n./  [MIT] 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.  Also
   `sodium substrate'. 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

:samizdat: /sahm-iz-daht/ /n./  [Russian, literally "self
   publishing"] The process of disseminating documentation via
   underground channels.  Originally referred to underground
   duplication and distribution of banned books in the 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 {sneaker}, {Stupids}, {social engineering},
   {cracker}, {hacker ethic, the}, and {dark-side hacker}.

:sandbender: /n./  [IBM] 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: /n./  [from police slang for a cheap
   handgun] 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/ /n./  [MIT: from the
   Schroedinger's Cat thought-experiment in quantum physics] 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: /n./  [from the nuclear power industry] 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.

   [The actual incident occured in 1979 or 1980. 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

:screaming tty: /n./  [Unix] 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: /n./  [MIT] 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/ /vt./  [Bell Labs] 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/ /n./  [from the pioneering Roundtable chat
   system in Houston ca. 1984; prob. originated as a typo for
   `scroll'] 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 terminal.

: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: /n./  [Small Computer System Interface] 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 BSD 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 loathing.

: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

   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')
   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 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: /S-E-D/ /n./  [TMRC, from `Light-Emitting Diode']
   Smoke-emitting diode.  A {friode} that lost the war.  See also

:segfault: /n.,vi./ Syn. {segment}, {segmentation fault}.

:seggie: /seg'ee/ /n./   [Unix] 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

:self-reference: /n./ See {self-reference}.

:selvage: /sel'v*j/ /n./  [from sewing and weaving] 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: /n./ [IBM] 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 `web servers', `name servers',
   `domain servers', `news servers', `finger servers', and the

: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 filesystem....

:shar file: /shar' fi:l/ /n./ Syn. {sharchive}.

:sharchive: /shar'ki:v/ /n./  [Unix and Usenet; from /bin/sh
   archive] 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./  A kind of {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}, {FRS}, {guiltware},
   {postcardware}, and {-ware}; compare {payware}.

:shelfware: /shelf'weir/ /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}} /n./  techspeak, widely propagated
   via Unix] 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'.  3. A skeleton program, created by hand or by another
   program (like, say, a parser generator), which provides the
   necessary {incantation}s to set up some task and the control
   flow to drive it (the term {driver} is sometimes used
   synonymously).  The user is meant to fill in whatever code is
   needed to get real work done.  This usage is common in the AI and
   Microsoft Windows worlds, and confuses Unix hackers.

   Historical note: Apparently, the original Multics shell (sense 1)
   was so called because it was a shell (sense 3); it ran user
   programs not by starting up separate processes, but by dynamically
   linking the programs into its own code, calling them as
   subroutines, and then dynamically de-linking them on return.  The
   VMS command interpreter still does something very like

:shell out: /n./  [Unix] 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 XT 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

:Shub-Internet: /shuhb' in't*r-net/ /n./  [MUD: from
   H. P. Lovecraft's evil fictional deity `Shub-Niggurath', the
   Black Goat with a Thousand Young] 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.

   [January 1996: It develops that one of the computer administrators
   in the basement of the Pentagon read this entry and fell over
   laughing.  As a result, you too can now poke Shub-Internet by
   {ping}ing  See also
   {kremvax}. -- ESR]

: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 {magic}.  3. More generally, any of various devices designed
   to be connected to the expansion slot on the left side of the Amiga
   500 (and later, 600 & 1200), which included a hard drive
   controller, a hard drive, and additional memory.

: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/ /n./  [Unix; often written `.sig'
   there] 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/ /n./  [Usenet] 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 {sandbender}.

:silly walk: /vi./  [from Monty Python's Flying Circus] 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 core}.

: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

: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/ /n./  [Unix/Internet] 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}.

:slab: [Apple]  1. /n./ A continuous horizontal line of pixels,
   all with the same color.  2. /vi./ To paint a slab on an output
   device.  Apple's QuickDraw, like most other professional-level
   graphics systems, renders polygons and lines not with Bresenham's
   algorithm, but by calculating `slab points' for each scan line
   on the screen in succession, and then slabbing in the actual image

:slack: /n./  1. Space allocated to a disk file but not actually
   used to store useful information.  The techspeak equivalent is
   `internal fragmentation'.  Antonym: {hole}.  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 {brittle}).

: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 local 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 terminal}.

   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: /n./  [C programming] 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, popularized by
   newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin c.1975, 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.  See also {stealth manager}.

: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: /n./  [ITS] 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/ /n./  [Simple (or Small) Matter of
   Programming] 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/ /n./  [from the soc.motss newsgroup on
   Usenet, after some obnoxiously gooey cartoon characters] 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/ /n./  [from a WWII Army
   acronym for `Situation Normal, All Fucked Up'] "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 and inevitable disaster, the {suit}s
   protect themselves by saying "I was misinformed!", and the
   implementors are demoted or fired.

: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

: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 -- ESR]

: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 expedition.

: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

:snark: /n./  [Lewis Carroll, via the Michigan Terminal System]
   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 versions from
   2.*.* on (i.e., this lexicon).

:sneaker: /n./  An individual hired to break into places in
   order to test their security; analogous to {tiger team}.
   Compare {samurai}.

: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: /n./   [IBM] 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.  As a rule,
   {management} loves them.  See also {numbers}, {math-out},
   {pretty pictures}.

:sodium substrate: /n./ Syn {salt substrate}.

: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 hoarding: /n./  Pejorative term employed by members and
   adherents of the {GNU} project to describe the act of holding
   software proprietary, keeping it under trade secret or license
   terms which prohibit free redistribution and modification.  Used
   primarily in Free Software Foundation propaganda.  For a summary
   of related issues, see {GNU}.

: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 kind.

: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: /n./  [IBM] 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: /n./  [from Goethe's "Der
   Zauberlehrling" via Paul Dukas's "L'apprenti sorcier" the film
   "Fantasia"] 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: /S-O-S/ /n. obs./  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 set.

: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

: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 first Knight keyboard.

:spaceship operator: /n./  The glyph <=>, so-called
   apparently because in the low-resolution constant-width font used
   on many terminals it vaguely resembles a flying saucer.  {Perl}
   uses this to denote the signum-of-difference operation.

: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: vt.,vi.,n.  [from "Monty Python's Flying Circus"]
   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).  3. To send many identical or nearly-identical
   messages separately to a large number of Usenet newsgroups.  This
   is one sure way to infuriate nearly everyone on the Net.

   The second and third definitions have become much more prevalent as
   the Internet has opened up to non-techies, and to many Usenetters
   #3 is now (1995) primary.  In this sense the term has apparantly
   begun to go mainstream, though without its original sense or
   folkloric freight -- there is apparently a widespread belief among
   {luser}s that "spamming" is what happens when you dump cans of
   Spam into a revolving fan.

: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

: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: /n./   [Usenet] 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

: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

:spin: /vi./  Equivalent to {buzz}.  More common among C and
   Unix programmers.

: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.  Classicall