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#======= THIS IS THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 4.1.0, 12 MAR 1999 =======#

   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 4.1.0" or "The
on-line hacker Jargon File, version 4.1.0, 12 MAR 1999".)

   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 	<>

   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

   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 obsolete.

   This new version casts a wider net than the old Jargon File; its aim
is to cover not just AI or PDP-10 hacker culture but all the technical
computing cultures wherein the true hacker-nature is manifested.  More
than half of the entries now derive from {Usenet} and represent jargon
now current in the C and Unix communities, but special efforts have
been made to collect jargon from other cultures including IBM PC
programmers, Amiga fans, Mac enthusiasts, and even the IBM mainframe

   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 0-262-68069-6.

   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 4.0.0, Jul 25 1996: The actual TNHD III version after
copy-edit.  This version had 24801 lines, 193697 words, 1281402
characters, and 2067 entries.

   Version 4.1.0, 12 Mar 1999: The File rides again.

   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 margins.

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

:How Jargon Works:

:Jargon Construction:

   There are some standard methods of jargonification that became
established quite early (i.e., before 1970), spreading from such
sources as the Tech Model Railroad Club, the PDP-1 SPACEWAR hackers,
and John McCarthy's original crew of LISPers.  These include verb
doubling, soundalike slang, the `-P' convention, overgeneralization,
spoken inarticulations, and anthropomorphization.  Each is discussed
below.  We also cover the standard comparatives for design quality.

   Of these six, verb doubling, overgeneralization,
anthropomorphization, 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 flourish.

: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
         Walll Street Journal => Wall Street Urinal

   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
         Microsoft => Microsloth
         Internet Explorer => Internet Exploiter

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


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

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

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

     broken  flaky  dodgy  fragile  brittle
     solid  robust  bulletproof  armor-plated

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

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

:Hacker Writing Style:

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

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

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

     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).  On FidoNet, you might see #bright# and ^dark^ text, which was
actually interpreted by some reader software.  Finally, words may also
be emphasized L I K E T H I S, or by a series of carets (^) under them
on the next line of the text.

   There is a semantic difference between *emphasis like this* (which
emphasizes the phrase as a whole), and *emphasis* *like* *this* (which
suggests the writer speaking very slowly and distinctly, as if to a
very young child or a mentally impaired person).  Bracketing a word with
the `*' character may also indicate that the writer wishes readers to
consider that an action is taking place or that a sound is being made.
Examples: *bang*, *hic*, *ring*, *grin*, *kick*, *stomp*, *mumble*.

   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.

   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. (TeX math mode also uses ^ for
exponention.) 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:

     Your father was a hamster and your mother smelt of elderberries!

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

     <flame intensity="100%">
     You seem well-suited for a career in government.

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

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

   Finally, it is worth mentioning that many studies of on-line
communication have shown that electronic links have a de-inhibiting
effect on people.  Deprived of the body-language cues through which
emotional state is expressed, people tend to forget everything about
other parties except what is presented over that ASCII link.  This has
both good and bad effects.  A good one is that it encourages honesty
and tends to break down hierarchical authority relationships; a bad one
is that it may encourage depersonalization and gratuitous rudeness.
Perhaps in response to this, experienced netters often display a sort
of conscious formal politesse in their writing that has passed out of
fashion in other spoken and written media (for example, the phrase
"Well said, sir!" is not uncommon).

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

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

:Email Quotes and Inclusion Conventions:

   One area where 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 a practice 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.

   Inclusion practice is still evolving, and disputes over the
`correct' inclusion style occasionally lead to {holy wars}.

   Most netters view an inclusion as a promise that comment on it will
immediately follow.  The preferred, conversational style looks like

          > relevant excerpt 1
          response to excerpt
          > relevant excerpt 2
          response to excerpt
          > relevant excerpt 3
          response to excerpt

or for short messages like this:

          > entire message
          response to message

Thanks to poor design of some PC-based mail agents, one will
occasionally see the entire quoted message _after_ the response, like

          response to message
          > entire message

but this practice is strongly deprecated.

   Though `>' remains the standard inclusion leader, `|' is
occasionally used for extended quotations where original variations in
indentation are being retained (one mailer even combines these and uses
`|>').  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.  (See also {mu})

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

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

:International Style:

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

   There are some references herein to `Commonwealth hackish'.  These
are intended to describe some variations in hacker usage as reported in
the English spoken in Great Britain and the Commonwealth (Canada,
Australia, India, etc. -- though Canada is heavily influenced by
American usage).  There is also an entry on {{Commonwealth Hackish}}
reporting some general phonetic and vocabulary differences from U.S.

   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.  And Spanish-speaking hackers use `linkar' (to
link), `debugear' (to debug), and `lockear' (to lock).

   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

:Crackers, Phreaks, and Lamers:

   From the early 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 IBM-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 /nyooz/)

   The glyph /*/ 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 (now Compaq).

     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 Syste`me 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:

   You can mail submissions for the Jargon File to

   We welcome new jargon, and corrections to or amplifications of
existing entries.  You can improve your submission's chances of being
included by adding background information on user population and years
of currency.  References to actual usage via URLs and/or DejaNews
pointers are particularly welcomed.

   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.

   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.

   An HTML version of the File is 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
browsing on the World Wide Web, 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: /a'bend/, /*-bend'/ n.  [ABnormal END]    1. 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'.     2. [alt.callahans] Absent By Enforced
Net Deprivation -    used in the subject lines of postings warning
friends of an    imminent loss of Internet access.  (This can be
because of computer    downtime, loss of provider, moving or illness.)
Variants of this    also appear: ABVND = `Absent By Voluntary Net
Deprivation' and    ABSEND = `Absent By Self-Enforced Net Deprivation'
have been    sighted.

   :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
(two cartoonists who specialized in elaborate    contraptions) shop.
The name has been humorously expanded as A    Company Making
Everything.  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 improbable
and violent 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.

   :address harvester: n.  A robot that searches web pages    and/or
filters netnews traffic looking for valid email addresses.     Some
address harvesters are benign, used only for compiling address
directories.  Most, unfortunately, are run by miscreants compiling
address lists to {spam}.  Address harvesters can be foiled by    a

   :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. (Crowther
went on to write the first core software for the    first TCP/IP
router.) 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    entrance.

   :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

   :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 (1999) 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 {{hacker humor}}.

   :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},    {virgin}.

   :AIDX: /ayd'k*z/ 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}, {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    Principle}.

   :Alderson loop: n.  [Intel] A special version of an    {infinite
loop} where there is an exit condition available, but    inaccessible
in the current implementation of the code.  Typically    this is
created while debugging user interface code.  An example    would be
when there is a menu stating, "Select 1-3 or 9 to quit"    and 9 is not
allowed by the function that takes the selection from    the user.

   This term received its name from a programmer who had coded a modal
 message box in MSAccess with no Ok or Cancel buttons, thereby
disabling the entire program whenever the box came up.  The message
box had the proper code for dismissal and even was set up so that
when the non-existent Ok button was pressed the proper code would    be

   :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 geek: n.  [from animal ethologists' `alpha    male'] The most
technically accomplished or skillful person in some    implied context.
"Ask Larry, he's the alpha geek here."

   :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 `option'    key on a
Macintosh; use of this term usually reveals that the    speaker hacked
PCs before coming to the Mac (see also {feature    key}, which is
sometines <em>incorrectly</em> called `alt').     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    bit}.

   :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}}.

   :ambimouseterous: /am-b*-mows'ter-us/ or /am-b*-mows'trus/    adj.
[modeled on ambidextrous]     Able to use a mouse with either hand.

   :Amiga: n  A series of personal computer models originally    sold
by Commodore, based on 680x0 processors, custom support chips    and an
operating system that combined some of the best features of
Macintosh and Unix with compatibility with neither.

   The Amiga was released just as the personal computing world
standardized on IBM-PC clones. This prevented it from gaining serious
market share, despite the fact that the first Amigas had a
substantial technological lead on the IBM XTs of the time. Instead,
it acquired a small but zealous population of enthusiastic hackers
who dreamt of one day unseating the clones (see {Amiga    Persecution
Complex}).  The strength of the Amiga platform seeded a    small
industry of companies building software and hardware for the
platform, especially in graphics and video applications (see    {video

   Due to spectacular mismanagement, Commodore did hardly any R&D,
allowing the competition to close Amiga's technological lead.     After
Commodore went bankrupt in 1994 the technology passed through
several hands, none of whom did much with it.  However, the Amiga    is
still being produced in Europe under license and has a    substantial
number of fans, which will probably extend the    platform's life

   :Amiga Persecution Complex: n.  The disorder suffered by a
particularly egregious variety of {bigot}, those who believe    that
the marginality of their preferred machine is the result of    some
kind of industry-wide conspiracy (for without a conspiracy of    some
kind, the eminent superiority of their beloved shining jewel    of a
platform would obviously win over all, market pressures be    damned!)
Those afflicted are prone to engaging in {flame war}s    and calling
for boycotts and mailbombings.  Amiga Persecution    Complex is by no
means limited to Amiga users; NeXT, {NeWS},    {OS/2}, Macintosh,
{LISP}, and {GNU} users are also common    victims (and {Linux} users
frequently used to display symptoms    before Linux started winning).
See also {newbie}, {troll},    {holy wars}, {weenie}, {Get a life!}.

   :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    use.

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

   :annoyware: n.  A type of {shareware} that frequently    disrupts
normal program operation to display requests for payment    to the
author in return for the ability to disable the request    messages.
The requests generally require user action to acknowledge    the
message before normal operation is resumed and are often tied    to the
most frequently used features of the software.     See also {careware},
{charityware}, {crippleware},    {freeware}, {FRS}, {guiltware},
{postcardware}, and    {-ware}; compare {payware}.

   :ANSI: /an'see/  1. n. [techspeak] The American National
Standards Institute. ANSI, along with the International Organization
for Standards (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 be    `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.

   :ANSI standard pizza: /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    {ISO standard cup of

   :AOL!: n.  [USENET] Common synonym for "Me, too!"     alluding to
the legendary propensity of America On Line users to    utter
contentless "Me, too!" postings.  The number of exclamation    points
following varies from zero to five or so.  The psuedo-HTML

        <AOL>Me, too!</AOL>

is also frequently seen.

   :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 reference    to
those calculators which use infix instead of postfix (reverse
Polish) notation.  4. A {BSD}-like operating system for the IBM    RT.

   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    skipped.

   For similar reasons, AOJ meant `Add One and do not Jump'.  Even
more bizarre, SKIP meant `do not SKIP'!  If you wanted to skip the
next instruction, you had to say `SKIPA'.  Likewise, JUMP 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

   :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.) See {killer app}; oppose {tool},    {operating

   :arena: [Unix] n.  The area of memory attached to a process by
`brk(2)' and `sbrk(2)' and used by `malloc(3)' as    dynamic storage.
So named from a `malloc: corrupt arena'    message emitted when some
early versions detected an impossible    value in the free block list.
See {overrun screw}, {aliasing    bug}, {memory leak}, {memory smash},
{smash the 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},

   :ARMM: n.  [acronym, `Automated Retroactive Minimal    Moderation']
A Usenet {cancelbot} 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    messages.

   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};
{sorcerer's apprentice mode}.  See also {software laser},    {network

   :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

   :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_    few.

   :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

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

     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

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

( )
     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

     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], pit-thwong.

< >
     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; [half-mesh].

     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

     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, hack; 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;

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

     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 an Old
Testament or    Torah).

   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    brackets}).

   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 major irritant to people who    want
to use a character set suited to their own languages.     Perversely,
though, efforts to solve this problem by proliferating    `national'
character sets produce an evolutionary pressure to use    a _smaller_
subset common to all those in use.

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

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

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

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

   Finally, here's a magnificent example of ASCII art depicting an
Edwardian train station in Dunedin, New Zealand:

                                      / I \
                                   JL/  |  \JL
        .-.                    i   ()   |   ()   i                    .-.
        |_|     .^.           /_\  LJ=======LJ  /_\           .^.     |_|
     ._/___\._./___\_._._._._.L_J_/.-.     .-.\_L_J._._._._._/___\._./___\._._._
            ., |-,-| .,       L_J  |_| [I] |_|  L_J       ., |-,-| .,        .,
            JL |-O-| JL       L_J%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%L_J       JL |-O-| JL        JL
      _/\_  ||\\_I_//||  _/\_ [_] []_/_L_J_\_[] [_] _/\_  ||\\_I_//||  _/\_  ||\
      |__|  ||=/_|_\=||  |__|_|_|   _L_L_J_J_   |_|_|__|  ||=/_|_\=||  |__|  ||-
      |__|  |||__|__|||  |__[___]__--__===__--__[___]__|  |||__|__|||  |__|  |||
      \_I_/ [_]\_I_/[_] \_I_[_]\II/[]\_\I/_/[]\II/[_]\_I_/ [_]\_I_/[_] \_I_/ [_]
     ./   \.L_J/   \L_J./   L_JI  I[]/     \[]I  IL_J    \.L_J/   \L_J./   \.L_J
     |     |L_J|   |L_J|    L_J|  |[]|     |[]|  |L_J     |L_J|   |L_J|     |L_J
     |_____JL_JL___JL_JL____|-||  |[]|     |[]|  ||-|_____JL_JL___JL_JL_____JL_J

There is a newsgroup, rec.arts.ascii, 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.  "At my video    store,
they used their computer to sort the videos into    ASCIIbetical order,
so I couldn't find `"Crocodile" Dundee' until I    thought to look
before `2001' and `48 HRS.'!"

   :astroturfing: n.  The use of paid shills to create the
impression of a popular movement, through means like letters to
newspapers from soi-disant `concerned citizens', paid opinion
pieces, and the formation of grass-roots lobbying groups that are
actually funded by a PR group (astroturf is fake grass; hence the
term).  This term became common among hackers after it came to    light
in early 1998 that Microsoft had attempted to use such    tactics to
forestall the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust    action against
the company.

   This backfired horribly, angering a number of state
attorneys-general enough to induce them to go public with plans to
join the Federal suit.  It also set anybody defending Microsoft on
the net for the accusation "You're just astroturfing!".

   :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

   :AUP: /A-U-P/  Abbreviation, "Acceptable Use Policy".  The    policy
of a given ISP which sets out what the ISP considers to be
(un)acceptable uses of its Internet resources.

   :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

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

   :avatar: n. Syn.  [in Hindu mythology, the incarnation of    a god]
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
found the terms    `root' and  `superuser' unimaginative, and thought
`avatar'    might better impress people with the \responsibility they
were    accepting.

   :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 (text available at
`').  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.  During most of its lifetime,    the
Cabal (as it was sometimes capitalized) steadfastly denied its    own
existence; it was almost obligatory for anyone privy to their
secrets to respond "There is no Cabal" whenever the existence or
activities of the group were speculated on in public.

   The result of this policy was an attractive aura of mystery.  Even
a decade after the cabal {mailing list} disbanded in late 1988
following a bitter internal catfight, many people believed (or
claimed to believe) that it had not actually disbanded but only    gone
deeper underground with its power intact.

   This belief became a model for various paranoid theories about
various Cabals with dark nefarious objectives beginning with taking
over the USENET or Internet.  These paranoias were later satirized
in ways that took on a life of their own.  See {Eric Conspiracy}    for
one example.

   See {NANA} for the subsequent history of "the Cabal".

   :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

   :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.

   :backreference: n.  1. In a regular expression or pattern    match,
the text which was matched within grouping parentheses    parentheses.
2. The part of the pattern which refers back to the    matched text. 3.
By extension, anything which refers back to    something which has been
seen or discussed before.  "When you said    `she' just now, who were
you backreferencing?"

   :backronym: n.  [portmanteau of back + acronym] A word
interpreted as an acronym that was not originally so intended.
Examples are given under {BASIC}, {recursive acronym}    (Cygnus),
{Acme}, and {mung}.  Discovering backronyms is a    common form of
wordplay among hackers.

   :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

   :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    designed}.

   :Bad and Wrong: adj.  [Durham, UK] Said of something that    is both
badly designed and wrongly executed. This common term is    the
prototype of, and is used by contrast with, three less common    terms
- Bad and Right (a kludge, something ugly but functional);    Good and
Wrong (an overblown GUI or other attractive nuisance); and    (rare
praise) Good and Right.  These terms entered common use at    Durham
c.1994 and may have been imported from elsewhere.  There are
standard abbreviations: they start with B&R, a typo for "Bad and
Wrong".  Consequently, B&W is actually "Bad and Right", G&R =    "Good
and Wrong", and G&W = "Good and Right". Compare    {evil and rude},
{Good Thing}, {Bad Thing}.

   :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.  Compare {Bad and Wrong}.

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

   :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 a douche bag or the scrotum (we have reports
of "Bite the douche bag!" being used as an insult at MIT    1970-1976),
but in their current usage they have become almost    completely

   ITS's `lexiphage' program was 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 or    out of
the hearer's vicinity.  Often used in {virtual reality}    (esp. {MUD})
electronic {fora} when a character wishes to    make a dramatic
entrance or exit.  2. The sound of magical    transformation, used in
virtual reality {fora} like 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.

   :binary four: n.  [USENET] The finger, in the sense of    `digitus
impudicus'.  This comes from an analogy between binary    and the hand,
i.e. 1=00001=thumb, 2=00010=index finger,    3=00011=index and thumb,
4=00100.  Considered silly.  Prob. from    humorous derivative of
{finger}, sense 4.

   :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}},    {the network}, and {sitename}.

   :banner: n.  1. The title page added to printouts by most    print
spoolers (see {spool}).  Typically includes user or    account ID
information in very large character-graphics capitals.     Also called
a `burst page', because it indicates where to burst    (tear apart)
fanfold paper to separate one user's printout from the    next.  2. A
similar printout generated (typically on multiple pages    of fan-fold
paper) from user-specified text, e.g., by a program    such as Unix's
`banner({1,6})'.  3. On interactive software,    a first screen
containing a logo and/or author credits and/or a    copyright notice.

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

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

   :barn: n.  [uncommon; prob. from the nuclear military] An
unexpectedly large quantity of something: a unit of measurement.
"Why is /var/adm taking up so much space?"  "The logs have grown    to
several barns."  The source of this is clear: when physicists    were
first studying nuclear interactions, the probability was    thought to
be proportional to the cross-sectional area of the    nucleus (this
probability is still called the cross-section).  Upon    experimenting,
they discovered the interactions were far more    probable than
expected; the nuclei were `as big as a barn'.  The    units for
cross-sections were christened Barns, (10^-24 cm^2) and    the book
containing cross-sections has a picture    of a barn on the cover.

   :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.  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 year.

   [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]

   Note: the name is commonly parsed as Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic
  Instruction Code, but this is a {backronym}. BASIC was    originally
named Basic, simply because it was a simple and basic    programming
language.  Because most programming language names were    in fact
acronyms, BASIC was often capitalized just out of habit or    to be
silly.  No acronym for BASIC originally existed or was    intended (as
one can verify by reading texts through the early    1970s). Later,
around the mid-1970s, people began to make up    backronyms for BASIC
because they weren't sure.  Beginner's    All-purpose Symbolic
Instruction Code is the onethat caught    on.

   :batbelt: n.  Many hackers routinely hang numerous devices    such
as pagers, cell-phones, personal organizers, leatherman    multitools,
pocket knives, flashlights, walkie-talkies, even    miniature computers
from their belts. When many of these devices    are worn at once, the
hacker's belt somewhat resembles Batman's    utility belt; hence it is
referred to as a batbelt.

   :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 per    second.
The technical meaning is `level transitions per    second'; this
coincides with bps only for two-level modulation with    no framing or
stop bits.  Most hackers are aware of these nuances    but blithely
ignore them.

   Historical note: `baud' was originally a unit of telegraph
signalling speed, set at one pulse per second.  It was proposed at
the International Telegraph Conference of 1927, and named after
J.M.E.  Baudot (1845-1903), the French engineer who constructed    the
first successful teleprinter.

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

   :baz: /baz/ n.  1. The third {metasyntactic variable}    "Suppose we
have three functions: FOO, BAR, and BAZ.  FOO calls    BAR, which calls
BAZ...." (See also {fum}) 2. interj. A    term of mild annoyance.  In
this usage the term is often drawn out    for 2 or 3 seconds, producing
an effect not unlike the bleating of    a sheep; /baaaaaaz/.  3.
Occasionally appended to {foo} to    produce `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

   :bazaar: n.,adj.  In 1997, after contemplating the success of
{Linux} for three years, the Jargon File's own editor ESR wrote    an
analytical paper on hacker culture and development models titled    The
Cathedral and the Bazaar
(  The title
metaphor caught on (see also    {cathedral}), and the style of
development typical in the Linux    community is often referred to as
the bazaar mode.  Its    characteristics include releasing code early
and often, and actively    seeking the largest possible pool of peer

   :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}.

   :BCPL: // n.  [acronym, `Basic Combined Programming Language') A
programming language    developed by Martin Richards in Cambridge in
1967. It is remarkable for    its rich syntax, small size of compiler
(it can be run in 16k) and    extreme portability. It reached
break-even point at a very early stage,    and was the language in
which the original {hello world} program was    written. It has been
ported to so many different systems that its    creator confesses to
having lost count. It has only one data type (a    machine word) which
can be used as an integer, a character, a floating    point number, a
pointer, or almost anything else, depending on context.     BCPL was a
precursor of C, which inherited some of its features.

   :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    hobbyists.

   :Befunge: n.  A worthy companion to {INTERCAL}; a    computer
language family which escapes the quotidian limitation of linear
control flow and embraces program counters flying through multiple
dimensions with exotic topologies. For details, see the Befunge    home
page at `'.

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

   :bells and whistles: n.  Features added to a program or    system to
make it more {flavorful} from a hacker's point of    view, without
necessarily adding to its utility for its primary    function.
Distinguished from {chrome}, which is intended to    attract users.
"Now that we've got the basic program working,    let's go back and add
some bells and whistles."  No one seems to    know what distinguishes a
bell from a whistle.  The recognized    emphatic form is "bells,
whistles, and gongs".

   It used to be thought that this term derived from the toyboxes on
theater organs.  However, the "and gongs" strongly suggests a
different origin, at sea.  Before powered horns, ships routinely
used bells, whistles, and gongs to signal each other over longer
distances than voice can carry.

   :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; poss. originated by famed    columnist
Herb Caen] 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, and the D test was the C
test repeated after the model had been in production a while.

   :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    ignorance'.

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

   :BiCapitalization: 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 all
uppercase letters sprinkled liberally with bangs,    typos, `cute'
(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 dog
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)
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: 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 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

   :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
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    {weenie}.

   :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

   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    {wannabee}s.

   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    bogodynamics}.

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

   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

   :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 even more of a 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    punches.

   When electronic terminals became popular, in the early 1970s, there
 was no agreement in the industry over how the keyboards should be
laid out.  Some vendors opted to emulate the Teletype keyboard,
while others used the flexibility of electronic circuitry to make
their product look like an office typewriter.  These alternatives
became known as `bit-paired' and `typewriter-paired' keyboards.  To
a hacker, the bit-paired keyboard seemed far more logical -- and
because most hackers in those days had never learned to touch-type,
there was little pressure from the pioneering users to adapt
keyboards to the typewriter standard.

   The doom of the bit-paired keyboard was the large-scale
introduction of the computer terminal into the normal office
environment, where out-and-out technophobes were expected to use    the
equipment.  The `typewriter-paired' standard became universal,
`bit-paired' hardware was quickly junked or relegated to dusty
corners, and both terms passed into disuse.

   However, in countries without a long history of touch typing, the
argument against the bit-paired keyboard layout was weak or
nonexistent. As a result, the standard Japanese keyboard, used on
PC's, Unix boxen etc. still has all of the !"#$%&'() characters
above the numbers in the ASR-33 layout.

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

   :BITNET: /bit'net/ n., obs.  [acronym: Because It's Time    NETwork]
Everybody's least favorite piece of the network (see    {the network}).
The BITNET hosts were 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}.  By 1995 it had, much to everyone's    relief, been obsolesced
and absorbed into the Internet.

   :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 most common ({smiley})    bixie is <@_@>,
apparently intending to represent two cartoon    eyes and a mouth (the
bixie conventions have been influenced by    Japanese anime).  A few
others have been reported:

    `^_^ ^-^'
          two variant smileys

          frown; closest equivalent of :-(

          bewilderment (uncommon)

    `O_o o_O'
          bewilderment (more common)


    `!_! O_O'

          money on the mind

    `%_% ;_;'

          zoned out

          puckered up, squinting

          looking crosseyed at somebody, "Oh, please!"

   A period (.) can be substituted for the underbar mouth where felt
appropriate, for example: `o.O' as opposed to `o_O'.  This is sometimes
considered to amplify what is being sent over.  Equals signs (=) can be
appended to one to denote hair or a feline, as in `=^_^='.

   In the Japanese anime modern bixies often are modeled on, when a
character is noted to be nervous a big water-drop-like thing forms
somewhere around its head - also called a sweat drop or "bigsweat".
This is denoted by a semicolon after the bixie, as in `^_^;;'.

   :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

   :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 Screen of Death: n.  [prob. related to the    Floating Head
of Death in a famous "Far Side" cartoon.] A    failure mode of
{Microsloth Windows}.  On an attempt to launch a    DOS box, a
networked Windows system not uncommonly blanks the    screen and locks
up the PC so hard that it requires a cold    {boot} to recover. This
unhappy phenomenon is known as The Black    Screen of Death.  See also
{Blue Screen of Death}.

   :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    Depression.

   :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    follows:

     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.

   Finally, a version updated for the Internet has been seen on

     Das Internet is nicht fuer gefingerclicken und giffengrabben. Ist
     easy droppenpacket der routers und overloaden der backbone mit der
     spammen und der me-tooen.  Ist nicht fuer gewerken bei das
     dumpkopfen. Das mausklicken sichtseeren keepen das bandwit-spewin
     hans in das pockets muss; relaxen und watchen das cursorblinken.

   :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

   :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 since 1990 the trend    has been 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.

   :bloatware: n.  Software that provides minimal    functionality
while requiring a disproportionate amount of    diskspace and memory.
Especially used application and OS upgrades.     This term is very
common in the Windows/NT world.  So is its    cause.

   :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    you."

   :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 isn't.     (The
Z80's LDIR instruction, "Computed Block Transfer with    increment",
may also be relevant.)

   :Bloggs Family: 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 old    {DEC}
Telephone Directory.  Compare {Dr. Fred Mbogo};    {J. Random Hacker};
{Fred Foobar}.

   :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    {nuke}.

   :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    out}.

   :BLT: /B-L-T/, /bl*t/ or (rarely) /belt/ n.,vt.  Synonym    for
{blit}.  This is the original form of {blit} and the    ancestor of
{bitblt}.  It referred to any large bit-field copy    or move operation
(one resource-intensive memory-shuffling    operation done on pre-paged
versions of ITS, WAITS, and TOPS-10 was    sardonically referred to as
`The Big BLT').  The jargon usage has    outlasted the {PDP-10} BLock
Transfer instruction from which    {BLT} derives; nowadays, the
assembler mnemonic {BLT} almost    always means `Branch if Less Than

   :Blue Book: n.  1. Informal name for one of the four 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    titles}}.

   :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)    one.

   :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

   :Blue Screen of Death: n.  This term is closely related to    {Black
Screen of Death} but much more common (many non-hackers    have picked
it up).  Due to the extreme fragility and bugginess of    Microsoft
Windows (3.1/95/NT versions), misbehaving applications    can crash the
OS.  The Blue Screen of Death, decorated with hex    error codes, is
what you get when this happens.  (Commonly    abbreviated {BSOD}.)
This event is sufficiently common    to have inspired the following
haiku from Alan Tuplin:

             Your system which soared
             So freely on gliding wings
             now hangs, frozen and blue

   There is an anoymous haiku, which seems to have predated popular
use of the term (and may indeed have inspired it):

             Windows NT crashed.
             I am the Blue Screen of Death
             No one hears your screams.

   :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},
{pink 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 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

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

   :board: n.  1. In-context synonym for {bboard}; sometimes    used
even for Usenet newsgroups (but see usage note under    {bboard}, sense
1).  2. An electronic circuit board.

   :boat anchor: n.  [from ham radio] 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.

   :bob: n.  At Demon Internet, all tech support personal are    called
"Bob".  (Female support personnel have an option on    "Bobette").
This has nothing to do with Bob the divine    drilling-equipment
salesman of the {Church of the SubGenius}.     Nor is it acronymized
from "Brother Of {BOFH}", though all    parties agree it could have
been.  Rather, it was triggered by an    unusually large draft of new
tech-support people in 1995.  It was    observed that there would be
much duplication of names.  To ease    the confusion, it was decided
that all support techs would    henceforth be known as "Bob", and
identity badges were created    labelled "Bob 1" and "Bob 2".  (No, we
never got any further).

   The reason for "Bob" rather than anything else is due to a
{luser} calling and asking to speak to "Bob", despite the fact    that
no "Bob" was currently working for Tech Support.  Since we    all know
"the customer is always right", it was decided that    there had to be
at least one "Bob" on duty at all times, just in    case.

   This sillyness inexorably snowballed.  Shift leaders and managers
began to refer to their groups of "bobs".  Whole ranks of support
machines were set up (and still exist in the DNS as of 1999) as    bob1
through bobN. Then came, and    it was filled
with Demon support personnel.  They    all referred to themselves, and
to others, as `bob', and after a while it    caught on.   There is now a
  Bob Code (
describing the Bob nature.

   :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.  1. 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.  2. Acronym, `Beginning of    File'.

   :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,
`'. BOFHs and    BOFH
wannabes hang out on {scary devil monastery} and wield    {LART}s.

   :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."  Esp.  appropriate for
algorithms with factorial or    super-exponential running time in the
average case and    probabilistically infinite worst-case running time.
Compare    {bogus}, {brute force}, {Lasherism}.

   A spectacular variant of bogo-sort has been proposed which has the
interesting property that, if the Many Worlds interpretation of
quantum mechanics is true, it can sort an arbitrarily large array    in
constant time.  (In the Many-Worlds model, the result of any    quantum
action is to split the universe-before into a sheaf of
universes-after, one for each possible way the state vector can
collapse; in any one of the universes-after the result appears random.)
  The steps are: 1. Permute the array randomly using a quantum
process, 2. If the array is not sorted, destroy the universe.
Implementation of step 2 is left as an exercise for the    reader.

   :bogometer: /boh-gom'-*t-er/ n.  A notional instrument    for
measuring {bogosity}.  Compare the {Troll-O-Meter} and    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    smoke}.

   :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

   :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
there about 1975-76.  These coinages spread into    hackerdom from CMU
and MIT.  Most of them remained wordplay    objects rather than actual
vocabulary items or live metaphors.     Examples: `amboguous' (having
multiple bogus interpretations);    `bogotissimo' (in a gloriously
bogus manner); `bogotophile'    (one who is pathologically fascinated
by the bogus);    `paleobogology' (the study of primeval bogosity).

   Some bogowords, however, obtained sufficient live currency to be
listed elsewhere in this lexicon; see {bogometer}, {bogon},
{bogotify}, and {quantum bogodynamics} and the related    but unlisted
{Dr. Fred Mbogo}.

   By the early 1980s `bogus' was also current in something like
hacker usage 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

   :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    cover.

   :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    crash).

   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

   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.

   :Borg: n.  In "Star Trek: The New Generation" the    Borg is a
species of cyborg that ruthlessly seeks to incorporate    all sentient
life into itself; their slogan is "Resistence is    useless.  You will
be assimilated."  In hacker parlance, the Borg    is Microsoft, which
is thought to be trying just as ruthlessly to    assimilate all
computers and the entire Internet to itself (there    is a widely
circulated image of Bill Gates as a Borg).  Being    forced to use
Windows or NT is often referred to as being    "Borged".
Interestingly, the {Halloween Documents} reveal    that this jargon is
live within Microsoft itself.  See also    {Evil Empire}, {Internet

   :bot: n  [IRC, MUD; from `robot'] 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 bots are    less common on
MUDs; but some others, such as the `Julia' bot    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.

   Note that bots used to be `robots' when the term first appeared in
the early 1990s, but the shortened form is now habitual.

   :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} and {Unix} 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    it.

   :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    {macrology}.

   :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 or the older    French
folktale of Thumbelina; in several variants of these, 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 debugged.     The
place where it stops is a `breakpoint'.  3. [techspeak]    vi. To send
an RS-232 break (two character widths of line high)    over a serial
comm line.  4. [Unix] vi. To strike whatever key    currently causes
the tty driver to send SIGINT to the current    process.  Normally,
break (sense 3), delete or {control-C} does    this.  5. `break break'
may be said to interrupt a conversation    (this is an example of verb
doubling).  This usage comes from radio    communications, which in
turn probably came from landline    telegraph/teleprinter usage, as
badly abused in the Citizen's Band    craze a few years ago.

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

   Since this entry was first written, several correspondents have
reported that there actually was a compiler for a tiny Algol-like
language called Foogol floating around on various {VAXen} in the
early and mid-1980s.  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}.

   :Breidbart Index: /bri:d'bart ind*ks/  A measurement of the
severity of spam invented by long-time hacker Seth Breidbart, used
for programming cancelbots. The Breidbart Index takes into account
the fact that excessive multi-posting {EMP} is worse than    excessive
cross-posting {ECP}.  The Breidbart Index is computed    as follows:
For each article in a spam, take the square-root of the    number of
newsgroups to which the article is posted. The Breidbart    Index is
the sum of the square roots of all of the posts in the    spam. For
example, one article posted to nine newsgroups and again    to sixteen
would have BI = sqrt(9) + sqrt(16) = 7.  It is generally    agreed that
a spam is cancelable if the Breidbart Index exceeds    20.

   The Breidbart Index accumulates over a 45-day window. Ten articles
yesterday and ten articles today and ten articles tomorrow add up
to a 30-article spam. Spam fighters will often reset the count if
you can convince them that the spam was accidental    and/or you have
seen the error of your ways and won't repeat it.     Breidbart Index
can accumulate over multiple authors. For example,    the "Make Money
Fast" pyramid scheme exceeded a BI    of 20 a long time ago, and is now
considered "cancel on sight".

   :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

   :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}.

   :brown-paper-bag bug: n.  A bug in a public software    release that
is so embarassing that the author notionally wears    a brown paper bag
over his head for a while so he won't be    recognized on the net.
Entered popular usage after the early-1999    release of the first
Linux 2.2, which had one.  The phrase was used    in Linus Torvalds's
apology posting.

   :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

   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

   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}.

   :BSOD: //   Very commmon abbreviation for {Blue    Screen of Death}.
Both spoken and written.

   :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

   :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

   :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    overflow}.

   :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 (and still do)!  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.

   Further, the term "bug" has long been used among radio technicians to
  describe a device that converts electromagnetic field variations into
  acoustic signals.  It is used to trace radio interference and look
for    dangerous radio emissions.  Radio community usage derives from
the    roach-like shape of the first versions used by 19th century
physicists.     The first versions consisted of a coil of wire (roach
body), with the two    wire ends sticking out and bent back to nearly
touch forming a spark gap    (roach antennae).  The bug is to the radio
technician what the stethoscope    is to the stereotype medical doctor.
This sense is almost certainly    ancestral to modern use of "bug" for
a covert monitoring device,    but may also have contributed to the use
of "bug" for the effects    of radio interference itself.

   Actually, use of `bug' in the general sense of a disruptive event
goes back to Shakespeare!  (Henry VI, part III - Act V, Scene II:
King Edward: "So, lie thou there. Die thou; and die our fear; For
Warwick was a bug that fear'd us all.")  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 was not actually exhibited years    afterwards.
Thus, the process of investigating the    original-computer-bug bug
fixed it in an entirely unexpected way,    by making the myth true!

   :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(8)' (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    club'.

   :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},

   :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 1996, this term and the practice it    describes
are semi-obsolete. 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 the
noun `bum' is a rude synonym    for `buttocks' and the verb `bum' for

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

   :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

   :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 was
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

   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    type."

   :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}.

   :byte sex: n.  [common] The byte sex of hardware is    {big-endian}
or {little-endian}; see those entries.

   :bytesexual: /bi:t`sek'shu-*l/ adj.  [rare] Said of    hardware,
denotes willingness to compute or pass data in either    {big-endian}
or {little-endian} format (depending,    presumably, on a {mode bit}
somewhere).  See also {NUXI    problem}.

   :Bzzzt!  Wrong.: /bzt rong/ excl.  [Usenet/Internet;    punctuation
varies] 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 should    be
named `D' or `P'.  C became immensely popular outside Bell Labs
after about 1980 and is now the dominant language in systems and
microcomputer applications programming.  See also {languages of
choice}, {indent style}.

   C is often described, with a mixture of fondness and disdain
varying according to the speaker, as "a language that combines    all
the elegance and power of assembly language with all the    readability
and maintainability of assembly language".

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

   :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 (second edition 1996,    ISBN
1-56592-149-6).  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).

   :cancelbot: /kan'sel-bot/  [USENET: portmanteau, cancel +    robot]
1. Mythically, a {robocanceller}  2. In reality, most    cancelbots are
manually operated by being fed lists of spam message    IDs.

   :Cancelmoose[tm]: /kan'sel-moos/  [USENET] The archetype and model of
  all good {spam}-fighters. Once upon a time, the 'Moose would send
out spam-cancels and then post notice anonymously to
news.admin.policy, news.admin.misc, and  The 'Moose stepped to the fore on    its
own initiative, at a time (mid-1994) when spam-cancels were
irregular and disorganized, and behaved altogether admirably -    fair,
even-handed, and quick to respond to comments and criticism,    all
without self-aggrandizement or martyrdom.  Cancelmoose[tm]    quickly
gained near-unanimous support from the readership of all    three
above-mentioned groups.

   Nobody knows who Cancelmoose[tm] really is, and there aren't even
any good rumors.  However, the 'Moose now has an e-mail address
(<>) and a web site (`'.)

   By early 1995, others had stepped into the spam-cancel business,
and appeared to be comporting themselves well, after the 'Moose's
manner. The 'Moose has now gotten out of the business, and is more
interested in ending spam (and cancels) entirely.

   :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

   [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 similar gag in "Blazing Saddles" --ESR]    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    `kanon'    (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    `canon'.

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

   Of course, canonicality depends on context, but it is implicitly
defined as the way _hackers_ normally expect things to be.     Thus, a
hacker may claim with a straight face that `according to    religious
law' is _not_ the canonical meaning of    `canonical'.

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

   :careware: /keir'weir/ n.  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    programming}).

   The term `cargo cult' is a reference to aboriginal religions that
grew up in the South Pacific after World War II.  The practices of
these cults center on building elaborate mockups of airplanes and
military style landing strips in the hope of bringing the return of
the god-like airplanes that brought such marvelous cargo during the
war.  Hackish usage probably derives from Richard Feynman's
characterization of certain practices as "cargo cult science" in    his
book "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" (W. W. Norton    & Co, New
York 1985, ISBN 0-393-01921-7).

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

   :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} (now Compaq), this is sometimes called    `clone-and-hack'

   :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

   :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},

   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}.

   :cathedral: n.,adj.  [see {bazaar} for derivation] The
`classical' mode of software engineering long thought to be
neccessarily implied by {Brooks's Law}.  Features small teams,    tight
project control, and long release intervals.  This term came    into
use after analysis of the Linux experience suggested there    might be
something wrong (or at least incomplete) in the classical

   :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 USA to send a
communication which is "obscene,    lewd, lascivious, filthy, or
indecent, with intent to annoy, abuse,    threaten, or harass another
person." It also threatened 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 mounted a constitutional
challenge.  The CDA was demolished by a strongly-worded decision
handed down on in 8th-circuit Federal court and subsequently
affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court on 26 June 1997 (`White
Thursday'). See also {Exon}.

   To join the fight against Internet censorship, 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}, {perf}, and {ripoff}.     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'.  It's
reported that this was very old    Army slang, and it may now be
mainstream; it has been reported seen    (1993) in directions for a
card-based voting machine in    California.

   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 {backronym}.

   :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

   :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    chemistry.

   :Chernobyl chicken: n.  See {laser chicken}.

   :Chernobyl packet: /cher-noh'b*l pak'*t/ n.  A network    packet
that induces a {broadcast storm} and/or {network    meltdown}, in
memory of the April 1986 nuclear accident at    Chernobyl in Ukraine.
The typical scenario involves an IP Ethernet    datagram that passes
through a gateway with both source and    destination Ether and IP
address set as the respective broadcast    addresses for the
subnetworks being gated between.  Compare    {Christmas tree 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

   :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    technique}.

   :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 of
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

   :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.  1. To {lose}; specifically, to chew on something    of
which more was bitten off than one can.  Probably related to
gnashing of teeth.  2. To bite the bag; 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    it.

   :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

   :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.

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

   An analogous construction is sometimes applied elsewhere: thus,
`X Classic', where X = Star Trek (referring to the original TV
series) or X = PC (referring to IBM's ISA-bus machines as opposed    to
the PS/2 series).  This construction is especially used of    product
series in which the newer versions are considered serious    losers
relative to the older ones.

   :clean: 1. adj.  Used of hardware or software designs, implies
`elegance in the small', that is, a design or implementation that
may not hold any surprises but does things in a way that is
reasonably intuitive and relatively easy to comprehend from the
outside.  The antonym is `grungy' or {crufty}.  2. v. To    remove
unneeded or undesired files in a effort to reduce clutter:    "I'm
cleaning up my account."  "I cleaned up the garbage and now    have 100
Meg free on that partition."

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

   :clobber: vt.  To overwrite, usually unintentionally: "I    walked
off the end of the array and clobbered the stack."  Compare    {mung},
{scribble}, {trash}, and {smash the stack}.

   :clocks: n.  Processor logic cycles, so called because each
generally corresponds to one clock pulse in the processor's timing.
The relative execution times of instructions on a machine are
usually discussed in clocks rather than absolute fractions of a
second; one good reason for this is that clock speeds for various
models of the machine may increase as technology improves, and it    is
usually the relative times one is interested in when discussing    the
instruction set.  Compare {cycle}.

   :clone: n.  1. An exact duplicate: "Our product is a clone of
their product."  Implies a legal reimplementation from    documentation
or by reverse-engineering.  Also connotes lower    price.  2. A shoddy,
spurious copy: "Their product is a clone of    our product."  3. A
blatant ripoff, most likely violating    copyright, patent, or trade
secret protections: "Your product is a    clone of my product."  This
use implies legal action is pending.     4. `PC clone:' a PC-BUS/ISA or
EISA-compatible 80x86-based    microcomputer (this use is sometimes
spelled `klone' or    `PClone').  These invariably have much more bang
for the buck    than the IBM archetypes they resemble.  5. In the
construction    `Unix clone': An OS designed to deliver a Unix-lookalike
  environment without Unix license fees, or with additional
`mission-critical' features such as support for real-time
programming.  6. v. To make an exact copy of something.  "Let me
clone that" might mean "I want to borrow that paper so I can make    a
photocopy" or "Let me get a copy of that file before you    {mung} it".

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

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

   :clue-by-four:  [USENET: portmanteau, clue + two-by-four] The
notional stick with which one whacks an aggressively clueless
person.  This term derives from a western American folk saying    about
training a mule "First, you got to hit him with a    two-by-four.
That's to get his attention." The clue-by-four is a    close relative
of the {LART}.

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

   :compo: n.  [{demoscene}] Finnish-originated slang for
`competition'. Demo compos are held at a {demoparty}. The usual
protocol is that several groups make demos for a compo, they are
shown on a big screen, and then the party participants vote for the
best one. Prizes (from sponsors and party entrance fees) are    given.
Standard compo formats include {intro} compos (4k or 64k    demos),
music compos, graphics compos, quick {demo} compos    (build a demo
within 4 hours for example), etc.

   :coaster: n.  Unuseable CD produced during failed attempt    at
writing to writeable or re-writeable CD media.  Certainly    related to
the coaster-like shape of a CD, and the relative value    of these
failures.  "I made a lot of coasters before I got a good    CD."

   :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    rot}.

   :COBOL fingers: /koh'bol fing'grz/ n.  Reported from Sweden,    a
(hypothetical) disease one might get from coding in COBOL.  The
language requires code verbose beyond all reason (see
{candygrammar}); thus it is alleged that programming too much in
COBOL causes one's fingers to wear down to stubs by the endless
typing.  "I refuse to type in all that source code again; it would
give me COBOL fingers!"

   :cobweb site: n.  A World Wide Web Site that hasn't been    updated
so long it has figuratively grown cobwebs.<p>

   :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 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

   :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 in    English
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}, {womble} 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},    {womble}, and {xyzzy}.

   :compact: adj.  Of a design, describes the valuable property    that
it can all be apprehended at once in one's head.  This    generally
means the thing created from the design can be used with    greater
facility and fewer errors than an equivalent tool that is    not
compact.  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 Joseph M. Orost 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 vs.
white-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 have    been a post-1990 development).  For one such
argument, see    `'. See also
 {geek code}.

   :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.     (The
popularity of 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.

   :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
long Torx screwdriver but a specialized case-cracking tool    to open
the box.)

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

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

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

   :considered harmful: adj.  Edsger W. Dijkstra's note in the    March
1968 "Communications of the ACM", "Goto Statement    Considered
Harmful", fired the first salvo in the structured    programming wars
(text at `').     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    content-free."

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

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

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

   :control-S: vi.  "Stop talking for a second."  From the    ASCII DC3
or XOFF character (the pronunciation /X-of/ is    therefore also used).
Control-S differs from {control-O} in    that the person is asked to
stop talking (perhaps because you are    on the phone) but will be
allowed to continue when you're ready to    listen to him -- as opposed
to control-O, which has more of the    meaning of "Shut up."
Considered silly.

   :Conway's Law: prov.  The rule that the organization of    the
software and the organization of the software team will be
congruent; commonly stated as "If you have four groups working on    a
compiler, you'll get a 4-pass compiler".  The original statement    was
more general, "Organizations which design systems are    constrained to
produce designs which are copies of the    communication structures of
these organizations."  This first    appeared in the April 1968 issue
of {Datamation}. Compare    {SNAFU principle}.

   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    lexicon.

   :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.

   :copyparty: n.  [C64/amiga {demoscene} ]A computer    party
organized so demosceners can meet other in real life, and to
facilitate software copying (mostly pirated software).  The
copyparty has become less common as the Internet makes    communication
easier.  The demoscene has gradually evolved the    {demoparty} to
replace it.

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

   :core: n.  Main storage or RAM.  Dates from the days of
ferrite-core memory; now archaic as techspeak most places outside
IBM, but also still used in the Unix community and by old-time
hackers or those who would sound like them.  Some derived idioms    are
quite current; `in core', for example, means `in memory'    (as opposed
to `on disk'), and both {core dump} and the `core    image' or `core
file' produced by one are terms in favor.  Some    varieties of
Commonwealth hackish prefer {store}.

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

   :core dump: n.  [common {Iron Age} jargon, preserved by    Unix] 1.
[techspeak] A copy of the contents of {core}, produced    when a
process is aborted by certain kinds of internal error.     2. By
extension, used for humans passing out, vomiting, or    registering
extreme shock.  "He dumped core.  All over the floor.     What a mess."
"He heard about X and dumped core."     3. Occasionally used for a
human rambling on pointlessly at great    length; esp. in apology:
"Sorry, I dumped core on you".  4. A    recapitulation of knowledge
(compare {bits}, sense 1).  Hence,    spewing all one knows about a
topic (syn. {brain dump}), esp.     in a lecture or answer to an exam
question.  "Short, concise    answers are better than core dumps" (from
the instructions to an    exam at Columbia).  See {core}.

   :core leak: n.  Syn. {memory leak}.

   :Core Wars: n.  A game between `assembler' programs in    a machine
or machine simulator, where the objective is to kill your    opponent's
program by overwriting it.  Popularized in the 1980s by    A. K.
Dewdney's column in "Scientific American" magazine, but    described in
"Software Practice And Experience" a decade    earlier.  The game was
actually devised and played by Victor    Vyssotsky, Robert Morris Sr.,
and Doug McIlroy in the early 1960s    (Dennis Ritchie is sometimes
incorrectly cited as a co-author, but    was not involved).  Their
original game was called `Darwin' and ran    on a IBM 7090 at Bell
Labs.  See {core}.  For information on the    modern game, do a web
search for the `    FAQ'.

   :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}.

   :cow orker: n.  [USENET] n. fortuitous typo for co-worker,    widely
used in USENET, with perhaps a hint that orking cows is    illegal.
Compare {hing}, {grilf}, {filk},    {newsfroup}.

   :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).  The whole shebang    is now
available on the Web (

   It is alleged that the author subsequently received a letter of
appreciation on IBM company stationery from the head of IBM's    Thomas
J. Watson Research Laboratories (then, as now, one of the    few
islands of true hackerdom in the IBM archipelago).  The lower    loop
of the B in the IBM logo, it is said, had been carefully    whited out.
See {eat flaming death}.

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

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

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

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

   Ethical considerations aside, hackers figure that anyone who can't
imagine a more interesting way to play with their computers than
breaking into someone else's has to be pretty {losing}.  Some    other
reasons crackers are looked down on are discussed in the    entries on
{cracking} and {phreaking}.  See also    {samurai}, {dark-side hacker},
and {hacker ethic}.  For a    portrait of the typical teenage cracker,
see {warez    d00dz}.

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

   :crank: 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."

   :crapplet: n.  [portmanteau, crap + applet] A worthless    applet,
esp. a Java widget attached to a web page that doesn't    work or even
crashes your browser.

   :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 happens 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

   :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    {WOMBAT}.

   :cray: /kray/ n.  1. (properly, capitalized) One of the line    of
supercomputers designed by Cray Research.  2. Any supercomputer    at
all.  3. The {canonical} {number-crunching} machine.

   The term is actually the lowercased last name of Seymour Cray, a
noted computer architect and co-founder of the company.  Numerous
vivid legends surround him, some true and some admittedly invented
by Cray Research brass to shape their corporate culture and image.

   :cray instability: n.  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 PDP-series machines) 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    sharpener.

   :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

   :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} 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},    {crufty}.

   :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    {nybble}.

   :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

   :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

   :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    medium.

   :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 nai"ve 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 {the
network}).  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, and are far more likely    to complain
of `bandwidth crunch' on their shared networks rather than    cycle

   :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}.

   :C|N>K: n.  [USENET] Coffee through Nose to Keyboard; that    is, "I
laughed so hard I {snarf}ed my coffee onto my    keyboard.".  Common on and {scary    devil monastery}; recognized elsewhere.
The    Acronymphomania FAQ
( on
recognizes    variants such as T|N>K = `Tea through Nose to Keyboard'
and    C|N>S = `Coffee through Nose to Screen'.

= 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 (1999) 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); or    "The Design and
Implementation of the 4.4 BSD Operating    System" by Marshall Kirk
McKusick, Keith Bostic, Michael J. Karels    and John S. Quarterman
(Addison-Wesley Longman, 1996, SBN    0-201-54979-4) Either of the
standard reference books on the    internals of {BSD} Unix.  So called
because the covers have 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

   :dancing frog: n.  [Vancouver area] A problem that occurs    on a
computer that will not reappear while anyone else is watching.     From
the classic Warner Brothers cartoon of the dancing and singing
Michigan J. Frog that just croaks when anyone else is    around (now
the WB network mascot).

   :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    {samurai}.

   :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    Du"mmster
Anzunehmender User (stupidest imaginable user).     From the
engineering-slang GAU for Gro"sster 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    {weasel}.

   :Dave the Resurrector: n.  [USENET; also abbreviated DtR]    A
{cancelbot} that cancels cancels.  Dave the Resurrector    originated
when some {spam}-spewers decided to try to impede    spam-fighting by
wholesale cancellation of anti-spam coordination    messages in the    newsgroup.

   :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 and CP/M.
The PDP-10 Reference    Handbook (1969) contained a footnote on the
first page of the    documentation for DDT that illuminates the origin
of the term:

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

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

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

   :de-rezz: /dee-rez'/  [from `de-resolve' via the movie    "Tron"]
(also `derez') 1. vi. To disappear or dissolve; the    image that goes
with it is of an object breaking up into raster    lines and static and
then dissolving.  Occasionally used of a    person who seems to have
suddenly `fuzzed out' mentally rather than    physically.  Usage:
extremely silly, also rare.  This verb was    actually invented as
_fictional_ hacker jargon, and adopted in    a spirit of irony by real
hackers years after the fact.  2. vt. The    Macintosh resource
decompiler.  On a Macintosh, many program    structures (including the
code itself) are managed in small    segments of the program file known
as `resources'; `Rez' and    `DeRez' are a pair of utilities for
compiling and decompiling    resource files.  Thus, decompiling a
resource is `derezzing'.     Usage: very common.

   :dead: adj.  1. Non-functional; {down}; {crash}ed.     Especially
used of hardware.  2. At XEROX PARC, software that is    working but
not undergoing continued development and support.     3. Useless;
inaccessible.  Antonym: `live'.  Compare {dead    code}.

   :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}.

   :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, later deprecated by DEC itself in favor of    "Digital"
and now entirely obsolete following the buyout by    Compaq.  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    major 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 was for    many years still
regarded with a certain wry affection even among    many hackers too
young to have grown up on DEC machines.

   DEC reclaimed some of its old reputation among techies in the first
 half of the 1990s.  The success of the Alpha, an
innovatively-designed and very high-performance {killer micro},
helped a lot.  So did DEC's newfound receptiveness to Unix and open
systems in general.  When Compaq acquired DEC at the end of 1998
there was some concern that these gains would be lost along with    the
DEC nameplate, but the merged company has so far turned out to    be
culturally dominated by the ex-DEC side.

   :dec: /dek/ v.  Verbal (and only rarely written) shorthand    for
decrement, i.e. `decrease by one'.  Especially used by    assembly
programmers, as many assembly languages have a `dec'    mnemonic.
Antonym: {inc}.

   :DEC Wars: n.  A 1983 {Usenet} posting by Alan Hastings    and Steve
Tarr spoofing the "Star Wars" movies in hackish    terms.  Some years
later, ESR (disappointed by Hastings and Tarr's    failure to exploit a
great premise more thoroughly) posted a    3-times-longer complete
rewrite called    Unix WARS
(;    the two are
often confused.

   :decay: 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.

   :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    indicator").

   :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    out}.

   :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. The act of
completely removing Micro$oft Windows from a PC in    favor of a better
OS (typically Linux).

   :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.

   :deliminator: /de-lim'-in-ay-t*r/ n.  [portmanteau,    delimiter +
eliminate]  A string or pattern used to delimit text into    fields,
but which is itself eliminated from the resulting list of    fields.
This jargon seems to have originated among Perl hackers in
connection with the Perl split() function; however, it has been
sighted in live use among Java and even Visual Basic programmers.

   :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},

   :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},

   :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.  4.
[{demoscene}] A sequence of    {demoeffect}s (usually) combined with
self-composed music and    hand-drawn ("pixelated") graphics. These
days (1997) usually    built to attend a {compo}. Often called
`eurodemos' outside    Europe, as most of the demoscene activity seems
to have gathered    in northern Europe and especially Scandinavia.  See
also    {intro}, {dentro}.

   :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}).

   :demoeffect: n.  [{demoscene}] What among hackers is    called a
{display hack}. Classical effects include "plasma"    (colorful mess),
"keftales" (x*x+y*y and other similar    patterns, usually combined
with color-cycling), realtime fractals,    realtime 3d graphics, etc.
Historically, demo effects have cheated    as much as possible to gain
more speed and more complexity, using    low-precision math and masses
of assembler code and building    animation realtime are three common
tricks, but use of special    hardware to fake effects is a {Good
Thing} on the demoscene    (though this is becoming less common as
platforms like the Amiga    fade away).

   :demogroup: n.  [{demoscene}] A group of {demo}    (sense 4)
composers.  Job titles within a group include coders (the    ones who
write programs), graphicians (the ones who painstakingly    pixelate
the fine art), musicians (the music composers),    {sysop}s,
traders/swappers (the ones who do the trading and    other PR), and
organizers (in larger groups).  It is not uncommon    for one person to
do multiple jobs, but it has been observed that    good coders are
rarely good composers and vice versa. [How odd.     Musical talent
seems common among Internet/Unix hackers --ESR]

   :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.

   :demoparty: n.  [{demoscene}] Aboveground descendent of    the
{copyparty}, with emphasis shifted away from software piracy    and
towards {compo}s. Smaller demoparties, for 100 persons or    less, are
held quite often, sometimes even once a month, and    usually last for
one to two days. On the other end of the scale,    huge demo parties
are held once a year (and four of these have    grown very large and
occur annually - Assembly in Finland, The    Party in Denmark, The
Gathering in Norway, and NAID somewhere in    north America). These
parties usually last for three to five days,    have room for 3000-5000
people, and have a party network with    connection to the internet.

   :demoscene: /dem'oh-seen/  [also `demo scene'] A culture of
multimedia hackers located primarily in Scandinavia and northern
Europe. Demoscene folklore recounts that when old-time {warez    d00dz}
cracked some piece of software they often added an    advertisement of
in the beginning, usually containing colorful    {display hack}s with
greetings to other cracking groups.  The    demoscene was born among
people who decided building these display    hacks is more interesting
than hacking and began to build    self-contained display hacks of
considerable elaboration and beauty    (within the culture such a hack
is called a {demo}.  The split    seems to have happened at the end of
the 1980s.  As more of these    {demogroup}s emerged, they started to
have {compo}s at    copying parties (see {copyparty}), which later
evolved to    standalone events (see {demoparty}).  The demoscene has
retained    some traits from the {warez d00dz}, including their style of
  handles and group names and some of their jargon.

   Ten years on (in 1998-1999), the demoscene is changing as its
original platforms (C64, Amiga, Spectrum, Atari ST, IBM PC under
DOS) die out and activity shifts towards Windows, Linux, and the
Internet.  While deeply underground in the past, demoscene is    trying
to get into the mainstream as accepted art form, and one    symptom of
this is the commercialization of bigger    demoparties. Older
demosceneers frown at this, but majority think    it's a good
direction.  Many demosceneers end up working in the    computer game
industry.   Demoscene resource pages are available at
`' and

   :dentro: /den'troh/  [{demoscene}] Combination of    {demo} (sense
4) and {intro}. Other name mixings include    intmo, dentmo etc. and
are used usually when the authors are not    quite sure whether the
program is a {demo} or an {intro}.     Special purposes coinages like
wedtro (some member of a group got    married), invtro (invitation
intro) etc. have also been    sighted.

   :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    deck}.

   :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.  It has been    alleged that
the term originated as a reversal of the name of the    gentleman who
most usually left himself vulnerable to it, who also    happened to be
the head of the department that handled PLATO at the    University of

   :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},

   :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

   :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

   :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},

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

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

   :diff: /dif/ n.  1. A change listing, especially giving
differences between (and additions to) source code or documents    (the
term is often used in the plural `diffs').  "Send me your    diffs for
the Jargon File!"  Compare {vdiff}.  2. Specifically,    such a listing
produced by the `diff(1)' command, esp. when    used as specification
input to the `patch(1)' utility (which    can actually perform the
modifications; see {patch}).  This is a    common method of
distributing patches and source updates in the    Unix/C world.  3. v.
To compare (whether or not by use of automated    tools on
machine-readable files); see also {vdiff}, {mod}.

   :digit: n.,obs.  An employee of Digital Equipment    Corporation.
See also {VAX}, {VMS}, {PDP-10},    {{TOPS-10}}, {field circus}.

   :dike: vt.  To remove or disable a portion of something, as a
wire from a computer or a subroutine from a program.  A standard
slogan 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.

   :Dilbert:   n. Name and title character of a comic strip
nationally syndicated in the U.S. and enormously popular among
hackers.  Dilbert is an archetypical engineer-nerd who works at an
anonymous high-technology company; the strips present a lacerating
satire of insane working conditions and idiotic {management}
practices all too readily recognized by hackers.  Adams, who spent
nine years in {cube} 4S700R at Pacific Bell (not {DEC} as often
reported), often remarks that he has never been able to come up    with
a fictional management blunder that his correspondents didn't
quickly either report to have actually happened or top with a
similar but even more bizarre incident.  In 1996 Adams distilled    his
insights into the collective psychology of businesses into an    even
funnier book, "The Dilbert Principle" (HarperCollins,    ISBN
0-887-30787-6).  See also {pointy-haired}, {rat dance}.

   :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.
Control Data still exists but is no longer    in the mainframe
business.  More such earth-shaking unions    of doomed giants seem

   :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 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}.

   :dispress: vt.  [contraction of `Dissociated Press' due to
eight-character MS-DOS filenames] To apply the {Dissociated Press}
algorithm to a block of text. The resultant output is also referred to
as a 'dispression'.

   :Dissociated Press: n.  [play on `Associated Press'; perhaps
inspired by a reference in the 1950 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    File:

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

   Here is a short example of letter-based Dissociated Press applied
to the same source:

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

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

   :distribution: n.  1. A software source tree packaged for
distribution; but see {kit}.  2. A vague term encompassing    mailing
lists and Usenet newsgroups (but not {BBS} {fora});    any
topic-oriented message channel with multiple recipients.  3. An
information-space domain (usually loosely correlated with    geography)
to which propagation of a Usenet message is restricted;    a
much-underutilized feature.

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

   :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.

   :dogfood: n.  [Microsoft] Interim software used internally    for
testing.  "To eat one's own dogfood" (from which the slang    noun
derives) means to use the software one is developing, as part    of
one's everyday development environment (the phrase is used    outside
Microsoft, and the practice is normal in the Linux    community and
elsewhere).  The idea is that developers who are    using their own
software will quickly learn what's missing or    broken.  Dogfood is
typically not even of {beta}    quality.

   :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}.

   :DOS attack: //  [USENET] Abbreviation for Denial-Of-Service
attack.  This abbreviation is most often used of attempts to shut
down newsgroups with floods of {spam}.

   :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    file}.

   :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    bucky}.

   :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

   :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    Press}.

   :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

   :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}.

   :Dr. Fred Mbogo: /*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} and {J. Random
Hacker}; see also    {Fred Foobar} and {fred}.

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

   :Dragon Book: n.  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    titles}}.

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

   :Dread Questionmark Disease:  n. The result of saving HTML    from
Microsoft Word or some other program that uses the nonstandard
Microsoft variant of Latin-1; the symptom is that various of those
nonstandard characters in positions 128-160 show up as
questionmarks.  The usual culprit is the misnamed `smart quotes'
feature in Microsoft Word.  For more details (and a program called
`demoroniser' that cleans up the mess) see

   :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

   :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    understand.

   :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    {-oid}.

   In England there is equivalent mainstream slang; a `jobsworth' is
an obstructive, rule-following bureaucrat, often of the uniformed    or
suited variety.  Named for the habit of denying a reasonable    request
by sucking his teeth and saying "Oh no, guv, sorry I can't    help you:
that's more than my job's worth".

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

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

   :drop-ins: 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

   :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}" 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    loop:

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

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

Shocking though it appears to all who encounter it for the first
time, the device is actually perfectly valid, legal C.  C's default
{fall through} in case statements has long been its most
controversial single feature; Duff observed that "This code forms
some sort of argument in that debate, but I'm not sure whether it's
for or against." Duff has discussed the device in detail at
`'.  Note    that the
omission of postfix `++' from `*to' was    intentional (though
confusing).  Duff's device can be used to    implement memory copy, but
the original aim was to copy values    serially into a magic IO

   [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    installations.

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

   :dup killer: /d[y]oop kill'r/ 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    that attempted
to accomplish this feat by correcting many of the    more common
errors.  See {hairy}.  3. Occasionally, an    interjection hurled at a
balky computer, esp. when one senses one    might be tripping over
legalisms (see {legalese}).  4. Of a    person, someone whose
directions are incomprehensible and vague,    but who nevertheless has
the expectation that you will solve the    problem using the specific
method he/she has in mind.

   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    Thing}.

   :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    Theatre's 1975
album "In The Next World, You're On Your Own"    included the phrase
"Eat fascist death, flaming 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    loathing}.

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

   :ECP: /E-C-P/ n.  See {spam} and {velveeta}.

   :egosurf: vi.  To search the net for your name or links    to your
web pages.  Perhaps connected to long-established SF-fan    slang
`egoscan', to search for one's name in a fanzine.

   :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    follows:

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

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

   :El Camino Bignum: /el' k*-mee'noh big'nuhm/ n.  The road
mundanely called El Camino Real, 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}.)

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

   In recent years, the synonym `El Camino Virtual' has been
reported as an alternate at IBM and Amdahl sites in the Valley.
Mathematically literate hackers in the Valley have also been heard
to refer to some major cross-street intersecting El Camino Real as
"El Camino Imaginary".  One popular theory is that the    intersection
is located near Moffet Field - where they keep all    those complex

   :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-Exupe'ry, 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    away."

   :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}.  This term used to    refer to the folks
allowed in to the "hidden" or "privileged"    sections of BBSes in the
early 1980s (which, typically, contained    pirated software).
Frequently, early boards would only let you    post, or even see, a
certain subset of the sections (or `boards')    on a BBS. Those who got
to the frequently legendary `triple super    secret' boards were elite.

   A true hacker would be more likely to use `wizardly'. Oppose

   :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    `Bo"cklin', an art-Noveau
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.     (Its close relative XEmacs is the second
most popular version.)  It    includes facilities to run compilation
subprocesses and send and    receive mail or news; 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.  (Though we use the original all-caps
spelling here, it    is nowadays very commonly `Emacs'.)

   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 `e'maille'' (enameled) and related to Old    French
`emmailleu"re' (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 sometiome between early 1981 and    mid-1982.
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.

   :EMP: /E-M-P/  See {spam}.

   :empire: n.  Any of a family of military simulations derived    from
a game written by Peter Langston many years ago.  A number of
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.  Of various commercial derivatives the    best known is
probably "Empire Deluxe" on PCs and Amigas.

   Modern empire is a real-time wargame played over the internet    by
up to 120 players. Typical games last from 24 hours (blitz) to    a
couple of months (long term).  The amount of sleep you can get    while
playing is a function of the rate at which updates occur and    the
number of co-rulers of your country.  Empire server software is
available for unix-like machines, and clients for Unix and other
platforms.  A comprehensive history of the game is available at
`'.  The    Empire
resource site is at `'.

   :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 usually -1 under C libraries
postdating V6 Unix, but was    originally 0.  DOS hackers thing EOF is
^Z, and a few Amiga hackers    think it's ^\.  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

   :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

   :era: 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    SubGenius}.

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

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

   :eurodemo: /yoor'o-dem`-o/  a {demo}, sense 4

   :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

   :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'.

   :Evil Empire: n.  [from Ronald Reagan's famous    characterization
of the communist Soviet Union] Formerly {IBM},    now Microsoft.
Functionally, the company most hackers love to hate    at any given
time.  Hackers like to see themselves as romantic    rebels against the
Evil Empire, and frequently adopt this role    to the point of
ascribing rather more power and malice to the    Empire than it
actually has.  See also {Borg} and search for    Evil Empire
(    pages on the Web.

   :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

   :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-Nebraska), primary author
of the {CDA}.

   :Exploder: n.  Used within Microsoft to refer to the    Windows
Explorer, the interface component of Windows 95 and WinNT    4. Our
spies report that most of the heavy guns at MS came from a    Unix
background and use command line utilities; even they are    scornful of
the over-gingerbreaded {WIMP environment}s that they    have been
called upon to create.

   :exploit: n.  [originally cracker slang] A vulnerability    in
software that can be used for breaking security or otherwise
attacking an Internet host over the network.  The {Ping O'    Death} is
a famous exploit.

   :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    example:

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

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

   The effect of the above code is to `do_green()' when color is
`GREEN', `do_red()' when color is `RED',    `do_blue()' on any other
color other than `PINK', and    (and this is the important part)
`do_pink()' _and then_    `do_red()' when color is `PINK'.
Fall-through is    {considered harmful} by some, though there are
contexts (such as    the coding of state machines) in which it is
natural; it is    generally considered good practice to include a
comment    highlighting the fall-through where one would normally
expect a    break.  See also {Duff's device}.

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


   :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." No longer common; modern    drives
automatically park their heads in a safe zone on    power-down, so it
takes a real mechanical problem to induce this.

   :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} or under the influence of    German/Yiddish `faschistisch').
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

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

   :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    time!"

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

   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    seats."

   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 creep: n.  The result of {creeping featurism},    as in
"Emacs has a bad case of feature creep".

   :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
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 `seva"rdhet'
(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    rune-stones.

   :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    {ding}.

   :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

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

   :fence: n. 1.  A sequence of one or more distinguished
({out-of-band}) characters (or other data items), used to    delimit a
piece of data intended to be treated as a unit (the    computer-science
literature calls this a `sentinel').  The NUL    (ASCII 0000000)
character that terminates strings in C is a fence.     Hex FF is also
(though slightly less frequently) used this way.     See {zigamorph}.
2. An extra data value inserted in an array or    other data structure
in order to allow some normal test on the    array's contents also to
function as a termination test.  For    example, a highly optimized
routine for finding a value in an array    might artificially place a
copy of the value to be searched for    after the last slot of the
array, thus allowing the main search    loop to search for the value
without having to check at each pass    whether the end of the array
had been reached.  3. [among users of    optimizing compilers] Any
technique, usually exploiting knowledge    about the compiler, that
blocks certain optimizations.  Used when    explicit mechanisms are not
available or are overkill.  Typically a    hack: "I call a dummy
procedure there to force a flush of the    optimizer's
register-coloring info" can be expressed by the    shorter "That's a
fence procedure".

   :fencepost error: n.  1. A problem with the discrete    equivalent
of a boundary condition, often exhibited in programs by    iterative
loops.  From the following problem: "If you build a    fence 100 feet
long with posts 10 feet apart, how many posts do you    need?"  (Either
9 or 11 is a better answer than the obvious 10.)     For example,
suppose you have a long list or array of items, and    want to process
items m through n; how many items are    there?  The obvious answer is
n - m, but that is off by one;    the right answer is n - m + 1.  A
program that used the    `obvious' formula would have a fencepost error
in it.  See also    {zeroth} and {off-by-one error}, and note that not
all    off-by-one errors are fencepost errors.  The game of Musical
Chairs    involves a catastrophic off-by-one error where N people try
to sit in N - 1 chairs, but it's not a fencepost error.     Fencepost
errors come from counting things rather than the spaces    between
them, or vice versa, or by neglecting to consider whether    one should
count one or both ends of a row.  2. [rare] An error    induced by
unexpected regularities in input values, which can (for    instance)
completely thwart a theoretically efficient binary tree    or hash
table implementation.  (The error here involves the    difference
between expected and worst case behaviors of an    algorithm.)

   :fepped out: /fept owt/ adj.  The Symbolics 3600 LISP    Machine has
a Front-End Processor called a `FEP' (compare sense 2    of {box}).
When the main processor gets {wedged}, the FEP    takes control of the
keyboard and screen.  Such a machine is said    to have `fepped out' or
`dropped into the fep'.

   :FidoNet: n.  A worldwide hobbyist network of personal    computers
which exchanges mail, discussion groups, and files.     Founded in 1984
and originally consisting only of IBM PCs and    compatibles, FidoNet
now includes such diverse machines as Apple    ][s, Ataris, Amigas, and
Unix systems.  For years FidoNet actually    grew faster than USENET,
but the advent of cheap Internet access    probably means its days are
numbered.  In early 1999 Fidonet    has approximately 30,000 nodes,
down from 38K in 1996.

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

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

     Q: How can you tell it's _your_ field circus engineer?
     A: The spare is flat, too.

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

   There is also the `Field Circus Cheer' (from the old {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, still extant under the Compaq regime, 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 FidoNet to another.  2. vt. Sending someone a file by
 using the File Attach option in a FidoNet mailer.

   :File Request: [FidoNet]  1. n. The {FidoNet} equivalent of
{FTP}, in which one FidoNet 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 FidoNet 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 and/or music, 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

   The variant "MPEGs at 11" has recently been cited (MPEG is a
digital-video format.)

   :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 by    any means.
"Foodp?"  "T!"  "OK, finger Lisa and see if she's    idle."  4. Any
picture (composed of ASCII characters) depicting    `the finger'.
Originally a humorous component of one's plan file    to deter the
curious fingerer (sense 2), it has entered the arsenal    of some

   :finger trouble: n.  Mistyping, typos, or generalized keyboard
incompetence (this is surprisingly common among hackers, given the
amount of time they spend at keyboards). "I keep putting colons at
the end of statements instead of semicolons", "Finger trouble    again,

   :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    {glassfet}.

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

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

   :firewall code: n.  1. The code you put in a system (say, a
telephone switch) to make sure that the users can't do any    damage.
Since users always want to be able to do everything but    never want
to suffer for any mistakes, the construction of a    firewall is a
question not only of defensive coding but also of    interface
presentation, so that users don't even get curious about    those
corners of a system where they can burn themselves.      2. Any sanity
check inserted to catch a {can't happen} error.     Wise programmers
often change code to fix a bug twice: once to fix    the bug, and once
to insert a firewall which would have arrested    the bug before it did
quite as much damage.

   :firewall machine: n.  A dedicated gateway machine with    special
security precautions on it, used to service outside network
connections and dial-in lines.  The idea is to protect a cluster of
more loosely administered machines hidden behind it from    {cracker}s.
The typical firewall is an inexpensive micro-based    Unix box kept
clean of critical data, with a bunch of modems and    public network
ports on it but just one carefully watched    connection back to the
rest of the cluster.  The special    precautions may include threat
monitoring, callback, and even a    complete {iron box} keyable to
particular incoming IDs or    activity patterns.  Syn. {flytrap},
{Venus flytrap}.

   [When first coined in the mid-1980s this term was pure jargon. Now
(1996) it is borderline techspeak, and may have to be dropped from
this lexicon before very long --ESR]

   :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    disk).

   :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    Next
Release.  A written-only notation attached to bug reports.     Often
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

   :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

   :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 hostility
at a particular person or people.  4. n. An instance of flaming.
When a discussion degenerates into useless controversy, one might
tell the participants "Now you're just flaming" or "Stop all    that
flamage!" to try to get them to cool down (so to 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},    {burble}.

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

   :flamer: n.  One who habitually {flame}s.  Said esp. of    obnoxious
{Usenet} personalities.

   :flap: vt.  1. [obs.] 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 DEC microtapes were 1, 2,... and    attempting to flap
device 0 would instead start a motor banging    inside a cabinet near
the disk.  2. By extension, to unload any    magnetic tape.  See 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}.

   :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." "Linux is a flavor of Unix" 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

   :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    conversation.

   :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

   `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 found 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},    {thud}.

   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}.)  It has been    plausibly
suggested that FUBAR was influenced by German    `furchtbar'
(terrible). It has also been reported out that 1960s    computer
manuals, in a usage influenced by Fortran's    implicit-declaration
feature, frequently used F00 (F followed by    two zeros) in examples.

   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    sarcasm."

   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    comics.

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

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

   For more about the legendary foo counters, see {TMRC}.  Almost
the entire staff of what 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}
for etymology.  Probably originally propagated through    DECsystem
manuals by Digital Equipment Corporation ({DEC}) in    1960s and early
1970s; confirmed sightings there go back to 1972.     Hackers do _not_
generally use this to mean {FUBAR} in    either the slang or jargon
sense.  See also {Fred Foobar}.

   :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 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

   :fool file: 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
name itself came from FOO NLI, an error message emitted by a    PDP-10
assembler at SAIL meaning "FOO is Not a Legal Identifier".     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 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 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    document."

   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 {the network}).  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    {email}.

   :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    fossil'.

   :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 solving 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.

   :frag: n.,v.  [from Vietnam-era U.S. military slang via    the games
Doom and Quake] 1. To kill another player's {avatar}    in a multiuser
game.  "I hold the office Quake record with 40    frags."  2. To
completely ruin something.  "Forget that    power supply, the lightning
strike fragged it.

   :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. In Great Britain, `fred', `jim' and `sheila' are    common
metasyntactic variables because their uppercase versions    were
_official_ names given to the 3 memory areas that held    I/O status
registers on the lovingly-remembered BBC Microcomputer!     (It is
reported that SHEILA was poked the most often.)  Unlike    {J. Random
Hacker} or `J. Random Loser', the name `fred' has    no positive or
negative loading (but see {Dr. Fred Mbogo}).     See also {barney}.  2.
An acronym for `Flipping Ridiculous    Electronic Device'; other
F-verbs may be substituted for    `flipping'.

   :Fred Foobar: n.  {J. Random Hacker}'s cousin.  Any    typical human
being, more or less synomous with `someone' except    that Fred Foobar
can be {backreference}d by name later on.  "So    Fred Foobar will
enter his phone number into the database, and    it'll be archived with
the others.  Months later, when Fred    searches..." See also {Bloggs
Family} and {Dr. Fred    Mbogo}

   :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    shopping}.

   :frob: /frob/ 1. n.  [MIT] The {TMRC} definition was    "FROB = a
protruding arm or trunnion"; by metaphoric extension, a    `frob' is
any random small thing; an object that you can    comfortably hold in
one hand; something you can frob (sense 2).     See {frobnitz}.  2. vt.
Abbreviated form of {frobnicate}.     3. [from the {MUD} world] A
command on some MUDs that changes a    player's experience level (this
can be used to make wizards); also,    to request {wizard} privileges
on the `professional courtesy'    grounds that one is a wizard
elsewhere.  The command is actually    `frobnicate' but is universally
abbreviated to the shorter 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    term.

   :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

   :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 and compare    {dread
high-bit disease}.  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 anyway.

   :front end: n.  1. An intermediary computer that does set-up    and
filtering for another (usually more powerful but less friendly)
machine (a `back end').  2. What you're talking to when you have    a
conversation with someone who is making replies without paying
attention.  "Look at the dancing elephants!"  "Uh-huh."  "Do    you
know what I just said?"  "Sorry, you were talking to the    front end."
See also {fepped out}.  3. Software that provides    an interface to
another program `behind' it, which may not be as    user-friendly.
Probably from analogy with hardware front-ends (see    sense 1) that
interfaced with mainframes.

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

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

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

   :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 the    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    term.

   :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}.

   :fscking: /fus'-king/ or /eff'-seek-ing/ adj.     Fucking, in the
expletive sense (it refers to the Unix    filesystem-repair command
fsck(1), of which it can be said that if    you have to use it at all
you are having a bad day).  Originated on    {scary devil monastery}
and the newsgroups, but    became much more widespread
following the passage of {CDA}.     Also occasionally seen in the
variant "What the fsck?"

   :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}    project.

   :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
about Unix standards was one outstanding example;    Microsoft vs.
Netscape vs. W3C about HTML standards is another.

   :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: 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    PARC.

   :functino: n.  [uncommon, U.K.; originally a serendipitous    typo
in 1994] A pointer to a function in C and C++. By association    with
sub-atomic particles such as the neutrino, it accurately    conveys an
impression of smallness (one pointer is four bytes on    most systems)
and speed (hackers can and do use arrays of functinos    to replace a
switch() statement).

   :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

= 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    {GC}.

   :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. A
suggestion that someone or something ought to be flushed out of
mercy.  "The system's getting {wedged} every few minutes.     Gas!"  3.
vt.  To {flush} (sense 1).  "You should gas that old    crufty
software."  4. [IBM] n. Dead space in nonsequentially    organized
files that was occupied by data that has since been    deleted; the
compression operation that removes it is called    `degassing' (by
analogy, perhaps, with the use of the same term    in vacuum
technology).  5. [IBM] n. Empty space on a disk that has    been
clandestinely allocated against future need.

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

   :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    process.

   `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}    GC
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    itself.

   :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 mostly ditched for Unix in the late
1980s    when Honeywell began to retire 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    `apparatus'.

   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},    {DWIM}.

   :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,
browse `'.  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

   :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

   :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.  Changes in the language of the version 2.00    GPL did
not 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 gensym    is
`Gnnnn' where nnnn represents a number; any LISP hacker would
recognize G0093 (for example) as a gensym.  3. A freshly generated
data structure with a gensymmed name.  Gensymmed names are useful
for storing or uniquely identifying crufties (see {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

   :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

   :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    {{quantifiers}}.

   :GIGO: /gi:'goh/ [acronym]  1. `Garbage In, Garbage Out' --
usually said in response to {luser}s who complain that a program
didn't "do the right thing" when given imperfect input or    otherwise
mistreated in some way.  Also commonly used to describe    failures in
human decision making due to faulty, incomplete, or    imprecise data.
2. `Garbage In, Gospel Out': this more recent    expansion is a
sardonic comment on the tendency human beings have    to put excessive
trust in `computerized' data.

   :gilley: 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    following:

          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' is a synonym for "fuck".

   :go-faster stripes: n.  [UK] Syn. {chrome}.  Mainstream in    some
parts of UK.

   :GoAT: //  [USENET] Abbreviation: "Go Away, Troll".  See    {troll}.

   :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 mich" (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    Thing}.

   :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", dialectal "go fer"),    one
whose job is to run and fetch things.  Finally, observe that    gophers
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'.
Another from France informs me that `goret' is archaic    French for a
young pig --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_

   :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    Virus}.

   :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

   :Great Renaming: n.  The {flag day} in 1987 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." There is a    Great Renaming FAQ
( on the Web.

   :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: 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    crack was a sort of devastating
watershed event in hacker history;    certainly it did more to make
non-hackers nervous about the    Internet than anything before or

   :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
and not a card.  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."

   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]

   :greenbar: n.  A style of fanfolded continuous-feed paper    with
alternating green and white bars on it, especially used in    old-style
line printers.  This slang almost certainly dates way back    to
mainframe days.

   :grep: /grep/ vi.  [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}.

   [It has also been alleged that the source is from the title of a
paper "A General Regular Expression Parser" -ESR]

   :gribble: n.  Random binary data rendered as unreadable    text.
Noise characters in a data stream are displayed as    gribble. Modems
with mismatched bitrates usually generate gribble    (more
specifically, {baud barf}). Dumping a binary file to the    screen is
an excellent source of gribble, and (if the bell/speaker    is active)

   :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

   :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    tomorrow."

   :gronked: adj.  1. Broken.  "The teletype scanner was    gronked, so
we took the system down."  2. Of people, the condition    of feeling
very tired or (less commonly) sick.  "I've been chasing    that bug for
17 hours now and I am thoroughly gronked!"  Compare    {broken}, which
means about the same as {gronk} used of    hardware, but connotes
depression or mental/emotional problems in    people.

   :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."

   :grue: n.  [from archaic English verb for `shudder', as    with
fear] The grue was originated in the game {Zork} and used    in several
other {Infocom} games as a hint that you should    perhaps look for a
lamp, torch or some type of light source.     Wandering into a dark
area would cause the game to prompt you, "It    is very dark.  If you
continue you are likely to be eaten by a    grue."  If you failed to
locate a light source within the next    couple of moves this would
indeed be the case.

   The grue, according to scholars of the Great Underground Empire, is
 a sinister, lurking presence in the dark places of the earth.  Its
favorite diet is either adventurers or enchanters, but its
insatiable appetite is tempered by its extreme fear of light. No
grues have ever been seen by the light of day, and only a few have
been observed in their underground lairs. Of those who have seen
grues, few have survived their fearsome jaws to tell the    tale. Grues
have sharp claws and fangs, and an uncontrollable    tendency to slaver
and gurgle. They are certainly the most    evil-tempered of all
creatures; to say they are touchy is a    dangerous understatement.
"Sour as a grue" is a common    expression, even among themselves.

   All this folklore is widely known among hackers.

   :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 people    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}.

   :gunpowder chicken: n.  Same as {laser chicken}.

   :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 fairly early on.

   :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 probably 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 {{hacker humor}}, and {AI

   :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

   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 {the network} and    {Internet
address}).  For discussion of some of the basics of    this culture,
see the    How To Become A Hacker
( FAQ. It also
implies that the person described    is seen to subscribe to some
version of the hacker ethic (see    {hacker ethic}).

   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}.

   This term seems to have been first adopted as a badge in the 1960s
by the hacker culture surrounding TMRC and the MIT AI Lab.  We have
a report that it was used in a sense close to this entry's by teenage
radio hams and electronics tinkerers in the mid-1950s.

   :hacker ethic: 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 open-source 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

   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 open-source 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}    project.

   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    team}.

   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.

   :hacker humor::  A distinctive style of shared    intellectual humor
found among hackers, having the following marked    characteristics:

   1. Fascination with form-vs.-content jokes, paradoxes, and humor
having to do with confusion of metalevels (see {meta}).  One way    to
make a hacker laugh: hold 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},    {computron}).

   3. Jokes that involve screwily precise reasoning from bizarre,
ludicrous, or just grossly counter-intuitive premises.

   4. Fascination with puns and wordplay.

   5. A fondness for apparently mindless humor with subversive
currents of intelligence in it -- for example, old Warner Brothers
and Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons, the Marx brothers, the early    B-52s,
and Monty Python's Flying Circus.  Humor that combines this    trait
with elements of high camp and slapstick is especially    favored.

   6. References to the symbol-object antinomies and associated ideas
in Zen Buddhism and (less often) Taoism.  See {has the X nature},
{Discordianism}, {zen}, {ha ha only serious}, {AI koans}.

   See also {filk}, {retrocomputing}, and {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

   :Hackers (the movie): n.  A notable bomb from 1995.     Should have
been titled "Crackers", because cracking is what    the movie was
about.  It's understandable that they didn't however;    titles
redolent of snack food are probably a tough sell in    Hollywood.

   :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.  1. [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.  2. An    unmanageably
huge mass of source code.  "JWZ thought the Mozilla    effort bogged
down because the code was a huge hairball."

   :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

   A well-known result in topology called the Brouwer Fixed-Point
Theorem states that any continuous transformation of a 2-sphere 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

   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

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

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

   An HTML transcription of the document 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}.

   :Halloween Documents: n.  A pair of Microsoft internal    strategy
memoranda leaked to ESR in late 1998 that confirmed    everybody's
paranoia about the current {Evil Empire}.     These documents
(    praised the technical
excellence of {Linux} and outlined a    counterstrategy of attempting
to lock in customers by    "de-commoditizing" Internet protocols and
services.  They were    extensively cited on the Internet and in the
press and proved so    embarrassing that Microsoft PR barely said a
word in public for    six months afterwards.

   :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

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

   :hand-hacking: n.  1. The practice of translating {hot    spot}s
from an {HLL} into hand-tuned assembler, as opposed to    trying to
coerce the compiler into generating better code.  Both    the term and
the practice are becoming uncommon.  See {tune},    {bum}, {by hand};
syn. with v. {cruft}.  2. More    generally, manual construction or
patching of data sets that would    normally be generated by a
translation utility and interpreted by    another program, and aren't
really designed to be read or modified    by 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}, {screen
name}. 2. A {magic cookie}, often    in the form of a numeric index
into some array somewhere, through    which you can manipulate an
object like a file or window.  The form    `file handle' is especially
common. 3. [Mac] A pointer to a    pointer to dynamically-allocated
memory; the extra level of    indirection allows on-the-fly memory
compaction (to cut down on    fragmentation) or aging out of unused
resources, with minimal    impact on the (possibly multiple) parts of
the larger program    containing references to the allocated memory.
Compare {snap}    (to snap a handle would defeat its purpose); see also
{aliasing    bug}, {dangling pointer}.

   :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

   If someone starts a sentence with "Clearly..." or    "Obviously..."
or "It is self-evident that...", it is    a good bet he is about to
handwave (alternatively, use of these    constructions in a sarcastic
tone before a paraphrase of someone    else's argument suggests that it
is a handwave).  The theory behind    this term is that if you wave
your hands at the right moment, the    listener may be sufficiently
distracted to not notice that what you    have said is {bogus}.
Failing that, if a listener does object,    you might try to dismiss
the objection with a wave of your hand.

   The use of this word is often accompanied by gestures: both hands
up, palms forward, swinging the hands in a vertical plane pivoting
at the elbows and/or shoulders (depending on the magnitude of the
handwave); alternatively, holding the forearms in one position    while
rotating the hands at the wrist to make them flutter.  In    context,
the gestures alone can suffice as a remark; if a speaker    makes an
outrageously unsupported assumption, you might simply wave    your
hands in this way, as an accusation, far more eloquent than    words
could express, that his logic is faulty.

   :hang: v.  1. To wait for an event that will never occur.     "The
system is hanging because it can't read from the crashed    drive".
See {wedged}, {hung}.  2. To wait for some event to    occur; to hang
around until something happens.  "The program    displays a menu and
then hangs until you type a character."     Compare {block}.  3. To
attach a peripheral device, esp. in    the construction `hang off':
"We're going to hang another tape    drive off the file server."
Implies a device attached with    cables, rather than something that is
strictly inside the machine's    chassis.

   :Hanlon's Razor: prov.  A corollary of {Finagle's Law},    similar
to Occam's Razor, that reads "Never attribute to malice    that which
can be adequately explained by stupidity."  The    derivation of the
Hanlon eponym is not definitely known, but a very    similar remark
("You have attributed conditions to villainy that    simply result from
stupidity.") appears in "Logic of Empire",    a classic 1941 SF story
by Robert A. Heinlein, who calls it the    `devil theory' of sociology.
Heinlein's popularity in the hacker    culture makes plausible the
supposition that `Hanlon' is derived    from `Heinlein' by phonetic
corruption.  A similar epigram has been    attributed to William James,
but Heinlein more probably got the    idea from Alfred Korzybski and
other practitioners of General    Semantics.  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 Law},
  {Ninety-Ninety Rule}.

   :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}. See also {mu}.

   :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. Compare
{killer poke}.

   :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 was someone who, owning a 286 PC and    Windows 3.0, went
out and bought 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    some of 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

   :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    course.

   :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 LAN back up

   :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

   :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},

   :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.     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    memory.

   :hollised: /hol'ist/ 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 4.4    BSD, so

   :home machine: n.  1. Syn. {home box}.  2. The machine that
receives your email.  These senses might be distinct, for example,
for a hacker who owns one computer at home, but reads email at    work.

   :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 thick    Ethernet
cable.  This is sometimes called `bit hose' or    `hosery' (play on
`hosiery') or `etherhose'.  See also    {washing machine}.

   :hosed: adj.  Same as {down}.  Used primarily by Unix    hackers.
Humorous: also implies a condition thought to be    relatively easy to
reverse.  Probably derived from the Canadian    slang `hoser'
popularized by the Bob and Doug Mackenzie skits on    SCTV, but this
usage predated SCTV by years in hackerdom (it was    certainly already
live at CMU in the 1970s).  See {hose}.  It is    also widely used of
people in the mainstream sense of `in an    extremely unfortunate

   Once upon a time, a Cray that had been experiencing periodic
difficulties crashed, and it was announced to have been hosed.     It
was discovered that the crash was due to the disconnection of    some
coolant hoses.  The problem was corrected, and users were then
assured that everything was OK because the system had been rehosed.
See also {dehose}.

   :hot 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 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    contention.

   :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 as
an immediate part of your display, as opposed to the    timeless sense
of logical connection suggested by {web    pointer}. Your screen shows
hotlinks but 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},
{ScumOS},    {sun-stools}, {Slowlaris}.

   :huff: v.  To compress data using a Huffman code.  Various
programs that use such methods have been called `HUFF' or some
variant thereof.  Oppose {puff}.  Compare {crunch},    {compress}.

   :humma: // excl.  A filler word used on various `chat'    and `talk'
programs when you had nothing to say but felt that it    was important
to say something.  The word apparently originated (at    least with
this definition) on the MECC Timeshare System (MTS, a    now-defunct
educational time-sharing system running in Minnesota    during the
1970s and the early 1980s) but was later sighted on    early Unix
systems.  Compare the U.K's {wibble}.

   :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.     It is also distinguished from
the similar but more drastic state    {wedged} - hung software can be
woken up with easdy things    like interrupt keys, but wedged will need
a kill -9 or even    reboot.

   :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

   :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

   :IANAL: //  [USENET] Abbreviation, "I Am Not A Lawyer".     Usually
precedes legal advice.

   :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 long felt toward the    `industry leader' (see {fear and

   What galled hackers about most IBM machines above the PC level wasn't
  so much that they were 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. For many
years, before Microsoft, IBM was the company hackers    loved to hate.

   But everything changes.  In the 1980s IBM had its own troubles with
 Microsoft.  In the late 1990s IBM re-invented itself as a services
company, began to release open-source software through its
AlphaWorks group, and began shipping {Linux} systems and    building
ties to the Linux community.  To the astonishment of all    parties,
IBM emerged as a friend of the hacker community

   This lexicon 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, back    before the day
of pervasive Internet, included a blank for    longitude and latitude,
preferably to seconds-of-arc accuracy.     This was actually used for
generating geographically-correct maps of    Usenet links on a plotter;
however, it became traditional to    refer to this as one's `ICBM
address' or `missile address', and    some people include it in their
{sig block} with that name.  (A    real missile address would include
target elevation.)

   :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    system.

   Neither term is in serious use yet as of early 1999, but many
hackers find the metaphor attractive, and each may develop a
denotation in the future. In the meantime, the speculative usage
could be confused with `ICE', an acronym for "in-circuit    emulator".

   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.

   :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.

   :IDP: /I-D-P/ v.,n.  [USENET] Abbreviation for {Internet    Death
Penalty}. Common (probably now more so than the full form),    and
frequently verbed. Compare {IDP}.

   :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}.

   :IIRC:  Common abbreviation for "If I Recall Correctly".

   :ill-behaved: adj.  1. [numerical analysis] Said of an    algorithm
or computational method that tends to blow up because of    accumulated
roundoff error or poor convergence properties.     2. Software that
bypasses the defined {OS} interfaces to do    things (like screen,
keyboard, and disk I/O) itself, often in a way    that depends on the
hardware of the machine it is running on or    which is nonportable or
incompatible with other pieces of software.     In the IBM PC/MS-DOS
world, there is a folk theorem (nearly true)    to the effect that
(owing to gross inadequacies and performance    penalties in the OS
interface) all interesting applications are    ill-behaved.  See also
{bare metal}. Oppose {well-behaved},    compare {PC-ism}.  See

   :IMHO: // 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    space."

   :include: vt.  [Usenet] 1. To duplicate a portion (or whole)    of
another's message (typically with attribution to the source) in    a
reply or followup, for clarifying the context of one's response.
See the discussion of inclusion styles under "Hacker Writing    Style".
2. [from {C}] `#include <disclaimer.h>' has    appeared in {sig
block}s to refer to a notional `standard    {disclaimer} file'.

   :include war: n.  Excessive multi-leveled inclusion 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

     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 argument
gets more respect since    {Linux} justified the {bazaar} mode of

   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.  After being acqyired by    Activision in
1989 they did a few more "modern"    (e.g. graphics-intensive) games
which were less successful than    reissues of their classics.

   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 graced.  (Emulators that can run Infocom game ZIPs
are at    `'.)

   :initgame: /in-it'gaym/ n.  [IRC] An {IRC} version of    the trivia
game "Botticelli", 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!  - ESR]

   :insanely great: adj.  [Mac community, from Steve Jobs; also    BSD
Unix people via Bill Joy] Something so incredibly {elegant}    that it
is imaginable only to someone possessing the most puissant    of

   :INTERCAL: /in't*r-kal/ 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
Museum, `'.

   :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:: n.   The mother of all networks.  First    incarnated
beginning in 1969 as the ARPANET, a U.S. Department of    Defense
research testbed.  Though it has been widely believed that    the goal
was to develop a network architecture for military
command-and-control that could survive disruptions up to and
including nuclear war, this is a myth; in fact, ARPANET was
conceived from the start as a way to get most economical use out of
then-scarce large-computer resources.

   As originally imagined, ARPANET's major use would have been to
support what is now called remote login and more sophisticated    forms
of distributed computing, but the infant technology of    electronic
mail quickly grew to dominate actual usage.     Universities, research
labs and defense contractors early    discovered the Internet's
potential as a medium of communication    between _humans_ and linked
up in steadily increasing numbers,    connecting together a quirky mix
of academics, techies, hippies, SF    fans, hackers, and anarchists.
The roots of this lexicon lie in    those early years.

   Over the next quarter-century the Internet evolved in many    ways.
The typical machine/OS combination moved from {DEC}    {PDP-10}s and
{PDP-20}s, running {TOPS-10} and    {TOPS-20}, to PDP-11s and VAXes and
Suns running {Unix}, and    in the 1990s to Unix on Intel
microcomputers.  The Internet's    protocols grew more capable, most
notably in the move from NCP/IP    to {TCP/IP} in 1982 and the
implementation of Domain Name    Service in 1983.  It was around this
time that people began    referring to the collection of interconnected
networks with ARPANET    at its core as "the Internet".

   The ARPANET had a fairly strict set of participation guidelines -
connected institutions had to be involved with a DOD-related
research project.  By the mid-80s, many of the organizations
clamoring to join didn't fit this profile.  In 1986, the National
Science Foundation built NSFnet to open up access to its five
regional supercomputing centers; NSFnet became the backbone of the
Internet, replacing the original ARPANET pipes (which were formally
shut down in 1990).  Between 1990 and late 1994 the pieces of    NSFnet
were sold to major telecommunications companies until    the Internet
backbone had gone completely commercial.

   That year, 1994, was also the year the mainstream culture
discovered the Internet.  Once again, the {killer app} was not the
anticipated one - rather, what caught the public imagination was    the
hypertext and multimedia features of the World Wide Web.
Subsequently the Internet has seen off its only serious challenger
(the OSI protocol stack favored by European telecom monopolies) and
is in the process of absorbing into itself many of the    proprietary
networks built during the second wave of wide-area    networking after
1980.  It is now a commonplace even in mainstream    media to predict
that a globally-extended Internet will become the    key unifying
communications technology of the next century. See    also {the
network} and {Internet address}.

   :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    {the network} 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.

   :Internet Death Penalty:  [USENET] (often abbreviated IDP) The
ultimate sanction against {spam}-emitting sites - complete    shunning
at the router level of all mail and packets, as well as    Usenet
messages, from the offending domain(s). Compare {Usenet    Death
Penalty}, with which it is sometimes confused.

   :Internet Exploiter: n.  Standard name-of-insult for    Internet
Explorer, Microsoft's overweight Web Browser.  Reflects    widespread
hostility to Microsoft and a sense that it is seeking to    hijack and
corrupt the Internet.  Compare {Exploder}    and the less pejorative

   :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}})    and because programmers so
often have to bypass the OS (going    directly to a BIOS interrupt) to
get reasonable    performance.

   :interrupt list:: 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    {spl}.

   :intro: n. [{demoscene}]  Introductory screen of some    production.
2. A short {demo}, usually showing just one or two    screens.  3.
Small, usually 64k, 40k or 4k {demo}. Sizes are    generally dictated
by {compo} rules.  See also {dentro},    {demo}.

   :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    cell}.

   :ironmonger: n.  [IBM] A hardware specialist (derogatory).
Compare {sandbender}, {polygon pusher}.

   :ISO standard cup of tea: n.  [South Africa] A cup of tea    with
milk and one teaspoon of sugar, where the milk is poured into    the
cup before the tea.  Variations are ISO 0, with no sugar; ISO    2,
with two spoons of sugar; and so on.

   Like many ISO standards, this one has a faintly alien ring in North
 America, where hackers generally shun the decadent British practice
of adulterating perfectly good tea with dairy products and    prefer
instead to add a wedge of lemon, if anything.  If one were    feeling
extremely silly, one might hypothesize an analogous `ANSI    standard
cup of tea' and wind up with a political situation    distressingly
similar to several that arise in much more serious    technical
contexts.  Milk and lemon don't mix very well.

   :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 for
PDP-6s and PDP-10s at MIT and long used at the MIT AI Lab.  Much
AI-hacker jargon derives from ITS folklore, and to have been `an    ITS
hacker' qualifies one instantly as an old-timer of the most
venerable sort.  ITS pioneered many important innovations,    including
transparent file sharing between machines and    terminal-independent
I/O.  After about 1982, most actual work was    shifted to newer
machines, with the remaining ITS boxes run    essentially as a hobby
and service to the hacker community.  The    shutdown of the lab's last
ITS machine in May 1990 marked the end    of an era and sent old-time
hackers into mourning nationwide (see    {high moby}).  The Royal
Institute of Technology in Sweden is    maintaining one `live' ITS site
at its computer museum (right    next to the only TOPS-10 system still
on the Internet), so ITS is    still alleged to hold the record for OS
in longest continuous use    (however, {{WAITS}} is a credible rival
for this palm).  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).  See also {Fred Foobar}.

   :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    systems.

   :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    loathing}.

   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.

   :jello: n.  [USENET: by analogy with {spam}] A message    that is
both excessively cross-posted and too frequently posted, as    opposed
to {spam} (which is merely too frequently posted) or    {velveeta}
(which is merely excessively cross-posted).  This term is    widely
recognized but not commonly used; most people refer to both    kinds of
abuse or their combination as spam.

   :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.  3. 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_.  4. 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 malloc()!
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

   :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    {hyperspace}.

   :jupiter: vt.  [IRC] To kill an {IRC} {bot} 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.  Now commonly    shortened to `jupe'.

= 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    0-13-110163-3).
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    mentioned.

   :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    {gun}.

   :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 app:   The application that actually makes a sustaining
market for a promising but under-utilized technology.  First used    in
the mid-1980s to describe Lotus 1-2-3 once it became evident    that
demand for that product had been the major driver of the early
business market for IBM PCs.  The term was then restrospectively
applied to VisiCalc, which had played a similar role in the success
of the Apple II.  After 1994 it became commonplace to describe the
World Wide Web as the Internet's killer app.  One of the standard
questions asked about each new personal-computer technology as it
emerges has become "what's the killer app?"

   :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.     --ESR]

   :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:

   :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

   :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

   :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    place."

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

   :knobs: pl.n.  Configurable options, even in software and    even
those you can't adjust in real time.  Anything you can    {twiddle} is
a knob.  "Has this PNG viewer got an alpha knob?"     Software may be
described as having "knobs and switches" or    occasionally "knobs and

   :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    {the
literature}.  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    hoax!

   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    West.

   :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    first.

   :lag: n.  When used without qualification this is synomous    with
{netlag}.  Curiously, people will often complain "I'm    really lagged"
when in fact it is their server or network    connection that is

   :lamer: n. [prob. originated in skateboarder slang]     1. Synonym
for {luser}, not used much by hackers but common    among {warez
d00dz}, crackers, and {phreaker}s.  A person who    downloads much, but
who never uploads. (Also known as `leecher').     Oppose {elite}.  Has
the same connotations of self-conscious    elitism that use of {luser}
does among hackers.  2. Someone who    tries to crack a BBS.  3.
Someone who annoys the sysop or other BBS    users - for instance, by
posting lots of silly messages, uploading    virus-ridden software,
frequently dropping carrier, etc.

   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    days).

   `Lamer' is also much used in the IRC world in a similar sense to
the above.<P>

   :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},    {legalese}.

   :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    in 1999 it
looks as though Java has displaced 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.  Python, 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}" 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

   :LART: //  Luser Attitude Readjustment Tool.  1. n. In    the
collective mythos of {scary devil monastery}, this is an    essential
item in the toolkit of every {BOFH}.  The LART classic    is a 2x4 or
other large billet of wood usable as a club, to be    applied upside
the head of spammers and other people who cause    sysadmins more grief
than just naturally goes with the    job. Perennial debates rage on
alt.sysadmin.discovery over    what constitutes the truly effective
LARP; knobkerries,    semiautomatic weapons, flamethrowers, and
tactical nukes all have    their partisans.  Compare {clue-by-four}. 2.
v. To use a    LART.  Some would add "in malice", but some sysadmins do
prefer    to gently lart their users as a first (and sometimes final)
warning.  3. interj. Calling for one's LART, much as a surgeon
might call "Scalpel!". 4. interj.  [rare] Used in {flame}s as    a
rebuke. "LART! LART! LART!"

   :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.  The dish has also been
called `gunpowder chicken'.

   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    machine}.

   :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    site}.

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

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

   :leapfrog attack: n.  Use of userid and password information
obtained illicitly from one host (e.g., downloading a file of
account IDs and passwords, tapping TELNET, etc.) to compromise
another host.  Also, the act of TELNETting through one or more    hosts
in order to confuse a trace (a standard cracker procedure).

   :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    {mailbomb}.

   :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    algorithmically."

   Hacker 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    eater}.

   :line noise: n.  1. [techspeak] Spurious characters due to
electrical noise in a communications link, especially an RS-232
serial connection.  Line noise may be induced by poor connections,
interference or crosstalk from other circuits, electrical storms,
{cosmic rays}, or (notionally) birds crapping on the phone    wires.
2. Any chunk of data in a file or elsewhere that looks like    the
results of line noise in sense 1.  3. Text that is    theoretically a
readable text or program source but employs syntax    so bizarre that
it looks like line noise in senses 1 or 2.  Yes,    there are languages
this ugly.  The canonical example is {TECO};    it is often claimed
that "TECO's input syntax is indistinguishable    from line noise."
Other non-{WYSIWYG} editors, such as Multics    `qed' and Unix `ed', in
the hands of a real hacker, also    qualify easily, as do deliberately
obfuscated languages such as    {INTERCAL}.

   :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

   :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

   :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 rot: n.  The natural decay of web links as the sites   they're
connected to change or die.  Compare {bit rot}.

   :link-dead: adj.  [MUD] The state a player is in when they    kill
their connection to a {MUD} without leaving it    properly. The player
is then commonly left as a statue in the game,    and is only removed
after a certain period of time (an hour on most    MUDs). Used on {IRC}
as well, although it is inappropriate in    that context. Compare

   :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".

   :Lintel: n.  The emerging {Linux}/Intel alliance.  This term
began to be used in early 1999 after it became clear that the
{Wintel} alliance was under increasing strain snd Intel started
taking stakes in Linux companies.

   :Linux:: /lee'nuhks/ or /li'nuks/, _not_ /li:'nuhks/    n.  The free
Unix workalike created by Linus Torvalds and    friends starting about
1991 (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 Alpha and Sparc and many    other machines are also in

   Linux is what {GNU} aimed to be, and it relies on the GNU toolset.
 But the Free Software Foundation didn't produce the kernel to go with
  that toolset until 1999, which was too late.  Other, similar efforts
  like FreeBSD and NetBSD have been technically successful but never
caught fire the way Linux has; as this is written in 1999, Linux is
seriously challenging Microsoft's OS dominance.

   An earlier version of this entry opined "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."  Truer than we knew.  See {bazaar}.

   :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 only supposed to be    distributed to affiliates of source
licensees.  In spite of this,    it soon spread by samizdat to a good
many of the early Unix    hackers.

   [1996 update: The Lions book lives again! It was put back in print
as ISBN 1-57398-013-7 from Peer-To-Peer Communications, with
forewords by Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson. In a neat bit of
reflexivity, the page before the contents quotes this entry.]

   :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    languages.

   :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    subscription.

   :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    harm.

   :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

   :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

   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

   :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,    lose."

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

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

   :loss: n.  Something (not a person) that loses; a situation in
which something is losing.  Emphatic forms include `moby loss',    and
`total loss', `complete loss'.  Common interjections are    "What a
loss!"  and "What a moby loss!"  Note that `moby    loss' is OK even
though **`moby loser' is not used; applied to an    abstract noun, moby
is simply a magnifier, whereas when applied to    a person it implies
substance and has positive connotations.     Compare {lossage}.

   :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    lossage.

   :lost in the noise: adj.  Syn. {lost in the underflow}.     This
term is from signal processing, where signals of very small
amplitude cannot be separated from low-intensity noise in the
system.  Though popular among hackers, it is not confined to
hackerdom; physicists, engineers, astronomers, and statisticians    all
use it.

   :lost in the underflow: adj.  Too small to be worth    considering;
more specifically, small beyond the limits of accuracy    or
measurement.  This is a reference to `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, was a notorious 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.  1. Line    printer
(originally Line Printing Terminal).  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.
2. Local PorT.  Used among MS-DOS programmers (and so    expanded in
the MS-DOS 5 manual).  It seems likely this is a    {backronym}.

   :Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic Entomology: prov.  "There is
_always_ one more bug."

   :Lumber Cartel: n.  A mythical conspiracy accused by
{spam}-spewers of funding anti-spam activism in order to force    the
direct-mail promotions industry back onto paper.  Hackers,
predictably, responded by forming half a dozen "Lumber Cartels"
spoofing this paranoid theory; a representative web page is
`'. Members often include the    tag
TINLC ("There Is No Lumber Cartel") in their postings; see    {TINC},
{backbone cabal} and {NANA} for explanation.

   :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'.

   The creator of the popular science-fiction TV series "Babylon    V"
has ties to SF fandom and the hacker culture.  In that series,    the
use of the term `lurker' for a homeless or displaced person is    a
conscious reference to the jargon term.

   :luser: /loo'zr/ n.  A {user}; esp. one who is also a    {loser}.
({luser} and {loser} are pronounced    identically.)  This word was
coined around 1975 at MIT.  Under    ITS, when you first walked up to a
terminal at MIT and typed    Control-Z to get the computer's attention,
it printed out some    status information, including how many people
were already using    the computer; it might print "14 users", for
example.  Someone    thought it would be a great joke to patch the
system to print "14    losers" instead.  There ensued a great
controversy, as some of the    users didn't particularly want to be
called losers to their faces    every time they used the computer.  For
a while several hackers    struggled covertly, each changing the
message behind the back of    the others; any time you logged into the
computer it was even money    whether it would say "users" or "losers".
Finally, someone    tried the compromise "lusers", and it stuck.
Later one of the    ITS machines supported `luser' as a
request-for-help command.     ITS died the death in mid-1990, except as
a museum piece; the usage    lives on, however, and the term `luser' is
often seen in program    comments.

= M =

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

   :M$:  Common net abbreviation for Microsoft, everybody's least
favorite monopoly.

   :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},

   :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.
Originally, as opposed to a DEC microtape; nowadays, as    opposed to
modern QIC and DDS tapes.  Syn. {round tape}.

   :maggotbox: /mag'*t-boks/ n.  See {Macintrash}.  This is    even
more derogatory.

   :magic:  1. adj. 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. adj. Characteristic of    something that
works although no one really understands why (this    is especially
called {black magic}).  3. n. [Stanford] A    feature not generally
publicized that allows something otherwise    impossible, or a feature
formerly in that category but now    unveiled.  4. n.  The ultimate
goal of all engineering &    development, elegance in the extreme; from
the first corollary to    Clarke's Third Law: "Any technology
distinguishable from magic is    insufficiently advanced".

   For more about hackish `magic', see {A Story About `Magic'} in
Appendix A.  Compare {black magic}, {wizardly}, {deep    magic}, {heavy

   :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    {cookie}.

   :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 commonsense    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    Law}.

   :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

   :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.  The wave of failures,
takeovers, and mergers among traditional mainframe makers in the
early 1990s bore this out.  The biggest mainframer of all, IBM, was
compelled to re-invent itself as a huge systems-consulting house.
(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    {the network}).  3.
The totality of present-day computer    networks.

   :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}.

   :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_!" --    ESR]

   :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

   :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

   :memetics: /me-met'iks/ n.  [from {meme}] The study of    memes.  As
of early 1999, 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 {{hacker humor}}.

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

   Historical note: although in modern usage shaped by a universe of
8-bit bytes the meta bit is invariably hex 80 (octal 0200), things
were different on earlier machines with 36-bit words and 9-bit
bytes.  The MIT and Stanford keyboards (see {space-cadet    keyboard})
generated hex 100 (octal 400) from their meta keys.

   :metasyntactic variable: n.  A name used in examples and
understood to stand for whatever thing is under discussion, or any
random member of a class of things under discussion.  The word    {foo}
is the {canonical} example.  To avoid confusion,    hackers never
(well, hardly ever) use `foo' or other words like    it as permanent
names for anything.  In filenames, a common    convention is that any
filename beginning with a    metasyntactic-variable name is a {scratch}
file that may be    deleted at any time.

   Metasyntactic variables are so called because (1) they are
variables in the metalanguage used to talk about programs etc; (2)
they are variables whose values are often variables (as in usages
usages like "the value of f(foo,bar) is the sum of foo and bar").
However, it has been plausibly suggested that the real reason for
the term "metasyntactic variable" is that it sounds good.

   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}, jim, sheila, {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 University, 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 proselytic zeal)    but no one else
cares about.  Applied to the language by those    outside the
originating group.  "He cornered me about type    resolution in his

   The first great goal in the mind of the designer of an MFTL is
usually to write a compiler for it, then bootstrap the design away
from contamination by lesser languages by writing a compiler for it
in itself.  Thus, the standard put-down question at an MFTL talk is
"Has it been used for anything besides its own compiler?"  On    the
other hand, a language that cannot 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    useful.

   :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 (or mL in plain ASCII); 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 {microLenat}.

   :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.
See {Black Screen of Death};    compare {X}, {sun-stools}.

   :Microsoft:   The new {Evil Empire} (the old one was    {IBM}).  The
basic complaints are, as formerly with IBM, that    (a) their system
designs are horrible botches, (b) we can't get    source to fix them,
and (c) they throw their weight around a lot.

   :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
(Europeans write little-endian    dd/mm/yy, and Japanese use big-endian
yy/mm/dd for Western 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.

   :MMF: //  [USENET] Abbreviation: "Make Money Fast".     Refers to
any kind of scheme which promises participants large    profits with
little or no risk or effort.  Typically, it is a some    kind of
multi-level marketing operation which involves recruiting    more
members, or an illegal pyramid scam.  The term is also used to    refer
to any kind of spam which promotes this. For more    information, see
the Make Money Fast Myth Page (

   :moby: /moh'bee/  [MIT: seems to have been in use among    model
railroad fans years ago.  Derived from Melville's "Moby    Dick" (some
say from `Moby Pickle').] 1. adj. Large, immense,    complex,
impressive.  "A Saturn V rocket is a truly moby frob."     "Some MIT
undergrads pulled off a moby hack at the Harvard-Yale    game."  (See
"{The Meaning of `Hack'}").     2. n. obs. The maximum address space of
a machine (see below).  For    a 680[234]0 or VAX or most modern 32-bit
architectures, it is    4,294,967,296 8-bit bytes (4 gigabytes).  3. A
title of address    (never of third-person reference), usually used to
show admiration,    respect, and/or friendliness to a competent hacker.
"Greetings,    moby Dave.  How's that address-book thing for the Mac
going?"     4. adj. In backgammon, doubles on the dice, as in `moby
sixes',    `moby ones', etc.  Compare this with {bignum} (sense 3):
double sixes are both bignums and moby sixes, but moby ones are not
bignums (the use of `moby' to describe double ones is sarcastic).
Standard emphatic forms: `Moby foo', `moby win', `moby loss'.     `Foby
moo': a spoonerism due to Richard Greenblatt.  5. The    largest
available unit of something which is available in discrete
increments.  Thus, ordering a "moby Coke" at the local fast-food
joint is not just a request for a large Coke, it's an explicit
request for the largest size they sell.

   This term entered hackerdom with the Fabritek 256K memory added to
the MIT AI PDP-6 machine, which was considered unimaginably huge
when it was installed in the 1960s (at a time when a more typical
memory size for a timesharing system was 72 kilobytes).  Thus, a
moby is classically 256K 36-bit words, the size of a PDP-6 or    PDP-10
moby.  Back when address registers were narrow the term was    more
generally useful, because when a computer had virtual memory
mapping, it might actually have more physical memory attached to it
than any one program could access directly.  One could then say
"This computer has 6 mobies" meaning that the ratio of physical
memory to address space is 6, without having to say specifically    how
much memory there actually is.  That in turn implied that the
computer could timeshare six `full-sized' programs without having    to
swap programs between memory and disk.

   Nowadays the low cost of processor logic means that address spaces
are usually larger than the most physical memory you can cram onto
a machine, so most systems have much _less_ than one    theoretical
`native' moby of {core}.  Also, more modern    memory-management
techniques (esp. paging) make the `moby    count' less significant.
However, there is one series of    widely-used chips for which the term
could stand to be revived --    the Intel 8088 and 80286 with their
incredibly {brain-damaged}    segmented-memory designs.  On these, a
`moby' would be the    1-megabyte address span of a segment/offset pair
(by coincidence, a    PDP-10 moby was exactly 1 megabyte of 9-bit

   :mockingbird: n.  Software that intercepts communications
(especially login transactions) between users and hosts and    provides
system-like responses to the users while saving their    responses
(especially account IDs and passwords).  A special case    of {Trojan

   :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,    please".

   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.

   :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

   :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' in    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 may be related to a TV
  commercial for Del Monte fruit juice, in which one of the
characters insisted on "the full Del Monte"; but see the World    Wide
Words article    "The Full Monty"
( for discussion of
the rather complex etymology that    may lie behind this.  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.  The doubling period remained at that    value through time
of writing (late 1999).  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

   :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 has largely displaced    it.

   :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},

   :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
"Go"del, 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 lowercased    and/or verbed; thus, one may
speak of `going mudding', etc.

   Historically, MUDs (and their more recent progeny with names of MU-
 form) derive from a hack by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw on the
University of Essex's DEC-10 in the early 1980s; descendants of    that
game still exist today and are sometimes generically called
BartleMUDs.  There is a widespread myth (repeated,    unfortunately, by
earlier versions of this lexicon) that the name    MUD was trademarked
to the commercial MUD run by Bartle on British    Telecom (the motto:
"You haven't _lived_ 'til you've    _died_ on MUD!"); however, this is
false -- Richard Bartle    explicitly placed `MUD' in 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 (in writing,
these social MUDs are sometimes referred to as `MU*', with `MUD'
implicitly reserved for the more game-oriented ones).  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

   :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 Theatre 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 time-sharing    {operating system}
co-designed by a consortium including MIT,    GE, and Bell Laboratories
as a successor to {CTSS}.  The design    was first presented in 1965,
planned for operation in 1967,    first operational in 1969, and took
several more years to achieve    respectable performance and stability.

   Multics was very innovative for its time -- among other things, it
provided a hierarchical file system with access control on
individual files and introduced the idea of treating all devices
uniformly as special files.  It was also the first OS to run on a
symmetric multiprocessor, and the only general-purpose system to be
awarded a B2 security rating by the NSA (see {Orange Book}).

   Bell Labs left the development effort in 1969 after judging that
{second-system effect} had bloated Multics to the point of    practical
unusability.  Honeywell commercialized Multics in    1972 after buying
out GE's computer group, but it was never very    successful: at its
peak in the 1980s, there were between 75 and 100    Multics sites, each
a multi-million dollar mainframe.

   One of the former Multics developers from Bell Labs was Ken
Thompson, and {Unix} deliberately carried through and extended    many
of Multics' design ideas; indeed, Thompson described the very    name
`Unix' as `a weak pun on Multics'.  For this and other    reasons,
aspects of the Multics design remain a topic of occasional    debate
among hackers.  See also {brain-damaged} and    {GCOS}.

   MIT ended its development association with Multics in 1977.
Honeywell sold its computer business to Bull in the mid 80s, and
development on Multics was stopped in 1988.  Four Multics sites    were
known to be still in use as late as 1998.  There is a Multics    page at

   :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    variable}.]

   :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}). 4. To add a {spamblock} to an    email

   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    user'.

   :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

   :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    COBOL!"

   :NANA: //  [USENET] The newsgroups*,
devoted to fighting {spam} and network abuse. Each individual
newsgroup is often referred to by adding a letter to NANA.  For
example, NANAU would refer to

   When spam began to be a serious problem around 1995, and a loose
network of anti-spammers formed to combat it, spammers immediately
accused them of being the {backbone cabal}, or the Cabal reborn.
Though this was not true, spam-fighters ironically accepted the
label and the tag line "There is No Cabal" reappeared (later, and
now commonly, abbreviated to "TINC").  Nowadays "the Cabal" is
generally understood to refer to the NANA regulars.

   :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

   :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    `nanoagent'.

   :nanocomputer: /nan'oh-k*m-pyoo'tr/ n.  A computer with
molecular-sized switching elements.  Designs for mechanical
nanocomputers which use single-molecule sliding rods for their    logic
have been proposed.  The controller for a {nanobot} would    be a

   :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

   :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" (Anchor/Doubleday,    ISBN 0-385-19973-2),
where he predicted that nanotechnology could    give rise to
replicating assemblers, permitting an exponential    growth of
productivity and personal wealth (there's an authorized
transcription at    `').  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    established.

   :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    message}.

   :Nathan Hale: n.  An asterisk (see also {splat},    {{ASCII}}).  Oh,
you want an etymology?  Notionally, from "I    regret that I have only
one asterisk for my country!", a misquote    of the famous remark
uttered by Nathan Hale just before he was    hanged.  Hale was a
(failed) spy for the rebels in the American War    of Independence.

   :nature: n.  See {has the X nature}.

   :neat hack: n.  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

   :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, widely spread    through
SF fandom but reported to have originated at Caltech in the    1970s]
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 lines "And then, just to
 show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo / And Bring Back an It-Kutch, a Preep
  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 bearing 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.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

   :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".     Compare {link-dead}.

   :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 1999) 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.)  Often
shortened to just `lag'.

   :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.

   :Netscrape: n.  Standard name-of-insult for Netscape
Navigator/Communicator, Netscape's overweight Web browser.  Compare
{Internet Exploiter}.

   :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 {the    network}; 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},

   [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    packet}.

   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 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.

   :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

   :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 group
alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork which originated    as a birthday joke
for a Muppets fan, or any number of specialized    abuse groups named
after particularly notorious {flamer}s, e.g.,    alt.weemba.

   :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

   :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}, {screen

   :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.     Other maxims in
the same vain include the law attributed to the    early British
computer scientist Douglas Hartree: "The time from    now until the
completion of the project tends to become constant."

   :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    ones.

   :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},    {ScumOS}, {sun-stools},

   :non-optimal solution: n.  (also `sub-optimal solution') An
astoundingly stupid way to do something.  This term is generally
used in deadpan sarcasm, as its impact is greatest when the person
speaking looks completely serious.  Compare {stunning}.  See    also
{Bad Thing}.

   :nonlinear: adj.  [scientific computation] 1. Behaving in an
erratic and unpredictable fashion; unstable.  When used to describe
the behavior of a machine or program, it suggests that said machine
or program is being forced to run far outside of design
specifications.  This behavior may be induced by unreasonable
inputs, or may be triggered when a more mundane bug sends the
computation far off from its expected course.  2. When describing
the behavior of a person, suggests a tantrum or a {flame}.     "When
you talk to Bob, don't mention the drug problem or he'll go
nonlinear for hours."  In this context, `go nonlinear' connotes
`blow up out of proportion' (proportion connotes linearity).

   :nontrivial: adj.  Requiring real thought or significant
computing power.  Often used as an understated way of saying that a
problem is quite difficult or impractical, or even entirely
unsolvable ("Proving P=NP is nontrivial").  The preferred    emphatic
form is `decidedly nontrivial'.  See {trivial},    {uninteresting},

   :not ready for prime time: adj.  Usable, but only just so; not
very robust; for internal use only.  Said of a program or device.
Often connotes that the thing will be made more solid {Real Soon
Now}.  This term comes from the ensemble name of the original cast
of "Saturday Night Live", the "Not Ready for Prime Time    Players".
It has extra flavor for hackers because of the special    (though now
semi-obsolescent) meaning of {prime time}.  Compare    {beta}.

   :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

   :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' This is generalized from the
computer-science terms `NP-hard' and `NP-complete';    NP-complete
problems all seem to be very hard, but so far no one    has found a
proof that they are.  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.     "Coding a BitBlt implementation to perform
correctly in every case    is NP-annoying."

   Note, however, that strictly speaking this usage is misleading;
there are plenty of easy problems in class NP.  NP-complete    problems
are hard not because they are in class NP, but because    they are the
hardest problems in class NP.

   :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

   :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
(1999), 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 disks."  This usage is a recent innovation    reflecting
the fact that most IBM-PC clones are now delivered with    an operating
system pre-installed at the factory.  Other kinds of    hardware are
still normally delivered without OS, so this term is    particular to
PC support groups.

   :nugry: /n[y]oo'gree/  [Usenet, 'newbie' + '-gry'] `. n.     A
{newbie} who posts a {FAQ} in the rec.puzzles newsgroup,    especially
if it is a variant of the notorious and unanswerable    "What, besides
`angry' and `hungry', is the third common English    word that ends in
-GRY?".  In the newsgroup, the canonical answer    is of course `nugry'
itself. Plural is `nusgry'    /n[y]oos'gree/. 2. adj. Having the
qualities of a    nugry.

   :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

   :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 `double word'; 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

    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)

    64 bits
          double word (on a 32-bit machine)

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    {notwork}.

= O =

   :Ob-: /ob/ pref.  Obligatory.  A piece of {netiquette}
acknowledging that the author has been straying from the    newsgroup's
charter topic.  For example, if a posting in is    a response
to a part of someone else's posting that has nothing    particularly to
do with sex, the author may append `ObSex' (or    `Obsex') and toss off
a question or vignette about some unusual    erotic act.  It is
considered a sign of great {winnitude} when    one's Obs are more
interesting than other people's whole postings.

   :Obfuscated C Contest: 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
      * (Note: depends on being able to modify elements of argv[],
      * which is not guaranteed by ANSI and often not possible.)
     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
      * (requires pcc macro concatenation; try gcc -traditional-cpp)

     #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 IOCCC 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},    {wedged}.

   This term is much older than computing, and is (uncommon) slang
elsewhere.  A trolley is the small wheel that trolls, or runs
against, the heavy wire that carries the current to run a    streetcar.
It's at the end of the long pole (the trolley pole)    that reaches
from the roof of the streetcar to the overhead line.     When the
trolley stops making contact with the wire (from passing    through a
switch, going over bumpy track, or whatever), the    streetcar comes to
a halt, (usually) without crashing.  The    streetcar is then said to
be off the trolley, or off the wire.     Later on, trolley came to mean
the streetcar itself.  Since    streetcars became common in the 1890s,
the term is more than 100    years old.  Nowadays, trolleys are only
seen on historic    streetcars, since modern streetcars use pantographs
to contact the    wire.

   :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, not his tactics."  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 car."

   :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.

   Here's equivalent {Perl}:

             perl -le '$_ = 1; (1 x $_) !~ /^(11+)\1+$/ && print while $_++'

   :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 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; 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).
Modern Unixes are roughly C2.  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

   :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

   :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}' (but that wouldn't    rhyme with

   :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}, but much less common.

   :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

   :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    {swap}.

   :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
memory hardware. It predates RAM; in fact, this    term is reported to
have already have been in use in its jargoin    sense back in the 1960s
when magnetic cores ruled.  Parity errors    can also afflict mass
storage and serial communication lines; this    is more serious because
not always correctable.

   :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    since the
mid-1980s 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 about double    once every 18 months
(see {Moore's Law}); unfortunately, the    laws of physics guarantee
that the latter cannot continue    indefinitely.

   :parm: /parm/ n.  Further-compressed form of {param}.     This term
is an IBMism, and written use is almost unknown    outside IBM shops;
spoken /parm/ is more widely distributed, but    the synonym {arg} is
favored among hackers.  Compare {arg},    {var}.

   :parse: [from linguistic terminology] vt.  1. To determine the
syntactic structure of a sentence or other utterance (close to the
standard English meaning).  "That was the one I saw you."  "I    can't
parse that."  2. More generally, to understand or    comprehend.  "It's
very simple; you just kretch the glims and then    aos the zotz."  "I
can't parse that."  3. Of fish, to have to    remove the bones
yourself.  "I object to parsing fish", means "I    don't want to get a
whole fish, but a sliced one is okay".  A    `parsed fish' has been
deboned.  There is some controversy over    whether `unparsed' should
mean `bony', or also mean    `deboned'.

   :Pascal:: n.  An Algol-descended language designed by    Niklaus
Wirth on the CDC 6600 around 1967-68 as an instructional    tool for
elementary programming.  This language, designed primarily    to keep
students from shooting themselves in the foot and thus    extremely
restrictive from a general-purpose-programming point of    view, was
later promoted as a general-purpose tool and, in fact,    became the
ancestor of a large family of languages including    Modula-2 and
{{Ada}} (see also {bondage-and-discipline    language}).  The hackish
point of view on Pascal was probably best    summed up by a devastating
(and, in its deadpan way, screamingly    funny) 1981 paper by Brian
Kernighan (of {K&R} fame) entitled    "Why Pascal is Not My Favorite
Programming Language", which    was turned down by the technical
journals but circulated widely via    photocopies.  It was eventually
published in "Comparing and    Assessing Programming Languages", edited
by Alan Feuer and Narain    Gehani (Prentice-Hall, 1984).  Part of his
discussion is worth    repeating here, because its criticisms are still
apposite to Pascal    itself after ten years of improvement and could
also stand as an    indictment of many other bondage-and-discipline
languages.  At the    end of a summary of the case against Pascal,
Kernighan wrote:

     9. There is no escape

     This last point is perhaps the most important.  The language is
     inadequate but circumscribed, because there is no way to escape its
     limitations.  There are no casts to disable the type-checking when
     necessary.  There is no way to replace the defective run-time
     environment with a sensible one, unless one controls the compiler
     that defines the "standard procedures".  The language is closed.

     People who use Pascal for serious programming fall into a fatal
     trap.  Because the language is impotent, it must be extended.  But
     each group extends Pascal in its own direction, to make it look
     like whatever language they really want.  Extensions for separate
     compilation, FORTRAN-like COMMON, string data types, internal
     static variables, initialization, octal numbers, bit operators,
     etc., all add to the utility of the language for one group but
     destroy its portability to others.

     I feel that it is a mistake to use Pascal for anything much beyond
     its original target.  In its pure form, Pascal is a toy language,
     suitable for teaching but not for real programming.

Pascal has since been almost entirely displaced (by {C}) from the
niches it had acquired in serious applications and systems
programming, but retains some popularity as a hobbyist language in
the MS-DOS and Macintosh worlds.

   :pastie: /pay'stee/ n.  An adhesive-backed label designed to    be
attached to a key on a keyboard to indicate some non-standard
character which can be accessed through that key.  Pasties are
likely to be used in APL environments, where almost every key is
associated with a special character.  A pastie on the R key, for
example, might remind the user that it is used to generate the    rho
character.  The term properly refers to    nipple-concealing devices
formerly worn by strippers in concession    to indecent-exposure laws;
compare {tits on a keyboard}.

   :patch:  1. n. A temporary addition to a piece of code,    usually
as a {quick-and-dirty} remedy to an existing bug or    misfeature.  A
patch may or may not work, and may or may not    eventually be
incorporated permanently into the program.     Distinguished from a
{diff} or {mod} by the fact that a patch    is generated by more
primitive means than the rest of the program;    the classical examples
are instructions modified by using the front    panel switches, and
changes made directly to the binary executable    of a program
originally written in an {HLL}.  Compare    {one-line fix}.  2. vt. To
insert a patch into a piece of code.     3. [in the Unix world] n. A
{diff} (sense 2).  4. A set of    modifications to binaries to be
applied by a patching program.  IBM    operating systems often receive
updates to the operating system in    the form of absolute hexadecimal
patches.  If you have modified    your OS, you have to disassemble
these back to the source.  The    patches might later be corrected by
other patches on top of them    (patches were said to "grow scar
tissue").  The result was often    a convoluted {patch space} and
headaches galore.  5. [Unix] the    `patch(1)' program, written by
Larry Wall, which automatically    applies a patch (sense 3) to a set
of source code.

   There is a classic story of a {tiger team} penetrating a secure
military computer that illustrates the danger inherent in binary
patches (or, indeed, any patches that you can't -- or don't --
inspect and examine before installing).  They couldn't find any
{trap door}s or any way to penetrate security of IBM's OS, so    they
made a site visit to an IBM office (remember, these were    official
military types who were purportedly on official business),    swiped
some IBM stationery, and created a fake patch.  The patch    was
actually the trapdoor they needed.  The patch was distributed    at
about the right time for an IBM patch, had official stationery    and
all accompanying documentation, and was dutifully installed.     The
installation manager very shortly thereafter learned something    about
proper procedures.

   :patch pumpkin: n.  [Perl hackers] A notional token passed    around
among the members of a project.  Possession of the patch    pumpkin
means one has the exclusive authority to make    changes on the
project's master source tree.  The implicit    assumption is that
`pumpkin holder' status is temporary and    rotates periodically among
senior project members.<p>

   This term comes from the Perl development community, but has been
sighted elsewhere.  It derives from a stuffed-toy pumpkin    that was
passed around at a development shop years ago as    the access control
for a shared backup-tape drive.

   :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 near-universal use of
compilers and interpreters 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'

   :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 running DOS, e.g., by    busy-waiting on a hardware
register, direct diddling of screen    memory, or using hard timing
loops.  Compare {ill-behaved},    {vaxism}, {unixism}.  Also, `PC-ware'
n., a program full of    PC-isms on a machine with a more capable
operating system.     Pejorative.

   :PD: /P-D/ adj.  Common abbreviation for `public domain',    applied
to software distributed over {Usenet} and from Internet    archive
sites.  Much of this software is not in fact public domain    in the
legal sense but travels under various copyrights granting
reproduction and use rights to anyone who can {snarf} a copy.     See

   :PDL: /P-D-L/, /pid'l/, /p*d'l/ or /puhd'l/     1. n. `Program
Design Language'.  Any of a large class of formal    and profoundly
useless pseudo-languages in which {management}    forces one to design
programs.  Too often, management expects PDL    descriptions to be
maintained in parallel with the code, imposing    massive overhead to
little or no benefit.  See also {{flowchart}}.     2. v. To design
using a program design language.  "I've been    pdling so long my eyes
won't focus beyond 2 feet."  3. n. `Page    Description Language'.
Refers to any language which is used to    control a graphics device,
usually a laserprinter.  The most common    example is, of course,
Adobe's {{PostScript}} language, but there    are many others, such as
Xerox InterPress, etc.

   :pdl: /pid'l/ or /puhd'l/ 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

   :PEBKAC:  [Abbrev., "Problem Exists Between Keyboard And    Chair"]
Used by support people, particularly at call centers and    help desks.
Not used with the public.  Denotes pilot error as the    cause of the
crash, especially stupid errors that even a luser    could figure out.
Very derogatory. Usage: "Did you ever figure out    why that guy
couldn't print?" "Yeah, he kept cancelling the    operation before it
could finish. PEBKAC."

   :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 results
of `poke's at these    addresses may be highly useful, mildly amusing,
useless but neat,    or (most likely) total {lossage} (see {killer

   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.

   :Pentagram Pro: n.   A humorous corruption of "Pentium    Pro", with
a Satanic reference, implying that the chip is    inherently {evil}.
Often used with "666 MHz"; there is a    T-shirt.  See {Pentium}

   :Pentium: n.  The name given to Intel's P5 chip, the    successor to
the 80486. The name was chosen because of difficulties    Intel had in
trademarking a number. It suggests the number five    (implying 586)
while (according to Intel) conveying a meaning of    strength "like
titanium".  Among hackers, the plural is    frequently `pentia'. See
also {Pentagram Pro}.

   Intel did not stick to this convention when    naming its P6
processor the Pentium Pro; many believe this is due to    difficulties
in selling a chip with "sex" in its name.

   :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    {random}.

   :perf: /perf/ n.  Syn. {chad} (sense 1).  The term    `perfory'
/per'f*-ree/ is also heard.  The term {perf} may    also refer to the
perforations themselves, rather than the chad    they produce when 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    mode}."

   :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},    {TMTOWTDI}.

   :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    dead}.

   :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. obs.  [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, C128, and    VIC20
machines.  The PETSCII set used left-arrow and up-arrow (as    in
old-style ASCII) instead of underscore and caret, placed the
unshifted alphabet at positions 65-90, put the shifted alphabet at
positions 193-218, and added graphics characters.

   :phage: n.  A program that modifies other programs or    databases
in unauthorized ways; esp. one that propagates a    {virus} or {Trojan
horse}.  See also {worm},    {mockingbird}.  The analogy, of course, is
with phage viruses in    biology.

   :phase:  1. n. The offset of one's waking-sleeping schedule    with
respect to the standard 24-hour cycle; a useful concept among    people
who often work at night and/or according to no fixed    schedule.  It
is not uncommon to change one's phase by as much as 6    hours per day
on a regular basis.  "What's your phase?"  "I've    been getting in
about 8 P.M. lately, but I'm going to {wrap    around} to the day
schedule by Friday."  A person who is roughly    12 hours out of phase
is sometimes said to be in `night mode'.     (The term `day mode' is
also (but less frequently) used, meaning    you're working 9 to 5 (or,
more likely, 10 to 6).)  The act of    altering one's cycle is called
`changing phase'; `phase    shifting' has also been recently reported
from Caltech.     2. `change phase the hard way': To stay awake for a
very long    time in order to get into a different phase.  3. `change
phase    the easy way': To stay asleep, etc.  However, some claim that
 either staying awake longer or sleeping longer is easy, and that it
is _shortening_ your day or night that is really hard (see    {wrap
around}).  The `jet lag' that afflicts travelers who    cross many
time-zone boundaries may be attributed to two distinct    causes: the
strain of travel per se, and the strain of changing    phase.  Hackers
who suddenly find that they must change phase    drastically in a short
period of time, particularly the hard way,    experience something very
like jet lag without traveling.

   :phase of the moon: n.  Used humorously as a random parameter    on
which something is said to depend.  Sometimes implies    unreliability
of whatever is dependent, or that reliability seems    to be dependent
on conditions nobody has been able to determine.     "This feature
depends on having the channel open in mumble mode,    having the foo
switch set, and on the phase of the moon."  See    also {heisenbug}.

   True story: Once upon a time there was a program 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.

   However, beware of assumptions.  A few years ago, engineers of CERN
 (European Center for Nuclear Research) were baffled by some errors
in experiments conducted with the LEP particle accelerator.  As the
formidable amount of data generated by such devices is heavily
processed by computers before being seen by humans, many people
suggested the software was somehow sensitive to the phase of the
moon.  A few desperate engineers discovered the truth; the error
turned out to be the result of a tiny change in the geometry of the
27km circonference ring, physically caused by the deformation of    the
Earth by the passage of the Moon!  This story has entered    physics
folklore as a Newtonian vengeance on particle physics and    as an
example of the relevance of the simplest and oldest physical    laws to
the most modern science.

   :phase-wrapping: n.  [MIT] Syn. {wrap around}, sense 2.

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

   :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

   :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}},    {micro-}.

   :pig-tail:  [radio hams] A short piece of cable with two
connectors on each end for converting between one connector type    and
another.  Common pig-tails are 9-to-25-pin serial-port    converters
and cables to connect PCMCIA network cards to an RJ-45    network
cable.  This word probably came from ham radio hackers.

   :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

   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.

   :Ping O' Death: n.  A notorious {exploit} that (when    first
discovered) could be easily used to crash a wide variety of    machines
by overunning size limits in their TCP/IP stacks.  First    revealed in
late 1996.  The open-source Unix community patched its    systems to
remove the vulnerability within days or weeks, the    closed-source OS
vendors generally took months.  While the    difference in response
times repeated a pattern familiar from other    security incidents, the
accompanying glare of Web-fueled publicity    proved unusually
embarrassing to the OS vendors and so passed into    history and myth.
The term is now used to refer to any nudge    delivered by network
wizards over the network that causes bad    things to happen on the
system being nudged.  For the full story on    the original exploit, see

   Compare with 'kamikaze packet,' 'Finger of Death' and 'Chernobyl

   :ping storm: n.  A form of {DOS attack} consisting    of a flood of
{ping} requests (normally used to check network    conditions) designed
to disrupt the normal activity of a system.     This act is sometimes
called `ping lashing' or `ping flood'.     Compare {mail storm},
{broadcast storm}.

   :pink wire: n.  [from the pink PTFE wire used in military
equipment] As {blue wire}, but used in military    applications. 2. vi.
To add a pink wire to a board.

   :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}.

   :pipe: n.   Idiomatically, one's connection to the    Internet; in
context, the expansion "bit pipe" is understood.     A "fat pipe" is a
line with T1 or higher capacity.  A person with    a 28.8 modem might
be heard to complain "I need a bigger pipe".

   :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    pistol!"

   :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

   :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.

   :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    {golden}.

   :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    {nybble}.

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

   :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    response.

   A slightly more directed form of plokta can often be seen in mail
messages or Usenet articles from new users -- the text might end    with


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    ridicule.

   :plug-and-pray: adj.,vi.  Parody of the techspeak term
`plug-and-play', describing a PC peripheral card which is claimed    to
have no need for hardware configuration via DIP switches, and    which
should be work as soon as it is inserted in the PC.     Unfortunately,
even the PCI bus is not up to pulling this off    reliably, and people
who have to do installation or troubleshoot    PCs soon find themselves
longing for the DIP switches.

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

   :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

   :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

   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

   :pointy-haired: adj.  [after the character in the    {Dilbert} comic
strip] Describes the extreme form of the    property that separates
{suit}s and {marketroid}s from    hackers. Compare {brain-dead};
{demented}. Always applied to    people, never to ideas. The plural
form is often used as a    noun. "The pointy-haireds ordered me to use
Windows NT, but I set    up a Linux server with Samba instead."

   :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    slinger'.

   :POM: /P-O-M/ n.  Common abbreviation for {phase of the    moon}.
Usage: usually in the phrase `POM-dependent', which means    {flaky}.

   :pop: /pop/  [from the operation that removes the top of a    stack,
and the fact that procedure return addresses are usually    saved on
the stack] (also capitalized `POP') 1. vt. To remove    something from
a {stack} or {pdl}.  If a person says he/she    has popped something
from his stack, that means he/she has finally    finished working on it
and can now remove it from the list of    things hanging overhead.  2.
When a discussion gets to a level of    detail so deep that the main
point of the discussion is being lost,    someone will shout "Pop!",
meaning "Get back up to a higher    level!"  The shout is frequently
accompanied by an upthrust arm    with a finger pointing to the

   :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

   :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

   :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 system or network.  Back in the days of big timesharing    machines
`prime time' was when lots of people were competing for    limited
cycles, usually the day shift.  Avoidance of prime time was
traditionally given as a major reason for {night mode} hacking.     The
term fell into disuse during the early PC era, but has been    revived
to refer to times of day or evening at which the Internet    tends to
be heavily loaded, making Web access slow.  The hackish    tendency to
late-night {hacking run}s has changed not a bit.

   :print: v.  To output, even if to a screen.  If a hacker    says
that a program "printed a message", he means this; if he    refers to
printing a file, he probably means it in the conventional    sense of
writing to a hardcopy device (compounds like `print job'    and
`printout', on the other hand, always refer to the    latter). This
very common term is likely a holdover from the days    when printing
terminals were the norm, perpetuated by programming    language
constructs like {C}'s printf(3).  See senses 1 and 2 of    {tty}.

   :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    PC-land.

   :profile: n.  1. A control file for a program, esp. a text    file
automatically read from each user's home directory and    intended to
be easily modified by the user in order to customize    the program's
behavior.  Used to avoid {hardcoded} choices (see    also {dot file},
{rc file}).  2. [techspeak] A report on the    amounts of time spent in
each routine of a program, used to find    and {tune} away the {hot
spot}s in it.  This sense is often    verbed.  Some profiling modes
report units other than time (such as    call counts) and/or report at
granularities other than per-routine,    but the idea is similar.
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    joke).

   :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

   :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},    {skulker}.

   :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 number theory: a number that passes a certain kind    of
"primality test" may be called a `pseudoprime' (all primes    pass any
such test, but so do some composite numbers), and any    number that
passes several is, in some sense, almost certainly    prime. The hacker
backgammon usage stems from the idea that a    pseudoprime is almost as
good as a prime: it will do the same job    unless you are unlucky.

   :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}.

   :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    {inflate}.

   :pumpkin holder: n.  See {patch pumpkin}.

   :pumpking: n.  Syn. for {pumpkin holder}; see {patch    pumpkin}.

   :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    this.

   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." 5.
To knock someone off    an Internet or chat connection; a `punter'
thus, is a person or    program that does this.

   :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

   :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 (Syste`me 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 1/1000, 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    {attoparsec}).

   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

   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.]

   [1999 upate: there is an    IEC proposal
for binary multipliers, but no evidence that any of    its proposals
are in live use.]

   :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 as    "Ques
ques?"  See {wall}.

   :quick-and-dirty: adj.  Describes a {crock} put together    under
time or user pressure.  Used esp. when you want to convey    that you
think the fast way might lead to trouble further down the    road.  "I
can have a quick-and-dirty fix in place tonight, but    I'll have to
rewrite the whole module to solve the underlying    design problem."
See also {kluge}.

   :quine: /kwi:n/ 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

   :rainbow series: n.  Any of several series of technical    manuals
distinguished by cover color.  The original rainbow series    was the
NCSC security manuals (see {Orange Book}, {crayola    books}); the term
has also been commonly applied to the PostScript    reference set (see
{Red Book}, {Green Book}, {Blue Book},    {White Book}).  Which books
are meant by "`the' rainbow    series" unqualified is thus dependent on
one's local technical    culture.

   :random: adj.  1. Unpredictable (closest to mathematical
definition); weird.  "The system's been behaving pretty    randomly."
2. Assorted; undistinguished.  "Who was at the    conference?"  "Just a
bunch of random business types."     3. (pejorative) Frivolous;
unproductive; undirected.  "He's just a    random loser."  4.
Incoherent or inelegant; poorly chosen; not    well organized.  "The
program has a random set of misfeatures."     "That's a random name for
that function."  "Well, all the names    were chosen pretty randomly."
5. In no particular order, though    deterministic.  "The I/O channels
are in a pool, and when a file    is opened one is chosen randomly."
6. Arbitrary.  "It generates    a random name for the scratch file."
7. Gratuitously wrong, i.e.,    poorly done and for no good apparent
reason.  For example, a    program that handles file name defaulting in
a particularly useless    way, or an assembler routine that could
easily have been coded    using only three registers, but redundantly
uses seven for values    with non-overlapping lifetimes, so that no one
else can invoke it    without first saving four extra registers.  What
{randomness}!     8. n. A random hacker; used particularly of
high-school    students who soak up computer time and generally get in
the way.     9. n.  Anyone who is not a hacker (or, sometimes, anyone
not known    to the hacker speaking); the noun form of sense 2.  "I
went to the    talk, but the audience was full of randoms asking bogus
 questions".  10. n. (occasional MIT usage) One who lives at    Random
Hall.  See also {J. Random}, {some random X}.     11. [UK]
Conversationally, a non sequitur or something similarly
out-of-the-blue. As in: "Stop being so random!"  This sense    equates
to `hatstand', taken from the Viz comic character "Roger    Irrelevant
- He's completely Hatstand."

   :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.  Also, 105
          is 69 in base 42.

          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."

   Despite the negative connotations jargon uses of this term have, it
 is worth noting that randomness can actually be a valuable
resource, very useful for applications in cryptography and
elsewhere.  Computers are so thoroughly deterministic that they    have
a hard time generating high-quality randomess, so hackers have
sometimes felt the need to built special-purpose contraptions for
this purpose alone.  One well-known website offers random bits
generated by radioactive decay (
Another derives random bits from    images of Lava Lite lamps
(     (Hackers invariably find the latter
hilarious.  If you have to ask    why, you'll never get it.)

   :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}.

   :rasterbation: n.  [portmanteau: raster + masturbation]    The
gratuituous use of comuputer generated images and effects in    movies
and graphic art which would have been better without them.
Especially employed as a term of abuse by Photoshop/GIMP users and
graphic artists.

   :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 is invited to dance    on Dilbert's
keyboard in order to produce bugs for him to fix, and    authors a Web
browser instead.) Compare {Infinite-Monkey    Theorem}.

   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

   :RBL: /R-B-L/  Abbreviation: "Realtime Blackhole List". A    service
that allows people to blacklist sites for emitting    {spam}, and makes
the blacklist available in real time to    electronic-mail transport
programs that know how to use RBL so they    can filter out mail from
those sites.  Drastic but effective.     There is an RBL home page

   :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    {regexp}.

   :read-only user: n.  Describes a {luser} who uses computers
almost exclusively for reading Usenet, bulletin boards, and/or
email, rather than writing code or purveying useful information.
See {twink}, {terminal junkie}, {lurker}.

   :README file: n.  Hacker's-eye introduction traditionally
included in the top-level directory of a Unix source distribution,
containing a pointer to more detailed documentation, credits,
miscellaneous revision history, notes, etc.  (The file may be named
README, or READ.ME, or rarely ReadMe or readme.txt or some other
variant.)  In the Mac and PC worlds, software is not usually
distributed in source form, and the README is more likely to    contain
user-oriented material like last-minute documentation    changes, error
workarounds, and restrictions.  When asked, hackers    invariably
relate the README convention to the famous scene in    Lewis Carroll's
"Alice's Adventures In Wonderland" in which    Alice confronts magic
munchies labeled "Eat Me" and "Drink Me".

   :real: adj.  Not simulated.  Often used as a specific antonym    to
{virtual} in any of its jargon senses.

   :real estate: n.  May be used for any critical resource    measured
in units of area.  Most frequently used of `chip real    estate', the
area available for logic on the surface of an    integrated circuit
(see also {nanoacre}).  May also be used of    floor space in a
{dinosaur pen}, or even space on a crowded    desktop (whether physical
or electronic).

   :real hack: n.  A {crock}.  This is sometimes used
affectionately; see {hack}.

   :real operating system: n.  The sort the speaker is used to.
People from the BSDophilic academic community are likely to issue
comments like "System V?  Why don't you use a _real_    operating
system?", people from the commercial/industrial Unix    sector are
known to complain "BSD?  Why don't you use a    _real_ operating
system?", and people from IBM object    "Unix?  Why don't you use a
_real_ operating system?"  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}" 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 something
while people are watching or waiting.  "I asked her how to find    the
calling procedure's program counter on the stack and she came    up
with an algorithm in real time."

   :real user: n.  1. A commercial user.  One who is paying    _real_
money for his computer usage.  2. A non-hacker.     Someone using the
system for an explicit purpose (a research    project, a course, etc.)
other than pure exploration.  See    {user}.  Hackers who are also
students may also be real users.     "I need this fixed so I can do a
problem set.  I'm not complaining    out of randomness, but as a real
user."  See also {luser}.

   :Real World: n.  1. Those institutions at which    `programming' may
be used in the same sentence as `FORTRAN',    `{COBOL}', `RPG',
`{IBM}', `DBASE', etc.  Places where    programs do such commercially
necessary but intellectually    uninspiring things as generating
payroll checks and invoices.     2. The location of non-programmers and
activities not related to    programming.  3. A bizarre dimension in
which the standard dress is    shirt and tie and in which a person's
working hours are defined as    9 to 5 (see {code grinder}).  4.
Anywhere outside a university.     "Poor fellow, he's left MIT and gone
into the Real World."  Used    pejoratively by those not in residence
there.  In conversation,    talking of someone who has entered the Real
World is not unlike    speaking of a deceased person.  It is also
noteworthy that on the    campus of Cambridge University in England,
there is a gaily-painted    lamp-post which bears the label `REALITY
CHECKPOINT'.  It marks the    boundary between university and the Real
World; check your notions    of reality before passing.  This joke is
funnier because the    Cambridge `campus' is actually coextensive with
the center of    Cambridge town.  See also {fear and loathing},
{mundane}, and    {uninteresting}.

   :reality check: n.  1. The simplest kind of test of software    or
hardware; doing the equivalent of asking it what 2 + 2 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}.

   :reality-distortion field: n.  An expression used to    describe the
persuasive ability of managers like Steve Jobs (the    term originated
at Apple in the 1980s to describe his peculiar    charisma).  Those
close to these managers become passionately    committed to possibly
insane projects, without regard to the    practicality of their
implementation or competitive forces in the    marketpace.

   :reaper: n.  A {prowler} that {GFR}s files.  A file    removed in
this way is said to have been `reaped'.

   :rectangle slinger: n.  See {polygon pusher}.

   :recursion: n.  See {recursion}.  See also {tail    recursion}.

   :recursive acronym:: 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" (though
Cygnus people say this is a {backronym}).  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    USA as "the Ugly Red Book That
Won't Fit On The Shelf" and in    Europe as "the Ugly Red Book That's A
Sensible Size".  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.

   :rehi:  [IRC] "Hello again." Very commonly used to greet    people
upon returning to an IRC channel after {channel    hopping}.

   :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

   :relay rape: n.  The hijacking of a third party's    unsecured mail
server to deliver {spam}.

   :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 character    or fictitious object.  "Byrne has retconned
Superman's cape so    that it is no longer unbreakable."  "Marvelman's
old adventures    were retconned into synthetic dreams."  "Swamp Thing
was    retconned from a transformed person into a sentient vegetable."
  "Darth Vader was retconned into Luke Skywalker's father in    "The
Empire Strikes Back".

   [This term is included because it is a good example of hackish
linguistic innovation in a field completely unrelated to computers.
The word `retcon' will probably spread through comics fandom and
lose its association with hackerdom within a couple of years; for
the record, it started here. --ESR]

   [1993 update: some comics fans on the net now claim that retcon was
 independently in use in comics fandom before rec.arts.comics.     In
lexicography, nothing is ever simple. --ESR]

   :RETI: v.  Syn. {RTI}

   :retrocomputing: /ret'-roh-k*m-pyoo'ting/ n.  Refers to
emulations of way-behind-the-state-of-the-art hardware or software,
or implementations of never-was-state-of-the-art; esp. if such
implementations are elaborate practical jokes and/or parodies,
written mostly for {hack value}, of more `serious' designs.     Perhaps
the most widely distributed retrocomputing utility was the    `pnch(6)'
or `bcd(6)' program on V7 and other early Unix    versions, which would
accept up to 80 characters of text argument    and display the
corresponding pattern in {{punched card}} code.     Other well-known
retrocomputing hacks have included the programming    language
{INTERCAL}, a {JCL}-emulating shell for Unix, the
card-punch-emulating editor named 029, and various elaborate PDP-11
hardware emulators and RT-11 OS emulators written just to keep an
old, sourceless {Zork} binary running.

   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

   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}.

   :ripoff: n.  Synonym for {chad}, sense 1.

   :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    roached.

   :robocanceller: /roh-boh-kan'sel-*r/  A program that    monitors
USENET feeds, attempting to detect and elimnate {spam}    by sending
appropriate cancel messages .  Robocancellers may use    the {Breidbart
Index} as a trigger.  Programming them is not a    game for amateurs;
see {ARMM}. See also {Dave the    Resurrector}.

   :robot: n.  See {bot}.

   :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:  1. [Unix] n. A Dungeons-and-Dragons-like game    using
character graphics, written under BSD Unix and subsequently    ported
to other Unix systems.  The original BSD `curses(3)'    screen-handling
package was hacked together by Ken Arnold to    support `rogue(6)' and
has since become one of Unix's most    important and heavily used
application libraries.  Nethack, Omega,    Larn, Angband, and an entire
subgenre of computer dungeon games all    took off from the inspiration
provided by `rogue(6)'; the    popular Windows game Diablo, though
graphics-intensive, has very    similar play logic.  See also
{nethack}.  2. [USENET] adj.     An {ISP} which permits net abuse
(usually in the form of    {spam}ming) by its customers, or which
itself engages in such    activities.  Rogue ISPs are sometimes subject
to {IDP}s or    {UDP}s.  Sometimes deliberately mispelled as "rouge".

   :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    thermometers.

   :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 {ANSI standard pizza}.

   :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] Abbreviation 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] Abbreviation 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}, {STFW},
{RTM}, all of which    mutated from RTFM, and compare {UTSL}.

   :RTFS: /R-T-F-S/  [Unix] 1. imp. Abbreviation for `Read The
Fucking Source'.  Variant form of {RTFM}, used when the problem    at
hand is not necessarily obvious and not answerable from the    manuals
-- or the manuals are not yet written and maybe never will    be.  For
even trickier situations, see {RTFB}.  Unlike RTFM, the    anger
inherent in RTFS is not usually directed at the person asking    the
question, but rather at the people who failed to provide    adequate
documentation.  2. imp. `Read The Fucking Standard'; this    oath can
only be used when the problem area (e.g., a language or    operating
system interface) has actually been codified in a    ratified standards
document.  The existence of these standards    documents (and the
technically inappropriate but politically    mandated compromises that
they inevitably contain, and the    impenetrable {legalese} in which
they are invariably written,    and the unbelievably tedious
bureaucratic process by which they are    produced) can be unnerving to
hackers, who are used to a certain    amount of ambiguity in the
specifications of the systems they use.     (Hackers feel that such
ambiguities are acceptable as long as the    {Right Thing} to do is
obvious to any thinking observer; sadly,    this casual attitude
towards specifications becomes unworkable when    a system becomes
popular in the {Real World}.)  Since a hacker    is likely to feel that
a standards document is both unnecessary and    technically deficient,
the deprecation inherent in this term may be    directed as much
against the standard as against the person who    ought to read it.

   :RTI: /R-T-I/ interj.  The mnemonic for the `return from
interrupt' instruction on many computers including the 6502 and
6800.  The variant `RETI' is found among former Z80 hackers    (almost
nobody programs these things in assembler anymore).     Equivalent to
"Now, where was I?" or used to end a    conversational digression.  See
{pop}; see also {POPJ}.

   :RTM: /R-T-M/  [Usenet: abbreviation for `Read The Manual']    1.
Politer variant of {RTFM}.  2. Robert Tappan Morris,    perpetrator of
the great Internet worm of 1988 (see {Great    Worm}); 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    {RTFM}.

   :RTS: /R-T-S/ imp.  Abbreviation 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    {all-elbows}.

   :runes: pl.n.  1. Anything that requires {heavy wizardry}    or
{black art} to {parse}: core dumps, JCL commands, APL, or    code in a
language you haven't a clue how to read.  Not quite as    bad as {line
noise}, but close.  Compare {casting the runes},    {Great Runes}.  2.
Special display characters (for example, the    high-half graphics on
an IBM PC).  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 Syste`me' (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    wire?".

= 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

     Therefore, after eating at The Good Earth -- indeed, after every
     lunch and dinner and before bed during our April visit -- a trip
     to Uncle Gaylord's (the one in Palo Alto) was mandatory.  We had
     arrived on a Wednesday, and by Thursday evening we had been there
     at least four times.  Each time, JONL would get ginger honey ice
     cream, and proclaim to all bystanders that "Ginger was the spice
     that drove the Europeans mad!  That's why they sought a route to
     the East!  They used it to preserve their otherwise off-taste
     meat."  After the third or fourth repetition RPG and I were
     getting a little tired of this spiel, and began to paraphrase him:
     "Wow!  Ginger!  The spice that makes rotten meat taste good!"
     "Say!  Why don't we find some dog that's been run over and sat in
     the sun for a week and put some _ginger_ on it for dinner?!"
     "Right!  With a lalaberry shake!"  And so on.  This failed to faze
     JONL; he took it in good humor, as long as we kept returning to
     Uncle Gaylord's.  He loves ginger honey ice cream.

     Now RPG and his then-wife KBT (Kathy Tracy) were putting us up
     (putting up with us?) in their home for our visit, so to thank them
     JONL and I took them out to a nice French restaurant of their
     choosing.  I unadventurously chose the filet mignon, and KBT had
     je ne sais quoi du jour, but RPG and JONL had lapin (rabbit).
     (Waitress: "Oui, we have fresh rabbit, fresh today."  RPG: "Well,
     JONL, I guess we won't need any _ginger_!")

     We finished the meal late, about 11 P.M., which is 2 A.M Boston
     time, so JONL and I were rather droopy.  But it wasn't yet
     midnight.  Off to Uncle Gaylord's!

     Now the French restaurant was in Redwood City, north of Palo Alto.
     In leaving Redwood City, we somehow got onto route 101 going north
     instead of south.  JONL and I wouldn't have known the difference
     had RPG not mentioned it.  We still knew very little of the local
     geography.  I did figure out, however, that we were headed in the
     direction of Berkeley, and half-jokingly suggested that we continue
     north and go to Uncle Gaylord's in Berkeley.

     RPG said "Fine!" and we drove on for a while and talked.  I was
     drowsy, and JONL actually dropped off to sleep for 5 minutes.  When
     he awoke, RPG said, "Gee, JONL, you must have slept all the way
     over the bridge!", referring to the one spanning San Francisco
     Bay.  Just then we came to a sign that said "University Avenue".
     I mumbled something about working our way over to Telegraph Avenue;
     RPG said "Right!" and maneuvered some more.  Eventually we pulled
     up in front of an Uncle Gaylord's.

     Now, I hadn't really been paying attention because I was so sleepy,
     and I didn't really understand what was happening until RPG let me
     in on it a few moments later, but I was just alert enough to notice
     that we had somehow come to the Palo Alto Uncle Gaylord's after

     JONL noticed the resemblance to the Palo Alto store, but hadn't
     caught on.  (The place is lit with red and yellow lights at night,
     and looks much different from the way it does in daylight.)  He
     said, "This isn't the Uncle Gaylord's I went to in Berkeley!  It
     looked like a barn!  But this place looks _just like_ the one back
     in Palo Alto!"

     RPG deadpanned, "Well, this is the one _I_ always come to when I'm
     in Berkeley.  They've got two in San Francisco, too.  Remember,
     they're a chain."

     JONL accepted this bit of wisdom.  And he was not totally ignorant
     -- he knew perfectly well that University Avenue was in Berkeley,
     not far from Telegraph Avenue.  What he didn't know was that there
     is a completely different University Avenue in Palo Alto.

     JONL went up to the counter and asked for ginger honey.  The guy at
     the counter asked whether JONL would like to taste it first,
     evidently their standard procedure with that flavor, as not too
     many people like it.

     JONL said, "I'm sure I like it.  Just give me a cone."  The guy
     behind the counter insisted that JONL try just a taste first.
     "Some people think it tastes like soap."  JONL insisted, "Look, I
     _love_ ginger.  I eat Chinese food.  I eat raw ginger roots.  I
     already went through this hassle with the guy back in Palo Alto.
     I _know_ I like that flavor!"

     At the words "back in Palo Alto" the guy behind the counter got a
     very strange look on his face, but said nothing.  KBT caught his
     eye and winked.  Through my stupor I still hadn't quite grasped
     what was going on, and thought RPG was rolling on the floor
     laughing and clutching his stomach just because JONL had launched
     into his spiel ("makes rotten meat a dish for princes") for the
     forty-third time.  At this point, RPG clued me in fully.

     RPG, KBT, and I retreated to a table, trying to stifle our
     chuckles.  JONL remained at the counter, talking about ice cream
     with the guy b.t.c., comparing Uncle Gaylord's to other ice cream
     shops and generally having a good old time.

     At length the g.b.t.c. said, "How's the ginger honey?"  JONL said,
     "Fine!  I wonder what exactly is in it?"  Now Uncle Gaylord
     publishes all his recipes and even teaches classes on how to make
     his ice cream at home.  So the g.b.t.c. got out the recipe, and he
     and JONL pored over it for a while.  But the g.b.t.c. could
     contain his curiosity no longer, and asked again, "You really like
     that stuff, huh?"  JONL said, "Yeah, I've been eating it
     constantly back in Palo Alto for the past two days.  In fact, I
     think this batch is about as good as the cones I got back in Palo

     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'

   [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

   :SAIL:: /sayl/, not /S-A-I-L/ n.  1. The Stanford    Artificial