term% ls -F
term% cat index.txt
#======= THIS IS THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 4.2.2, 20 AUG 2000 =======#

   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 4.2.2" or "The on-line hacker
Jargon File, version 4.2.2, 20 AUG 2000".)

   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 well.

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

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

:Introduction: **************

   This document is a collection of slang terms used by various
subcultures of computer hackers.  Though some technical material is
included for background and flavor, it is not a technical dictionary;
what we describe here is the language hackers use among themselves for
fun, social communication, and 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}. The `outside' reader's attention is particularly directed
to the Portrait of J. Random Hacker in {Appendix B}.  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 hacking.

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

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

   In general, we have considered techspeak any term 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 resynchronizations).

   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 {Some AI Koans} in Appendix A) came
to be seen as a sort of sacred epic, a hacker-culture Matter of Britain
chronicling the heroic exploits of the Knights of the Lab.  The pace of
change in hackerdom at large accelerated tremendously -- but the Jargon
File, having passed from living document to icon, remained essentially
untouched for seven years.

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

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

   Eric S. Raymond <<>> maintains the new File
with assistance from Guy L. Steele Jr. <<>>; these are the
persons primarily reflected in the File's editorial `we', though we
take pleasure in acknowledging the special contribution of the other
coauthors of Steele-1983.  Please email all additions, corrections,
and correspondence relating to the Jargon File to <>.

   (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 2.9.7, Oct 28 1991: first markup for hypertext browser.
This version had 19432 lines, 152132 words, 999595 characters, and
1750 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 entries.

   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, 8 Apr 1999: The Jargon File rides again after three
years.	This version had 25777 lines, 206825 words, 1359992 characters,
and 2217 entries.

   Version 4.1.1, 18 Apr 1999: Corrections for minor errors in 4.1.0,
and some new entries. This version had 25921 lines, 208483 words,
1371279 characters, and 2225 entries.

   Version 4.1.2, 28 Apr 1999: Moving texi2html out of the production
path.  This version had 26006 lines, 209479 words, 1377687 characters,
and 2225 entries.

   Version 4.1.3, 14 Jun 1999: Minor updates and markup fixes.	This
version had 26108 lines, 210480 words, 1384546 characters, and 2234

   Version 4.1.4, 17 Jun 1999: Markup fixes for framed HTML.  This
version had 26117 lines, 210527 words, 1384902 characters, and 2234

   Version 4.2.0, 31 Jan 2000: Fix processing of URLs.	This version had
26598 lines, 214639 words, 1412243 characters, and 2267 entries.

   Version 4.2.1, 5 Mar 2000: Point release to test new production
machinery. This version had 26647 lines, 215040 words, 1414942 characters,
and 2269 entries.

   Version 4.2.2, 12 Aug 2000: This version had 27171 lines, 219630
words, 1444887 characters, and 2302 entries.

   Version numbering: Version numbers should be read as
major.minor.revision.  Major version 1 is reserved for the `old' (ITS)
Jargon File, jargon-1.	Major version 2 encompasses revisions by ESR (Eric
S. Raymond) with assistance from GLS (Guy L.  Steele, Jr.)  leading up to
and including the second paper edition.  From now on, major version number
N.00 will probably correspond to the Nth paper edition.  Usually later
versions will either completely supersede or incorporate earlier versions,
so there is generally no point in keeping old versions around.

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

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

   A few bits of this text quote previous works.  We are indebted to
Brian A. LaMacchia <<>> for obtaining permission
for us to use material from the "TMRC Dictionary"; also, Don Libes
<<>> contributed some appropriate material from his
excellent book "Life With UNIX".  We thank Per Lindberg <<>>,
author of the remarkable Swedish-language 'zine "Hackerbladet", for
bringing "FOO!" comics to our attention and smuggling one of the IBM
hacker underground's own baby jargon files out to us.  Thanks also to
Maarten Litmaath for generously allowing the inclusion of the ASCII
pronunciation guide he formerly maintained.  And our gratitude to Marc
Weiser of XEROX PARC <<>> for securing us
permission to quote from PARC's own jargon lexicon and shipping us a copy.

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

     alt.french.captain.borg.borg.borg alt.wesley.crusher.die.die.die

: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 Wall 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]

:Overgeneralization: --------------------

   A very conspicuous feature of jargon is the frequency with which
techspeak items such as names of program tools, command language
primitives, and even assembler opcodes are applied to contexts outside
of computing wherever hackers find amusing analogies to them.  Thus (to
cite one of the best-known examples) Unix hackers often {grep} for
things rather than searching for them.	Many of the lexicon entries are
generalizations of exactly this 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.

   The suffix "-full" can also be applied in generalized and fanciful
ways, as in "As soon as you have more than one cachefull of data, the
system starts thrashing," or "As soon as I have more than one headfull
of ideas, I start writing it all down." A common use is "screenfull",
meaning the amount of text that will fit on one screen, usually in text
mode where you have no choice as to character size. Another common form is

   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 =>

   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 `Twenexen' was never used, and `Unixen' was not sighted
in the wild until the year 2000, thirty years after it might logically
have come into use; 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!"

:Anthropomorphization: ----------------------

   Semantically, one rich source of jargon constructions is the hackish
tendency to anthropomorphize hardware and software.  English purists
and academic computer scientists frequently look down on others for
anthropomorphizing hardware and software, considering this sort of
behavior to be characteristic of naive misunderstanding. But most hackers
anthropomorphize freely, frequently describing program behavior in terms
of wants and desires.

   Thus it is common 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'.

   At first glance, to anyone who understands how these programs
actually work, this seems like an absurdity.  As hackers are among
the people who know best how these phenomena work, it seems odd that
they would use language that seemds to ascribe conciousness to them.
The mind-set behind this tendency thus demands examination.

   The key to understanding this kind of usage is that it 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'.  To the contrary: hackers who anthropomorphize
are expressing not a vitalistic view of program behavior but a mechanistic
view of human behavior.

   Almost all hackers subscribe to the mechanistic, materialistic
ontology of science (this is in practice true even of most of the minority
with contrary religious theories).  In this view, people are biological
machines - consciousness is an interesting and valuable epiphenomenon,
but mind is implemented in machinery which is not fundamentally different
in information-processing capacity from computers.

   Hackers tend to take this a step further and argue that the
difference between a substrate of CHON atoms and water and a substrate
of silicon and metal is a relatively unimportant one; what matters,
what makes a thing `alive', is information and richness of pattern.
This is animism from the flip side; it implies that humans and computers
and dolphins and rocks are all machines exhibiting a continuum of modes of
`consciousness' according to their information-processing capacity.

   Because hackers accept a that a human machine can have intentions, it
is therefore easy for them to ascribe consciousness and intention
to complex patterned systems such as computers.  If consciousness is
mechanical, it is neither more or less absurd to say that "The program
wants to go into an infinite loop" than it is to say that "I want to
go eat some chocolate" - and even defensible to say that "The stone,
once dropped, wants to move towards the center of the earth".

   This viewpoint has respectable company in academic philosophy.
Daniel Dennett organizes explanations of behavior using three stances:
the "physical stance" (thing-to-be-explained as a physical object),
the "design stance" (thing-to-be-explained as an artifact), and the
"intentional stance" (thing-to-be-explained as an agent with desires
and intentions).  Which stances are appropriate is a matter not of truth
but of utility.  Hackers typically view simple programs from the design
stance, but more complex ones are modelled using the intentional stance.

:Comparatives: --------------

   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

   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.  This returns British English to the style
Latin languages (including Spanish, French, Italian, Catalan) have been
using all along.

   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 sentences.

   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

reads roughly as "Be nice to this fool, er, gentleman...", with irony
emphasized.  The digraph ^H is often used as a print representation
for a backspace, and was actually very visible on old-style printing
terminals. As the text was being composed the characters would be echoed
and printed immediately, and when a correction was made the backspace
keystrokes would be echoed with the string '^H'.  Of course, the final
composed text would have no trace of the backspace characters (or the
original erroneous text).

   This convention parallels (and may have been influenced by) the
ironic use of `slashouts' in science-fiction fanzines.

   A related habit uses editor commands to signify corrections to
previous text.	This custom faded in email as more mailers got good
editing capabilities, only to tale on new life on IRCs and other
line-based chat systems.

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

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

   In a formula, `*' signifies multiplication but two asterisks in a
row are a shorthand for exponentiation (this derives from FORTRAN).
Thus, one might write 2 ** 8 = 256.

   Another notation for exponentiation one sees more frequently uses the
caret (^, ASCII 1011110); one might write instead `2^8 = 256'.	This goes
all the way back to Algol-60, which used the archaic ASCII `up-arrow' that
later became the caret; this was picked up by Kemeny and Kurtz's original
BASIC, which in turn influenced the design of the `bc(1)' and `dc(1)'
Unix tools, which have probably done most to reinforce the convention
on Usenet. (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:

     <flame> Your father was a hamster and your mother smelt of
     elderberries!  </flame>

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

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

   Another recent (late 1990s) construction now common on USENET seems
to be borrowed from Perl.  It consists of using a dollar sign before an
uppercased form of a word or acronym to suggest any {random} member of
the class indicated by the word.  Thus: `$PHB' means "any random member
of the class `Pointy-Haired Boss'".

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

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

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

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

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

:Email Quotes and Inclusion Conventions:

   One area where 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 this,

	  > 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 this

	  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 may seem to be
asking the opposite question from "Are you going?", and so to merit 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', German
`doch', or Dutch `jawel' - a word 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 them.

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

:International Style: =====================

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

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

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

   On the other hand, English often gives rise to grammatical and
vocabulary mutations in the native language.  For example, Italian
hackers often use the nonexistent verbs `scrollare' (to scroll) and
`deletare' (to delete) rather than native Italian `scorrere' and
`cancellare'.  Similarly, the English verb `to hack' has been seen
conjugated in Swedish.	In German, many Unix terms in English are casually
declined as if they were German verbs - thus: mount/mounten/gemountet;
grep/grepen/gegrept; fork/forken/geforkt; core dump/core-dumpen,
core-gedumpt.  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 developed 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").  The
     substitution of 'z' for 's' has evolved so that a 'z' is bow
     systematically put at the end of words to denote an illegal or
     cracking connection. Examples : Appz, passwordz, passez, utilz, MP3z,
     distroz, pornz, sitez, gamez, crackz, serialz, downloadz, FTPz, etc.

   * 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; also of his latter-day equivalent {Jeff K.}.
Occasionally, this sort of distortion may be used as heavy sarcasm by
a real hacker, as in:

	 > I got X Windows running under Linux!

	 d00d!	u R an 31337 hax0r

   The only practice resembling this in actual hacker usage is the
substitution of a dollar sign of `s' in names of products or service
felt to be excessively expensive, e.g. Compu$erve, Micro$oft.

   For further discussion of the pirate-board subculture, see {lamer},
{elite}, {leech}, {poser}, {cracker}, and especially {warez d00dz},
{banner site}, {ratio site}, {leech mode}.

: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 consonants 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 University)

     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 ******************

= 0 = =====

   :0: Numeric zero, as opposed to the letter `O' (the 15th letter
of the English alphabet).  In their unmodified forms they look a lot
alike, and various kluges invented to make them visually distinct have
compounded the confusion.  If your zero is center-dotted and letter-O is
not, or if letter-O looks almost rectangular but zero looks more like
an American football stood on end (or the reverse), you're probably
looking at a modern character display (though the dotted zero seems to
have originated as an option on IBM 3270 controllers).	If your zero
is slashed but letter-O is not, you're probably looking at an old-style
ASCII graphic set descended from the default typewheel on the venerable
ASR-33 Teletype (Scandinavians, for whom /O is a letter, curse this
arrangement).  (Interestingly, the slashed zero long predates computers;
Florian Cajori's monumental "A History of Mathematical Notations" notes
that it was used in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.) If letter-O
has a slash across it and the zero does not, your display is tuned for
a very old convention used at IBM and a few other early mainframe makers
(Scandinavians curse _this_ arrangement even more, because it means two
of their letters collide).  Some Burroughs/Unisys equipment displays a
zero with a _reversed_ slash.  Old CDC computers rendered letter O as
an unbroken oval and 0 as an oval broken at upper right and lower left.
And yet another convention common on early line printers left zero
unornamented but added a tail or hook to the letter-O so that it resembled
an inverted Q or cursive capital letter-O (this was endorsed by a draft
ANSI standard for how to draw ASCII characters, but the final standard
changed the distinguisher to a tick-mark in the upper-left corner).
Are we sufficiently confused yet?

   :1TBS: // n.  The "One True Brace Style"; see {indent style}.

   :120 reset: /wuhn-twen'tee ree'set/ n.  [from 120 volts, U.S.
wall voltage] To cycle power on a machine in order to reset or unjam it.
Compare {Big Red Switch}, {power cycle}.

   :2: infix.  In translation software written by hackers, infix 2
often represents the syllable _to_ with the connotation `translate to':
as in dvi2ps (DVI to PostScript), int2string (integer to string), and
texi2roff (Texinfo to [nt]roff).  Several versions of a joke have floated
around the internet in which some idiot programmer fixes the Y2K bug by
changing all the Y's in something to K's, as in Januark, Februark, etc.

   :404: // n.	[from the HTTP error "file not found on server"]
Extended to humans to convey that the subject has no idea or no clue -
sapience not found.  May be used reflexively; "Uh, I'm 404ing" means
"I'm drawing a blank".

   :404 compliant: adj.  The status of a website which has been
completely removed, usually by the administrators of the hosting
site as a result of net abuse by the website operators.  The term is
a tongue-in-cheek reference to the standard "301 compliant" Murkowski
Bill disclaimer used by spammers.  See also: {spam}, {spamvertize}.

   :4.2: /for' poynt too'/ n.  Without a prefix, this almost
invariably refers to {BSD} Unix release 4.2.  Note that it is an
indication of cluelessness to say "version 4.2", and "release 4.2"
is rare; the number stands on its own, or is used in the more explicit
forms 4.2BSD or (less commonly) BSD 4.2.  Similar remarks apply to "4.3",
"4.4" and to earlier, less-widespread releases 4.1 and 2.9.

   :@-party: /at'par`tee/ n.  [from the @-sign in an Internet
address] (alt. `@-sign party' /at'si:n par`tee/) A semi-closed party
thrown for hackers at a science-fiction convention (esp. the annual World
Science Fiction Convention or "Worldcon"); one must have a {network
address} to get in, or at least be in company with someone who does.
One of the most reliable opportunities for hackers to meet face to face
with people who might otherwise be represented by mere phosphor dots on
their screens.	Compare {boink}.

   The first recorded @-party was held at the Westercon (a U.S.
western regional SF convention) over the July 4th weekend in 1980.
It is not clear exactly when the canonical @-party venue shifted to the
Worldcon but it had certainly become established by Constellation in 1983.
Sadly, the @-party tradition has been in decline since about 1996, mainly
because having an @-address no longer functions as an effective lodge pin.

= 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. [common; 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".	4.  An affirmative. "Think we
ought to ditch that damn NT server for a Linux box?" "ACK!"

   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 1), 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 (or American) Company Making Everything.
(In fact, Acme was a real brand sold from Sears Roebuck catalogs in the
early 1900s.)  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 was at one time
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
wss "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 {teergrube}.

   :adger: /aj'r/ vt.  [UCLA mutant of {nadger}, poss. also 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. (Woods had been
one of the authors of {INTERCAL}.) Now better known as Adventure or
Colossal Cave 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.

   ADVENT sources are available for FTP at
There is a
(Colossal Cave Adventure page).

   :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.

   :AFK: [MUD] Abbrev. for "Away From Keyboard".  Used to notify
others that you will be momentarily unavailable online.  eg. "Let's not
go kill that frost giant yet, I need to go AFK to make a phone call".
Often MUDs will have a command to politely inform others of your absence
when they try to talk with you.  The term is not restricted to MUDs,
however, and has become common in many chat situations, from IRC to
Unix talk.

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

   :AI-complete: /A-I k*m-pleet'/ adj.	[MIT, Stanford: by analogy
with `NP-complete' (see {NP-})] Used to describe problems or subproblems
in AI, to indicate that the solution presupposes a solution to the `strong
AI problem' (that is, the synthesis of a human-level intelligence).
A problem that is AI-complete is, in other words, just too hard.

   Examples of AI-complete problems are `The Vision Problem'
(building a system that can see as well as a human) and `The Natural
Language Problem' (building a system that can understand and speak a
natural language as well as a human).  These may appear to be modular,
but all attempts so far (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
{Some 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}, {elegant}.

   :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 called.

   :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.

   :Alice and Bob: n.  The archetypal individuals used as examples
in discussions of cryptographic protocols.  Originally, theorists would
say something like: "A communicates with someone who claims to be B,
So to be sure, A tests that B knows a secret number K. So A sends to B
a random number X. B then forms Y by encrypting X under key K and sends
Y back to A" Because this sort of thing is is quite hard to follow,
theorists stopped using the unadorned letters A and B to represent
the main players and started calling them Alice and Bob. So now we say
"Alice communicates with someone claiming to be Bob, and to be sure,
So Alice tests that Bob knows a secret number K. Alice sends to Bob
a random number X. Bob then forms Y by encrypting X under key K and
sends Y back to Alice".  A whole mythology rapidly grew up around the
metasyntactic names; see `'.

   In Bruce Schneier's definitive introductory text "Applied
Cryptography" (2nd ed., 1996, John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 0-471-11709-9)
he introduces a table of dramatis personae headed by Alice and Bob.
Others include Carol (a participant in three- and four-party protocols),
Dave (a participant in four-party protocols), Eve (an eavesdropper),
Mallory (a malicious active attacker), Trent (a trusted arbitrator),
Walter (a warden), Peggy (a prover) and Victor (a verifier).  These names
for roles are either already standard or, given the wide popularity of
the book, may be expected to quickly become so.

   :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 sometimes _incorrectly_ 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}.

   :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 traits of
this culture are both spoofed and illuminated in The BLAZE Humor Viewer
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 toaster}).

   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 considerably.

   :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. {Linux} users used to display symptoms very frequently
before Linux started winning; some still do.  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.

   :Angband: n. /ang'band/ Like {nethack}, {moria}, and {rogue},
one of the large freely distributed Dungeons-and-Dragons-like simulation
games, available for a wide range of machines and operating systems. The
name is from Tolkien's Pits of Angband (compare {elder days}, {elvish}).
Has been described as "Moria on steroids"; but, unlike Moria, many
aspects of the game are customizable.  This leads many hackers and
would-be hackers into fooling with these instead of doing productive work.
There are many Angband variants, of which the most notorious is probably
the rather whimsical Zangband. In this game, when a key that does
not correspond to a command is pressed, the game will display "Type ?
for help" 50% of the time.  The other 50% of the time, random error
messages including "An error has occurred because an error of type 42 has
occurred" and "Windows 95 uninstalled successfully" will be displayed.
Zangband also allows the player to kill Santa Claus (who has some really
good stuff, but also has a lot of friends), "Bull Gates", and Barney the
Dinosaur (but be watchful; Barney has a nasty case of halitosis). There
is an official angband home page at `' and
a zangband one at `'.  See also {Random
Number God}.

   :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 {bot}.

   :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.
(Also called `nagware') 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: /an'see stan'd*rd/ The ANSI standard usage of
`ANSI standard' refers to any practice which is typical or broadly done.
It's most appropriately applied to things that everyone does that
  are not quite regulation.  For example: ANSI standard shaking of a
laser printer cartridge to get extra life from it, or the ANSI standard
word tripling in names of usenet alt groups.

   :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 tea}.

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

	<AOL>Me, too!</AOL>

is also frequently seen. See also {September that never ended}.

   :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 system}.

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

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

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

   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 meltdown}.

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

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

   :asbestos cork award: n.  Once, long ago at MIT, there was a
{flamer} so consistently obnoxious that another hacker designed, had made,
and distributed posters announcing that said flamer had been nominated
for the `asbestos cork award'.	(Any reader in doubt as to the intended
application of the cork should consult the etymology under {flame}.)
Since then, it is agreed that only a select few have risen to the
heights of bombast required to earn this dubious dignity -- but there
is no agreement on _which_ 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.  [originally an acronym (American Standard
Code for Information Interchange) but now merely conventional] The
predominant character set encoding of present-day computers.  The standard
version uses 7 bits for each character, whereas most earlier codes
(including early drafts of of ASCII prior to June 1961) 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.  A history of
ASCII and its ancestors is at `'.

   Computers are much pickier and less flexible about spelling than
humans; thus, hackers need to be very precise when talking about
characters, and have developed a considerable amount of verbal shorthand
for them.  Every character has one or more names -- some formal, some
concise, some silly.  Common jargon names for ASCII characters are
collected here.  See also individual entries for {bang}, {excl}, {open},
{ques}, {semi}, {shriek}, {splat}, {twiddle}, and {Yu-Shiang Whole Fish}.

   This list derives from revision 2.3 of the Usenet ASCII
pronunciation guide.  Single characters are listed in ASCII order;
character pairs are sorted in by first member.	For each character,
common names are given in rough order of popularity, followed by
names that are reported but rarely seen; official ANSI/CCITT names are
surrounded by brokets: <>.  Square brackets mark the particularly silly
names introduced by {INTERCAL}.  The abbreviations "l/r" and "o/c" stand
for left/right and "open/close" respectively.  Ordinary parentheticals
provide some usage information.

     Common: {bang}; pling; excl; shriek; ball-bat; <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, and sign.  Rare: address (from
     C); reference (from C++); andpersand; bitand; background (from
     `sh(1)'); pretzel; amp.  [INTERCAL called this `ampersand'; what
     could be sillier?]

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

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

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

     Common: <plus>; add.  Rare: cross; [intersection].

     Common: <comma>.  Rare: <cedilla>; [tail].

     Common: dash; <hyphen>; <minus>.  Rare: [worm]; option; dak;

     Common: dot; point; <period>; <decimal point>.  Rare: radix point;
     full stop; [spot].

     Common: slash; stroke; <slant>; forward slash.  Rare: diagonal;
     solidus; over; slak; virgule; [slat].

     Common: <colon>.  Rare: dots; [two-spot].

     Common: <semicolon>; semi.  Rare: weenie; [hybrid], 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);
     tic/tac; [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, whack; escape (from C/UNIX); reverse slash;
     slosh; backslant; backwhack.  Rare: bash; <reverse slant>; reversed
     virgule; [backslat].

     Common: hat; control; uparrow; caret; <circumflex>.  Rare: xor sign,
     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); [spike].

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

The pronunciation of `#' as `pound' is common in the U.S.  but a bad
idea; {{Commonwealth Hackish}} has its own, rather more apposite use of
`pound sign' (confusingly, on British keyboards the pound graphic
  happens to replace `#'; thus Britishers sometimes call `#' on a
U.S.-ASCII keyboard `pound', compounding the American error).  The
U.S. usage derives from an old-fashioned commercial practice of using a
`#' suffix to tag pound weights on bills of lading.  The character is
usually pronounced `hash' outside the U.S.  There are more culture wars
over the correct pronunciation of this character than any other, which
has led to the {ha ha only serious} suggestion that it be pronounced
`shibboleth' (see Judges 12:6 in an Old Testament or Tanakh).

   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 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 |_| [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, alt.ascii-art, 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 {micro-}.

   :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 executable."

   This term is quite old, going back at least to the mid-70s in
jargon 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 = =====

   :B5: // [common] Abbreviation for "Babylon 5", a science-fiction
TV series as revered among hackers as was the original Star Trek.

   :back door: n.  [common] 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.,obs.  Formerly, 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.  Today one might see references to a `backbone router'
instead --ESR]

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

   :background: n.,adj.,vt.  [common] 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

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

   :backspace and overstrike: interj.  [rare] Whoa!  Back up.  Used
to suggest that someone just said or did something wrong.  Once common
among APL programmers; may now be obsolete.

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

   :BAD: /B-A-D/ adj.  [IBM: acronym, `Broken As Designed'] Said of
a program that is {bogus} because of bad design and misfeatures rather
than because of bugginess.  See {working as 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; they are also in use at Oxford, and the emphatic form
"Evil, Bad and Wrong" (abbreviated EBW) is reported fromm there.
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.  [very common; 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.
It is very common among American hackers, but not in mainstream usage
here. 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 a taunt at MIT 1970-1976, and
we have another report that "Bite the bag!" was in common use at least
as early as 1965), but in their current usage they have become almost
completely sanitized.

   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}).

   :baggy pantsing: v.	[Georgia Tech] A "baggy pantsing" is used to
reprimand hackers who incautiously leave their terminals unlocked.
The affected user will come back to find a post from them on internal
newsgroups discussing exactly how baggy their pants are, an accepted
stand-in for "unattentive user who left their work unprotected in
the clusters". A properly-done baggy pantsing is highly mocking and
humorous (see examples below).	It is considered bad form to post a baggy
pantsing to off-campus newsgroups or the more technical, serious groups.
A particularly nice baggy pantsing may be "claimed" by immediately quoting
the message in full, followed by your sig; this has the added benefit
of keeping the embarassed victim from being able to delete the post.
Interesting baggy-pantsings have been done involving adding commands to
login scripts to repost the message every time the unlucky user logs in;
Unix boxes on the residential network, when cracked, oftentimes have their
homepages replaced (after being politely backedup to another file) with
a baggy-pants message; .plan files are also occasionally targeted. Usage:
"Prof. Greenlee fell asleep in the Solaris cluster again; we baggy-pantsed
him to"

   :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. [common] 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}.  This generalized usage began to
go mainstream after the Internet population explosion of 1993-1994.
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.  [now historical] 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

   :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.  This is probably now the commonest sense.

   :banner ad: n.  Any of the annoying graphical advertisements that
span the tops of way too many Web pages.

   :banner site: n.  [warez d00dz] A FTP site storing pirated files
where one must first click on several banners and/or subscribe to
various `free' services, usually generating some form of revenues for
the site owner, to be able to access the site. More often than not,
the username/password painfully obtained by clicking on banners and
subscribing to bogus services or mailing lists turns out to be non-working
or gives access to a site that always responds busy. See {ratio site},
{leech mode}.

   :bar: /bar/ n.  1. [very common] 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. [common] 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.	[common; 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.  [common] 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 for many years was 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 in the 1980s.  As it is, it probably ruined tens of thousands of
potential wizards.

   [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 one that 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
November, 1926 conference of the Comite' Consultatif International Des
Communications Te'le'graphiques as an improvement on the then standard
practice of referring to line speeds in terms of words per minute, and
named for Jean Maurice Emile Baudot (1845-1903), a French engineer who
did a lot of pioneering work in early teleprinters.

   :baud barf: /bawd barf/ n.  The garbage one gets a terminal (or
terminal emulator) 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. [common] 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 (Norfolk/Suffolk/Middlesex/Essex)."

   :bazaar: n.,adj.  In 1997, after meditatating on 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 main
argument of the paper was that {Brooks's Law} is not the whole
story; given the right social machinery, debugging can be efficiently
parallelized across large numbers of programmers.  The title metaphor
caught on (see also {cathedral}), and the style of development typical
in the Linux community is now often referred to as the bazaar mode.
Its characteristics include releasing code early and often, and actively
seeking the largest possible pool of peer reviewers.

   :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.  [common; 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.  The term was especially applied to
the thousands of local BBS systems that operated during the pre-Internet
microcomputer era of roughly 1980 to 1995, 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 tended to consider local BBSes the low-rent
district of the hacker culture, but they served a valuable function
by knitting together lots of hackers and users in the personal-micro
world who would otherwise have been unable to exchange code at all.
Post-Internet, BBSs are likely to be local newsgroups on an ISP;
efficiency has increased but a certain flavor has been lost.  See also

   :BCPL: // n.  [abbreviation, `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!"]  1.
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'.  2. Palm
Pilot users very commonly use this term for the act of exchanging bits via
the infrared links on their machines (this term seems to have originated
with the ill-fated Newton Message Pad).  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. Sadly, the Befunge home page has
vanished, but a Befunge version of the {hello world} program is at

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

   :bells and whistles: n.  [common] 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: n.  [techspeak] 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

   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'.	In dome parts of the
U.S. this abbreviation was probably reinforced by a company called
Browning-Ferris Industries who used to be in the waste-management
business; a large BFI logo in white-on-blue could be seen on the sides
of garbage trucks.

   :bible: n.  1. One of a small number of fundamental source books
such as {Knuth}, {K&R}, or the {Camel Book}.  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' misspellings
AWESUM THINGZ IN CAPITULL LETTRS LIKE THIS!!!), use (and often misuse) of
fragments of {talk mode} abbreviations, a long {sig block} (sometimes even
a {doubled sig}), and unbounded naivete.  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:

   [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.  See also {Jeff K.} --ESR]

   :BI: // Common written abbreviation for {Breidbart Index}.

   :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.  [common] 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.  (Also `Big Blue Room') 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.  1. [common] Major success.  2. [MIT] 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.  [common; 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 world.

   :bignum: /big'nuhm/ n.  [common; 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.  [common] 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}, {Amiga Persecution Complex}.

   :bit: n.  [from the mainstream meaning and `Binary digIT'] 1.
[techspeak] The unit of information; the amount of information obtained
by asking a yes-or-no question for which the two outcomes are equally
probable.  2. [techspeak] A computational quantity that can take on one
of two values, such as true and false or 0 and 1.  3. A mental flag:
a reminder that something should be done eventually.  "I have a bit
set for you."  (I haven't seen you for a while, and I'm supposed to
tell or ask you something.)  4. More generally, a (possibly incorrect)
mental state of belief.  "I have a bit set that says that you were the
last guy to hack on EMACS."  (Meaning "I think you were the last guy
to hack on EMACS, and what I am about to say is predicated on this,
so please stop me if this isn't true.")

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

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

   The term `bit' first appeared in print in the computer-science
sense in a 1948 paper by information theorist Claude Shannon, and was
there credited to the early computer scientist John Tukey (who also
seems to have coined the term `software').  Tukey records that `bit'
evolved over a lunch table as a handier alternative to `bigit' or `binit',
at a conference in the winter of 1943-44.

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

   There actually are physical processes that produce such effects
(alpha particles generated by trace radionuclides in ceramic chip
packages, for example, can change the contents of a computer memory
unpredictably, and various kinds of subtle media failures can corrupt
files in mass storage), but they are quite rare (and computers are built
with error-detecting circuitry to compensate for them).  The notion
long favored among hackers that cosmic rays are among the causes of such
events turns out to be a myth; see the {cosmic rays} entry for details.

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

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

   :bit-paired keyboard: n.,obs.  (alt. `bit-shift keyboard') A
non-standard keyboard layout that seems to have originated with the
Teletype ASR-33 and remained common for several years on early computer
equipment.  The ASR-33 was a mechanical device (see {EOU}), so the
only way to generate the character codes from keystrokes was by some
physical linkage.  The design of the ASR-33 assigned each character key
a basic pattern that could be modified by flipping bits if the SHIFT or
the CTRL key was pressed.  In order to avoid making the thing 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). The Teletype Model 33
was actually designed before ASCII existed, and was originally intended
to use a code that contained these two rows:

	   low bits
     high 0000 0010 0100 0110 1000 1010 1100 1110 bits 0001 0011 0101
     0111 1001 1011 1101 1111
       10 ) ! bel # $ % wru & * ( " : ?  _ , .	11 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
       ' ; / - esc del

   The result would have been something closer to a normal keyboard.
But as it happened, Teletype had to use a lot of persuasion just to keep
ASCII, and the Model 33 keyboard, from looking like this instead:

	       !  " ?  $ ' & - ( ) ; : * / , .
	    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 + ~ < > × |

   Teletype's 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.  Either choice was supported by the ANSI
computer keyboard standard, X4.14-1971, which referred to the alternatives
as `logical bit pairing' and `typewriter pairing'. 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, X4.14 was superseded
by X4.23-1982, `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 PCs,
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. [common] 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}) -
until AOL happened.  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. Unfortunately, around this time we also got AOL.

   :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}.

   :bixen: pl.n.  Users of BIX (the BIX Information eXchange,
formerly the Byte Information eXchange). Parallels other plurals like
boxen, {VAXen}, oxen.

   :bixie: /bik'see/ n.  Variant {emoticon}s used on BIX (the BIX
Information eXchange).	The most common ({smiley}) bixie is <@_@>,
representing two cartoon eyes and a mouth.  These were originally
invented in an SF fanzine called APA-L and imported to BIX by one of
the earliest users.

   :black art: n.  [common] A collection of arcane, unpublished, and
(by implication) mostly ad-hoc techniques developed for a particular
application or systems area (compare {black magic}).  VLSI design and
compiler code optimization were (in their beginnings) considered classic
examples of black art; as theory developed they became {deep magic}, and
once standard textbooks had been written, became merely {heavy wizardry}.
The huge proliferation of formal and informal channels for spreading
around new computer-related technologies during the last twenty years
has made both the term `black art' and what it describes less common
than formerly.	See also {voodoo programming}.

   :black hole: n.,vt.	[common] What data (a piece of email or
netnews, or a stream of TCP/IP packets) 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.
Readily verbed as `blackhole': "That router is blackholing IDP packets."
Compare {bit bucket} and see {RBL}.

   :black magic: n.  [common] 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}, which has
become rather more common.

   :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; now common] 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.  [very common; 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 (a necessity
in many places outside the U.S. where the telecoms monopolies charge
per-minute for local calls).  This term attained wide use in the UK,
but is rare or unknown in the US.

   :blinkenlights: /blink'*n-li:tz/ n.	[common] Front-panel
diagnostic lights on a computer, esp. a {dinosaur}.  Now that dinosaurs
are rare, this term usually refers to status lights on a modem, network
hub, or the like.

   This term 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

   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.

   This newest version partly reflects reports that the word
`blinkenlights' is (in 1999) undergoing something of a revival in usage,
but applied to networking equipment. The transmit and receive lights
on routers, activity lights on switches and hubs, and other network
equipment often blink in visually pleasing and seemingly coordinated
ways. Although this is different in some ways from register readings,
a tall stack of Cisco equipment or a 19-inch rack of ISDN terminals
can provoke a similar feeling of hypnotic awe, especially in a darkened
network operations center or server room.

   :blit: /blit/ vt.  1. [common] 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. [historical, rare] Sometimes all-capitalized as `BLIT':
an early experimental bit-mapped terminal designed by Rob Pike at Bell
Labs, later commercialized as the AT&T 5620.  (The folk etymology from
`Bell Labs Intelligent Terminal' is incorrect.	Its creators liked to
claim that "Blit" stood for the Bacon, Lettuce, and Interactive Tomato.)

   :blitter: /blit'r/ n.  [common] 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 blaster}.

   :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.  [common] Software that provides minimal
functionality while requiring a disproportionate amount of diskspace
and memory.  Especially used for 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.  [common; 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 zero'.

   :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 {{nanotechnology}}.

   :Blue Screen of Death: n.  [common] This term is closely related
to the older {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 misbehaving applications can readily
crash the OS (and the OS sometimes crashes itself spontaneously).
The Blue Screen of Death, sometimes decorated with hex error codes,
is what you get when this happens.  (Commonly abbreviated {BSOD}.)

   The following entry from the Salon Haiku Contest
(, seems to
have predated popular use of the term:

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

   :blue wire: n.  [IBM] Patch wires (esp. 30 AWG gauge) added to
circuit boards at the factory to correct design or fabrication problems.
Blue wire is not necessarily blue, the term describes function rather
than color.  These may be necessary if there hasn't been time to design
and qualify another board version.  In Great Britain this can be `bodge
wire', after mainstreanm slang `bodge' for a clumsy improvisation or
sloppy job of work.  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 Normal Form'
(later retronymed to `Backus-Naur Form' because BNF was not in fact a
normal 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 terribly.

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

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

   :boat anchor: n.  [common; 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 personnel 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" reports a witness).

   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. [common] 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.  [common] 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}.

   :BogoMIPS: /bo'go-mips/ n.  The number of million times a second
a processor can do absolutely nothing.	The {Linux} OS measures
BogoMIPS at startup in order to calibrate some soft timing loops
that will be used later on; details at the BogoMIPS mini-HOWTO
(  The name Linus chose, of course, is an
ironic comment on the uselessness of all _other_ {MIPS} figures.

   :bogon: /boh'gon/ n.  [very common; 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 bogodynamics}.

   :bogosity: /boh-go's*-tee/ n.  1. [orig. CMU, now very common]
The degree to which something is {bogus}.  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
meditation}, in which icons of little black-powder bombs or mushroom
clouds are displayed, indicating that the system has died.  On the Mac,
this may be accompanied by a decimal (or occasionally hexadecimal) number
indicating what went wrong, similar to the Amiga {guru meditation} number.
{{MS-DOS}} machines tend to get {locked up} in this situation.

   :bondage-and-discipline language: n.  A language (such as
{{Pascal}}, {{Ada}}, APL, or Prolog) that, though ostensibly
general-purpose, is designed so as to enforce an author's theory of
`right programming' even though said theory is demonstrably inadequate
for systems hacking or even vanilla general-purpose programming.
Often abbreviated `B&D'; thus, one may speak of things "having the
B&D nature".  See {{Pascal}}; oppose {languages of choice}.

   :bonk/oif: /bonk/, /oyf/ interj.  In the U.S. {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.
Note: in parts of the U.K. `bonk' is a sexually loaded slang term; care
is advised in transatlantic conversations (see {boink}).  Commonwealth
hackers report a similar convention involving the `fish/bang' balance.
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}, {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 and 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 running."

   Opposed to this there is `hard boot', which connotes hostility
towards or frustration with the machine being booted: "I'll have to
hard-boot this losing Sun."  "I recommend booting it hard."  One often
hard-boots by performing a {power cycle}.

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

   :Borg: n.  In "Star Trek: The Next Generation" the Borg is a
species of cyborg that ruthlessly seeks to incorporate all sentient life
into itself; their slogan is "You will be assimilated.	Resistance is
futile."  In hacker parlance, the Borg is usually {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.  (Other companies,
notably Intel and UUNet, have also occasionally been equated to the
Borg.) See also {Evil Empire}, {Internet Exploiter}.

   In IETF circles, where direct pressure from Microsoft is not a
daily reality, the Borg is sometimes Cisco. This usage commemmorates their
tendency to pay any price to hire talent away from their competitors.
In fact, at the Spring 1997 IETF, a large number of ex-Cisco employees,
all former members of Routing Geeks, showed up with t-shirts printed with
"Recovering Borg".

   :borken: adj.  (also `borked') Common deliberate typo for

   :bot: n [common on IRC, MUD and among gamers; from `robot'] 1.
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. 2. An AI-controlled player in a
computer game (especially a first-person shooter such as Quake) which,
unlike ordinary monsters, operates like a human-controlled player, with
access to a player's weapons and abilities.  An example can be found
at `'.  3. Term used, though less
commonly, for a web {spider}.  The file for controlling spider behavior
on your site is officially the "Robots Exclusion File" and its URL is

   Note that bots in all senses were `robots' when the terms first
appeared in the early 1990s, but the shortened form is now habitual.

   :bot spot: n.  [MUD] The user on a MUD with the longest connect
time.  Derives from the fact that {bot}s on MUDS often stay constantly
connected and appear at the bottom of the list.

   :bottom feeder: n.  1. An Internet user that leeches off ISPs -
the sort you can never provide good enough services for, always complains
about the price, no matter how low it may be, and will bolt off to
another service the moment there is even the slimmest price difference.
While most bottom feeders infest free or almost free services such as
AOL, MSN, and Hotmail, too many flock to whomever happens to be the
cheapest regional ISP at the time. Bottom feeders are often the classic
problem user, known for unleashing spam, flamage, and other breaches of
{netiquette}.  2. Syn. for {slopsucker}, derived from the fishermen's and
naturalists' term for finny creatures who subsist on the primordial ooze.
(This sense is older.)

   :bottom-up implementation: n.  Hackish opposite of the techspeak
term `top-down design'.  It has been 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.
Naively applied, this leads to hacked-together bottom-up implementations;
a more sophisticated response is `middle-out implementation', in which
scratch code within primitives at the mid-level of the system is gradually
replaced with a more polished version of the lowest level at the same
time the structure above the midlevel is being built.

   :bounce: v.	1. [common; 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.	[common] 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},
{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.  [very common; 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.  [common] 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. [common; 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 product it is intended to sell.  Syn.

   :brain-dead: adj.  [common] 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.  1. 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.  2. In user-interface design, any feature
that allows some tracking of where you've been, like coloring visited
links purple rather than blue in Netscape (also called `footrinting').

   :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.  [common] 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 commercial software, which (due to closed-source
development) displays the quality far more often than it ought to.
Oppose {robust}.

   :broadcast storm: n.  [common] 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

   :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.  [rare; 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 development 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 (though it's not the whole story; see {bazaar}); too often,
{management} still does.  See also {creationism}, {second-system effect},

   :brown-paper-bag bug: n.  A bug in a public software release that
is so embarrassing 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 techspeak meaning
of the word previously lacking in hacker usage.  Nowadays, if someone
mentions using a `browser' without qualification, one may assume it is
a Web browser.

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

   :brute force: adj.  Describes a primitive programming style, one
in which the programmer relies on the computer's processing power
instead of using his or her own intelligence to simplify the problem,
often ignoring problems of scale and applying naive methods suited to
small problems directly to large ones.	The term can also be used in
reference to programming style: brute-force programs are written in a
heavyhanded, tedious way, full of repetition and devoid of any elegance
or useful abstraction (see also {brute force and ignorance}).

   The {canonical} example of a brute-force algorithm is associated
with the `traveling salesman problem' (TSP), a classical {NP-}hard
problem: Suppose a person is in, say, Boston, and wishes to drive to N
other cities.  In what order should the cities be visited in order to
minimize the distance travelled?  The brute-force method is to simply
generate all possible routes and compare the distances; while guaranteed
to work and simple to implement, this algorithm is clearly very stupid in
that it considers even obviously absurd routes (like going from Boston
to Houston via San Francisco and New York, in that order).  For very
small N it works well, but it rapidly becomes absurdly inefficient when
N increases (for N = 15, there are already 1,307,674,368,000 possible
routes to consider, and for N = 1000 -- well, see {bignum}).  Sometimes,
unfortunately, there is no better general solution than brute force.
See also {NP-}.

   A more simple-minded example of brute-force programming is finding
the smallest number in a large list by first using an existing program
to sort the list in ascending order, and then picking the first number
off the front.

   Whether brute-force programming should actually be considered
stupid or not depends on the context; if the problem is not terribly
big, the extra CPU time spent on a brute-force solution may cost less
than the programmer time it would take to develop a more `intelligent'
algorithm.  Additionally, a more intelligent algorithm may imply more
long-term complexity cost and bug-chasing than are justified by the
speed improvement.

   Ken Thompson, co-inventor of Unix, is reported to have uttered the
epigram "When in doubt, use brute force".  He probably intended this
as a {ha ha only serious}, but the original Unix kernel's preference
for simple, robust, and portable algorithms over {brittle} `smart' ones
does seem to have been a significant factor in the success of that OS.
Like so many other tradeoffs in software design, the choice between
brute force and complex, finely-tuned cleverness is often a difficult
one that requires both engineering savvy and delicate esthetic judgment.

   :brute force and ignorance: n.  A popular design technique at
many software houses -- {brute force} coding unrelieved by any knowledge
of how problems have been previously solved in elegant ways.  Dogmatic
adherence to design methodologies tends to encourage this sort of thing.
Characteristic of early {larval stage} programming; unfortunately, many
never outgrow it.  Often abbreviated BFI: "Gak, they used a {bubble sort}!
That's strictly from BFI."  Compare {bogosity}.

   :BSD: /B-S-D/ n.  [abbreviation for `Berkeley Software
Distribution'] a family of {{Unix}} versions for the {DEC} {VAX} and
PDP-11 developed by Bill Joy and others at {Berzerkeley} starting
around 1977, 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; descendants including
Free/Open/NetBSD, BSD/OS and MacOS X are still widely popular.	Note that
BSD versions going back to 2.9 are often referred to by their version
numbers alone, without the BSD prefix.	See {4.2}, {{Unix}}, {USG Unix}.

   :BSOD: /B-S-O-D/ 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 {warlording}.

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

   :bubble sort: n.  Techspeak for a particular sorting technique in
which pairs of adjacent values in the list to be sorted are compared and
interchanged if they are out of order; thus, list entries `bubble upward'
in the list until they bump into one with a lower sort value.  Because it
is not very good relative to other methods and is the one typically
stumbled on by {naive} and untutored programmers, hackers consider it
the {canonical} example of a naive algorithm. (However, it's been shown
by repeated experiment that below about 5000 records bubble-sort is OK
anyway.) The canonical example of a really _bad_ algorithm is {bogo-sort}.
A bubble sort might be used out of ignorance, but any use of bogo-sort
could issue only from brain damage or willful perversity.

   :bucky bits: /buh'kee bits/ n.  1. obs. The bits produced by the
CONTROL and META shift keys on a SAIL keyboard (octal 200 and 400
respectively), resulting in a 9-bit keyboard character set.  The MIT
AI TV (Knight) keyboards extended this with TOP and separate left
and right CONTROL and META keys, resulting in a 12-bit character set;
later, LISP Machines added such keys as SUPER, HYPER, and GREEK (see
{space-cadet keyboard}).  2. By extension, bits associated with `extra'
shift keys on any keyboard, e.g., the ALT on an IBM PC or command and
option keys on a Macintosh.

   It has long been rumored that `bucky bits' were named for
Buckminster Fuller during a period when he was consulting at Stanford.
Actually, bucky bits were invented by Niklaus Wirth when _he_ was at
Stanford in 1964-65; he first suggested the idea of an EDIT key to set
the 8th bit of an otherwise 7-bit ASCII character).  It seems that,
unknown to Wirth, certain Stanford hackers had privately nicknamed him
`Bucky' after a prominent portion of his dental anatomy, and this nickname
transferred to the bit.  Bucky-bit commands were used in a number of
editors written at Stanford, including most notably TV-EDIT and NLS.

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

   :buffer chuck: n.  Shorter and ruder syn. for {buffer overflow}.

   :buffer overflow: n.  What happens when you try to stuff more
data into a buffer (holding area) than it can handle.  This problem is
commonly exploited by {cracker}s to get arbitrary commands executed by
a program running with root permissions.  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!  --ESR]

   :bug-compatible: adj.  [common] 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'.
See also {kernel-of-the-week club}.

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

   :bulletproof: adj.  Used of an algorithm or implementation
considered extremely {robust}; lossage-resistant; capable of correctly
recovering from any imaginable exception condition -- a rare and valued
quality.  Implies that the programmer has thought of all possible errors,
and added {code} to protect against each one.  Thus, in some cases,
this can imply code that is too heavyweight, due to excessive paranoia
on the part of the programmer. Syn.  {armor-plated}.

   :bullschildt: /bul'shilt/ n.  [comp.lang.c on USENET] A
confident, but incorrect, statement about a programming language.
This immortalizes a very bad book about {C}, Herbert Schildt's "C -
The Complete Reference". One reviewer commented "The naive errors in
this book would be embarassing even in a programming assignment turned
in by a computer science college sophomore."

   :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 buggery.

   :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 treasure!"

   :burn-in period: n.	1. A factory test designed to catch systems
with {marginal} components before they get out the door; the theory is
that burn-in will protect customers by outwaiting the steepest part of the
{bathtub curve} (see {infant mortality}).  2. A period of indeterminate
length in which a person using a computer is so intensely involved in
his project that he forgets basic needs such as food, drink, sleep, etc.
Warning: Excessive burn-in can lead to burn-out.  See {hack mode},
{larval stage}.

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

   Technically, `busy-wait' means to wait on an event by {spin}ning
through a tight or timed-delay loop that polls for the event on each pass,
as opposed to setting up an interrupt handler and continuing execution on
another part of the task.  In applications this is a wasteful technique,
and best avoided on time-sharing systems where a busy-waiting program
may {hog} the processor.  However, it is often unavoidable in kernel
programming.  In the Linux world, kernel busy-waits are usually referred
to as `spinlocks'.

   :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, esp. by applying an AC rather
than DC signal.  Some wire faults will pass DC tests but fail an AC
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.  [common] 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.  [common; 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: // [common, esp. on]
Contraction of "Coffee & Cats".  This frequently occurs as a warning
label on USENET posts that are likely to cause you to {snarf} coffee
onto your keyboard and startle the cat off your lap.

   :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
and 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: compound, 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

   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 hacker.

   [The overtones from the old Chevy Chase skit on Saturday Night Live
 should not be overlooked.  This was a "Jaws" parody.  Someone
lurking outside an apartment door tries all kinds of bogus ways to get
the occupant to open up, while ominous music plays in the background.
The last attempt is a half-hearted "Candygram!"  When the door is opened,
a shark bursts in and chomps the poor occupant.  [There is a 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.  [very common; 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 mind}.

   :careware: /keir'weir/ n.  A variety of {shareware} for which
either the author suggests that some payment be made to a nominated
charity or a levy directed to charity is included on top of the
distribution charge.  Syn. {charityware}; compare {crippleware}, sense 2.

   :cargo cult programming: n.	A style of (incompetent) programming
dominated by ritual inclusion of code or program structures that serve no
real purpose.  A cargo cult programmer will usually explain the extra code
as a way of working around some bug encountered in the past, but usually
neither the bug nor the reason the code apparently avoided the bug was
ever fully understood (compare {shotgun debugging}, {voodoo programming}).

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

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

   :case and paste: 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 "{Some AI Koans}" (Appendix A).

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

   :cat: [from `catenate' via {{Unix}} `cat(1)'] vt.  1. [techspeak]
To spew an entire file to the screen or some other output sink without
pause (syn. {blast}).  2. By extension, to dump large amounts of data
at an unprepared target or with no intention of browsing it carefully.
Usage: considered silly.  Rare outside Unix sites.  See also {dd}, {BLT}.

   Among Unix fans, `cat(1)' is considered an excellent example of
user-interface design, because it delivers the file contents without
such verbosity as spacing or headers between the files, and because it
does not require the files to consist of lines of text, but works with
any sort of data.

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

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

   :catatonic: adj.  Describes a condition of suspended animation in
which something is so {wedged} or {hung} that it makes no response.
If you are typing on a terminal and suddenly the computer doesn't even
echo the letters back to the screen as you type, let alone do what you're
asking it to do, then the computer is suffering from catatonia (possibly
because it has crashed).  "There I was in the middle of a winning game
of {nethack} and it went catatonic on me!  Aaargh!" Compare {buzz}.

   :cathedral: n.,adj.	[see {bazaar} for derivation] The
`classical' mode of software engineering long thought to be necessarily
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 assumptions.

   :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}.

   :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

   :chad: /chad/ n.  1. [common] 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', `callahans', and `#report'.	At times of international crisis,
`#report' has hundreds of members, some of whom take turns listening to
various news services and typing in summaries of the news, or in some
cases, giving first-hand accounts of the action (e.g., Scud missile
attacks in Tel Aviv during the Gulf War in 1991).

   :channel hopping: n.  [common; 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' or just `op' (as of 2000 these short forms have almost crowded
out the parent usage).	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 {molly-guard}s).

   :cheerfully: adv.  See {happily}.

   :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 (within Commodore itself the
logo was always called `chicken lips').  Rendered in ASCII as `C='.  With
the arguable exception of the Amiga (see {amoeba}), Commodore's machines
were notoriously crocky little {bitty box}es (see also {PETSCII}),
albeit people have written multitasking Unix-like operating systems
with TCP/IP networking for them.  Thus, this usage may owe something to
Philip K. Dick's novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"  (the basis
for the movie "Blade Runner"; the novel is now sold under that title),
in which a `chickenhead' is a mutant with below-average intelligence.

   :chiclet keyboard: n.  A keyboard with a small, flat rectangular
or lozenge-shaped rubber or plastic keys that look like pieces of
chewing gum.  (Chiclets is the brand name of a variety of chewing gum
that does in fact resemble the keys of chiclet keyboards.)  Used esp. to
describe the original IBM PCjr keyboard.  Vendors unanimously liked these
because they were cheap, and a lot of early portable and laptop products
got launched using them.  Customers rejected the idea with almost equal
unanimity, and chiclets are not often seen on anything larger than a
digital watch any more.

   :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 Raj.

   :choke: v.  1. [common] 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

   :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.) Compare {Godzillagram}.

   :chrome: n.	[from automotive slang via wargaming] Showy features
added to attract users but contributing little or nothing to the power
of a system.  "The 3D icons in Motif are just chrome, but they certainly
are _pretty_ chrome!"  Distinguished from {bells and whistles} by the
fact that the latter are usually added to gratify developers' own desires
for featurefulness.  Often used as a term of contempt.

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

   :Church of the SubGenius: n.  A mutant offshoot of
{Discordianism} launched in 1981 as a spoof of fundamentalist Christianity
by the `Reverend' Ivan Stang, a brilliant satirist with a gift for
promotion.  Popular among hackers as a rich source of bizarre imagery
and references such as "Bob" the divine drilling-equipment salesman, the
Benevolent Space Xists, and the Stark Fist of Removal.	Much SubGenius
theory is concerned with the acquisition of the mystical substance or
quality of {slack}.  There is a home page at `'.

   :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/ n.  [a play on `Coke Classic'] 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}.

   :clock: 1. n 1. [techspeak] The master oscillator that steps a
CPU or other digital circuit through its paces. This has nothing to do
with the time of day, although the software counter that keeps track
of the latter may be derived from the former. 2. vt.  To run a CPU or
other digital circuit at a particular rate. "If you clock it at 100MHz,
it gets warm.".  See {overclock}.  3. vt. To force a digital circuit
from one state to the next by applying a single clock pulse. "The data
must be stable 10ns before you clock the latch."

   :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}, {jiffy}.

   :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}.
Syn. `clue stick'.  This metaphor is commonly elaborated; your editor
once heard a hacker say "I strike you with the great sword Clue-Bringer!"

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

   :co-lo: /koh'loh`/ n.  [very common; first heard c.1995] Short
for `co-location', used of a machine you own that is physically sited
on the premises of an ISP in order to take advantage of the ISP's direct
access to lots of network bandwidthm.  Often in the phrases `co-lo box'
or `co-lo machines'.  Co-lo boxes are typically web and FTP servers
remote-administered by their owners, who may seldom or never visit the
actual site.

   :coaster: n.  1. 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." 2.  Useless CDs
received in the mail from the likes of AOL, MSN, CI$, Prodigy, ad nauseam.

   In the U.K., `beermat' is often used in these senses.

   :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.

   :code: n.  The stuff that software writers write, either in
source form or after translation by a compiler or assembler.  Often used
in opposition to "data", which is the stuff that code operates on.
This is a mass noun, as in "How much code does it take to do a {bubble
sort}?", or "The code is loaded at the high end of RAM."  Anyone referring
to software as "the software codes" is probably a {newbie} or a {suit}.

   :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 monkey: n 1. A person only capable of grinding out code,
but unable to perform the higher-primate tasks of software architecture,
analysis, and design.  Mildly insulting.  Often applied to the most junior
people on a programming team.  2. Anyone who writes code for a living;
a programmer.  3. A self-deprecating way of denying responsibility for
a {management} decision, or of complaining about having to live with
such decisions.  As in "Don't ask me why we need to write a compiler
in+COBOL, I'm just a code monkey."

   :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 of X', 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
`escape-escape-cokebottle' commands at MIT.  After the demise of the
{space-cadet keyboard}, `cokebottle' faded away as serious usage,
but was often invoked humorously to describe an (unspecified) weird or
non-intuitive keystroke command.  It may be due for a second inning,
however.  The OSF/Motif window manager, `mwm(1)', has a reserved
keystroke for switching to the default set of keybindings and behavior.
This keystroke is (believe it or not) `control-meta-bang' (see {bang}).
Since the exclamation point looks a lot like an upside down Coke bottle,
Motif hackers have begun referring to this keystroke as `cokebottle'.
See also {quadruple bucky}.

   :cold boot: n.  See {boot}.

   :COME FROM: n.  A semi-mythical language construct dual to the
`go to'; `COME FROM' <label> would cause the referenced label to act as
a sort of trapdoor, so that if the program ever reached it control would
quietly and {automagically} be transferred to the statement following
the `COME FROM'.  `COME FROM' was first proposed in R. Lawrence Clark's
"A Linguistic Contribution to GOTO-less programming", which appeared in
a 1973 {Datamation} issue (and was reprinted in the April 1984 issue of
"Communications of the ACM").  This parodied the then-raging `structured
programming' {holy wars} (see {considered harmful}).  Mythically,
some variants are the `assigned COME FROM' and the `computed COME
FROM' (parodying some nasty control constructs in FORTRAN and some
extended BASICs).  Of course, multi-tasking (or non-determinism) could
be implemented by having more than one `COME FROM' statement coming from
the same label.

   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

   :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/).

   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!").

   All the generic differences within the anglophone world inevitably
show themselves in the associated hackish dialects.  The Greek letters
beta and zeta are usually pronounced /bee't*/ and /zee't*/; meta may
also be pronounced /mee't*/.  Various punctuators (and even letters -
Z is called `zed', not `zee') are named differently: most crucially,
for hackish, where Americans use `parens', `brackets' and `braces' for
(), [] and {}, Commonwealth English uses `brackets', `square brackets'
and `curly brackets', though `parentheses' may be used for the first;
the exclamation mark, `!', is called pling rather than bang and the
pound sign, `#', is called hash; furthermore, the term `the pound sign'
is understood to mean the pound currency symbol (of course).

   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).

   :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.

   :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. [common] 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: n.  [from SF fandom] A science-fiction convention.  Not
used of other sorts of conventions, such as professional meetings.
This term, unlike many others imported from 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.  [very common] 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. (Years afterwards, a contrary view was uttered in a
CACM letter called, inevitably, "`Goto considered harmful' considered
harmful'"'.  In the ensuing decades, a large number of both serious
papers and parodies have borne titles of the form "X considered Y".
The structured-programming wars eventually blew over with the realization
that both sides were wrong, but use of such titles has remained as a
persistent minor in-joke (the `considered silly' found at various places
in this lexicon is related).

   :console:: n.  1. The operator's station of a {mainframe}.  In
times past, this was a privileged location 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}.

   :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-S}.

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

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

   :Conway's Law: prov.  The rule that the organization of the
software and the organization of the software team will be congruent;
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}.
Now mainstream in the specific sense of web-browser cookies.

   :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}.

   :copycenter: n.  [play on `copyright' and `copyleft'] 1. The
copyright notice carried by the various flavors of freeware BSD.
According to Kirk McKusick at BSDCon 1999: "The way it was characterized
politically, you had copyright, which is what the big companies use to
lock everything up; you had copyleft, which is free software's way of
making sure they can't lock it up; and then Berkeley had what we called
"copycenter", which is "take it down to the copy center and make as many
copies as you want".

   :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.  [rare] 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' or surf to
the King Of The Hill ( site.

   :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}.

   :courier: [BBS & cracker cultures] A person who distributes
newly cracked {warez}, as opposed to a {server} who makes them available
for download or a {leech} who merely downloads them.  Hackers recognize
this term but don't use it themselves, as the act is not part of their
culture.  See also {warez d00dz}, {cracker}, {elite}.

   :cow orker: n.  [Usenet] n. fortuitous typo for co-worker, widely
used in Usenet, with perhaps a hint that orking cows is illegal.
This term was popularized by Scott Adams (the creator of {Dilbert}) but
already appears in the January 1996 version of the {scary devil monastery}
FAQ. There are plausible reports that it was in use on talk.bizarre as
early as 1992. 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

   :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: [warez d00dz] 1. v. To break into a system (compare
{cracker}). 2. v. Action of removing the copy protection from a commercial
program.  People who write cracks consider themselves challenged by the
copy protection measures. They will often do it as much to show that
they are smarter than the developper who designed the copy protection
scheme than to actually copy the program. 3. n.  A program, instructions
or patch used to remove the copy protection of a program or to uncripple
features from a demo/time limited program.  4. An {exploit}.

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

   :crank: vt.	[from automotive slang] Verb used to describe the
performance of a machine, especially sustained performance.  "This box
cranks (or, cranks at) about 6 megaflops, with a burst mode of twice
that on vectorized operations."

   :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.  Also spelled `craplet'.

   :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 inconvenienced.

   :crawling horror: n.  Ancient crufty hardware or software that is
kept obstinately alive by forces beyond the control of the hackers at
a site.  Like {dusty deck} or {gonkulator}, but connotes that the thing
described is not just an irritation but an active menace to health and
sanity.  "Mostly we code new stuff in C, but they pay us to maintain one
big FORTRAN II application from nineteen-sixty-X that's a real crawling
horror...." Compare {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. Formerly, anyone who worked for Cray Research; since
the buyout by SGI, anyone they inherited from Cray.  3. A {computron}
(sense 2) that participates only in {number-crunching}.  4. 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.  [common] 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. [common] 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 diked out (in
some early versions it was present but disabled).  To upgrade, you buy
a complete 486DX chip with _working_ co-processor (its identity thinly
veiled by a different pinout) and plug it into the board's expansion
socket.  It then disables the SX, which becomes a fancy power sink.
Don't you love Intel?

   :critical mass: n.  In physics, the minimum amount of fissionable
material required to sustain a chain reaction.	Of a software product,
describes a condition of the software such that fixing one bug
introduces one plus {epsilon} bugs.  (This malady has many causes:
{creeping featurism}, ports to too many disparate environments, poor
initial design, etc.)  When software achieves critical mass, it can
never be fixed; it can only be discarded and rewritten.

   :crlf: /ker'l*f/, sometimes /kru'l*f/ or /C-R-L-F/ n.  (often
capitalized as `CRLF') A carriage return (CR, ASCII 0001101) followed by
a line feed (LF, ASCII 0001010).  More loosely, whatever it takes to get
you from the end of one line of text to the beginning of the next line.
See {newline}, {terpri}.  Under {{Unix}} influence this usage has become
less common (Unix uses a bare line feed as its `CRLF').

   :crock: n.  [from the American scatologism `crock of shit'] 1. An
awkward feature or programming technique that ought to be made cleaner.
For example, using small integers to represent error codes without
the program interpreting them to the user (as in, for example, Unix
`make(1)', which returns code 139 for a process that dies due to
{segfault}).  2. A technique that works acceptably, but which is quite
prone to failure if disturbed in the least.  For example, a too-clever
programmer might write an assembler which mapped instruction mnemonics
to numeric opcodes algorithmically, a trick which depends far too
intimately on the particular bit patterns of the opcodes.  (For another
example of programming with a dependence on actual opcode values, see
{The Story of Mel} 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: vi.  [Usenet; very common] 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.

   :crossload: v.,n.  [proposed, by analogy with {upload} and
{download}] To move files between machines on a peer-to-peer network of
nodes that act as both servers and clients for a distributed file store.
Esp. appropriate for ananonymized networks like Gnutella and Freenet.

   :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/ [very common; 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.  [very common; 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.

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

   :CTSS: /C-T-S-S/ n.	Compatible Time-Sharing System.  An early
(1963) experiment in the design of interactive time-sharing operating
systems, ancestral to {{Multics}}, {{Unix}}, and {{ITS}}.  The name
{{ITS}} (Incompatible Time-sharing System) was a hack on CTSS, meant both
as a joke and to express some basic differences in philosophy about the
way I/O services should be presented to user programs.

   :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).

   :cup holder: n.  The tray of a CD-ROM drive, or by extension the
CD drive itself. So called because of a common tech support legend about
the idiot who called to complain that the cup holder on his computer
broke. A joke program was once distributed around the net called
"cupholder.exe", which when run simply extended the CD drive tray. The
humor of this was of course lost on people whose drive had a slot or a
caddy instead.

   :cursor dipped in X: n.  There are a couple of metaphors in
English of the form `pen dipped in X' (perhaps the most common values
of X are `acid', `bile', and `vitriol').  These map over neatly to this
hackish usage (the cursor being what moves, leaving letters behind,
when one is composing on-line).  "Talk about a {nastygram}!  He must've
had his cursor dipped in acid when he wrote that one!"

   :cuspy: /kuhs'pee/ adj.  [WPI: from the {DEC} abbreviation CUSP,
for `Commonly Used System Program', i.e., a utility program used by many
people] 1. (of a program) Well-written.  2. Functionally excellent.
A program that performs well and interfaces well to users is cuspy.
See {rude}.  3. [NYU] Said of an attractive woman, especially one regarded
as available.  Implies a certain curvaceousness.

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

   All of these usages reflect physical processes in obsolete
recording and duplication technologies.  The first stage in manufacturing
an old-style vinyl record involved cutting grooves in a stamping die
with a precision lathe.  More mundanely, the dominant technology for
mass duplication of paper documents in pre-photocopying days involved
"cutting a stencil", punching away portions of the wax overlay on a
silk screen.  More directly, paper tape with holes punched in it was an
important early storage 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 radix-64 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.
Oppose {meatspace}.  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 described 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.,obs.  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 crunch.

   :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.	See {wheel of reincarnation}.

   :cycle server: n.  A powerful machine that exists primarily for
running large compute-, disk-, or memory-intensive jobs (more formally
called a `compute server').  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}; the prototype was a program
called DAEMON that automatically made tape backups of the file system.
Although the meaning and the pronunciation have drifted, we think this
glossary reflects current (2000) 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 "One Froggy Evening", featuring a dancing
and singing Michigan J. Frog that just croaks when anyone else is around
(now the WB network mascot).

   :dangling pointer: n.  [common] 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/ n.  [German FidoNet] 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

   :DDT: /D-D-T/ n.  [from the insecticide
para-dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethene] 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 `businesslike'.

   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 beef attack: n.  [cypherpunks list, 1996] An attack on a
public-key cryptosystem consisting of publishing a key having the same
ID as another key (thus making it possible to spoof a user's identity
if recipients aren't careful about verifying keys). In PGP and GPG the
key ID is the last eight hex digits of (for RSA keys) the product of
two primes. The attack was demonstrated by creating a key whose ID was
0xdeadbeef (see {DEADBEEF}).

   :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.  [very common] 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}, {link rot}.

   :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} and {dead beef attack}.

   :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.  1. 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}.  2. 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 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

   :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.	[mythically from a traditional Czech
assasination method, 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.

   :deletia: n. /d*-lee'sha/ [USENET; common] In an email reply,
material omitted from the quote of the original.  Usually written rather
than spoken; often appears as a pseudo-tag or ellipsis in the body of
the reply, as "[deletia]" or "<deletia>".

   :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
malfunctioning 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},
{brain-damaged}, {bozotic}.

   :demigod: n.  A hacker with years of experience, a world-wide
reputation, and a major role in the development of at least one design,
tool, or game used by or known to more than half of the hacker community.
To qualify as a genuine demigod, the person must recognizably identify
with the hacker community and have helped shape it.  Major demigods
include Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie (co-inventors of {{Unix}} and
{C}), Richard M. Stallman (inventor of {EMACS}), Larry Wall (inventor
of {Perl}), Linus Torvalds (inventor of {Linux}), and most recently
James Gosling (inventor of Java, {NeWS}, and {GOSMACS}) and Guido van
Rossum (inventor of {Python}).	In their hearts of hearts, most hackers
dream of someday becoming demigods themselves, and more than one major
software project has been driven to completion by the author's veiled
hopes of apotheosis.  See also {net.god}, {true-hacker}.

   :demo: /de'moh/ [short for `demonstration'] 1. v. To demonstrate
a product or prototype.  A far more effective way of inducing bugs
to manifest than any number of {test} runs, especially when important
people are watching.  2. n. The act of demoing.  "I've gotta give a demo
of the drool-proof interface; how does it work again?"	3. n. Esp. as
`demo version', can refer either to an early, barely-functional version
of a program which can be used for demonstration purposes as long as the
operator uses _exactly_ the right commands and skirts its numerous bugs,
deficiencies, and unimplemented portions, or to a special version of a
program (frequently with some features crippled) which is distributed at
little or no cost to the user for enticement purposes.	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 descendant 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.

   Traditionally demos were written in assembly language, with lots of
 smart tricks, self-modifying code, undocumented op-codes and the
like.  Some time around 1995, people started coding demos in C, and a
couple of years after that, they also started using Java.

   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 the 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-purpose 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}.

   [Usage note: don't confuse this word with `depreciate', or the verb
form `deprecate' with `depreciated`.  They are different words; see any
dictionary for discussion.]

   :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 Delaware.

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

   :desk check: n.,v.  To {grovel} over hardcopy of source code,
mentally simulating the control flow; a method of catching bugs.
No longer common practice in this age of on-screen editing, fast compiles,
and sophisticated debuggers -- though some maintain stoutly that it
ought to be.  Compare {eyeball search}, {vdiff}, {vgrep}.

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

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

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

   :dickless workstation: n.  Extremely pejorative hackerism for
`diskless workstation', a class of botches including the Sun 3/50 and
other machines designed exclusively to network with an expensive central
disk server.  These combine all the disadvantages of time-sharing with
all the disadvantages of distributed personal computers; typically,
they cannot even {boot} themselves without help (in the form of some
kind of {breath-of-life packet}) from the server.

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

   :diddle: 1. vt. To work with or modify in a not particularly
serious manner.  "I diddled a copy of {ADVENT} so it didn't double-space
all the time."	"Let's diddle this piece of code and see if the problem
goes away."  See {tweak} and {twiddle}.  2. n.	The action or result
of diddling.  See also {tweak}, {twiddle}, {frob}.

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

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

   :diff: /dif/ n.  1. A change listing, especially giving
differences between (and additions to) source code or documents (the
term is often used in the plural `diffs').  "Send me your diffs for the
Jargon File!"  Compare {vdiff}.  2. Specifically, such a listing produced
by the `diff(1)' command, esp. when used as specification input to the
`patch(1)' utility (which can actually perform the modifications; see
{patch}).  This is a common method of distributing patches and source
updates in the Unix/C world.  3. v.  To compare (whether or not by use
of 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 more common 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 (but spat it back out a
few years later). Control Data still exists but is no longer in the
mainframe business.  More such earth-shaking unions of doomed giants
seem inevitable.

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

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

   :dirty power: n.  Electrical mains voltage that is unfriendly to
the delicate innards of computers.  Spikes, {drop-outs}, average voltage
significantly higher or lower than nominal, or just plain noise can all
cause problems of varying subtlety and severity (these are collectively
known as {power hit}s).

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

   :Discordianism: /dis-kor'di-*n-ism/ n.  The veneration of {Eris},
a.k.a. Discordia; widely popular among hackers.  Discordianism
was popularized by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's novel
"Illuminatus!" as a sort of self-subverting Dada-Zen for Westerners
-- it should on no account be taken seriously but is far more serious
than most jokes.  Consider, for example, the Fifth Commandment of the
Pentabarf, from "Principia Discordia": "A Discordian is Prohibited
of Believing What he Reads."  Discordianism is usually connected with
an elaborate conspiracy theory/joke involving millennia-long warfare
between the anarcho-surrealist partisans of Eris and a malevolent,
authoritarian secret society called the Illuminati.  See {Religion}
in Appendix B, {Church of the SubGenius}, and {ha ha only serious}.

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

   :display hack: n.  A program with the same approximate purpose as
a kaleidoscope: to make pretty pictures.  Famous display hacks include
{munching squares}, {smoking clover}, the BSD Unix `rain(6)' program,
`worms(6)' on miscellaneous Unixes, and the {X} `kaleid(1)' program.
Display hacks can also be implemented 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}.  Since about 1996 unqualified use of this
term often implies `{Linux} distribution'.  The short for {distro}
is often used for this sense.  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.

   :distro: n.	Synonym for {distribution}, sense 1.

   :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},

   :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.  It also lurks in other Mac printer
drivers, notably those for the now-discontinued Style Writers.	Sadly,
Apple has removed the pages that used to describe the dogcow.

   :dogfood: n.  [Microsoft, Netscape] 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 Netscape). The practice is normal in the Linux community
and elsewhere, but the term `dogfood' is seldom used as open-source betas
tend to be quite tasty and nourishing.	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.  It has
been suggested that this derives from U.S, football slang for a tackle
involving three or more people; among hackers, it seems at least as
likely do derive from an `autobiographical' Bugs Bunny cartoon in which
a gang of attacking canines actually yells "Dogpile on the rabbit!".

   :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}.

   Here's a classic example of "Don't do that then!" from Neil
Stephenson's "In The Beginning Was The Command Line".  A friend of his
built a network with a load of Macs and a few high-powered database
servers. He found that from time to time the whole network would lock
up for no apparent reason. The problem was eventually tracked down to
MacOS's cooperative multitasking: when a user held down the mouse button
for too long, the network stack wouldn't get a chance to run...

   :dongle: /dong'gl/ n.  1. [now obs.] A security or {copy
protection} device for proprietary software 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. By 1993, dongles would typically 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.  These devices have become rare 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}.  3. An adaptor cable mating a
special edge-type connector on a PCMCIA or on-board Ethernet card to a
standard RJ45 Ethernet jack.  This usage seems to have surfaced in 1999
and is now dominant.  Laptop owners curse these things because they're
notoriously easy to lose and the vendors commonly charge extortionate
prices for replacements.

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

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

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

   :doorstop: n.  Used to describe equipment that is non-functional
and halfway expected to remain so, especially obsolete equipment kept
around for political reasons or ostensibly as a backup.  "When we
get another Wyse-50 in here, that ADM 3 will turn into a doorstop."
Compare {boat anchor}.

   :DoS attack: // [Usenet,common; note that it's unrelated to
`DOS' as name of an operating system] Abbreviation for Denial-Of-Service
attack.  This abbreviation is most often used of attempts to shut down
newsgroups with floods of {spam}, or to flood network links with large
amounts of traffic, or to flood network links with large amounts of
traffic, often by abusing network broadcast addresses Compare {slashdot

   :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:
	(Vo-vo-de-o!)  Control and meta, side by side, Augmented ASCII,
	nine bits wide!
	    Double bucky!  Half a thousand glyphs, plus a few!
		Oh, I sure wish that I Had a couple of
		    Bits more!
		Perhaps a Set of pedals to Make the number of
		    Bits four:
		Double double bucky!
	Double bucky, left and right OR'd together, outta sight!
	    Double bucky, I'd like a whole word of Double bucky, I'm
	    happy I heard of Double bucky, I'd like a whole word of you!

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

   [This, 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},

   :down: 1. adj. Not operating.  "The up escalator is down" is
considered a humorous thing to say (unless of course you were expecting
to use it), and "The elevator is down" always means "The elevator isn't
working" and never refers to what floor the elevator is on.  With respect
to computers, this term has passed into the mainstream; the extension
to other kinds of machine is still confined to techies (e.g. boiler
mechanics may speak of a boiler being down).  2. `go down' vi. To stop
functioning; usually said of the {system}.  The message from the {console}
that every hacker hates to hear from the operator is "System going down
in 5 minutes".	3. `take down', `bring down' vt. To deactivate purposely,
usually for repair work or {PM}.  "I'm taking the system down to work
on that bug in the tape drive."  Occasionally one hears the word `down'
by itself used as a verb in this vt. sense.  See {crash}; oppose {up}.

   :download: vt.  To transfer data or (esp.) code from a far-away
system (especially a larger `host' system) over a digital communications
link to a nearby system (especially a smaller `client' system.
Oppose {upload}.

   Historical use of these terms was at one time associated with
transfers from large timesharing machines to PCs or peripherals (download)
and vice-versa (upload).  The modern usage relative to the speaker (rather
than as an indicator of the size and role of the machines) evolved as
machine categories lost most of their former functional importance.

   :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 name.

   :DPer: /dee-pee-er/ n.  Data Processor.  Hackers are absolutely
amazed that {suit}s use this term self-referentially.  _Computers_
process data, not people!  See {DP}.

   :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.
Interestingly enough, it turns out that under the rules for Swahili
noun classes, `m-' is the characteristic prefix of "nouns referring to
human beings".	As such, "mbogo" is quite plausible as a Swahili coinage
for a person having the nature of a {bogon}.  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 conspiracy}.

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

   :drone: n.  Ignorant sales or customer service personnel in
computer or electronics superstores.  Characterized by a lack of even
superficial knowledge about the products they sell, yet possessed of
the conviction that they are more competent than their hacker customers.
Usage: "That video board probably sucks, it was recommended by a drone at
Fry's" In the year 2000, their natural habitats include Fry's Electronics,
Best Buy, and CompUSA.

   :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."  The SGI Indy manual is said to include the line
"Do not dangle the mouse by the cord or throw it at
  coworkers.", but this sounds like parody.

   :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},

   :drugged: adj.  (also `on drugs') 1. Conspicuously stupid,
heading toward {brain-damaged}.  Often accompanied by a pantomime of
toking a joint.  2. Of hardware, very slow relative to normal performance.

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

   :dub dub dub: [common] Spoken-only shorthand for the "www"
(double-u double-u double-u) in many web host names.  Nothing to do with
the style of reggae music called `dub'.

   :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 register.

   [For maximal obscurity, the outermost pair of braces above could
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

   :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 {nybble}.

= 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" a character won the right to scream
"Eat flaming death, fascist media pigs" in the middle of Oscar night on a
game show; 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}.

   :ed: n.  "ed is the standard text editor." Line taken from
original the {Unix} manual page on ed, an ancient line-oriented editor
that is by now used only by a few {Real Programmer}s, and even then
only for batch operations.  The original line is sometimes uttered
near the beginning of an emacs vs. vi holy war on {Usenet}, with the
(vain) hope to quench the discussion before it really takes off. Often
followed by a standard text describing the many virtues of ed (such as
the small memory {footprint} on a Timex Sinclair, and the consistent
(because nearly non-existent) user interface).

   :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 was thought by most hackers to dominate
IBM's customer base and its thinking.  This only began to change in
the mid-1990s when IBM began to reinvent itself after the triumph
of the {killer micro}.	See {IBM}, {fear and loathing}, {card
walloper}.  A copy of "The Last Bug" lives on the the GNU site at

   :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 Moffett Field - where they keep all those complex planes.

   :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.  [common; 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
native hacker slang; it is used primarily by crackers and {warez d00dz},
for which reason hackers use it only with heavy irony.	The 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. Misspellings of this term in warez d00dz style abound; the forms
`eleet', and `31337' (among others) have been sighted.

   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}.
Sources for a clone of the original Eliza are available at

   :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' (from when that was a lot of {core}), `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.  [common] 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

	  `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

   It appears that the emoticon was invented by one Scott Fahlman on
the CMU {bboard} systems sometime 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 hacker 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.  Today the prefereed shorthand is sinply
{source}. 2. The official name of the database language used by the old
Pick Operating System, actually a sort of crufty, brain-damaged SQL
with delusions of grandeur.  The name permitted {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 think 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 time}.  Microsoft Windows, on the other hand, has an
epoch problem every 49.7 days - but this is seldom noticed as Windows
is almost incapable of staying up continuously for that long.

   :epsilon: [see {delta}] 1. n. A small quantity of anything.
"The cost is epsilon."	2. adj. Very small, negligible; less than
{marginal}.  "We can get this feature for epsilon cost."  3. `within
epsilon of': close enough to be indistinguishable for all practical
purposes, even closer than being `within delta of'.  "That's not what I
asked for, but it's within epsilon of what I wanted."  Alternatively, it
may mean not close enough, but very little is required to get it there:
"My program is within epsilon of working."

   :epsilon squared: n.  A quantity even smaller than {epsilon}, as
small in comparison to epsilon as epsilon is to something normal;
completely negligible.	If you buy a supercomputer for a million dollars,
the cost of the thousand-dollar terminal to go with it is {epsilon},
and the cost of the ten-dollar cable to connect them is epsilon squared.
Compare {lost in the underflow}, {lost in the noise}.

   :era: 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 more than sixty 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 rude}.

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

   :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 person.

   :exercise, left as an: adj.	[from technical books] Used to
complete a proof when one doesn't mind a {handwave}, or to avoid one
entirely.  The complete phrase is: "The proof [or `the rest'] is left
as an exercise for the reader."  This comment _has_ occasionally been
attached to unsolved research problems by authors possessed of either
an evil sense of humor or a vast faith in the capabilities of their

   :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] 1. 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. 2. More grammatically, a program that exploits an exploit in
sense 1,

   :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 computers.

   :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." Reported as mainstream usage among players of graphics-heavy
computer games.  We're also told this term is mainstream slang for soft
pornography, but that sense does not appear to be live among hackers.

   :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.  [common] 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}.

   :fairings: n. /fer'ingz/ [FreeBSD; orig. a typo for `fairness']
A term thrown out in discussion whenever a completely and transparently
nonsensical argument in one's favor(?) seems called for, e,g. at the
end of a really long thread for which the outcome is no longer even
cared about since everyone is now so sick of it; or in rebuttal to
another nonsensical argument ("Change the loader to look for /
What about fairings?")

   :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:
	do_green(); break;
     case PINK:
	do_pink(); /* FALL THROUGH */
     case RED:
	do_red(); break;
	do_blue(); break;

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 Iberian 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 (or Windows boxes, which
have an MMU but use it incompetently), this can corrupt the OS itself,
causing massive lossage.  Other frenetic dances such as the cha-cha or
the 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.  [common; 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. [common] 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 smoke}.

   :fat-finger: vt.  1. To introduce a typo while editing in such a
way that the resulting manglification of a configuration file does
something useless, damaging, or wildly unexpected. "NSI fat-fingered
their DNS zone file and took half the net down again."	2. More generally,
any typo that produces dramatically bad results.

   :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 bigger than a workstation.
"Ack!  They want PCs to be able to talk to the AI machine.  Fear and
loathing time!"

   :feature: n.  1. [common] A good property or behavior (as of a
program).  Whether it was intended or not is immaterial.  2.  [common]
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.
[common] 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.  [common] The result of {creeping featurism},
as in "Emacs has a bad case of feature creep".

   :feature key: n.  [common] 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}, `open-apple' or (officially,
in Mac documentation) the `command key'. In French, the term `papillon'
(butterfly) has been reported. 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' (thing worth
seeing); many of these are old churches. Some Swedes report as an idiom
for the sign the word `kyrka', cognate to English `church' and pronounced
(roughly) /chur'ka/ in modern Swedish.	Others say this is nonsense.
Other idioms reported for the sign are `runa' (rune) or `runsten'
/roon'stn/ (runestone), derived from the fact that many of the interesting
features are Viking rune-stones.  The term `fornminne' /foorn'min'*/
(relic of antiquity, ancient monument) is also reported, especially
among those who think that the Mac itself is a relic of antiquity.

   :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 noises.

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

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

   :fencepost error: n.  1. [common] 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.)

   :fiber-seeking backhoe: [common among backbone ISP personnel]
Any of a genus of large, disruptive machines which routinely cut critical
backbone links, creating Internet outages and {packet over air} problems.

   :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}, {pr0n}, and {newsfroup}.

   :film at 11: [MIT: in parody of TV newscasters] 1. Used in
conversation to announce ordinary events, with a sarcastic implication
that these events are earth-shattering.  "{{ITS}} crashes; film at 11."
"Bug found in scheduler; film at 11."  2.  Also widely used outside
MIT to indicate that additional information will be available at some
future time, _without_ the implication of anything particularly ordinary
about the referenced event.  For example, "The mail file server died this
morning; we found garbage all over the root directory.	Film at 11." would
indicate that a major failure had occurred but that the people working
on it have no additional information about it as yet; use of the phrase
in this way suggests gently that the problem is liable to be fixed more
quickly if the people doing the fixing can spend time doing the fixing
rather than responding to questions, the answers to which will appear
on the normal "11:00 news", if people will just be patient.

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

   :filter: n.	[very common; 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 {flamer}s.

   :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, eh?".

   :finger-pointing syndrome: n.  All-too-frequent result of bugs,
esp. in new or experimental configurations.  The hardware vendor points
a finger at the software.  The software vendor points a finger at the
hardware.  All the poor users get is the finger.

   :finn: v.  [IRC] To pull rank on somebody based on the amount of
time one has spent on {IRC}.  The term derives from the fact that IRC
was originally written in Finland in 1987.  There may be some influence
from the `Finn' character in William Gibson's seminal cyberpunk novel
"Count Zero", who at one point says to another (much younger) character
"I have a pair of shoes older than you are, so shut up!"

   :firebottle: n.obs.	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 overflow}.

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

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

   [When first coined in the mid-1980s this term was pure jargon. Now
(1999) it is techspeak, and has been retained only as an example of
uptake --ESR]

   :fireworks mode: n.	1. The mode a machine is sometimes said to
be in when it is performing a {crash and burn} operation. 2.  There is
(or was) a more specific meaning of this term in the Amiga community. The
word fireworks described the effects of a particularly serious crash
which prevented the video pointer(s) from getting reset at the start
of the vertical blank. This caused the DAC to scroll through the entire
contents of CHIP (video or video+CPU) memory. Since each bit plane would
scroll separately this was quite a spectacular effect.

   :firmware: /ferm'weir/ n.  Embedded software contained in EPROM
or flash memory. It isn't quite hardware, but at least doesn't have to
be loaded from a disk like regular software. Hacker usage differs from
straight techspeak in that hackers don't normally apply it to stuff
that you can't possibly get at, such as the program that runs a pocket
calculator. Instead, it implies that the firmware could be changed,
even if doing so would mean opening a box and plugging in a new chip. A
computer's BIOS is the classic example, although nowadays there is
firmware in disk controllers, modems, video cards and even CD-ROM drives.

   :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

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

   :FIXME: imp.  [common] 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

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

Compare {XXX}.

   :flag: n.  [very common] A variable or quantity that can take on
one of two values; a bit, particularly one that is used to indicate
one of two outcomes or is used to control which of two things is to be
done.  "This flag controls whether to clear the screen before printing
the message."  "The program status word contains several flag bits."
Used of humans analogously to {bit}.  See also {hidden flag}, {mode bit}.

   :flag day: n.  A software change that is neither forward- nor
backward-compatible, and which is costly to make and costly to reverse.
"Can we install that without causing a flag day for all users?"  This term
has nothing to do with the use of the word {flag} to mean a variable
that has two values.  It came into use when a massive change was made to
the {{Multics}} timesharing system to convert from the short-lived 1965
version of the ASCII code to the 1967 version (in draft at the time); this
was scheduled for Flag Day (a U.S. holiday), June 14, 1966.  The actual
change moved the code point for the ASCII newline character; this required
that all of the Multics source code, documentation, and device drivers
be changed simultaneously.  See also {backward combatability}.

   :flaky: adj.  (var sp. `flakey') Subject to frequent {lossage}.
This use is of course related to the common slang use of the word to
describe a person as eccentric, crazy, or just unreliable.  A system that
is flaky is working, sort of -- enough that you are tempted to try to
use it -- but fails frequently enough that the odds in favor of finishing
what you start are low.  Commonwealth hackish prefers {dodgy} or {wonky}.

   :flamage: /flay'm*j/ n.  [very common] 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: [at MIT, orig. from the phrase `flaming asshole'] 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, and from the University of
Virginia in the early 1960s.

   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.  [common] 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.  [common] (var. `flamewar') An acrimonious
dispute, especially when conducted on a public electronic forum such
as {Usenet}.

   :flamer: n.	[common] 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.

   :flash crowd: Larry Niven's 1973 SF short story "Flash Crowd"
predicted that one consequence of cheap teleportation would be huge crowds
materializing almost instantly at the sites of interesting news stories.
Twenty years later the term passed into common use on the Internet to
describe exponential spikes in website or server usage when one passes a
certain threshold of popular interest (this may also be called {slashdot

   :flat: adj.	1. [common] 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.  [common] 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

   :flatten: vt.  [common] 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. [common] Variety, type, kind.  "DDT commands come
in twon 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.
The GNU project has a web page at `'.  See {EMACS},
{copyleft}, {General Public Virus}, {Linux}.  2. Noted Unix hacker John
Gilmore <<>>,
  founder of Usenet's anarchic alt.* hierarchy.

   :gnubie: /noo'bee/ n.  Written-only variant of {newbie} in common
use on IRC channels, which implies specifically someone who is new to
the Linux/open source/free software world.

   :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; common] 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.  However there is also a widely- recognized codicil
that any _intentional_ triggering of Godwin's Law in order to invoke
its thread-ending effects will be unsuccessful.

   :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},
{Christmas tree packet}, {martian}.

   :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.  [common; from the 1960s
"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] 1. With total
commitment, total concentration, and a mad sort of panache.  (Thompson's
original sense.)  2. More loosely: 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.  [very common; often capitalized; always
pronounced as if capitalized.]	1. Self-evidently wonderful to anyone in a
position to notice: "A language that manages dynamic memory automatically
for you is a Good Thing."  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 obsolesced around 1995 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_ use?".

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

   :GOSMACS: /goz'maks/ n.  [contraction of `Gosling EMACS'] The
first {EMACS}-in-C implementation, predating but now largely eclipsed
by {GNUMACS}.  Originally freeware; a commercial version was modestly
popular as `UniPress EMACS' during the 1980s.  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
{elder days} 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}. Often mis-expanded
as `GNU Public License'.

   :GPV: /G-P-V/ n.  Abbrev. for {General Public Virus} in
widespread use.

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

   :gray goo: n.  A hypothetical substance composed of {sagan}s of
sub-micron-sized self-replicating robots programmed to make copies of
themselves out of whatever is available.  The image that goes with the
term is one of the entire biosphere of Earth being eventually converted
to robot goo.  This is the simplest of the {{nanotechnology}} disaster
scenarios, easily refuted by arguments from energy requirements and
elemental abundances.  Compare {blue goo}.

   :Great Renaming: n.	The {flag day} in 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}.

   There is a widespread legend (repeated by earlier versions of this
entry, though tagged as folklore) that the uppercase-only support of
various old character codes and I/O equipment was chosen by a religious
person in a position of power at the Teletype Company because supporting
both upper and lower cases was too expensive and supporting lower case
only would have made it impossible to spell `God' correctly.  Not true;
the upper-case interpretation of teleprinter codes was well established
by 1870, long before Teletype was even founded.

   :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 since.

   :great-wall: vi.,n.	[from SF fandom] A mass expedition to an
oriental restaurant, esp. one where food is served family-style
and shared.  There is a common heuristic about the amount of food to
order, expressed as "Get N - 1 entrees"; the value of N, which is the
number of people in the group, can be inferred from context (see {N}).
See {{oriental food}}, {ravs}, {stir-fried random}.

   :Green Book: n.  1. One of the three standard {{PostScript}}
references: "PostScript Language Program Design", bylined `Adobe Systems'
(Addison-Wesley, 1988; QA76.73.P67P66 ISBN 0-201-14396-8); see also {Red
Book}, {Blue Book}, and the {White Book} (sense 2).  2. Informal name
for one of the three standard references on SmallTalk: "Smalltalk-80:
Bits of History, Words of Advice", by Glenn Krasner (Addison-Wesley,
1983; QA76.8.S635S58; ISBN 0-201-11669-3) (this, too, is associated
with blue and red books).  3. The "X/Open Compatibility Guide", which
defines an international standard {{Unix}} environment that is a proper
superset of POSIX/SVID; also includes descriptions of a standard utility
toolkit, systems administrations features, and the like.  This grimoire
is taken with particular seriousness in Europe.  See {Purple Book}.
4. The IEEE 1003.1 POSIX Operating Systems Interface standard has been
dubbed "The Ugly Green Book".  5. Any of the 1992 standards issued by
the CCITT's tenth plenary assembly.  These include, among other things,
the X.400 email standard and the Group 1 through 4 fax standards.
See also {{book titles}}.

   :green bytes: n.  (also `green words') 1. Meta-information
embedded in a file, such as the length of the file or its name; as opposed
to keeping such information in a separate description file or record.
The term comes from an IBM user's group meeting (ca.  1962) at which
these two approaches were being debated and the diagram of the file on
the blackboard had the `green bytes' drawn in green.  2. By extension,
the non-data bits in any self-describing format.  "A GIF file contains,
among other things, green bytes describing the packing method for the
image." Compare {out-of-band}, {zigamorph}, {fence} (sense 1).

   :green card: n.  [after the "IBM System/360 Reference Data" card]
A summary of an assembly language, even if the color is not green 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.

   In fall 2000 it was reported from Electronic Data Systems that the
green card for 370 machines has been a blue-green booklet since 1989.

   :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) headaches.

   :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; now rare] 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. [common] 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}.

   Historical note: At least one real machine actually had a grind
crank -- the R1, a research machine built toward the end of the days of
the great vacuum tube computers, in 1959.  R1 (also known as `The Rice
Institute Computer' (TRIC) and later as `The Rice University Computer'
(TRUC)) had a single-step/free-run switch for use when debugging programs.
Since single-stepping through a large program was rather tedious, there
was also a crank with a cam and gear arrangement that repeatedly pushed
the single-step button.  This allowed one to `crank' through a lot of
code, then slow down to single-step for a bit when you got near the
code of interest, poke at some registers using the console typewriter,
and then keep on cranking.

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

   :gritch: /grich/ [MIT] 1. n. A complaint (often caused by a
{glitch}).  2. vi. To complain.  Often verb-doubled: "Gritch gritch".
3. A synonym for {glitch} (as verb or noun).

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

   :grok: /grok/, var. /grohk/ vt.  [from the novel "Stranger in a
Strange Land", by Robert A. Heinlein, where it is a Martian word meaning
literally `to drink' and metaphorically `to be one with'] The emphatic
form is `grok in fullness'. 1. To understand, usually in a global sense.
Connotes intimate and exhaustive knowledge.  Contrast {zen}, which is
similar supernal understanding experienced as a single brief flash.
See also {glark}.  2. Used of programs, may connote merely sufficient
understanding.	"Almost all C compilers grok the `void' type these days."

   :gronk: /gronk/ vt.	[popularized by Johnny Hart's comic strip
"B.C." but the word apparently predates that] 1. To clear the state of
a wedged device and restart it.  More severe than `to {frob}' (sense 2).
2. [TMRC] To cut, sever, smash, or similarly disable.  3. The sound made
by many 3.5-inch diskette drives.  In particular, the microfloppies on
a Commodore Amiga go "grink, gronk".

   :gronk out: vi.  To cease functioning.  Of people, to go home and
go to sleep.  "I guess I'll gronk out now; see you all 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} (Dave Lebling took
the name from Jack Vance's "Dying Earth" fantasies) 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.

   :Guido: /gwee'do/ or /khwee'do/ Without qualification, Guido
van Rossum (author of {Python}).  Note that Guido answers to English
/gwee'do/ but in Dutch it's /khwee'do/.

   :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] 1. 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, now rare: 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.  An earlier product of the Amiga corporation was 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 (but there's a well-known
patch to restore it in more recent versions).

   :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 early 1999.  "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 koans}.

   :hack: [very common] 1. n. Originally, a quick job that produces
what is needed, but not well.  2. n. An incredibly good, and perhaps
very time-consuming, piece of work that produces exactly what is needed.
3. vt. To bear emotionally or physically.  "I can't hack this heat!"
4. vt. To work on something (typically a program).  In an immediate sense:
"What are you doing?"  "I'm hacking TECO."  In a general (time-extended)
sense: "What do you do around here?"  "I hack TECO."  More generally,
"I hack `foo'" is roughly equivalent to "`foo' is my major interest
(or project)".	"I hack solid-state physics."  See {Hacking X for Y}.
5. vt. To pull a prank on.  See sense 2 and {hacker} (sense 5).
6. vi. To interact with a computer in a playful and exploratory
rather than goal-directed way.	"Whatcha up to?"  "Oh, just hacking."
7. n. Short for {hacker}.  8.  See {nethack}.  9. [MIT] v. To explore
the basements, roof ledges, and steam tunnels of a large, institutional
building, to the dismay of Physical Plant workers and (since this
is usually performed at educational institutions) the Campus Police.
This activity has been found to be eerily similar to playing adventure
games such as Dungeons and Dragons and {Zork}.	See also {vadding}.

   Constructions on this term abound.  They include `happy hacking'
(a farewell), `how's hacking?' (a friendly greeting among hackers) and
`hack, hack' (a fairly content-free but friendly comment, often used
as a temporary farewell).  For more on this totipotent term see "{The
Meaning of Hack}".  See also {neat hack}, {real hack}.

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

   :hack mode: n.  1. What one is in when hacking, of course.  2.
More specifically, a Zen-like state of total focus on The Problem that
may be achieved when one is hacking (this is why every good hacker is
part mystic).  Ability to enter such concentration at will correlates
strongly with wizardliness; it is one of the most important skills
learned during {larval stage}.	Sometimes amplified as `deep hack mode'.

   Being yanked out of hack mode (see {priority interrupt}) may be
experienced as a physical shock, and the sensation of being in hack mode
is more than a little habituating.  The intensity of this experience is
probably by itself sufficient explanation for the existence of hackers,
and explains why many resist being promoted out of positions where they
can code.  See also {cyberspace} (sense 2).

   Some aspects of hacker 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.  [very common] 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.	[common] 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

   :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 {cracker}.

   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 confidentiality.

   Both of these normative ethical principles are widely, but by no
means universally, accepted among hackers. Most hackers subscribe to
the hacker ethic in sense 1, and many act on it by writing and giving
away 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}, {koan}, {AI koans}.

   See also {filk}, {retrocomputing}, and the Portrait of J.  Random
Hacker in {Appendix B}.  If you have an itchy feeling that all six
of these traits are really aspects of one thing that is incredibly
difficult to talk about exactly, you are (a) correct and (b) responding
like a hacker.	These traits are also recognizable (though in a less
marked form) throughout {{science-fiction fandom}}.

   :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." 3. Any large amount of garbage coming out
suddenly. "Sendmail is coughing up a hairball, so expect some slowness
accessing the Internet."

   :hairy: adj.  1. Annoyingly complicated.  "{DWIM} is incredibly
hairy."  2. Incomprehensible.  "{DWIM} is incredibly hairy."
3. Of people, high-powered, authoritative, rare, expert, and/or
incomprehensible.  Hard to explain except in context: "He knows this hairy
lawyer who says there's nothing to worry about."  See also {hirsute}.

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

   In British mainstream use, "hairy" means "dangerous", and
consequently, in British programming terms, "hairy" may be used to denote
complicated and/or incomprehensible code, but only if that complexity
or incomprehesiveness is also considered dangerous.

   :HAKMEM: /hak'mem/ n.  MIT AI Memo 239 (February 1972).  A
legendary collection of neat mathematical and programming hacks
contributed by many people at MIT and elsewhere.  (The title of the memo
really is "HAKMEM", which is a 6-letterism for `hacks memo'.)  Some of
them are very useful techniques, powerful theorems, or interesting
unsolved problems, but most fall into the category of mathematical and
computer trivia.  Here is a sampling of the entries (with authors),
slightly paraphrased:

   Item 41 (Gene Salamin): There are exactly 23,000 prime numbers less
 than 2^(18).

   Item 46 (Rich Schroeppel): The most _probable_ suit distribution
in bridge hands is 4-4-3-2, as compared to 4-3-3-3, which is the most
_evenly_ distributed.  This is because the world likes to have unequal
numbers: a thermodynamic effect saying things will not be in the state
of lowest energy, but in the state of lowest disordered energy.

   Item 81 (Rich Schroeppel): Count the magic squares of order 5
(that is, all the 5-by-5 arrangements of the numbers from 1 to 25 such
that all rows, columns, and diagonals add up to the same number).
There are about 320 million, not counting those that differ only by
rotation and reflection.

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

   Item 174 (Bill Gosper and Stuart Nelson): 21963283741 is the only
number such that if you represent it on the {PDP-10} as both an integer
and a floating-point number, the bit patterns of the two representations
are identical.

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

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

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

   An HTML transcription of the entire 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 PC-almost-compatibles.

   :HAND: // [Usenet: very common] Abbreviation: Have A Nice Day.
Typically used to close a {Usenet} posting, but also used to informally
close emails; often preceded by {HTH}.

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

   :hand-hacking: n.  1. [rare] 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. [common] 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.  [very common] Hardware or software activity
designed to start or keep two machines or programs in synchronization as
they {do protocol}.  Often applied to human activity; thus, a hacker might
watch two people in conversation nodding their heads to indicate that
they have heard each others' points and say "Oh, they're handshaking!".
See also {protocol}.

   :handwave: [poss. from gestures characteristic of stage
magicians] 1. v. To gloss over a complex point; to distract a listener;
to support a (possibly actually valid) point with blatantly faulty logic.
2. n. The act of handwaving.  "Boy, what a handwave!"

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

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

   :hang: v.  1. [very common] 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." Neverheless,
use of this term implies a basically benign attitude towards the program:
It didn't mean any harm, it was just eager to do its job. We'd like to be
angry at it but we shouldn't, we should try to understand it instead. The
adjective "cheerfully" is often used in exactly the same way.

   :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. [common] 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).	Microsoft in fact seems to have mastered this technique.

   :heavy metal: n.  [Cambridge] Syn. {big iron}.

   :heavy wizardry: n.	Code or designs that trade on a particularly
intimate knowledge or experience of a particular operating system
or language or complex application interface.  Distinguished from
{deep magic}, which trades more on arcane _theoretical_ knowledge.
Writing device drivers is heavy wizardry; so is interfacing to {X}
(sense 2) without a toolkit.  Esp. found in source-code comments of the
form "Heavy wizardry begins here".  Compare {voodoo programming}.

   :heavyweight: adj.  [common] 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- 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 hackers.

   :flavorful: adj.  Full of {flavor} (sense 2); esthetically
pleasing.  See {random} and {losing} for antonyms.  See also the entries
for {taste} and {elegant}.

   :flippy: /flip'ee/ n.  A single-sided floppy disk altered for
double-sided use by addition of a second write-notch, so called because
it must be flipped over for the second side to be accessible.  No longer

   :flood: v.  [common] 1. To overwhelm a network channel with
mechanically-generated traffic; especially used of IP, TCP/IP, UDP, or
ICMP denial-of-service attacks.  2. 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.
Also used in a similar sense on Usenet.  3. [Usenet] To post an unusually
large number or volume of files on a related topic.

   :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 1.

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

   :flush: v.  1. [common] To delete something, usually superfluous,
or to abort an operation.  "All that nonsense has been flushed."  2.
[Unix/C] To force buffered I/O to disk, as with an `fflush(3)' call.
This is _not_ an abort or deletion as in sense 1, but a demand for
early completion!  3. To leave at the end of a day's work (as opposed
to leaving for a meal).  "I'm going to flush now."  "Time to flush."
4. To exclude someone from an activity, or to ignore a person.

   `Flush' was standard ITS terminology for aborting an output
operation; one spoke of the text that would have been printed, but was
not, as having been flushed.  It is speculated that this term arose from
a vivid image of flushing unwanted characters by hosing down the internal
output buffer, washing the characters away before they could be printed.
The Unix/C usage, on the other hand, was propagated by the `fflush(3)'
call in C's standard I/O library (though it is reported to have been in
use among BLISS programmers at {DEC} and on Honeywell and IBM machines
as far back as 1965).  Unix/C hackers 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.  [rare] See {firewall machine}.

   :FM: /F-M/ n.  1. [common] _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; common] 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.  [common] 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

   [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. [very common] 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}.

   When `foo' is used in connection with `bar' it has generally
traced to the WWII-era Army slang acronym {FUBAR} (`Fucked Up Beyond
All Repair'), later modified to {foobar}.  Early versions of the Jargon
File interpreted this change as a post-war bowdlerization, but it it now
seems more likely that FUBAR was itself a derivative of `foo' perhaps
influenced by German `furchtbar' (terrible) - `foobar' may actually have
been the _original_ form.

   For, it seems, the word `foo' itself had an immediate prewar
history in comic strips and cartoons.  The earliest documented uses were
in the "Smokey Stover" comic strip popular in the 1930s, which frequently
included the word "foo".  Bill Holman, the author of the strip, filled
it with odd jokes and personal contrivances, including other nonsense
phrases such as "Notary Sojac" and "1506 nix nix".  According to the
Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion (
Holman claimed to have found the word "foo" on the bottom of a Chinese
figurine.  This is plausible; Chinese statuettes often have apotropaic
inscriptions, and this may have been 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").  English speakers' reception
of Holman's `foo' nonsense word was undoubtedly influenced by Yiddish
`feh' and English `fooey' and `fool'.

   Holman's strip featured a firetruck called the Foomobile that rode
on two wheels.	The comic strip was tremendously popular in the late
1930s, and legend has it that a manufacturer in Indiana even produced an
operable version of Holman's Foomobile.  According to the Encyclopedia of
American Comics, `Foo' fever swept the U.S., finding its way into popular
songs and generating over 500 `Foo Clubs.'  The fad left `foo' references
embedded in popular culture (including a couple of appearances in Warner
Brothers cartoons of 1938-39) but with their origins rapidly forgotten.

   One place they are known to have remained live is in the U.S.
military during the WWII years.  In 1944-45, the term `foo fighters'
was in use by radar operators 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).  Informants connected the term to the Smokey Stover

   The U.S. and British militaries frequently swapped slang terms
during the war (see {kluge} and {kludge} for another important example)
Period sources reported that `FOO' became 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, but this (like the contemporaneous
"FUBAR") was probably a {backronym} .  Forty years later, Paul Dickson's
excellent book "Words" (Dell, 1982, ISBN 0-440-52260-7) traced "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."

   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.	The Crumbs may also have been influenced by a short-lived
Canadian parody magazine named `Foo' published in 1951-52.

   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}.)  This
definition used Bill Holman's nonsense word, only then two decades old
and demonstrably still live in popular culture and slang, to a {ha ha
only serious} analogy with esoteric Tibetan Buddhism.  Today's hackers
would find it difficult to resist elaborating a joke like that, and it
is not likely 1959's were any less susceptible.  Almost the entire staff
of what later became the MIT AI Lab was involved with TMRC, and the word
spread from there.

   :foobar: n.	[very common] Another widely used {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}.  In RFC1639, "FOOBAR"
was made an abbreviation for "FTP Operation Over Big Address Records",
but this was an obvious {backronym}.

   :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 {DEADBEEF}.

   :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.  [common] 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},

   :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; common] 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: In the open-source community, a fork is what occurs when
two (or more) versions of a software package's source code are being
developed in parallel which once shared a common code base, and these
multiple versions of the source code have irreconcilable differences
between them.  This should not be confused with a development branch,
which may later be folded back into the original source code base.
Nor should it be confused with what happens when a new distribution
of Linux or some other distribution is created, because that largely
assembles pieces than can and will be used in other distributions
without conflict.

   Forking is uncommon; in fact, it is so uncommon that individual
instances loom large in hacker folklore.  Notable in this class were the (Emacs/XEmacs fork),
the GCC/EGCS fork (later healed by a merger) and the forks among the
FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD operating systems.

   :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.,vi.  1. [common after 1997, esp. in the Linux
community] An open-source software project is said to have forked or be
forked when the project group fissions into two or more parts pursuing
separate lines of development (or, less commonly, when a third party
unconnected to the project group ).  Forking is considered a {Bad Thing}
- not merely because it implies a lot of wasted effort in the future,
but because forks tend to be accompanied by a great deal of strife
and acrimony between the successor groups over issues of legitimacy,
succession, and design direction.  There is serious social pressure
against forking.  As a result, major forks (such as the Gnu-Emacs/XEmacs
split, the fissionings of the 386BSD group into three daughter project,
and the short-lived GCC/EGCS split) are rare enough that they are
remembered individually in hacker folklore.  2. [Unix; uncommon;
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; common] 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.
See also {gib}.

   :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."

   :free software: n.  As defined by Richard M. Stallman and used by
the Free Software movement, this means software that gives users enough
freedom to be used by the free software community.  Specifically, users
must be free to modify the software for their private use, and free to
redistribute it either with or without modifications, either commercially
or noncommercially, either gratis or charging a distribution fee.
Free software has existed since the dawn of computing; Free Software as
a movement began in 1984 with the GNU Project.	See also {open source}.

   :freeware: n.  [common] Free software, often written by
enthusiasts and distributed by users' groups, or via electronic mail,
local bulletin boards, {Usenet}, or other electronic media.  At one
time, `freeware' was a trademark of Andrew Fluegelman, the author of the
well-known MS-DOS comm program PC-TALK III.  It wasn't enforced after his
mysterious disappearance and presumed death in 1984.  See {shareware},

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

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

   :fried: adj.  1. [common] 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. [common] 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; very common] 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 run!"

   :frogging: [University of Waterloo] v.  1. Partial corruption of
a text file or input stream by some bug or consistent glitch, as opposed
to random events like line noise or media failures.  Might occur, for
example, if one bit of each incoming character on a tty were stuck, so
that some characters were correct and others were not.	See {terminak}
for a historical example 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."  3. Software that provides
an interface to another program `behind' it, which may not be as
user-friendly.	Probably from analogy with hardware front-ends (see
sense 1) that interfaced with mainframes.

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

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

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

   :FRS: // n.,obs.  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. The term was in steady though not common
use until 1998 and the invention of {open source}.

   :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.  [Usenet; common]
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."

   :-fu: [common; generalized from `kung-fu'] Combining form
denoting expert practice of a skill.  "That's going to take some serious
code-fu." First sighted in connection with the GIMP's remote-scripting
facility, script-fu, in 1998.

   :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

   [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}.  After 1990 the term FUD was associated increasingly frequently
with {Microsoft}, and has become generalized to refer to any kind of
disinformation used as a competitive weapon.

   :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.  [common] 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()

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

   :fuzzball: n.  [TCP/IP hackers] A DEC LSI-11 running a particular
suite of homebrewed software written by Dave Mills and assorted
co-conspirators, used in the early 1980s for Internet protocol testbedding
and experimentation.  These were used as NSFnet backbone sites in its
early 56kb-line days; a few were still active on the Internet as late
as mid-1993, doing odd jobs such as network time service.

= G = =====

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

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

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

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

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

   :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).

   :Gates's Law: "The speed of software halves every 18 months."
This oft-cited law is an ironic comment on the tendency of software
bloat to outpace the every-18-month doubling in hardware caopacity
per dollar predicted by {Moore's Law}. The reference is to Bill Gates;
Microsoft is widely considered among the worst if not the worst of the
perpetrators of bloat.

   :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 of Robert
Hayden, the code's inventor) from that page:

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

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

   :geek out: vi.  To temporarily enter techno-nerd mode while in a
non-hackish context, for example at parties held near computer equipment.
Especially used when you need to do or say something highly technical and
don't have time to explain: "Pardon me while I geek out for a moment."
See {computer geek}; see also {propeller head}.

   :gen: /jen/ n.,v.  Short for {generate}, used frequently in both
spoken and written contexts.

   :gender mender: n.  [common] A cable connector shell with either
two male or two female connectors on it, used to correct the mismatches
that result when some {loser} didn't understand the RS232C specification
and the distinction between DTE and DCE.  Used esp. for RS-232C parts in
either the original D-25 or the IBM PC's bogus D-9 format.  Also called
`gender bender', `gender blender', `sex changer', and even `homosexual
adapter;' however, there appears to be some confusion as to whether a
`male homosexual adapter' has pins on both sides (is doubly male) or
sockets on both sides (connects two males).

   :General Public Virus: n.  Pejorative name for some versions of
the {GNU} project {copyleft} or General Public License (GPL), which
requires that any tools or {app}s incorporating copylefted code must
be source-distributed on the same anti-proprietary 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.  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 2.0 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 1987 "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 years before achieving mainstream currency
via the sitcom "Get A Life" in 1990.

   :Get a real computer!: imp.	Typical hacker response to news that
somebody is having trouble getting work done on a system that (a) is
single-tasking, (b) has no hard disk, or (c) has an address space smaller
than 16 megabytes.  This is as of early 1996; note that the threshold for
`real computer' rises with time.  See {bitty box} and {toy}.

   :GFR: /G-F-R/ vt.  [ITS: from `Grim File Reaper', an ITS and LISP
Machine utility] To remove a file or files according to some
program-automated or semi-automatic manual procedure, especially one
designed to reclaim mass storage space or reduce name-space clutter
(the original GFR actually moved files to tape).  Often generalized
to pieces of data below file level.  "I used to have his phone number,
but I guess I {GFR}ed it."  See also {prowler}, {reaper}.  Compare {GC},
which discards only provably worthless stuff.

   :gib: /jib/ 1. vi.  To destroy utterly.  Like {frag}, but much
more violent and final.  "There's no trace left. You definitely gibbed
that bug". 2. n. Remnants after total obliteration.

   Originated first by id software in the game Quake. It's short for
giblets (thus pronounced "jib"), and referred to the bloody remains
of slain opponents.  Eventually the word was verbed, and leaked into
general usage afterward.

   :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

   :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'.

   :ginger: n.	See {saga}.

   :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
hacker usage mutated the verb to `glark' because {glork} was already an
established jargon term (some hackers do report using the original 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/ [very common; 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; common] 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." 4. Syn. for
{glark}, which see.

   :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 iboot 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.	The standard response is "Nothing
happens here."; of all the Zork/Dungeon games, only in Infocom's Zork
3 is "Hello, Sailor" actually useful (excluding the unique situation
where _knowing_ this fact is important in Dungeon...).

   :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 yet?"

   :hex: n.  1. Short for {{hexadecimal}}, base 16.  2. A 6-pack of
anything (compare {quad}, sense 2).  Neither usage has anything to do with
{magic} or {black art}, though the pun is appreciated and occasionally
used by hackers.  True story: As a joke, some hackers once offered
some surplus ICs for sale to be worn as protective amulets against
hostile magic.	The chips were, of course, hex inverters.

   :hexadecimal:: n.  Base 16.	Coined in the early 1960s to replace
earlier `sexadecimal', which was too racy and amusing for stuffy IBM,
and later adopted by the rest of the industry.

   Actually, neither term is etymologically pure.  If we take
`binary' to be paradigmatic, the most etymologically correct term for
base 10, for example, is `denary', which comes from `deni' (ten at a
time, ten each), a Latin `distributive' number; the corresponding term
for base-16 would be something like `sendenary'.  `Decimal' is from an
ordinal number; the corresponding prefix for 6 would imply something
like `sextidecimal'.  The `sexa-' prefix is Latin but incorrect in this
context, and `hexa-' is Greek.	The word `octal' is similarly incorrect;
a correct form would be `octaval' (to go with decimal), or `octonary'
(to go with binary).  If anyone ever implements a base-3 computer,
computer scientists will be faced
  with the unprecedented dilemma of a choice between two _correct_
forms; both `ternary' and `trinary' have a claim to this throne.

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

   :HHOK: See {ha ha only serious}.

   :HHOS: See {ha ha only serious}.

   :hidden flag: n.  [scientific computation] An extra option added
to a routine without changing the calling sequence.  For example,
instead of adding an explicit input variable to instruct a routine to
give extra diagnostic output, the programmer might just add a test for
some otherwise meaningless feature of the existing inputs, such as a
negative mass.	The use of hidden flags can make a program very hard to
debug and understand, but is all too common wherever programs are hacked
on in a hurry.

   :high bit: n.  [from `high-order bit'] 1. The most significant
bit in a byte.	2. [common] By extension, the most significant part
of something other than a data byte: "Spare me the whole {saga}, just
give me the high bit."	See also {meta bit}, {hobbit}, {dread high-bit
disease}, and compare the mainstream slang `bottom line'.

   :high moby: /hi:' mohb'ee/ n.  The high half of a 512K {PDP-10}'s
physical address space; the other half was of course the low moby.
This usage has been generalized in a way that has outlasted the {PDP-10};
for example, at the 1990 Washington D.C.  Area Science Fiction Conclave
(Disclave), when a miscommunication resulted in two separate wakes being
held in commemoration of the shutdown of MIT's last {{ITS}} machines,
the one on the upper floor was dubbed the `high moby' and the other the
`low moby'.  All parties involved {grok}ked this instantly.  See {moby}.

   :highly: adv.  [scientific computation] The preferred modifier
for overstating an understatement.  As in: `highly nonoptimal', the worst
possible way to do something; `highly nontrivial', either impossible
or requiring a major research project; `highly nonlinear', completely
erratic and unpredictable; `highly nontechnical', drivel written for
{luser}s, oversimplified to the point of being misleading or incorrect
(compare {drool-proof paper}).	In other computing cultures, postfixing
of {in the extreme} might be preferred.

   :hing: // n.  [IRC] Fortuitous typo for `hint', now in wide
intentional use among players of {initgame}.  Compare {newsfroup}, {filk}.

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

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

   :HLL: /H-L-L/ n.  [High-Level Language (as opposed to assembler)]
Found primarily in email and news rather than speech.  Rarely, the
variants `VHLL' and `MLL' are found.  VHLL stands for `Very-High-Level
Language' and is used to describe a {bondage-and-discipline language}
that the speaker happens to like; Prolog and Backus's FP are often called
VHLLs.	`MLL' stands for `Medium-Level Language' and is sometimes used
half-jokingly to describe {C}, alluding to its `structured-assembler'
image.	See also {languages of choice}.

   :hoarding: n.  See {software hoarding}.

   :hobbit: n.	1. [rare] 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; common] 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".

   Great holy wars of the past have included {{ITS}} vs. {{Unix}},
{{Unix}} vs. {VMS}, {BSD} Unix vs. {USG Unix}, {C} vs. {{Pascal}},
{C} vs. FORTRAN, etc.  In the year 2000, popular favorites of the
day are KDE vs, GNOME, vim vs. elvis, Linux vs. [Free|Net|Open]BSD.
Hardy perennials include {EMACS} vs. {vi}, my personal computer vs.
everyone else's personal computer, 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.
This happens precisely because in a true holy war, the actual substantive
differences between the sides are relatively minor.  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 there!"

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

   :honey pot: n.  A box designed to attract {cracker}s so that they
can be observed in action. It is usually well isolated from the rest
of the network, but has extensive logging (usually network layer, on a
different machine).  Different from an {iron box} in that it's purpose
is to attract, not merely observe.  Sometimes, it is also a defensive
network security tactic - you set up an easy-to-crack box so that your
real servers don't get messed with.  The concept was presented in Cheswick
& Bellovin's book "Firewalls and Internet Security".

   :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. [common] 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. [rare] To log in to a remote machine, esp. via
rlogin or telnet. "I'll hop over to foovax to FTP that."

   :hose: 1. vt. [common] 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 situation'.

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

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

   :hot spot: n.  1. [primarily used by C/Unix programmers, but
spreading] It is received wisdom that in most programs, less than
10% of the code eats 90% of the execution time; if one were to graph
instruction visits versus code addresses, one would typically see a few
huge spikes amidst a lot of low-level noise.  Such spikes are called `hot
spots' and are good candidates for heavy optimization or {hand-hacking}.
The term is especially used of tight loops and recursions in the code's
central algorithm, as opposed to (say) initial set-up costs or large but
infrequent I/O operations.  See {tune}, {bum}, {hand-hacking}.	2. The
active location of a cursor on a bit-map display.  "Put the mouse's
hot spot on the `ON' widget and click the left button."  3. A screen
region that is sensitive to mouse gestures, which trigger some action.
World Wide Web pages 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}.

   :HTH: // [Usenet: very common] Abbreviation: Hope This Helps
(e.g. following a response to a technical question). Often used just
before {HAND}.	See also {YHBT}.

   :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'; common] 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 easy 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."  The {Infocom} text adventure
game "Beyond Zork" included two monsters called hunguses.

   :hyperspace: /hi:'per-spays/ n.  A memory location that is _far_
away from where the program counter should be pointing, especially
a place that is inaccessible because it is not even mapped in by the
virtual-memory system.	"Another core dump -- looks like the program
jumped off to hyperspace somehow."  (Compare {jump off into never-never
land}.)  This usage is from the SF notion of a spaceship jumping `into
hyperspace', that is, taking a shortcut through higher-dimensional space
-- in other words, bypassing this universe.  The variant `east hyperspace'
is recorded among CMU and Bliss hackers.

   :hysterical reasons: n.  (also `hysterical raisins') A variant on
the stock phrase "for historical reasons", indicating specifically that
something must be done in some stupid way for backwards compatibility, and
moreover that the feature it must be compatible with was the result of a
bad design in the first place.	"All IBM PC video adapters have to support
MDA text mode for hysterical reasons."	Compare {bug-for-bug compatible}.

= I = =====

   :I didn't change anything!: interj.	An aggrieved cry often heard
as bugs manifest during a regression test.  The {canonical} reply to this
assertion is "Then it works just the same as it did before, doesn't it?"
See also {one-line fix}.  This is also heard from applications programmers
trying to blame an obvious applications problem on an unrelated systems
software change, for example a divide-by-0 fault after terminals were
added to a network.  Usually, their statement is found to be false.
Upon close questioning, they will admit some major restructuring of the
program that shouldn't have broken anything, in their opinion, but which
actually {hosed} the code completely.

   :I see no X here.: Hackers (and the interactive computer games
they write) traditionally favor this slightly marked usage over other
possible equivalents such as "There's no X here!" or "X is missing."
or "Where's the X?".  This goes back to the original PDP-10 {ADVENT},
which would respond in this wise if you asked it to do something involving
an object not present at your location in the game.

   :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 loathing}).

   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.

   :ID10T error: /I-D-ten-T er'*r/ Synonym for {PEBKAC}, e.g. "The
user is being an idiot".  Tech-support people passing a problem report
to someone higher up the food chain (and presumably better equipped to
deal with idiots) may ask the user to convey that there seems to be an
I-D-ten-T error.  Users never twig.

   :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 {UDP}.

   :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 {mess-dos}.

   :IMHO: // abbrev.  [from SF fandom via Usenet; abbreviation for
`In My Humble Opinion'] "IMHO, mixed-case C names should be avoided, as
mistyping something in the wrong case can cause hard-to-detect errors --
and they look too Pascalish anyhow."  Also seen in variant forms such
as IMNSHO (In My Not-So-Humble Opinion) and IMAO (In My Arrogant Opinion).

   :Imminent Death Of The Net Predicted!: prov.  [Usenet] Since
{Usenet} first got off the ground in 1980-81, it has grown exponentially,
approximately doubling in size every year.  On the other hand, most
people feel the {signal-to-noise ratio} of Usenet has dropped steadily.
These trends led, as far back as mid-1983, to predictions of the imminent
collapse (or death) of the net.  Ten years and numerous doublings later,
enough of these gloomy prognostications have been confounded that the
phrase "Imminent Death Of The Net Predicted!" has become a running joke,
hauled out any time someone grumbles about the {S/N ratio} or the huge and
steadily increasing volume, or the possible loss of a key node or link,
or the potential for lawsuits when ignoramuses post copyrighted material,
etc., etc., etc.

   :in the extreme: adj.  A preferred superlative suffix for many
hackish terms.	See, for example, `obscure in the extreme' under
{obscure}, and compare {highly}.

   :inc: /ink/ v.  Verbal (and only rarely written) shorthand for
increment, i.e. `increase by one'.  Especially used by assembly
programmers, as many assembly languages have an `inc' mnemonic.  Antonym:
dec (see {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, C++, and Java 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.
They have been inherited by C++ and Java, which have C-like syntaxes.
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.  In C code, the body is typically
indented by eight spaces (or one tab) per level, as shown here. Four
spaces are occasionally seen in C, but in C++ and Java four tends to be
the rule rather than the exception.

     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.  It is the
only style other than K&R in widespread use among Java programmers. Basic
indent per level shown here is eight spaces, but four (or sometimes three)
spaces are generally preferred by C++ and Java programmers.

     if (<cond>) {

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

     if (<cond>)
	     { <body> }

   `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 in C (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.

   The Java Language Specification legislates not only the
capitalization of identifiers, but where nouns, adjectives, and verbs
should be in method, class, interface, and variable names (section
6.8). While the specification stops short of also standardizing on a
bracing style, all source code originating from Sun Laboratories uses
the K&R style.	This has set a precedent for Java programmers, which
most follow.

   Doubtless these issues will continue to be the subject of {holy

   :index of X: 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.  [common] 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 development.

   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".  On 1 April 2000 the usage acquired its own
Internet standard, (RFC2795)
(Infinite Monkey Protocol Suite).

   :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 acquired 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 not only freeware emulators for that interpreter but an
actual compiler as well have been written to permit the P-code to
be run on platforms the games never originally graced. In fact, new
games written in this P-code are still bering written.	(Emulators
that can run Infocom game ZIPs, and new games, are available 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

   :installfest: [Linux community since c.1998] Common portmanteau
word for "installation festival"; Linux user groups frequently run
these. Computer users are invited to bring their machines to have Linux
installed on their machines.  The idea is to get them painlessly over
the biggest hump in migrating to Linux, which is initially installing
and configuring it for the user's machine.

   :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.

   Inevitably, INTERCAL has a home page on the Web:
`'. An extended version, implemented
in (what else?) {Perl} and adding object-oriented features, is available
at `'.  See also {Befunge}.

   :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},

   :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 (1996) 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 Exploder: [very common] Pejorative hackerism for
Microsoft's "Internet Explorer" web browser (also "Internet
Exploiter"). Compare {HP-SUX}, {AIDX}, {buglix}, {Macintrash}, {Telerat},
{ScumOS}, {sun-stools}, {Slowlaris}.

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

   :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 {screen}s.
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}, {honey pot}.

   :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.  This may derive from the "NATO standard"
cup of coffee and tea (milk and two sugars), military slang going back
to the late 1950s and parodying NATO's relentless bureacratic drive to
standardize parts across European and U.S.  militaries.

   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.)

   [2000 update: There is now, in fact, a `British Standard BS6008:
How to make a standard cup of tea.' - ESR]

   :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}).
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.  [common; 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.  [very common] A mythical
figure like the Unknown Soldier; the archetypal hacker nerd.  This term
is one of the oldest in the jargon, apparently going back to MIT in
the 1960s.  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).

   :Java: An object-oriented language originally developed at Sun
by James Gosling (and known by the name "Oak") with the intention of
being the successor to {C++} (the project was however originally sold to
Sun as an embedded language for use in set-top boxes).	After the great
Internet explosion of 1993-1994, Java was hacked into a byte-interpreted
language and became the focus of a relentless hype campaign by Sun, which
touted it as the new language of choice for distributed applications.

   Java is indeed a stronger and cleaner design than C++ and has been
embraced by many in the hacker community - but it has been a considerable
source of frustration to many others, for reasons ranging from uneven
support on different Web browser platforms, performance issues, and
some notorious deficiencies of some of the standard toolkits (AWT in
particular).  {Microsoft}'s determined attempts to corrupt the language
(which it rightly sees as a threat to its OS monopoly) have not helped.
As of 1999, these issues are still in the process of being resolved.

   Despite many attractive features and a good design, it is difficult
 to find people willing to praise Java who have tried to implement a
complex, real-world system with it (but to be fair it is early days yet,
and no other language has ever been forced to spend its childhood under
the limelight the way Java has).  On the other hand, Java has already been
a big {win} in academic circles, where it has taken the place of {Pascal}
as the preferred tool for teaching the basics of good programming to
the next generation of hackers.

   :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.

   :Jeff K.: The spiritual successor to {B1FF} and the archetype
of {script kiddies}. Jeff K. is a sixteen-year-old suburbanite who
fancies himself a "l33t haX0r", although his knowledge of computers seems
to be limited to the procedure for getting Quake up and running. His
Web page `' features a number of
hopelessly naive articles, essays, and rants, all filled with the kind of
misspellings, {studlycaps}, and number-for-letter substitutions endemic to
the script kiddie and {warez d00dz} communities. Jeff's offerings, among
other things, include hardware advice (such as "AMD VERSIS PENTIUM" and
"HOW TO OVARCLOAK YOUR COMPUTAR"), his own Quake clan (Clan 40 OUNSCE),
and his own comic strip (Wacky Fun Computar Comic Jokes).

   Like B1FF, Jeff K. is (fortunately) a hoax. Jeff K. was created by
internet game journalist Richard "Lowtax" Kyanka, whose web site Something
Awful ( highlights unintentionally humorous
news items and Web sites, as a parody of the kind of teenage {luser}
who infests Quake servers, chat rooms, and other places where computer
enthusiasts congregate.  He is well-recognized in the PC game community
and his influence has spread to hacker {fora} like Slashdot as well.

   :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.

   :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, Lynne Greer
Jolitz, and friends.  Used to differentiate from BSDI's port based on
the same source tape, which used to be called BSD/386 and is now BSD/OS.
See {BSD}.

   :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 1975 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} and {on the gripping hand}.

   :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.  [rare; poss fr. `kilo-' prefix] Extremely.  Rare
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}

   :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.

   :kernel-of-the-week club: The fictional society that {BSD}
{bigot}s claim [Linux] users belong to, alluding to
the release-early-release-often style preferred by the kernel
maintainers. See {bazaar}.  This was almost certainly inspired by the
earlier {bug-of-the-month club}.

   :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.  He has a website at `'.

   :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.  1. [IRC] To cause somebody to be removed from a {IRC}
channel, an option only available to channel ops.  This is an extreme
measure, often used to combat extreme {flamage} or {flood}ing, but
sometimes used at the {CHOP}'s whim.  Compare {gun}.  2. To reboot
a machine or kill a running process.  "The server's down, let me go
kick it."

   :kill file: n.  [Usenet; very common] (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: rare.

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

   :kit: n.  [Usenet; poss. fr. {DEC} slang for a full software
distribution, as opposed to a patch or upgrade] A source software
distribution that has been packaged in such a way that it can
(theoretically) be unpacked and installed according to a series of
steps using only standard Unix tools, and entirely documented by
some reasonable chain of references from the top-level {README file}.
The more general term {distribution} may imply that special tools or
more stringent conditions on the host environment are required.

   :klone: /klohn/ n.  See {clone}, sense 4.

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

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

   :kluge: /klooj/ [from the German `klug', clever; poss.  related
to Polish `klucz' (a key, a hint, a main point)] 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 are....

   :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 lights".

   :Knuth: /ka-nooth'/ 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

   :koan: /koh'an/ n.  A Zen teaching riddle.  Classically, koans
are attractive paradoxes to be meditated on; their purpose is to help one
to enlightenment by temporarily jamming normal cognitive processing so
that something more interesting can happen (this practice is associated
with Rinzei Zen Buddhism).  Hackers are very fond of the koan form
and compose their own koans for humororous and/or enlightening effect.
See {Some AI Koans}, {has the X nature}, {hacker humor}.

   :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: /chur'ka/ 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.  [MUD, IRC; very common] 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 lagging.

   :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.

   :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

   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 {loss}.

   :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.recovery over
what constitutes the truly effective LART; 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.,obs.	Before pervasive TCP/IP, this term was used
of a machine that merely originated and read Usenet news or mail,
and did not relay any third-party traffic.  It was often uttered in a
critical tone; when the ratio of leaf sites to backbone, rib, and other
relay sites got too high, the network tended to develop bottlenecks.
Compare {backbone site}, {rib site}.  Now that traffic patterns depend
more on the distribution of routers than of host machines this term has
largely fallen out of use.

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

   :leaky heap: n.  [Cambridge] An {arena} with a {memory 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: 1. n. (Also `leecher'.) 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.
2. v. [common, Toronto area] To instantly fetch a file (other than a
mail attachment) whether by FTP or IRC file req or any other method.
Seems to be a holdover from the early 1990s when Toronto had a very
active BBS and warez scene.

   :leech mode: n.  [warez d00dz] "Leech mode" or "leech access" or
(simply "leech" as in "You get leech") is the access mode on a FTP
site where one can download as many files as one wants, without having
to upload.  Leech mode is often promised on banner sites, but rarely
obtained. See {ratio site}, {banner site}.

   :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. 1. [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}. 2. An incandescent light bulb
(the filament emits light because it's resistively heated).

   :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 used to be possible, for example, to send letterbombs that would 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; fortunately it has been some years since any
of the standard Unix/Internet mail software was vulnerable to such an
attack (though, as the Melissa virus attack demonstrated in early 1999,
Microsoft systems can have serious problems).  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.  Today, the term might be used for the ISO reverse line feed
character 0x8D. Unlike `line feed', `line starve' is _not_ standard
{{ASCII}} terminology.	Even among hackers it is considered a bit silly.
3. [proposed] A sequence such as \c (used in System V echo, as well as
{{nroff}} and {{troff}}) that suppresses a {newline} or other character(s)
that would normally be emitted.

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

   :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 {netdead}.

   :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 and Intel started taking stakes in
Linux companies.

   :Linus: /leen'us'/ or /lin'us'/, not /li:'nus/ Linus Torvalds,
the author of {Linux}.	Nobody in the hacker culture has been as readily
recognized by first name alone since Ken (Thompson).

   :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 (Linus's family is part of Finland's 6%
ethnic-Swedish minority).  This may be the most remarkable hacker project
in history -- an entire clone of Unix for 386, 486 and Pentium micros,
distributed for free with sources over the net (ports to Alpha and Sparc
and many other machines are also in use).

   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 2000, Linux is
seriously challenging Microsoft's OS dominance. It has already captured
31% of the Internet-server market and 25% of general business servers.

   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}.

   (Some people object that the name `Linux' should be used to refer
only to the kernel, not the entire operating system.  This claim is a
proxy for an underlying territorial dispute; people who insist on the
term `GNU/Linux' want the the {FSF} to get most of the credit for Linux
because RMS and friends wrote many of its user-level tools.  Neither this
theory nor the term `GNU/Linux' has gained more than minority acceptance).

   :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}.  Its partisans claim it is the only
language that is truly beautiful.  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.  [common] 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
competing 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.  In 1994 {DEC} put an inferior
imitation of these in circulation with a red corporate logo added.
Compaq (half of which was once DEC) has continued the practice.

   :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.,obs.  [from military slang for an M-16
rifle with magazine inserted and prepared for firing] Said of a removable
disk volume properly prepared for use -- that is, locked into the drive
and with the heads loaded.  Ironically, because their heads are `loaded'
whenever the power is up, this description is never used of {{Winchester}}
drives (which are named after a rifle).

   :locked up: adj.  Syn. for {hung}, {wedged}.

   :logic bomb: n.  Code surreptitiously inserted into an
application or OS that causes it to perform some destructive or
security-compromising activity whenever specified conditions are met.
Compare {back door}.

   :logical: adj.  [from the technical term `logical device',
wherein a physical device is referred to by an arbitrary `logical' name]
Having the role of.  If a person (say, Les Earnest at SAIL) who had long
held a certain post left and were replaced, the replacement would for a
while be known as the `logical' Les Earnest.  (This does not imply any
judgment on the replacement.)  Compare {virtual}.

   At Stanford, `logical' compass directions denote a coordinate
system in which `logical north' is toward San Francisco, `logical west'
is toward the ocean, etc., even though logical north varies between
physical (true) north near San Francisco and physical west near San Jose.
(The best rule of thumb here is that, by definition, El Camino Real always
runs logical north-and-south.)	In giving directions, one might say:
"To get to Rincon Tarasco restaurant, get onto {El Camino Bignum} going
logical north."  Using the word `logical' helps to prevent the recipient
from worrying about that the fact that the sun is setting almost directly
in front of him.  The concept is reinforced by North American highways
which are almost, but not quite, consistently labeled with logical rather
than physical directions.  A similar situation exists at MIT: Route 128
(famous for the electronics industry that has grown up along it) is a
3-quarters circle surrounding Boston at a radius of 10 miles, terminating
near the coastline at each end.  It would be most precise to describe the
two directions along this highway as `clockwise' and `counterclockwise',
but the road signs all say "north" and "south", respectively.  A hacker
might describe these directions as `logical north' and `logical south',
to indicate that they are conventional directions not corresponding to
the usual denotation for those words.  (If you went logical south along
the entire length of route 128, you would start out going northwest,
curve around to the south, and finish headed due east, passing along one
infamous stretch of pavement that is simultaneously route 128 south and
Interstate 93 north, and is signed as such!)

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

   :loose bytes: n.  Commonwealth hackish term for the padding bytes
or {shim}s many compilers insert between members of a record or structure
to cope with alignment requirements imposed by the machine architecture.

   :lord high fixer: n.  [primarily British, from Gilbert &
Sullivan's `lord high executioner'] The person in an organization who
knows the most about some aspect of a system.  See {wizard}.

   :lose: vi.  1. [very common] 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
{lossage}.  "The compiler is losing badly when I try to use templates."

   :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.  [very common] 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 a "Lumber Cartel" spoofing this paranoid theory;
the 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.	Compare {heatseeker}.

   :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 5"
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.	[common] 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 and on Usenet.  Compare {mundane}, {muggle}.

= M = =====

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

   :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}, {user-friendly}.

   :macro: /mak'roh/ n.  [techspeak] 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".

   Parodies playing on these senses of the term abound; some have made
 their way into serious documentation, as when a MAGIC directive was
described in the Control Card Reference for GCOS c.1978.  For more about
hackish `magic', see {Appendix A}.  Compare {black magic}, {wizardly},
{deep magic}, {heavy wizardry}.

   :magic cookie: n.  [Unix; common] 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; common] 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), {list-bomb}.

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

   Mailing lists are one of the primary forms of hacker interaction,
along with {Usenet}.  They predate Usenet, having originated with the
first UUCP and ARPANET connections.  They are often used for private
information-sharing on topics that would be too specialized for or
inappropriate to public Usenet groups.	Though some of these maintain
almost purely technical content (such as the Internet Engineering Task
Force mailing list), others (like the `sf-lovers' list maintained for
many years by Saul Jaffe) are recreational, and many are purely social.
Perhaps the most infamous of the social lists was the eccentric bandykin
distribution; its latter-day progeny, lectroids and tanstaafl, still
include a number of the oddest and most interesting people in hackerdom.

   Mailing lists are easy to create and (unlike Usenet) don't tie up a
 significant amount of machine resources (until they get very large,
at which point they can become interesting torture tests for mail
software).  Thus, they are often created temporarily by working groups,
the members of which can then collaborate on a project without ever
needing to meet face-to-face.  Much of the material in this lexicon
was criticized and polished on just such a mailing list (called
`jargon-friends'), which included all the co-authors of Steele-1983.

   :main loop: n.  The top-level control flow construct in an input-
or event-driven program, the one which receives and acts or dispatches
on the program's input.  See also {driver}.

   :mainframe: n.  Term originally referring to the cabinet
containing the central processor unit or `main frame' of a room-filling
{Stone Age} batch machine.  After the emergence of smaller `minicomputer'
designs in the early 1970s, the traditional {big iron} machines were
described as `mainframe computers' and eventually just as mainframes.
The term carries the connotation of a machine designed for batch rather
than interactive use, though possibly with an interactive timesharing
operating system retrofitted onto it; it is especially used of machines
built by IBM, Unisys, and the other great {dinosaur}s surviving from
computing's {Stone Age}.

   It has been common wisdom among hackers since the late 1980s that
the mainframe architectural tradition is essentially dead (outside of
the tiny market for {number-crunching} supercomputers (see {cray})),
having been swamped by the recent huge advances in IC technology and
low-cost personal computing.  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

   :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.  1. Used similarly to {mung} or {scribble}, but more
violent in its connotations; something that is mangled has been
irreversibly and totally trashed. 2. To produce the {mangled name}
corresponding to a C++ declaration.

   :mangled name: n.  A name, appearing in a C++ object file, that
is a coded representation of the object declaration as it appears in
the source. Mangled names are used because C++ allows multiple objects
to have the same name, as long as they are distinguishable in some
other way, such as by having different parameter types.  Thus, the
internal name must have that additional information embedded in it,
using the limited character set allowed by most linkers. For instance,
one popular compiler encodes the standard library function declaration
"memchr(const void*,int,unsigned int)" as "@memchr$qpxviui".

   :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 {toolsmith}).

   :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.  [common] 1. [techspeak] An extremely small
change.  "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 little 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?"  Compare {Christmas tree
packet}, {Godzillagram}.

   :massage: vt.  [common] 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}).  The name of the
rather good 1999 {cypherpunk} movie "The Matrix" played on this sense,
which however had been established for years before.  3. The totality
of present-day computer networks (popularized in this sense by John
Quarterman; rare outside academic literature).

   :maximum Maytag mode: n.  What a {washing machine} or, by
extension, any disk drive 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}.  In 1999
it's been some years since hard disks were large enough to do this,
but the same phenomenon has recently been reported with 24X CD-ROM drives.

   :meatspace: /meet'spays/ n.	The physical world, where the meat
lives - as opposed to {cyberspace}.  Hackers are actually more willing to
use this term than `cyberspace', because it's not speculative - we already
have a running meatspace implementation (the universe).  Compare {RL}.

   :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 populations.

   :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},

   :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.  [semi-obsolescent now that DOS is]
Derisory term for MS-DOS.  Often followed by the ritual banishing "Just
say No!"  See {{MS-DOS}}.  Most hackers (even many MS-DOS hackers) loathed
MS-DOS for its single-tasking nature, its limits on application size,
its nasty primitive interface, and its ties to IBMness and Microsoftness
(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 (rarely)
{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

    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 /e/.

    foo, bar, baz, bongo
	  Yale, late 1970s.

	  {Python} programmers.

	  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.

    oogle, foogle, boogle; zork, gork, bork
	  These two series (which may be continued with other initial
	  consonents) are reportedly common in England, and said to go
	  back to Lewis Carroll.

   Of all these, only `foo' and `bar' are universal (and {baz}
nearly so).  The compounds {foobar} and `foobaz' also enjoy very wide

   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 MFTL."

   The first great goal in the mind of the designer of an MFTL is
usually to write a compiler for it, then bootstrap the design away from
contamination by lesser languages by writing a compiler for it in itself.
Thus, the standard put-down question at an MFTL talk is "Has it been
used for anything besides its own compiler?"  On the other hand, a
(compiled) language that cannot even be used to write its own compiler
is beneath contempt.  (The qualification has become necessary because
of the increasing popularity of interpreted languages like {Perl} and
{Python}. 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
  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 fundamentalist missionaries. See
also {astroturfing}; compare {microserf}.

   :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

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

   :microLenat: /mi:`-kroh-len'-*t/ n.	The unit of {bogosity}.
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 because the student gave 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}.

   :microserf: /mi:'kro-s*rf/ [popularized, though not originated,
by Douglas Copeland's book "Microserfs"] A programmer at {Microsoft},
especially a low-level coder with little chance of fame or
fortune. Compare {MicroDroid}.

   :Microsloth Windows: /mi:'kroh-sloth` win'dohz/ n.  (Variants
combine {Microshift, Macroshaft, Microsuck} with {Windoze, WinDOS}.
Hackerism(s) for `Microsoft Windows'.  A thirty-two bit extension and
graphical shell to a sixteen bit patch to an eight bit operating system
originally coded for a four bit microprocessor which was written by a
two-bit company that can't stand one bit of competition.  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} and {Blue 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.  See also {Halloween Documents}.

   :micros~1: An abbreviation of the full name {Microsoft}
resembling the rather {bogus} way Windows 9x's VFAT filesystem truncates
long file names to fit in the MS-DOS 8+3 scheme (the real filename is
stored elsewhere). If other files start with the same prefix, they'll
be called micros~2 and so on, causing lots of problems with backups and
other routine system-administration problems.  During the US Antitrust
trial against Microsoft the names Micros~1 ans Micros~2 were suggested
for the two companies that would exist after a break-up.

   :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).

   :middle-out implementation: See {bottom-up implementation}.

   :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.,obs.  5.25-inch floppy disks, as opposed to
3.5-inch or {microfloppies} and the long-obsolescent 8-inch variety
(if there is ever a smaller size, they will undoubtedly be tagged
`nanofloppies').  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, such as `Meaningless
Information Provided by Salesmen'.  This joke expresses an attitude nearly
universal among hackers about the value of most {benchmark} claims,
said attitude being one of the great cultural divides between hackers
and {marketroid}s (see also {BogoMIPS}).  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; rare (like its referent)] 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}.
Compare {green lightning}.  See {miswart}.

   :misfeature: /mis-fee'chr/ or /mis'fee`chr/ n.  [common] 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}, {Berzerkeley}.

   :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; common] 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 (

   :mobo: /moh'bo/ Written and (rarely) spoken contraction of

   :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'). Now common.] 1. adj.  Large, immense,
complex, impressive.  "A Saturn V rocket is a truly moby frob."
"Some MIT undergrads pulled off a moby hack at the Harvard-Yale game."
(See {Appendix A} for discussion.)  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 bytes).

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

   :mod: vt.,n.  [very common] 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.  [common] 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.  [common] 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 headache."

   :molly-guard: /mol'ee-gard/ n.  [University of Illinois] A shield
to prevent tripping of some {Big Red Switch} by clumsy or ignorant hands.
Originally used of the plexiglass covers improvised for the BRS on an
IBM 4341 after a programmer's toddler daughter (named Molly) frobbed it
twice in one day.  Later generalized to covers over stop/reset switches
on disk drives and networking equipment.  In hardware catalogues, you'll
see the much less interesting description "guarded button".

   :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 (but see {bazaar}).  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

   :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).
Moore's Law is apparently self-fulfilling.  The implication is that
somebody, somewhere is going to be able to build a better chip than you
if you rest on your laurels, so you'd better start pushing hard on the
problem. See also {Parkinson's Law of Data} and {Gates's Law}.

   :moose call: n.  See {whalesong}.

   :moria: /mor'ee-*/ n.  Like {nethack} and {rogue}, one of the
large PD Dungeons-and-Dragons-like simulation games, available for a wide
range of machines and operating systems.  The name is from Tolkien's
Mines of Moria; compare {elder days}, {elvish}.  The game is extremely
addictive and a major consumer of time better used for hacking.  See also
{nethack}, {rogue}, {Angband}.

   :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}, {ill-behaved}.

   :mu: /moo/ The correct answer to the classic trick question
"Have you stopped beating your wife yet?".  Assuming that you have no wife
or you have never beaten your wife, the answer "yes" is wrong because
it implies that you used to beat your wife and then stopped, but "no"
is worse because it suggests that you have one and are still beating her.
According to various Discordians and Douglas Hofstadter the correct answer
is usually "mu", a Japanese word alleged to mean "Your question cannot be
answered because it depends on incorrect assumptions".	Hackers tend to
be sensitive to logical inadequacies in language, and many have adopted
this suggestion with enthusiasm.  The word `mu' is actually from Chinese,
meaning `nothing'; it is used in mainstream Japanese in that sense.
Native speakers do not recognize the Discordian question-denying use,
which almost certainly derives from overgeneralization of the answer in
the following well-known Rinzai Zen {koan}:

     A monk asked Joshu, "Does a dog have the Buddha nature?"
     Joshu retorted, "Mu!"

See also {has the X nature}, {Some 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 mode}.

   :muddie: n.	Syn. {mudhead}.  More common in Great Britain,
possibly because system administrators there like to mutter "bloody
muddies" when annoyed at the species.

   :mudhead: n.  Commonly used to refer to a {MUD} player who eats,
sleeps, and breathes MUD.  Mudheads have been known to fail their
degrees, drop out, etc., with the consolation, however, that they made
wizard level.  When encountered in person, on a MUD, or in a chat system,
all a mudhead will talk about is three topics: the tactic, character, or
wizard that is supposedly always unfairly stopping him/her from becoming
a wizard or beating a favorite MUD; why the specific game he/she has
experience with is so much better than any other; and the MUD he or she
is writing or going to write because his/her design ideas are so much
better than in any existing MUD.  See also {wannabee}.

   To the anthropologically literate, this term may recall the
Zuni/Hopi legend of the mudheads or `koyemshi', mythical half-formed
children of an unnatural union.  Figures representing them act as clowns
in Zuni sacred ceremonies.  Others may recall the `High School Madness'
sequence from the Firesign Theatre album "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand
Me the Pliers", in which there is a character named "Mudhead".

   :muggle: [from J.K. Rowling's `Harry Potter' books, 1998] A
non-{wizard}.  Not as disparaging as {luser}; implies vague pity rather
than contempt.	In the universe of Rowling's enormously (and deservedly)
popular children's series, muggles and wizards inhabit the same modern
world, but each group is ignorant of the commonplaces of the others'
existence - most muggles are unaware that wizards exist, and wizards
(used to magical ways of doing everything) are perplexed and fascinated
by muggle artifacts.

   In retrospect it seems completely inevitable that hackers would
adopt this metaphor, and in hacker usage it readily forms compounds such
as `muggle-friendly'.  Compare {luser}, {mundane}.

   :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

   :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}, {muggle}.

   :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 {spamblock} to an email address.

   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).  The OED reports `munge' as an archaic verb nmeaning
"to wipe (a person's nose)".

   :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}},

   :nadger: /nad'jr/ v.  [UK, from rude slang noun `nadgers' for
testicles; compare American & British `bollixed'] 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.  See {adger}.

   :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 {annoyware}, {crippleware}.

   :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.  1. 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'.  2. Said
of an algorithm that doesn't take advantage of some superior but advanced
technique, e.g., the {bubble sort}. It may imply naivete on the part of
the programmer, although there are situations where a naive algorithm is
preferred, because it is more important to keep the code comprehensible
than to go for maximum performance. "I know the linear search is naive,
but in this case the list typically only has half a dozen items."

   :naive user: n.  A {luser}.	Tends to imply someone who is
ignorant mainly owing to inexperience.	When this is applied to someone
who _has_ experience, there is a definite implication of stupidity.

   :NAK: /nak/ interj.	[from the ASCII mnemonic for 0010101] 1.
On-line joke answer to {ACK}?: "I'm not here."	2. On-line answer to a
request for chat: "I'm not available."	3. Used to politely interrupt
someone to tell them you don't understand their point or that they have
suddenly stopped making sense.	See {ACK}, sense 3.  "And then, after
we recode the project in COBOL...." "Nak, Nak, Nak!  I thought I heard
you say COBOL!"  4. A negative answer.	"OK if I boot the server?"  "NAK!"

   :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 {jiffy}).

   :nano-: pref.  [SI: the next quantifier below {micro-}; meaning *
10^(-9)] Smaller than {micro-}, and used in the same rather loose and
connotative way.  Thus, one has {{nanotechnology}} (coined by hacker
K. Eric Drexler) by analogy with `microtechnology'; and a few machine
architectures have a `nanocode' level below `microcode'.  Tom Duff
at Bell Labs has also pointed out that "Pi seconds is a nanocentury".
See also {{quantifiers}}, {pico-}, {nanoacre}, {nanobot}, {nanocomputer},

   :nanoacre: /nan'oh-ay`kr/ n.  A unit (about 2 mm square) of real
estate on a VLSI chip.	The term gets its giggle value from the fact
that VLSI nanoacres have costs in the same range as real acres once one
figures in design and fabrication-setup costs.

   :nanobot: /nan'oh-bot/ n.  A robot of microscopic proportions,
presumably built by means of {{nanotechnology}}.  As yet, only used
informally (and speculatively!).  Also called a `nanoagent'.

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

   :nanofortnight: 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.  [very common] 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 {Appendix A} for discussion).  See also {hack}.

   :neats vs. scruffies: n.  The label used to refer to one of the
continuing {holy wars} in AI research.	This conflict tangles together
two separate issues.  One is the relationship between human reasoning
and AI; `neats' tend to try to build systems that `reason' in some way
identifiably similar to the way humans report themselves as doing, while
`scruffies' profess not to care whether an algorithm resembles human
reasoning in the least as long as it works.  More importantly, neats tend
to believe that logic is king, while scruffies favor looser, more ad-hoc
methods driven by empirical knowledge.	To a neat, scruffy methods appear
promiscuous, successful only by accident, and not productive of insights
about how intelligence actually works; to a scruffy, neat methods appear
to be hung up on formalism and irrelevant to the hard-to-capture `common
sense' of living intelligences.

   :neep-neep: /neep neep/ n.  [onomatopoeic, 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

   :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, where `nurd' is reported from as
far back as 1957.) 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 hallmarks 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.

   :nerd knob: n.  [Cisco] a command in a complex piece of software
which is more likely to be used by an extremely experienced user to tweak
a setting of one sort or another - a setting which the average user may
not even know exists. Nerd knobs tend to be toggles, turning on or off
a particular, specific, narrowly defined behavior.

   :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, or British `bollocks']
{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.  There is now an official site one at
`'.  See also {moria}, {rogue}, {Angband}.

   :netiquette: /net'ee-ket/ or /net'i-ket/ n.	[portmanteau,
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.  [sometimes elaborated to `Netscrape Fornicator',
also `Nutscrape'] 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}}). 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.  Indeed, display of a network address (e.g on business
cards) used to function as an important hacker identification signal, like
lodge pins among Masons or tie-dyed T-shirts among Grateful Dead fans.
In the day of pervasive Internet this is less true, but you can still
be fairly sure that anyone with a network address handwritten on his or
her convention badge is a hacker.

   :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 conspiracy}.

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

   :newbie: /n[y]oo'bee/ n.  [verry common; 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
(the combination "clueless newbie" is especially common).  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}; see also {gnubie}.

   :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.  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 Usenet news
(the {netnews} software).

   :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}, {pr0n} and {filk}.

   :newsgroup: n.  [Usenet] One of {Usenet}'s huge collection of
topic groups or {fora}.  Usenet groups can be `unmoderated' (anyone
can post) or `moderated' (submissions are automatically directed
to a moderator, who edits or filters and then posts the results).
Some newsgroups have parallel {mailing list}s for Internet people with
no netnews access, with postings to the group automatically propagated
to the list and vice versa.  Some moderated groups (especially those
which are actually gatewayed Internet mailing lists) are distributed as
`digests', with groups of postings periodically collected into a single
large posting with an index.

   Among the best-known are comp.lang.c (the C-language forum),
comp.arch (on computer architectures), comp.unix.wizards (for Unix
wizards), rec.arts.sf.written and siblings (for science-fiction fans), and
talk.politics.misc (miscellaneous political discussions and {flamage}).

   :nick: n.  [IRC; very common] 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 name}.

   :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 vein 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."

   :nipple mouse: n.  Var. `clit mouse, clitoris' Common term for
the pointing device used on IBM ThinkPads and a few other laptop
computers.  The device, which sits between the `g' and `h' keys on the
keyboard, indeed resembles a rubber nipple intended to be tweaked by
a forefinger.  Many hackers consider these superior to the glide pads
found on most laptops, which are harder to control precisely.

   :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).  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.

   :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}, {Slowlaris}, {Internet Exploder}.

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

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

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

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

   :NP-: /N-P/ pref.  Extremely.  Used to modify adjectives
describing a level or quality of difficulty; the connotation is often
`more so than it should be' 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 printers.

   :NSA line eater: n.	The National Security Agency trawling
program sometimes assumed to be reading the net for the U.S.  Government's
spooks.  Most hackers used to think it was mythical but believed in
acting as though existed just in case.	since the mid-1990s it has
gradually become known that the NSA actually does this, quite illegaly,
through its Echelon program.

   The standard countermeasure is to 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.

   As far back as the 1970s there was a mainstream variant of this
myth involving a `Trunk Line Monitor', which supposedly used speech
recognition to extract words from telephone trunks.  This is much harder
than noticing keywords in email, and most of the people who originally
propagated it 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.  Twenty years
and several orders of technological magnitude later, however, there
are clear indications that the NSA has actually deployed such filtering
(again, very much against U.S.	law).

   :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

   :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.  [common] 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; contrast {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.  [common] Computations of a numerical
nature, esp. those that make extensive use of floating-point numbers.
The only thing {Fortrash} is good for.	This term is in widespread
informal use outside hackerdom and even in mainstream slang, but has
additional hackish connotations: namely, that the computations are
mindless and involve massive use of {brute force}.  This is not always
{evil}, esp. if it involves ray tracing or fractals or some other use that
makes {pretty pictures}, esp. if such pictures can be used as {wallpaper}.
See also {crunch}.

   :numbers: n.  [scientific computation] Output of a computation
that may not be significant results but at least indicate that the program
is running.  May be used to placate management, grant sponsors, etc.
`Making numbers' means running a program because output -- any output, not
necessarily meaningful output -- is needed as a demonstration of progress.
See {pretty pictures}, {math-out}, {social science number}.

   :NUXI problem: /nuk'see pro'bl*m/ n.  Refers to the problem of
transferring data between machines with differing byte-order.  The string
`UNIX' might look like `NUXI' on a machine with a different `byte sex'
(e.g., when transferring data from a {little-endian} to a {big-endian},
or vice-versa).  See also {middle-endian}, {swab}, and {bytesexual}.

   :nybble: /nib'l/ (alt. `nibble') n.	[from v.  `nibble' by
analogy with `bite' => `byte'] Four bits; one {hex} digit; a half-byte.
Though `byte' is now techspeak, this useful relative is still jargon.
Compare {{byte}}; see also {bit}. The more mundane spelling "nibble"
is also commonly used.	Apparently the `nybble' spelling is uncommon
in Commonwealth Hackish, as British orthography would suggest 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, tydbit

    4 bits:

    5 bits:

    10 bits:

    16 bits:
	  playte, {chawmp} (on a 32-bit machine), word (on a 16-bit
	  machine), half-word (on a 32-bit machine).

    18 bits:
	  {chawmp} (on a 36-bit machine), half-word (on a 36-bit machine)

    32 bits:
	  dynner, {gawble} (on a 32-bit machine), word (on a 32-bit
	  machine), longword (on a 16-bit machine).

	  word (on a 36-bit machine)

    48 bits:
	  {gawble} (under circumstances that remain obscure)

    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;
     main(){F_OO();printf("%1.3f\n",4.*-F/OO/OO);}F_OO() {
      _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
     _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
     _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
      _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_

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.  [common] 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."

   :-oid: suff.  [from Greek suffix -oid = `in the image of'] 1.
Used as in mainstream slang English to indicate a poor imitation, a
counterfeit, or some otherwise slightly bogus resemblance.  Hackers will
happily use it with all sorts of non-Greco/Latin stem words that wouldn't
keep company with it in mainstream English.  For example, "He's a nerdoid"
means that he superficially resembles a nerd but can't make the grade;
a `modemoid' might be a 300-baud box (Real Modems run at 28.8 or up);
a `computeroid' might be any {bitty box}.  The word `keyboid' could be
used to describe a {chiclet keyboard}, but would have to be written;
spoken, it would confuse the listener as to the speaker's city of origin.
2. More specifically, an indicator for `resembling an android' which in
the past has been confined to science-fiction fans and hackers.  It too
has recently (in 1991) started to go mainstream (most notably in the term
`trendoid' for victims of terminal hipness).  This is probably
 traceable to the popularization of the term {droid} in "Star Wars"
and its sequels.  (See also {windoid}.)

   Coinages in both forms have been common in science fiction for at
least fifty years, and hackers (who are often SF fans) have probably been
making `-oid' jargon for almost that long [though GLS and I can personally
confirm only that they were already common in the mid-1970s --ESR].

   :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}.

   :on the gripping hand: In the progression that starts "On the
one hand..." and continues "On the other hand..." mainstream English may
add "on the third hand..." even though most people don't have three hands.
Among hackers, it is just as likely to be "on the gripping hand".  This
metaphor supplied the title of Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle's 1993 SF
novel "The Gripping Hand" which involved a species of hostile aliens with
three arms (the same species, in fact, referenced in {juggling eggs}).
As with {TANSTAAFL} and {con}, this usage one of the naturalized imports
from SF fandom frequently observed among hackers.

   :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 a {Perl} program that prints primes:

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

   In the Perl world this game is sometimes called Perl Golf because
the player with the fewest (key)strokes wins.

   :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 source: n.  [common; also adj. `open-source'] Term coined
in March 1998 following the Mozilla release to describe software
distributed in source under licenses guaranteeing anybody rights to
freely use, modify, and redistribute, the code.  The intent was to be
able to sell the hackers' ways of doing software to industry and the
mainstream by avoid the negative connotations (to {suit}s) of the term
"{free software}".  For discussion of the followon tactics and their
consequences, see the Open Source Initiative (

   :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}.

   :Oracle, the: The all-knowing, all-wise Internet Oracle, or one of the foreign language derivatives of same.
Newbies frequently confuse the Oracle with Oracle, a database vendor.
As a result, the unmoderated is frequently crossposted
to by the clueless, looking for advice on SQL.	As more than one person
has said in similar situations, "Don't people bother to look at the
newsgroup description line anymore?"  (To which the standard response is,
"Did people ever read it in the first place?")

   :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 titles}}.

   :oriental food:: n.	Hackers display an intense tropism towards
oriental cuisine, especially Chinese, and especially of the spicier
varieties such as Szechuan and Hunan.  This phenomenon (which has also
been observed in subcultures that overlap heavily with hackerdom,
most notably science-fiction fandom) has never been satisfactorily
explained, but is sufficiently intense that one can assume the target
of a hackish dinner expedition to be the best local Chinese place and be
right at least three times out of four.  See also {ravs}, {great-wall},
{stir-fried random}, {laser chicken}, {Yu-Shiang Whole Fish}.  Thai,
Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese cuisines are also quite popular.

   :orphan: 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}.

   :OSS: Written-only acronym for "Open Source Software" (see {open
source}.  This is a rather ugly {TLA}, and the principals in the
open-source movement don't use it, but it has (perhaps inevitably)
spread through the trade press like kudzu.

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

   :OTOH: // [Usenet; very common] On The Other Hand.

   :out-of-band: adj.  [from telecommunications and network theory]
1. In software, describes values of a function which are not in its
`natural' range of return values, but are rather signals that some kind
of exception has occurred.  Many C functions, for example, return a
nonnegative integral value, but indicate failure with an out-of-band
return value of -1.  Compare {hidden flag}, {green bytes}, {fence}.
2. Also sometimes used to describe what communications people call
`shift characters', such as the ESC that leads control sequences for many
terminals, or the level shift indicators in the old 5-bit Baudot codes.
3. In personal communication, using methods other than email, such as
telephones or {snail-mail}.

   :overclock: /oh'vr-klok'/ vt.  To operate a CPU or other digital
logic device at a rate higher than it was designed for, under the
assumption that the manufacturer put some {slop} into the specification
to account for manufacturing tolerances. Overclocking something can
result in intermittent {crash}es, and can even burn things out, since
power dissipation is directly proportional to {clock} frequency. People
who make a hobby of this are sometimes called "overclockers"; they are
thrilled that they can run their 450MHz CPU at 500MHz, even though they
can only tell the difference by running a {benchmark} program.

   :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 doggerel:

     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' (see {PDL}) seems to be primarily an MITism;
outside MIT this term is replaced by `overflow {stack}' (but that wouldn't
rhyme with `diddle').

   :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.	[rare] Physical mail, as opposed to {email}.
Synonymous with {snail-mail}, but much less common.

   :P.O.D.: /P-O-D/ [rare] Acronym for `Piece Of Data' (as opposed
to a code section).  See also {pod}.

   :packet over air: [common among backbone ISPs] The protocol
notionally being used by Internet data attempting to traverse a physical
gap or break in the network, such as might be caused by a {fiber-seeking
backhoe}. "I see why you're dropping packets.  You seem to have a packet
over air problem.

   :padded cell: n.  Where you put {luser}s so they can't hurt
anything.  A program that limits a luser to a carefully restricted subset
of the capabilities of the host system (for example, the `rsh(1)' utility
on USG Unix).  Note that this is different from an {iron box} because it
is overt and not aimed at enforcing security so much as protecting others
(and the luser) from the consequences of the luser's boundless naivete
(see {naive}).	Also `padded cell environment'.

   :page in: v.  [MIT] 1. To become aware of one's surroundings
again after having paged out (see {page out}).	Usually confined to the
sarcastic comment: "Eric pages in, {film at 11}!"  2. Syn. `swap in';
see {swap}.

   :page out: vi.  [MIT] 1. To become unaware of one's surroundings
temporarily, due to daydreaming or preoccupation.  "Can you repeat that?
I paged out for a minute."  See {page in}.  Compare {glitch}, {thinko}.
2. Syn. `swap out'; see {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.  [common] 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

   :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.

   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.
Though these are now obsolete as a form of addressing, they still show up
in diagnostics and trace headers ocvcasionally (e.g. in NNTP headers).
2. [Unix] A filename, fully specified relative to the root directory
(as opposed to relative to the current directory; the latter is sometimes
called a `relative path').  This is also called a `pathname'.  3. [Unix
and MS-DOS] The `search path', an environment variable specifying the
directories in which the {shell} (COMMAND.COM, under MS-DOS) should
look for commands.  Other, similar constructs abound under Unix (for
example, the C preprocessor has a `search path' it uses in looking for
`#include' files).

   :pathological: adj.	1. [scientific computation] Used of a data
set that is grossly atypical of normal expected input, esp.  one that
exposes a weakness or bug in whatever algorithm one is using.
An algorithm that can be broken by pathological inputs may still be
useful if such inputs are very unlikely to occur in practice.  2.
When used of test input, implies that it was purposefully engineered
as a worst case.  The implication in both senses is that the data is
spectacularly ill-conditioned or that someone had to explicitly set out
to break the algorithm in order to come up with such a crazy example.
3. Also said of an unlikely collection of circumstances.  "If the network
is down and comes up halfway through the execution of that command by
root, the system may just crash."  "Yes, but that's a pathological case."
Often used to dismiss the case from discussion, with the implication that
the consequences are acceptable, since they will happen so infrequently
(if at all) that it doesn't seem worth going to the extra trouble to
handle that case (see sense 1).

   :payware: /pay'weir/ n.  Commercial software.  Oppose {shareware}
or {freeware}.

   :PBD: /P-B-D/ n.  [abbrev. of `Programmer Brain Damage'] Applied
to bug reports revealing places where the program was obviously broken
by an incompetent or short-sighted programmer.	Compare {UBD}; see also

   :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 {copyleft}.

   :PDL: /P-D-L/, /pid'l/, /p*d'l/ or /puhd'l/ 1. n. `Program
Design Language'.  Any of a large class of formal and profoundly useless
pseudo-languages in which {management} forces one to design programs.
Too often, management expects PDL descriptions to be maintained in
parallel with the code, imposing massive overhead to little or no benefit.
See also {{flowchart}}.  2. v. To design using a program design language.
"I've been pdling so long my eyes won't focus beyond 2 feet."  3. n. `Page
Description Language'.	Refers to any language which is used to control
a graphics device, usually a laserprinter.  The most common example is,
of course, Adobe's {{PostScript}} language, but there are many others,
such as Xerox InterPress, etc.	4. In ITS days, the preferred MITism for
{stack}.  See {overflow pdl}.  5. Dave Lebling, one of the co-authors
of {Zork}; (his {network address} on the ITS machines was at one time

   :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}}, {BLT}, {DDT}, {DPB}, {EXCH}, {HAKMEM}, {LDB}, {pop}, {push}.
See also `'.

   :PDP-20: n.	The most famous computer that never was.  {PDP-10}
computers running the {{TOPS-10}} operating system were labeled
`DECsystem-10' as a way of differentiating them from the PDP-11.
Later on, those systems running {TOPS-20} were labeled `DECSYSTEM-20'
(the block capitals being the result of a lawsuit brought against DEC by
Singer, which once made a computer called `system-10'), but contrary to
popular lore there was never a `PDP-20'; the only difference between
a 10 and a 20 was the operating system and the color of the paint.
Most (but not all) machines sold to run TOPS-10 were painted `Basil
Blue', whereas most TOPS-20 machines were painted `Chinese Red' (often
mistakenly called orange).

   :PEBKAC: /peb'kak/ [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
used to consist 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
circulated (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 poke}).

   Since a {real operating system} provides useful, higher-level
services for the tasks commonly performed with peeks and pokes on micros,
and real languages tend not to encourage low-level memory groveling, a
question like "How do I do a peek in C?" is diagnostic of the {newbie}.
(Of course, OS kernels often have to do exactly this; a real kernel
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

   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.	Successor chips have been called
`Pentium II' and `Pentium III'.

   :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, generally consider it one
of the {languages of choice}, and it is by far the most widely used
tool for making `live' web pages via CGI.  Perl has been described, in
a parody of a famous remark about `lex(1)', as the "Swiss-Army chainsaw"
of Unix programming.  Though Perl is very useful, it would be a stretch
to describe it as pretty or {elegant}; people who like clean, spare
design generally prefer {Python}. 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 techspeak `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.

   :PFY: n.  [Usenet; common] Abbreviation for `Pimply-Faced
Youth'.  A {BOFH} in training, esp. one apprenticed to an elder BOFH
aged in evil.

   :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 circumference 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.

   :PHB: /P-H-B/ [Usenet; common; rarely spoken] Abbreviation,
"Pointy-Haired Boss".  From the {Dilbert} character, the archetypal
halfwitted middle-{management} type. See also {pointy-haired}.

   :phreaker: /freek'r/ n.  One who engages in {phreaking}.  See
also {blue box}.

   :phreaking: /freek'ing/ n.  [from `phone phreak'] 1. The art and
science of {cracking} the phone network (so as, for example, to make free
long-distance calls).  2. By extension, security-cracking in any other
context (especially, but not exclusively, on communications networks)
(see {cracking}).

   At one time phreaking was a semi-respectable activity among
hackers; there was a gentleman's agreement that phreaking as an
intellectual game and a form of exploration was OK, but serious theft of
services was taboo.  There was significant crossover between the hacker
community and the hard-core phone phreaks who ran semi-underground
networks of their own through such media as the legendary "TAP
Newsletter".  This ethos began to break down in the mid-1980s as
wider dissemination of the techniques put them in the hands of less
responsible phreaks.  Around the same time, changes in the phone network
made old-style technical ingenuity less effective as a way of hacking
it, so phreaking came to depend more on overtly criminal acts such as
stealing phone-card numbers.  The crimes and punishments of gangs like the
`414 group' turned that game very ugly.  A few old-time hackers still
phreak casually just to keep their hand in, but most these days have
hardly even heard of `blue boxes' or any of the other paraphernalia of
the great phreaks of yore.

   :pico-: pref.  [SI: a quantifier meaning * 10^-12] Smaller
than {nano-}; used in the same rather loose connotative way as {nano-}
and {micro-}.  This usage is not yet common in the way {nano-} and
{micro-} are, but should be instantly recognizable to any hacker.
See also {{quantifiers}}, {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.

   :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 for `Packet INternet Groper').	Occasionally used as a phone
greeting.  See {ACK}, also {ENQ}.  2.  vt. To verify the presence of.
3. vt. To get the attention of.  4.  vt. To send a message to all
members of a {mailing list} requesting an {ACK} (in order to verify
that everybody's addresses are reachable).  "We haven't heard much of
anything from Geoff, but he did respond with an ACK both times I pinged
jargon-friends."  5. n.  A quantum packet of happiness.  People who
are very happy tend to exude pings; furthermore, one can intentionally
create pings and aim them at a needy party (e.g., a depressed person).
This sense of ping may appear as an exclamation; "Ping!" (I'm happy;
I am emitting a quantum of happiness; I have been struck by a quantum
of happiness).	The form "pingfulness", which is used to describe people
who exude pings, also occurs.  (In the standard abuse of language,
"pingfulness" can also be used as an exclamation, in which case it's a
much stronger exclamation than just "ping"!).  Oppose {blargh}.

   The funniest use of `ping' to date was described in January 1991 by
 Steve Hayman on the Usenet group  He was trying to
isolate a faulty cable segment on a TCP/IP Ethernet hooked up to a NeXT
machine, and got tired of having to run back to his console after each
cabling tweak to see if the ping packets were getting through.	So he
used the sound-recording feature on the NeXT, then wrote a script that
repeatedly invoked `ping(8)', listened for an echo, and played back the
recording on each returned packet.  Result?  A program that caused the
machine to repeat, over and over, "Ping ... ping ... ping ..." as long as
the network was up.  He turned the volume to maximum, ferreted through the
building with one ear cocked, and found a faulty tee connector in no time.

   :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.

   :pipe: n.  [common] 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 {bogo-sort}.

   :pizza box: n.  [Sun] The largish thin box housing the electronics
in (especially Sun) desktop workstations, so named because of its size
and shape and the dimpled pattern that looks like air holes.

   Two meg single-platter removable disk packs used to be called
pizzas, and the huge drive they were stuck into was referred to as a
pizza oven.  It's an index of progress that in the old days just the
disk was pizza-sized, while now the entire computer is.

   :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

	     ^X^C q quit :q ^C end x exit ZZ ^D ?  help

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 interface.

   :pnambic: /p*-nam'bik/ [Acronym from the scene in the film
version of "The Wizard of Oz" in which the true nature of the wizard is
first discovered: "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."]
1. A stage of development of a process or function that, owing to
incomplete implementation or to the complexity of the system, requires
human interaction to simulate or replace some or all of the actions,
inputs, or outputs of the process or function.	2. Of or pertaining to
a process or function whose apparent operations are wholly or partially
falsified.  3. Requiring {prestidigitization}.

   The ultimate pnambic product was "Dan Bricklin's Demo", a program
which supported flashy user-interface design prototyping.  There is
a related maxim among hackers: "Any sufficiently advanced technology
is indistinguishable from a rigged demo."  See {magic}, sense 1, for
illumination of this point.

   :pod: n.  [allegedly from abbreviation POD for `Prince Of
Darkness'] A Diablo 630 (or, latterly, any letter-quality impact printer).
From the DEC-10 PODTYPE program used to feed formatted text to it.
Not to be confused with {P.O.D.}.

   :point-and-drool interface: n.  Parody of the techspeak term
`point-and-shoot interface', describing a windows, icons, and mouse-based
interface such as is found on the Macintosh.  The implication, of course,
is that such an interface is only suitable for idiots.	See {for the
rest of us}, {WIMP environment}, {Macintrash}, {drool-proof paper}.
Also `point-and-grunt interface'.

   :pointy hat: n.  See {wizard hat}.  This synonym specifically
refers to the wizards of Unseen University in Terry Pratchett's
"Discworld" serious of humorous fantasies; these books are extremely
popular among hackers.

   :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}; see
{PHB}. 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 ceiling. 3. [all-caps, as `POP'] Point of Presence,
a bank of dial-in lines allowing customers to make (local) calls into
an ISP.  This is borderline techspeak.

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

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

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

   :postcardware: n.  A kind of {shareware} that borders on
{freeware}, in that the author requests only that satisfied users send
a postcard of their home town or something.  (This practice, silly as
it might seem, serves to remind users that they are otherwise getting
something for nothing, and may also be psychologically related to real
estate `sales' in which $1 changes hands just to keep the transaction
from being a gift.)

   :posting: n.  Noun corresp. to v. {post} (but note that {post}
can be nouned).  Distinguished from a `letter' or ordinary {email}
message by the fact that it is broadcast rather than point-to-point.
It is not clear whether messages sent to a small mailing list are postings
or email; perhaps the best dividing line is that if you don't know the
names of all the potential recipients, it is a posting.

   :postmaster: n.  The email contact and maintenance person at a
site connected to the Internet or UUCPNET.  Often, but not always,
the same as the {admin}.  The Internet standard for electronic mail
({RFC}-822) requires each machine to have a `postmaster' address;
usually it is aliased to this person.

   :PostScript:: n.  A Page Description Language ({PDL}), based on
work originally done by John Gaffney at Evans and Sutherland in 1976,
evolving through `JaM' (`John and Martin', Martin Newell) at {XEROX
PARC}, and finally implemented in its current form by John Warnock et
al. after he and Chuck Geschke founded Adobe Systems Incorporated in 1982.
PostScript gets its leverage by using a full programming language,
rather than a series of low-level escape sequences, to describe an
image to be printed on a laser printer or other output device (in this it
parallels {EMACS}, which exploited a similar insight about editing tasks).
It is also noteworthy for implementing on-the fly rasterization, from
Bezier curve descriptions, of high-quality fonts at low (e.g.  300 dpi)
resolution (it was formerly believed that hand-tuned bitmap fonts were
required for this task).  Hackers consider PostScript to be among the
most elegant hacks of all time, and the combination of technical merits
and widespread availability has made PostScript the language of choice
for graphical output.

   :pound on: vt.  Syn. {bang on}.

   :power cycle: vt.  (also, `cycle power' or just `cycle') To power
off a machine and then power it on immediately, with the intention of
clearing some kind of {hung} or {gronk}ed state.  Syn. {120 reset};
see also {Big Red Switch}.  Compare {Vulcan nerve pinch}, {bounce}
(sense 4), and {boot}, and see the "{Some 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.

   :pr0n: // [Usenet, IRC] Pornography.  Originally this referred
only to Internet porn but since then it has expanded to refer to just
about anything.  The term comes from the {warez kiddies} tendency to
replace letters with numbers.  At some point on IRC someone mistyped,
swapped the middle two letters, and the name stuck, then propagated
over into mainstream hacker usage.  Compare {filk}, {grilf}, {hing}
and {newsfroup}.

   :precedence lossage: /pre's*-dens los'*j/ n.  [C programmers]
Coding error in an expression due to unexpected grouping of arithmetic or
logical operators by the compiler.  Used esp. of certain common coding
errors in C due to the nonintuitively low precedence levels of `&',
`|', `^', `<<', and `>>' (for this reason, experienced C programmers
deliberately forget the language's {baroque} precedence hierarchy and
parenthesize defensively).  Can always be avoided by suitable use of
parentheses.  {LISP} fans enjoy
  pointing out that this can't happen in _their_ favorite language,
which eschews precedence entirely, requiring one to use explicit
parentheses everywhere.  See {aliasing bug}, {memory leak}, {memory
smash}, {smash the stack}, {fandango on core}, {overrun screw}.

   :prepend: /pree`pend'/ vt.  [by analogy with `append'] To prefix.
As with `append' (but not `prefix' or `suffix' as a verb), the direct
object is always the thing being added and not the original word (or
character string, or whatever).  "If you prepend a semicolon to the line,
the translation routine will pass it through unaltered."

   :prestidigitization: /pres`t*-di`j*-ti:-zay'sh*n/ n.  1. The act
of putting something into digital notation via sleight of hand.  2.
Data entry through legerdemain.

   :pretty pictures: n.  [scientific computation] The next step up
from {numbers}.  Interesting graphical output from a program that may
not have any sensible relationship to the system the program is intended
to model.  Good for showing to {management}.

   :prettyprint: /prit'ee-print/ v.  (alt. `pretty-print') 1. To
generate `pretty' human-readable output from a {hairy} internal
representation; esp. used for the process of {grind}ing (sense 1) program
code, and most esp. for LISP code.  2. To format in some particularly
slick and nontrivial way.

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

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

   :prime time: n.  [from TV programming] Normal high-usage hours on
a 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

   :proggy: n.	1. Any computer program that is considered a full
application. 2. Any computer program that is made up of or otherwise
contains {proglet}s. 3. Any computer program that is large enough to be
normally distributed as an RPM or {tarball}.

   :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.  4. The least fun
you can have with your clothes off.

   :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 in.  Often in the phrase
"proprietary crap".  3. Synonym for closed-source, e.g. software issued
in binary without source and under a restructive license.

   Since the coining of the term {open source}, many hackers have
made a conscious effort to distinguish between `proprietary' and
`commercial' software.	It is possible for software to be commercial
(that is, intended to make a profit for the producers) without being
proprietary.  The reverse is also possible, for example in binary-only

   :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}.  --ESR]

   :pubic directory: /pyoob'ik d*-rek't*-ree/) n.  [NYU] (also `pube
directory' /pyoob' d*-rek't*-ree/) The `pub' (public) directory on a
machine that allows {FTP} access.  So called because it is the default
location for {SEX} (sense 1).  "I'll have the source in the pube directory
by Friday."

   :puff: vt.  To decompress data that has been crunched by Huffman
coding.  At least one widely distributed Huffman decoder program was
actually _named_ `PUFF', but these days it is usually packaged with
the encoder.  Oppose {huff}, see {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

   :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}.

   :Python: /pi:'thon/ In the words of its author, "the other
scripting language" (other than {Perl}, that is).  Python's design is
notably clean, elegant, and well thought through; it tends to attract
the sort of programmers who find Perl grubby and exiguous.  Python's
relationship with Perl is rather like the {BSD} community's relationship
to {Linux} - it's the smaller party in a (usually friendly) rivalry,
but the average quality of its developers is generally conceded to be
rather higher than in the larger community it competes with.  There's a
Python resource page at `'.  See also {Guido}.

= Q = =====

   :quad: n.  1. Two bits; syn. for {quarter}, {crumb}, {tayste}.
2. A four-pack of anything (compare {hex}, sense 2).  3. The rectangle
or box glyph used in the APL language for various arcane purposes
mostly related to I/O.	Former Ivy-Leaguers and Oxford types are said
to associate it with nostalgic memories of dear old University.

   :quadruple bucky: n. obs.  1. On an MIT {space-cadet keyboard},
use of all four of the shifting keys (control, meta, hyper, and super)
while typing a character key.  2. On a Stanford or MIT keyboard in {raw
mode}, use of four shift keys while typing a fifth character, where
the four shift keys are the control and meta keys on _both_ sides of
the keyboard.  This was very difficult to do!  One accepted technique
was to press the left-control and left-meta keys with your left hand,
the right-control and right-meta keys with your right hand, and the
fifth key with your nose.

   Quadruple-bucky combinations were very seldom used in practice,
because when one invented a new command one usually assigned it to some
character that was easier to type.  If you want to imply that a program
has ridiculously many commands or features, you can say something like:
"Oh, the command that makes it spin the tapes while whistling Beethoven's
Fifth Symphony is quadruple-bucky-cokebottle."	See {double bucky},
{bucky bits}, {cokebottle}.

   :quantifiers:: In techspeak and jargon, the standard metric
prefixes used in the SI (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.  [common] 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.  (We ignore some variants of BASIC in which a program
consisting of a single empty string literal reproduces itself trivially.)
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 machines:

     char*f="char*f=%c%s%c;main() {printf(f,34,f,34,10);}%c";

   For excruciatingly exact quinishness, remove the interior line
breaks.  Here is another elegant quine in ANSI C:

     #define q(k)main(){return!puts(#k"\nq("#k")");} q(#define

   Some infamous {Obfuscated C Contest} entries have been quines
that reproduced in exotic ways.  There is an amusing Quine Home Page

   :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
non-US-ASCII 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.

   The QWERTY keyboard has also spawned some unhelpful economic myths
about how technical standards get and stay established; see

= R = =====

   :rabbit job: n.  [Cambridge] A batch job that does little, if
any, real work, but creates one or more copies of itself, breeding
like rabbits.  Compare {wabbit}, {fork bomb}.

   :rain dance: n.  1. Any ceremonial action taken to correct a
hardware problem, with the expectation that nothing will be accomplished.
This especially applies to reseating printed circuit boards, reconnecting
cables, etc.  "I can't boot up the machine.  We'll have to wait for Greg
to do his rain dance."	2. Any arcane sequence of actions performed
with computers or software in order to achieve some goal; the term is
usually restricted to rituals that include both an {incantation} or two
and physical activity or motion.  Compare {magic}, {voodoo programming},
{black art}, {cargo cult programming}, {wave a dead chicken}; see also
{casting the runes}.

   :rainbow series: n.	Any of several series of technical manuals
distinguished by cover color.  The original rainbow series was the NCSC
security manuals (see {Orange Book}, {crayola books}); the term has also
been commonly applied to the PostScript reference set (see {Red Book},
{Green Book}, {Blue Book}, {White Book}).  Which books are meant by
"`the' rainbow series" unqualified is thus dependent on one's local
technical 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 Number God: [; often
abbreviated `RNG'] The malign force which lurks behind the random number
generator in {Angband} (and by extension elsewhere). A dark god that
demands sacrifices and toys with its victims.  "I just found a really
great item; I suppose the RNG is about to punish me..." Apparently,
Angband's random number generator occasionally gets locked in a
repetition, so you get something with a 3% chance happening 8 times
in a row. Improbable, but far too common to be pure chance.  Compare

   :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 5).

	  The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and
	  Everything. (Note that this answer is completely fortuitous.

	  From the sexual act.	This one was favored in MIT's ITS culture.

	  69 hex = 105 decimal, and 69 decimal = 105 octal.

	  The Number of the Beast.

For further enlightenment, 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

   :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.

   :ratio site: [warez d00dz] A FTP site storing pirated files
where one must first upload something before being able to download.
There is a ratio, based on bytes or files count, between the uploads
and download. For instance, on a 2:1 site, to download a 4 Mb file,
one must first upload at least 2 Mb of files. The hotter the contents
of the server are, the smaller the ratio is. More often than not, the
server refuses uploads because its disk is full, making it useless for
downloading - or the connection magically breaks after one has uploaded
a large amount of files, just before the downloading phase begins. See
also {banner site}, {leech mode}.

   :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.  [primarily MIT/Boston
usage] 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
pan-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} operating
systems that make a distinction, a disk file) without any processing,
abstraction, or interpretation by the operating system.  Compare {rare
mode}, {cooked mode}.  This is techspeak under Unix, jargon elsewhere.

   :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 (and controversial) but effective.  There is an
  RBL home page (

   :rc file: /R-C fi:l/ n.  [Unix: from `runcom files' on the {CTSS}
system 1962-63, 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 {canonical} 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 {smok