term% ls -F
term% cat index.txt
#======= THIS IS THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 4.4.0, 10 MAY 2003 =======#

The Jargon File (version 4.4.0)

   Table of Contents

   Welcome to the Jargon File
   1. Introduction
   2. Of Slang, Jargon, and Techspeak
   3. Revision History
   4. Jargon Construction

        Verb Doubling
        Soundalike Slang
        The -P Convention
        Spoken inarticulations

   5. Hacker Writing Style
   6. Email Quotes and Inclusion Conventions
   7. Hacker Speech Style
   8. International Style
   9. Crackers, Phreaks, and Lamers
   10. Pronunciation Guide
   11. Other Lexicon Conventions
   12. Format for New Entries
   13. The Jargon Lexicon
   A. Hacker Folklore

        The Meaning of `Hack'
        TV Typewriters: A Tale of Hackish Ingenuity
        A Story About `Magic'
        Some AI Koans

              Tom Knight and the Lisp Machine
              Moon instructs a student
              Sussman attains enlightenment
              Drescher and the toaster

        OS and JEDGAR
        The Story of Mel

   B. A Portrait of J. Random Hacker

        General Appearance
        Reading Habits
        Other Interests
        Physical Activity and Sports
        Things Hackers Detest and Avoid
        Gender and Ethnicity
        Ceremonial Chemicals
        Communication Style
        Geographical Distribution
        Sexual Habits
        Personality Characteristics
        Weaknesses of the Hacker Personality

   C. Helping Hacker Culture Grow
   D. Bibliography

   List of Tables

   10.1. Vowels
   11.1. Abbreviations
   11.2. Origins

Welcome to the Jargon File

   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 4.4.0''
   or ``The on-line hacker Jargon File, version 4.4.0, 10 May 2003''.)

   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 three `authorized' editions so far are
   described  in  the Revision History section; there may be more in the

   The  Jargon File's online rendition uses an unusually large number of
   special  characters.  This test page lists them so you can check what
   your browser does with each one.
   glyph    description
   l        greek character lambda
   L        greek character Lambda
   p        greek character pi
   £        pound sterling
   &#12296; left angle bracket
   &#12297; right angle bracket
   æ        ae ligature
   ß        German sharp-s sign
   ?1       similarity sign
   (+)      circle-plus
   (×)      circle-times
   ×        times
   {}       empty set (used for APL null)
   µ        micro quantifier sign
   ->       right arrow
   <=>      horizontal double arrow
   (TM)     trademark symbol
   ®        registered-trademark symbol
   -        minus
   ±        plus-or-minus
   Ø        slashed-O
   @        schwa

Chapter 1. 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 50 years old.

   As  usual  with  slang,  the special vocabulary of hackers helps hold
   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
   surreal 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.

   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,  in  the  early 1990s it
   became  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  since  the  early  1970s.  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

   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. 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.

Chapter 2. 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

   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:

          informal  language  from  mainstream  English or non-technical
          subcultures (bikers, rock fans, surfers, etc).

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

          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 communicate
   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.

Chapter 3. 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, FTPed a copy of the File to MIT. He noticed that
   it  was hardly restricted to `AI words' and so stored the file on his
   directory as AI:MRC;SAIL JARGON.

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

   Raphael Finkel dropped out of active participation shortly thereafter
   and  Don  Woods  became  the  SAIL  contact  for  the File (which was
   subsequently  kept  in  duplicate  at  SAIL  and  MIT,  with periodic

   The  File  expanded  by  fits  and  starts  until about 1983; Richard
   Stallman  was  prominent  among the contributors, adding many MIT and
   ITS-related coinages.

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

   A  late  version  of  jargon-1, expanded with commentary for the mass
   market, was edited by Guy Steele into a book published in 1983 as The
   Hacker's  Dictionary  (Harper & Row CN 1082, ISBN 0-06-091082-8). The
   other  jargon-1 editors (Raphael Finkel, Don Woods, and Mark Crispin)
   contributed  to  this  revision, as did Richard M. Stallman and Geoff
   Goodfellow.  This book (now out of print) is hereafter referred to as
   `Steele-1983' and those six as the Steele-1983 coauthors.

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

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

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

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

   By  the  mid-1980s  the File's content was dated, but the legend that
   had grown up around it never quite died out. The book, and softcopies
   obtained  off  the  ARPANET,  circulated even in cultures far removed
   from  MIT  and  Stanford; the content exerted a strong and continuing
   influence  on  hacker  language  and humor. Even as the advent of the
   microcomputer  and  other  trends  fueled  a  tremendous expansion of
   hackerdom,  the File (and related materials such as the 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

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

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

   (Warning:  other email addresses and URLs appear in this file but are
   not  guaranteed  to be correct after date of publication. Don't email
   us  if an attempt to reach someone bounces -- we have no magic way of
   checking  addresses  or  looking  up  people. If a web reference goes
   stale, try a Google or Alta Vista search for relevant phrases.

   Please  try  to  review  a recent copy of the on-line document before
   submitting entries; it is available on the Web. It will often contain
   new  material  not  recorded  in the latest paper snapshot that could
   save you some typing. It also includes some submission guidelines not
   reproduced here.

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

   The  3.0.0 version was published in August 1993 as the second edition
   of   The   New  Hacker's  Dictionary,  again  from  MIT  Press  (ISBN

   The  4.0.0  version  was  published  in  September  1996 as the third
   edition   of  The  New  Hacker's  Dictionary  from  MIT  Press  (ISBN

   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 major revisions:
   Version Date Lines Words Characters Entries Comments
   2.1.1 Jun 12 1990 5485 42842 278958 790

   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.
   2.1.5 Nov 28 1990 6028 46946 307510 866

   Changes   and  additions  by  ESR  in  response  to  numerous  USENET
   submissions  and  comment  from  the  First  Edition  co-authors. The
   Bibliography (Appendix C) was also appended.
   2.2.1 Dec 15 1990 9394 75954 490501 1046

   Most  of  the contents of the 1983 paper edition edited by Guy Steele
   was  merged  in.  Many  more  USENET submissions added, including the
   International Style and the material on Commonwealth Hackish.
   2.3.1 Jan 03 1991 10728 85070 558261 1138

   The  great format change -- case is no longer smashed in lexicon keys
   and  cross-references.  A  very  few entries from jargon-1 which were
   basically  straight  techspeak were deleted; this enabled the rest of
   Appendix  B  (created  in 2.1.1) to be merged back into main text and
   the  appendix  replaced  with  the Portrait of J. Random Hacker. More
   USENET submissions were added.
   2.4.1 Jan 14 1991 12362 97819 642899 1239

   The  Story  of  Mel  and many more USENET submissions merged in. More
   material on hackish writing habits added. Numerous typo fixes.
   2.6.1 Feb 12 1991 15011 118277 774942 1484

   Second   great   format  change;  no  more  <>  around  headwords  or
   references.  Merged  in results of serious copy-editing passes by Guy
   Steele, Mark Brader. Still more entries added.
   2.7.1 Mar 01 1991 16087 126885 831872 1533

   New  section on slang/jargon/techspeak added. Results of Guy's second
   edit pass merged in.
   2.8.1 Mar 22 1991 17154 135647 888333 1602

   Material from the TMRC Dictionary and MRC's editing pass merged in.
   2.9.6 Aug 16 1991 18952 148629 975551 1702

   Corresponds to reproduction copy for book.
   2.9.8 Jan 01 1992 19509 153108 1006023 1760

   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.
   2.9.9 Apr 01 1992 20298 159651 1048909 1821

   Folded in XEROX PARC lexicon.
   2.9.10 Jul 01 1992 21349 168330 1106991 1891

   lots of new historical material.
   2.9.11 Jan 01 1993 21725 171169 1125880 1922

   Lots of new historical material.
   2.9.12 May 10 1993 22238 175114 1152467 1946

   A  few  new  entries  &  changes,  marginal  MUD/IRC  slang  and some
   borderline  techspeak  removed, all in preparation for 2nd Edition of
   3.0.0 Jul 27 1993 22548 177520 1169372 1961

   Manuscript freeze for 2nd edition of TNHD.
   3.1.0 Oct 15 1994 23197 181001 1193818 1990

   Interim release to test WWW conversion.
   3.2.0 Mar 15 1995 23822 185961 1226358 2031

   Spring 1995 update.
   3.3.0 Jan 20 1996 24055 187957 1239604 2045

   Winter 1996 update.
   3.3.1 Jan 25 1996 24147 188728 1244554 2050

   Copy-corrected  improvement  on  3.3.0 shipped to MIT Press as a step
   towards TNHD III.
   4.0.0 Jul 25 1996 24801 193697 1281402 2067

   The actual TNHD III version after copy-edit
   4.1.0 8 Apr 1999 25777 206825 1359992 2217

   The Jargon File rides again after three years.
   4.2.0 31 Jan 2000 26598 214639 1412243 2267

   Fix processing of URLs.
   4.3.0 30 Apr 2001 27805 224978 1480215 2319

   Special  edition  in  honor  of the first implementation of RFC 1149.
   Also cleaned up a number of obsolete entries.
   4.4.0 10 May 2003 32004 230012 1707139 2290

   XML-Docbook  format  conversion. Serious pruning of old slang, nearly
   100 entries failed the Google test and were removed.

   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

   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 a decade 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.

Chapter 4. Jargon Construction

   Table of Contents

   Verb Doubling
   Soundalike Slang
   The -P Convention
   Spoken inarticulations

   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
     * comp.unix.internals.system.calls.brk.brk.brk
     * sci.physics.edward.teller.boom.boom.boom
     * alt.sadistic.dentists.drill.drill.drill

   These two traditions fuse in the newsgroup
   alt.adjective.noun.verb.verb.verb,   devoted   to   humor   based  on
   deliberately  confounding  parts  of  speech.  Several observers have
   noted  that  the contents of this group is excellently representative
   of the peculiarities of hacker humor.

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
     * 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
     * FrontPage -> AffrontPage
     * VB.NET -> VB Nyet
     * FrontPage -> AffrontPage
     * Lotus Notes -> Lotus Bloats
     * Microsoft Outlook -> Microsoft Outhouse
     * Linux -> Linsux
     * FreeBSD -> FreeLSD
     * C# -> C Flat

   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?"

   [Once,  when  we  were at a Chinese restaurant, Bill Gosper wanted to
   know  whether someone would like to share with him a two-person-sized
   bowl of soup. His inquiry was: "Split-p soup?" -- GLS]


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

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

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

   Similarly,   all   verbs  can  be  nouned.  This  is  only  a  slight
   overgeneralization in modern English; in hackish, however, it is good
   form to mark them in some standard nonstandard way. Thus:
     * win -> winnitude, winnage
     * disgust -> disgustitude
     * hack -> hackification

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

   On  a  similarly  Anglo-Saxon note, almost anything ending in `x' may
   form  plurals  in `-xen' (see VAXen and boxen in the main text). Even
   words  ending  in  phonetic /k/ alone are sometimes treated this way;
   e.g.,  `soxen'  for  a  bunch  of  socks. Other funny plurals are the
   Hebrew-style `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. Among Perl hackers it is
   reported  that  `comma'  and  `semicolon'  pluralize as `commata' and
   `semicola'  respectively.  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


   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". Or: "You can't run those two cards on the
   same bus; they fight over interrupt 9."

   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 seems to ascribe consciousness 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

   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 that a human machine can have intentions, it
   is  therefore easy for them to ascribe consciousness and intention to
   other  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

   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
   abstract truth but of utility. Hackers typically view simple programs
   from  the  design  stance,  but  more complex ones are often modelled
   using the intentional stance.

   It has also been argued that the anthropomorphization of software and
   hardware  reflects  a blurring of the boundary between the programmer
   and his artifacts -- the human qualities belong to the programmer and
   the  code  merely expresses these qualities as his/her proxy. On this
   view, a hacker saying a piece of code `got confused' is really saying
   that  he  (or  she)  was  confused  about  exactly what he wanted the
   computer  to  do, the code naturally incorporated this confusion, and
   the  code  expressed  the  programmer's  confusion  when  executed by
   crashing or otherwise misbehaving.

   Note  that  by displacing from "I got confused" to "It got confused",
   the  programmer  is  not  avoiding responsibility, but rather getting
   some  analytical  distance  in  order  to be able to consider the bug

   It has also been suggested that anthropomorphizing complex systems is
   actually an expression of humility, a way of acknowleging that simple
   rules  we  do  understand  (or that we invented) can lead to emergent
   behavioral complexities that we don't completely understand.

   All three explanations accurately model hacker psychology, and should
   be considered complementary rather than competing.


   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

   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.

Chapter 5. 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

   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
   many  other  languages  (including Spanish, French, Italian, Catalan,
   and German) 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

   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

   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*,

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

   Angle-bracket  enclosure  is also used to indicate that a term stands
   for some random member of a larger class (this is straight from BNF).
   Examples like the following are common:

     So this <ethnic> walks into a bar one day...

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

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

   reads roughly as "Be nice to this fool, er, gentleman...", 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).

   Accidental  writing  under  erasure  occurs  when using the Unix talk
   program to chat interactively to another user. On a PC-style keyboard
   most  users instinctively press the backspace key to delete mistakes,
   but this may not achieve the desired effect, and merely displays a ^H
   symbol. The user typically presses backspace a few times before their
   brain  realises  the  problem  -  especially  likely if the user is a
   touch-typist -- and since each character is transmitted as soon as it
   is  typed,  Freudian  slips  and  other  inadvertent  admissions  are
   (barring network delays) clearly visible for the other user to see.

   Deliberate  use  of  ^H  for writing under erasure 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  take  on new life on IRCs and other
   line-based chat systems.
charlie: I've seen that term used on alt.foobar often.
lisa: Send it to Erik for the File.
lisa: 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, and is
   also used in Ada). 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 (that is, 3 × 10 7) seconds long.

   The   tilde   (~)   is  commonly  used  in  a  quantifying  sense  of
   `approximately'; that is, ~50 means `about fifty'.

   On  Usenet  and  in  the  MUD  world,  common C boolean, logical, and
   relational  operators  such as |, &, ||, &&, !, ==, !=, >, <, >=, and
   <=  are  often  combined  with English. The Pascal not-equals, <>, is
   also  recognized,  and  occasionally one sees /= for not-equals (from
   Ada,  Common  Lisp, and Fortran 90). The use of prefix `!' as a loose
   synonym  for `not-' or `no-' is particularly common; thus, `!clue' is
   read `no-clue' or `clueless'.

   A   related   practice  borrows  syntax  from  preferred  programming
   languages  to  express ideas in a natural-language text. For example,
   one might see the following:
In <> J. R. Hacker wrote:
<I recently had occasion to field-test the Snafu
<Systems 2300E adaptive gonkulator.  The price was
<right, and the racing stripe on the case looked
<kind of neat, but its performance left something
<to be desired.

Yeah, I tried one out too.

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

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

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

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

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

   More  recently,  following  on  the huge popularity of the World Wide
   Web, pseudo-HTML markup has become popular for similar purposes:
Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!

   You'll even see this with an HTML-style attribute modifier:
<flame intensity="100%">
You seem well-suited for a career in government.

   Another  recent  (late 1990s) construction now common on Usenet seems
   to be borrowed from Unix shell syntax or 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.

Chapter 6. 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.

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

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

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

   or for short messages like this:

        > entire message
        response to message

   Thanks to poor design of some PC-based mail agents (notably Microsoft
   Outlook  and  Outlook  Express), 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).

Chapter 7. 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!").

Chapter 8. International Style

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

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

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

   On  the  other  hand,  English  often  gives  rise to grammatical and
   vocabulary  mutations  in  the  native language. For example, Italian
   hackers  often  use the nonexistent verbs `scrollare' (to scroll) and
   `deletare'  (to  delete)  rather  than  native  Italian  scorrere and
   cancellare.  Similarly,  the  English  verb  `to  hack' has been seen
   conjugated  in  Swedish.  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, gecoredumpt. And Spanish-speaking hackers use
   `linkear' (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

Chapter 9. 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  crackers,  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.
   While  BBS  technology  essentially died out after the Great Internet
   Explosion,  the cracker culture moved to IRC and other Internet-based
   network channels and maintained a semi-underground existence.

   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, and
   hackers  regard  them with varying degrees of contempt. But ten years
   on  the  brightest  crackers tend to become hackers, and sometimes to
   recall  their  origins by using cracker slang in a marked and heavily
   ironic way.

   This  lexicon  covers  much  of  cracker slang (which is often called
   "leet-speak")  so  the  reader  will  be able to understand both what
   leaks out of the cracker underground and the occasional ironic use by

   Here is a brief guide to cracker and warez d00dz usage:
     * Misspell frequently. The substitutions phone -> fone and 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 now
       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").

   The following letter substitutions are common:

       a -> 4
       e -> 3
       f -> ph
       i -> 1 or |
       l -> | or 1
       m -> |\/|
       n -> |\|
       o -> 0
       s -> 5
       t -> 7 or +

   Thus,  "elite" comes out "31337" and "all your base are belong to us"
   becomes  "4ll  y0ur  b4s3  4r3  b3l0ng  t0  us",  Other  less  common
   substitutions include:

       b -> 8
       c -> ( or k or |< or /<
       d -> <|
       g -> 6 or 9
       h -> |-|
       k -> |< or /<
       p -> |2
       u -> |_|
       v -> / or \/
       w -> // or \/\/
       x -> ><
       y -> '/

   The  word "cool" is spelled "kewl" and normally used ironically; when
   crackers  really  want to praise something they use the prefix "uber"
   (from German) which comes out "ub3r" or even "|_|83r"

   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 or
   ironically by a real hacker, as in:
    > I got X Windows running under Linux!

    d00d!  u R an 31337 hax0r

   The  words  "hax0r" for "hacker" and "sux0r" for "sucks" are the most
   common  references;  more  generally, to mark a term as cracker-speak
   one may add "0r" or "xor". Examples:

       "The nightly build is sux0r today."
       "Gotta go reboot those b0x0rz."
       "Man, I really ought to fix0r my .fetchmailrc."
       "Yeah, well he's a 'leet VMS operat0r now, so he's too good for u

   The  only  practice  resembling  this  in  native 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.

Chapter 10. 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

   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).

   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

   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.

   Vowels are represented as follows:

   Table 10.1. Vowels
   a     back, that
   ah    father, palm (see note)
   ar    far, mark
   aw    flaw, caught
   ay    bake, rain
   e     less, men
   ee    easy, ski
   eir   their, software
   i     trip, hit
   i:    life, sky
   o     block, stock (see note)
   oh    flow, sew
   oo    loot, through
   or    more, door
   ow    out, how
   oy    boy, coin
   uh    but, some
   u     put, foot
   y     yet, young
   yoo   few, chew
   [y]oo /oo/ with optional fronting as in `news' (/nooz/ or /nyooz/)

   The glyph /@/ is used for the `schwa' sound of unstressed or occluded

   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

Chapter 11. 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  before A, except that leading
   dash is ignored. The case-blindness is a feature, not a bug.

   Prefix  **  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  open  source
   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

   Table 11.1. Abbreviations
   abbrev.               abbreviation
   adj.    adjective
   adv.    adverb
   alt.    alternate
   cav.    caveat
   conj.   conjunction
   esp.    especially
   excl.   exclamation
   imp.    imperative
   interj. interjection
   n.      noun
   obs.    obsolete
   pl.     plural
   poss.   possibly
   pref.   prefix
   prob.   probably
   prov.   proverbial
   quant.  quantifier
   suff.   suffix
   syn.    synonym (or synonymous with)
   v.      verb (may be transitive or intransitive)
   var.    variant
   vi.     intransitive verb
   vt.     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:

   Table 11.2. Origins
   Amateur Packet Radio A technical culture of ham-radio sites using
   AX.25 and TCP/IP for wide-area networking and BBS systems.
   Berkeley University of California at Berkeley
   BBN Bolt, Beranek & Newman
   Cambridge  the  university  in England (not the city in Massachusetts
   where MIT happens to be located!)
   CMU Carnegie-Mellon University
   Commodore Commodore Business Machines
   DEC The Digital Equipment Corporation (now HP).
   Fairchild The Fairchild Instruments Palo Alto development group
   FidoNet See the FidoNet entry
   IBM International Business Machines
   MIT  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
   NRL Naval Research Laboratories
   NYU New York University
   OED The Oxford English Dictionary
   Purdue Purdue University
   SAIL   Stanford   Artificial  Intelligence  Laboratory  (at  Stanford
   SI   From   Systéme   International,   the   name  for  the  standard
   abbreviations of metric nomenclature used in the sciences
   Stanford Stanford University
   Sun Sun Microsystems
   TMRC  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
   UCLA University of California at Los Angeles
   UK the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland)
   Usenet See the Usenet entry
   WPI  Worcester Polytechnic Institute, site of a very active community
   of PDP-10 hackers during the 1970s
   WWW The World-Wide-Web.
   XEROX PARC XEROX's Palo Alto Research Center, site of much pioneering
   research in user interface design and networking
   Yale Yale University

   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.

Chapter 12. Format for New Entries

   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 Google
   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.

   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!

Chapter 13. The Jargon Lexicon

   Table of Contents


   The Crunchly saga begins here.

   (The next cartoon in the Crunchly saga is 73-05-18.)

   The  infamous  Crunchly cartoons by The Great Quux are woven into the
   lexicon,  each  next  to  an  appropriate  entry. To read them in the
   sequence  in  which they were written, chase pointers from here using
   the `next cartoon' information in the captions. A few don't have next
   pointers; these are vignettes from the 1973 Crunchland tableau spread
   that inaugurated the strip.


   (TM) : //
          [Usenet]  ASCII rendition of the (TM) appended to phrases that
          the  author feels should be recorded for posterity, perhaps in
          future  editions of this lexicon. Sometimes used ironically as
          a  form  of  protest  against the recent spate of software and
          algorithm patents and look and feel lawsuits. See also UN*X.

   /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.

   /me : //
          [IRC;  common]  Under  most IRC, /me is the "pose" command; if
          you  are  logged  on  as  Foonly and type "/me laughs", others
          watching  the  channel  will  see  "* Joe Foonly laughs". This
          usage has been carried over to mail and news, where the reader
          is expected to perform the same expansion in his or her head.

          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  Ø  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.

   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,

   @-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

          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

          We  are  informed,  however,  that  rec.skydiving members have
          maintained  a  tradition of formation jumps in the shape of an


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

   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 grinders. 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,
          i.e., "I'm not here").

   Acme : n.
          [from  Greek  akme highest point of perfection or achievement]
          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 "Road-runner" cartoons. In
          these  cartoons,  the  famished  Wile  E.  Coyote  was forever
          attempting  to  catch  up with, trap, and eat the Road-runner.
          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 wooden crates labeled prominently with the
          Acme name -- which, probably not by coincidence, was the trade
          name of the animation rotation board used by cartoonists since
          forever.  Acme  devices invariably malfunctioned in improbable
          and violent ways.

   ad-hockery : /ad-hok'@r-ee/ , n.

          1.  Gratuitous  assumptions made inside certain programs, esp.
          expert    systems,   which   lead   to   the   appearance   of
          semi-intelligent  behavior but are in fact entirely arbitrary.
          For  example,  fuzzy-matching  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.


          This is ad-hockery in action.

          (The next cartoon in the Crunchly saga is 74-08-18)

   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

   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

          ADVENT sources are available for FTP at

          r.Z. You can also play it as a Java applet.

   adware : n.
          Software which is free to download and use but includes pop-up
          banner ads somewhere. See also -ware.

   AFAIK : // , n.
          [Usenet;  common]  Abbrev.  for "As Far As I Know". There is a
          variant  AFAICT  "As  Far As I Can Tell"; where AFAIK suggests
          that  the  writer  knows  his  knowledge  is  limited,  AFAICT
          suggests that he feels his knowledge is as complete as anybody
          else's buit that the best available knowledge does not support
          firm conclusions.

   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.

          [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 (2002)
          to  solve  them  have  foundered  on  the  amount  of  context
          information  and `intelligence' they seem to require. See also

   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

          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 (are 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 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, 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  introduced  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 hardware sucks, all software sucks. : prov.
          [from  scary  devil  monastery]  A  general recognition of the
          fallibility  of  any  computer  system, ritually intoned as an
          attempt  to  quell  incipient  {holy  wars}.  It  is  a common
          response to any sort of bigot. When discussing Wintel systems,
          however,  it  is  often  snidely appended with, `but some suck
          more than others.'

   all your base are belong to us
          A declaration of victory or superiority. The phrase stems from
          a 1991 adaptation of Toaplan's "Zero Wing" shoot-'em-up arcade
          game  for  the Sega Genesis game console. A brief introduction
          was added to the opening screen, and it has what many consider
          to  be the worst Japanese-to-English translation in video game
          history.  The  introduction  shows the bridge of a starship in
          chaos  as a Borg-like figure named CATS materializes and says,
          "How  are  you  gentlemen!!  All  your base are belong to us."
          [sic]  In  2001,  this  amusing  mistranslation spread virally
          through  the  internet, bringing with it a slew of JPEGs and a
          movie of hacked photographs, each showing a street sign, store
          front,  package  label, etc. hacked to read "All your base are
          belong  to  us" or one of the other many supremely dopey lines
          from  the  game  (such  as "Somebody set us up the bomb!!!" or
          "What  happen?").  When  these  phrases are used properly, the
          overall   effect   is  both  screamingly  funny  and  somewhat
          chilling, reminiscent of the B movie "They Live".

          The original has been generalized to "All your X are belong to
          us",  where  X  is filled in to connote a sinister takeover of
          some  sort.  Thus,  "When  Joe  signed  up  for his new job at
          Yoyodyne,  he  had to sign a draconian NDA. It basically said:
          All  your code are belong to us." Has many of the connotations
          of "Resistance is futile; you will be assimilated" (see Borg).
          Considered  silly,  and  most likely to be used by the type of
          person that finds Jeff K. hilarious.

   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. 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".

          4.  n.,obs.  Rare  alternate  name for the ASCII ESC character
          (ASCII  0011011).  This use, derives, with the alt key itself,
          from archaic PDP-10 operating systems, especially ITS.

   alt bit : /awlt bit/ , 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/ , /am-b@-mows'trus/ , adj
          [modeled  on  ambidextrous]  Able  to  use a mouse with either

   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 wars 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!.

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

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

   and there was much rejoicing
          [from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.]

          Acknowledgement   of   a   notable  accomplishment.  Something
          long-awaited, widely desired, possibly unexpected but secretly
          wished-for, with a suggestion that something about the problem
          (and  perhaps  the  steps  necessary  to  make it go away) was
          deeply disturbing to hacker sensibilities.

          In person, the phrase is almost invariably pronounced with the
          same  portentious  intonation  as  the  movie.  The  customary
          in-person  (approving)  response  is  a  weak  and halfhearted
          "Yaaaay...",  with  one  index  finger  raised like a flag and
          moved in a small circle. The reason for this, like most of the
          Monty  Python  oeuvre,  cannot easily be explained outside its
          original context.

          Example:  "changelog  entry  #436:  with  the foo driver brain
          damage  taken  care  of, finally obsoleted BROKEN_EVIL_KLUDGE.
          Removed from source tree. (And there was much rejoicing)."

   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  lang  &#12296;  and  rang  &#12297;
          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

   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.

          This  usage  derives  from  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

   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.

   anti-idiotarianism : n.
          [very  common]  Opposition to idiots of all political stripes.
          First  coined in the blog named Little Green Footballs as part
          of a post expressing disgust with inane responses to post-9/11
          Islamic   terrorism.  Anti-idiotarian  wrath  has  focused  on
          Islamic  terrorists  and  their  sympathizers  in  the Western
          political  left,  but  also  routinely  excoriated  right-wing
          politicians  backing  repressive 'anti-terror` legislation and
          Christian  religious figures who (in the blogosphere's view of
          the  matter)  have  descended  nearly  to  the  level of jihad

   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

     <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.

          The  world's  first  RISC microcomputer, available only in the
          British  Commonwealth  and  europe.  Built  in  1987  in Great
          Britain  by  Acorn  Computers, it was legendary for its use of
          the ARM-2 microprocessor as a CPU. Many a novice hacker in the
          Commonwealth first learnt his or her skills on the Archimedes,
          since  it  was  specifically  designed  for use in schools and
          educational  institutions.  Owners  of Archimedes machines are
          often  still  treated  with  awe  and  reverence.  Familiarly,

   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  30, 1993 and proceeded to spam news.admin.policy with a
          recursive explosion of over 200 messages.

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

          Reactions  varied  from amusement to outrage. The pathological
          messages  crashed  at  least one mail system, and upset people
          paying  line  charges  for  their  Usenet  feeds.  One  poster
          described  the  ARMM debacle as "instant Usenet history" (also
          establishing  the  term  despew), and it has since been widely
          cited  as a cautionary example of the havoc the combination of
          good  intentions  and incompetence can wreak on a network. The
          Usenet  thread  on the subject is archived here. 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 flames; 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 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 ß. or the ae-ligature æ 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; not; 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;
   snakebite; <quotation marks>; <dieresis>; dirk; [rabbit-ears]; double
   #  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>; amp; amper; and, and sign. Rare: address (from
   C);  reference (from C++); andpersand; bitand; background (from sh(1)
   ); pretzel. [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; par­
   en/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/unparen­
   thisey; 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: quiz; whatmark;
   [what]; wildchar; huh; hook; buttonhook; hunchback.
   @   Common:   at  sign;  at;  strudel.  Rare:  each;  vortex;  whorl;
   [whirlpool];  cyclone;  snail;  ape;  cat; rose; cabbage; <commercial
   V Rare: [book].
   [  ] Common: l/r square bracket; l/r bracket; <opening/closing brack­
   et>; 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;
   [embrace/bracelet]. A balanced pair of these may be called curlies .
   | 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  £  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 (?1) 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

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

          The  next  step  beyond  static tableaux in ASCII art is ASCII
          animation.  There are not many large examples of this; perhaps
          the  best  known  is  the ASCII animation of the original Star
          Wars movie at

          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 beginning. "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.
          1.  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

          2.  What  an  individual  posting  to  a public forum under an
          assumed name is said to be doing.

          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. The maneuver 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

   Aunt Tillie : n.
          [linux-kernel mailing list] The archetypal non-technical user,
          one's  elderly  and  scatterbrained  maiden  aunt.  Invoked in
          discussions  of  usability  for people who are not hackers and
          geeks; one sees references to the "Aunt Tillie test".

   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 bogotify.

          To  set  up  or  modify  a source-code distribution so that it
          configures    and    builds    using    the    GNU   project's
          autoconf/automake/libtools suite. Among open-source hackers, a
          mere  running  binary  of  a  program is not considered a full
          release; what's interesting is a source tree that can be built
          into  binaries  using  standard  tools.  Since  the mid-1990s,
          autoconf  and  friends  been  the  standard  way  to  adapt  a
          distribution  for  portability  so  that  it  can  be built on
          multiple operating systems without change.

   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.
          [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

          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).


   B1FF : /bif/ , BIFF , n.
          The  most famous pseudo, and the prototypical newbie. Articles
          from  B1FF  feature  all uppercase letters sprinkled liberally
          with  bangs,  typos,  `cute' misspellings (EVRY BUDY LUVS GOOD
          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: B1FF@BIT.NET.

          [1993:  Now  It  Can Be Told! My spies inform me that B1FF was
          originally  created by Joe Talmadge <>, also the
          author  of the infamous and much-plagiarized "Flamer's Bible".
          The  BIFF  filter he wrote was later passed to Richard Sexton,
          who posted BIFFisms much more widely. Versions have since been
          posted for the amusement of the net at large. See also Jeff K.

   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  Turing  lecture  that  reported  this truly moby hack was
          later   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

          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 leaf site.

          [2001  update:  This  term  has  passed into history. The UUCP
          network world that gave it meaning is gone; 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]

          See bignum (sense 3), moby (sense 4), and pseudoprime.

   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,

          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

          2.  The  part  of the pattern which refers back to the matched

          3. By extension, anything which refers back to something which
          has  been  seen or discussed before. "When you said `she' just
          now, who were you backreferencing?"

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

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

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

   Bad and Wrong : adj.
          [Durham, UK] Said of something that is both badly designed and
          wrongly executed. This common term is the prototype of, and is
          used  by  contrast  with,  three  less common terms -- Bad and
          Right  (a  kludge,  something  ugly  but functional); Good and
          Wrong  (an  overblown  GUI  or other attractive nuisance); and
          (rare  praise)  Good and Right. These terms entered common use
          at  Durham  c.1994  and may have been imported from elsewhere;
          they  are  also  in use at Oxford, and the emphatic form "Evil
          and  Bad  and Wrong" (abbreviated EBW) is reported from 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;  always pronounced as if capitalized. Orig. fr.
          the  1930  Sellar & Yeatman parody of British history 1066 And
          All  That,  but  well-established among hackers in the U.S. as
          well.]  Something that can't possibly result in improvement of
          the subject. This term is always capitalized, as in "Replacing
          all  of  the  DSL  links  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 in the U.S. 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

   bagbiting : adj.
          [MIT;  now  rare]  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. 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  block;  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 backed-up 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
" Compare derf.

   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

          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 problem : n.
          [from  the  story  of  the little girl who said "I know how to
          spell  `banana',  but I don't know when to stop"]. Not knowing
          where  or  when  to  bring  a  production  to a close (compare
          fencepost  error). One may say there is a banana problem of an
          algorithm   with   poorly  defined  or  incorrect  termination
          conditions,  or  in  discussing the evolution of a design that
          may  be  succumbing to featuritis (see also creeping elegance,
          creeping   featuritis).  See  item  176  under  HAKMEM,  which
          describes   a   banana   problem   in   a   Dissociated  Press
          implementation.   Also,   see   one-banana   problem   for   a
          superficially similar but unrelated usage.

   bandwidth : n.
          1.  [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; see
          also brainwidth. 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.

          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.  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 the network and sitename.

   banner : n.
          1.  A  top-centered graphic on a web page. Esp. used in banner

          2.  On  interactive software, a first screen containing a logo
          and/or author credits and/or a copyright notice.

          3.  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.

          4.  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)}.

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

   banner site : n.
          [warez d00dz] An 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 foobar.

   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 rare 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. See Real Programmer.

   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

          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. 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 messages 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,

   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  cm2)  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]

          BASIC  stands for "Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction
          Code".  Earlier  versions  of  this  entry claiming this was a
          later backronym were incorrect.

   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

          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."


          (The next cartoon in the Crunchly saga is 76-03-17:5-8)

   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.

   Batman factor : n.
          1.  An integer number representing the number of items hanging
          from a batbelt. In most settings, a Batman factor of more than
          3  is  not  acceptable without odd stares and whispering. This
          encourages  the  hacker  in  question  to choose items for the
          batbelt  carefully to avoid awkward social situations, usually
          amongst non-hackers.

          2.  A  somewhat  more vaguely defined index of contribution to
          sense 1. Devices that are especially obtrusive, such as large,
          older  model  cell  phones,  "Pocket"  PC  devices  and walkie
          talkies are said to have a high batman factor. Sleeker devices
          such  as  a  later-model  Palm or StarTac phone are prized for
          their low batman factor and lessened obtrusiveness and weight.

   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 Comité Consultatif
          International   Des   Communications   Télégraphiques   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.

   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

   bazaar : n.,adj.
          In  1997,  after  meditating 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.  After  1998,  the  evident  success of this way of
          doing  things  became  one of the strongest arguments for open

   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 groups. 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 bboard.

   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.

          [Python;   common]   Benevolent   Dictator  For  Life.  Guido,
          considered in his role as the project leader of Python. People
          who  are  feeling  temporarily  cheesed  off  by  one  of  his
          decisions  sometimes  leave  off  the B. The mental image that
          goes with this, of a cigar-chomping caudillo in gold braid and
          sunglasses,  is  extremely  funny  to  anyone who has ever met
          Guido in person.

   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/Windows and
          OS/2,   and  seems  to  be  generally  preferred  among  micro

   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. The Befunge home page is at

   beige toaster : n.
          [obs.]  An  original  Macintosh  in  the  boxy beige case. 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.


          Sometimes `trouble' is spelled bells and whistles...

          (The next cartoon in the Crunchly saga is 73-06-04)

   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,
          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.

   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,
          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@/ , /bee't@/ , n.
          1.  Mostly working, but still under test; usu. used with `in':
          `in  beta'.  In  the  Real World, hardware or software systems
          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

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

   BI : //
          Common written abbreviation for Breidbart Index.

   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, InterCaps.

   biff : /bif/ , vt.
          [now  rare]  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 iron : n.
          [common]   Large,   expensive,   ultra-fast   computers.  Used
          generally  of number-crunching supercomputers, 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 TLAs, 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; 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  Academic
          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.

          [originally  BSD,  now  common] Technical disputes over minor,
          marginal  issues  conducted  while more serious ones are being
          overlooked.  The  implied image is of people arguing over what
          color  to  paint  the  bicycle  shed  while  the  house is not

   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.

   bit : n.
          [from the mainstream meaning and `Binary digIT']

          1.   [techspeak]  The  unit  of  information;  the  amount  of
          information  obtained  from  knowing the answer to a yes-or-no
          question for which the two outcomes are equally probable.

          2.  [techspeak]  A computational quantity that can take on one
          of two values, such as true and false or 0 and 1.

          3.  A  mental  flag:  a reminder that something should be done
          eventually.  "I  have  a bit set for you." (I haven't seen you
          for a while, and I'm supposed to tell or ask you something.)

          4.  More  generally,  a  (possibly  incorrect) mental state of
          belief. "I have a bit set that says that you were the last guy
          to  hack on EMACS." (Meaning "I think you were the last guy to
          hack  on  EMACS,  and  what I am about to say is predicated on
          this, so please stop me if this isn't true.") "I just need one
          bit  from  you"  is a polite way of indicating that you intend
          only  a  short interruption for a question that can presumably
          be answered yes or no.

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

          The  term  bit first appeared in print in the computer-science
          sense  in 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 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 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.

          The  source for all these meanings, is, historically, the fact
          that the chad box on a paper-tape punch was sometimes called a
          bit bucket.


          A literal bit bucket.

          (The next cartoon in the Crunchly saga is 76-02-14)

   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

          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

   bits : pl.n.
          1.  Information.  Examples:  "I  need  some  bits  about  file
          formats."  ("I need to know about file formats.") Compare core
          dump, sense 4.

          2. Machine-readable representation of a document, specifically
          as  contrasted  with  paper:  "I  have only a photocopy of the
          Jargon  File; does anyone know where I can get the bits?". See
          softcopy, source of all good bits See also bit.

   bitty box : /bit'ee boks/ , n.
          1.  A  computer sufficiently small, primitive, or incapable as
          to  cause  a  hacker  acute  claustrophobia  at the thought of
          developing  software  on  or for it. Especially used of small,
          obsolescent, single-tasking-only personal machines such as the
          Atari 800, Osborne, Sinclair, VIC-20, TRS-80, or IBM PC.

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

   bixie : /bik'see/ , n.
          Variant emoticons used BIX (the BIX Information eXchange); the
          term  survived  the  demise  of  BIX  itself.  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

   black hat
          1. [common among security specialists] A cracker, someone bent
          on  breaking  into  the  system you are protecting. Oppose the
          less  comon  white  hat  for  an  ally  or  friendly  security
          specialist;  the term gray hat is in occasional use for people
          with  cracker  skills  operating within the law, e.g. in doing
          security  evaluations.  All  three terms derive from the dress
          code  of formulaic Westerns, in which bad guys wore black hats
          and good guys white ones.

          2. [spamfighters] `Black hat', `white hat', and `gray hat' are
          also used to denote the spam-friendliness of ISPs: a black hat
          ISP  harbors  spammers and doesn't terminate them; a white hat
          ISP  terminates  upon  the  first  LART;  and  gray  hat  ISPs
          terminate  only reluctantly and/or slowly. This has led to the
          concept  of  a  hat  check:  someone  considering  a potential
          business  relationship with an ISP or other provider will post
          a  query  to  a  NANA  group,  asking about the provider's hat
          color.  The  term  albedo  has  also  been  used to describe a
          provider's spam-friendliness.

   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 :
          [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.

   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 archaic 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.

          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.

   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:

                            ACHTUNG!  ALLES LOOKENSPEEPERS!
          Das computermachine ist nicht fuer gefingerpoken und mittengra
          Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und poppencor
          mit spitzensparken.  Ist nicht fuer gewerken bei das dumpkopfe
          Das rubbernecken sichtseeren keepen das cotten-pickenen hans i
          n 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 i
          allowed for die experts only!  So all the "lefthanders" stay a
          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 astauni
          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.

          Despite  this,  a couple of relatively recent computer designs
          of  note  have  featured  programmable blinkenlights that were
          added just because they looked cool. The Connection Machine, a
          65,536-processor  parallel computer designed in the mid-1980s,
          was  a  black  cube  with  one side covered with a grid of red
          blinkenlights; the sales demo had them evolving life patterns.
          A  few  years  later  the ill-fated BeBox (a personal computer
          designed  to run the BeOS operating system) featured twin rows
          of  blinkenlights  on the case front. When Be, Inc. decided to
          get  out  of  the hardware business in 1996 and instead ported
          their  OS  to the PowerPC and later to the Intel architecture,
          many users suffered severely from the absence of their beloved
          blinkenlights.   Before   long  an  external  version  of  the
          blinkenlights  driven  by  a  PC serial port became available;
          there  is  some  sort of plot symmetry in the fact that it was
          assembled by a German.

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

                              ACHTUNG! ALLES LOOKENSPEEPERS!
          Das Internet is nicht fuer gefingerclicken und giffengrabben.
          Ist easy
          droppenpacket der routers und overloaden der backbone mit der
          und der me-tooen.  Ist nicht fuer gewerken bei das dumpkopfen.
          mausklicken sichtseeren keepen das bandwit-spewin hans in das
          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

   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

          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.


          This is a blivet

   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.

          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."

   blog : n.
          [common]  Short  for  weblog,  an  on-line  web-zine  or diary
          (usually  with  facilities  for reader comments and discussion
          threads) made accessible through the World Wide Web. This term
          is widespread and readily forms derivatives, of which the best
          known may be blogosphere.

   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.

          The  totality of all blogs. A culture heavily overlapping with
          but  not  coincident with hackerdom; a few of its key coinages
          (blogrolling,  fisking,  anti-idiotarianism)  are  recorded in
          this lexicon for flavor. Bloggers often divide themselves into
          warbloggers  and  techbloggers.  The  techbloggers write about
          technology  and  technology  policy, while the warbloggers are
          more  politically focused and tend to be preoccupied with U.S.
          and world response to the post-9/11 war against terrorism. The
          overlap with hackerdom is heaviest among the techbloggers, but
          several  of  the  most prominent warbloggers are also hackers.
          Bloggers in general tend to be aware of and sympathetic to the
          hacker culture.

          [From the American political term `logrolling', for supporting
          another's   pet  bill  in  the  legislature  in  exchange  for
          reciprocal support,] When you hotlink to other bloggers' blogs
          (and-or  other  bloggers' specific blog entries) in your blog,
          you are blogrolling. This is frequently reciprocal.

   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/ , /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 box

          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 phreakers 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. There were boxes of other colors as well,
          but the blue box was the original and archetype.

          2. n. An IBM machine, especially a large (non-PC) one.

   Blue Glue : n.
          [IBM;  obs.]  IBM's  SNA  (Systems  Network  Architecture), an
          incredibly losing and bletcherous communications protocol once
          widely favored at commercial shops that didn't know any better
          (like   other  proprietary  networking  protocols,  it  became
          obsolete   and  effectively  disappeared  after  the  Internet
          explosion  c.1994). 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   pens.  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'  nanobots  intended  to  prevent gray goo,
          denature  hazardous  waste,  destroy pollution, put ozone back
          into  the  stratosphere, prevent halitosis, and promote truth,
          justice, and the American way, etc. The term "Blue Goo" can be
          found in Dr. Seuss's Fox In Socks to refer to a substance much
          like  bubblegum.  `Would you like to chew blue goo, sir?'. See

   Blue Screen of Death : n.
          [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 mainstream 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 : 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

          2. A person who just takes up space.

          3.  Obsolete  but still working hardware, especially when used
          of  an  old,  bulky,  quirky  system;  originally  a  term  of
          annoyance,  but  became  more  and  more  affectionate  as the
          hardware became more and more obsolete.

          Auctioneers use this term for a large, undesirable object such
          as a washing machine; actual boating enthusiasts, however, use
          "mooring   anchor"  for  frustrating  (not  actually  useless)

   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

          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.

          [Commonwealth  hackish]  Syn.  kludge or hack (sense 1). "I'll
          bodge this in now and fix it later".

   BOF : /B-O-F/ , /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 lusers. "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 LARTs.

   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.

          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 linear 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 (checking that the
          list  is  sorted requires O(n) time). 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". According to Merriam-Webster, the
          word   dates  back  to  1825  and  originally  referred  to  a
          counterfeiting machine.

   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,

   boink : /boynk/
          1.  [Usenet:  variously  ascribed  to  the  TV  series Cheers,
          Moonlighting,  and  Soap]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

          3. Var of bonk; see bonk/oif.

          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,  Camel Book,
          Cinderella Book, daemon book, Dragon Book, Orange Book, Purple
          Book,  Wizard  Book, and bible; see also rainbow series. Since
          about  1993 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 and are often
          called by the name of that animal.

   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. See also
          Evil Empire, Internet Exploiter.

          Other   companies,   notably   Intel   and  UUNet,  have  also
          occasionally  been equated to the Borg. In IETF circles, where
          direct  pressure  from  Microsoft  is not a daily reality, the
          Borg   is  sometimes  Cisco.  This  usage  commemorates  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 `broken'.

   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
          nicks 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

          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.

   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-post : v.
          In  a  news  or  mail  reply, to put the response to a news or
          email  message  after  the  quoted  content  from  the  parent
          message.  This  is  correct form, and until around 2000 was so
          universal  on the Internet that neither the term `bottom-post'
          nor  its  antonym  top-post existed. Hackers consider that the
          best  practice  is  actually  to  excerpt  only  the  relevent
          portions  of the parent message, then intersperse the poster's
          response  in  such a way that each section of response appears
          directly after the excerpt it applies to. This reduces message
          bulk, keeps thread content in a logical order, and facilitates

   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. 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.

          3.  To  casually  reboot  a  system  in  order  to  clear up a
          transient  problem  (possibly  editing a configuration file in
          the  process, if it is one that is only re-read at boot time).
          Reported primarily among VMS and Unix users.

          4.  [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.
          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, Windows box, etc.) "We preprocess the data on
          Unix boxes before handing it up to the mainframe."

   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

   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/ , /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'.

   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

          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.

   brainwidth : n.
          [Great  Britain]  Analagous to bandwidth but used strictly for
          human  capacity  to  process  information  and  especially  to
          multitask.  "Writing  email is taking up most of my brainwidth
          right now, I can't look at that Flash animation."

   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

          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 of the early 1980s.

   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".

          [Usenet:  common]  Text  which  is  carefully  composed  to be
          right-justified  (and sometimes to have a deliberate gutter at
          mid-page)  without  use  of extra spaces, just through careful
          word-length  choices. A minor art form. The best examples have
          something of the quality of imagist poetry.

   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

   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.

   broken : adj.
          1.  Not working according to design (of programs). This is the
          mainstream sense.

          2.  Improperly  designed,  This  sense  carries a more or less
          disparaging  implication  that  the designer should have known
          better,  while sense 1 doesn't necessarily assign blame. Which
          of  senses  1  or  2  is  intended  is conveyed by context and
          nonverbal cues.

          3.  Behaving  strangely;  especially  (when  used  of  people)
          exhibiting extreme depression.

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

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

   broken-ring network
          Pejorative  hackerism  for  "token-ring network", an early and
          very  slow LAN technology from IBM that lost the standards war
          to Ethernet. Though token-ring survives in a few niche markets
          (such  as  factory  automation)  that  put  a  high premium on
          resistance  to  electrical  noise,  the  term  is  now  (2000)
          primarily historical.

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

   broket : /broh'k@t/ , /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, optimism.

   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

   BRS : /B-R-S/ , n.
          Syn.  Big  Red  Switch.  This  abbreviation  is  fairly common

   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-
          and rubber-hose cryptanalysis.

          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

          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.  A  very  similar  usage  is  said  to  be
          mainstream in Great Britain.

   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 also Unix.

   BSOD : /B-S-O-D/
          Very common 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 BUAFs.
          See warlording.

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

          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.


          The `original bug'

          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

          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

          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  stereotypical
          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

          [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 for 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]


          It helps to remember that this dates from 1973.

          (The next cartoon in the Crunchly saga is 73-10-31)

   bug-compatible : adj.
          [common]  Said  of  a  design  or revision that has been badly
          compromised  by a requirement to be compatible with fossils or
          misfeatures  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
          crackers  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.

   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
          embarrassing  even  in a programming assignment turned in by a
          computer science college sophomore."

   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 a CD : v.
          To  write a software or document distribution on a CDR. Coined
          from the fact that a laser is used to inscribe the information
          by  burning  small  pits in the medium, and from the fact that
          disk  comes  out  of the drive warm to the touch. Writable CDs
          can be done on a normal desk-top machine with a suitable drive
          (so  there  is  no  protracted  release  cycle associated with
          making  them)  but each one takes a long time to make, so they
          are  not  appropriate  for volume production. Writable CDs are
          suitable  for  software  backups and for short-turnaround-time
          low-volume  software  distribution,  such  as  sending  a beta
          release  version  to  a few selected field test sites. Compare
          cut a tape.

   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

          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 spinning
          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
          timesharing  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

          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."

          [also  buzzword-enabled] Used (disparagingly) of products that
          seem to have been specified to incorporate all of this month's
          trendy  technologies.  Key  buzzwords  that  often  show up in
          buzzword-compliant  specifications  as  of 2001 include `XML',
          `Java', `peer-to-peer', `distributed', and `open'.

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

   by hand : adv.
          1.  [common]  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. [common] 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
          invariably  8  bits.  Some  older  architectures used byte for
          quantities  of  6,  7,  or (especially) 9 bits, and the PDP-10
          supported  bytes that were actually bitfields of 1 to 36 bits!
          These  usages  are  now  obsolete,  killed  off  by  universal
          adoption of 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

   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 : 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. 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"  See  also languages of choice, indent


          The Crunchly on the left sounds a little ANSI.

   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

   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 : 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;  third  edition  2000, 0-596-00027-8, adding as
          authors  Tom  Christiansen  and Jon Orwant but dropping Randal
          Schwartz). The definitive reference on Perl.

          A  variable in a programming language is sait to be camelCased
          when  all  syllables  but  the  first  are  capitalized.  This
          practice  contrasts  with  the  C  tradition of either running
          syllables   together   or   marking   syllable   breaks   with
          underscores;   thus,   where   a   C  programmer  would  write
          thisverylongname   or   this_very_long_name,   the  camelCased
          version  would  be  thisVeryLongName.  The  common  in certain
          language  communities  (formerly Pascal; today Java and Visual
          Basic)   and  tends  to  be  associated  with  object-oriented

          Compare BiCapitalization; but where that practice is primarily
          associated   with  marketing,  camelCasing  is  not  aimed  at
          impressing anybody, and hackers consider it respectable.

          See PascalCasing.

   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

   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 groups.

          Nobody  knows  who Cancelmoose[tm] really is, and there aren't
          even  any  good  rumors. However, the 'Moose now has an e-mail
          address     (@email{})     and    a    web    site
          (  By  early 1995, others had stepped into
          the  spam-cancel  business,  and  appeared  to  be  comporting
          themselves well, after the 'Moose's manner. The 'Moose has now
          gotten  out  of the business, and is more interested in ending
          spam (and cancels) entirely.

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

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

   canonical : adj.
          [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

   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

   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']

          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

          At  DEC  (now  HP),  this  is  sometimes called clone-and-hack

   case mod
          [from `case modification']

          1.  Originally  a  kind  of  hardware hack on a PC intended to
          support overclocking (e.g. with cutouts for oversized fans, or
          a freon-based or water-cooling system).

          2.  Nowadays, similar drastic surgery that's done just to make
          a  machine look nifty. The commonest case mods combine acrylic
          case  windows  with LEDs to give the machine an eerie interior
          glow like a B-movie flying saucer. More advanced forms of case
          modding  involve  building  machines  into  weird and unlikely
          shapes.  The  effect  can  be  quite  artistic, but one of the
          unwritten  rules is that the machine must continue to function
          as a computer.

   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 (in 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 : vt.
          [from catenate via Unix cat(1)]

          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.... See also UUOC.

   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", passed as section 502 of a
          major  telecommunications  reform  bill  on February 8th, 1996
          ("Black Thursday"). 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 1996 mass demonstration by thousands of netters
          who  turned  their  home  pages  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 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/ , /kuh'dr/ , vt.
          [from  LISP] To skip past the first item from a list of things
          (generalized   from   the   LISP   operation  on  binary  tree
          structures,  which  returns  a  list consisting of all but the
          first element of its argument). In the form cdr down, to trace
          down  a  list  of  elements:  "Shall  we cdr down the agenda?"
          Usage: silly. See also loop through.

          Historical  note:  The  instruction format of the IBM 704 that
          hosted  the  original  LISP implementation featured two 15-bit
          fields  called  the  address and decrement parts. The term cdr
          was   originally  Contents  of  Decrement  part  of  Register.
          Similarly, car stood for Contents of Address part of Register.

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

   chad : /chad/ , n.
          1. [common] The perforated edge strips on printer paper, after
          they have been separated from the printed portion. Also called
          selvage, perf, and ripoff.

          2.  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  (associated  with  teletypewriters  before the computer
          era),  and  has  been  occasionally  sighted in directions for
          punched-card  vote tabulators long after it passed out of live
          use  among  computer programmers in the late 1970s. This sense
          of  `chad' returned to the mainstream during the finale of the
          hotly  disputed U.S. presidential election in 2000 via stories
          about  the  Florida  vote  recounts.  Note however that in the
          revived  mainstream usage chad is not a mass noun and `a chad'
          is a single piece of the stuff.

          There  is an urban legend that 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'. However,
          serious  attempts  to track down "Chadless" as a personal name
          or U.S. trademark have failed, casting doubt on this etymology
          --  and  the U.S. Patent Classification System uses "chadless"
          (small  c) as an adjective, suggesting that "chadless" derives
          from  "chad"  and  not  the other way around. There is another
          legend  that  the  word was originally acronymic, standing for
          "Card Hole Aggregate Debris", but this has all the earmarks of
          a  backronym.  It  has also been noted that the word "chad" is
          Scots   dialect  for  gravel,  but  nobody  has  proposed  any
          plausible  reason  that  card  chaff  should  be thought of as
          gravel. None of these etymologies is really plausible.


          This is one way to be chadless.

          (The next cartoon in the Crunchly saga is 75-10-04)

   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.

          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.

   chainik : /chi:'nik/
          [Russian,  literally  "teapot"] Almost synonymous with muggle.
          Implies  both ignorance and a certain amount of willingness to
          learn,  but does not necessarily imply as little experience or
          short  exposure  time  as  newbie  and is not as derogatory as
          luser.  Both  a  novice  user and someone using a system for a
          long  time  without  any understanding of the internals can be
          referred  to  as  chainiks.  Very  widespread  term in Russian
          hackish,  often used in an English context by Russian-speaking
          hackers  esp. in Israel (e.g. "Our new colleague is a complete
          chainik").  FidoNet  discussion  groups  often had a "chainik"
          subsection   for   newbies   and,   well,  old  chainiks  (eg.
          su.asm.chainik,   ru.linux.chainik,  ru.html.chainik).  Public
          projects  often  have  a  chainik  mailing  list  to  keep the
          chainiks   off   the   developers'   and   experienced  users'
          discussions.   Today,   the   word  is  slowly  slipping  into
          mainstream  Russian  due  to  the  Russian  translation of the
          popular  yellow-black  covered  "foobar  for  dummies" series,
          which (correctly) uses "chainik" for "dummy", but its frequent
          (though   not   excessive)   use   is   still   characteristic

   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

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

   char : /keir/ , /char/ , /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

          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-guards).

   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

   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, Commodore's
          machines  were  notoriously  crocky little bitty boxes, 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.

   chickenboner : n.
          [spamfighters]  Derogatory  term for a spammer. The image that
          goes with it is of an overweight redneck with bad teeth living
          in  a  trailer, hunched in semi-darkness over his computer and
          surrounded  by rotting chicken bones in half-eaten KFC buckets
          and empty beer cans. See

   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.
          [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 #defines." See barf, vi.

   chomp : vi.
          1.  To  lose; specifically, to chew on something of which more
          was  bitten  off than one can. Probably related to gnashing of

          2. To bite the bag; See bagbiter.

          A  hand gesture commonly accompanies this. To perform it, hold
          the  four  fingers  together and place the thumb against their
          tips. Now open and close your hand rapidly to suggest a biting
          action (much like what Pac-Man does in the classic video game,
          though  this  pantomime  seems  to  predate that). The gesture
          alone  means  `chomp  chomp'  (see Verb Doubling in the Jargon
          Construction  section  of  the  Prependices).  The hand may be
          pointed  at the object of complaint, and for real emphasis you
          can  use  both  hands  at  once.  Doing  this  to  a person is
          equivalent  to  saying "You chomper!" If you point the gesture
          at  yourself,  it  is  a humble but humorous admission of some
          failure.  You might do this if someone told you that a program
          you had written had failed in some surprising way and you felt
          dumb for not having anticipated it.

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

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

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

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

   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

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

   Cinderella Book : n.
          [CMU]   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.

   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.

          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."

   click of death : n.
          A  syndrome  of  certain  Iomega  ZIP  drives,  named  for the
          clicking noise that is caused by the malady. An affected drive
          will,  after  accepting  a  disk, will start making a clicking
          noise  and  refuse  to  eject  the disk. A common solution for
          retrieving  the disk is to insert the bent end of a paper clip
          into  a  small  hole adjacent to the slot. "Clicked" disks are
          generally unusable after being retrieved from the drive.

          The  clicking  noise  is caused by the drive's read/write head
          bumping against its movement stops when it fails to find track
          0 on the disk, causing the head to become misaligned. This can
          happen  when the drive has been subjected to a physical shock,
          or  when the disk is exposed to an electromagnetic field, such
          as  that of the CRT. Another common cause is when a package of
          disks  is  armed with an anti-theft strip at a store. When the
          clerk   scans   the  product  to  disarm  the  strip,  it  can
          demagnetize the disks, wiping out track 0.

          There  is  evidence  that the click of death is a communicable
          disease;  a  "clicked" disk can cause the read/write head of a
          "clean" drive to become misaligned. Iomega at first denied the
          existence  of  the  click  of death, but eventually offered to
          replace free of charge any drives affected by the condition.

   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.


          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  1000MHz,  it  gets warm.". See

          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

          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.    [obs]   PC   clone:   a   PC-BUS/ISA/EISA/PCI-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. This term fell out of
          use  in  the 1990s; the class of machines it describes are now
          simply PCs or Intel machines.

          5.  [obs.]  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.  Linux and the free BSDs
          killed off this product category and the term with it.

          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

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

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

          [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
          smite you with the great sword Cluebringer!"

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

   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  bandwidth. 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.

   coaster toaster
          A  writer  for  recordable  CD-Rs, especially cheap IDE models
          that tend to produce a high proportion of coasters.

   COBOL : /koh'bol/ , n.
          [COmmon  Business-Oriented Language] (Synonymous with evil.) A
          weak, verbose, and flabby language used by code grinders to do
          boring mindless things on dinosaur mainframes. Hackers believe
          that  all COBOL programmers are suits or code grinders, and no
          self-respecting  hacker  will ever admit to having learned the
          language.  Its  very  name  is  seldom  uttered without ritual
          expressions of disgust or horror. One popular one is Edsger W.
          Dijkstra's  famous observation that "The use of COBOL cripples
          the  mind;  its  teaching  should, therefore, be regarded as a
          criminal  offense."  (from  Selected  Writings on Computing: A
          Personal  Perspective)  See  also  fear and loathing, software

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

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

          1.  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.  Among  hackers  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." Among scientific programmers
          it  is  sometimes  a count noun equilvalent to "program"; thus
          they  may  speak of "codes" in the plural. Anyone referring to
          software  as  "the  software  codes" is probably a newbie or a

          2.  v.  To  write code. In this sense, always refers to source
          code  rather  than  compiled.  "I  coded an Emacs clone in two
          hours!"  This  verb  is  a bit of a cultural marker associated
          with  the Unix and minicomputer traditions (and lately Linux);
          people  within  that  culture prefer v. `code' to v. `program'
          whereas outside it the reverse is normally true.

   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.

          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  weenies.  "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 first word
          may be spelled with one or two m's] Syn. for talk mode.

   command key : n.
          [Mac users] Syn. feature key.

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

   Commonwealth Hackish : n.
          Hacker  jargon  as spoken in English outside the U.S., esp. in
          the  British  Commonwealth.  It  is reported that Commonwealth
          speakers  are more likely to pronounce truncations like `char'
          and  `soc',  etc.,  as  spelled (/char/, /sok/), as opposed to
          American   /keir/   and   /sohsh/.  Dots  in  newsgroup  names
          (especially  two-component  names)  tend to be pronounced more
          often  (so  soc.wibble  is  /sok dot wib'l/ rather than /sohsh

          Preferred  metasyntactic  variables 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

          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  £  (of course). Canadian hacker slang, as with mainstream
          language, mixes American and British usages about evenly.

          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,  raster  blaster,  RTBM,  seggie,  spod,  sun
          lounge,  terminal  junkie, tick-list features, weeble, weasel,
          YABA,  and  notes or definitions under Bad Thing, barf, bogus,
          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 features 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 : vt.
          [Unix]  When  used  without  a  qualifier, generally refers to
          crunching  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.  [obs.]  Though  this term was common at one time,
          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.

          [2001 update: this term has passed out of use for two reasons;
          (1) the stuff it describes is now quite rare, and (2) the term
          chad, which was half-forgotten in 1990, has enjoyed a revival.

   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 fans. "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

          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

   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.

          (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/ , /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  As it turns out, the title
          under  which  the  letter  appeared  was  actually supplied by
          CACM's  editor,  Niklaus  Wirth. 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

   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.  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). Syn. 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 cookies in a format that facilitates
          retrieval  by  a  fortune program. There are several different
          cookie  files  in  public  distribution, and site admins often
          assemble   their  own  from  various  sources  including  this

   cookie jar : n.
          An area of memory set aside for storing cookies. 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  timesharing 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

   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
          suits.  "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

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

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

   core cancer : n.
          [rare]  A process that exhibits a slow but inexorable resource
          leak  --  like  a  cancer, it kills by crowding out productive

   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.


          A core dump lands our hero in hot water.

          (This is the last cartoon in the Crunchly saga.)

   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.

   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

          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.

          [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,

   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,  and has been traced back to a 1989 sig
          block. 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 retconned 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  (another  variant  has it that Gary's wife was
          much  more interested in packing her suitcases for an upcoming
          vacation  than  in  clinching a deal with IBM). 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 (at that time 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.

          [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 developer
          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.
          The neologism "cracker" in this sense may have been influenced
          not  so  much  by the term "safe-cracker" as by the non-jargon
          term  "cracker",  which  in  Middle English meant an obnoxious
          person (e.g., "What cracker is this same that deafs our ears /
          With  this  abundance of superfluous breath?" -- Shakespeare's
          King  John, Act II, Scene I) and in modern colloquial American
          English  survives  as  a  barely  gentler  synonym  for "white

          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. An easy way for outsiders to spot the difference is that
          crackers   use  grandiose  screen  names  that  conceal  their
          identities.  Hackers  never do this; they only rarely use noms
          de  guerre  at  all, and when they do it is for display rather
          than concealment.

          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
          incompetent as hackers. This entry used to say 'mediocre', but
          the  spread  of  rootkit  and  other  automated  cracking  has
          depressed the average level of skill among crackers.

   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.

          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 lusers 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

          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).   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

          This  usage  is  almost  certainly derived from the fiction of
          H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft may never have used the exact phrase
          "crawling  horror"  in  his  writings, but one of the fearsome
          Elder  Gods  that he wrote extensively about was Nyarlethotep,
          who  had  as  an  epithet  "The Crawling Chaos". Certainly the
          extreme,  even  melodramatic  horror  of his characters at the
          weird  monsters  they  encounter,  even  to the point of going
          insane  with  fear, is what hackers are referring to with this
          phrase  when  they  use  it  for  horribly  bad  code. Compare

   CRC handbook
          Any of the editions of the Chemical Rubber Company Handbook of
          Chemistry  and Physics; there are other CRC handbooks, such as
          the  CRC  Standard Mathematical Tables and Formulae, but "the"
          CRC  handbook  is  the  chemistry and physics reference. It is
          massive  tome  full of mathematical tables, physical constants
          of  thousands  of  alloys  and  chemical compounds, dielectric
          strengths,  vapor pressure, resistivity, and the like. Hackers
          have  remarkably  little actual use for these sorts of arcana,
          but  are  such  information junkies that a large percentage of
          them  acquire  copies  anyway and would feel vaguely bereft if
          they couldn't look up the magnetic susceptibility of potassium
          permanganate  at  a  moment's notice. On hackers' bookshelves,
          the  CRC  handbook  is  rather  likely to keep company with an
          unabridged Oxford English Dictionary and a good atlas.

   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

   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,

   creeping featurism : /kree'ping fee'chr-izm/ , n.

          1.  Describes  a  systematic  tendency to load more chrome and
          features 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. The GNU hello program, intended to illustrate
          GNU  command-line  switch  and  coding  conventions, is also a
          wonderful  parody  of  creeping  featurism;  the  distribution
          changelog  is particularly funny. 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/ , /kree'tn/ , n.
          Congenital  loser;  an  obnoxious person; someone who can't do
          anything  right.  It  has  been  observed  that  many American
          hackers tend to favor the British pronunciation /kret'in/ over
          standard  American /kree'tn/; it is thought this may be due to
          the  insidious  phonetic  influence  of  Monty Python's Flying

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

   crippleware : n.
          1.  [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

          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/ , /kru'l@f/ , /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. 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 various parts 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 anonymized 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

   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

          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.

          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.

   cthulhic : /kthool'hik/ , adj.
          Having  the  nature of a Cthulhu, the horrific tentacled green
          monstrosity  from  H.P.  Lovecraft's  seminal  horror fiction.
          Cthulhu sends dreams that drive men mad, feeds on the flesh of
          screaming victims rent limb from limb, and is served by a cult
          of degenerates. Hackers think this describes large proprietary
          systems  such  as traditional mainframes, installations of SAP
          and  Oracle, or rooms full of Windows servers remarkably well,
          and  the adjective is used casually. Compare Shub-Internet and
          crawling horror.

   CTSS : /C-T-S-S/ , n.
          Compatible  Time-Sharing System. An early (1963) experiment in
          the  design  of  interactive  timesharing  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. See timesharing

   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

          2. A NeXT machine (which resembles a matte-black cube).

   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.
          Now rare.]

          1. (of a program) Well-written.

          2.  Functionally  excellent.  A program that performs well and
          interfaces well to users is cuspy. Oppose 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. See also burn a CD.

   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  serves  a  purpose and good user interfaces should
          hide  it,  but  all too often users are forced to wade through

   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  naïve 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

          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
          synesthetic   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.

          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), from the phrase `cycle power'.
          "Cycle the machine again, that serial port's still hung."

   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

   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
          @email{}   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  snarfed  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'.


   daemon : /day'mn/ , /dee'mn/ , n.
          [from  Maxwell's  Demon, later incorrectly retronymed as `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, ISBN 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
          demon  (a  visual  play  on  daemon)  in  sneakers,  holding a
          pitchfork  (referring to one of the characteristic features of
          Unix, the fork(2) system call).

   dahmum : /dah'mum/ , n.
          [Usenet]   The   material  of  which  protracted  flame  wars,
          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  cross-posted  OS/2-versus-Linux  debate  was  fed
          through Dissociated Press.

   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.

   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 suits read. Used to
          question  an  unbelieved  quote,  as  in "Did you read that in
          Datamation?".  It  used  to  publish something hackishly funny
          every once in a while, like the original paper on COME FROM in
          1973,  and  Ed  Post's  Real  Programmers Don't Use Pascal ten
          years  later,  but for a long time after that it was much more
          exclusively  suit-oriented  and  boring. Following a change of
          editorship  in  1994,  Datamation  briefly  tried for more the
          technical  content  and irreverent humor that marked its early
          days, but this did not last.

   DAU : /dow/ , n.
          [German  FidoNet]  German  acronym  for Dümmster Anzunehmender
          User  (stupidest  imaginable user). From the engineering-slang
          GAU   for   Grösster  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 accidents such as a
          core meltdown. See cretin, fool, loser and weasel.

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

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

   dd : /dee-dee/ , vt.
          [Unix:  from IBM JCL] Equivalent to cat or BLT. Originally the
          name  of a Unix copy command with special options suitable for
          block-oriented  devices;  it  was  often  used in heavy-handed
          system  maintenance, as in "Let's dd the root partition onto a
          tape,  then  use  the  boot  PROM  to load it back on to a new
          disk".  The  Unix  dd(1) was designed with a weird, distinctly
          non-Unixy  keyword option syntax reminiscent of IBM System/360
          JCL   (which   had   an   elaborate  DD  `Dataset  Definition'
          specification  for  I/O  devices); though the command filled a
          need,  the  interface  design  was clearly a prank. The jargon
          usage  is  now  very  rare  outside  Unix sites and now nearly
          obsolete  even  there, as dd(1) has been deprecated for a long
          time  (though  it has no exact replacement). The term has been
          displaced by BLT or simple English `copy'.

   DDT : /D-D-T/ , n.
          [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 C[14]H[9]Cl[5] 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 suits 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; crashed. 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

   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

   dead-tree version
          [common]  A  paper version of an on-line document; one printed
          on  dead trees. In this context, "dead trees" always refers to
          paper. See also tree-killer.

   DEADBEEF : /ded-beef/ , n.
          The hexadecimal word-fill pattern for freshly allocated memory
          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 heisenbugs into Bohr
          bugs. 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

          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.

          [They were right --ESR]

   Death Star : n.
          [from the movie Star Wars]

          1. The AT&T corporate logo, which bears an uncanny resemblance
          to  the  Death  Star  in  the Star Wars movies. This usage was
          particularly  common among partisans of BSD Unix in the 1980s,
          who tended 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.

   Death, X of
          [common]  A  construction used to imbue the subject with campy
          menace,  usually with intent to ridicule. The ancestor of this
          term  is  a  famous Far Side cartoon from the 1980s in which a
          balloon  with a fierce face painted on it is passed off as the
          "Floating  Head of Death". Hackers and SF fans have been using
          the  suffix "of Death" ever since to label things which appear
          to  be vastly threatening but will actually pop like a balloon
          if you prick them. Such constructions are properly spoken in a
          tone   of   over-exagerrated   portentiousness:  "Behold!  The
          Spinning - Pizza - of - Death!" See Blue Screen of Death, Ping
          O'  Death,  Spinning  Pizza  of Death, click of death. Compare
          Doom, X of.

   DEC : /dek/ , n.
          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

   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  nickles; 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 AFJs (suggested
          uses included "as a power-off indicator").

   deep hack mode : n.
          See hack mode.

   deep magic : n.
          [poss.  from  C.  S. Lewis's Narnia books] An awesomely arcane
          technique  central  to  a  program or system, esp. one neither
          generally published nor available to hackers at large (compare
          black  art);  one that could only have been composed by a true
          wizard.  Compiler  optimization techniques and many aspects of
          OS   design   used  to  be  deep  magic;  many  techniques  in
          cryptography,  signal  processing, graphics, and AI still are.
          Compare  heavy  wizardry.  Esp.: found in comments of the form
          "Deep magic begins here...". Compare voodoo programming.

   deep space : n.
          1.  Describes  the  notional  location of any program that has
          gone  off  the  trolley.  Esp.: used of programs that just sit
          there  silently  grinding  long  after  either failure or some
          output  is expected. "Uh oh. I should have gotten a prompt ten
          seconds  ago.  The program's in deep space somewhere." Compare
          buzz, catatonic, hyperspace.

          2.  The  metaphorical  location  of  a  human  so dazed and/or
          confused  or  caught up in some esoteric form of bogosity that
          he   or   she   no   longer   responds  coherently  to  normal
          communication. Compare page out.

   defenestration : n.
          [mythically  from a traditional Bohemian assassination method,
          via SF fandom]

          1. Proper karmic retribution for an incorrigible punster. "Oh,
          ghod, that was awful!" "Quick! Defenestrate him!"

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

          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.  [obs.]  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.

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

          [portmanteau  of  "defective" and "afflicted"; common among PC
          repair  technicians,  and  probably  originated among hardware
          techs  outside  the  hacker  community  proper]  Term  used of
          hardware   that  is  broken  due  to  poor  design  or  shoddy
          manufacturing  or  (especially)  both; less frequently used of
          software  and rarely of people. This term is normally employed
          in  a  tone of weary contempt by technicians who have seen the
          specific   failure  in  the  trouble  report  before  and  are
          cynically  confident they'll see it again. Ultimately this may
          derive  from Frank Zappa's 1974 album Apostrophe, on which the
          Fur Trapper infamously rubs his deflicted eyes...

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

          [Portmanteau of Dejanews and Google] Google newsgroups. Became
          common in 2001 after Google acquired Dejanews, and with it the
          largest on-line archive of Usenet postings.

   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>" or "<snip>".

   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 linting.
          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,  ubergeek.  Since 1995 or so this
          term has been gradually displaced by ubergeek.

   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

          4.  [demoscene]  A  sequence of demoeffects (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 apps 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.

          1.  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).

          2.  [Finland] Opposite of dancing frog. The crash that happens
          when  you  demonstrate a perfectly good prototype to a client.
          Plagues most often CS students and small businesses, but there
          is  a  well-known  case  involving  Bill Gates demonstrating a
          brand new version of a major operating system.

   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),    sysops,
          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. Often used equivalently to daemon -- especially in the Unix
          world,   where   the  latter  spelling  and  pronunciation  is
          considered mildly archaic.

          2. [MIT; now probably obsolete] 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.

          Demons  in sense 2 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 phreakers;
          see war dialer for its contemporary progeny.

   demoparty : n.
          [demoscene]  Aboveground  descendant  of  the  copyparty, with
          emphasis shifted away from software piracy and towards compos.
          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 in the
          beginning,  usually  containing  colorful  display  hacks with
          greetings  to  other  cracking  groups. The demoscene was born
          among  people who decided building these display hacks is more
          interesting than hacking -- or anyway safer. Around 1990 there
          began  to  be very serious police pressure on cracking groups,
          including  raids  with  SWAT  teams  crashing into bedrooms to
          confiscate  computers.  Whether  in  response  to  this or for
          esthetic  reasons,  crackers  of  that  period  began to build
          self-contained  display  hacks of considerable elaboration and
          beauty  (within  the culture such a hack is called a demo). As
          more  of these demogroups emerged, they started to have compos
          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 demosceners frown at this, but the
          majority  think it's a good direction. Many demosceners end up
          working  in  the  computer  game  industry. Demoscene resource
          pages are available at

   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 `depreciated', or
          the   verb   form  `deprecate'  with  `depreciate`.  They  are
          different words; see any dictionary for discussion.]

   derf : /derf/

          1.  v. 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. Compare baggy pantsing.

          2.  n.  The  victim  of  an  act of derfing, sense 1. The most
          typical posting from a derfed account read "I am a derf.".

   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.

   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.

   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 timesharing
          with  all the disadvantages of distributed personal computers;
          typically,  they  cannot even boot themselves without help (in
          the  form  of  some  kind  of  breath-of-life packet) from the

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

          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.

   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  to  mean  `diagonal  cutters', a kind of wire cutter. 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.

          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  1998  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;  originally  reflected  a  perception  by hackers that
          these  signal  another  stage  in  the long, slow dying of the
          mainframe  industry. In the mainframe industry's glory days of
          the  1960s,  it  was  `IBM  and  the Seven Dwarfs': 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.
          In  similar  wave of dinosaur-matings as the PC business began
          to  consolidate  after  1995,  Digital Equipment was bought by
          Compaq   which   was  bought  by  Hewlett-Packard.  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.

   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 hits).

   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.

   disemvowel : v.
          [USENET:  play  on `disembowel'] Less common synonym for splat

   disk farm : n.
          A  large  room  or rooms filled with disk drives (esp. washing
          machines).  This  term  was  well  established  by  1990,  and
          generalized  by about ten years later; see farm. It has become
          less  common  as  disk  strange densities reached livels where
          terabytes of storage can easily be fit in a single rack.

   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.

   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

   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 form 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.

          [common]  Literally,  De-Militarized  Zone.  Figuratively, the
          portion  of  a  private  network  that  is visible through the
          network's firewalls (see firewall machine). Coined in the late
          1990s as jargon, this term is now borderline techspeak.

   do protocol : vi.
          [from  network protocol programming] To perform an interaction
          with  somebody  or  something  that  follows a clearly defined
          procedure.  For example, "Let's do protocol with the check" at
          a restaurant means to ask for the check, calculate the tip and
          everybody's  share,  collect  money  from  everybody, generate
          change as necessary, and pay the bill. See protocol.

   doc : /dok/ , n.
          Common spoken and written shorthand for `documentation'. Often
          used  in  the  plural  docs  and  in the construction doc file
          (i.e., documentation available on-line).

   documentation : n.
          The   multiple   kilograms  of  macerated,  pounded,  steamed,
          bleached,   and  pressed  trees  that  accompany  most  modern
          software  or hardware products (see also tree-killer). Hackers
          seldom read paper documentation and (too) often resist writing
          it;  they  prefer  theirs  to  be  terse and on-line. A common
          comment  on  this predilection is "You can't grep dead trees".
          See drool-proof paper, verbiage, treeware.

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

   dogcow : /dog'kow/ , n.
          See  Moof.  The dogcow is a semi-legendary creature that lurks
          in the depths of the Macintosh Technical Notes Hypercard stack
          V3.1.  The  full story of the dogcow is told in technical note
          #31  (the  particular  dogcow  illustrated  is  properly named
          `Clarus').   Option-shift-click   will  cause  it  to  emit  a
          characteristic  `Moof!' or `!fooM' sound. Getting to tech note
          31  is  the  hard  part;  to discover how to do that, one must
          needs  examine  the  stack  script  with a hackerly eye. Clue:
          rot13  is  involved. A dogcow also appears if you choose `Page
          Setup...'  with  a  LaserWriter  selected  and  click  on  the
          `Options'  button. It also lurks in other Mac printer drivers,
          notably  those  for  the  now-discontinued  Style Writers. See


   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 to
          derive  from an `autobiographical' Bugs Bunny cartoon in which
          a  gang  of  attacking  canines actually yells "Dogpile on the

   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.

   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 Neal
          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 first sighting of a dongle was in 1984,
          associated  with a software product called PaperClip. 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

          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

          3.  An adaptor cable mating a special edge-type connector on a
          PCMCIA  or  on-board Ethernet card to a standard 8p8c 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.

   Doom, X of
          [common]  A construction similar to ` Death, X of, but derived
          rather from the Cracks of Doom in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the
          Rings  trilogy. The connotations are slightly different; a Foo
          of  Death  is  mainly being held up to ridicule, but one would
          have to take a Foo of Doom a bit more seriously.

   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.
          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 effect.

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

   double bucky : adj.
          Using  both  the  CTRL and META keys. "The command to burn all
          LEDs is double bucky F."

          This  term originated on the Stanford extended-ASCII keyboard,
          and was later taken up by users of the space-cadet keyboard at
          MIT.  A  typical  MIT comment was that the Stanford bucky bits
          (control  and meta shifting keys) were nice, but there weren't
          enough  of  them; you could type only 512 different characters
          on  a  Stanford  keyboard.  An obvious way to address this was
          simply  to  add  more  shifting  keys, and this was eventually
          done;  but  a keyboard with that many shifting keys is hard on
          touch-typists,  who  don't  like to move their hands away from
          the  home  position  on  the  keyboard.  It was half-seriously
          suggested  that  the  extra  shifting  keys  be implemented as
          pedals;  typing  on  such  a  keyboard would be very much like
          playing  a full pipe organ. This idea is mentioned in a parody
          of  a  very  fine  song  by Jeffrey Moss called Rubber Duckie,
          which  was  published in The Sesame Street Songbook (Simon and
          Schuster  1971, ISBN 0-671-21036-X). These lyrics were written
          on May 27, 1978, in celebration of the Stanford keyboard:

          Double Bucky
          Double bucky, you're the one!
          You make my keyboard lots of fun.
              Double bucky, an additional bit or two:
          Control and meta, side by side,
          Augmented ASCII, nine bits wide!
              Double bucky!  Half a thousand glyphs, plus a few!
          I sure wish that I
          Had a couple of
              Bits more!
          Perhaps a
          Set of pedals to
          Make the number of
              Bits four:
          Double double bucky!
          Double bucky, left and right
          OR'd together, outta sight!
              Double bucky, I'd like a whole word of
              Double bucky, I'm happy I heard of
              Double bucky, I'd like a whole word of you!
          -- The Great Quux (with apologies to Jeffrey Moss)
          [This,  by  the  way, is an excellent example of computer filk
          --ESR] See also meta bit, cokebottle, and quadruple bucky.

   doubled sig : n.
          A  sig  block that has been included twice in a Usenet article
          or,  less  commonly, in an electronic mail message. An article
          or  message  with  a  doubled  sig can be caused by improperly
          configured  software.  More  often,  however,  it  reveals the
          author's  lack  of experience in electronic communication. See
          B1FF, pseudo.

          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.

   DPer : /dee-pee-er/ , n.
          Data  Processor.  Hackers are absolutely amazed that suits 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.  Actually,  "mbogo"  is indeed a Ki-Swahili word
          referring  to the African Cape Buffalo, syncerus caffer. It is
          one of the "big five" dangerous African game animals, and many
          people  with  bush  experience  believe  it  to  be  the  most
          dangerous of them. 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

   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

   dread high-bit disease : n.
          A   condition  endemic  to  some  now-obsolete  computers  and
          peripherals    (including    ASR-33    teletypes   and   PRIME
          minicomputers)  that  results  in  all characters having their
          high  (0x80)  bit forced on. This of course makes transporting
          files to other systems much more difficult, not to mention the
          problems these machines have talking with true 8-bit devices.

          This  term  was  originally used specifically of PRIME (a.k.a.
          PR1ME)  minicomputers.  Folklore has it that PRIME adopted the
          reversed-8-bit convention in order to save 25 cents per serial
          line  per  machine; PRIME old-timers, on the other hand, claim
          they  inherited the disease from Honeywell via customer NASA's
          compatibility  requirements  and  struggled heroically to cure
          it. Whoever was responsible, this probably qualifies as one of
          the most cretinous design tradeoffs ever made. See meta bit.

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

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

   driver : n.
          1. The main loop of an event-processing program; the code that
          gets commands and dispatches them for execution.

          2.  [techspeak]  In  device  driver, code designed to handle a
          particular  peripheral  device such as a magnetic disk or tape

          3.  In the TeX world and the computerized typesetting world in
          general,  a program that translates some device-independent or
          other  common  format  to something a real device can actually

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

          Typical droid positions include supermarket checkout assistant
          and  bank  clerk;  the  syndrome  is also endemic in low-level
          government  employees.  The  implication is that the rules and
          official  procedures  constitute  software  that  the droid is
          executing;  problems  arise  when  the  software  has not been
          properly  debugged.  The  term droid mentality is also used to
          describe  the  mindset  behind  this  behavior.  Compare suit,
          marketroid; see -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
          included  the  line  "[Do not] dangle the mouse by the cord or
          throw it at coworkers."

   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

          3.  Mental  glitches;  used  as  a  way  of  describing  those
          occasions  when  the mind just seems to shut down for a couple
          of beats. See glitch, fried.


          A really serious case of drop-outs.

          (The next cartoon in the Crunchly saga is 73-05-21)

   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 : n.
          Ancient techspeak term referring to slow, cylindrical magnetic
          media  that  were once state-of-the-art storage devices. Under
          some versions of 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 newbies. 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.

   DSW : n.
          [alt.(sysadmin|tech-support).recovery;  abbrev.  for Dick Size
          War]  A  contest between two or more people boasting about who
          has   the   faster   machine,  keys  on  (either  physical  or
          cryptographic)  keyring,  greyer  hair,  or  almost  anything.
          Salvos  in  a  DSW  are  typically humorous and playful, often

   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 optimize 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 terminal.

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

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

   dump : n.
          1.  An  undigested  and voluminous mass of information about a
          problem or the state of a system, especially one routed to the
          slowest  available output device (compare core dump), and most
          especially one consisting of hex or octal runes describing the
          byte-by-byte  state  of memory, mass storage, or some file. In
          elder  days,  debugging was generally done by groveling over a
          dump  (see grovel); increasing use of high-level languages and
          interactive  debuggers  has made such tedium uncommon, and the
          term dump now has a faintly archaic flavor.

          2.  A  backup. This usage is typical only at large timesharing

   dumpster diving : /dump'-ster di:'-ving/ , n.
          1.  The practice of sifting refuse from an office or technical
          installation   to   extract   confidential   data,  especially
          security-compromising    information    (`dumpster'    is   an
          Americanism  for  what  is  elsewhere  called a skip). Back in
          AT&T's  monopoly  days,  before  paper shredders became common
          office  equipment,  phone  phreaks  (see  phreaking)  used  to
          organize  regular  dumpster  runs against phone company plants
          and  offices.  Discarded  and  damaged copies of AT&T internal
          manuals taught them much. The technique is still rumored to be
          a favorite of crackers operating against careless targets.

          2.  The  practice  of  raiding  the dumpsters behind buildings
          where  producers  and/or  consumers of high-tech equipment are
          located,  with  the expectation (usually justified) of finding
          discarded  but  still-valuable  equipment to be nursed back to
          health  in  some hacker's den. Experienced dumpster-divers not
          infrequently accumulate basements full of moldering (but still
          potentially useful) cruft.

   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

   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

          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

          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

          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

          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.


   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

          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

   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 derived 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 on 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!"


          IPM tells us to eat flaming death.

   EBCDIC : /eb's@-dik/ , /eb'see`dik/ , /eb'k@-dik/ , n.
          [abbreviation, Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code]
          An  alleged  character set used on IBM dinosaurs. 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.

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

   ed : n.
          "ed is the standard text editor." Line taken from the original
          Unix  manual  page on ed, an ancient line-oriented editor that
          is  by  now used only by a few Real Programmers, 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).

   egg : n.
          The  binary  code  that is the payload for buffer overflow and
          format  string  attacks. Typically, an egg written in assembly
          and  designed  to  enable remote access or escalate privileges
          from  an  ordinary user account to administrator level when it
          hatches. Also known as shellcode.

          The  name comes from a particular buffer-overflow exploit that
          was  co-written by a cracker named eggplant. The variable name
          `egg'  was  used  to  store the payload. The usage spread from
          people who saw and analyzed the code.

   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,  code  grinder.  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

          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  the  early  1990s,  the synonym El Camino Virtual was been
          reported  as  an  alternate  at  IBM  and  Amdahl sites in the

          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-Exupéry,  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 hogs
          (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 l337 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 re­
          phrasing  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  `Böcklin', 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 émaillé (enameled) and related to
          Old French emmailleüre (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  newbies),  resulting  in arguments and flame

          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 emoticon.

          The  invention of the original smiley and frowney emoticons is
          generally  credited  to Scott Fahlman at CMU in 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."  In September 2002 the original post
          was recovered.

          There  is  a  rival  claim by one Kevin McKenzie, who seems to
          have  proposed  the smiley on the MsgGroup mailing list, April
          12   1979.   It   seems   likely  these  two  inventions  were
          independent.  Users  of  the  PLATO  educational system report
          using  emoticons composed from overlaid dot-matrix graphics in
          the 1970s.

          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/Windows
          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.

          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 preferred shorthand is simply 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  marketroids  to  say  "Yes, and you can program our
          computers in English!" to ignorant suits 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/ , /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

   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 ticks
          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.

          [see delta]

          1. n. A small quantity of anything. "The cost is epsilon."

          2.  adj.  Very  small, negligible; less than marginal. "We can
          get this feature for epsilon cost."

          3. within epsilon of: close enough to be indistinguishable for
          all  practical  purposes,  even closer than being within delta
          of.  "That's  not what I asked for, but it's within epsilon of
          what  I  wanted." Alternatively, it may mean not close enough,
          but  very  little  is required to get it there: "My program is
          within epsilon of working."

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

   era : n.
          Syn.  epoch.  Webster's  Unabridged  makes  these words almost
          synonymous,  but era more often connotes a span of time rather
          than  a  point in time, whereas the reverse is true for epoch.
          The epoch usage is recommended.

   Eric Conspiracy : n.
          A  shadowy  group  of  mustachioed  hackers  named  Eric first
          pinpointed   as   a   sinister   conspiracy   by  an  infamous
          talk.bizarre  posting  ca. 1987; this was doubtless influenced
          by the numerous `Eric' jokes in the Monty Python oeuvre. There
          do  indeed  seem  to be considerably more mustachioed Erics in
          hackerdom than the frequency of these three traits can account
          for  unless they are correlated in some arcane way. Well-known
          examples  include  Eric  Allman  (he  of  the  `Allman  style'
          described  under  indent  style)  and  Erik Fair (co-author of
          NNTP);  your  editor has heard from more than a hundred 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 : n.
          1.  [XEROX  PARC]  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 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 grovelling 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 sacrificed animal. Compare runes, incantation, black art.

   EXCH : /eks'ch@/ , /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/ , /eek'see/ , /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'/ , /eks'ek/ , 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

          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 always a program, never
          a person.

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

   Exon : /eks'on/ , excl.
          A  generic  obscenity  that  quickly  entered  wide use on the
          Internet  and  Usenet  after the passage of the Communications
          Decency  Act.  From  the  last  name  of  Senator  James  Exon
          (Democrat-Nebraska),  primary  author  of  the CDA. This usage
          outlasted  the  CDA  itself, which was quashed a little over a
          year later by one of the most acerbic pro-free-speech opinions
          ever uttered by the Supreme Court. The campaign against it was
          led  by an alliance of hackers and civil libertarians, and was
          the  first  effective  political  mobilization  of  the hacker
          culture.  Use  of Exon's name as an expletive outlived the CDA
          controversy itself.

   Exploder : n.
          Used  within  Microsoft  to refer to the Windows Explorer, the
          web-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 environments 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 lusers to keep them distracted while the
          program  performs  necessary  background tasks. "Give 'em some
          eye  candy  while  the  back-end  slurps 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.


   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:
          case PINK:
             /* FALL THROUGH */
          case RED:
          The variant spelling /* FALL THRU */ is also common.

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

   fan : n.
          Without  qualification,  indicates  a  fan of science fiction,
          especially  one  who  goes  to cons 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/ , /fak/ , n.

          1. A Frequently Asked Question.

          2.  A  compendium  of accumulated lore, posted periodically to
          high-volume   newsgroups  in  an  attempt  to  forestall  such
          questions.  Some  people  prefer the term `FAQ list' or `FAQL'
          /fa'kl/, reserving `FAQ' for sense 1.

          This  lexicon  itself serves as a good example of a collection
          of  one kind of lore, although it is far too big for a regular
          FAQ  posting. Examples: "What is the proper type of NULL?" and
          "What's  that  funny  name  for  the  #  character?"  are both
          Frequently  Asked Questions. Several FAQs refer readers to the
          Jargon File.

   FAQ list : /F-A-Q list/ , /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.

   farm : n.
          A   group   of   machines,   especially   a   large  group  of
          near-identical   machines   running  load-balancing  software,
          dedicated to a single task. Historically the term server farm,
          used especially for a group of web servers, seems to have been
          coined  by  analogy with earlier disk farm in the early 1990s;
          generalization  began with render farm for a group of machines
          dedicated  to rendering computer animations (this term appears
          to  have  been  popularized  by publicity about the pioneering
          "Linux  render  farm"  used  to produce the movie Titanic). By
          2001  other  combinations  such as "compile farm" and "compute
          farm"   were  increasingly  common,  and  arguably  borderline
          techspeak.  More  jargon  uses  seem  likely  to arise (and be
          absorbed  into techspeak over time) as new uses are discovered
          for networked machine clusters. Compare link farm.

   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.


          Fascist security strikes again.

          (The next cartoon in the Crunchly saga is 73-05-28)

   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 pipe
          A  high-bandwidth  connection  to  the Internet. When the term
          gained  currency in the mid-1990s, a T-1 (at 1.5 Mbits/second)
          was  considered a fat pipe, but the standard has risen. Now it
          suggests multiple T3s.

   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

          2.  More  generally,  any  typo that produces dramatically bad

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

   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

          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.

   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 sevärdhet (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".


          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

          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 mid-2001
          Fidonet  has approximately 15K nodes, down from 38K in 1996 --
          and  most  of  those  are probably single-user machines rather
          than the thriving BBSes of yore.

   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

          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  HP regime, is
          located in Maynard, Massachusetts.)

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

   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]  Originally,  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.  More recently (especially since the late 1980s),
          filk  has  come to include a great deal of originally-composed
          music  on  SFnal  or fantasy themes and a range of moods wider
          than  simple  parody  or humor. Worthy of mention here because
          there  is  a  flourishing  subgenre  of  filks 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

          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] 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".  May  have been first
          published  by  Francis  P.  Chisholm  in  his  1963  essay The
          Chisholm  Effect,  later  reprinted in the classic anthology A
          Stress  Analysis Of A Strapless Evening Gown: And Other Essays
          For  A  Scientific  Eye  (Robert Baker ed, Prentice-Hall, ISBN

          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.  One variant favored among hackers is "The perversity
          of  the  Universe tends towards a maximum"; Niven specifically
          referred  to this as O'Toole's Corollary of Finagle's Law. See
          also Hanlon's Razor.

   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.

          [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',  see See figure 1. Originally a humorous component of
          one's  plan  file  to deter the curious fingerer (sense 2), it
          has entered the arsenal of some flamers.

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

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

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

   firebottle : n.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

   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 crackers. 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. See also wild side.

          [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

   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.

   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.

   fisking : n.
          [blogosphere;  very  common]  A point-by-point refutation of a
          blog  entry  or  (especially)  news  story.  A  really stylish
          fisking  is  witty, logical, sarcastic and ruthlessly factual;
          flaming  or  handwaving  is  considered poor form. Named after
          Robert  Fisk,  a  British  journalist  who was a frequent (and
          deserving)  early  target of such treatment. See also MiSTing,

   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  change  was  made to the definition of the ASCII
          character  set  during  the development of Multics. The change
          was scheduled for Flag Day (a U.S. holiday), June 14, 1966.

          The  change  altered  the Multics definition of ASCII from the
          short-lived 1965 version of the ASCII code to the 1967 version
          (in  draft  at  the  time); this moved code points for braces,
          vertical bar, and circumflex. See also backward combatability.
          The Great Renaming was a flag day.

          [Most  of  the  changes were made to files stored on CTSS, the
          system  used  to  support Multics development before it became

          [As    it    happens,    the    first    installation   of   a
          commercially-produced computer, a Univac I, took place on Flag
          Day of 1951 --ESR]

   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.

          [at MIT, orig. from the phrase flaming asshole]

          1.  vi.  To  post  an  email  message  intended  to insult and

          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 : 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  flames. 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. 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  (what  this  does  to  the server may also be called
          slashdot  effect). It has been pointed out that the effect was
          anticipated years earlier in Alfred Bester's 1956 The Stars My

   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 flattened 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 two
          flavors."  "These lights come in two flavors, big red ones and
          small green ones." "Linux is a flavor of Unix" See vanilla.

          2.  The  attribute  that  causes  something  to  be flavorful.
          Usually  used  in the phrase "yields additional flavor". "This
          convention  yields  additional flavor by allowing one to print
          text  either  right-side-up or upside-down." See vanilla. This
          usage  was  certainly reinforced by the terminology of quantum
          chromodynamics,  in  which  quarks (the constituents of, e.g.,
          protons)  come  in six flavors (up, down, strange, charm, top,
          bottom)  and  three  colors  (red,  blue,  green)  -- however,
          hackish use of flavor at MIT predated QCD.

          3.  The  term  for class (in the object-oriented sense) in the
          LISP  Machine  Flavors  system.  Though the Flavors design has
          been  superseded  (notably  by the Common LISP CLOS facility),
          the  term  flavor is still used as a general synonym for class
          by some LISP hackers.

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

   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.

          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,  code
          grinders, 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

   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.


          Crunchly gets flushed.

          (The next cartoon in the Crunchly saga is 76-05-01)

   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

   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

          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 MUDs 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."

          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 file-ogeny.

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

   foo : /foo/
          1. interj. Term of disgust.

          2.  [very  common]  Used  very  generally as a sample name for
          absolutely  anything,  esp.  programs  and files (esp. scratch

          3.  First on the standard list of metasyntactic variables used
          in  syntax  examples.  See  also  bar, baz, qux, quux, 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'  or  `Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition'),
          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 published from
          about  1930  to  about  1952.  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". The word "foo" frequently appeared on license
          plates  of cars, in nonsense sayings in the background of some
          frames  (such  as  "He who foos last foos best" or "Many smoke
          but  foo  men chew"), and Holman had Smokey say "Where there's
          foo, there's fire".

          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  one  was  almost
          certainly    the   Mandarin   Chinese   word   fu   (sometimes
          transliterated   foo),   which   can   mean   "happiness"   or
          "prosperity"  when  spoken  with the rising 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; notably in
          Robert  Clampett's  "Daffy Doc" of 1938, in which a very early
          version  of  Daffy  Duck  holds  up  a sign saying "SILENCE IS
          FOO!") When the fad faded, the origin of "foo" was forgotten.

          One  place "foo" is 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). Because
          informants  connected  the  term directly to the Smokey Stover
          strip,  the  folk  etymology  that connects it to French "feu"
          (fire) can be gently dismissed.

          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, then only 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.
          It  has  been  plausibly  suggested that "foobar" spread among
          early  computer  engineers  partly because of FUBAR and partly
          because  "foo  bar"  parses  in  electronics  techspeak  as an
          inverted  foo  signal; if a digital signal is active low (so a
          negative  or  zero-voltage  condition represents a "1") then a
          horizontal bar is commonly placed over the signal label.

   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  blocks  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 DEC's "Jupiter Project" followon to the
          PDP-10  was  cancelled  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, user-friendly.

   for values of
          [MIT] A common rhetorical maneuver at MIT is to use any of the
          canonical  random  numbers as placeholders for variables. "The
          max function takes 42 arguments, for arbitrary values of 42.:"
          "There  are 69 ways to leave your lover, for 69 = 50." This is
          especially likely when the speaker has uttered a random number
          and  realizes  that  it  was  not recognized as such, but even
          `non-random'  numbers are occasionally used in this fashion. A
          related  joke  is that p equals 3 -- for small values of p 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

          Technically,  on  a  timesharing  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.

          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. Also called a fork bunny. 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 begins its
          own line of development). 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  projects,  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

   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

   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  postings  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.)

   four-color glossies : n.
          1.  Literature  created by marketroids 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

          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

          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.

   Frankenputer : n.
          1.  A  mostly-working  computer thrown together from the spare
          parts  of  several  machines  out of which the magic smoke had
          been  let.  Most  shops  have  a  closet  full  of  nonworking
          machines.  When  a  new  machine  is  needed  immediately (for
          testing,  for  example)  and  there  is no time (or budget) to
          requisition  a  new  box,  someone (often an intern) is tasked
          with building a Frankenputer.

          2.  Also  used  in  referring  to  a  machine  that once was a
          name-brand  computer,  but  has  been upgraded long beyond its
          useful  life,  to  the  point  at which the nameplate violates
          truth-in-advertising  laws  (e.g., a Pentium III-class machine
          inexplicably living in a case marked "Gateway 486/66").

   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  synonymous with `someone' except that Fred Foobar can be
          backreferenced  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.

          RMS  observes that the English word "free" can refer either to
          liberty  (where  it  means  the  same as the Spanish or French
          "libre")  or  to price (where it means the same as the Spanish
          "gratis" or French "gratuit"). RMS and other people associated
          with  the  FSF  like  to  explain  the  word  "free"  in "free
          software" by saying "Free as in speech, not as in beer."

          See  also  open source. Hard-core proponents of the term "free
          software"  sometimes reject this newer term, claiming that the
          style  of argument associated with it ignores or downplays the
          moral imperative at the heart of free software.

   freeware : n.
          [common]  Freely-redistributable  software,  often  written by
          enthusiasts   and   distributed   by  users'  groups,  or  via
          electronic  mail,  local  bulletin  boards,  Usenet,  or other
          electronic media. As the culture of the Internet has displaced
          the  older  BBS  world, this term has lost ground to both open
          source  and  free  software;  it has increasingly tended to be
          restricted  to  software  distributed  in  binary  rather than
          source-code  form.  At  one  time, freeware was a trademark of
          Andrew  Fluegelman,  the  author of the well-known MS-DOS comm
          program  PC-TALK  III. It wasn't enforced after his mysterious
          disappearance and presumed death in 1984. See shareware, FRS.

   freeze : v.
          To  lock an evolving software distribution or document against
          changes  so  it  can  be released with some hope of stability.
          Carries  the strong implication that the item in question will
          `unfreeze'  at  some  future date. "OK, fix that bug and we'll
          freeze  for release." There are more specific constructions on
          this   term.   A   feature  freeze,  for  example,  locks  out
          modifications  intended  to  introduce  new features but still
          allows  bugfixes  and  completion of existing features; a code
          freeze  connotes  no  more changes at all. At Sun Microsystems
          and  elsewhere,  one may also hear references to code slush --
          that is, an almost-but-not-quite frozen state.

   fried : adj.
          1.  [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

          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

   frobnitz : /frob'nits/ , pl. , frobnitzem , /frob'nit-zm/ , 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. For
          related amusement, see the Encyclopedia Frobozzica.

          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 : 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 : 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 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

   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.
          [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, after
          which it became swiftly obsolete.

          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/ , /eff'-seek-ing/ , adj.
          [Usenet;  very  common]  Fucking,  in  the expletive sense (it
          refers to the Unix filesystem-repair command fsck(8), 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.

          [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 suits; see
          foobar, and foo for a fuller etymology.

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

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

   FUD : /fuhd/ , n.
          Defined  by  Gene  Amdahl  after  he left IBM to found his own
          company:  "FUD  is  the  fear, uncertainty, and doubt that IBM
          sales  people  instill in the minds of potential customers who
          might  be considering [Amdahl] products." The idea, of course,
          was to persuade them to go with safe IBM gear rather than with
          competitors'    equipment.    This   implicit   coercion   was
          traditionally accomplished by promising that Good Things would
          happen  to  people who stuck with IBM, but Dark Shadows loomed
          over  the  future  of  competitors' equipment or software. See
          IBM.  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.
          1,  [from FUD] Historically, oolitical 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

          2.  Since  about 2000 the FUD wars have a different character;
          the  battle  over  open standards has been partly replaced and
          partly  subsumed  by  the  argument  between  closed- and open
          source  proponents.  Nowadays,  accordingly,  the term is most
          likely  to  be  used of anti-open-source propaganda emitted by
          Microsoft. Compare astroturfing.

          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  variables  (after  foo  and bar). Competes with
          baz, which is more common outside PARC.

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

   funky : adj.
          Said  of  something that functions, but in a slightly strange,
          klugey  way. It does the job and would be difficult to change,
          so  its  obvious  non-optimality  is left alone. Often used to
          describe  interfaces.  The more bugs something has that nobody
          has  bothered  to  fix  because  workarounds  are  easier, the
          funkier  it  is.  TECO  and  UUCP  are funky. The Intel i860's
          exception  handling  is  extraordinarily funky. Most standards
          acquire  funkiness  as they age. "The new mailer is installed,
          but  is  still  somewhat funky; if it bounces your mail for no
          reason,  try resubmitting it." "This UART is pretty funky. The
          data   ready   line  is  active-high  in  interrupt  mode  and
          active-low in DMA mode."

   funny money : n.
          1.  Notional  `dollar'  units of computing time and/or storage
          handed to students at the beginning of a computer course; also
          called  play  money or purple money (in implicit opposition to
          real or green money). In New Zealand and Germany the odd usage
          paper  money  has  been recorded; in Germany, the particularly
          amusing  synonym  transfer  ruble commemorates 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 newbies was being overused. See
          also FOAF.


   G : pref.,suff.
          1. [SI] See quantifiers.

          2.  The  letter  G  has  special  significance  in  the hacker
          community, largely thanks to the GNU project and the GPL.

          Many  free  software projects have names that names that begin
          with  G.  The GNU project gave many of its projects names that
          were  acronyms  beginning  with the word "GNU", such as "GNU C
          Compiler"  (gcc) and "GNU Debugger" (gdb), and this launched a
          tradition.  Just  as  many  Java  developers  will begin their
          projects  with  J,  many  free  software developers will begin
          theirs  with  G.  It  is  often the case that a program with a
          G-prefixed name is licensed under the GNU GPL.

          For  example,  someone may write a free Enterprise Engineering
          Kludge  package  (EEK  technology  is  all  the  rage  in  the
          technical  journals)  and name it "geek" to imply that it is a
          GPL'd EEK package.

   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),   and   large  numbers  of  loosely-coupled
          programmers  operating  in bazaar mode can do very useful work
          when  they're not on a deadline, most are perpetrated by large
          companies trying to meet unrealistic deadlines; the inevitable
          result  is  enormous  buggy masses of code entirely lacking in
          orthogonality.  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   to   epsilon.   See  also
          firefighting, Mongolian Hordes technique, Conway's Law.

   Gang of Four : n.
          (also abbreviated GOF) [prob. a play on the `Gang Of Four' who
          briefly  ran Communist China after the death of Mao] Describes
          either  the  authors  or the book Design Patterns: Elements of
          Reusable   Object-Oriented   Software  published  in  1995  by
          Addison-Wesley  (ISBN  0-201-63361-2). The authors forming the
          Gang  Of Four are Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson and
          John  Vlissides. They are also sometimes referred to as `Gamma
          et. al.' The authors state at
  "Why  are we
          ...  called this? Who knows. Somehow the name just stuck." The
          term  is also used to describe any of the design patterns that
          are  used  in the book, referring to the patterns within it as
          `Gang Of Four Patterns.'

   garbage collect : vi.
          (also garbage collection, n.) See GC.

   garply : /gar'plee/ , n.
          [Stanford]  Another  metasyntactic  variable  (see  foo); once
          popular among SAIL hackers.

          [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

          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

          5.  [IBM] n. Empty space on a disk that has been clandestinely
          allocated against future need.

   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 capacity 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."

          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;

          `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

   geek : n.
          A  person who has chosen concentration rather than conformity;
          one   who  pursues  skill  (especially  technical  skill)  and
          imagination,  not  mainstream social acceptance. Geeks usually
          have  a  strong  case  of neophilia. Most geeks are adept with
          computers  and  treat hacker as a term of respect, but not all
          are  hackers  themselves  --  and some who are in fact hackers
          normally  call  themselves  geeks  anyway, because they (quite
          properly)  regard  `hacker' as a label that should be bestowed
          by others rather than self-assumed.

          One description accurately if a little breathlessly enumerates
          "gamers,   ravers,  science  fiction  fans,  punks,  perverts,
          programmers,  nerds,  subgenii, and trekkies. These are people
          who  did  not go to their high school proms, and many would be
          offended  by  the suggestion that they should have even wanted

          Originally,  a geek was a carnival performer who bit the heads
          off  chickens. (In early 20th-century Scotland a `geek' was an
          immature  coley,  a  type of fish.) Before about 1990 usage of
          this  term  was  rather  negative.  Earlier  versions  of this
          lexicon  defined  a  computer  geek as one who eats (computer)
          bugs  for  a  living  --  an  asocial, malodorous, pasty-faced
          monomaniac  with  all the personality of a cheese grater. This
          is often still the way geeks are regarded by non-geeks, but as
          the  mainstream  culture  becomes more dependent on technology
          and  technical skill mainstream attitudes have tended to shift
          towards grudging respect. Correspondingly, there are now `geek
          pride'  festivals (the implied reference to `gay pride' is not

          See  also  propeller head, clustergeeking, geek out, wannabee,
          terminal junkie, spod, weenie, geek code, alpha geek.

   geek code : n.
          (also  "Code  of  the Geeks"). A set of codes commonly used in
          sig blocks 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

          -----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
          newsgroups.  It  has  in  turn spawned imitators; there is now
          even  a  "Saturn  geek code" for owners of the Saturn car. See
          also 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 geek; see also propeller head.

          Originally  from  a  quote on the PBS show Scientific American
          Frontiers  (week  of  May  21st  2002)  by  MIT professor Alex
          Slocum:   "When   they   build  a  machine,  if  they  do  the
          calculations right, the machine works and you get this intense
          ...  uhh  ...  just like a geekasm, from knowing that what you
          created  in  your  mind  and on the computer is actually doing
          what  you told it to do". Unsurprisingly, this usage went live
          on  the Web almost instantly. Every hacker knows this feeling.
          Compare earlier progasm.

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

   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    apps    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  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 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  it  can be traced back at least to `Valley Girl'
          slang  in 1983. 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.

          There  is  a quote from Mohandas Gandhi, describing the stages
          of   establishment   resistence   to  a  winning  strategy  of
          nonviolent   activism,  that  partisans  of  open  source  and
          especially  Linux  have  embraced  as  almost  an  explanatory
          framework  for  the behaviors they observe while trying to get
          corporations  and other large institutions to take new ways of
          doing things seriously:

     First  they  ignore  you.  Then they laugh at you. Then they fight
     you. Then you win.

          In  hacker  usage  this  quote  has  miscegenated with the U.S
          military's  DefCon terminology describing `defense conditions'
          or  degrees  of  war  alert.  At  GhandiCon  One, you're being
          ignored.  At  GhandiCon Two, opponents are laughing at you and
          dismissing  the  idea  that  you  could  ever  be a threat. At
          GhandiCon  Three,  they're  fighting  you on the merits and/or
          attempting to discredit you. At GhandiCon Four, you're winning
          and  they  are  arguing  to  save  face  or stave off complete
          collapse of their position.

   gib : /jib/
          1.  vi.  To  destroy utterly. Like frag, but much more violent
          and  final. "There's no trace left. You definitely gibbed that

          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 instead.

   gig : /jig/ , /gig/ , n.
          [SI] See quantifiers.

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

   GIGO : /gi:'goh/
          1.  `Garbage  In,  Garbage Out' -- usually said in response to
          lusers 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

   gillion : /gil'y@n/ , /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/ , /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/ , /glas ti'tee/ , n.
          [obs.] 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. 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' slippery, 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

          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 heisenbugs).


          Coping with a hydraulic glitch.

          (The next cartoon in the Crunchly saga is 73-07-24)

   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

   * 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 regexps.

          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 @email{<>}.
          GNU  EMACS and the GNU C compiler, two tools designed for this
          project,  have become very popular in hackerdom and elsewhere.
          The  GNU  project was designed partly to proselytize for RMS's
          position  that  information  is  community  property  and  all
          software  source should be shared. One of its slogans is "Help
          stamp    out   software   hoarding!"   Though   this   remains
          controversial  (because  it  implicitly  denies  any  right of
          designers  to  own,  assign,  and  sell  the  results of their
          labors),  many hackers who disagree with RMS have nevertheless
          cooperated  to  produce large amounts of high-quality software
          for  free  redistribution under the Free Software Foundation's
          imprimatur.    The   GNU   project   has   a   web   page   at
   See  EMACS,  copyleft,  General  Public
          Virus, Linux.

          2.  Noted  Unix  hacker  John  Gilmore @email{<>},
          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. StallMACS, referring
          to  Richard Stallman, is less common but also heard. Used esp.
          in contrast with GOSMACS and X Emacs.

   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 gold : v.
          [common] See golden.

   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.

   goat file
          A sacrificial file used to test a computer virus, i.e. a dummy
          executable  that carries a sample of the virus, isolated so it
          can  be  atudied.  Not  common  among  hackers, since the Unix
          systems most use basically don't get viruses.

   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.  Godwin  himself  has  discussed  the

   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
          65,535  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.  One  may also "go gold",
          which is the act of releasing a golden version. The gold color
          of   many   CDROMs  is  a  coincidence;  this  term  was  well
          established  a  decade before CDROM distribution become common
          in the mid-1990s.

   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.  [prob.  back-formed from gonkulator.] 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

   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

   Good Thing : n.,adj.
          [very  common;  always pronounced as if capitalized. Orig. fr.
          the  1930  Sellar & Yeatman parody of British history 1066 And
          All  That,  but  well-established among hackers in the U.S. as

          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

          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

   google : v.
          [common]  To  search  the  Web using the Google search engine,
 Google is highly esteemed among hackers
          for  its  significance  ranking  system, which is so uncannily
          effective that many hackers consider it to have rendered other
          search  engines  effectively irrelevant. The name `google' has
          additional  flavor  for  hackers because most know that it was
          copied  from  a  mathematical term for ten to the 100th power,
          famously  first  uttered  as  `googol'  by  a  mathematician's
          nine-year-old nephew.

   google juice : n.
          A  hypothetical  substance  which  attracts  the index bots of
  In common usage, a web page or web site with high
          placement  in  the results of a particular search on Google or
          frequent  placement  in  the  results of a various searches is
          said  to  have "a lot of google juice" or "good google juice".
          Also  used  to  compare  web  pages  or web sites, for example
          "CrackMonkey has more google juice than KPMG". See also juice,

   gopher : n.
          [obs.]  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

   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

   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.

   gotcha : n.
          A misfeature of a system, especially a programming language or
          environment,  that  tends to breed bugs or mistakes because it
          is  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.

   gray goo : n.
          A    hypothetical    substance    composed    of   sagans   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.

   gray hat
          See black hat.

   Great Internet Explosion
          The  mainstreaming of the Internet in 1993-1994. Used normally
          in  time comparatives; before the Great Internet Explosion and
          after  it  were very different worlds from a hacker's point of
          view.  Before  it, Internet access was expensive and available
          only   to   an   elite   few  through  universities,  research
          laboratories,   and   well-heeled   corporations;   after  it,
          everybody's mother had access.

   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 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.

          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  been  alleged that the source is from the title of a
          paper  "A General Regular Expression Parser", but dmr confirms
          the g/re/p etymology --ESR]

   gribble : n.
          Random   binary   data  rendered  as  unreadable  text.  Noise
          characters in a data stream are displayed as gribble 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.

   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 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

          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. See

   gritch : /grich/

          1. n. A complaint (often caused by a glitch).

          2. vi. To complain. Often verb-doubled: "Gritch gritch".

          3. A synonym for glitch (as verb or noun).

          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/ , /grohk/ , vt.
          [common;  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. Connotes intimate and exhaustive knowledge.
          When  you claim to `grok' some knowledge or technique, you are
          asserting  that  you  have not merely learned it in a detached
          instrumental  way  but that it has become part of you, part of
          your  identity.  For  example,  to say that you "know" LISP is
          simply  to  assert that you can code in it if necessary -- but
          to  say  you  "grok"  LISP  is  to  claim that you have deeply
          entered  the  world-view  and spirit of the language, with the
          implication  that it has transformed your view of programming.
          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 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
          sickly glowing fur, fish-mouthed faces, 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 grues 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/ , /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/.   Mythically,  Guido's  most  important  attribute
          besides  Python itself is Guido's time machine, a device he is
          reputed  to  possess  because  of the unnerving frequency with
          which  user  requests  for new features have been met with the
          response "I just implemented that last night...". See BDFL.

   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

   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

   gunpowder chicken : n.
          Same as laser chicken.

   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/

          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;
          others  allege  that  `gweep' was the sound of the Datapoint's
          bell (compare feep). 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." Around 1979 this
          was  considered  derogatory and not used in self-reference; it
          has since been proudly claimed in much the same way as geek.


          [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 koan.

          [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

          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 3).

          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

          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. 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 geek, 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 code 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, gray hat). 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 the Internet itself 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,

          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.

          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 files).

   Hackintosh : n.
          1.  An  Apple  Lisa  that  has  been  hacked  into emulating a
          Macintosh (also called a `Mac XL').

          2. A Macintosh assembled from parts theoretically belonging to
          different models in the line.

   hackish : /hak'ish/ , adj.
          (also hackishness n.)

          1. Said of something that is or involves a hack.

          2.  Of  or pertaining to hackers or the hacker subculture. See
          also true-hacker.

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

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

   hair : 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

          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.

          There  is a theorem in simplicial homology theory which states
          that  any  continuous  tangent  field on a 2-sphere is null at
          least  in  a  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." (Previous
          versions   of   this  entry  associating  the  above  informal
          statement   with   the   Brouwer   fixed-point   theorem  were

          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

          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 systems. 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.

          Hakspek almost disappeared after the great bandwidth explosion
          of  the  early  1990s,  as  fast  Internet links wiped out the
          old-style talker systems. However, it has enjoyed a revival in
          another  medium  -- the Short Message Service (SMS) associated
          with GSM cellphones. SMS sends are limited to a maximum of 160
          characters,  and typing on a cellphone keypad is difficult and
          slow  anyway.  There are now even published paper dictionaries
          for   SMS   users  to  help  them  do  hakspek-to-English  and

          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

          The opposite of spam, sense 3; that is, incoming mail that the
          user actually wants to see.

   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 spots 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, 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,  crackers,  weenies,  spods, 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 : /hand'wayv/
          [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." Quoted here because it seems to be a
          particular  favorite  of  hackers,  often  showing  up  in sig
          blocks,  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.

          At  it is claimed that
          Hanlon's Razor was coined by one Robert J. Hanlon of Scranton,
          PA.  However, a curiously 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  the  error  it indicates the `devil
          theory' of sociology. Similar epigrams have been attributed to
          William James and (on dubious evidence) Napoleon Bonaparte.

   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."
          Nevertheless,  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.

   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

   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

   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

   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 : 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

          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.

   Hed Rat
          Unflattering   spoonerism   of   Red   Hat,  a  popular  Linux
          distribution.    Compare   Macintrash.   sun-stools,   HP-SUX,

   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.

   hell desk
          Common  mispronunciation  of  `help  desk',  especially  among
          people who have to answer phones at one.

   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 world : interj.
          1. The canonical minimal test message in the C/Unix universe.

          2.  Any  of  the  minimal  programs  that emit this message (a
          representative  sample  in  various  languages can be found at
   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?"

   hello, wall! : excl.
          See wall.

   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  1950s  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" comes from the combining root of decem,
          Latin  for  10.  If  wish to create a truly analogous word for
          base  16,  we  should  start with sedecim, Latin for 16. Ergo,
          sedecimal  is the word that would have been created by a Latin
          scholar.  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

   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).

          See ha ha only serious.

          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, 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 grokked 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 lusers, 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 hairy.

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

   hoarding : n.
          See software hoarding.

   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

          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 penguin pee : n.
          [Linux]  Notional substance said to be sprinkled by Linus onto
          other  people's  contributions.  With  this ritual, he blesses
          them, officially making them part of the kernel. First used in
          November  1998  just after Linus had handed the maintenance of
          the stable kernel over to Alan Cox.

   holy wars : n.
          [from  Usenet,  but may predate it; common] n. flame wars 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.:  System  V,  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.
          1.  A  box  designed  to  attract crackers 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 its 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.

          2.  A  mail  server  that  acts as an open relay when a single
          message  is  attempted  to  send  through  it, but discards or
          diverts  for examination messages that are detected to be part
          of a spam run.

   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.

          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 the old UUCP network and
          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."

   horked : adj.
          Broken.  Confused. Trashed. Now common; seems to be post-1995.
          There  is an entertaining web page of related definitions, few
          of  which seem to be in live use but many of which would be in
          the   recognition  vocabulary  of  anyone  familiar  with  the

          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

          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 teledildonics.

   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, 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

          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 hotlinks).

          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. See 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.

   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  crashed 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 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/
          Once  upon  a time, the computer company most hackers loved to
          hate;  today, the one they are most puzzled to find themselves

          From  hackerdom's  beginnings  in  the  mid-1960s to the early
          1990s,   IBM   was   regarded  with  active  loathing.  Common
          expansions  of  the  corporate  name  included:  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
          (see  also  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  counted  against
          them),  but  that the designs were incredibly archaic, crufty,
          and  elephantine  ... and you couldn't fix them -- source code
          was  locked  up  tight,  and programming tools were expensive,
          hard to find, and bletcherous to use once you had found them.

          We  didn't know how good we had it back then. In the 1980s IBM
          had  its  own  troubles  with Microsoft and lost its strategic
          way,  receding  from the hacker community's view. Then, in the
          1990s,  Microsoft became more noxious and omnipresent than IBM
          had ever been.

          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 staunch friend of the hacker
          community and open source development.

          This lexicon includes a number of entries attributed to `IBM';
          these  derive  from  some  rampantly  unofficial  jargon lists
          circulated    within   IBM's   formerly   beleaguered   hacker

   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 late 2002, 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

          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.  [obs.] 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  MS-DOS world, there was a folk
          theorem  (nearly  true)  to  the  effect  that (owing to gross
          inadequacies  and  performance  penalties in the OS interface)
          all  interesting  applications were ill-behaved. See also bare
          metal. Oppose well-behaved. See also mess-dos.

          3. In modern usage, a program is called ill-behaved if it uses
          interfaces  to  the  OS  or  other  programs that are private,
          undocumented,  or  grossly  non-portable.  Another  way  to be
          ill-behaved  is to use headers or files that are theoretically
          private to another application.

   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

   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.

          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 blocks
          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
          flames 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>)
          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

          []  A fiendishly clever ASCII display hack that became a brief
          fad  in  1993-1994; it used combinations of tabs and spaces to
          produce  an  analog  indicator of the amount of indentation an
          included  portion  of a reply had undergone. The full story is

   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

   infinite loop : n.
          One  that  never  terminates  (that  is,  the machine spins or
          buzzes  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.

          Other hackers maintain that the Infinite-Monkey Theorem cannot
          be  true  --  otherwise the exponential expansion of AOL would
          have reproduced the entire canon of great literature by now.

          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,

          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 (called, actually, z-code) and
          distributed  with  a  P-code  interpreter  core,  and not only
          open-source  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 being written.
          There is a home page at, and it
          is  even possible to play these games in your browser if it is

   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

          [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

          [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

          Inevitably,   INTERCAL   has   a   home   page   on  the  Web:
   An   extended   version,
          implemented  in  (what  else?) Perl and adding object-oriented
          features, is rumored to exist. See also Befunge.

          [Great Britain] Synonym for BiCapitalization.

   interesting : adj.
          In  hacker  parlance,  this  word  has  strong connotations of
          `annoying',   or   `difficult',  or  both.  Hackers  relish  a
          challenge,  and  enjoy  wringing all the irony possible out of
          the ancient Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times".
          Oppose trivial, uninteresting.

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

          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-10s  and  PDP-20s, running TOPS-10 and TOPS-20, to PDP-11s
          and  VAXen  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  telecoms  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. By
          1996  it  had become a commonplace even in mainstream media to
          predict that a globally-extended Internet would become the key
          unifying  communications  technology  of the next century. See
          also the network.

   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, Macintrash, 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

          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.

   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.

          adj.  [Invented  by  Theodor  Holm  Nelson,  prob.  a blend of
          "mingled"  and "intertwined".] Connected together in a complex
          way; specifically, composed of one another's components.

   intro : n.
          [demoscene] Introductory screen of some production.

          2. A short demo, usually showing just one or two screens.

          3.  Small,  usually  64k,  40k or 4k demo. Sizes are generally
          dictated by compo rules. See also dentro, demo.

   IRC : /I-R-C/ , n.
          [Internet  Relay  Chat]  A worldwide "party line" network that
          allows  one  to  converse  with  others  in  real time. IRC is
          structured  as  a  network  of Internet servers, each of which
          accepts  connections  from  client programs, one per user. The
          IRC  community  and  the Usenet and MUD communities overlap to
          some extent, including both hackers and regular folks who have
          discovered  the  wonders  of  computer  networks.  Some Usenet
          jargon  has been adopted on IRC, as have some conventions such
          as   emoticons.  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 dinosaurs
          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

   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 bureaucratic 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, an ISO standard 3103:
          `Method  for preparation of a liquor of tea for use in sensory
          tests.',  alleged to be equivalent to 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).  There is an ITS home

          2.  A  mythical image of operating-system perfection worshiped
          by  a  bizarre,  fervent  retro-cult  of  old-time hackers and
          ex-users  (see  troglodyte,  sense  2).  ITS worshipers manage
          somehow  to  continue  believing  that  an  OS  maintained  by
          assembly-language  hand-hacking  that  supported only monocase
          6-character  filenames  in  one  directory per account remains
          superior  to  today's  state  of  commercial  art (their venom
          against  Unix  is  particularly  intense). See also holy wars,

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

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


   J. 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 kill other peoples' processes?"),
          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

   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).

          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

          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
          in   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 2002, 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

          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  retconned  by 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.

   Jeopardy-style quoting
          See top-post.

          [UK]  Unspecified stuff. An unspecified action. A deliberately
          blank   word;  compare  gorets.  A  deliberate  experiment  in
          tracking   the   spread   of   a  near-meaningless  word.  See

   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. Other
          physicists use the term for the quantum-nechanical lower bound
          on meaningful time lengths,

          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

   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."  It  is  possible  that this was
          intended  as  tribute to a less colorful use of the same image
          in  Robert  Heinlein's  influential  1961  novel Stranger in a
          Strange Land. See also hack mode and on the gripping hand.

   juice : n.
          The  weight  of a given node in some sort of graph (like a web
          of  trust  or a relevance-weighted search query). This appears
          to  have  been  generalized  from google juice, but mat derive
          from  black  urban  slang  for power or a respect. Example: "I
          signed  your  key,  but  I  really  don't have the juice to be

   jump off into never-never land : v.
          [from  J.  M.  Barrie's  Peter  Pan]  An  unexpected jump in a
          program   that  produces  catastrophic  or  just  plain  weird
          results. 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/ , 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 : 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. 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 status.

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

   kamikaze packet : n.
          The  `official'  jargon  for  what  is  more commonly called a
          Christmas tree packet. RFC-1025, TCP and IP Bake Off says:

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

          See also Chernobyl packet.

   kangaroo code : n.
          Syn. spaghetti code.

   ken : /ken/ , n.
          1.  [Unix]  Ken  Thompson,  principal inventor of Unix. In the
          early  days he used to hand-cut distribution tapes, often with
          a  note  that read "Love, ken". Old-timers still use his first
          name  (sometimes  uncapitalized, because it's a login name and
          mail   address)   in  third-person  reference;  it  is  widely
          understood (on Usenet, in particular) that without a last name
          `Ken'  refers  only to Ken Thompson. Similarly, Dennis without
          last name means Dennis Ritchie (and he is often known as dmr).
          See also demigod, Unix.

          2. A flaming user. This was originated by the Software Support
          group  at  Symbolics  because  the two greatest flamers in the
          user community were both named Ken.

   kernel-of-the-week club
          The fictional society that BSD bigots 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

   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 kibozes 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 flooding, but
          sometimes used at the CHOP's whim.

          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 retrospectively
          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 c.1990] 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

          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).

          [2002  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,  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 boxes 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.

   kilogoogle : n.
          The  standard  unit  of  measurement  for  Web  search hits: a
          thousand  Google  matches. "There are about a kilogoogle and a
          half sites with that band's name on it." Compare google juice.

   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.

   KLB : n.
          [common  among  Perl  hackers]  Known  Lazy  Bastard.  Used to
          describe  somebody  who  perpetually  asks questions which are
          easily  answered  by  referring  to  the reference material or

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

          1.  /kluhj/  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

          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 &
          Russian `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 farts 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. Other
          correspondents  differ  with  Mr.  Brandtjen's  history of the
          device  and  his  allegation  that it was a simple rather than
          complex one, but agree that the Kluge automatic feeder was the
          most likely source of the folklore.

          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 under kludge; 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 meaning.

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

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

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

   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". See also nerd knob

   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 http://Sunburn.Stanford.EDU/~knuth/.

   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 Rinzai Zen Buddhism). Defined here
          because  hackers  are  very  fond of the koan form and compose
          their  own  koans for humorous and/or enlightening effect. See
          Some AI Koans, has the X nature, hacker humor.

          [Usenet;  originally and more formally, net.kook] Term used to
          describe  a regular poster who continually posts messages with
          no  apparent  grounding  in  reality.  Different from a troll,
          which  implies  a sort of sly wink on the part of a poster who
          knows  better,  kooks  really  believe what they write, to the
          extent that they believe anything.

          The  kook  trademark  is  paranoia and grandiosity. Kooks will
          often  build  up  elaborate imaginary support structures, fake
          corporations  and  the  like,  and continue to act as if those
          things  are  real even after their falsity has been documented
          in public.

          While  they  may appear harmless, and are usually filtered out
          by  the  other  regular participants in a newsgroup of mailing
          list,  they can still cause problems because the necessity for
          these measures is not immediately apparent to newcomers; there
          are  several  instances on record, for example, of journalists
          writing  stories  with  quotes  from  kooks  who  caught  them

          An  entertaining  web  page chronicling the activities of many
          notable kooks can be found at

          [from  a  kid's  sugar-enriched  drink in fruity flavors] When
          someone   who   should   know  better  succumbs  to  marketing
          influences and actually begins to believe the propaganda being
          dished  out  by  a  vendor,  they  are  said to have drunk the
          Kool-Aid. Usually the decortication process is slow and almost
          unnoticeable  until  one  day  the  victim  emerges  as a True
          Believer  and  begins  spreading  the  faith himself. The term
          originates  in  the  suicide  of  914 followers of Jim Jones's
          People's  Temple  cult  in  Guyana in 1978. What they actually
          drank  was  cyanide-laced Flavor-Aid, a cheap knockoff, rather
          than Kool-Aid itself. There is a FAQ on this topic.

          This  has  live  variants.  When a suit is blithering on about
          their latest technology and how it will save the world, that's
          `pouring Kool-Aid'. When the suit does not violate the laws of
          physics,  doesn't  make  impossible  claims,  and in fact says
          something  reasonable  and  believable,  that's  pouring  good
          Kool-Aid,   usually  used  in  the  sentence  "He  pours  good
          Kool-Aid, doesn't he?" This connotes that the speaker might be
          about to drink same.

   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

   kyrka : /chur'ka/ , n.
          [Swedish] See feature key.


   lag : n.
          [MUD,  IRC;  very common] When used without qualification this
          is  synonymous  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.
          [originally among Amiga fans]

          1.  Synonym  for  luser,  not  used much by hackers but common
          among  warez  d00dz,  crackers,  and  phreakers.  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 wannabees. 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.

          This  term  seems to have originated in the Commodore-64 scene
          in  the  mid 1980s. It was popularized among Amiga crackers of
          the  mid-1980s  by  `Lamer  Exterminator', the most famous and
          feared   Amiga   virus   ever,   which   gradually   corrupted
          non-write-protected  floppy  disks  with  bad sectors. The bad
          sectors,  when looked at, were overwritten with repetitions of
          the string `LAMER!'.

   LAN party : /lan par'tee/
          An  event  to  which  several users bring their boxes and hook
          them  up  to  a common LAN (Local Area Network), often for the
          purpose  of  playing  multiplayer  computer  games, especially
          action  games such as Quake or Unreal Tournament. This is also
          a  good venue for people to show-off their fancy new hardware.
          Such  events  can  get  pretty  large,  several hundred people
          attend the annual QuakeCon in Texas. The theoretical rationale
          behind  LAN  parties  is  that playing over the Internet often
          introduces  too much lag in the playing experience -- but just
          as  important  is  the  special  quality of trash-talking each
          other  across  the  room  while  playing,  and the instinctive
          social  ritual  of  consuming  vast  amounts of food and drink

   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,  Perl,  Python,  Java and LISP -- the dominant languages in
          open-source  development. This list has changed over time, but
          slowly.  Java  bumped  C++ off of it, and Python appears to be
          recruiting people who would otherwise gravitate to LISP (which
          used  to be much more important than it is now). Smalltalk and
          Prolog are also popular in small but influential communities.

          The  Real  Programmers  who  loved  FORTRAN and assembler have
          pretty  much  all  retired  or  died  since 1990. 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  DP  languages  as  a total and unmitigated

   LART : //
          Luser Attitude Readjustment Tool.

          1.  n. In the collective mythos of scary devil monastery, this
          is  an  essential  item in the toolkit of every BOFH. The LART
          classic  is  a  2x4  or other large billet of wood usable as a
          club,  to  be  applied  upside  the head of spammers and other
          people who cause sysadmins more grief than just naturally goes
          with  the job. Perennial debates rage on alt.sysadmin.recovery
          over  what  constitutes the truly effective LART; knobkerries,
          automatic  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 flames as a rebuke. "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

          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

   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. 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 has its own entry;
          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).

          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.
          See troughie.

          2.  v. [common, Toronto area] v. To download a file across any
          kind  of  internet link. "Hop on IRC later so I can leech some
          MP3s  from you." Used to describe activities ranging from FTP,
          to  IRC  DCC-send,  to  ICQ file requests, to Napster searches
          (but  never  to  downloading  email with file attachments; the
          implication  is that the download is the result of a browse or
          search  of  some  sort of file server). Seems to be a holdover
          from  the  early  1990s when Toronto had a very active BBS and
          warez  scene.  Synonymous  with  snarf (sense 2), and contrast
          snarf (sense 4).

   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

   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,  suits,  and  situations in which hackers
          generally get the short end of the stick.

          The Internet's first poster girl, a standard test load used in
          the  image  processing  community.  The  image  was originally
          cropped  from  the  November  1972  issue of Playboy Magazine,
          which  anglicized  the  model's  name  with a double n. It has
          interesting  properties  --  complex feathers, shadows, smooth
          (but not flat) surfaces -- that are pertinent in demonstrating
          various   processing   algorithms   for   image   compression,
          filtering,  dithering, texture mapping, image recognition, and
          so on. After a quarter century of remaining completely unaware
          that  she  had become an icon, a gray-haired but still winsome
          Lenna  finally  met her fans at a computer graphics conference
          in  1997.  There  is  a  fan  page at, with more
          details. Compare Utah teapot and Stanford Bunny


          Miss Lena Sjööblom

   LER : /L-E-R/

          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.

          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 =-."

   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!). 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

          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.
          1. [Usenet] 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.

   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.
          See also farm.

   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.

          [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 any exhaustive review process at some
          non-Unix  shops,  even  in  languages other than C. Also as v.

          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'/ , /lin'us'/ , /li:'nus/
          Linus  Torvalds,  the  author  of  Linux. Nobody in the hacker
          culture  has  been  as  readily recognized by first name alone
          since ken.

   Linux : /lee'nuhks/ , /li'nuks/ , not , /li:'nuhks/ , n.
          The  free Unix workalike created by Linus Torvalds and friends
          starting about 1991. The pronunciation /li'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) and
          Linus  considers  English  short /i/ to be closer to /ee/ than
          English  long  /i:/.  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

          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  2002,  Linux  has effectively
          swallowed   all  proprietary  Unixes  except  Solaris  and  is
          seriously  challenging  Microsoft. It has already captured 37%
          of the Internet-server market and over 25% of general business

          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 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

   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

          [1998  update:  John  Lions's death was an occasion of general
          mourning in the hacker community.]

   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  has  since shared 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 crocks. When the Right Thing has already
          been  done  once,  there  is  no justification for bogosity in
          newer languages.


          We've got your numbers....

   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

   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

   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

          2.  In  C  code, data that includes pointers to function hooks
          (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)
          continued the practice.


          Armando Stettner's original Unix license plate.

   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 connections). 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

   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 relative to El Camino Real, in which `logical north' is
          always  toward  San  Francisco  and  `logical south' is always
          toward San Jose--in spite of the fact that El Camino Real runs
          physical  north/south  near  San Francisco, physical east/west
          near  San  Jose, and along a curve everywhere in between. (The
          best rule of thumb here is that, by definition, El Camino Real
          always runs logical north-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 grew up along it)
          wraps  roughly  3  quarters  around  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.

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

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

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

   lose : vi.
          1.  [very  common] To fail. A program loses when it encounters
          an  exceptional  condition  or  fails  to work in the expected

          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 : /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

   lossy : adj.

          1.  Said  of  people,  this  indicates  a poor memory, usually
          short-term.  This usage is analogical to the same term applied
          to  data  compression  and  analysis. "He's very lossy." means
          that  you  can't  rely  on  him  to accurately remember recent
          experiences  or conversations, or requests. Not to be confused
          with  a `loser', which is a person who is in a continual state
          of lossiness, as in sense 2 (see below).

          2.  Said  of  an  attitude  or  a  situation, this indicates a
          general  downturn  in  emotions,  lack of success in attempted
          endeavors, etc. Eg, "I'm having a lossy day today." means that
          the  speaker  has  'lost'  or  is  `losing'  in  all  of their
          activities, and that this is causing some increase in negative

   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

   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 suits!" Compare zero-content, bandwidth, math-out.

   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 an 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,
          newbie, chainik.


   M : pref.
          [SI] See quantifiers.

          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
          11PM  last  night,  he was still macdinking the slides for his
          presentation." See also fritterware, window shopping.

   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 : /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  HLLs, only to fall from favor as improving
          compiler  technology  marginalized  assembler programming (see
          languages  of choice). Nowadays the term is most often used in
          connection  with  the  C preprocessor, LISP, or one of several
          special-purpose   languages  built  around  a  macro-expansion
          facility (such as TeX or Unix's [nt]roff suite).

          Indeed,  the  meaning  has  drifted enough that the collective
          macros  is  now sometimes used for code in any special-purpose
          application  control  language (whether or not the language is
          actually  translated  by  text  expansion), and for macro-like
          entities  such  as  the keyboard macros supported in some text
          editors   (and   PC   TSR   or  Macintosh  INIT/CDEV  keyboard

   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)

          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.

   maggotbox : /mag'@t-boks/ , n.
          See Macintrash. This is even more derogatory.

          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

          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 common sense

          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!

          4.  An input that leads to a computational boundary condition,
          where   algorithm   behavior  becomes  discontinuous.  Numeric
          overflows  (particularly  with signed data types) and run-time
          errors  (divide  by  zero, stack overflows) are indications of
          magic  numbers.  The Y2K scare was probably the most notorious
          magic number non-incident.

          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

          (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

          2.  The people who receive your email when you send it to such
          an address.

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

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

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

   mainframe : n.
          Term  originally  referring  to  the  cabinet  containing  the
          central processor unit or `main frame' of a room-filling Stone
          Age batch machine. After the emergence of smaller minicomputer
          designs  in the early 1970s, the traditional big iron machines
          were described as `mainframe computers' and eventually just as
          mainframes.  The  term  carries  the  connotation of a machine
          designed   for  batch  rather  than  interactive  use,  though
          possibly  with  an  interactive  timesharing  operating system
          retrofitted  onto  it; it is especially used of machines built
          by  IBM,  Unisys, and the other great dinosaurs 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 having been swamped by the recent huge advances
          in  IC technology and low-cost personal computing. The wave of
          failures,  takeovers,  and mergers among traditional mainframe
          makers   in  the  early  1990s  bore  this  out.  The  biggest
          mainframer of all, IBM, was compelled to re-invent itself as a
          huge  systems-consulting  house.  (See  dinosaurs  mating  and
          killer micro).

          However,   in   yet   another   instance   of   the  cycle  of
          reincarnation, the port of Linux to the IBM S/390 architecture
          in  1999  --  assisted  by  IBM  --  produced  a resurgence of
          interest  in  mainframe  computing  as a way of providing huge
          quantities  of  easily  maintainable,  reliable  virtual Linux
          servers,  saving  IBM's mainframe division from almost certain

   mainsleaze : n.
          [spam  fighters]  A big-time spammer, with their own fat pipe,
          their  own mailservers, and a pink contract. Almost impossible
          to get shut down.

   man page : n.
          A  page  from the Unix Programmer's Manual, documenting one of
          Unix's  many  commands,  system  calls,  library  subroutines,
          device driver interfaces, file formats, games, macro packages,
          or  maintenance  utilities.  By extension, the term "man page"
          may  be  used to refer to documentation of any kind, under any
          system,  though  it  is  most  likely  to be confined to short
          on-line references.

          As  mentioned  in  Chapter 11,  there is a standard syntax for
          referring  to  man page entries: the phrase "foo(n)" refers to
          the page for "foo" in chapter n of the manual, where chapter 1
          is user commands, chapter 2 is system calls, etc.

          The  man  page  format  is beloved, or berated, for having the
          same sort of pithy utility as the rest of Unix. Man pages tend
          to  be written as very compact, concise descriptions which are
          complete  but  not  forgiving  of the lazy or careless reader.
          Their  stylized  format  does  a  good  job of summarizing the
          essentials:  invocation  syntax, options, basic functionality.
          While   such   a   concise   reference   is  perfect  for  the
          do-one-thing-and-do-it-well  tools  which  are  favored by the
          Unix  philosophy,  it admittedly breaks down when applied to a
          command which is itself a major subsystem.

   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

   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++

   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

   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).

   marching ants
          The animated dotted-line marquee that indicates a rectangle or
          item  select  in  Adobe Photoshop, the GIMP, and other similar
          image-editing programs.

   marbles : pl.n.
          [from  mainstream  "lost  all  his/her  marbles"]  The minimum
          needed to build your way further up some hierarchy of tools or
          abstractions.  After a bad system crash, you need to determine
          if  the  machine  has enough marbles to come up on its own, or
          enough marbles to allow a rebuild from backups, or if you need
          to  rebuild  from  scratch.  "This  compiler doesn't even have
          enough marbles to compile hello world."

   marginal : adj.

          1. [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  winning. "The power
          supply was rather marginal anyway; no wonder it fried."

   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-25, and the never-built superprocessor SC-40.
          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 (their followup
          to  the  PDP-10),  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.


          A math-out approach to history.

          (The next cartoon in the Crunchly saga is 73-05-19)

   Matrix : n.

          1. What the Opus BBS software and sysops call FidoNet.

          2.  Fanciful  term  for  a  cyberspace expected to emerge from
          current  networking experiments (see the network). The name of
          the  rather  good  1999  cypherpunk movie The Matrix played on
          this  sense,  which  however  had  been  established for years

          3.  The totality of present-day computer networks (popularized
          in  this  sense  by  John  Quarterman;  rare  outside academic

   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.

   McQuary limit
          [from   the  name  of  the  founder  of;  see
          warlording.]  4 lines of at most 80 characters each, sometimes
          still  cited on Usenet as the maximum acceptable size of a sig
          block.  Before  the  great  bandwidth  explosion  of the early
          1990s,  long  sigs actually cost people running Usenet servers
          significant amounts of money. Nowadays social pressure against
          long sigs is intended to avoid waste of human attention rather
          than  machine bandwidth. Accordingly, the McQuary limit should
          be  considered  a rule of thumb rather than a hard limit; it's
          best   to   avoid   sigs   that  are  large,  repetitive,  and
          distracting. See also warlording.

   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 urchins. [That
          is,  mice.  This  may  no  longer  be  in live use; it clearly
          derives  from the refrain of the early-1960s cartoon character
          Mr. Jinks: "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 figures.

   MEGO : /me'goh/ , /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 TLAs.

          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 excessive
          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, leak.

   memory smash : n.
          [XEROX  PARC]  Writing through a pointer that doesn't point to
          what  you think it does. This occasionally reduces your memory
          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@/ , /may't@/ , /mee't@/ , 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. 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  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
   quxbefore quux.
   bazola, ztesch: Stanford (from mid-'70s on).
   foo,  bar,  thud,  grunt:  This  series  was  popular  at  CMU. Other
   CMU-associated variables include gorp.
   foo,  bar,  bletch:  Waterloo University. We are informed that the CS
   club at Waterloo formerly had a sign on its door reading "Ye Olde Foo
   Bar  and  Grill";  this led to an attempt to establish "grill" as the
   third metasyntactic variable, but it never caught on.
   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
   flarp: Popular at Rutgers University and among GOSMACS hackers.
   zxc, spqr, wombat: Cambridge University (England).
   shme Berkeley, GeoWorks, Ingres. Pronounced /shme/ with a short /e/.
   foo, bar, baz, bongo Yale, late 1970s.
   spam, eggs Python programmers.
   snork Brown University, early 1970s.
   foo, bar, zot Helsinki University of Technology, Finland.
   blarg, wibble New Zealand.
   toto, titi, tata, tutu France.
   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
          currency.  Some  jargon  terms  are also used as metasyntactic
          names;  barf  and  mumble,  for example. See also Commonwealth
          Hackish  for  discussion  of  numerous metasyntactic variables
          found in Great Britain and the Commonwealth.

   MFTL : /M-F-T-L/
          [abbreviation: `My Favorite Toy Language']

          1. adj. Describes a talk on a programming language design that
          is  heavy  on  the  syntax  (with lots of BNF), sometimes even
          talks  about  semantics  (e.g.,  type systems), but rarely, if
          ever, has any content (see content-free). More broadly applied
          to  talks -- even when the topic is not a programming language
          -- in which the subject matter is gone into in unnecessary and
          meticulous  detail at the sacrifice of any conceptual content.
          "Well, it was a typical MFTL talk".

          2.  n.  Describes  a  language  about which the developers are
          passionate  (often to the point of proselytic zeal) but no one
          else cares about. Applied to the language by those outside the
          originating  group.  "He  cornered me about type resolution in
          his 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

          2.  A  quantifier  prefix, calling for multiplication by 10^-6
          (see  quantifiers).  Neither  of  these  uses  is  peculiar to
          hackers,  but  hackers  tend  to fling them both around rather
          more  freely  than  is countenanced in standard English. It is
          recorded,   for   example,  that  one  CS  professor  used  to
          characterize   the  standard  length  of  his  lectures  as  a
          microcentury   --  that  is,  about  52.6  minutes  (see  also
          attoparsec, nanoacre, and especially microfortnight).

          3.  Personal  or  human-scale  --  that  is,  capable of being
          maintained  or comprehended or manipulated by one human being.
          This sense is generalized from microcomputer, and is esp. used
          in  contrast  with  macro-  (the  corresponding  Greek  prefix
          meaning `large').

          4. Local as opposed to global (or macro-). Thus a hacker might
          say  that buying a smaller car to reduce pollution only solves
          a  microproblem;  the macroproblem of getting to work might be
          better  solved by using mass transit, moving to within walking
          distance, or (best of all) telecommuting.

   MicroDroid : n.
          [Usenet]  A  Microsoft employee, esp. one who posts to various
          operating-system   advocacy   newsgroups.   MicroDroids   post
          follow-ups  to  any messages critical of Microsoft's operating
          systems,   and   often   end   up   sounding   like   visiting
          fundamentalist  missionaries.  See  also astroturfing; compare

   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 9 imperial gallons;
          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. Abbreviated µL or mL in ASCII 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 Coupland's
          book  Microserfs]  A  programmer  at  Microsoft,  especially a
          low-level coder with little chance of fame or fortune. Compare

   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.

          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.

          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  and  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.

   minor detail
          Often  used  in  an  ironic sense about brokenness or problems
          that  while  apparently  major, are in principle solvable. "It
          works  -- the fact that it crashes the system right after is a
          minor detail." Compare SMOP.

   MIPS : /mips/ , n.

          1.   A   measure   of   computing  speed;  formally,  `Million
          Instructions  Per Second' (that's 10^6 per second, not 2^20!);
          often  rendered  by  hackers  as  `Meaningless  Indication  of
          Processor  Speed'  or  in  other  unflattering  ways,  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 marketroids (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  computrons.  "This  is  just  a
          workstation; the heavy MIPS are hidden in the basement."

          3. The corporate name of a particular RISC-chip company, later
          acquired by SGI.

          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/ , /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."

   missile address : n.
          See ICBM address.

          [blogosphere]  A  variant of fisking patterned on the protocol
          of  Mystery  Science Theater 3000, In a MiSTing, the satire is
          spoken through characters purporting to be the MST3K robots or
          other  suitably bizarre characters, such as the Roman emperors
          Augustus and Caligula.

   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

   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 "motherboard"

   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

          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

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

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

   mod : vt.,n.
          [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. See also case

          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."

   mojibake : n. , /mo'jee-ba-ke/
          Japanese  for  "ghost  characters", the garbage that comes out
          when one tries to display international character sets through
          software not configured for them. There is a page on the topic

   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.

          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 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.  See  the World Wide Words article
          "The   Full  Monty"  for  discussion  of  the  rather  complex
          etymology  that  may  lie behind this phrase. 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.
          Any  one  of  several similar folk theorems that fit computing
          capacity  or  cost  to  a 2^t exponential curve, with doubling
          time  close  to a year. The most common fits component density
          to  such  a  curve  (previous versions of this entry gave that
          form).  Another  variant  asserts  that  the  dollar  cost  of
          constant  computing  power  decreases  on  the same curve. The
          original  Moore's  Law, first uttered in 1965 by semiconductor
          engineer Gordon Moore (who co-founded Intel four years later),
          spoke  of  the number of components on the lowest-cost silicon
          integrated  circuits  --  but  Moore's  own formulation varied
          somewhat over the years, and reconstructing the meaning of the
          terminology  he  used  in the original turns out to be fraught
          with difficulties. Further variants were spawned by Intel's PR
          department and various journalists.

          It  has  been  shown  that none of the variants of Moore's Law
          actually  fit the data very well (the price curves within DRAM
          generations  perhaps  come closest). Nevertheless, Moore's Law
          is  constantly  invoked  to set up expectations about the next
          generation  of  computing technology. See also Parkinson's Law
          of Data and Gates's Law.

   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/ , /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 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.

   mouse pusher
          [common]  A  person  that  prefers  a  mouse  over a keyboard;
          originally used for Macintosh fans. The derogatory implication
          is  that  the  person  has  nothing  but  the most superficial
          knowledge   of  the  software  he/she  is  employing,  and  is
          incapable  of  using  or  appreciating  the  full glory of the
          command line.

   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 in order to have something to
          demo  for  IBM  on  time,  and  the  rest is history. Numerous
          features,   including  vaguely  Unix-like  but  rather  broken
          support  for  subdirectories,  I/O redirection, and pipelines,
          were hacked into Microsoft's 2.0 and subsequent versions; as a
          result,  there  are  two or more incompatible versions of many
          system  calls, and MS-DOS programmers can never agree on basic
          things  like  what  character  to  use  as an option switch or
          whether  to be case-sensitive. The resulting appalling mess is
          now  the highest-unit-volume OS in history. Often known simply
          as  DOS,  which  annoys  people  familiar with other similarly
          abbreviated  operating  systems  (the  name  goes  back to the
          mid-1960s,  when it was attached to IBM's first disk operating
          system  for  the  360). The name further annoys those who know
          what the term operating system does (or ought to) connote; DOS
          is   more  properly  a  set  of  relatively  simple  interrupt
          services. Some people like to pronounce DOS like "dose", as in
          "I  don't  work  on dose, man!", or to compare it to a dose of
          brain-damaging  drugs  (a  slogan  button  in wide circulation
          among hackers exhorts: "MS-DOS: Just say No!"). See mess-dos.

   mu : /moo/
          The  correct  answer  to  the classic trick question "Have you
          stopped  beating  your  wife  yet?". Assuming that you have no
          wife  or  you have never beaten your wife, the answer "yes" is
          wrong  because  it implies that you used to beat your wife and
          then  stopped,  but "no" is worse because it suggests that you
          have  one  and  are  still  beating  her. According to various
          Discordians  and  Douglas  Hofstadter  the  correct  answer is
          usually  "mu",  a Japanese word alleged to mean "Your question
          cannot   be   answered   because   it   depends  on  incorrect
          assumptions".   Hackers   tend  to  be  sensitive  to  logical
          inadequacies   in   language,   and  many  have  adopted  this
          suggestion  with  enthusiasm.  The  word `mu' is actually from
          Chinese,  meaning `nothing'; it is used in mainstream Japanese
          in  that  sense. In Chinese it can also mean "have not" (as in
          "I have not done it"), or "lack of", which may or may not be a
          definite,  complete 'nothing'). Native speakers of Japanese 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  Gödel,  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

          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".

          [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

          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, chainik, newbie.

   Multics : /muhl'tiks/ , n.
          [from  "MULTiplexed  Information  and  Computing  Service"] An
          early timesharing 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

          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

          MIT  ended  its  development association with Multics in 1977.
          Honeywell  sold  its comp