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The Jargon File

Eric S. Raymond wrote and maintains this for us, his online community. It's part The Elements of Style "Strunk & White" and part "Etiquette for the modern world" but for Geeks, Nerds, Phreaks and Coders. Enjoy!

The Jargon File is a glossary and usage dictionary of slang used by computer programmers. The original Jargon File was a collection of terms from technical cultures such as 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, Carnegie Mellon University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. It was published in paperback form in 1983 as The Hacker's Dictionary (edited by Guy Steele), revised in 1991 as The New Hacker's Dictionary (ed. Eric S. Raymond; third edition published 1996).

#======= THIS IS THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 4.3.3, 20 SEP 2002 =======# 

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 4.3.3" or "The on-line hacker Jargon File, version 
4.3.3, 20 SEP 2002".) 

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 <[email protected]> 

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

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

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


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 their 
culture together -- it helps hackers recognize each other's places in the 
community and expresses shared values and experiences. Also as usual, _not_ 
knowing the slang (or using it inappropriately) defines one as an outsider, 
a mundane, or (worst of all in hackish vocabulary) possibly even a {suit}. 
All human cultures use slang in this threefold way -- as a tool of 
communication, and of inclusion, and of exclusion. 

Among hackers, though, slang has a subtler aspect, paralleled perhaps in 
the slang of jazz musicians and some kinds of fine artists but hard to 
detect in most technical or scientific cultures; parts of it are code for 
shared states of _consciousness_. There is a whole range of altered states 
and problem-solving mental stances basic to high-level hacking which don't 
fit into conventional linguistic reality any better than a Coltrane solo or 
one of Maurits Escher's 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 definitions. 

Though the format is that of a reference volume, it is intended that the 
material be enjoyable to browse. Even a complete outsider should find at 
least a chuckle on nearly every page, and much that is amusingly 
thought-provoking. But it is also true that hackers use humorous wordplay 
to make strong, sometimes combative statements about what they feel. Some 
of these entries reflect the views of opposing sides in disputes that have 
been genuinely passionate; this is deliberate. We have not tried to 
moderate or pretty up these disputes; rather we have attempted to ensure 
that _everyone's_ sacred cows get gored, impartially. Compromise is not 
particularly a hackish virtue, but the honest presentation of divergent 
viewpoints is. 

The reader with minimal computer background who finds some references 
incomprehensibly technical can safely ignore them. We have not felt it 
either necessary or desirable to eliminate all such; they, too, contribute 
flavor, and one of this document's major intended audiences -- fledgling 
hackers already partway inside the culture -- will benefit from them. 

A selection of longer items of hacker folklore and humor is included in 
{Appendix A}. The `outside' reader's attention is particularly directed to 
the Portrait of J. Random Hacker in {Appendix B}. Appendix C, the 
{Bibliography}, lists some non-technical works which have either influenced 
or described the hacker culture. 

Because hackerdom is an intentional culture (one each individual must 
choose by action to join), one should not be surprised that the line 
between description and influence can become more than a little blurred. 
Earlier versions of the Jargon File have played a central role in spreading 
hacker language and the culture that goes with it to successively larger 
populations, and we hope and expect that this one will do likewise. 

:Of Slang, Jargon, and Techspeak:

Linguists usually refer to informal language as `slang' and reserve the 
term `jargon' for the technical vocabularies of various occupations. 
However, the ancestor of this collection was called the `Jargon File', and 
hacker slang is traditionally `the jargon'. When talking about the jargon 
there is therefore no convenient way to distinguish it from what a 
_linguist_ would call hackers' jargon -- the formal vocabulary they learn 
from textbooks, technical papers, and manuals. 

To make a confused situation worse, the line between hacker slang and the 
vocabulary of technical programming and computer science is fuzzy, and 
shifts over time. Further, this vocabulary is shared with a wider technical 
culture of programmers, many of whom are not hackers and do not speak or 
recognize hackish slang. 

Accordingly, this lexicon will try to be as precise as the facts of usage 
permit about the distinctions among three categories: 

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

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

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

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

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

In general, we have considered techspeak any term that communicates 
primarily by a denotation well established in textbooks, technical 
dictionaries, or standards documents. 

A few obviously techspeak terms (names of operating systems, languages, 
or documents) are listed when they are tied to hacker folklore that isn't 
covered in formal sources, or sometimes to convey critical historical 
background necessary to understand other entries to which they are 
cross-referenced. Some other techspeak senses of jargon words are listed in 
order to make the jargon senses clear; where the text does not specify that 
a straight technical sense is under discussion, these are marked with 
`[techspeak]' as an etymology. Some entries have a primary sense marked 
this way, with subsequent jargon meanings explained in terms of it. 

We have also tried to indicate (where known) the apparent origins of 
terms. The results are probably the least reliable information in the 
lexicon, for several reasons. For one thing, it is well known that many 
hackish usages have been independently reinvented multiple times, even 
among the more obscure and intricate neologisms. It often seems that the 
generative processes underlying hackish jargon formation have an internal 
logic so powerful as to create substantial parallelism across separate 
cultures and even in different languages! For another, the networks tend to 
propagate innovations so quickly that `first use' is often impossible to 
pin down. And, finally, compendia like this one alter what they observe by 
implicitly stamping cultural approval on terms and widening their use. 

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

:Revision History:

The original Jargon File was a collection of hacker jargon from technical 
cultures including the MIT AI Lab, the Stanford AI lab (SAIL), and others 
of the old ARPANET AI/LISP/PDP-10 communities including Bolt, Beranek and 
Newman (BBN), Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU), and Worcester Polytechnic 
Institute (WPI). 

The Jargon File (hereafter referred to as `jargon-1' or `the File') was 
begun by Raphael Finkel at Stanford in 1975. From this time until the plug 
was finally pulled on the SAIL computer in 1991, the File was named 
AIWORD.RF[UP,DOC] there. Some terms in it date back considerably earlier 
({frob} and some senses of {moby}, for instance, go back to the Tech Model 
Railroad Club at MIT and are believed to date at least back to the early 
1960s). The revisions of jargon-1 were all unnumbered and may be 
collectively considered `Version 1'. 

In 1976, Mark Crispin, having seen an announcement about the File on the 
SAIL computer, {FTP}ed a copy of the File to MIT. He noticed that it was 
hardly restricted to `AI words' and so stored the file on his directory as 

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

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

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

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 

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 obsolete. 

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

Eric S. Raymond <<[email protected]>> maintains the new File with 
assistance from Guy L. Steele Jr. <<[email protected]>>; 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 <[email protected]>. 

(Warning: other email addresses appear in this file _but are not 
guaranteed to be correct_ later than the revision date on the first line. 
_Don't_ email us if an attempt to reach your idol bounces -- we have no 
magic way of checking addresses or looking up people.) 

The 2.9.6 version became the main text of "The New Hacker's Dictionary", 
by Eric Raymond (ed.), MIT Press 1991, ISBN 0-262-68069-6. 

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

The 4.0.0 version was published in September 1996 as the third edition of 
"The New Hacker's Dictionary" from MIT Press (ISBN 0-262-68092-0). 

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

The MIT Press 55 Hayward Street Cambridge, MA 02142 

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

The maintainers are committed to updating the on-line version of the 
Jargon File through and beyond paper publication, and will continue to make 
it available to archives and public-access sites as a trust of the hacker 

Here is a chronology of the high points in the recent on-line revisions: 

Version 2.1.1, Jun 12 1990: the Jargon File comes alive again after a 
seven-year hiatus. Reorganization and massive additions were by Eric S. 
Raymond, approved by Guy Steele. Many items of UNIX, C, USENET, and 
microcomputer-based jargon were added at that time. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Version 4.1.0, 8 Apr 1999: The Jargon File rides again after three years. 
This version had 25777 lines, 206825 words, 1359992 characters, and 2217 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Version 4.2.3, 23 Nov 2000: This version had 27452 lines, 222085 words, 
1460972 characters, and 2318 entries. 

Version 4.3.0, 30 Apr 2001: Special edition in honor of the first 
implementation of RFC 1149. Also cleaned up a number of obsolete entries. 
This version had 27805 lines, 224978 words, 1480215 characters, and 2319 

Version 4.3.1, 29 Jun 2001: This version had 27862 lines, 225517 words, 
1483664 characters, and 2321 entries. 

Version 4.3.2, 18 Sep 2002: This version had 28401 lines, 230308 words, 
1514477 characters, and 2370 entries. 

Version 4.3.3, 20 Sep 2002: Point release, fixed botched upload of 4.3.2. 
This version had 28406 lines, 230340 words, 1514769 characters, and 2370 

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 <<[email protected]>>, Bernie Cosell <<[email protected]>>, 
Earl Boebert <<[email protected]>>, and Joe Morris 
<<[email protected]>>. 

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

A few bits of this text quote previous works. We are indebted to Brian A. 
LaMacchia <<[email protected]>> for obtaining permission for us to use 
material from the "TMRC Dictionary"; also, Don Libes <<[email protected]>> 
contributed some appropriate material from his excellent book "Life With 
UNIX". We thank Per Lindberg <<[email protected]>>, 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 <<[email protected]>> 
for securing us permission to quote from PARC's own jargon lexicon and 
shipping us a copy. 

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

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

:How Jargon Works:

:Jargon Construction:

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

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

:Verb Doubling:

A standard construction in English is to double a verb and use it as an 
exclamation, such as "Bang, bang!" or "Quack, quack!". Most of these are 
names for noises. Hackers also double verbs as a concise, sometimes 
sarcastic comment on what the implied subject does. Also, a doubled verb is 
often used to terminate a conversation, in the process remarking on the 
current state of affairs or what the speaker intends to do next. Typical 
examples involve {win}, {lose}, {hack}, {flame}, {barf}, {chomp}: 

     "The disk heads just crashed."  "Lose, lose."
     "Mostly he talked about his latest crock.  Flame, flame."
     "Boy, what a bagbiter!  Chomp, chomp!"

Some verb-doubled constructions have special meanings not immediately 
obvious from the verb. These have their own listings in the lexicon. 

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


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 

:Soundalike slang:

Hackers will often make rhymes or puns in order to convert an ordinary 
word or phrase into something more interesting. It is considered 
particularly {flavorful} if the phrase is bent so as to include some other 
jargon word; thus the computer hobbyist magazine "Dr. Dobb's Journal" is 
almost always referred to among hackers as `Dr. Frob's Journal' or simply 
`Dr. Frob's'. Terms of this kind that have been in fairly wide use include 
names for newspapers: 

         Boston Herald => Horrid (or Harried)
         Boston Globe => Boston Glob
         Houston (or San Francisco) Chronicle
                => the Crocknicle (or the Comical)
         New York Times => New York Slime
         Wall Street Journal => Wall Street Urinal

However, terms like these are often made up on the spur of the moment. 
Standard examples include: 

         Data General => Dirty Genitals
         IBM 360 => IBM Three-Sickly
         Government Property --- Do Not Duplicate (on keys)
                 => Government Duplicity --- Do Not Propagate
         for historical reasons => for hysterical raisins
         Margaret Jacks Hall (the CS building at Stanford)
                 => Marginal Hacks Hall
         Microsoft => Microsloth
         Internet Explorer => Internet Exploiter

This is not really similar to the Cockney rhyming slang it has been 
compared to in the past, because Cockney substitutions are opaque whereas 
hacker punning jargon is intentionally transparent. 

:The `-P' convention:

Turning a word into a question by appending the syllable `P'; from the 
LISP convention of appending the letter `P' to denote a predicate (a 
boolean-valued function). The question should expect a yes/no answer, 
though it needn't. (See {T} and {NIL}.) 

         At dinnertime:

     Q: ``Foodp?''

     A: ``Yeah, I'm pretty hungry.'' or ``T!''

     At any time:

     Q: ``State-of-the-world-P?''

     A: (Straight) ``I'm about to go home.''

     A: (Humorous) ``Yes, the world has a state.''

     On the phone to Florida:

     Q: ``State-p Florida?''

     A: ``Been reading JARGON.TXT again, eh?''

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


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

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

     porous => porosity
     generous => generosity

hackers happily generalize: 

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

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

     win => winnitude (a common exclamation)
     loss => lossitude
     cruft => cruftitude
     lame => lameitude

Some hackers cheerfully reverse this transformation; they argue, for 
example, that the horizontal degree lines on a globe ought to be called 
`lats' -- after all, they're measuring latitude! 

Also, note that all nouns can be verbed. E.g.: "All nouns can be verbed", 
"I'll mouse it up", "Hang on while I clipboard it over", "I'm grepping the 
files". English as a whole is already heading in this direction (towards 
pure-positional grammar like Chinese); hackers are simply a bit ahead of 
the curve. 

The suffix "-full" can also be applied in generalized and fanciful ways, 
as in "As soon as you have more than one cachefull of data, the system 
starts thrashing," or "As soon as I have more than one headfull of ideas, I 
start writing it all down." A common use is "screenfull", meaning the 
amount of text that will fit on one screen, usually in text mode where you 
have no choice as to character size. Another common form is "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 1999, 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 complaint!" 


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 conciousness to them. The mind-set behind 
this tendency thus demands examination. 

The key to understanding this kind of usage is that it isn't done in a 
naive way; hackers don't personalize their stuff in the sense of feeling 
empathy with it, nor do they mystically believe that the things they work 
on every day are `alive'. To the contrary: hackers who anthropomorphize are 
expressing not a vitalistic view of program behavior but a mechanistic view 
of human behavior. 

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

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

Because hackers accept 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 earth". 

This viewpoint has respectable company in academic philosophy. Daniel 
Dennett organizes explanations of behavior using three stances: the 
"physical stance" (thing-to-be-explained as a physical object), the "design 
stance" (thing-to-be-explained as an artifact), and the "intentional 
stance" (thing-to-be-explained as an agent with desires and intentions). 
Which stances are appropriate is a matter not of 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  armor-plated

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

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

:Hacker Writing Style:

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

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

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

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

Standard usage would make this 

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

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

The Jargon File follows hackish usage throughout. 

Interestingly, a similar style is now preferred practice in Great 
Britain, though the older style (which became established for typographical 
reasons having to do with the aesthetics of comma and quotes in typeset 
text) is still accepted there. "Hart's Rules" and the "Oxford Dictionary 
for Writers and Editors" call the hacker-like style `new' or `logical' 
quoting. This returns British English to the style 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 sentences. 

There seems to be a meta-rule behind these nonstandard hackerisms to the 
effect that precision of expression is more important than conformance to 
traditional rules; where the latter create ambiguity or lose information 
they can be discarded without a second thought. It is notable in this 
respect that other hackish inventions (for example, in vocabulary) also 
tend to carry very precise shades of meaning even when constructed to 
appear slangy and loose. In fact, to a hacker, the contrast between `loose' 
form and `tight' content in jargon is a substantial part of its humor! 

Hackers have also developed a number of punctuation and emphasis 
conventions adapted to single-font all-ASCII communications links, and 
these are occasionally carried over into written documents even when normal 
means of font changes, underlining, and the like are available. 

One of these is that TEXT IN ALL CAPS IS INTERPRETED AS `LOUD', and this 
becomes such an ingrained synesthetic reflex that a person who goes to 
caps-lock while in {talk mode} may be asked to "stop shouting, please, 
you're hurting my ears!". 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 

     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 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 

     In <[email protected]> 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 

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 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. 

:Email Quotes and Inclusion Conventions:

One area where conventions for on-line writing are still in some flux is 
the marking of included material from earlier messages -- what would be 
called `block quotations' in ordinary English. From the usual typographic 
convention employed for these (smaller font at an extra indent), there 
derived a practice of included text being indented by one ASCII TAB 
(0001001) character, which under Unix and many other environments gives the 
appearance of an 8-space indent. 

Early mail and netnews readers had no facility for including messages 
this way, so people had to paste in copy manually. BSD `Mail(1)' was the 
first message agent to support inclusion, and early Usenetters emulated its 
style. But the TAB character tended to push included text too far to the 
right (especially in multiply nested inclusions), leading to ugly 
wraparounds. After a brief period of confusion (during which an inclusion 
leader consisting of three or four spaces became established in EMACS and a 
few mailers), the use of leading `>' or `> ' became standard, perhaps owing 
to its use in `ed(1)' to display tabs (alternatively, it may derive from 
the `>' that some early Unix mailers used to quote lines starting with 
"From" in text, so they wouldn't look like the beginnings of new message 
headers). Inclusions within inclusions keep their `>' leaders, so the 
`nesting level' of a quotation is visually apparent. 

The practice of including text from the parent article when posting a 
followup helped solve what had been a major nuisance on Usenet: the fact 
that articles do not arrive at different sites in the same order. Careless 
posters used to post articles that would begin with, or even consist 
entirely of, "No, that's wrong" or "I agree" or the like. It was hard to 
see who was responding to what. Consequently, around 1984, new news-posting 
software evolved a facility to automatically include the text of a previous 
article, marked with "> " or whatever the poster chose. The poster was 
expected to delete all but the relevant lines. The result has been that, 
now, careless posters post articles containing the _entire_ text of a 
preceding article, _followed_ only by "No, that's wrong" or "I agree". 

Many people feel that this cure is worse than the original disease, and 
there soon appeared newsreader software designed to let the reader skip 
over included text if desired. Today, some posting software rejects 
articles containing too high a proportion of lines beginning with `>' -- 
but this too has led to undesirable workarounds, such as the deliberate 
inclusion of zero-content filler lines which aren't quoted and thus pull 
the message below the rejection threshold. 

Because the default mailers supplied with Unix and other operating 
systems haven't evolved as quickly as human usage, the older conventions 
using a leading TAB or three or four spaces are still alive; however, 
>-inclusion is now clearly the prevalent form in both netnews and mail. 

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

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

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

or for short messages like this: 

          > entire message
          response to message

Thanks to poor design of some PC-based mail agents (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). 

: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 

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

:International Style:

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

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

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

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 English-speakers. 

:Crackers, Phreaks, and Lamers:

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

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 hackers. 

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

   * Misspell frequently.  The substitutions

               phone => fone
               freak => phreak

     are obligatory.

   * Always substitute `z's for `s's.  (i.e. "codes" -> "codez").  The
     substitution of 'z' for 's' has evolved so that a 'z' is 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 

         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 us."

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}. 

:How to Use the Lexicon:

:Pronunciation Guide:

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

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

  2. Consonants are pronounced as in American English.  The letter `g'
     is always hard (as in "got" rather than "giant"); `ch' is soft
     ("church" rather than "chemist").  The letter `j' is the sound
     that occurs twice in "judge".  The letter `s' is always as in
     "pass", never a z sound.  The digraph `kh' is the guttural of
     "loch" or "l'chaim".  The digraph 'gh' is the aspirated g+h of
     "bughouse" or "ragheap" (rare in English).

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

  4. Vowels are represented as follows:

          back, that

          father, palm (see note)

          far, mark

          flaw, caught

          bake, rain

          less, men

          easy, ski

          their, software

          trip, hit

          life, sky

          block, stock (see note)

          flow, sew

          loot, through

          more, door

          out, how

          boy, coin

          but, some

          put, foot

          yet, young

          few, chew

          /oo/ with optional fronting as in `news' (/nooz/ or /nyooz/)

The glyph /*/ is used for the `schwa' sound of unstressed or occluded 
vowels (the one that is often written with an upside-down `e'). The schwa 
vowel is omitted in syllables containing vocalic r, l, m or n; that is, 
`kitten' and `color' would be rendered /kit'n/ and /kuhl'r/, not /kit'*n/ 
and /kuhl'*r/. 

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

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

Entries with a pronunciation of `//' are written-only usages. (No, Unix 
weenies, this does _not_ mean `pronounce like previous pronunciation'!) 

:Other Lexicon Conventions:

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

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

In pure ASCII renderings of the Jargon File, you will see {} used to 
bracket words which themselves have entries in the File. This isn't done 
all the time for every such word, but it is done everywhere that a reminder 
seems useful that the term has a jargon meaning and one might wish to refer 
to its entry. 

In this all-ASCII version, headwords for topic entries are distinguished 
from those for ordinary entries by being followed by "::" rather than ":"; 
similarly, references are surrounded by "{{" and "}}" rather than "{" and 

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

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

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

References such as `malloc(3)' and `patch(1)' are to Unix facilities 
(some of which, such as `patch(1)', are actually 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 here: 




















     synonym (or synonymous with)

     verb (may be transitive or intransitive)


     intransitive verb

     transitive verb

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

Where a term can be attributed to a particular subculture or is known to 
have originated there, we have tried to so indicate. Here is a list of 
abbreviations used in etymologies: 

Amateur Packet Radio 

     A technical culture of ham-radio sites using AX.25 and TCP/IP for
     wide-area networking and BBS systems.

     University of California at Berkeley

     Bolt, Beranek & Newman

     the university in England (_not_ the city in Massachusetts where
     MIT happens to be located!)

     Carnegie-Mellon University

     Commodore Business Machines

     The Digital Equipment Corporation (now Compaq).

     The Fairchild Instruments Palo Alto development group

     See the {FidoNet} entry

     International Business Machines

     Massachusetts Institute of Technology; esp. the legendary MIT AI
     Lab culture of roughly 1971 to 1983 and its feeder groups,
     including the Tech Model Railroad Club

     Naval Research Laboratories

     New York University

     The Oxford English Dictionary

     Purdue University

     Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (at Stanford

     From Syste`me International, the name for the standard conventions
     of metric nomenclature used in the sciences

     Stanford University

     Sun Microsystems

     Some MITisms go back as far as the Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC)
     at MIT c. 1960.  Material marked TMRC is from "An Abridged
     Dictionary of the TMRC Language", originally compiled by Pete
     Samson in 1959

     University of California at Los Angeles

     the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland)

     See the {Usenet} entry

     Worcester Polytechnic Institute, site of a very active community of
     PDP-10 hackers during the 1970s

     The World-Wide-Web.


     XEROX's Palo Alto Research Center, site of much pioneering
     research in user interface design and networking

     Yale University

Some other etymology abbreviations such as {Unix} and {PDP-10} refer to 
technical cultures surrounding specific operating systems, processors, or 
other environments. The fact that a term is labelled with any one of these 
abbreviations does not necessarily mean its use is confined to that 
culture. In particular, many terms labelled `MIT' and `Stanford' are in 
quite general use. We have tried to give some indication of the 
distribution of speakers in the usage notes; however, a number of factors 
mentioned in the introduction conspire to make these indications less 
definite than might be desirable. 

A few new definitions attached to entries are marked [proposed]. These 
are usually generalizations suggested by editors or Usenet respondents in 
the process of commenting on previous definitions of those entries. These 
are _not_ represented as established jargon. 

:Format for New Entries:

You can mail submissions for the Jargon File to 
<[email protected]>. 

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 

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

We are looking to expand the File's range of technical specialties 
covered. There are doubtless rich veins of jargon yet untapped in the 
scientific computing, graphics, and networking hacker communities; also in 
numerical analysis, computer architectures and VLSI design, language 
design, and many other related fields. Send us your jargon! 

We are _not_ interested in straight technical terms explained by 
textbooks or technical dictionaries unless an entry illuminates 
`underground' meanings or aspects not covered by official histories. We are 
also not interested in `joke' entries -- there is a lot of humor in the 
file but it must flow naturally out of the explanations of what hackers do 
and how they think. 

It is OK to submit items of jargon you have originated if they have 
spread to the point of being used by people who are not personally 
acquainted with you. We prefer items to be attested by independent 
submission from two different sites. 

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

The Jargon File will be regularly maintained and made available for 
browsing on the World Wide Web, and will include a version number. Read it, 
pass it around, contribute -- this is _your_ monument! 

The Jargon Lexicon ****************** 

= 0 =

:/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 [email protected], 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. 

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

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

: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 

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

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

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

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

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

= A =

: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 grinder}s. 
   Usually capitalized, but may appear as `abend'. Hackers will try to 
   persuade you that ABEND is called `abend' because it is what system 
   operators do to the machine late on Friday when they want to call it a 
   day, and hence is from the German `Abend' = `Evening'. 2. 
   [alt.callahans] Absent By Enforced Net Deprivation - used in the subject 
   lines of postings warning friends of an imminent loss of Internet 
   access. (This can be because of computer downtime, loss of provider, 
   moving or illness.) Variants of this also appear: ABVND = `Absent By 
   Voluntary Net Deprivation' and ABSEND = `Absent By Self-Enforced Net 
   Deprivation' have been sighted. 

:accumulator: n. obs. 1. Archaic term for a register. On-line use of it 
   as a synonym for `register' is a fairly reliable indication that the 
   user has been around for quite a while and/or that the architecture 
   under discussion is quite old. The term in full is almost never used of 
   microprocessor registers, for example, though symbolic names for 
   arithmetic registers beginning in `A' derive from historical use of the 
   term `accumulator' (and not, actually, from `arithmetic'). Confusingly, 
   though, an `A' register name prefix may also stand for `address', as for 
   example on the Motorola 680x0 family. 2. A register being used for 
   arithmetic or logic (as opposed to addressing or a loop index), 
   especially one being used to accumulate a sum or count of many items. 
   This use is in context of a particular routine or stretch of code. "The 
   FOOBAZ routine uses A3 as an accumulator." 3. One's in-basket (esp. 
   among old-timers who might use sense 1). "You want this reviewed? Sure, 
   just put it in the accumulator." (See {stack}.) 

:ACK: /ak/ interj. 1. [common; from the ASCII mnemonic for 0000110] 
   Acknowledge. Used to register one's presence (compare mainstream _Yo!_). 
   An appropriate response to {ping} or {ENQ}. 2. [from the comic strip 
   "Bloom County"] An exclamation of surprised disgust, esp. in "Ack 
   pffft!" Semi-humorous. Generally this sense is not spelled in caps (ACK) 
   and is distinguished by a following exclamation point. 3. Used to 
   politely interrupt someone to tell them you understand their point (see 
   {NAK}). Thus, for example, you might cut off an overly long explanation 
   with "Ack. Ack. Ack. I get it now". 4. An affirmative. "Think we ought 
   to ditch that damn NT server for a Linux box?" "ACK!" 

   There is also a usage "ACK?" (from sense 1) meaning "Are you there?", 
   often used in email when earlier mail has produced no reply, or during a 
   lull in {talk mode} to see if the person has gone away (the standard 
   humorous response is of course {NAK} (sense 1), i.e., "I'm not here"). 

:Acme: n. [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. 

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

:ad-hockery: /ad-hok'*r-ee/ n. [Purdue] 1. Gratuitous assumptions made 
   inside certain programs, esp. expert systems, which lead to the 
   appearance of semi-intelligent behavior but are in fact entirely 
   arbitrary. For example, fuzzy-matching of input tokens that might be 
   typing errors against a symbol table can make it look as though a 
   program knows how to spell. 2. Special-case code to cope with some 
   awkward input that would otherwise cause a program to {choke}, presuming 
   normal inputs are dealt with in some cleaner and more regular way. Also 
   called `ad-hackery', `ad-hocity' (/ad-hos'*-tee/), `ad-crockery'. See 
   also {ELIZA effect}. 

:Ada:: n. A {{Pascal}}-descended language that was at one time made 
   mandatory for Department of Defense software projects by the Pentagon. 
   Hackers are nearly unanimous in observing that, technically, it is 
   precisely what one might expect given that kind of endorsement by fiat; 
   bloated, crockish, difficult to use, and overall a disastrous, 
   multi-billion-dollar boondoggle (one common description was "The PL/I of 
   the 1980s"). The kindest thing that has been said about it is that there 
   is probably a good small language screaming to get out from inside its 
   vast, {elephantine} bulk. 

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

:adger: /aj'r/ vt. [UCLA mutant of {nadger}, poss. also from the middle 
   name of an infamous {tenured graduate student}] To make a bonehead move 
   with consequences that could have been foreseen with even slight mental 
   effort. E.g., "He started removing files and promptly adgered the whole 
   project". Compare {dumbass attack}. 

:admin: /ad-min'/ n. Short for `administrator'; very commonly used in 
   speech or on-line to refer to the systems person in charge on a 
   computer. Common constructions on this include `sysadmin' and `site 
   admin' (emphasizing the administrator's role as a site contact for email 
   and news) or `newsadmin' (focusing specifically on news). Compare 
   {postmaster}, {sysop}, {system mangler}. 

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

   This game defined the terse, dryly humorous style since expected in 
   text adventure games, and popularized several tag lines that have become 
   fixtures of hacker-speak: "A huge green fierce snake bars the way!" "I 
   see no X here" (for some noun X). "You are in a maze of twisty little 
   passages, all alike." "You are in a little maze of twisty passages, all 
   different." The `magic words' {xyzzy} and {plugh} also derive from this 

   Crowther, by the way, participated in the exploration of the Mammoth & 
   Flint Ridge cave system; it actually _has_ a `Colossal Cave' and a 
   `Bedquilt' as in the game, and the `Y2' that also turns up is cavers' 
   jargon for a map reference to a secondary entrance. 

   ADVENT sources are available for FTP at 

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

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

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

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

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

   Examples of AI-complete problems are `The Vision Problem' (building a 
   system that can see as well as a human) and `The Natural Language 
   Problem' (building a system that can understand and speak a natural 
   language as well as a human). These may appear to be modular, but all 
   attempts so far (1999) to solve them have foundered on the amount of 
   context information and `intelligence' they seem to require. See also 

:AI koans: /A-I koh'anz/ pl.n. A series of pastiches of Zen teaching 
   riddles created by Danny Hillis at the MIT AI Lab around various major 
   figures of the Lab's culture (several are included under {Some AI Koans} 
   in Appendix A). See also {ha ha only serious}, {mu}, and {{hacker 

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

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

:airplane rule: n. "Complexity increases the possibility of failure; a 
   twin-engine airplane has twice as many engine problems as a 
   single-engine airplane." By analogy, in both software and electronics, 
   the rule that simplicity increases robustness. It is correspondingly 
   argued that the right way to build reliable systems is to put all your 
   eggs in one basket, after making sure that you've built a really _good_ 
   basket. See also {KISS Principle}, {elegant}. 

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

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

:aliasing bug: n. A class of subtle programming errors that can arise in 
   code that does dynamic allocation, esp. via `malloc(3)' or equivalent. 
   If several pointers address (`aliases for') a given hunk of storage, it 
   may happen that the storage is freed or reallocated (and thus moved) 
   through one alias and then referenced through another, which may lead to 
   subtle (and possibly intermittent) lossage depending on the state and 
   the allocation history of the malloc {arena}. Avoidable by use of 
   allocation strategies that never alias allocated core, or by use of 
   higher-level languages, such as {LISP}, which employ a garbage collector 
   (see {GC}). Also called a {stale pointer bug}. See also {precedence 
   lossage}, {smash the stack}, {fandango on core}, {memory leak}, {memory 
   smash}, {overrun screw}, {spam}. 

   Historical note: Though this term is nowadays associated with C 
   programming, it was already in use in a very similar sense in the 
   Algol-60 and FORTRAN communities in the 1960s. 

:Alice and Bob: n. The archetypal individuals used as examples in 
   discussions of cryptographic protocols. Originally, theorists would say 
   something like: "A communicates with someone who claims to be B, So to 
   be sure, A tests that B knows a secret number K. So A sends to B a 
   random number X. B then forms Y by encrypting X under key K and sends Y 
   back to A" Because this sort of thing is 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 
   introduces a table of dramatis personae headed by Alice and Bob. Others 
   include Carol (a participant in three- and four-party protocols), Dave 
   (a participant in four-party protocols), Eve (an eavesdropper), Mallory 
   (a malicious active attacker), Trent (a trusted arbitrator), Walter (a 
   warden), Peggy (a prover) and Victor (a verifier). These names for roles 
   are either already standard or, given the wide popularity of the book, 
   may be expected to quickly become so. 

:all 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. 

:all-elbows: adj. [MS-DOS] Of a TSR (terminate-and-stay-resident) IBM PC 
   program, such as the N pop-up calendar and calculator utilities that 
   circulate on {BBS} systems: unsociable. Used to describe a program that 
   rudely steals the resources that it needs without considering that other 
   TSRs may also be resident. One particularly common form of rudeness is 
   lock-up due to programs fighting over the keyboard interrupt. See 
   {rude}, also {mess-dos}. 

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

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

:alt: /awlt/ 1. n. The alt shift key on an IBM PC or {clone} keyboard; 
   see {bucky bits}, sense 2 (though typical PC usage does not simply set 
   the 0200 bit). 2. n. The `option' key on a Macintosh; use of this term 
   usually reveals that the speaker hacked PCs before coming to the Mac 
   (see also {feature key}, which is sometimes _incorrectly_ called `alt'). 
   3. n.,obs. [PDP-10; often capitalized to ALT] Alternate name for the 
   ASCII ESC character (ASCII 0011011), after the keycap labeling on some 
   older terminals; also `altmode' (/awlt'mohd/). This character was almost 
   never pronounced `escape' on an ITS system, in {TECO}, or under TOPS-10 
   -- always alt, as in "Type alt alt to end a TECO command" or "alt-U onto 
   the system" (for "log onto the [ITS] system"). This usage probably arose 
   because alt is more convenient to say than `escape', especially when 
   followed by another alt or a character (or another alt _and_ a 
   character, for that matter). 4. The alt hierarchy on Usenet, the tree of 
   newsgroups created by users without a formal vote and approval 
   procedure. There is a myth, not entirely implausible, that alt is 
   acronymic for "anarchists, lunatics, and terrorists"; but in fact it is 
   simply short for "alternative". 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

: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. 

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

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

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

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

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

:ANSI: /an'see/ 1. n. [techspeak] The American National Standards 
   Institute. ANSI, along with the International Organization for Standards 
   (ISO), standardized the C programming language (see {K&R}, {Classic C}), 
   and promulgates many other important software standards. 2. n. 
   [techspeak] A terminal may be said to be `ANSI' if it meets the ANSI 
   X3.64 standard for terminal control. Unfortunately, this standard was 
   both over-complicated and too permissive. It has been retired and 
   replaced by the ECMA-48 standard, which shares both flaws. 3. n. [BBS 
   jargon] The set of screen-painting codes that most MS-DOS/Windows and 
   Amiga computers accept. This comes from the ANSI.SYS device driver that 
   had to be loaded on an MS-DOS computer to view such codes. 
   Unfortunately, neither DOS ANSI nor the BBS ANSIs derived from it 
   exactly match the ANSI X3.64 terminal standard. For example, the ESC-[1m 
   code turns on the bold highlight on large machines, but in IBM PC/MS-DOS 
   ANSI, it turns on `intense' (bright) colors. Also, in BBS-land, the term 
   `ANSI' is often used to imply that a particular computer uses or can 
   emulate the IBM high-half character set from MS-DOS/Windows. Particular 
   use depends on context. Occasionally, the vanilla ASCII character set is 
   used with the color codes, but on BBSs, ANSI and `IBM characters' tend 
   to go together. 

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

:ANSI standard pizza: /an'see stan'd*rd peet'z*/ [CMU] Pepperoni and 
   mushroom pizza. Coined allegedly because most pizzas ordered by CMU 
   hackers during some period leading up to mid-1990 were of that flavor. 
   See also {rotary debugger}; compare {ISO standard cup of tea}. 

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

        <AOL>Me, too!</AOL>
   is also frequently seen. See also {September that never ended}. 

:app: /ap/ n. Short for `application program', as opposed to a systems 
   program. Apps are what systems vendors are forever chasing developers to 
   create for their environments so they can sell more boxes. Hackers tend 
   not to think of the things they themselves run as apps; thus, in hacker 
   parlance the term excludes compilers, program editors, games, and 
   messaging systems, though a user would consider all those to be apps. 
   (Broadly, an app is often a self-contained environment for performing 
   some well-defined task such as `word processing'; hackers tend to prefer 
   more general-purpose tools.) See {killer app}; oppose {tool}, {operating 

:Archimedes: 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, "archi". 

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

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

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

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

   Reactions varied from amusement to outrage. The pathological messages 
   crashed at least one mail system, and upset people paying line charges 
   for their Usenet feeds. One poster described the ARMM debacle as 
   "instant Usenet history" (also establishing the term {despew}), and it 
   has since been widely cited as a cautionary example of the havoc the 
   combination of good intentions and incompetence can wreak on a network. 
   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 {flame}s; also in other highly {flame}-suggestive 
   usages. See, for example, {asbestos longjohns} and {asbestos cork 

:asbestos cork award: n. Once, long ago at MIT, there was a {flamer} so 
   consistently obnoxious that another hacker designed, had made, and 
   distributed posters announcing that said flamer had been nominated for 
   the `asbestos cork award'. (Any reader in doubt as to the intended 
   application of the cork should consult the etymology under {flame}.) 
   Since then, it is agreed that only a select few have risen to the 
   heights of bombast required to earn this dubious dignity -- but there is 
   no agreement on _which_ few. 

:asbestos longjohns: n. Notional garments donned by {Usenet} posters just 
   before emitting a remark they expect will elicit {flamage}. This is the 
   most common of the {asbestos} coinages. Also `asbestos underwear', 
   `asbestos overcoat', etc. 

:ASCII:: /as'kee/ n. [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 or the ae-ligature which is a 
   letter in, for example, Norwegian). It could be worse, though. It could 
   be much worse. See {{EBCDIC}} to understand how. A history of ASCII and 
   its ancestors is at `'. 

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

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

     Common: {bang}; pling; excl; 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 prime.
     Common: number sign; pound; pound sign; hash; sharp; {crunch}; hex;
     [mesh].  Rare: grid; crosshatch; octothorpe; flash; <square>,
     pig-pen; tictactoe; scratchmark; thud; thump; {splat}.
     Common: dollar; <dollar sign>.  Rare: currency symbol; buck; cash;
     string (from BASIC); escape (when used as the echo of ASCII ESC);
     ding; cache; [big money].
     Common: percent; <percent sign>; mod; grapes.  Rare:
     Common: <ampersand>; 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;
     paren/thesis; o/c paren; o/c parenthesis; l/r parenthesis; l/r
     banana.  Rare: so/already; lparen/rparen; <opening/closing
     parenthesis>; o/c round bracket, l/r round bracket, [wax/wane];
     parenthisey/unparenthisey; l/r ear.
     Common: star; [{splat}]; <asterisk>.  Rare: wildcard; gear; dingle;
     mult; spider; aster; times; twinkle; glob (see {glob}); {Nathan
     Common: <plus>; add.  Rare: cross; [intersection].
     Common: <comma>.  Rare: <cedilla>; [tail].
     Common: dash; <hyphen>; <minus>.  Rare: [worm]; option; dak;
     Common: dot; point; <period>; <decimal point>.  Rare: radix point;
     full stop; [spot].
     Common: slash; stroke; <slant>; forward slash.  Rare: diagonal;
     solidus; over; slak; virgule; [slat].
     Common: <colon>.  Rare: dots; [two-spot].
     Common: <semicolon>; semi.  Rare: weenie; [hybrid], pit-thwong.
   < > 

     Common: <less/greater than>; bra/ket; l/r angle; l/r angle
     bracket; l/r broket.  Rare: from/{into, towards}; read from/write
     to; suck/blow; comes-from/gozinta; in/out; crunch/zap (all from
     UNIX); 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
     Rare: [book].
   [ ] 

     Common: l/r square bracket; l/r bracket; <opening/closing
     bracket>; bracket/unbracket.  Rare: square/unsquare; [U turn/U
     turn back].
     Common: backslash, hack, whack; escape (from C/UNIX); reverse
     slash; slosh; backslant; backwhack.  Rare: bash; <reverse slant>;
     reversed virgule; [backslat].
     Common: hat; control; uparrow; caret; <circumflex>.  Rare: xor
     sign, chevron; [shark (or shark-fin)]; to the (`to the power of');
     fang; pointer (in Pascal).
     Common: <underline>; underscore; underbar; under.  Rare: score;
     backarrow; skid; [flatworm].
     Common: backquote; left quote; left single quote; open quote;
     <grave accent>; grave.  Rare: backprime; [backspark];
     unapostrophe; birk; blugle; back tick; back glitch; push; <opening
     single quotation mark>; quasiquote.
   { } 

     Common: o/c brace; l/r brace; l/r squiggly; l/r squiggly
     bracket/brace; l/r curly bracket/brace; <opening/closing brace>.
     Rare: brace/unbrace; curly/uncurly; leftit/rytit; l/r squirrelly;
     [embrace/bracelet].  A balanced pair of these may be called
     Common: bar; or; or-bar; v-bar; pipe; vertical bar.  Rare:
     <vertical line>; gozinta; thru; pipesinta (last three from UNIX);
     Common: <tilde>; squiggle; {twiddle}; not.  Rare: approx; wiggle;
     swung dash; enyay; [sqiggle (sic)].
   The pronunciation of `#' as `pound' is common in the U.S. but a bad 
   idea; {{Commonwealth Hackish}} has its own, rather more apposite use of 
   `pound sign' (confusingly, on British keyboards the pound graphic 
   happens to replace `#'; thus Britishers sometimes call `#' on a 
   U.S.-ASCII keyboard `pound', compounding the American error). The U.S. 
   usage derives from an old-fashioned commercial practice of using a `#' 
   suffix to tag pound weights on bills of lading. The character is usually 
   pronounced `hash' outside the U.S. There are more culture wars over the 
   correct pronunciation of this character than any other, which has led to 
   the {ha ha only serious} suggestion that it be pronounced `shibboleth' 
   (see Judges 12:6 in an Old Testament or Tanakh). 

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

   The `swung dash' or `approximation' sign is not quite the same as 
   tilde in typeset material but the ASCII tilde serves for both (compare 
   {angle brackets}). 

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

   The inability of ASCII text to correctly represent any of the world's 
   other major languages makes the designers' choice of 7 bits look more 
   and more like a serious {misfeature} as the use of international 
   networks continues to increase (see {software rot}). Hardware and 
   software from the U.S. still tends to embody the assumption that ASCII 
   is the universal character set and that characters have 7 bits; this is 
   a major irritant to people who want to use a character set suited to 
   their own languages. Perversely, though, efforts to solve this problem 
   by proliferating `national' character sets produce an evolutionary 
   pressure to use a _smaller_ subset common to all those in use. 

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

         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 

: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 term). 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 {micro-}. 

: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}. 

:autoconfiscate: 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. Syn. [in Hindu mythology, the incarnation of a god] 1. Among 
   people working on virtual reality and {cyberspace} interfaces, an 
   "avatar" is an icon or representation of a user in a shared virtual 
   reality. The term is sometimes used on {MUD}s. 2. [CMU, Tektronix] 
   {root}, {superuser}. There are quite a few Unix machines on which the 
   name of the superuser account is `avatar' rather than `root'. This quirk 
   was originated by a CMU hacker who found the terms `root' and 
   `superuser' unimaginative, and thought `avatar' might better impress 
   people with the responsibility they were accepting. 

:awk: /awk/ 1. n. [Unix techspeak] An interpreted language for massaging 
   text data developed by Alfred Aho, Peter Weinberger, and Brian Kernighan 
   (the name derives from their initials). It is characterized by C-like 
   syntax, a declaration-free approach to variable typing and declarations, 
   associative arrays, and field-oriented text processing. See also {Perl}. 
   2. n. Editing term for an expression awkward to manipulate through 
   normal {regexp} facilities (for example, one containing a {newline}). 3. 
   vt. To process data using `awk(1)'. 

= B =

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

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

   Historically, back doors have often lurked in systems longer than 
   anyone expected or planned, and a few have become widely known. Ken 
   Thompson's 1983 Turing Award lecture to the ACM admitted the existence 
   of a back door in early Unix versions that may have qualified as the 
   most fiendishly clever security hack of all time. In this scheme, the C 
   compiler contained code that would recognize when the `login' command 
   was being recompiled and insert some code recognizing a password chosen 
   by Thompson, giving him entry to the system whether or not an account 
   had been created for him. 

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

   The Turing lecture that suggested 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 intact. 

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

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

:backbone site: n.,obs. Formerly, a key Usenet and email site, one that 
   processes a large amount of third-party traffic, especially if it is the 
   home site of any of the regional coordinators for the Usenet maps. 
   Notable backbone sites as of early 1993, when this sense of the term was 
   beginning to pass out of general use due to wide availability of cheap 
   Internet connections, included uunet and the mail machines at Rutgers 
   University, UC Berkeley, {DEC}'s Western Research Laboratories, Ohio 
   State University, and the University of Texas. Compare {rib site}, {leaf 

   [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] 

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

:background: n.,adj.,vt. [common] To do a task `in background' is to do 
   it whenever {foreground} matters are not claiming your undivided 
   attention, and `to background' something means to relegate it to a lower 
   priority. "For now, we'll just print a list of nodes and links; I'm 
   working on the graph-printing problem in background." Note that this 
   implies ongoing activity but at a reduced level or in spare time, in 
   contrast to mainstream `back burner' (which connotes benign neglect 
   until some future resumption of activity). Some people prefer to use the 
   term for processing that they have queued up for their unconscious minds 
   (a tack that one can often fruitfully take upon encountering an obstacle 
   in creative work). Compare {amp off}, {slopsucker}. 

   Technically, a task running in background is detached from the 
   terminal where it was started (and often running at a lower priority); 
   oppose {foreground}. Nowadays this term is primarily associated with 
   {{Unix}}, but it appears to have been first used in this sense on 

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

:backronym: n. [portmanteau of back + acronym] A word interpreted as an 
   acronym that was not originally so intended. 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}. 

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

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

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

:Bad and Wrong: adj. [Durham, UK] Said of something that is both badly 
   designed and wrongly executed. This common term is the prototype of, and 
   is used by contrast with, three less common terms - Bad and Right (a 
   kludge, something ugly but functional); Good and Wrong (an overblown GUI 
   or other attractive nuisance); and (rare praise) Good and Right. These 
   terms entered common use at Durham c.1994 and may have been imported 
   from elsewhere; they are also in use at Oxford, and the emphatic form 
   "Evil 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 here. Compare {Bad and Wrong}. 

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

:bagbiter: /bag'bi:t-*r/ n. 1. Something, such as a program or a 
   computer, that fails to work, or works in a remarkably clumsy manner. 
   "This text editor won't let me make a file with a line longer than 80 
   characters! What a bagbiter!" 2. A person who has caused you some 
   trouble, inadvertently or otherwise, typically by failing to program the 
   computer properly. Synonyms: {loser}, {cretin}, {chomper}. 3. `bite the 
   bag' vi. To fail in some manner. "The computer keeps crashing every five 
   minutes." "Yes, the disk controller is really biting the bag." 

   The original loading of these terms was almost undoubtedly obscene, 
   possibly referring to a douche bag or the scrotum (we have reports of 
   "Bite the douche bag!" being used as a taunt at MIT 1970-1976, and we 
   have another report that "Bite the bag!" was in common use at least as 
   early as 1965), but in their current usage they have become almost 
   completely sanitized. 

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

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

:baggy pantsing: v. [Georgia Tech] A "baggy pantsing" is used to 
   reprimand hackers who incautiously leave their terminals unlocked. The 
   affected user will come back to find a post from them on internal 
   newsgroups discussing exactly how baggy their pants are, an accepted 
   stand-in for "unattentive user who left their work unprotected in the 
   clusters". A properly-done baggy pantsing is highly mocking and 
   humorous. 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 backedup 
   to another file) with a baggy-pants message; .plan files are also 
   occasionally targeted. Usage: "Prof. Greenlee fell asleep in the Solaris 
   cluster again; we baggy-pantsed him to" Compare 

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

:bamf: /bamf/ 1. [from X-Men comics; originally "bampf"] interj. Notional 
   sound made by a person or object teleporting in or out of the hearer's 
   vicinity. Often used in {virtual reality} (esp. {MUD}) electronic {fora} 
   when a character wishes to make a dramatic entrance or exit. 2. The 
   sound of magical transformation, used in virtual reality {fora} like 
   MUDs. 3. In MUD circles, "bamf" is also used to refer to the act by 
   which a MUD server sends a special notification to the MUD client to 
   switch its connection to another server ("I'll set up the old site to 
   just bamf people over to our new location."). 4. Used by MUDders on 
   occasion in a more general sense related to sense 3, to refer to 
   directing someone to another location or resource ("A user was asking 
   about some technobabble so I bamfed them to 

:banana label: n. The labels often used on the sides of {macrotape} 
   reels, so called because they are shaped roughly like blunt-ended 
   bananas. This term, like macrotapes themselves, is still current but 
   visibly headed for obsolescence. 

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

: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. 

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

:bang on: vt. To stress-test a piece of hardware or software: "I banged 
   on the new version of the simulator all day yesterday and it didn't 
   crash once. I guess it is ready for release." The term {pound on} is 

:bang path: n. [now historical] An old-style UUCP electronic-mail address 
   specifying hops to get from some assumed-reachable location to the 
   addressee, so called because each {hop} is signified by a {bang} sign. 
   Thus, for example, the path ...!bigsite!foovax!barbox!me directs people 
   to route their mail to machine bigsite (presumably a well-known location 
   accessible to everybody) and from there through the machine foovax to 
   the account of user me on barbox. 

   In the bad old days of not so long ago, before autorouting mailers 
   became commonplace, people often published compound bang addresses using 
   the { } convention (see {glob}) to give paths from _several_ big 
   machines, in the hopes that one's correspondent might be able to get 
   mail to one of them reliably (example: ...!{seismo, ut-sally, 
   ihnp4}!rice!beta!gamma!me). Bang paths of 8 to 10 hops were not uncommon 
   in 1981. Late-night dial-up UUCP links would cause week-long 
   transmission times. Bang paths were often selected by both transmission 
   time and reliability, as messages would often get lost. See {the 
   network} and {sitename}. 

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

: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 less common as the relative costs of programming time and 
   machine resources have changed, but is still found in heavily 
   constrained environments such as industrial embedded systems, and in the 
   code of hackers who just can't let go of that low-level control. See 
   {Real Programmer}. 

   In the world of personal computing, bare metal programming (especially 
   in sense 1 but sometimes also in sense 2) is often considered a {Good 
   Thing}, or at least a necessary evil (because these machines have often 
   been sufficiently slow and poorly designed to make it necessary; see 
   {ill-behaved}). There, the term usually refers to bypassing the BIOS or 
   OS interface and writing the application to directly access device 
   registers and machine addresses. "To get 19.2 kilobaud on the serial 
   port, you need to get down to the bare metal." People who can do this 
   sort of thing well are held in high regard. 

:barf: /barf/ n.,v. [common; from mainstream slang meaning `vomit'] 1. 
   interj. Term of disgust. This is the closest hackish equivalent of the 
   Valspeak "gag me with a spoon". (Like, euwww!) See {bletch}. 2. vi. To 
   say "Barf!" or emit some similar expression of disgust. "I showed him my 
   latest hack and he barfed" means only that he complained about it, not 
   that he literally vomited. 3. vi. To fail to work because of 
   unacceptable input, perhaps with a suitable error message, perhaps not. 
   Examples: "The division operation barfs if you try to divide by 0." 
   (That is, the division operation checks for an attempt to divide by 
   zero, and if one is encountered it causes the operation to fail in some 
   unspecified, but generally obvious, manner.) "The text editor barfs if 
   you try to read in a new file before writing out the old one." See 
   {choke}, {gag}. In Commonwealth Hackish, `barf' is generally replaced by 
   `puke' or `vom'. {barf} is sometimes also used as a {metasyntactic 
   variable}, like {foo} or {bar}. 

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

:barfulation: /bar`fyoo-lay'sh*n/ interj. Variation of {barf} used around 
   the Stanford area. An exclamation, expressing disgust. On seeing some 
   particularly bad code one might exclaim, "Barfulation! Who wrote this, 

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

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

: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 

   [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 week..." 3. `batching up': Accumulation of a 
   number of small tasks that can be lumped together for greater 
   efficiency. "I'm batching up those letters to send sometime" "I'm 
   batching up bottles to take to the recycling center." 

:bathtub curve: n. Common term for the curve (resembling an end-to-end 
   section of one of those claw-footed antique bathtubs) that describes the 
   expected failure rate of electronics with time: initially high, dropping 
   to near 0 for most of the system's lifetime, then rising again as it 
   `tires out'. See also {burn-in period}, {infant mortality}. 

: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 

:baud: /bawd/ n. [simplified from its technical meaning] n. Bits per 
   second. Hence kilobaud or Kbaud, thousands of bits per second. The 
   technical meaning is `level transitions per second'; this coincides with 
   bps only for two-level modulation with no framing or stop bits. Most 
   hackers are aware of these nuances but blithely ignore them. 

   Historical note: `baud' was originally a unit of telegraph signalling 
   speed, set at one pulse per second. It was proposed at the November, 
   1926 conference of the Comite' Consultatif International Des 
   Communications Te'le'graphiques as an improvement on the then standard 
   practice of referring to line speeds in terms of words per minute, and 
   named for Jean Maurice Emile Baudot (1845-1903), a French engineer who 
   did a lot of pioneering work in early teleprinters. 

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

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

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

:bazaar: n.,adj. In 1997, after 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 source}. 

: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 

:BBS: /B-B-S/ n. [common; abbreviation, `Bulletin Board System'] An 
   electronic bulletin board system; that is, a message database where 
   people can log in and leave broadcast messages for others grouped 
   (typically) into {topic group}s. The term was especially applied to the 
   thousands of local BBS systems that operated during the pre-Internet 
   microcomputer era of roughly 1980 to 1995, typically run by amateurs for 
   fun out of their homes on MS-DOS boxes with a single modem line each. 
   Fans of Usenet and Internet or the big commercial timesharing bboards 
   such as CompuServe and GEnie tended to consider local BBSes the low-rent 
   district of the hacker culture, but they served a valuable function by 
   knitting together lots of hackers and users in the personal-micro world 
   who would otherwise have been unable to exchange code at all. 
   Post-Internet, BBSs are likely to be local newsgroups on an ISP; 
   efficiency has increased but a certain flavor has been lost. See also 

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

:BDFL: [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 hobbyists. 

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

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

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

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

:bells whistles and gongs: n. A standard elaborated form of {bells and 
   whistles}; typically said with a pronounced and ironic accent on the 

:benchmark: n. [techspeak] An inaccurate measure of computer performance. 
   "In the computer industry, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn 
   lies, and benchmarks." Well-known ones include Whetstone, Dhrystone, 
   Rhealstone (see {h}), the Gabriel LISP benchmarks (see {gabriel}), the 
   SPECmark suite, and LINPACK. See also {machoflops}, {MIPS}, {smoke and 

:Berkeley Quality Software: adj. (often abbreviated `BQS') Term used in a 
   pejorative sense to refer to software that was apparently created by 
   rather spaced-out hackers late at night to solve some unique problem. It 
   usually has nonexistent, incomplete, or incorrect documentation, has 
   been tested on at least two examples, and core dumps when anyone else 
   attempts to use it. This term was frequently applied to early versions 
   of the `dbx(1)' debugger. See also {Berzerkeley}. 

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

:berklix: /berk'liks/ n.,adj. [contraction of `Berkeley Unix'] See {BSD}. 
   Not used at Berkeley itself. May be more common among {suit}s attempting 
   to sound like cognoscenti than among hackers, who usually just say 

: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*/ or (Commonwealth) /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 buggy). 

   Historical note: More formally, to beta-test is to test a pre-release 
   (potentially unreliable) version of a piece of software by making it 
   available to selected (or self-selected) customers and users. This term 
   derives from early 1960s terminology for product cycle checkpoints, 
   first used at IBM but later standard throughout the industry. `Alpha 
   Test' was the unit, module, or component test phase; `Beta Test' was 
   initial system test. These themselves came from earlier A- and B-tests 
   for hardware. The A-test was a feasibility and manufacturability 
   evaluation done before any commitment to design and development. The 
   B-test was a demonstration that the engineering model functioned as 
   specified. The C-test (corresponding to today's beta) was the B-test 
   performed on early samples of the production design, and the D test was 
   the C test repeated after the model had been in production a while. 

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

: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}. 

:B1FF: /bif/ [Usenet] (alt. `BIFF') n. The most famous {pseudo}, and the 
   prototypical {newbie}. Articles from B1FF feature all uppercase letters 
   sprinkled liberally with bangs, typos, `cute' misspellings (EVRY BUDY 
   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: 
   [email protected]. 

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

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

:biff: /bif/ vt. To notify someone of incoming mail. From the BSD utility 
   `biff(1)', which was in turn named after a friendly dog who used to 
   chase frisbees in the halls at UCB while 4.2BSD was in development. 
   There was a legend that it had a habit of barking whenever the mailman 
   came, but the author of `biff' says this is not true. No relation to 

:Big Gray Wall: n. What faces a {VMS} user searching for documentation. A 
   full VMS kit comes on a pallet, the documentation taking up around 15 
   feet of shelf space before the addition of layered products such as 
   compilers, databases, multivendor networking, and programming tools. 
   Recent (since VMS version 5) documentation comes with gray binders; 
   under VMS version 4 the binders were orange (`big orange wall'), and 
   under version 3 they were blue. See {VMS}. Often contracted to `Gray 

:big iron: n. [common] Large, expensive, ultra-fast computers. Used 
   generally of {number-crunching} supercomputers such as Crays, but can 
   include more conventional big commercial IBMish mainframes. Term of 
   approval; compare {heavy metal}, oppose {dinosaur}. 

:Big Red Switch: n. [IBM] The power switch on a computer, esp. the 
   `Emergency Pull' switch on an IBM {mainframe} or the power switch on an 
   IBM PC where it really is large and red. "This !@%$% {bitty box} is hung 
   again; time to hit the Big Red Switch." Sources at IBM report that, in 
   tune with the company's passion for {TLA}s, this is often abbreviated as 
   `BRS' (this has also become established on FidoNet and in the PC {clone} 
   world). It is alleged that the emergency pull switch on an IBM 360/91 
   actually fired a non-conducting bolt into the main power feed; the BRSes 
   on more recent mainframes physically drop a block into place so that 
   they can't be pushed back in. People get fired for pulling them, 
   especially inappropriately (see also {molly-guard}). Compare {power 
   cycle}, {three-finger salute}; 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 
   [email protected] 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}. 

: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 bit}. 

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

:bit bang: n. Transmission of data on a serial line, when accomplished by 
   rapidly tweaking a single output bit, in software, at the appropriate 
   times. The technique is a simple loop with eight OUT and SHIFT 
   instruction pairs for each byte. Input is more interesting. And full 
   duplex (doing input and output at the same time) is one way to separate 
   the real hackers from the {wannabee}s. 

   Bit bang was used on certain early models of Prime computers, 
   presumably when UARTs were too expensive, and on archaic Z80 micros with 
   a Zilog PIO but no SIO. In an interesting instance of the {cycle of 
   reincarnation}, this technique returned to use in the early 1990s on 
   some RISC architectures because it consumes such an infinitesimal part 
   of the processor that it actually makes sense not to have a UART. 
   Compare {cycle of reincarnation}. 

:bit bashing: n. (alt. `bit diddling' or {bit twiddling}) Term used to 
   describe any of several kinds of low-level programming characterized by 
   manipulation of {bit}, {flag}, {nybble}, and other 
   smaller-than-character-sized pieces of data; these include low-level 
   device control, encryption algorithms, checksum and error-correcting 
   codes, hash functions, some flavors of graphics programming (see 
   {bitblt}), and assembler/compiler code generation. May connote either 
   tedium or a real technical challenge (more usually the former). "The 
   command decoding for the new tape driver looks pretty solid but the 
   bit-bashing for the control registers still has bugs." See also {bit 
   bang}, {mode bit}. 

:bit bucket: n. [very common] 1. The universal data sink (originally, the 
   mythical receptacle used to catch bits when they fall off the end of a 
   register during a shift instruction). Discarded, lost, or destroyed data 
   is said to have `gone to the bit bucket'. On {{Unix}}, often used for 
   {/dev/null}. Sometimes amplified as `the Great Bit Bucket in the Sky'. 
   2. The place where all lost mail and news messages eventually go. The 
   selection is performed according to {Finagle's Law}; important mail is 
   much more likely to end up in the bit bucket than junk mail, which has 
   an almost 100% probability of getting delivered. Routing to the bit 
   bucket is automatically performed by mail-transfer agents, news systems, 
   and the lower layers of the network. 3. The ideal location for all 
   unwanted mail responses: "Flames about this article to the bit bucket." 
   Such a request is guaranteed to overflow one's mailbox with flames. 4. 
   Excuse for all mail that has not been sent. "I mailed you those figures 
   last week; they must have landed in the bit bucket." Compare {black 

   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. 

:bit decay: n. See {bit rot}. People with a physics background tend to 
   prefer this variant for the analogy with particle decay. See also 
   {computron}, {quantum bogodynamics}. 

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

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

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

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

:bit-paired keyboard: n.,obs. (alt. `bit-shift keyboard') A non-standard 
   keyboard layout that seems to have originated with the Teletype ASR-33 
   and remained common for several years on early computer equipment. The 
   ASR-33 was a mechanical device (see {EOU}), so the only way to generate 
   the character codes from keystrokes was by some physical linkage. The 
   design of the ASR-33 assigned each character key a basic pattern that 
   could be modified by flipping bits if the SHIFT or the CTRL key was 
   pressed. In order to avoid making the thing even more of a kluge than it 
   already was, the design had to group characters that shared the same 
   basic bit pattern on one key. 

   Looking at the ASCII chart, we find: 

     high  low bits
     bits  0000 0001 0010 0011 0100 0101 0110 0111 1000 1001
      010        !    "    #    $    %    &    '    (    )
      011   0    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9
   This is why the characters !"#$%&'() appear where they do on a 
   Teletype (thankfully, they didn't use shift-0 for space). The Teletype 
   Model 33 was actually designed before ASCII existed, and was originally 
   intended to use a code that contained these two rows: 

           low bits
     high  0000  0010  0100  0110  1000  1010  1100  1110
     bits     0001  0011  0101  0111  1001  1011  1101  1111
       10   )  ! bel #  $  % wru &  *  (  "  :  ?  _  ,   .
       11   0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  '  ;  /  - esc del
   The result would have been something closer to a normal keyboard. But 
   as it happened, Teletype had to use a lot of persuasion just to keep 
   ASCII, and the Model 33 keyboard, from looking like this instead: 

               !  "  ?  $  '  &  -  (  )  ;  :  *  /  ,  .
            0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  +  ~  <  >  �  |
   Teletype's was _not_ the weirdest variant of the {QWERTY} layout 
   widely seen, by the way; that prize should probably go to one of several 
   (differing) arrangements on IBM's even clunkier 026 and 029 card 

   When electronic terminals became popular, in the early 1970s, there 
   was no agreement in the industry over how the keyboards should be laid 
   out. Some vendors opted to emulate the Teletype keyboard, while others 
   used the flexibility of electronic circuitry to make their product look 
   like an office typewriter. Either choice was supported by the ANSI 
   computer keyboard standard, X4.14-1971, which referred to the 
   alternatives as `logical bit pairing' and `typewriter pairing'. These 
   alternatives became known as `bit-paired' and `typewriter-paired' 
   keyboards. To a hacker, the bit-paired keyboard seemed far more logical 
   -- and because most hackers in those days had never learned to 
   touch-type, there was little pressure from the pioneering users to adapt 
   keyboards to the typewriter standard. 

   The doom of the bit-paired keyboard was the large-scale introduction 
   of the computer terminal into the normal office environment, where 
   out-and-out technophobes were expected to use the equipment. The 
   `typewriter-paired' standard became universal, X4.14 was superseded by 
   X4.23-1982, `bit-paired' hardware was quickly junked or relegated to 
   dusty corners, and both terms passed into disuse. 

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

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

:BITNET: /bit'net/ n., obs. [acronym: Because It's Time NETwork] 
   Everybody's least favorite piece of the network (see {the network}) - 
   until AOL happened. The BITNET hosts were a collection of IBM dinosaurs 
   and VAXen (the latter with lobotomized comm hardware) that communicated 
   using 80-character {{EBCDIC}} card images (see {eighty-column mind}); 
   thus, they tended to mangle the headers and text of third-party traffic 
   from the rest of the ASCII/{RFC}-822 world with annoying regularity. 
   BITNET was also notorious as the apparent home of {B1FF}. By 1995 it 
   had, much to everyone's relief, been obsolesced and absorbed into the 
   Internet. Unfortunately, around this time we also got AOL. 

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

:bitty box: /bit'ee boks/ n. 1. A computer sufficiently small, primitive, 
   or incapable as to cause a hacker acute claustrophobia at the thought of 
   developing software on or for it. Especially used of small, obsolescent, 
   single-tasking-only personal machines such as the Atari 800, Osborne, 
   Sinclair, VIC-20, TRS-80, or IBM PC. 2. [Pejorative] More generally, the 
   opposite of `real computer' (see {Get a real computer!}). See also 
   {mess-dos}, {toaster}, and {toy}. 

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

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

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

:black hat: [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. 

:black hole: n.,vt. [common] What data (a piece of email or netnews, or a 
   stream of TCP/IP packets) has fallen into if it disappears mysteriously 
   between its origin and destination sites (that is, without returning a 
   {bounce message}). "I think there's a black hole at foovax!" conveys 
   suspicion that site foovax has been dropping a lot of stuff on the floor 
   lately (see {drop on the floor}). The implied metaphor of email as 
   interstellar travel is interesting in itself. Readily verbed as 
   `blackhole': "That router is blackholing IDP packets." Compare {bit 
   bucket} and see {RBL}. 

:black magic: n. [common] A technique that works, though nobody really 
   understands why. More obscure than {voodoo programming}, which may be 
   done by cookbook. Compare also {black art}, {deep magic}, and {magic 
   number} (sense 2). 

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

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

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

:blast: 1. v.,n. Synonym for {BLT}, used esp. for large data sends over a 
   network or comm line. Opposite of {snarf}. Usage: uncommon. The variant 
   `blat' has been reported. 2. vt. [HP/Apollo] Synonymous with {nuke} 
   (sense 3). Sometimes the message `Unable to kill all processes. Blast 
   them (y/n)?' would appear in the command window upon logout. 

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

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

:bletcherous: /blech'*-r*s/ adj. Disgusting in design or function; 
   esthetically unappealing. This word is seldom used of people. "This 
   keyboard is bletcherous!" (Perhaps the keys don't work very well, or are 
   misplaced.) See {losing}, {cretinous}, {bagbiting}, {bogus}, and 
   {random}. The term {bletcherous} applies to the esthetics of the thing 
   so described; similarly for {cretinous}. By contrast, something that is 
   `losing' or `bagbiting' may be failing to meet objective criteria. See 
   also {bogus} and {random}, which have richer and wider shades of meaning 
   than any of the above. 

:blink: vi.,n. To use a navigator or off-line message reader to minimize 
   time spent on-line to a commercial network service (a necessity in many 
   places outside the U.S. where the telecoms monopolies charge per-minute 
   for local calls). This term attained wide use in the UK, but is rare or 
   unknown in the US. 

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

   This term derives from the last word of the famous blackletter-Gothic 
   sign in mangled pseudo-German that once graced about half the computer 
   rooms in the English-speaking world. One version ran in its entirety as 

     Das computermachine ist nicht fuer gefingerpoken und mittengrabben.
     Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und poppencorken
     mit spitzensparken.  Ist nicht fuer gewerken bei das dumpkopfen.
     Das rubbernecken sichtseeren keepen das cotten-pickenen hans in das
     pockets muss; relaxen und watchen das blinkenlichten.
   This silliness dates back at least as far as 1959 at Stanford 
   University and had already gone international by the early 1960s, when 
   it was reported at London University's ATLAS computing site. There are 
   several variants of it in circulation, some of which actually do end 
   with the word `blinkenlights'. 

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

     This room is fullfilled mit special electronische equippment.
     Fingergrabbing and pressing the cnoeppkes from the computers is
     allowed for die experts only!  So all the "lefthanders" stay away
     and do not disturben the brainstorming von here working
     intelligencies.  Otherwise you will be out thrown and kicked
     anderswhere!  Also: please keep still and only watchen astaunished
     the blinkenlights.
   See also {geef}. 

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

   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 

     Das Internet is nicht fuer gefingerclicken und giffengrabben. Ist
     easy droppenpacket der routers und overloaden der backbone mit der
     spammen und der me-tooen.  Ist nicht fuer gewerken bei das
     dumpkopfen. Das mausklicken sichtseeren keepen das bandwit-spewin
     hans in das pockets muss; relaxen und watchen das cursorblinken.
   This newest version partly reflects reports that the word 
   `blinkenlights' is (in 1999) undergoing something of a revival in usage, 
   but applied to networking equipment. The transmit and receive lights on 
   routers, activity lights on switches and hubs, and other network 
   equipment often blink in visually pleasing and seemingly coordinated 
   ways. Although this is different in some ways from register readings, a 
   tall stack of Cisco equipment or a 19-inch rack of ISDN terminals can 
   provoke a similar feeling of hypnotic awe, especially in a darkened 
   network operations center or server room. 

:blit: /blit/ vt. 1. [common] To copy a large array of bits from one part 
   of a computer's memory to another part, particularly when the memory is 
   being used to determine what is shown on a display screen. "The storage 
   allocator picks through the table and copies the good parts up into high 
   memory, and then blits it all back down again." See {bitblt}, {BLT}, 
   {dd}, {cat}, {blast}, {snarf}. More generally, to perform some operation 
   (such as toggling) on a large array of bits while moving them. 2. 
   [historical, rare] Sometimes all-capitalized as `BLIT': an early 
   experimental bit-mapped terminal designed by Rob Pike at Bell Labs, 
   later commercialized as the AT&T 5620. (The folk etymology from `Bell 
   Labs Intelligent Terminal' is incorrect. Its creators liked to claim 
   that "Blit" stood for the Bacon, Lettuce, and Interactive Tomato.) 

:blitter: /blit'r/ n. [common] A special-purpose chip or hardware system 
   built to perform {blit} operations, esp. used for fast implementation of 
   bit-mapped graphics. The Commodore Amiga and a few other micros have 
   these, but since 1990 the trend has been away from them (however, see 
   {cycle of reincarnation}). Syn. {raster blaster}. 

:blivet: /bliv'*t/ n. [allegedly from a World War II military term 
   meaning "ten pounds of manure in a five-pound bag"] 1. An intractable 
   problem. 2. A crucial piece of hardware that can't be fixed or replaced 
   if it breaks. 3. A tool that has been hacked over by so many incompetent 
   programmers that it has become an unmaintainable tissue of hacks. 4. An 
   out-of-control but unkillable development effort. 5. An embarrassing bug 
   that pops up during a customer demo. 6. In the subjargon of computer 
   security specialists, a denial-of-service attack performed by hogging 
   limited resources that have no access controls (for example, shared 
   spool space on a multi-user system). 

   This term has other meanings in other technical cultures; among 
   experimental physicists and hardware engineers of various kinds it seems 
   to mean any random object of unknown purpose (similar to hackish use of 
   {frob}). It has also been used to describe an amusing trick-the-eye 
   drawing resembling a three-pronged fork that appears to depict a 
   three-dimensional object until one realizes that the parts fit together 
   in an impossible way. 

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

:BLOB: 1. n. [acronym: Binary Large OBject] Used by database people to 
   refer to any random large block of bits that needs to be stored in a 
   database, such as a picture or sound file. The essential point about a 
   BLOB is that it's an object that cannot be interpreted within the 
   database itself. 2. v. To {mailbomb} someone by sending a BLOB to 
   him/her; esp. used as a mild threat. "If that program crashes again, I'm 
   going to BLOB the core dump to you." 

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

: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' 
   (the hyperlinked totality of all blogs and the culture that surrounds 

: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}. 

:blogrolling: 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/ or (rarely) /belt/ n.,vt. Synonym for {blit}. This 
   is the original form of {blit} and the ancestor of {bitblt}. It referred 
   to any large bit-field copy or move operation (one resource-intensive 
   memory-shuffling operation done on pre-paged versions of ITS, WAITS, and 
   TOPS-10 was sardonically referred to as `The Big BLT'). The jargon usage 
   has outlasted the {PDP-10} BLock Transfer instruction from which {BLT} 
   derives; nowadays, the assembler mnemonic {BLT} almost always means 
   `Branch if Less Than zero'. 

:Blue Book: n. 1. Informal name for one of the four standard references 
   on the page-layout and graphics-control language {{PostScript}} 
   ("PostScript Language Tutorial and Cookbook", Adobe Systems, 
   Addison-Wesley 1985, QA76.73.P67P68, ISBN 0-201-10179-3); the other 
   three official guides are known as the {Green Book}, the {Red Book}, and 
   the {White Book} (sense 2). 2. Informal name for one of the three 
   standard references on Smalltalk: "Smalltalk-80: The Language and its 
   Implementation", David Robson, Addison-Wesley 1983, QA76.8.S635G64, ISBN 
   0-201-11371-63 (this book also has green and red siblings). 3. Any of 
   the 1988 standards issued by the CCITT's ninth plenary assembly. These 
   include, among other things, the X.400 email spec and the Group 1 
   through 4 fax standards. See also {{book titles}}. 

:blue box: n. 1. obs. Once upon a time, before all-digital switches made 
   it possible for the phone companies to move them out of band, one could 
   actually hear the switching tones used to route long-distance calls. 
   Early {phreaker}s built devices called `blue boxes' that could reproduce 
   these tones, which could be used to commandeer portions of the phone 
   network. (This was not as hard as it may sound; one early phreak 
   acquired the sobriquet `Captain Crunch' after he proved that he could 
   generate switching tones with a plastic whistle pulled out of a box of 
   Captain Crunch cereal!) There were other colors of box with more 
   specialized phreaking uses; red boxes, black boxes, silver boxes, etc. 
   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 pen}s. A 
   correspondent at U. Minn. reports that the CS department there has about 
   80 bottles of the stuff hanging about, so they often refer to any messy 
   work to be done as `using the blue glue'. 

:blue goo: n. Term for `police' {nanobot}s intended to prevent {gray 
   goo}, denature hazardous waste, destroy pollution, put ozone back into 
   the stratosphere, prevent halitosis, and promote truth, justice, and the 
   American way, etc. The term `Blue Goo' can be found in Dr. Seuss's "Fox 
   In Socks" to refer to a substance much like bubblegum. `Would you like 
   to chew blue goo, sir?'. See {{nanotechnology}}. 

:Blue Screen of Death: n. [common] This term is closely related to the 
   older {Black Screen of Death} but much more common (many non-hackers 
   have picked it up). Due to the extreme fragility and bugginess of 
   Microsoft Windows, misbehaving applications can readily crash the OS 
   (and the OS sometimes crashes itself spontaneously). The Blue Screen of 
   Death, sometimes decorated with hex error codes, is what you get when 
   this happens. (Commonly abbreviated {BSOD}.) 

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

             Windows NT crashed.
             I am the Blue Screen of Death
             No one hears your screams.
:blue wire: n. [IBM] Patch wires (esp. 30 AWG gauge) added to circuit 
   boards at the factory to correct design or fabrication problems. Blue 
   wire is not necessarily blue, the term describes function rather than 
   color. These may be necessary if there hasn't been time to design and 
   qualify another board version. In Great Britain this can be `bodge 
   wire', after 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 

:BNF: /B-N-F/ n. 1. [techspeak] Acronym for `Backus Normal Form' (later 
   retronymed to `Backus-Naur Form' because BNF was not in fact a normal 
   form), a metasyntactic notation used to specify the syntax of 
   programming languages, command sets, and the like. Widely used for 
   language descriptions but seldom documented anywhere, so that it must 
   usually be learned by osmosis from other hackers. Consider this BNF for 
   a U.S. postal address: 

      <postal-address> ::= <name-part> <street-address> <zip-part>
      <personal-part> ::= <name> | <initial> "."
      <name-part> ::= <personal-part> <last-name> [<jr-part>] <EOL>
                    | <personal-part> <name-part>
      <street-address> ::= [<apt>] <house-num> <street-name> <EOL>
      <zip-part> ::= <town-name> "," <state-code> <ZIP-code> <EOL>
   This translates into English as: "A postal-address consists of a 
   name-part, followed by a street-address part, followed by a zip-code 
   part. A personal-part consists of either a first name or an initial 
   followed by a dot. A name-part consists of either: a personal-part 
   followed by a last name followed by an optional `jr-part' (Jr., Sr., or 
   dynastic number) and end-of-line, or a personal part followed by a name 
   part (this rule illustrates the use of recursion in BNFs, covering the 
   case of people who use multiple first and middle names and/or initials). 
   A street address consists of an optional apartment specifier, followed 
   by a street number, followed by a street name. A zip-part consists of a 
   town-name, followed by a comma, followed by a state code, followed by a 
   ZIP-code followed by an end-of-line." Note that many things (such as the 
   format of a personal-part, apartment specifier, or ZIP-code) are left 
   unspecified. These are presumed to be obvious from context or detailed 
   somewhere nearby. See also {parse}. 2. Any of a number of variants and 
   extensions of BNF proper, possibly containing some or all of the 
   {regexp} wildcards such as `*' or `+'. In fact the example above isn't 
   the pure form invented for the Algol-60 report; it uses `[]', which was 
   introduced a few years later in IBM's PL/I definition but is now 
   universally recognized. 3. In {{science-fiction fandom}}, a `Big-Name 
   Fan' (someone famous or notorious). Years ago a fan started handing out 
   black-on-green BNF buttons at SF conventions; this confused the hacker 
   contingent terribly. 

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

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

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

   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) equipment. 

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

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

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

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

:BOF: /B-O-F/ or /bof/ n. 1. [common] Abbreviation for the phrase "Birds 
   Of a Feather" (flocking together), an informal discussion group and/or 
   bull session scheduled on a conference program. It is not clear where or 
   when this term originated, but it is now associated with the USENIX 
   conferences for Unix techies and was already established there by 1984. 
   It was used earlier than that at DECUS conferences and is reported to 
   have been common at SHARE meetings as far back as the early 1960s. 2. 
   Acronym, `Beginning of File'. 

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

   Several people have written stories about BOFHs. The set usually 
   considered canonical is by Simon Travaglia and may be found at the 
   Bastard Home Page ( BOFHs and BOFH 
   wannabes hang out on {scary devil monastery} and wield {LART}s. 

:bogo-sort: /boh`goh-sort'/ n. (var. `stupid-sort') The archetypical 
   perversely awful algorithm (as opposed to {bubble sort}, which is merely 
   the generic _bad_ algorithm). Bogo-sort is equivalent to repeatedly 
   throwing a deck of cards in the air, picking them up at random, and then 
   testing whether they are in order. It serves as a sort of canonical 
   example of awfulness. Looking at a program and seeing a dumb algorithm, 
   one might say "Oh, I see, this program uses bogo-sort." Esp. appropriate 
   for algorithms with factorial or super-exponential running time in the 
   average case and probabilistically infinite worst-case running time. 
   Compare {bogus}, {brute force}, {lasherism}. 

   A spectacular variant of bogo-sort has been proposed which has the 
   interesting property that, if the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum 
   mechanics is true, it can sort an arbitrarily large array in 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 it 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 

   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/ [Usenet: variously ascribed to the TV series "Cheers", 
   "Moonlighting", and "Soap"] 1. v. To have sex with; compare {bounce}, 
   sense 3. (This is mainstream slang.) In Commonwealth hackish the variant 
   `bonk' is more common. 2. n. After the original Peter Korn `Boinkon' 
   {Usenet} parties, used for almost any net social gathering, e.g., 
   Miniboink, a small boink held by Nancy Gillett in 1988; Minniboink, a 
   Boinkcon in Minnesota in 1989; Humpdayboinks, Wednesday get-togethers 
   held in the San Francisco Bay Area. Compare {@-party}. 3. Var of `bonk'; 
   see {bonk/oif}. 

:bomb: 1. v. General synonym for {crash} (sense 1) except that it is not 
   used as a noun; esp. used of software or OS failures. "Don't run Empire 
   with less than 32K stack, it'll bomb." 2. n.,v. Atari ST and Macintosh 
   equivalents of a Unix `panic' or Amiga {guru meditation}, in which icons 
   of little black-powder bombs or mushroom clouds are displayed, 
   indicating that the system has died. On the Mac, this may be accompanied 
   by a decimal (or occasionally hexadecimal) number indicating what went 
   wrong, similar to the Amiga {guru meditation} number. {{MS-DOS}} 
   machines tend to get {locked up} in this situation. 

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

:bonk/oif: /bonk/, /oyf/ interj. In the U.S. {MUD} community, it has 
   become traditional to express pique or censure by `bonking' the 
   offending person. Convention holds that one should acknowledge a bonk by 
   saying `oif!' and there is a myth to the effect that failing to do so 
   upsets the cosmic bonk/oif balance, causing much trouble in the 
   universe. Some MUDs have implemented special commands for bonking and 
   oifing. Note: in parts of the U.K. `bonk' is a sexually loaded slang 
   term; care is advised in transatlantic conversations (see {boink}). 
   Commonwealth hackers report a similar convention involving the 
   `fish/bang' balance. See also {talk mode}. 

:book titles:: There is a tradition in hackerdom of informally tagging 
   important textbooks and standards documents with the dominant color of 
   their covers or with some other conspicuous feature of the cover. Many 
   of these are described in this lexicon under their own entries. See 
   {Aluminum Book}, {Blue Book}, {Camel Book}, {Cinderella Book}, {Devil 
   Book}, {Dragon Book}, {Green Book}, {Orange Book}, {Purple Book}, {Red 
   Book}, {Silver Book}, {White Book}, {Wizard Book}, {Yellow Book}, and 
   {bible}; see also {rainbow series}. Since about 1983 this tradition has 
   gotten a boost from the popular O'Reilly and Associates line of 
   technical books, which usually feature some kind of exotic animal on the 

: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 

   This term is also found in the variants `cold boot' (from power-off 
   condition) and `warm boot' (with the CPU and all devices already powered 
   up, as after a hardware reset or software crash). 

   Another variant: `soft boot', reinitialization of only part of a 
   system, under control of other software still running: "If you're 
   running the {mess-dos} emulator, control-alt-insert will cause a 
   soft-boot of the emulator, while leaving the rest of the system 

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

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

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

   In IETF circles, where direct pressure from Microsoft is not a daily 
   reality, the Borg is sometimes Cisco. This usage 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 {nick}s already claimed by others, 
   and MsgServ, which allows one to send asynchronous messages to be 
   delivered when the recipient signs on. Also common are `annoybots', such 
   as KissServ, which perform no useful function except to send cute 
   messages to other people. Service bots are less common on MUDs; but some 
   others, such as the `Julia' bot active in 1990-91, have been remarkably 
   impressive Turing-test experiments, able to pass as human for as long as 
   ten or fifteen minutes of conversation. 2. An AI-controlled player in a 
   computer game (especially a first-person shooter such as Quake) which, 
   unlike ordinary monsters, operates like a human-controlled player, with 
   access to a player's weapons and abilities. An example can be found at 
   `'. 3. Term used, though less 
   commonly, for a web {spider}. The file for controlling spider behavior 
   on your site is officially the "Robots Exclusion File" and its URL is 

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

: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 reading. 

:bottom-up implementation: n. Hackish opposite of the techspeak term 
   `top-down design'. It has been received wisdom in most programming 
   cultures that it is best to design from higher levels of abstraction 
   down to lower, specifying sequences of action in increasing detail until 
   you get to actual code. Hackers often find (especially in exploratory 
   designs that cannot be closely specified in advance) that it works best 
   to _build_ things in the opposite order, by writing and testing a clean 
   set of primitive operations and then knitting them together. Naively 
   applied, this leads to hacked-together bottom-up implementations; a more 
   sophisticated response is `middle-out implementation', in which scratch 
   code within primitives at the mid-level of the system is gradually 
   replaced with a more polished version of the lowest level at the same 
   time the structure above the midlevel is being built. 

:bounce: v. 1. [common; perhaps by analogy to a bouncing check] An 
   electronic mail message that is undeliverable and returns an error 
   notification to the sender is said to `bounce'. See also {bounce 
   message}. 2. [Stanford] To play volleyball. The now-demolished {D. C. 
   Power Lab} building used by the Stanford AI Lab in the 1970s had a 
   volleyball court on the front lawn. From 5 P.M. to 7 P.M. was the 
   scheduled maintenance time for the computer, so every afternoon at 5 
   would come over the intercom the cry: "Now hear this: bounce, bounce!", 
   followed by Brian McCune loudly bouncing a volleyball on the floor 
   outside the offices of known volleyballers. 3. To engage in sexual 
   intercourse; prob. from the expression `bouncing the mattress', but 
   influenced by Roo's psychosexually loaded "Try bouncing me, Tigger!" 
   from the "Winnie-the-Pooh" books. Compare {boink}. 4. To casually reboot 
   a system in order to clear up a transient problem (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. 5. [VM/CMS 
   programmers] _Automatic_ warm-start of a machine after an error. "I 
   logged on this morning and found it had bounced 7 times during the 
   night" 6. [IBM] To {power cycle} a peripheral in order to reset it. 

:bounce message: n. [common] Notification message returned to sender by a 
   site unable to relay {email} to the intended Internet address recipient 
   or the next link in a {bang path} (see {bounce}, sense 1). Reasons might 
   include a nonexistent or misspelled username or a {down} relay site. 
   Bounce messages can themselves fail, with occasionally ugly results; see 
   {sorcerer's apprentice mode} and {software laser}. The terms `bounce 
   mail' and `barfmail' are also common. 

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

:box: n. 1. A computer; esp. in the construction `foo box' where foo is 
   some functional qualifier, like `graphics', or the name of an OS (thus, 
   `Unix box', `Windows box', etc.) "We preprocess the data on Unix boxes 
   before handing it up to the mainframe." 2. [IBM] Without qualification 
   but within an SNA-using site, this refers specifically to an IBM 
   front-end processor or FEP /F-E-P/. An FEP is a small computer necessary 
   to enable an IBM {mainframe} to communicate beyond the limits of the 
   {dinosaur pen}. Typically used in expressions like the cry that goes up 
   when an SNA network goes down: "Looks like the {box} has fallen over." 
   (See {fall over}.) See also {IBM}, {fear and loathing}, {Blue Glue}. 

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

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

:boxen: /bok'sn/ pl.n. [very common; by analogy with {VAXen}] Fanciful 
   plural of {box} often encountered in the phrase `Unix boxen', used to 
   describe commodity {{Unix}} hardware. The connotation is that any two 
   Unix boxen are interchangeable. 

:boxology: /bok-sol'*-jee/ n. Syn. {ASCII art}. This term implies a more 
   restricted domain, that of box-and-arrow drawings. "His report has a lot 
   of boxology in it." Compare {macrology}. 

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

:BQS: /B-Q-S/ adj. Syn. {Berkeley Quality Software}. 

:brain dump: n. [common] The act of telling someone everything one knows 
   about a particular topic or project. Typically used when someone is 
   going to let a new party maintain a piece of code. Conceptually 
   analogous to an operating system {core dump} in that it saves a lot of 
   useful {state} before an exit. "You'll have to give me a brain dump on 
   FOOBAR before you start your new job at HackerCorp." See {core dump} 
   (sense 4). At Sun, this is also known as `TOI' (transfer of 

:brain fart: n. The actual result of a {braino}, as opposed to the mental 
   glitch that is the braino itself. E.g., typing `dir' on a Unix box after 
   a session with DOS. 

:brain-damaged: adj. 1. [common; generalization of `Honeywell Brain 
   Damage' (HBD), a theoretical disease invented to explain certain utter 
   cretinisms in Honeywell {{Multics}}] adj. Obviously wrong; {cretinous}; 
   {demented}. There is an implication that the person responsible must 
   have suffered brain damage, because he should have known better. Calling 
   something brain-damaged is really bad; it also implies it is unusable, 
   and that its failure to work is due to poor design rather than some 
   accident. "Only six monocase characters per file name? Now _that's_ 
   brain-damaged!" 2. [esp. in the Mac world] May refer to free 
   demonstration software that has been deliberately crippled in some way 
   so as not to compete with the product it is intended to sell. Syn. 

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

: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 `footprinting'). 

:break: 1. vt. To cause to be {broken} (in any sense). "Your latest patch 
   to the editor broke the paragraph commands." 2. v. (of a program) To 
   stop temporarily, so that it may debugged. The place where it stops is a 
   `breakpoint'. 3. [techspeak] vi. To send an RS-232 break (two character 
   widths of line high) over a serial comm line. 4. [Unix] vi. To strike 
   whatever key currently causes the tty driver to send SIGINT to the 
   current process. Normally, break (sense 3), delete or {control-C} does 
   this. 5. `break break' may be said to interrupt a conversation (this is 
   an example of verb doubling). This usage comes from radio 
   communications, which in turn probably came from landline 
   telegraph/teleprinter usage, as badly abused in the Citizen's Band craze 
   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 

   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 

:bricktext: [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 sppaces, 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 {hog}. 

:brittle: adj. Said of software that is functional but easily broken by 
   changes in operating environment or configuration, or by any minor tweak 
   to the software itself. Also, any system that responds inappropriately 
   and disastrously to abnormal but expected external stimuli; e.g., a file 
   system that is usually totally scrambled by a power failure is said to 
   be brittle. This term is often used to describe the results of a 
   research effort that were never intended to be robust, but it can be 
   applied to commercial software, which (due to closed-source development) 
   displays the quality far more often than it ought to. Oppose {robust}. 

:broadcast storm: n. [common] An incorrect packet broadcast on a network 
   that causes most hosts to respond all at once, typically with wrong 
   answers that start the process over again. See {network meltdown}; 
   compare {mail storm}. 

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

:broken: adj. 1. Not working 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 sende 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 

: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 

:broken-ring network: Pejorative hackerism for "token-ring network", an 
   early 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/ or /broh'ket`/ n. [rare; by analogy with `bracket': a 
   `broken bracket'] Either of the characters `<' and `>', when used as 
   paired enclosing delimiters. This word originated as a contraction of 
   the phrase `broken bracket', that is, a bracket that is bent in the 
   middle. (At MIT, and apparently in the {Real World} as well, these are 
   usually called {angle brackets}.) 

:Brooks's Law: prov. "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it 
   later" -- a result of the fact that the expected advantage from 
   splitting development work among N programmers is O(N) (that is, 
   proportional to N), but the complexity and communications cost 
   associated with coordinating and then merging their work is O(N^2) (that 
   is, proportional to the square of N). The quote is from Fred Brooks, a 
   manager of IBM's OS/360 project and author of "The Mythical Man-Month" 
   (Addison-Wesley, 1975, ISBN 0-201-00650-2), an excellent early book on 
   software engineering. The myth in question has been most tersely 
   expressed as "Programmer time is fungible" and Brooks established 
   conclusively that it is not. Hackers have never forgotten his advice 
   (though it's not the whole story; see {bazaar}); too often, {management} 
   still does. See also {creationism}, {second-system effect}, {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 browser. 

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

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

   The {canonical} example of a brute-force algorithm is associated with 
   the `traveling salesman problem' (TSP), a classical {NP-}hard problem: 
   Suppose a person is in, say, Boston, and wishes to drive to N other 
   cities. In what order should the cities be visited in order to minimize 
   the distance travelled? The brute-force method is to simply generate all 
   possible routes and compare the distances; while guaranteed to work and 
   simple to implement, this algorithm is clearly very stupid in that it 
   considers even obviously absurd routes (like going from Boston to 
   Houston via San Francisco and New York, in that order). For very small N 
   it works well, but it rapidly becomes absurdly inefficient when N 
   increases (for N = 15, there are already 1,307,674,368,000 possible 
   routes to consider, and for N = 1000 -- well, see {bignum}). Sometimes, 
   unfortunately, there is no better general solution than brute force. See 
   also {NP-} 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 {4.2}, and {{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 
   `BUAF's. See {warlording}. 

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

: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 

: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 

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

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

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

:buffer overflow: n. What happens when you try to stuff more data into a 
   buffer (holding area) than it can handle. This problem is commonly 
   exploited by {cracker}s to get arbitrary commands executed by a program 
   running with root permissions. This may be due to a mismatch in the 
   processing rates of the producing and consuming processes (see {overrun} 
   and {firehose syndrome}), or because the buffer is simply too small to 
   hold all the data that must accumulate before a piece of it can be 
   processed. For example, in a text-processing tool that {crunch}es a line 
   at a time, a short line buffer can result in {lossage} as input from a 
   long line overflows the buffer and trashes data beyond it. Good 
   defensive programming would check for overflow on each character and 
   stop accepting data when the buffer is full up. The term is used of and 
   by humans in a metaphorical sense. "What time did I agree to meet you? 
   My buffer must have overflowed." Or "If I answer that phone my buffer is 
   going to overflow." See also {spam}, {overrun screw}. 

:bug: n. An unwanted and unintended property of a program or piece of 
   hardware, esp. one that causes it to malfunction. Antonym of {feature}. 
   Examples: "There's a bug in the editor: it writes things out backwards." 
   "The system crashed because of a hardware bug." "Fred is a winner, but 
   he has a few bugs" (i.e., Fred is a good guy, but he has a few 
   personality problems). 

   Historical note: Admiral Grace Hopper (an early computing pioneer 
   better known for inventing {COBOL}) liked to tell a story in which a 
   technician solved a {glitch} in the Harvard Mark II machine by pulling 
   an actual insect out from between the contacts of one of its relays, and 
   she subsequently promulgated {bug} in its hackish sense as a joke about 
   the incident (though, as she was careful to admit, she was not there 
   when it happened). For many years the logbook associated with the 
   incident and the actual bug in question (a moth) sat in a display case 
   at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC). The entire story, with a 
   picture of the logbook and the moth taped into it, is recorded in the 
   "Annals of the History of Computing", Vol. 3, No. 3 (July 1981), pp. 

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

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

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

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

   Further, the term "bug" has long been used among radio technicians to 
   describe a device that converts electromagnetic field variations into 
   acoustic signals. It is used to trace radio interference and look for 
   dangerous radio emissions. Radio community usage derives from the 
   roach-like shape of the first versions used by 19th century physicists. 
   The first versions consisted of a coil of wire (roach body), with the 
   two wire ends sticking out and bent back to nearly touch forming a spark 
   gap (roach antennae). The bug is to the radio technician what the 
   stethoscope is to the 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 

   In any case, in jargon the word almost never refers to insects. Here 
   is a plausible conversation that never actually happened: 

   "There is a bug in this ant farm!" 

   "What do you mean? I don't see any ants in it." 

   "That's the bug." 

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

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

:bug-compatible: adj. [common] Said of a design or revision that has been 
   badly compromised by a requirement to be compatible with {fossil}s or 
   {misfeature}s in other programs or (esp.) previous releases of itself. 
   "MS-DOS 2.0 used \ as a path separator to be bug-compatible with some 
   cretin's choice of / as an option character in 1.0." 

:bug-for-bug compatible: n. Same as {bug-compatible}, with the additional 
   implication that much tedious effort went into ensuring that each 
   (known) bug was replicated. 

:bug-of-the-month club: n. [from "book-of-the-month club", a time-honored 
   mail-order-marketing technique in the U.S.] A mythical club which users 
   of `sendmail(8)' (the Unix mail daemon) belong to; this was coined on 
   the Usenet newsgroup at a time when sendmail security 
   holes, which allowed outside {cracker}s access to the system, were being 
   uncovered at an alarming rate, forcing sysadmins to update very often. 
   Also, more completely, `fatal security bug-of-the-month club'. See also 
   {kernel-of-the-week club}. 

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

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

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

: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 writable 
   CDROM. 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 stage}. 

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

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

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

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

:buzz: vi. 1. Of a program, to run with no indication of progress and 
   perhaps without guarantee of ever finishing; esp. said of programs 
   thought to be executing tight loops of code. A program that is buzzing 
   appears to be {catatonic}, but never gets out of catatonia, while a 
   buzzing loop may eventually end of its own accord. "The program buzzes 
   for about 10 seconds trying to sort all the names into order." See 
   {spin}; see also {grovel}. 2. [ETA Systems] To test a wire or printed 
   circuit trace for continuity, esp. by applying an AC rather than DC 
   signal. Some wire faults will pass DC tests but fail an AC buzz test. 3. 
   To process an array or list in sequence, doing the same thing to each 
   element. "This loop buzzes through the tz array looking for a terminator 

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

:byte:: /bi:t/ n. [techspeak] A unit of memory or data equal to the 
   amount used to represent one character; on modern architectures this is 
   usually 8 bits, but may be 9 on 36-bit machines. Some older 
   architectures used `byte' for quantities of 6 or 7 bits, and the PDP-10 
   supported `bytes' that were actually bitfields of 1 to 36 bits! These 
   usages are now obsolete, and even 9-bit bytes have become rare in the 
   general trend toward power-of-2 word sizes. 

   Historical note: The term was coined by Werner Buchholz in 1956 during 
   the early design phase for the IBM Stretch computer; originally it was 
   described as 1 to 6 bits (typical I/O equipment of the period used 6-bit 
   chunks of information). The move to an 8-bit byte happened in late 1956, 
   and this size was later adopted and promulgated as a standard by the 
   System/360. The word was coined by mutating the word `bite' so it would 
   not be accidentally misspelled as {bit}. See also {nybble}. 

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

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

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

= C =

:C: n. 1. The third letter of the English alphabet. 2. ASCII 1000011. 3. 
   The name of a programming language designed by Dennis Ritchie during the 
   early 1970s and immediately used to reimplement {{Unix}}; so called 
   because many features derived from an earlier compiler named `B' in 
   commemoration of _its_ parent, BCPL. (BCPL was in turn descended from an 
   earlier Algol-derived language, CPL.) Before Bjarne Stroustrup settled 
   the question by designing {C++}, there was a humorous debate over 
   whether C's successor should be named `D' or `P'. C became immensely 
   popular outside Bell Labs after about 1980 and is now the dominant 
   language in systems and microcomputer applications programming. See also 
   {languages of choice}, {indent style}. 

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

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

:C&C: // [common, esp. on] Contraction of 
   "Coffee & Cats". This frequently occurs as a warning label on USENET 
   posts that are likely to cause you to {snarf} coffee onto your keyboard 
   and startle the cat off your lap. 

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

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

:Camel Book: n. Universally recognized nickname for the book "Programming 
   Perl", by Larry Wall and Randal L. Schwartz, O'Reilly and Associates 
   1991, ISBN 0-937175-64-1 (second edition 1996, ISBN 1-56592-149-6; third 
   edition 2000, 0-596-00027-8, adding as auhors Tom Christiansen and Jon 
   Orwant but dropping Randal Schwartz). The definitive reference on 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:canonical: adj. [very common; historically, `according to religious 
   law'] The usual or standard state or manner of something. This word has 
   a somewhat more technical meaning in mathematics. Two formulas such as 9 
   + x and x + 9 are said to be equivalent because they mean the same 
   thing, but the second one is in `canonical form' because it is written 
   in the usual way, with the highest power of x first. Usually there are 
   fixed rules you can use to decide whether something is in canonical 
   form. The jargon meaning, a relaxation of the technical meaning, 
   acquired its present loading in computer-science culture largely through 
   its prominence in Alonzo Church's work in computation theory and 
   mathematical logic (see {Knights of the Lambda Calculus}). Compare 

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

   The word `canon' has an interesting history. It derives ultimately 
   from the Greek `kanon' (akin to the English `cane') referring to a reed. 
   Reeds were used for measurement, and in Latin and later Greek the word 
   `canon' meant a rule or a standard. The establishment of a canon of 
   scriptures within Christianity was meant to define a standard or a rule 
   for the religion. The above non-techspeak academic usages stem from this 
   instance of a defined and accepted body of work. Alongside this usage 
   was the promulgation of `canons' (`rules') for the government of the 
   Catholic Church. The techspeak usages ("according to religious law") 
   derive from this use of the Latin `canon'. 

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

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

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

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

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

   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'] 1. The addition of a new 
   {feature} to an existing system by selecting the code from an existing 
   feature and pasting it in with minor changes. Common in telephony 
   circles because most operations in a telephone switch are selected using 
   `case' statements. Leads to {software bloat}. 

   In some circles of EMACS users this is called `programming by Meta-W', 
   because Meta-W is the EMACS command for copying a block of text to a 
   kill buffer in preparation to pasting it in elsewhere. The term is 
   condescending, implying that the programmer is acting mindlessly rather 
   than thinking carefully about what is required to integrate the code for 
   two similar cases. 

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

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

:casting the runes: n. What a {guru} does when you ask him or her to run 
   a particular program and type at it because it never works for anyone 
   else; esp. used when nobody can ever see what the guru is doing 
   different from what J. Random Luser does. Compare {incantation}, 
   {runes}, {examining the entrails}; also see the AI koan about Tom Knight 
   in "{Some AI Koans}" (Appendix A). 

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

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

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

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

   Of such oppositions are {holy wars} made.... 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" of 1996, passed as section 
   502 of a major telecommunications reform bill. The CDA made it a federal 
   crime in the USA to send a communication which is "obscene, lewd, 
   lascivious, filthy, or indecent, with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, 
   or harass another person." It also threatened with imprisonment anyone 
   who "knowingly" makes accessible to minors any message that "describes, 
   in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community 
   standards, sexual or excretory activities or organs". 

   While the CDA was sold as a measure to protect minors from the 
   putative evils of pornography, the repressive political aims of the bill 
   were laid bare by the Hyde amendment, which intended to outlaw 
   discussion of abortion on the Internet. 

   To say that this direct attack on First Amendment free-speech rights 
   was not well received on the Internet would be putting it mildly. A 
   firestorm of protest followed, including a February 29th mass 
   demonstration by thousands of netters who turned their {home page}s 
   black for 48 hours. Several civil-rights groups and 
   computing/telecommunications companies mounted a constitutional 
   challenge. The CDA was demolished by a strongly-worded decision handed 
   down in 8th-circuit Federal court and subsequently affirmed by the U.S. 
   Supreme Court on 26 June 1997 (`White Thursday'). See also {Exon}. 

:cdr: /ku'dr/ or /kuh'dr/ vt. [from LISP] To skip past the first item 
   from a list of things (generalized from the LISP operation on binary 
   tree structures, which returns a list consisting of all but the first 
   element of its argument). In the form `cdr down', to trace down a list 
   of elements: "Shall we cdr down the agenda?" Usage: silly. See also 
   {loop through}. 

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

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

:chad box: n. A metal box about the size of a lunchbox (or in some models 
   a large wastebasket), for collecting the {chad} (sense 2) that 
   accumulated in {Iron Age} card punches. You had to open the covers of 
   the card punch periodically and empty the chad box. The {bit bucket} was 
   notionally the equivalent device in the CPU enclosure, which was 
   typically across the room in another great gray-and-blue box. 

:chain: 1. vi. [orig. from BASIC's `CHAIN' statement] To hand off 
   execution to a child or successor without going through the {OS} command 
   interpreter that invoked it. The state of the parent program is lost and 
   there is no returning to it. Though this facility used to be common on 
   memory-limited micros and is still widely supported for backward 
   compatibility, the jargon usage is semi-obsolescent; in particular, most 
   Unix programmers will think of this as an {exec}. Oppose the more modern 
   `subshell'. 2. n. A series of linked data areas within an operating 
   system or application. `Chain rattling' is the process of repeatedly 
   running through the linked data areas searching for one which is of 
   interest to the executing program. The implication is that there is a 
   very large number of links on the chain. 

:chainik: [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 hacker-speak. 

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

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

:channel op: /chan'l op/ n. [IRC] Someone who is endowed with privileges 
   on a particular {IRC} channel; commonly abbreviated `chanop' or `CHOP' 
   or just `op' (as of 2000 these short forms have almost crowded out the 
   parent usage). These privileges include the right to {kick} users, to 
   change various status bits, and to make others into CHOPs. 

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

:char: /keir/ or /char/; rarely, /kar/ n. Shorthand for `character'. Esp. 
   used by C programmers, as `char' is C's typename for character data. 

:charityware: /cha'rit-ee-weir`/ n. Syn. {careware}. 

:chase pointers: 1. vi. To go through multiple levels of indirection, as 
   in traversing a linked list or graph structure. Used esp. by programmers 
   in C, where explicit pointers are a very common data type. This is 
   techspeak, but it remains jargon when used of human networks. "I'm 
   chasing pointers. Bob said you could tell me who to talk to about...." 
   See {dangling pointer} and {snap}. 2. [Cambridge] `pointer chase' or 
   `pointer hunt': The process of going through a {core dump} (sense 1), 
   interactively or on a large piece of paper printed with hex {runes}, 
   following dynamic data-structures. Used only in a debugging context. 

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

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

:cheerfully: adv.See {happily}. 

:chemist: n. [Cambridge] Someone who wastes computer time on 
   {number-crunching} when you'd far rather the machine were doing 
   something more productive, such as working out anagrams of your name or 
   printing Snoopy calendars or running {life} patterns. May or may not 
   refer to someone who actually studies chemistry. 

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

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

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

: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 
   `' for discussion. 

: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 `#define's." See {barf}, {gag}, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:Cinderella Book: [CMU] n. "Introduction to Automata Theory, Languages, 
   and Computation", by John Hopcroft and Jeffrey Ullman, (Addison-Wesley, 
   1979). So called because the cover depicts a girl (putatively 
   Cinderella) sitting in front of a Rube Goldberg device and holding a 
   rope coming out of it. On the back cover, the device is in shambles 
   after she has (inevitably) pulled on the rope. See also {{book titles}}. 

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

: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 

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

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

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

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

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

:clone: n. 1. An exact duplicate: "Our product is a clone of their 
   product." Implies a legal reimplementation from documentation or by 
   reverse-engineering. Also connotes lower price. 2. A shoddy, spurious 
   copy: "Their product is a clone of our product." 3. A blatant ripoff, 
   most likely violating copyright, patent, or trade secret protections: 
   "Your product is a clone of my product." This use implies legal action 
   is pending. 4. [obs] `PC clone:' a PC-BUS/ISA or EISA-compatible 
   80x86-based microcomputer (this use is sometimes spelled `klone' or 
   `PClone'). These invariably have much more bang for the buck than the 
   IBM archetypes they resemble. 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} it". 

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

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

:clue-by-four: [Usenet: portmanteau, clue + two-by-four] The notional 
   stick with which one whacks an aggressively clueless person. This term 
   derives from a western American folk saying about training a mule 
   "First, you got to hit him with a two-by-four. That's to get his 
   attention." The clue-by-four is a close relative of the {LART}. Syn. 
   `clue stick'. This metaphor is commonly elaborated; your editor once 
   heard a hacker say "I 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 bandwidthm. Often in the phrases `co-lo box' or 
   `co-lo machines'. Co-lo boxes are typically web and FTP servers 
   remote-administered by their owners, who may seldom or never visit the 
   actual site. 

:coaster: n. 1. Unuseable CD produced during failed attempt at writing to 
   writeable or re-writeable CD media. Certainly related to the 
   coaster-like shape of a CD, and the relative value of these failures. "I 
   made a lot of coasters before I got a good CD." 2. Useless CDs received 
   in the mail from the likes of AOL, MSN, CI$, Prodigy, ad nauseam. 

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

:coaster toaster: A writer for recordable CD-ROMs, especially cheap IDE 
   models that tend to produce a high proportion of {coaster}s. 

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

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

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

:code: 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. This is 
   a mass noun, as in "How much code does it take to do a {bubble sort}?", 
   or "The code is loaded at the high end of RAM." Anyone referring to 
   software as "the software codes" is probably a {newbie} or a {suit}. 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' wherwas 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. Compare {card walloper}; 
   contrast {hacker}, {Real Programmer}. 

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

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

:code police: n. [by analogy with George Orwell's `thought police'] A 
   mythical team of Gestapo-like storm troopers that might burst into one's 
   office and arrest one for violating programming style rules. May be used 
   either seriously, to underline a claim that a particular style violation 
   is dangerous, or ironically, to suggest that the practice under 
   discussion is condemned mainly by anal-retentive {weenie}s. "Dike out 
   that goto or the code police will get you!" The ironic usage is perhaps 
   more common. 

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

:codewalker: n. A program component that traverses other programs for a 
   living. Compilers have codewalkers in their front ends; so do 
   cross-reference generators and some database front ends. Other utility 
   programs that try to do too much with source code may turn into 
   codewalkers. As in "This new `vgrind' feature would require a codewalker 
   to implement." 

:coefficient of X: n. Hackish speech makes heavy use of 
   pseudo-mathematical metaphors. Four particularly important ones involve 
   the terms `coefficient', `factor', `index of X', and `quotient'. They 
   are often loosely applied to things you cannot really be quantitative 
   about, but there are subtle distinctions among them that convey 
   information about the way the speaker mentally models whatever he or she 
   is describing. 

   `Foo factor' and `foo quotient' tend to describe something for which 
   the issue is one of presence or absence. The canonical example is {fudge 
   factor}. It's not important how much you're fudging; the term simply 
   acknowledges that some fudging is needed. You might talk of liking a 
   movie for its silliness factor. Quotient tends to imply that the 
   property is a ratio of two opposing factors: "I would have won except 
   for my luck quotient." This could also be "I would have won except for 
   the luck factor", but using _quotient_ emphasizes that it was bad luck 
   overpowering good luck (or someone else's good luck overpowering your 

   `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 wib'l/). 

   Preferred {metasyntactic variable}s include {blurgle}, `eek', `ook', 
   `frodo', and `bilbo'; {wibble}, `wobble', and in emergencies `wubble'; 
   `flob', `banana', `tom', `dick', `harry', `wombat', `frog', {fish}, 
   {womble} and so on and on (see {foo}, sense 4). Alternatives to verb 
   doubling include suffixes `-o-rama', `frenzy' (as in feeding frenzy), 
   and `city' (examples: "barf city!" "hack-o-rama!" "core dump frenzy!"). 

   All the generic differences within the anglophone world inevitably 
   show themselves in the associated hackish dialects. The Greek letters 
   beta and zeta are usually pronounced /bee't*/ and /zee't*/; meta may 
   also be pronounced /mee't*/. Various punctuators (and even letters - Z 
   is called `zed', not `zee') are named differently: most crucially, for 
   hackish, where Americans use `parens', `brackets' and `braces' for (), 
   [] and {}, Commonwealth English uses `brackets', `square brackets' and 
   `curly brackets', though `parentheses' may be used for the first; the 
   exclamation mark, `!', is called pling rather than bang and the pound 
   sign, `#', is called hash; furthermore, the term `the pound sign' is 
   understood to mean the pound currency symbol (of course). 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 {feature}s and {cruft} that don't merge cleanly into 
   the overall design scheme (thus, some fans of {Classic C} maintain that 
   ANSI C is no longer compact). 

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

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

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

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

: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. --ESR] 

:computron: /kom'pyoo-tron`/ n. 1. [common] A notional unit of computing 
   power combining instruction speed and storage capacity, dimensioned 
   roughly in instructions-per-second times megabytes-of-main-store times 
   megabytes-of-mass-storage. "That machine can't run GNU Emacs, it doesn't 
   have enough computrons!" This usage is usually found in metaphors that 
   treat computing power as a fungible commodity good, like a crop yield or 
   diesel horsepower. See {bitty box}, {Get a real computer!}, {toy}, 
   {crank}. 2. A mythical subatomic particle that bears the unit quantity 
   of computation or information, in much the same way that an electron 
   bears one unit of electric charge (see also {bogon}). An elaborate 
   pseudo-scientific theory of computrons has been developed based on the 
   physical fact that the molecules in a solid object move more rapidly as 
   it is heated. It is argued that an object melts because the molecules 
   have lost their information about where they are supposed to be (that 
   is, they have emitted computrons). This explains why computers get so 
   hot and require air conditioning; they use up computrons. Conversely, it 
   should be possible to cool down an object by placing it in the path of a 
   computron beam. It is believed that this may also explain why machines 
   that work at the factory fail in the computer room: the computrons there 
   have been all used up by the other hardware. (The popularity of this 
   theory probably owes something to the "Warlock" stories by Larry Niven, 
   the best known being "What Good is a Glass Dagger?", in which magic is 
   fueled by an exhaustible natural resource called `mana'.) 

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

:condition out: vt. To prevent a section of code from being compiled by 
   surrounding it with a conditional-compilation directive whose condition 
   is always false. The {canonical} examples of these directives are `#if 
   0' (or `#ifdef notdef', though some find the latter {bletcherous}) and 
   `#endif' in C. Compare {comment out}. 

:condom: n. 1. The protective plastic bag that accompanies 3.5-inch 
   microfloppy diskettes. Rarely, also used of (paper) disk envelopes. 
   Unlike the write protect tab, the condom (when left on) not only impedes 
   the practice of {SEX} but has also been shown to have a high failure 
   rate as drive mechanisms attempt to access the disk -- and can even 
   fatally frustrate insertion. 2. The protective cladding on a {light 
   pipe}. 3. `keyboard condom': A flexible, transparent plastic cover for a 
   keyboard, designed to provide some protection against dust and 
   {programming fluid} without impeding typing. 4. `elephant condom': the 
   plastic shipping bags used inside cardboard boxes to protect hardware in 
   transit. 5. n. obs. A dummy directory `/usr/tmp/sh', created to foil the 
   {Great Worm} by exploiting a portability bug in one of its parts. So 
   named in the title of a comp.risks article by Gene Spafford during the 
   Worm crisis, and again in the text of "The Internet Worm Program: An 
   Analysis", Purdue Technical Report CSD-TR-823. 

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

:connector conspiracy: n. [probably came into prominence with the 
   appearance of the KL-10 (one model of the {PDP-10}), none of whose 
   connectors matched anything else] The tendency of manufacturers (or, by 
   extension, programmers or purveyors of anything) to come up with new 
   products that don't fit together with the old stuff, thereby making you 
   buy either all new stuff or expensive interface devices. The KL-10 
   Massbus connector was actually _patented_ by {DEC}, which reputedly 
   refused to license the design and thus effectively locked third parties 
   out of competition for the lucrative Massbus peripherals market. This 
   policy is a source of never-ending frustration for the diehards who 
   maintain older PDP-10 or VAX systems. Their CPUs work fine, but they are 
   stuck with dying, obsolescent disk and tape drives with low capacity and 
   high power requirements. 

   (A closely related phenomenon, with a slightly different intent, is 
   the habit manufacturers have of inventing new screw heads so that only 
   Designated Persons, possessing the magic screwdrivers, can remove covers 
   and make repairs or install options. A good 1990s example is the use of 
   Torx screws for cable-TV set-top boxes. Older Apple Macintoshes took 
   this one step further, requiring not only a long Torx screwdriver but a 
   specialized case-cracking tool to open the box.) 

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

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

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

:considered harmful: adj. [very common] Edsger W. Dijkstra's note in the 
   March 1968 "Communications of the ACM", "Goto Statement Considered 
   Harmful", fired the first salvo in the structured programming wars (text 
   at `'). As it turns out 
   (, the title under 
   which the letter appeared was axtually 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 

:console:: n. 1. The operator's station of a {mainframe}. In times past, 
   this was a privileged location that conveyed godlike powers to anyone 
   with fingers on its keys. Under Unix and other modern timesharing OSes, 
   such privileges are guarded by passwords instead, and the console is 
   just the {tty} the system was booted from. Some of the mystique remains, 
   however, and it is traditional for sysadmins to post urgent messages to 
   all users from the console (on Unix, /dev/console). 2. On microcomputer 
   Unix boxes, the main screen and keyboard (as opposed to character-only 
   terminals talking to a serial port). Typically only the console can do 
   real graphics or run {X}. 

:console jockey: n. See {terminal junkie}. 

:content-free: adj. [by analogy with techspeak `context-free'] Used of a 
   message that adds nothing to the recipient's knowledge. Though this 
   adjective is sometimes applied to {flamage}, it more usually connotes 
   derision for communication styles that exalt form over substance or are 
   centered on concerns irrelevant to the subject ostensibly at hand. 
   Perhaps most used with reference to speeches by company presidents and 
   other professional manipulators. "Content-free? Uh... that's anything 
   printed on glossy paper." (See also {four-color glossies}.) "He gave a 
   talk on the implications of electronic networks for postmodernism and 
   the fin-de-siecle aesthetic. It was content-free." 

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

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

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

:control-S: 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 

   The law was named after Melvin Conway, an early proto-hacker who wrote 
   an assembler for the Burroughs 220 called SAVE. (The name `SAVE' didn't 
   stand for anything; it was just that you lost fewer card decks and 
   listings because they all had SAVE written on them.) 

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

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

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

:cookie: n. A handle, transaction ID, or other token of agreement between 
   cooperating programs. "I give him a packet, he gives me back a cookie." 
   The claim check you get from a dry-cleaning shop is a perfect mundane 
   example of a cookie; the only thing it's useful for is to relate a later 
   transaction to this one (so you get the same clothes back). 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 cookie}s in a format that 
   facilitates retrieval by a fortune program. There are several different 
   cookie files in public distribution, and site admins often assemble 
   their own from various sources including this lexicon. 

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

:cookie monster: n. [from the children's TV program "Sesame Street"] Any 
   of a family of early (1970s) hacks reported on {{TOPS-10}}, {{ITS}}, 
   {{Multics}}, and elsewhere that would lock up either the victim's 
   terminal (on a time-sharing machine) or the {{console}} (on a batch 
   {mainframe}), repeatedly demanding "I WANT A COOKIE". The required 
   responses ranged in complexity from "COOKIE" through "HAVE A COOKIE" and 
   upward. Folklorist Jan Brunvand (see {FOAF}) has described these 
   programs as urban legends (implying they probably never existed) but 
   they existed, all right, in several different versions. See also 
   {wabbit}. Interestingly, the term `cookie monster' appears to be a 
   {retcon}; the original term was {cookie bear}. 

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

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

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

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

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

:copyleft: /kop'ee-left/ n. [play on `copyright'] 1. The copyright notice 
   (`General Public License') carried by {GNU} {EMACS} and other Free 
   Software Foundation software, granting reuse and reproduction rights to 
   all comers (but see also {General Public Virus}). 2. By extension, any 
   copyright notice intended to achieve similar aims. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:corge: /korj/ n. [originally, the name of a cat] Yet another 
   {metasyntactic variable}, invented by Mike Gallaher and propagated by 
   the {GOSMACS} documentation. See {grault}. 

:cosmic rays: n. Notionally, the cause of {bit rot}. However, this is a 
   semi-independent usage that may be invoked as a humorous way to 
   {handwave} away any minor {randomness} that doesn't seem worth the 
   bother of investigating. "Hey, Eric -- I just got a burst of garbage on 
   my {tube}, where did that come from?" "Cosmic rays, I guess." Compare 
   {sunspots}, {phase of the moon}. The British seem to prefer the usage 
   `cosmic showers'; `alpha particles' is also heard, because stray alpha 
   particles passing through a memory chip can cause single-bit errors 
   (this becomes increasingly more likely as memory sizes and densities 

   Factual note: Alpha particles cause bit rot, cosmic rays do not 
   (except occasionally in spaceborne computers). Intel could not explain 
   random bit drops in their early chips, and one hypothesis was cosmic 
   rays. So they created the World's Largest Lead Safe, using 25 tons of 
   the stuff, and used two identical boards for testing. One was placed in 
   the safe, one outside. The hypothesis was that if cosmic rays were 
   causing the bit drops, they should see a statistically significant 
   difference between the error rates on the two boards. They did not 
   observe such a difference. Further investigation demonstrated 
   conclusively that the bit drops were due to alpha particle emissions 
   from thorium (and to a much lesser degree uranium) in the encapsulation 
   material. Since it is impossible to eliminate these radioactives (they 
   are uniformly distributed through the earth's crust, with the 
   statistically insignificant exception of uranium lodes) it became 
   obvious that one has to design memories to withstand these hits. 

:cough and die: v. Syn. {barf}. Connotes that the program is throwing its 
   hands up by design rather than because of a bug or oversight. "The 
   parser saw a control-A in its input where it was looking for a 
   printable, so it coughed and died." Compare {die}, {die horribly}, 
   {scream and die}. 

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

:cow orker: n. [Usenet] n. fortuitous typo for co-worker, widely used in 
   Usenet, with perhaps a hint that orking cows is illegal. This term was 
   popularized by Scott Adams (the creator of {Dilbert}) but already 
   appears in the January 1996 version of the {scary devil monastery} FAQ, 
   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 {retcon}ned to Control 
   Program for Microcomputers] An early microcomputer {OS} written by 
   hacker Gary Kildall for 8080- and Z80-based machines, very popular in 
   the late 1970s but virtually wiped out by MS-DOS after the release of 
   the IBM PC in 1981. Legend has it that Kildall's company blew its chance 
   to write the OS for the IBM PC because Kildall decided to spend a day 
   IBM's reps wanted to meet with him enjoying the perfect flying weather 
   in his private plane (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 (then, as now, one of the few islands of 
   true hackerdom in the IBM archipelago). The lower loop of the B in the 
   IBM logo, it is said, had been carefully whited out. See {eat flaming 

:crack: [warez d00dz] 1. v. To break into a system (compare {cracker}). 
   2. v. Action of removing the copy protection from a commercial program. 
   People who write cracks consider themselves challenged by the copy 
   protection measures. They will often do it as much to show that they are 
   smarter than the 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 trash". 

   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 

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

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

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

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

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

:crash: 1. n. A sudden, usually drastic failure. Most often said of the 
   {system} (q.v., sense 1), esp. of magnetic disk drives (the term 
   originally described what happens when the air gap of a hard disk 
   collapses). "Three {luser}s lost their files in last night's disk 
   crash." A disk crash that involves the read/write heads dropping onto 
   the surface of the disks and scraping off the oxide may also be referred 
   to as a `head crash', whereas the term `system crash' usually, though 
   not always, implies that the operating system or other software was at 
   fault. 2. v. To fail suddenly. "Has the system just crashed?" "Something 
   crashed the OS!" See {down}. Also used transitively to indicate the 
   cause of the crash (usually a person or a program, or both). "Those 
   idiots playing {SPACEWAR} crashed the system." 3. vi. Sometimes said of 
   people hitting the sack after a long {hacking run}; see {gronk out}. 

:crash and burn: vi.,n. A spectacular crash, in the mode of the 
   conclusion of the car-chase scene in the movie "Bullitt" and many 
   subsequent imitators (compare {die horribly}). Sun-3 monitors losing the 
   flyback transformer and lightning strikes on VAX-11/780 backplanes are 
   notable crash and burn generators. The construction `crash-and-burn 
   machine' is reported for a computer used exclusively for alpha or {beta} 
   testing, or reproducing bugs (i.e., not for development). The 
   implication is that it wouldn't be such a disaster if that machine 
   crashed, since only the testers would be inconvenienced. 

:crawling horror: n. Ancient crufty hardware or software that is kept 
   obstinately alive by forces beyond the control of the hackers at a site. 
   Like {dusty deck} or {gonkulator}, but connotes that the thing described 
   is not just an irritation but an active menace to health and sanity. 
   "Mostly we code new stuff in C, but they pay us to maintain one big 
   FORTRAN II application from nineteen-sixty-X that's a real crawling 
   horror...." Compare {WOMBAT}. 

   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. 

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

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

:cray instability: n. 1. A shortcoming of a program or algorithm that 
   manifests itself only when a large problem is being run on a powerful 
   machine (see {cray}). Generally more subtle than bugs that can be 
   detected in smaller problems running on a workstation or mini. 2. More 
   specifically, a shortcoming of algorithms which are well behaved when 
   run on gentle floating point hardware (such as IEEE-standard or 
   PDP-series machines) but which break down badly when exposed to a Cray's 
   unique `rounding' rules. 

:crayola: /kray-oh'l*/ n. A super-mini or -micro computer that provides 
   some reasonable percentage of supercomputer performance for an 
   unreasonably low price. Might also be a {killer micro}. 

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

:crayon: n. 1. Someone who works on Cray supercomputers. More 
   specifically, it implies a programmer, probably of the CDC ilk, probably 
   male, and almost certainly wearing a tie (irrespective of gender). 
   Systems types who have a Unix background tend not to be described as 
   crayons. 2. Formerly, anyone who worked for Cray Research; since the 
   buyout by SGI, anyone they inherited from Cray. Nowadays, often applied 
   to any SGI employee who either works at one of the former Cray Research 
   facilities (i.e. Eagan Minnesota and Chippewa Falls Wisconsin) or works 
   primarily in vector computing aspects of the business. Sometimes 
   considered mildly offensive by those to whom it is applied, particularly 
   those whose work has nothing to do with vector computing. 3. A 
   {computron} (sense 2) that participates only in {number-crunching}. 4. A 
   unit of computational power equal to that of a single Cray-1. There is a 
   standard joke about this usage that derives from an old Crayola crayon 
   promotional gimmick: When you buy 64 crayons you get a free sharpener. 

:creationism: n. The (false) belief that large, innovative software 
   designs can be completely specified in advance and then painlessly 
   magicked out of the void by the normal efforts of a team of normally 
   talented programmers. In fact, experience has shown repeatedly that good 
   designs arise only from evolutionary, exploratory interaction between 
   one (or at most a small handful of) exceptionally able designer(s) and 
   an active user population -- and that the first try at a big new idea is 
   always wrong. Unfortunately, because these truths don't fit the planning 
   models beloved of {management}, they are generally ignored. 

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

:creeping elegance: n. Describes a tendency for parts of a design to 
   become {elegant} past the point of diminishing return, something which 
   often happens at the expense of the less interesting parts of the 
   design, the schedule, and other things deemed important in the {Real 
   World}. See also {creeping featurism}, {second-system effect}, {tense}. 

:creeping featurism: /kree'ping fee'chr-izm/ n. [common] 1. Describes a 
   systematic tendency to load more {chrome} and {feature}s onto systems at 
   the expense of whatever elegance they may have possessed when originally 
   designed. See also {feeping creaturism}. "You know, the main problem 
   with {BSD} Unix has always been creeping featurism." 2. More generally, 
   the tendency for anything complicated to become even more complicated 
   because people keep saying "Gee, it would be even better if it had this 
   feature too". (See {feature}.) The result is usually a patchwork because 
   it grew one ad-hoc step at a time, rather than being planned. Planning 
   is a lot of work, but it's easy to add just one extra little feature to 
   help someone ... and then another ... and another.... When creeping 
   featurism gets out of hand, it's like a cancer. 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 particulary 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 

:creeping featuritis: /kree'ping fee'-chr-i:`t*s/ n. Variant of {creeping 
   featurism}, with its own spoonerization: `feeping creaturitis'. Some 
   people like to reserve this form for the disease as it actually 
   manifests in software or hardware, as opposed to the lurking general 
   tendency in designers' minds. (After all, -ism means `condition' or 
   `pursuit of', whereas -itis usually means `inflammation of'.) 

:cretin: /kret'in/ or /kree'tn/ n. Congenital {loser}; an obnoxious 
   person; someone who can't do anything right. It has been observed that 
   many American hackers tend to favor the British pronunciation /kret'in/ 
   over standard American /kree'tn/; it is thought this may be due to the 
   insidious phonetic influence of Monty Python's Flying Circus. 

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

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

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

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

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

:crock: n. [from the American scatologism `crock of shit'] 1. An awkward 
   feature or programming technique that ought to be made cleaner. For 
   example, using small integers to represent error codes without the 
   program interpreting them to the user (as in, for example, Unix 
   `make(1)', which returns code 139 for a process that dies due to 
   {segfault}). 2. A technique that works acceptably, but which is quite 
   prone to failure if disturbed in the least. For example, a too-clever 
   programmer might write an assembler which mapped instruction mnemonics 
   to numeric opcodes algorithmically, a trick which depends far too 
   intimately on the particular bit patterns of the opcodes. (For another 
   example of programming with a dependence on actual opcode values, see 
   {The Story of Mel} in Appendix A.) Many crocks have a tightly woven, 
   almost completely unmodifiable structure. See {kluge}, {brittle}. The 
   adjectives `crockish' and `crocky', and the nouns `crockishness' and 
   `crockitude', are also used. 

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

:cruft together: vt. (also `cruft up') To throw together something ugly 
   but temporarily workable. Like vt. {kluge up}, but more pejorative. 
   "There isn't any program now to reverse all the lines of a file, but I 
   can probably cruft one together in about 10 minutes." See {hack 
   together}, {hack up}, {kluge up}, {crufty}. 

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

:crufty: /kruhf'tee/ adj. [very common; origin unknown; poss. from 
   `crusty' or `cruddy'] 1. Poorly built, possibly over-complex. The 
   {canonical} example is "This is standard old crufty {DEC} software". In 
   fact, one fanciful theory of the origin of `crufty' holds that was 
   originally a mutation of `crusty' applied to DEC software so old that 
   the `s' characters were tall and skinny, looking more like `f' 
   characters. 2. Unpleasant, especially to the touch, often with encrusted 
   junk. Like spilled coffee smeared with peanut butter and catsup. 3. 
   Generally unpleasant. 4. (sometimes spelled `cruftie') n. A small crufty 
   object (see {frob}); often one that doesn't fit well into the scheme of 
   things. "A LISP property list is a good place to store crufties (or, 
   collectively, {random} cruft)." 

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

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

:crunch: 1. vi. To process, usually in a time-consuming or complicated 
   way. Connotes an essentially trivial operation that is nonetheless 
   painful to perform. The pain may be due to the triviality's being 
   embedded in a loop from 1 to 1,000,000,000. "FORTRAN programs do mostly 
   {number-crunching}." 2. vt. To reduce the size of a file by a 
   complicated scheme that produces bit configurations completely unrelated 
   to the original data, such as by a Huffman code. (The file ends up 
   looking something like a paper document would if somebody crunched the 
   paper into a wad.) Since such compression usually takes more 
   computations than simpler methods such as run-length encoding, the term 
   is doubly appropriate. (This meaning is usually used in the construction 
   `file crunch(ing)' to distinguish it from {number-crunching}.) See 
   {compress}. 3. n. The character `#'. Used at XEROX and CMU, among other 
   places. See {{ASCII}}. 4. vt. To squeeze program source into a 
   minimum-size representation that will still compile or execute. The term 
   came into being specifically for a famous program on the BBC micro that 
   crunched BASIC source in order to make it run more quickly (it was a 
   wholly interpretive BASIC, so the number of characters mattered). 
   {Obfuscated C Contest} entries are often crunched; see the first example 
   under that entry. 

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

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

:cube: n. 1. [short for `cubicle'] A module in the open-plan offices used 
   at many programming shops. "I've got the manuals in my cube." 2. A NeXT 
   machine (which resembles a matte-black cube). 

:cubing: vi. [parallel with `tubing'] 1. Hacking on an IPSC (Intel 
   Personal SuperComputer) hypercube. "Louella's gone cubing _again_!!" 2. 
   Hacking Rubik's Cube or related puzzles, either physically or 
   mathematically. 3. An indescribable form of self-torture (see sense 1 or 

: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 it. 

:cyberpunk: /si:'ber-puhnk/ n.,adj. [orig. by SF writer Bruce Bethke 
   and/or editor Gardner Dozois] A subgenre of SF launched in 1982 by 
   William Gibson's epoch-making novel "Neuromancer" (though its roots go 
   back through Vernor Vinge's "True Names" (see the {Bibliography} in 
   Appendix C) to John Brunner's 1975 novel "The Shockwave Rider"). 
   Gibson's near-total ignorance of computers and the present-day hacker 
   culture enabled him to speculate about the role of computers and hackers 
   in the future in ways hackers have since found both irritatingly nai"ve 
   and tremendously stimulating. Gibson's work was widely imitated, in 
   particular by the short-lived but innovative "Max Headroom" TV series. 
   See {cyberspace}, {ice}, {jack in}, {go flatline}. 

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

:cyberspace: /si:'br-spays`/ n. 1. Notional `information-space' loaded 
   with visual cues and navigable with brain-computer interfaces called 
   `cyberspace decks'; a characteristic prop of {cyberpunk} SF. Serious 
   efforts to construct {virtual reality} interfaces modeled explicitly on 
   Gibsonian cyberspace are under way, using more conventional devices such 
   as glove sensors and binocular TV headsets. Few hackers are prepared to 
   deny outright the possibility of a cyberspace someday evolving out of 
   the network (see {the network}). 2. The Internet or {Matrix} (sense #2) 
   as a whole, considered as a crude cyberspace (sense 1). Although this 
   usage became widely popular in the mainstream press during 1994 when the 
   Internet exploded into public awareness, it is strongly deprecated among 
   hackers because the Internet does not meet the high, SF-inspired 
   standards they have for true cyberspace technology. Thus, this use of 
   the term usually tags a {wannabee} or outsider. Oppose {meatspace}. 3. 
   Occasionally, the metaphoric location of the mind of a person in {hack 
   mode}. Some hackers report experiencing strong 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. 

:cycle: 1. n. The basic unit of computation. What every hacker wants more 
   of (noted hacker Bill Gosper described himself as a "cycle junkie"). One 
   can describe an instruction as taking so many `clock cycles'. Often the 
   computer can access its memory once on every clock cycle, and so one 
   speaks also of `memory cycles'. These are technical meanings of {cycle}. 
   The jargon meaning comes from the observation that there are only so 
   many cycles per second, and when you are sharing a computer the cycles 
   get divided up among the users. The more cycles the computer spends 
   working on your program rather than someone else's, the faster your 
   program will run. That's why every hacker wants more cycles: so he can 
   spend less time waiting for the computer to respond. 2. By extension, a 
   notional unit of _human_ thought power, emphasizing that lots of things 
   compete for the typical hacker's think time. "I refused to get involved 
   with the Rubik's Cube back when it was big. Knew I'd burn too many 
   cycles on it if I let myself." 3. vt. Syn. {bounce} (sense 4), from the 
   phrase `cycle power'. "Cycle the machine again, that serial port's still 

:cycle crunch: n.,obs. A situation wherein the number of people trying to 
   use a computer simultaneously has reached the point where no one can get 
   enough cycles because they are spread too thin and the system has 
   probably begun to {thrash}. This scenario is an inevitable result of 
   Parkinson's Law applied to timesharing. Usually the only solution is to 
   buy more computer. Happily, this has rapidly become easier since the 
   mid-1980s, so much so that the very term `cycle crunch' now has a 
   faintly archaic flavor; most hackers now use workstations or personal 
   computers as opposed to traditional timesharing systems, and are far 
   more likely to complain of `bandwidth crunch' on their shared networks 
   rather than cycle crunch. 

:cycle drought: n. A scarcity of cycles. It may be due to a {cycle 
   crunch}, but it could also occur because part of the computer is 
   temporarily not working, leaving fewer cycles to go around. "The {high 
   moby} is {down}, so we're running with only half the usual amount of 
   memory. There will be a cycle drought until it's fixed." 

:cycle of reincarnation: n. See {wheel of reincarnation}. 

:cycle server: n. A powerful machine that exists primarily for running 
   large compute-, disk-, or memory-intensive jobs (more formally called a 
   `compute server'). Implies that interactive tasks such as editing are 
   done on other machines on the network, such as workstations. 

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

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

= D =

:D. C. Power Lab: n. The former site of {{SAIL}}. Hackers thought this 
   was very funny because the obvious connection to electrical engineering 
   was nonexistent -- the lab was named for a Donald C. Power. 

:daemon: /day'mn/ or /dee'mn/ n. [from the mythological meaning, later 
   rationalized as the acronym `Disk And Execution MONitor'] A program that 
   is not invoked explicitly, but lies dormant waiting for some 
   condition(s) to occur. The idea is that the perpetrator of the condition 
   need not be aware that a daemon is lurking (though often a program will 
   commit an action only because it knows that it will implicitly invoke a 
   daemon). For example, under {{ITS}}, writing a file on the {LPT} 
   spooler's directory would invoke the spooling daemon, which would then 
   print the file. The advantage is that programs wanting (in this example) 
   files printed need neither compete for access to nor understand any 
   idiosyncrasies of the {LPT}. They simply enter their implicit requests 
   and let the daemon decide what to do with them. Daemons are usually 
   spawned automatically by the system, and may either live forever or be 
   regenerated at intervals. 

   Daemon and {demon} are often used interchangeably, but seem to have 
   distinct connotations. The term `daemon' was introduced to computing by 
   {CTSS} people (who pronounced it /dee'mon/) and used it to refer to what 
   ITS called a {dragon}; the prototype was a program called DAEMON that 
   automatically made tape backups of the file system. Although the meaning 
   and the pronunciation have drifted, we think this glossary reflects 
   current (2000) usage. 

:daemon book: n. "The Design and Implementation of the 4.3BSD UNIX 
   Operating System", by Samuel J. Leffler, Marshall Kirk McKusick, Michael 
   J. Karels, and John S. Quarterman (Addison-Wesley Publishers, 1989, ISBN 
   0-201-06196-1); or "The Design and Implementation of the 4.4 BSD 
   Operating System" by Marshall Kirk McKusick, Keith Bostic, Michael J. 
   Karels and John S. Quarterman (Addison-Wesley Longman, 1996, 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 devil (a visual play on {daemon}) in sneakers, holding a 
   pitchfork (referring to one of the characteristic features of Unix, the 
   `fork(2)' system call). Also known as the {Devil Book}. 

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

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

:dangling pointer: n. [common] A reference that doesn't actually lead 
   anywhere (in C and some other languages, a pointer that doesn't actually 
   point at anything valid). Usually this happens because it formerly 
   pointed to something that has moved or disappeared. Used as jargon in a 
   generalization of its techspeak meaning; for example, a local phone 
   number for a person who has since moved to the other coast is a dangling 
   pointer. Compare {dead link}. 

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

:Datamation: /day`t*-may'sh*n/ n. A magazine that many hackers assume all 
   {suit}s read. Used to question an unbelieved quote, as in "Did you read 
   that in `Datamation?'" (But see below; this slur may be dated by the 
   time you read this.) It used to publish something hackishly funny every 
   once in a while, like the original paper on {COME FROM} in 1973, and Ed 
   Post's "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal" ten years later, but for a 
   long time after that it was much more exclusively {suit}-oriented and 
   boring. Following a change of editorship in 1994, Datamation 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 Du"mmster 
   Anzunehmender User (stupidest imaginable user). From the 
   engineering-slang GAU for Gro"sster Anzunehmender Unfall, worst 
   assumable accident, esp. of a LNG tank farm plant or something with 
   similarly disastrous consequences. In popular German, GAU is used only 
   to refer to worst-case nuclear 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 

:DDT: /D-D-T/ n. [from the insecticide 
   para-dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethene] 1. Generic term for a program 
   that assists in debugging other programs by showing individual machine 
   instructions in a readable symbolic form and letting the user change 
   them. In this sense the term DDT is now archaic, having been widely 
   displaced by `debugger' or names of individual programs like `adb', 
   `sdb', `dbx', or `gdb'. 2. [ITS] Under MIT's fabled {{ITS}} operating 
   system, DDT (running under the alias HACTRN, a six-letterism for `Hack 
   Translator') was also used as the {shell} or top level command language 
   used to execute other programs. 3. Any one of several specific DDTs 
   (sense 1) supported on early {DEC} hardware and CP/M. The PDP-10 
   Reference Handbook (1969) contained a footnote on the first page of the 
   documentation for DDT that illuminates the origin of the term: 

     Historical footnote: DDT was developed at MIT for the PDP-1
     computer in 1961.  At that time DDT stood for "DEC Debugging
     Tape".  Since then, the idea of an on-line debugging program has
     propagated throughout the computer industry.  DDT programs are now
     available for all DEC computers.  Since media other than tape are
     now frequently used, the more descriptive name "Dynamic Debugging
     Technique" has been adopted, retaining the DDT abbreviation.
     Confusion between DDT-10 and another well known pesticide,
     dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (C14-H9-Cl5) should be minimal
     since each attacks a different, and apparently mutually exclusive,
     class of bugs.
   (The `tape' referred to was, incidentally, not magnetic but paper.) 
   Sadly, this quotation was removed from later editions of the handbook 
   after the {suit}s took over and {DEC} became much more `businesslike'. 

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

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

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

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

:dead code: n. Routines that can never be accessed because all calls to 
   them have been removed, or code that cannot be reached because it is 
   guarded by a control structure that provably must always transfer 
   control somewhere else. The presence of dead code may reveal either 
   logical errors due to alterations in the program or significant changes 
   in the assumptions and environment of the program (see also {software 
   rot}); a good compiler should report dead code so a maintainer can think 
   about what it means. (Sometimes it simply means that an _extremely_ 
   defensive programmer has inserted {can't happen} tests which really 
   can't happen -- yet.) Syn. {grunge}. See also {dead}, and {The Story of 

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

: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 {heisenbug}s into {Bohr bug}s. As in 
   "Your program is DEADBEEF" (meaning gone, aborted, flushed from memory); 
   if you start from an odd half-word boundary, of course, you have 
   BEEFDEAD. See also the anecdote under {fool} and {dead beef attack}. 

:deadlock: n. 1. [techspeak] A situation wherein two or more processes 
   are unable to proceed because each is waiting for one of the others to 
   do something. A common example is a program communicating to a server, 
   which may find itself waiting for output from the server before sending 
   anything more to it, while the server is similarly waiting for more 
   input from the controlling program before outputting anything. (It is 
   reported that this particular flavor of deadlock is sometimes called a 
   `starvation deadlock', though the term `starvation' is more properly 
   used for situations where a program can never run simply because it 
   never gets high enough priority. Another common flavor is 
   `constipation', in which each process is trying to send stuff to the 
   other but all buffers are full because nobody is reading anything.) See 
   {deadly embrace}. 2. Also used of deadlock-like interactions between 
   humans, as when two people meet in a narrow corridor, and each tries to 
   be polite by moving aside to let the other pass, but they end up swaying 
   from side to side without making any progress because they always move 
   the same way at the same time. 

:deadly embrace: n. Same as {deadlock}, though usually used only when 
   exactly two processes are involved. This is the more popular term in 
   Europe, while {deadlock} predominates in the United States. 

:death code: n. A routine whose job is to set everything in the computer 
   -- registers, memory, flags, everything -- to zero, including that 
   portion of memory where it is running; its last act is to stomp on its 
   own "store zero" instruction. Death code isn't very useful, but writing 
   it is an interesting hacking challenge on architectures where the 
   instruction set makes it possible, such as the PDP-8 (it has also been 
   done on the DG Nova). 

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

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

:Death Star: n. [from the movie "Star Wars"] 1. The AT&T corporate logo, 
   which appears on computers sold by AT&T and bears an uncanny resemblance 
   to the Death Star in the movie. This usage is particularly common among 
   partisans of {BSD} Unix, who tend to regard the AT&T versions as 
   inferior and AT&T as a bad guy. Copies still circulate of a poster 
   printed by Mt. Xinu showing a starscape with a space fighter labeled 4.2 
   BSD streaking away from a broken AT&T logo wreathed in flames. 2. AT&T's 
   internal magazine, "Focus", uses `death star' to describe an incorrectly 
   done AT&T logo in which the inner circle in the top left is dark instead 
   of light -- a frequent result of dark-on-light logo images. 

: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}. Compare {Doom X of}. 

:DEC:: /dek/ n. 1. v. Verbal (and only rarely written) shorthand for 
   decrement, i.e. `decrease by one'. Especially used by assembly 
   programmers, as many assembly languages have a `dec' mnemonic. Antonym: 
   {inc}. 2. n. Commonly used abbreviation for Digital Equipment 
   Corporation, later deprecated by DEC itself in favor of "Digital" and 
   now entirely obsolete following the buyout by Compaq. Before the {killer 
   micro} revolution of the late 1980s, hackerdom was closely symbiotic 
   with DEC's pioneering timesharing machines. The first of the group of 
   cultures described by this lexicon nucleated around the PDP-1 (see 
   {TMRC}). Subsequently, the PDP-6, {PDP-10}, {PDP-20}, PDP-11 and {VAX} 
   were all foci of large and important hackerdoms, and DEC machines long 
   dominated the ARPANET and Internet machine population. DEC was the 
   technological leader of the minicomputer era (roughly 1967 to 1987), but 
   its failure to embrace microcomputers and Unix early cost it heavily in 
   profits and prestige after {silicon} got cheap. Nevertheless, the 
   microprocessor design tradition owes a major debt to the PDP-11 
   instruction set, and every one of the major general-purpose 
   microcomputer OSs so far (CP/M, MS-DOS, Unix, OS/2, Windows NT) was 
   either genetically descended from a DEC OS, or incubated on DEC 
   hardware, or both. Accordingly, DEC was for many years still regarded 
   with a certain wry affection even among many hackers too young to have 
   grown up on DEC machines. 

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

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

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

:deckle: /dek'l/ n. [from dec- and {nybble}; the original spelling seems 
   to have been `decle'] Two {nickle}s; 10 bits. Reported among developers 
   for Mattel's GI 1600 (the Intellivision games processor), a chip with 
   16-bit-wide RAM but 10-bit-wide ROM. See {nybble} for other such terms. 

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

:deep hack mode: n. See {hack mode}. 

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

:deep space: n. 1. Describes the notional location of any program that 
   has gone {off the trolley}. Esp. used of programs that just sit there 
   silently grinding long after either failure or some output is expected. 
   "Uh oh. I should have gotten a prompt ten seconds ago. The program's in 
   deep space somewhere." Compare {buzz}, {catatonic}, {hyperspace}. 2. The 
   metaphorical location of a human so dazed and/or confused or caught up 
   in some esoteric form of {bogosity} that he or she no longer responds 
   coherently to normal communication. Compare {page out}. 

:defenestration: n. [mythically from a traditional Bohemian assasination 
   method, via SF fandom] 1. Proper karmic retribution for an incorrigible 
   punster. "Oh, ghod, that was _awful_!" "Quick! Defenestrate him!" 2. The 
   act of exiting a window system in order to get better response time from 
   a full-screen program. This comes from the dictionary meaning of 
   `defenestrate', which is to throw something out a window. 3. The act of 
   discarding something under the assumption that it will improve matters. 
   "I don't have any disk space left." "Well, why don't you defenestrate 
   that 100 megs worth of old core dumps?" 4. Under a GUI, the act of 
   dragging something out of a window (onto the screen). "Next, 
   defenestrate the MugWump icon." 5. The act of completely removing 
   Micro$oft Windows from a PC in favor of a better OS (typically Linux). 

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

:deflicted: [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. 

: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 {lint}ing. Confusingly, this process is also referred to as 
   `linting' code. This term is no longer in general use because ANSI C 
   compilers typically issue compile-time warnings almost as detailed as 
   lint warnings. 

:delta: n. 1. [techspeak] A quantitative change, especially a small or 
   incremental one (this use is general in physics and engineering). "I 
   just doubled the speed of my program!" "What was the delta on program 
   size?" "About 30 percent." (He doubled the speed of his program, but 
   increased its size by only 30 percent.) 2. [Unix] A {diff}, especially a 
   {diff} stored under the set of version-control tools called SCCS (Source 
   Code Control System) or RCS (Revision Control System). 3. n. A small 
   quantity, but not as small as {epsilon}. The jargon usage of {delta} and 
   {epsilon} stems from the traditional use of these letters in mathematics 
   for very small numerical quantities, particularly in `epsilon-delta' 
   proofs in limit theory (as in the differential calculus). The term 
   {delta} is often used, once {epsilon} has been mentioned, to mean a 
   quantity that is slightly bigger than {epsilon} but still very small. 
   "The cost isn't epsilon, but it's delta" means that the cost isn't 
   totally negligible, but it is nevertheless very small. Common 
   constructions include `within delta of --', `within epsilon of --': that 
   is, `close to' and `even closer to'. 

:demented: adj. Yet another term of disgust used to describe a 
   malfunctioning program. The connotation in this case is that the program 
   works as designed, but the design is bad. Said, for example, of a 
   program that generates large numbers of meaningless error messages, 
   implying that it is on the brink of imminent collapse. Compare {wonky}, 
   {brain-damaged}, {bozotic}. 

:demigod: n. A hacker with years of experience, a world-wide reputation, 
   and a major role in the development of at least one design, tool, or 
   game used by or known to more than half of the hacker community. To 
   qualify as a genuine demigod, the person must recognizably identify with 
   the hacker community and have helped shape it. Major demigods include 
   Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie (co-inventors of {{Unix}} and {C}), 
   Richard M. Stallman (inventor of {EMACS}), Larry Wall (inventor of 
   {Perl}), Linus Torvalds (inventor of {Linux}), and most recently James 
   Gosling (inventor of Java, {NeWS}, and {GOSMACS}) and Guido van Rossum 
   (inventor of {Python}). In their hearts of hearts, most hackers dream of 
   someday becoming demigods themselves, and more than one major software 
   project has been driven to completion by the author's veiled hopes of 
   apotheosis. See also {net.god}, {true-hacker}, {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 purposes. 4. [{demoscene}] 
   A sequence of {demoeffect}s (usually) combined with self-composed music 
   and hand-drawn ("pixelated") graphics. These days (1997) usually built 
   to attend a {compo}. Often called `eurodemos' outside Europe, as most of 
   the {demoscene} activity seems to have gathered in northern Europe and 
   especially Scandinavia. See also {intro}, {dentro}. 

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

:demoeffect: n. [{demoscene}] 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), {sysop}s, traders/swappers (the ones 
   who do the trading and other PR), and organizers (in larger groups). It 
   is not uncommon for one person to do multiple jobs, but it has been 
   observed that good coders are rarely good composers and vice versa. [How 
   odd. Musical talent seems common among Internet/Unix hackers --ESR] 

:demon: n. 1. [MIT] A portion of a program that is not invoked 
   explicitly, but that lies dormant waiting for some condition(s) to 
   occur. See {daemon}. The distinction is that demons are usually 
   processes within a program, while daemons are usually programs running 
   on an operating system. 2. [outside MIT] Often used equivalently to 
   {daemon} -- especially in the {{Unix}} world, where the latter spelling 
   and pronunciation is considered mildly archaic. 

   Demons in sense 1 are particularly common in AI programs. For example, 
   a knowledge-manipulation program might implement inference rules as 
   demons. Whenever a new piece of knowledge was added, various demons 
   would activate (which demons depends on the particular piece of data) 
   and would create additional pieces of knowledge by applying their 
   respective inference rules to the original piece. These new pieces could 
   in turn activate more demons as the inferences filtered down through 
   chains of logic. Meanwhile, the main program could continue with 
   whatever its primary task was. 

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

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

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

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

   Ten years on (in 1998-1999), the demoscene is changing as its original 
   platforms (C64, Amiga, Spectrum, Atari ST, IBM PC under DOS) die out and 
   activity shifts towards Windows, Linux, and the Internet. While deeply 
   underground in the past, demoscene is trying to get into the mainstream 
   as accepted art form, and one symptom of this is the commercialization 
   of bigger demoparties. Older 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 
   `' and `'. 

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

: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 

   [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/ [PLATO] 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}. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:ding: n.,vi. 1. Synonym for {feep}. Usage: rare among hackers, but more 
   common in the {Real World}. 2. `dinged': What happens when someone in 
   authority gives you a minor bitching about something, esp. something 
   trivial. "I was dinged for having a messy desk." 

:dink: /dink/ adj. Said of a machine that has the {bitty box} nature; a 
   machine too small to be worth bothering with -- sometimes the system 
   you're currently forced to work on. First heard from an MIT hacker 
   working on a CP/M system with 64K, in reference to any 6502 system, then 
   from fans of 32-bit architectures about 16-bit machines. "GNUMACS will 
   never work on that dink machine." Probably derived from mainstream 
   `dinky', which isn't sufficiently pejorative. See {macdink}. 

:dinosaur: n. 1. Any hardware requiring raised flooring and special 
   power. Used especially of old minis and mainframes, in contrast with 
   newer microprocessor-based machines. In a famous quote from the 1988 
   Unix EXPO, Bill Joy compared the liquid-cooled mainframe in the massive 
   IBM display with a grazing dinosaur "with a truck outside pumping its 
   bodily fluids through it". IBM was not amused. Compare {big iron}; see 
   also {mainframe}. 2. [IBM] A very conservative user; a {zipperhead}. 

:dinosaur pen: n. A traditional {mainframe} computer room complete with 
   raised flooring, special power, its own ultra-heavy-duty air 
   conditioning, and a side order of Halon fire extinguishers. See {boa}. 

:dinosaurs mating: n. Said to occur when yet another {big iron} merger or 
   buyout occurs; 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. --ESR] 

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

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

: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 out}. 

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

:Dissociated Press: n. [play on `Associated Press'; perhaps inspired by a 
   reference in the 1950 Bugs Bunny cartoon "What's Up, Doc?"] An algorithm 
   for transforming any text into potentially humorous garbage even more 
   efficiently than by passing it through a {marketroid}. The algorithm 
   starts by printing any N consecutive words (or letters) in the text. 
   Then at every step it searches for any random occurrence in the original 
   text of the last N words (or letters) already printed and then prints 
   the next word or letter. {EMACS} has a handy command for this. Here is a 
   short example of word-based Dissociated Press applied to an earlier 
   version of this Jargon File: 

     wart: n. A small, crocky {feature} that sticks out of an array (C
     has no checks for this).  This is relatively benign and easy to
     spot if the phrase is bent so as to be not worth paying attention
     to the medium in question.
   Here is a short example of letter-based Dissociated Press applied to 
   the same source: 

     window sysIWYG: n. A bit was named aften /bee't*/ prefer to use
     the other guy's re, especially in every cast a chuckle on neithout
     getting into useful informash speech makes removing a featuring a
     move or usage actual abstractionsidered interj. Indeed spectace
     logic or problem!
   A hackish idle pastime is to apply letter-based Dissociated Press to a 
   random body of text and {vgrep} the output in hopes of finding an 
   interesting new word. (In the preceding example, `window sysIWYG' and 
   `informash' show some promise.) Iterated applications of Dissociated 
   Press usually yield better results. Similar techniques called `travesty 
   generators' have been employed with considerable satirical effect to the 
   utterances of Usenet flamers; see {pseudo}. 

:distribution: n. 1. A software source tree packaged for distribution; 
   but see {kit}. Since about 1996 unqualified use of this term often 
   implies `{Linux} distribution'. The short 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}. 

:DMZ: [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}, 

: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 rabbit!". 

:dogwash: /dog'wosh/ [From a quip in the `urgency' field of a very 
   optional software change request, ca. 1982. It was something like 
   "Urgency: Wash your dog first".] 1. n. A project of minimal priority, 
   undertaken as an escape from more serious work. 2. v. To engage in such 
   a project. Many games and much {freeware} get written this way. 

:domainist: /doh-mayn'ist/ adj. 1. [Usenet, by pointed analogy with 
   "sexist", "racist", etc.] Someone who judges people by the domain of 
   their email addresses; esp. someone who dismisses anyone who posts from 
   a public internet provider. "What do you expect from an article posted 
   from" 2. Said of an Internet address (as opposed to a {bang 
   path}) because the part to the right of the `@' specifies a nested 
   series of `domains'; for example, <[email protected]> specifies the 
   machine called snark in the subdomain called thyrsus within the 
   top-level domain called com. See also {big-endian}, sense 2. 

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

:Don't do that then!: imp. [from an old doctor's office joke about a 
   patient with a trivial complaint] Stock response to a user complaint. 
   "When I type control-S, the whole system comes to a halt for thirty 
   seconds." "Don't do that, then!" (or "So don't do that!"). Compare 

   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 general. 2. By 
   extension, any physical electronic key or transferable ID required for a 
   program to function. Common variations on this theme have used parallel 
   or even joystick ports. See {dongle-disk}. 3. An adaptor cable mating a 
   special edge-type connector on a PCMCIA or on-board Ethernet card to a 
   standard 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}. 

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

: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. "When we get another 
   Wyse-50 in here, that ADM 3 will turn into a doorstop." Compare {boat 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   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 
   {suit}s use this term self-referentially. _Computers_ process data, not 
   people! See {DP}. 

:Dr. Fred Mbogo: /*m-boh'goh, dok'tr fred/ n. [Stanford] The archetypal 
   man you don't want to see about a problem, esp. an incompetent 
   professional; a shyster. "Do you know a good eye doctor?" "Sure, try 
   Mbogo Eye Care and Professional Dry Cleaning." The name comes from 
   synergy between {bogus} and the original Dr. Mbogo, a witch doctor who 
   was Gomez Addams' physician on the old "Addams Family" TV show. 
   Interestingly enough, it turns out that under the rules for Swahili noun 
   classes, `m-' is the characteristic prefix of "nouns referring to human 
   beings". As such, "mbogo" is quite plausible as a Swahili coinage for a 
   person having the nature of a {bogon}. 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 `phantom'. 

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

:drain: v. [IBM] Syn. for {flush} (sense 2). Has a connotation of 
   finality about it; one speaks of draining a device before taking it 

: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 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:drool-proof paper: n. Documentation that has been obsessively {dumbed 
   down}, to the point where only a {cretin} could bear to read it, is said 
   to have succumbed to the `drool-proof paper syndrome' or to have been 
   `written on drool-proof paper'. For example, this is an actual quote 
   from Apple's LaserWriter manual: "Do not expose your LaserWriter to open 
   fire or flame." The SGI Indy manual 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 tty}). 3. 
   Mental glitches; used as a way of describing those occasions when the 
   mind just seems to shut down for a couple of beats. See {glitch}, 

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

:drum: adj, n. Ancient techspeak term referring to slow, cylindrical 
   magnetic media that were once state-of-the-art storage devices. Under 
   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 
   {newbie}s. See also "{The Story of Mel}" in Appendix A. 

:drunk mouse syndrome: n. (also `mouse on drugs') A malady exhibited by 
   the mouse pointing device of some computers. The typical symptom is for 
   the mouse cursor on the screen to move in random directions and not in 
   sync with the motion of the actual mouse. Can usually be corrected by 
   unplugging the mouse and plugging it back again. Another recommended fix 
   for optical mice is to rotate your mouse pad 90 degrees. 

   At Xerox PARC in the 1970s, most people kept a can of copier cleaner 
   (isopropyl alcohol) at their desks. When the steel ball on the mouse had 
   picked up enough {cruft} to be unreliable, the mouse was doused in 
   cleaner, which restored it for a while. However, this operation left a 
   fine residue that accelerated the accumulation of cruft, so the dousings 
   became more and more frequent. Finally, the mouse was declared 
   `alcoholic' and sent to the clinic to be dried out in a CFC ultrasonic 

: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 typicaly humorous 
   and playful, often self-mocking. 

: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 

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

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

:dump: n. 1. An undigested and voluminous mass of information about a 
   problem or the state of a system, especially one routed to the slowest 
   available output device (compare {core dump}), and most especially one 
   consisting of hex or octal {runes} describing the byte-by-byte state of 
   memory, mass storage, or some file. In {elder days}, debugging was 
   generally done by `groveling over' a dump (see {grovel}); increasing use 
   of high-level languages and interactive debuggers has made such tedium 
   uncommon, and the term `dump' now has a faintly archaic flavor. 2. A 
   backup. This usage is typical only at large timesharing installations. 

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

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

:dup loop: /d[y]oop loop/ (also `dupe loop') n. [FidoNet] An infinite 
   stream of duplicated, near-identical messages on a FidoNet {echo}, the 
   only difference being unique or mangled identification information 
   applied by a faulty or incorrectly configured system or network gateway, 
   thus rendering {dup killer}s ineffective. If such a duplicate message 
   eventually reaches a system through which it has already passed (with 
   the original identification information), all systems passed on the way 
   back to that system are said to be involved in a {dup loop}. 

:dusty deck: n. Old software (especially applications) which one is 
   obliged to remain compatible with, or to maintain ({DP} types call this 
   `legacy code', a term hackers consider smarmy and excessively reverent). 
   The term implies that the software in question is a holdover from 
   card-punch days. Used esp. when referring to old scientific and 
   {number-crunching} software, much of which was written in FORTRAN and 
   very poorly documented but is believed to be too expensive to replace. 
   See {fossil}; compare {crawling horror}. 

:DWIM: /dwim/ [acronym, `Do What I Mean'] 1. adj. Able to guess, 
   sometimes even correctly, the result intended when bogus input was 
   provided. 2. n. obs. The BBNLISP/INTERLISP function that attempted to 
   accomplish this feat by correcting many of the more common errors. See 
   {hairy}. 3. Occasionally, an interjection hurled at a balky computer, 
   esp. when one senses one might be tripping over legalisms (see 
   {legalese}). 4. Of a person, someone whose directions are 
   incomprehensible and vague, but who nevertheless has the expectation 
   that you will solve the problem using the specific method he/she has in 

   Warren Teitelman originally wrote DWIM to fix his typos and spelling 
   errors, so it was somewhat idiosyncratic to his style, and would often 
   make hash of anyone else's typos if they were stylistically different. 
   Some victims of DWIM thus claimed that the acronym stood for `Damn 
   Warren's Infernal Machine!'. 

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

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

   DWIM is often suggested in jest as a desired feature for a complex 
   program; it is also occasionally described as the single instruction the 
   ideal computer would have. Back when proofs of program correctness were 
   in vogue, there were also jokes about `DWIMC' (Do What I Mean, 
   Correctly). A related term, more often seen as a verb, is DTRT (Do The 
   Right Thing); see {Right Thing}. 

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

= E =

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

:Easter egg: n. [from the custom of the Easter Egg hunt observed in the 
   U.S. and many parts of Europe] 1. A message hidden in the object code of 
   a program as a joke, intended to be found by persons disassembling or 
   browsing the code. 2. A message, graphic, or sound effect emitted by a 
   program (or, on a PC, the BIOS ROM) in response to some undocumented set 
   of commands or keystrokes, intended as a joke or to display program 
   credits. One well-known early Easter egg found in a couple of OSes 
   caused them to respond to the command `make love' with `not war?'. Many 
   personal computers have much more elaborate eggs hidden in ROM, 
   including lists of the developers' names, political exhortations, 
   snatches of music, and (in one case) graphics images of the entire 
   development team. 

:Easter egging: n. [IBM] The act of replacing unrelated components more 
   or less at random in hopes that a malfunction will go away. Hackers 
   consider this the normal operating mode of {field circus} techs and do 
   not love them for it. See also the jokes under {field circus}. Compare 
   {shotgun debugging}. 

:eat flaming death: imp. A construction popularized among hackers by the 
   infamous {CPU Wars} comic; supposedly 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}} 

:EBCDIC:: /eb's*-dik/, /eb'see`dik/, or /eb'k*-dik/ n. [abbreviation, 
   Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code] An alleged character set 
   used on IBM {dinosaur}s. It exists in at least six mutually incompatible 
   versions, all featuring such delights as non-contiguous letter sequences 
   and the absence of several ASCII punctuation characters fairly important 
   for modern computer languages (exactly which characters are absent 
   varies according to which version of EBCDIC you're looking at). IBM 
   adapted EBCDIC from {{punched card}} code in the early 1960s and 
   promulgated it as a customer-control tactic (see {connector 
   conspiracy}), spurning the already established ASCII standard. Today, 
   IBM claims to be an open-systems company, but IBM's own description of 
   the EBCDIC variants and how to convert between them is still internally 
   classified top-secret, burn-before-reading. Hackers blanch at the very 
   _name_ of EBCDIC and consider it a manifestation of purest {evil}. See 
   also {fear and loathing}. 

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

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

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

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

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

        He died at the console
        Of hunger and thirst.
        Next day he was buried,
        Face down, 9-edge first.
   The eighty-column mind was thought by most hackers to dominate IBM's 
   customer base and its thinking. This only began to change in the 
   mid-1990s when IBM began to reinvent itself after the triumph of the 
   {killer micro}. See {IBM}, {fear and loathing}, {card walloper}. A copy 
   of "The Last Bug" lives on the the GNU site at 

:El Camino Bignum: /el' k*-mee'noh big'nuhm/ n. The road mundanely called 
   El Camino Real, running along San Francisco peninsula. It originally 
   extended all the way down to Mexico City; many portions of the old road 
   are still intact. Navigation on the San Francisco peninsula is usually 
   done relative to El Camino Real, which defines {logical} north and south 
   even though it isn't really north-south in many places. El Camino Real 
   runs right past Stanford University and so is familiar to hackers. 

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

   When a hacker from MIT visited Stanford in 1976, he remarked what a 
   long road El Camino Real was. Making a pun on `real', he started calling 
   it `El Camino Double Precision' -- but when the hacker was told that the 
   road was hundreds of miles long, he renamed it `El Camino Bignum', and 
   that name has stuck. (See {bignum}.) 

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

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

:elder days: n. The heroic age of hackerdom (roughly, pre-1980); the era 
   of the {PDP-10}, {TECO}, {{ITS}}, and the ARPANET. This term has been 
   rather consciously adopted from J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy epic "The 
   Lord of the Rings". Compare {Iron Age}; see also {elvish} and {Great 

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

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

:elephantine: adj. Used of programs or systems that are both conspicuous 
   {hog}s (owing perhaps to poor design founded on {brute force and 
   ignorance}) and exceedingly {hairy} in source form. An elephantine 
   program may be functional and even friendly, but (as in the old joke 
   about being in bed with an elephant) it's tough to have around all the 
   same (and, like a pachyderm, difficult to maintain). In extreme cases, 
   hackers have been known to make trumpeting sounds or perform expressive 
   proboscatory mime at the mention of the offending program. Usage: 
   semi-humorous. Compare `has the elephant nature' and the somewhat more 
   pejorative {monstrosity}. See also {second-system effect} and {baroque}. 

:elevator controller: n. An archetypal dumb embedded-systems application, 
   like {toaster} (which superseded it). During one period (1983-84) in the 
   deliberations of ANSI X3J11 (the C standardization committee) this was 
   the canonical example of a really stupid, memory-limited computation 
   environment. "You can't require `printf(3)' to be part of the default 
   runtime library -- what if you're targeting an elevator controller?" 
   Elevator controllers became important rhetorical weapons on both sides 
   of several {holy wars}. 

:elite: adj. Clueful. Plugged-in. One of the cognoscenti. Also used as a 
   general positive adjective. This term is not actually native hacker 
   slang; it is used primarily by crackers and {warez d00dz}, for which 
   reason hackers use it only with heavy irony. The term used to refer to 
   the folks allowed in to the "hidden" or "privileged" sections of BBSes 
   in the early 1980s (which, typically, contained pirated software). 
   Frequently, early boards would only let you post, or even see, a certain 
   subset of the sections (or `boards') on a BBS. Those who got to the 
   frequently legendary `triple super secret' boards were elite. 
   Misspellings of this term in warez d00dz style abound; the forms `l337' 
   `eleet', and `31337' (among others) have been sighted. 

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

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

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

:elvish: n. 1. The Tengwar of Feanor, a table of letterforms resembling 
   the beautiful Celtic half-uncial hand of the "Book of Kells". Invented 
   and described by J. R. R. Tolkien in "The Lord of The Rings" as an 
   orthography for his fictional `elvish' languages, this system (which is 
   both visually and phonetically {elegant}) has long fascinated hackers 
   (who tend to be intrigued by artificial languages in general). It is 
   traditional for graphics printers, plotters, window systems, and the 
   like to support a Feanorian typeface as one of their demo items. See 
   also {elder days}. 2. By extension, any odd or unreadable typeface 
   produced by a graphics device. 3. The typeface mundanely called 
   `Bo"cklin', an art-Noveau display font. 

:EMACS: /ee'maks/ n. [from Editing MACroS] The ne plus ultra of hacker 
   editors, a programmable text editor with an entire LISP system inside 
   it. It was originally written by Richard Stallman in {TECO} under 
   {{ITS}} at the MIT AI lab; AI Memo 554 described it as "an advanced, 
   self-documenting, customizable, extensible real-time display editor". It 
   has since been reimplemented any number of times, by various hackers, 
   and versions exist that run under most major operating systems. Perhaps 
   the most widely used version, also written by Stallman and now called 
   "{GNU} EMACS" or {GNUMACS}, runs principally under Unix. (Its close 
   relative XEmacs is the second most popular version.) It includes 
   facilities to run compilation subprocesses and send and receive mail or 
   news; many hackers spend up to 80% of their {tube time} inside it. Other 
   variants include {GOSMACS}, CCA EMACS, UniPress EMACS, Montgomery EMACS, 
   jove, epsilon, and MicroEMACS. (Though we use the original all-caps 
   spelling here, it is nowadays very commonly `Emacs'.) 

   Some EMACS versions running under window managers iconify as an 
   overflowing kitchen sink, perhaps to suggest the one feature the editor 
   does not (yet) include. Indeed, some hackers find EMACS too 
   {heavyweight} and {baroque} for their taste, and expand the name as 
   `Escape Meta Alt Control Shift' to spoof its heavy reliance on 
   keystrokes decorated with {bucky bits}. Other spoof expansions include 
   `Eight Megabytes And Constantly Swapping' (from when that was a lot of 
   {core}), `Eventually `malloc()'s All Computer Storage', and `EMACS Makes 
   A Computer Slow' (see {{recursive acronym}}). See also {vi}. 

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

   Oddly enough, the word `emailed' is actually listed in the OED; it 
   means "embossed (with a raised pattern) or perh. arranged in a net or 
   open work". A use from 1480 is given. The word is probably derived from 
   French `e'maille'' (enameled) and related to Old French `emmailleu"re' 
   (network). A French correspondent tells us that in modern French, 
   `email' is a hard enamel obtained by heating special paints in a 
   furnace; an `emailleur' (no final e) is a craftsman who makes email (he 
   generally paints some objects (like, say, jewelry) and cooks them in a 

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

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

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

          `smiley face' (for humor, laughter, friendliness,
          occasionally sarcasm)
          `frowney face' (for sadness, anger, or upset)
          `half-smiley' ({ha ha only serious}); also known as
          `semi-smiley' or `winkey face'.
          `wry face'
   (These may become more comprehensible if you tilt your head sideways, 
   to the left.) 

   The first two listed are by far the most frequently encountered. 
   Hyphenless forms of them are common on CompuServe, GEnie, and BIX; see 
   also {bixie}. On {Usenet}, `smiley' is often used as a generic term 
   synonymous with {emoticon}, as well as specifically for the happy-face 

   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 KevinMcKenzie, 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'. 

:English: 1. n. obs. The source code for a program, which may be in any 
   language, as opposed to the linkable or executable binary produced from 
   it by a compiler. The idea behind the term is that to a real hacker, a 
   program written in his favorite programming language is at least as 
   readable as English. Usage: mostly by old-time hackers, though 
   recognizable in context. Today the 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 {marketroid}s to say "Yes, and 
   you can program our computers in English!" to ignorant {suit}s without 
   quite running afoul of the truth-in-advertising laws. 

:enhancement: n. Common {marketroid}-speak for a bug {fix}. This abuse of 
   language is a popular and time-tested way to turn incompetence into 
   increased revenue. A hacker being ironic would instead call the fix a 
   {feature} -- or perhaps save some effort by declaring the bug itself to 
   be a feature. 

:ENQ: /enkw/ or /enk/ [from the ASCII mnemonic ENQuire for 0000101] An 
   on-line convention for querying someone's availability. After opening a 
   {talk mode} connection to someone apparently in heavy hack mode, one 
   might type `SYN SYN ENQ?' (the SYNs representing notional 
   synchronization bytes), and expect a return of {ACK} or {NAK} depending 
   on whether or not the person felt interruptible. Compare {ping}, 
   {finger}, and the usage of `FOO?' listed under {talk mode}. 

:EOF: /E-O-F/ n. [abbreviation, `End Of File'] 1. [techspeak] The 
   {out-of-band} value returned by C's sequential character-input functions 
   (and their equivalents in other environments) when end of file has been 
   reached. This value is usually -1 under C libraries postdating V6 Unix, 
   but was originally 0. DOS hackers think EOF is ^Z, and a few Amiga 
   hackers think it's ^\. 2. [Unix] The keyboard character (usually 
   control-D, the ASCII EOT (End Of Transmission) character) that is mapped 
   by the terminal driver into an end-of-file condition. 3. Used by 
   extension in non-computer contexts when a human is doing something that 
   can be modeled as a sequential read and can't go further. "Yeah, I 
   looked for a list of 360 mnemonics to post as a joke, but I hit EOF 
   pretty fast; all the library had was a {JCL} manual." See also {EOL}. 

:EOL: /E-O-L/ n. [End Of Line] Syn. for {newline}, derived perhaps from 
   the original CDC6600 Pascal. Now rare, but widely recognized and 
   occasionally used for brevity. Used in the example entry under {BNF}. 
   See also {EOF}. 

:EOU: /E-O-U/ n. The mnemonic of a mythical ASCII control character (End 
   Of User) that would make an ASR-33 Teletype explode on receipt. This 
   construction parodies the numerous obscure delimiter and control 
   characters left in ASCII from the days when it was associated more with 
   wire-service teletypes than computers (e.g., FS, GS, RS, US, EM, SUB, 
   ETX, and esp. EOT). It is worth remembering that ASR-33s were big, noisy 
   mechanical beasts with a lot of clattering parts; the notion that one 
   might explode was nowhere near as ridiculous as it might seem to someone 
   sitting in front of a {tube} or flatscreen today. 

:epoch: n. [Unix: prob. from astronomical timekeeping] The time and date 
   corresponding to 0 in an operating system's clock and timestamp values. 
   Under most Unix versions the epoch is 00:00:00 GMT, January 1, 1970; 
   under VMS, it's 00:00:00 of November 17, 1858 (base date of the U.S. 
   Naval Observatory's ephemerides); on a Macintosh, it's the midnight 
   beginning January 1 1904. System time is measured in seconds or {tick}s 
   past the epoch. Weird problems may ensue when the clock wraps around 
   (see {wrap around}), which is not necessarily a rare event; on systems 
   counting 10 ticks per second, a signed 32-bit count of ticks is good 
   only for 6.8 years. The 1-tick-per-second clock of Unix is good only 
   until January 18, 2038, assuming at least some software continues to 
   consider it signed and that word lengths don't increase by then. See 
   also {wall time}. Microsoft Windows, on the other hand, has an epoch 
   problem every 49.7 days - but this is seldom noticed as Windows is 
   almost incapable of staying up continuously for that long. 

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

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

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

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

:error 33: [XEROX PARC] n. 1. Predicating one research effort upon the 
   success of another. 2. Allowing your own research effort to be placed on 
   the critical path of some other project (be it a research effort or 

: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 {grovel}ling through a {core 
   dump} or hex image in an attempt to discover the bug that brought a 
   program or system down. The reference is to divination from the entrails 
   of a sacrified animal. Compare {runes}, {incantation}, {black art}, 
   {desk check}. 

:EXCH: /eks'ch*/ or /eksch/ vt. To exchange two things, each for the 
   other; to swap places. If you point to two people sitting down and say 
   "Exch!", you are asking them to trade places. EXCH, meaning EXCHange, 
   was originally the name of a PDP-10 instruction that exchanged the 
   contents of a register and a memory location. Many newer hackers are 
   probably thinking instead of the {{PostScript}} exchange operator (which 
   is usually written in lowercase). 

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

:EXE: /eks'ee/ or /eek'see/ or /E-X-E/ n. An executable binary file. Some 
   operating systems (notably MS-DOS, VMS, and TWENEX) use the extension 
   .EXE to mark such files. This usage is also occasionally found among 
   Unix programmers even though Unix executables don't have any required 

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

   The mainstream `exec' as an abbreviation for (human) executive is 
   _not_ used. To a hacker, an `exec' is 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. 

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

:exploit: n. [originally cracker slang] 1. A vulnerability in software 
   that can be used for breaking security or otherwise attacking an 
   Internet host over the network. The {Ping O' Death} is a famous exploit. 
   2. More grammatically, a program that exploits an exploit in sense 1. 

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

:eye candy: /i:' kand`ee/ n. [from mainstream slang "ear candy"] A 
   display of some sort that's presented to {luser}s to keep them 
   distracted while the program performs necessary background tasks. "Give 
   'em some eye candy while the back-end {slurp}s that {BLOB} into core." 
   Reported as mainstream usage among players of graphics-heavy computer 
   games. We're also told this term is mainstream slang for soft 
   pornography, but that sense does not appear to be live among hackers. 

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

= F =

:face time: n. [common] Time spent interacting with somebody face-to-face 
   (as opposed to via electronic links). "Oh, yeah, I spent some face time 
   with him at the last Usenix." 

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

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

:fall over: vi. [IBM] Yet another synonym for {crash} or {lose}. `Fall 
   over hard' equates to {crash and burn}. 

:fall through: v. (n. `fallthrough', var. `fall-through') 1. To exit a 
   loop by exhaustion, i.e., by having fulfilled its exit condition rather 
   than via a break or exception condition that exits from the middle of 
   it. This usage appears to be _really_ old, dating from the 1940s and 
   1950s. 2. To fail a test that would have passed control to a subroutine 
   or some other distant portion of code. 3. In C, `fall-through' occurs 
   when the flow of execution in a switch statement reaches a `case' label 
   other than by jumping there from the switch header, passing a point 
   where one would normally expect to find a `break'. A trivial example: 

     switch (color)
     case GREEN:
     case PINK:
        /* FALL THROUGH */
     case RED:
   The variant spelling `/* FALL THRU */' is also common. 

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

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

:fandango on core: n. [Unix/C hackers, from the Iberian dance] In C, a 
   wild pointer that runs out of bounds, causing a {core dump}, or corrupts 
   the `malloc(3)' {arena} in such a way as to cause mysterious failures 
   later on, is sometimes said to have `done a fandango on core'. On 
   low-end personal machines without an MMU (or Windows boxes, which have 
   an MMU but use it incompetently), this can corrupt the OS itself, 
   causing massive lossage. Other frenetic dances such as the cha-cha or 
   the watusi, may be substituted. See {aliasing bug}, {precedence 
   lossage}, {smash the stack}, {memory leak}, {memory smash}, {overrun 
   screw}, {core}. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

: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}. 

:farming: n. [Adelaide University, Australia] What the heads of a disk 
   drive are said to do when they plow little furrows in the magnetic 
   media. Associated with a {crash}. Typically used as follows: "Oh no, the 
   machine has just crashed; I hope the hard drive hasn't gone {farming} 
   again." Now rare; modern drives automatically park their heads in a safe 
   zone on power-down, so it takes a real mechanical problem to induce 

:fascist: adj. 1. [common] Said of a computer system with excessive or 
   annoying security barriers, usage limits, or access policies. The 
   implication is that said policies are preventing hackers from getting 
   interesting work done. The variant `fascistic' seems to have been 
   preferred at MIT, poss. by analogy with `touristic' (see {tourist} or 
   under the influence of German/Yiddish `faschistisch'). 2. In the design 
   of languages and other software tools, `the fascist alternative' is the 
   most restrictive and structured way of capturing a particular function; 
   the implication is that this may be desirable in order to simplify the 
   implementation or provide tighter error checking. Compare 
   {bondage-and-discipline language}, although that term is global rather 
   than local. 

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

:fat 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 again." 2. More generally, any typo 
   that produces dramatically bad results. 

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

:fd leak: /F-D leek/ n. A kind of programming bug analogous to a {core 
   leak}, in which a program fails to close file descriptors (`fd's) after 
   file operations are completed, and thus eventually runs out of them. See 

: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 

: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 

   A: "Oh. Then it's a misfeature; they should have increased the spacing 
   between rows here." 

   B: "Yes. But if they'd increased spacing in only one section it would 
   have been a wart -- they would've had to make nonstandard-length ceiling 
   panels to fit over the displaced seats." 

   A: "A miswart, actually. If they increased spacing throughout they'd 
   lose several rows and a chunk out of the profit margin. So unequal 
   spacing would actually be the Right Thing." 

   B: "Indeed." 

   `Undocumented feature' is a common, allegedly humorous euphemism for a 
   {bug}. There's a related joke that is sometimes referred to as the 
   "one-question geek test". You say to someone "I saw a Volkswagen Beetle 
   today with a vanity license plate that read FEATURE". If he/she laughs, 
   he/she is a {geek}. 

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

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

:feature key: n. [common] The Macintosh key with the cloverleaf graphic 
   on its keytop; sometimes referred to as `flower', `pretzel', `clover', 
   `propeller', `beanie' (an apparent reference to the major feature of a 
   propeller beanie), {splat}, `open-apple' or (officially, in Mac 
   documentation) the `command key'. In French, the term `papillon' 
   (butterfly) has been reported. The proliferation of terms for this 
   creature may illustrate one subtle peril of iconic interfaces. 

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

   There is some dispute as to the proper (Swedish) name of this symbol. 
   It technically stands for the word `seva"rdhet' (thing worth seeing); 
   many of these are old churches. Some Swedes report as an idiom for the 
   sign the word `kyrka', cognate to English `church' and pronounced 
   (roughly) /chur'ka/ in modern Swedish. Others say this is nonsense. 
   Other idioms reported for the sign are `runa' (rune) or `runsten' 
   /roon'stn/ (runestone), derived from the fact that many of the 
   interesting features are Viking rune-stones. The term `fornminne' 
   /foorn'min'*/ (relic of antiquity, ancient monument) is also reported, 
   especially among those who think that the Mac itself is a relic of 

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

:featurectomy: /fee`ch*r-ek't*-mee/ n. The act of removing a feature from 
   a program. Featurectomies come in two flavors, the `righteous' and the 
   `reluctant'. Righteous featurectomies are performed because the remover 
   believes the program would be more elegant without the feature, or there 
   is already an equivalent and better way to achieve the same end. (Doing 
   so is not quite the same thing as removing a {misfeature}.) Reluctant 
   featurectomies are performed to satisfy some external constraint such as 
   code size or execution speed. 

:feep: /feep/ 1. n. The soft electronic `bell' sound of a display 
   terminal (except for a VT-52); a beep (in fact, the microcomputer world 
   seems to prefer {beep}). 2. vi. To cause the display to make a feep 
   sound. ASR-33s (the original TTYs) do not feep; they have mechanical 
   bells that ring. Alternate forms: {beep}, `bleep', or just about 
   anything suitably onomatopoeic. (Jeff MacNelly, in his comic strip 
   "Shoe", uses the word `eep' for sounds made by computer terminals and 
   video games; this is perhaps the closest written approximation yet.) The 
   term `breedle' was sometimes heard at SAIL, where the terminal bleepers 
   are not particularly soft (they sound more like the musical equivalent 
   of a raspberry or Bronx cheer; for a close approximation, imagine the 
   sound of a Star Trek communicator's beep lasting for five seconds). The 
   `feeper' on a VT-52 has been compared to the sound of a '52 Chevy 
   stripping its gears. See also {ding}. 

:feeper: /fee'pr/ n. The device in a terminal or workstation (usually a 
   loudspeaker of some kind) that makes the {feep} sound. 

:feeping creature: n. [from {feeping creaturism}] An unnecessary feature; 
   a bit of {chrome} that, in the speaker's judgment, is the camel's nose 
   for a whole horde of new features. 

:feeping creaturism: /fee'ping kree`ch*r-izm/ n. A deliberate spoonerism 
   for {creeping featurism}, meant to imply that the system or program in 
   question has become a misshapen creature of hacks. This term isn't 
   really well defined, but it sounds so neat that most hackers have said 
   or heard it. It is probably reinforced by an image of terminals prowling 
   about in the dark making their customary noises. 

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

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

: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} 

: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 engineers: 

     Q: How can you recognize a field circus engineer
        with a flat tire?
     A: He's changing one tire at a time to see which one is flat.
     Q: How can you recognize a field circus engineer
        who is out of gas?
     A: He's changing one tire at a time to see which one is flat.
     Q: How can you tell it's _your_ field circus engineer?
     A: The spare is flat, too.
   [See {Easter egging} for additional insight on these jokes.] 

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

     Maynard! Maynard!
     Don't mess with us!
     We're mean and we're tough!
     If you get us confused
     We'll screw up your stuff.
   (DEC's service HQ, still extant under the Compaq regime, is located in 
   Maynard, Massachusetts.) 

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

:Fight-o-net: n. [FidoNet] Deliberate distortion of {FidoNet}, often 
   applied after a flurry of {flamage} in a particular {echo}, especially 
   the SYSOP echo or Fidonews. 

:File Attach: [FidoNet] 1. n. A file sent along with a mail message from 
   one FidoNet to another. 2. vt. Sending someone a file by using the File 
   Attach option in a FidoNet mailer. 

:File Request: [FidoNet] 1. n. The {FidoNet} equivalent of {FTP}, in 
   which one FidoNet system automatically dials another and {snarf}s one or 
   more files. Often abbreviated `FReq'; files are often announced as being 
   "available for FReq" in the same way that files are announced as being 
   "available for/by anonymous FTP" on the Internet. 2. vt. The act of 
   getting a copy of a file by using the File Request option of the FidoNet 

: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 11." 2. Also widely used outside MIT to indicate 
   that additional information will be available at some future time, 
   _without_ the implication of anything particularly ordinary about the 
   referenced event. For example, "The mail file server died this morning; 
   we found garbage all over the root directory. Film at 11." would 
   indicate that a major failure had occurred but that the people working 
   on it have no additional information about it as yet; use of the phrase 
   in this way suggests gently that the problem is liable to be fixed more 
   quickly if the people doing the fixing can spend time doing the fixing 
   rather than responding to questions, the answers to which will appear on 
   the normal "11:00 news", if people will just be patient. 

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

:filter: n. [very common; orig. {{Unix}}] 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 0-13-852608-7). 

   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}. 

:finger: [WAITS, via BSD Unix] 1. n. A program that displays information 
   about a particular user or all users logged on the system, or a remote 
   system. Typically shows full name, last login time, idle time, terminal 
   line, and terminal location (where applicable). May also display a {plan 
   file} left by the user (see also {Hacking X for Y}). 2. vt. To apply 
   finger to a username. 3. vt. By extension, to check a human's current 
   state by any means. "Foodp?" "T!" "OK, finger Lisa and see if she's 
   idle." 4. Any picture (composed of ASCII characters) depicting `the 
   finger', 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 {flamer}s. 

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

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

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

:firebottle: n.obs. A large, primitive, power-hungry active electrical 
   device, similar in function to a FET but constructed out of glass, 
   metal, and vacuum. Characterized by high cost, low density, low 
   reliability, high-temperature operation, and high power dissipation. 
   Sometimes mistakenly called a `tube' in the U.S. or a `valve' in 
   England; another hackish term is {glassfet}. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:FISH queue: n. [acronym, by analogy with FIFO (First In, First Out)] 
   `First In, Still Here'. A joking way of pointing out that processing of 
   a particular sequence of events or requests has stopped dead. Also `FISH 
   mode' and `FISHnet'; the latter may be applied to any network that is 
   running really slowly or exhibiting extreme flakiness. 

:FITNR: // adj. [Thinking Machines, Inc.] Fixed In The Next Release. A 
   written-only notation attached to bug reports. Often wishful thinking. 

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

:FIXME: imp. [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 quickly. 

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

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

:flag day: n. A software change that is neither forward- nor 
   backward-compatible, and which is costly to make and costly to reverse. 
   "Can we install that without causing a flag day for all users?" This 
   term has nothing to do with the use of the word {flag} to mean a 
   variable that has two values. It came into use when a massive change was 
   made to the {{CTSS}} timesharing system on Flag Day (a U.S. holiday), 
   June 14, 1966. This change bundled together at least two different 
   conversions. One was from the short-lived 1965 version of the ASCII code 
   to the 1967 version (in draft at the time); this the moved code points 
   for braces, vertical bar, and circumflex. Another was a rewrite of the 
   CTSS filesystem. See also {backward combatability}. 

   [Previous versions of this entry described this as a change in 
   {Multics}, which was wrong, and also got the code points changed in the 
   character set wrong. Evidently some of this confusion arose from the 
   fact that the changes were made partly to facilitate Multics development 

   [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 

:flame: [at MIT, orig. from the phrase `flaming asshole'] 1. vi. To post 
   an email message intended to insult and provoke. 2. vi. To speak 
   incessantly and/or rabidly on some relatively uninteresting subject or 
   with a patently ridiculous attitude. 3. vt. Either of senses 1 or 2, 
   directed with hostility at a particular person or people. 4. n. An 
   instance of flaming. When a discussion degenerates into useless 
   controversy, one might tell the participants "Now you're just flaming" 
   or "Stop all that flamage!" to try to get them to cool down (so to 

   The term may have been independently invented at several different 
   places. It has been reported from MIT, Carleton College and RPI (among 
   many other places) from as far back as 1969, and from the University of 
   Virginia in the early 1960s. 

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

:flame bait: n. [common] A posting intended to trigger a {flame war}, or 
   one that invites flames in reply. See also {troll}. 

:flame on: vi.,interj. 1. To begin to {flame}. The punning reference to 
   Marvel Comics's Human Torch is no longer widely recognized. 2. To 
   continue to flame. See {rave}, {burble}. 

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

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

:flap: vt. 1. [obs.] To unload a DECtape (so it goes flap, flap, 
   flap...). Old-time hackers at MIT tell of the days when the disk was 
   device 0 and DEC microtapes were 1, 2,... and attempting to flap device 
   0 would instead start a motor banging inside a cabinet near the disk. 2. 
   By extension, to unload any magnetic tape. See also {macrotape}. Modern 
   cartridge tapes no longer actually flap, but the usage has remained. 
   (The term could well be re-applied to DEC's TK50 cartridge tape drive, a 
   spectacularly misengineered contraption which makes a loud flapping 
   sound, almost like an old reel-type lawnmower, in one of its many 
   tape-eating failure modes.) 

:flarp: /flarp/ n. [Rutgers University] Yet another {metasyntactic 
   variable} (see {foo}). Among those who use it, it is associated with a 
   legend that any program not containing the word `flarp' somewhere will 
   not work. The legend is discreetly silent on the reliability of programs 
   which _do_ contain the magic word. 

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

:flat: adj. 1. [common] Lacking any complex internal structure. "That 
   {bitty box} has only a flat filesystem, not a hierarchical one." The 
   verb form is {flatten}. 2. Said of a memory architecture (like that of 
   the VAX or 680x0) that is one big linear address space (typically with 
   each possible value of a processor register corresponding to a unique 
   core address), as opposed to a `segmented' architecture (like that of 
   the 80x86) in which addresses are composed from a base-register/offset 
   pair (segmented designs are generally considered {cretinous}). 

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

:flat-ASCII: adj. [common] Said of a text file that contains only 7-bit 
   ASCII characters and uses only ASCII-standard control characters (that 
   is, has no embedded codes specific to a particular text formatter markup 
   language, or output device, and no {meta}-characters). Syn. 
   {plain-ASCII}. Compare {flat-file}. 

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

:flatten: vt. [common] To remove structural information, esp. to filter 
   something with an implicit tree structure into a simple sequence of 
   leaves; also tends to imply mapping to {flat-ASCII}. "This code flattens 
   an expression with parentheses into an equivalent {canonical} form." 

:flavor: n. 1. [common] Variety, type, kind. "DDT commands come in 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 common. 

:flood: v. [common] 1. To overwhelm a network channel with 
   mechanically-generated traffic; especially used of IP, TCP/IP, UDP, or 
   ICMP denial-of-service attacks. 2. To dump large amounts of text onto an 
   {IRC} channel. This is especially rude when the text is uninteresting 
   and the other users are trying to carry on a serious conversation. Also 
   used in a similar sense on Usenet. 3. [Usenet] To post an unusually 
   large number or volume of files on a related topic. 

:flowchart:: n. [techspeak] An archaic form of visual control-flow 
   specification employing arrows and `speech balloons' of various shapes. 
   Hackers never use flowcharts, consider them extremely silly, and 
   associate them with {COBOL} programmers, {card walloper}s, and other 
   lower forms of life. This attitude follows from the observations that 
   flowcharts (at least from a hacker's point of view) are no easier to 
   read than code, are less precise, and tend to fall out of sync with the 
   code (so that they either obfuscate it rather than explaining it, or 
   require extra maintenance effort that doesn't improve the code). See 
   also {PDL}, sense 1. 

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

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

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

:flypage: /fli:'payj/ n. (alt. `fly page') A {banner}, sense 1. 

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

:flytrap: n. [rare] See {firewall machine}. 

:FM: /F-M/ n. 1. [common] _Not_ `Frequency Modulation' but rather an 
   abbreviation for `Fucking Manual', the back-formation from {RTFM}. Used 
   to refer to the manual itself in the {RTFM}. "Have you seen the 
   Networking FM lately?" 2. Abbreviation for "Fucking Magic", used in the 
   sense of {black magic}. 

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

:FOAF: // n. [Usenet; common] Acronym for `Friend Of A Friend'. The 
   source of an unverified, possibly untrue story. This term was not 
   originated by hackers (it is used in Jan Brunvand's books on urban 
   folklore), but is much better recognized on Usenet and elsewhere than in 
   mainstream English. 

:FOD: /fod/ v. [Abbreviation for `Finger of Death', originally a 
   spell-name from fantasy gaming] To terminate with extreme prejudice and 
   with no regard for other people. From {MUD}s where the wizard command 
   `FOD <player>' results in the immediate and total death of <player>, 
   usually as punishment for obnoxious behavior. This usage migrated to 
   other circumstances, such as "I'm going to fod the process that is 
   burning all the cycles." Compare {gun}. 

   In aviation, FOD means Foreign Object Damage, e.g., what happens when 
   a jet engine sucks up a rock on the runway or a bird in flight. Finger 
   of Death is a distressingly apt description of what this generally does 
   to the engine. 

:fold case: v. See {smash case}. This term tends to be used more by 
   people who don't mind that their tools smash case. It also connotes that 
   case is ignored but case distinctions in data processed by the tool in 
   question aren't destroyed. 

:followup: n. [common] On Usenet, a {posting} generated in response to 
   another posting (as opposed to a {reply}, which goes by email rather 
   than being broadcast). Followups include the ID of the {parent message} 
   in their headers; smart news-readers can use this information to present 
   Usenet news in `conversation' sequence rather than order-of-arrival. See 

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

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

:foo: /foo/ 1. interj. Term of disgust. 2. [very common] Used very 
   generally as a sample name for absolutely anything, esp. programs and 
   files (esp. scratch files). 3. First on the standard list of 
   {metasyntactic variable}s used in syntax examples. See also {bar}, 
   {baz}, {qux}, {quux}, {corge}, {grault}, {garply}, {waldo}, {fred}, 
   {plugh}, {xyzzy}, {thud}. 

   When `foo' is used in connection with `bar' it has generally traced to 
   the WWII-era Army slang acronym {FUBAR} (`Fucked Up Beyond All Repair' 
   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 block}s consists of the header "From the fool file:" followed by 
   some quote the poster wishes to represent as an immortal gem of 
   dimwittery; for this usage to be really effective, the quote has to be 
   so obviously wrong as to be laughable. More than one Usenetter has 
   achieved an unwanted notoriety by being quoted in this way. 

:Foonly: n. 1. The {PDP-10} successor that was to have been built by the 
   Super Foonly project at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory 
   along with a new operating system. (The name itself came from FOO NLI, 
   an error message emitted by a PDP-10 assembler at SAIL meaning "FOO is 
   Not a Legal Identifier". The intention was to leapfrog from the old 
   {DEC} timesharing system SAIL was then running to a new generation, 
   bypassing TENEX which at that time was the ARPANET standard. ARPA 
   funding for both the Super Foonly and the new operating system was cut 
   in 1974. Most of the design team went to DEC and contributed greatly to 
   the design of the PDP-10 model KL10. 2. The name of the company formed 
   by Dave Poole, one of the principal Super Foonly designers, and one of 
   hackerdom's more colorful personalities. Many people remember the parrot 
   which sat on Poole's shoulder and was a regular companion. 3. Any of the 
   machines built by Poole's company. The first was the F-1 (a.k.a. Super 
   Foonly), which was the computational engine used to create the graphics 
   in the movie "TRON". The F-1 was the fastest PDP-10 ever built, but only 
   one was ever made. The effort drained Foonly of its financial resources, 
   and the company turned towards building smaller, slower, and much less 
   expensive machines. Unfortunately, these ran not the popular {TOPS-20} 
   but a TENEX variant called Foonex; this seriously limited their market. 
   Also, the machines shipped were actually wire-wrapped engineering 
   prototypes requiring individual attention from more than usually 
   competent site personnel, and thus had significant reliability problems. 
   Poole's legendary temper and unwillingness to suffer fools gladly did 
   not help matters. By the time 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 pi equals 3 -- for small 
   values of pi and large values of 3. 

   Historical note: at MIT this usage has traditionally been traced to 
   the programming language MAD (Michigan Algorithm Decoder), an 
   Algol-58-like language that was the most common choice among mainstream 
   (non-hacker) users at MIT in the mid-60s. It inherited from Algol-58 a 
   control structure FOR VALUES OF X = 3, 7, 99 DO ... that would repeat 
   the indicated instructions for each value in the list (unlike the usual 
   FOR that only works for arithmetic sequences of values). MAD is long 
   extinct, but similar for-constructs still flourish (e.g., in Unix's 
   shell languages). 

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

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

   Technically, on a time-sharing system, a task executing in foreground 
   is one able to accept input from and return output to the user; oppose 
   {background}. Nowadays this term is primarily associated with {{Unix}}, 
   but it appears first to have been used in this sense on OS/360. 
   Normally, there is only one foreground task per terminal (or terminal 
   window); having multiple processes simultaneously reading the keyboard 
   is a good way to {lose}. 

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

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

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

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

:fortune cookie: n. [WAITS, via Unix; common] A random quote, item of 
   trivia, joke, or maxim printed to the user's tty at login time or (less 
   commonly) at logout time. Items from this lexicon have often been used 
   as fortune cookies. See {cookie file}. 

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

:fossil: n. 1. In software, a misfeature that becomes understandable only 
   in historical context, as a remnant of times past retained so as not to 
   break compatibility. Example: the retention of octal as default base for 
   string escapes in {C}, in spite of the better match of hexadecimal to 
   ASCII and modern byte-addressable architectures. See {dusty deck}. 2. 
   More restrictively, a feature with past but no present utility. Example: 
   the force-all-caps (LCASE) bits in the V7 and {BSD} Unix tty driver, 
   designed for use with monocase terminals. (In a perversion of the usual 
   backward-compatibility goal, this functionality has actually been 
   expanded and renamed in some later USG Unix releases as the IUCLC and 
   OLCUC bits.) 3. The FOSSIL (Fido/Opus/Seadog Standard Interface Level) 
   driver specification for serial-port access to replace the {brain-dead} 
   routines in the IBM PC ROMs. Fossils were used by most MS-DOS {BBS} 
   software in preference to the `supported' ROM routines, which do not 
   support interrupt-driven operation or setting speeds above 9600; the use 
   of a semistandard FOSSIL library is preferable to the {bare metal} 
   serial port programming otherwise required. Since the FOSSIL 
   specification allowed additional functionality to be hooked in, drivers 
   that use the {hook} but do not provide serial-port access themselves are 
   named with a modifier, as in `video fossil'. 

:four-color glossies: n. 1. Literature created by {marketroid}s that 
   allegedly contains technical specs but which is in fact as superficial 
   as possible without being totally {content-free}. "Forget the four-color 
   glossies, give me the tech ref manuals." Often applied as an indication 
   of superficiality even when the material is printed on ordinary paper in 
   black and white. Four-color-glossy manuals are _never_ useful for 
   solving a problem. 2. [rare] Applied by extension to manual pages that 
   don't contain enough information to diagnose why the program doesn't 
   produce the expected or desired output. 

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

: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 II-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 synomous with `someone' except that Fred Foobar can be 
   {backreference}d by name later on. "So Fred Foobar will enter his phone 
   number into the database, and it'll be archived with the others. Months 
   later, when Fred searches..." See also {Bloggs Family} and {Dr. Fred 

: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 

: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 

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

:fritterware: n. An excess of capability that serves no productive end. 
   The canonical example is font-diddling software on the Mac (see 
   {macdink}); the term describes anything that eats huge amounts of time 
   for quite marginal gains in function but seduces people into using it 
   anyway. See also {window shopping}. 

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

:frobnicate: /frob'ni-kayt/ vt. [Poss. derived from {frobnitz}, and 
   usually abbreviated to {frob}, but `frobnicate' is recognized as the 
   official full form.] To manipulate or adjust, to tweak. One frequently 
   frobs bits or other 2-state devices. Thus: "Please frob the light 
   switch" (that is, flip it), but also "Stop frobbing that clasp; you'll 
   break it". One also sees the construction `to frob a frob'. See {tweak} 
   and {twiddle}. 

   Usage: frob, twiddle, and tweak sometimes connote points along a 
   continuum. `Frob' connotes aimless manipulation; `twiddle' connotes 
   gross manipulation, often a coarse search for a proper setting; `tweak' 
   connotes fine-tuning. If someone is turning a knob on an oscilloscope, 
   then if he's carefully adjusting it, he is probably tweaking it; if he 
   is just turning it but looking at the screen, he is probably twiddling 
   it; but if he's just doing it because turning a knob is fun, he's 
   frobbing it. The variant `frobnosticate' has been recently reported. 

:frobnitz: /frob'nits/, pl. `frobnitzem' /frob'nit-zm/ or `frobni' 
   /frob'ni:/ n. [TMRC] An unspecified physical object, a widget. Also 
   refers to electronic black boxes. This rare form is usually abbreviated 
   to `frotz', or more commonly to {frob}. Also used are `frobnule' 
   (/frob'n[y]ool/) and `frobule' (/frob'yool/). Starting perhaps in 1979, 
   `frobozz' /fr*-boz'/ (plural: `frobbotzim' /fr*-bot'zm/) has also become 
   very popular, largely through its exposure as a name via {Zork}. These 
   variants can also be applied to nonphysical objects, such as data 
   structures. 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: alt. `phrog' 1. interj. Term of disgust (we seem to have a lot of 
   them). 2. Used as a name for just about anything. See {foo}. 3. n. Of 
   things, a crock. 4. n. Of people, somewhere in between a turkey and a 
   toad. 5. `froggy': adj. Similar to {bagbiting}, but milder. "This froggy 
   program is taking forever to run!" 

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

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

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

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

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

:FRS: // n.,obs. Abbreviation for "Freely Redistributable Software" which 
   entered general use on the Internet in 1995 after years of low-level 
   confusion over what exactly to call software written to be passed around 
   and shared (contending terms including {freeware}, {shareware}, and 
   `sourceware' were never universally felt to be satisfactory for various 
   subtle reasons). The first formal conference on freely redistributable 
   software was held in Cambridge, Massachussetts, in February 1996 
   (sponsored by the Free Software Foundation). The conference organizers 
   used the FRS abbreviation heavily in its calls for papers and other 
   literature during 1995. The term was in steady though not common use 
   until 1998 and the invention of {open source}, after which it became 
   swiftly obsolete. 

:fry: 1. vi. To fail. Said especially of smoke-producing hardware 
   failures. More generally, to become non-working. Usage: never said of 
   software, only of hardware and humans. See {fried}, {magic smoke}. 2. 
   vt. To cause to fail; to {roach}, {toast}, or {hose} a piece of 
   hardware. Never used of software or humans, but compare {fried}. 

:fscking: /fus'-king/ or /eff'-seek-ing/ adj. [Usenet; common] Fucking, 
   in the expletive sense (it refers to the Unix filesystem-repair command 
   fsck(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. 

:FTP: /F-T-P/, _not_ /fit'ip/ 1. [techspeak] n. The File Transfer 
   Protocol for transmitting files between systems on the Internet. 2. vt. 
   To {beam} a file using the File Transfer Protocol. 3. Sometimes used as 
   a generic even for file transfers not using {FTP}. "Lemme get a copy of 
   "Wuthering Heights" ftp'd from uunet." 

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

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

:fuck me harder: excl. Sometimes uttered in response to egregious 
   misbehavior, esp. in software, and esp. of misbehaviors which seem 
   unfairly persistent (as though designed in by the imp of the perverse). 
   Often theatrically elaborated: "Aiighhh! Fuck me with a piledriver and 
   16 feet of curare-tipped wrought-iron fence _and no lubricants_!" The 
   phrase is sometimes heard abbreviated `FMH' in polite 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. [from {FUD}] Political posturing engaged in by 
   hardware and software vendors ostensibly committed to standardization 
   but actually willing to fragment the market to protect their own shares. 
   The Unix International vs. OSF conflict about Unix standards was one 
   outstanding example; Microsoft vs. Netscape vs. W3C about HTML standards 
   is another. 

:fudge: 1. vt. To perform in an incomplete but marginally acceptable way, 
   particularly with respect to the writing of a program. "I didn't feel 
   like going through that pain and suffering, so I fudged it -- I'll fix 
   it later." 2. n. The resulting code. 

:fudge factor: n. [common] A value or parameter that is varied in an ad 
   hoc way to produce the desired result. The terms `tolerance' and {slop} 
   are also used, though these usually indicate a one-sided leeway, such as 
   a buffer that is made larger than necessary because one isn't sure 
   exactly how large it needs to be, and it is better to waste a little 
   space than to lose completely for not having enough. A fudge factor, on 
   the other hand, can often be tweaked in more than one direction. A good 
   example is the `fuzz' typically allowed in floating-point calculations: 
   two numbers being compared for equality must be allowed to differ by a 
   small amount; if that amount is too small, a computation may never 
   terminate, while if it is too large, results will be needlessly 
   inaccurate. Fudge factors are frequently adjusted incorrectly by 
   programmers who don't fully understand their import. See also 
   {coefficient of X}. 

:fuel up: vi. To eat or drink hurriedly in order to get back to hacking. 
   "Food-p?" "Yeah, let's fuel up." "Time for a {great-wall}!" See also 
   {{oriental food}}. 

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

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

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

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

:funny money: n. 1. Notional `dollar' units of computing time and/or 
   storage handed to students at the beginning of a computer course; also 
   called `play money' or `purple money' (in implicit opposition to real or 
   `green' money). In New Zealand and Germany the odd usage `paper money' 
   has been recorded; in Germany, the particularly amusing synonym 
   `transfer ruble' commemmorates the funny money used for trade between 
   COMECON countries back when the Soviet Bloc still existed. When your 
   funny money ran out, your account froze and you needed to go to a 
   professor to get more. Fortunately, the plunging cost of timesharing 
   cycles has made this less common. The amounts allocated were almost 
   invariably too small, even for the non-hackers who wanted to slide by 
   with minimum work. In extreme cases, the practice led to small-scale 
   black markets in bootlegged computer accounts. 2. By extension, phantom 
   money or quantity tickets of any kind used as a resource-allocation hack 
   within a system. Antonym: `real money'. 

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

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

= G =

:G: pref.,suff. 1. [SI] See {{quantifiers}}. 2. It should be worth 
   mentioning that the letter G has special significance in the hacker 
   community, largely thanks to the GNU project and the GPL. 

   There is a preponderance of free software projects whose names begin 
   with G. This is due largely because 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). 

   Just as many Java developers will begin their projects with J, many 
   free software developers will begin theirs with G. It is often a good 
   bet that a program with this convention 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. 

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

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

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

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

:gang bang: n. The use of large numbers of loosely coupled programmers in 
   an attempt to wedge a great many features into a product in a short 
   time. Though there have been memorable gang bangs (e.g., that 
   over-the-weekend assembler port mentioned in Steven Levy's "Hackers"), 
   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 
   {orthogonal}ity. When market-driven managers make a list of all the 
   features the competition has and assign one programmer to implement 
   each, the probability of maintaining a coherent (or even functional) 
   design goes 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. 

:gas: [as in `gas chamber'] 1. interj. A term of disgust and hatred, 
   implying that gas should be dispensed in generous quantities, thereby 
   exterminating the source of irritation. "Some loser just reloaded the 
   system for no reason! Gas!" 2. interj. A suggestion that someone or 
   something ought to be flushed out of mercy. "The system's getting 
   {wedged} every few minutes. Gas!" 3. vt. To {flush} (sense 1). "You 
   should gas that old crufty software." 4. [IBM] n. Dead space in 
   nonsequentially organized files that was occupied by data that has since 
   been deleted; the compression operation that removes it is called 
   `degassing' (by analogy, perhaps, with the use of the same term in 
   vacuum technology). 5. [IBM] n. Empty space on a disk that has been 
   clandestinely allocated against future need. 

: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." When said of files, this is equivalent to {GFR}. 2. vt. To 
   recycle, reclaim, or put to another use. 3. n. An instantiation of the 
   garbage collector process. 

   `Garbage collection' is computer-science techspeak for a particular 
   class of strategies for dynamically but transparently reallocating 
   computer memory (i.e., without requiring explicit allocation and 
   deallocation by higher-level software). One such strategy involves 
   periodically scanning all the data in memory and determining what is no 
   longer accessible; useless data items are then discarded so that the 
   memory they occupy can be recycled and used for another purpose. 
   Implementations of the LISP language usually use garbage collection. 

   In jargon, the full phrase is sometimes heard but the {abbrev} GC is 
   more frequently used because it is shorter. Note that there is an 
   ambiguity in usage that has to be resolved by context: "I'm going to 
   garbage-collect my desk" usually means to clean out the drawers, but it 
   could also mean to throw away or recycle the desk itself. 

:GCOS:: /jee'kohs/ n. A {quick-and-dirty} {clone} of System/360 DOS that 
   emerged from GE around 1970; originally called GECOS (the General 
   Electric Comprehensive Operating System). Later kluged to support 
   primitive timesharing and transaction processing. After the buyout of 
   GE's computer division by Honeywell, the name was changed to General 
   Comprehensive Operating System (GCOS). Other OS groups at Honeywell 
   began referring to it as `God's Chosen Operating System', allegedly in 
   reaction to the GCOS crowd's uninformed and snotty attitude about the 
   superiority of their product. All this might be of zero interest, except 
   for two facts: (1) The GCOS people won the political war, and this led 
   in the orphaning and eventual death of Honeywell {{Multics}}, and (2) 
   GECOS/GCOS left one permanent mark on Unix. Some early Unix systems at 
   Bell Labs used GCOS machines for print spooling and various other 
   services; the field added to `/etc/passwd' to carry GCOS ID information 
   was called the `GECOS field' and survives today as the `pw_gecos' member 
   used for the user's full name and other human-ID information. GCOS later 
   played a major role in keeping Honeywell a dismal also-ran in the 
   mainframe market, and was itself mostly ditched for Unix in the late 
   1980s when Honeywell began to retire its aging {big iron} designs. 

:GECOS:: /jee'kohs/ n. See {{GCOS}}. 

:gedanken: /g*-dahn'kn/ adj. Ungrounded; impractical; not 
   well-thought-out; untried; untested. 

   `Gedanken' is a German word for `thought'. A thought experiment is one 
   you carry out in your head. In physics, the term `gedanken experiment' 
   is used to refer to an experiment that is impractical to carry out, but 
   useful to consider because it can be reasoned about theoretically. (A 
   classic gedanken experiment of relativity theory involves thinking about 
   a man in an elevator accelerating through space.) Gedanken experiments 
   are very useful in physics, but must be used with care. It's too easy to 
   idealize away some important aspect of the real world in constructing 
   the `apparatus'. 

   Among hackers, accordingly, the word has a pejorative connotation. It 
   is typically used of a project, especially one in artificial 
   intelligence research, that is written up in grand detail (typically as 
   a Ph.D. thesis) without ever being implemented to any great extent. Such 
   a project is usually perpetrated by people who aren't very good hackers 
   or find programming distasteful or are just in a hurry. A `gedanken 
   thesis' is usually marked by an obvious lack of intuition about what is 
   programmable and what is not, and about what does and does not 
   constitute a clear specification of an algorithm. See also 
   {AI-complete}, {DWIM}. 

:geef: v. [ostensibly from `gefingerpoken'] vt. Syn. {mung}. See also 

: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 to." 

   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 accidental). 

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

     -----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
     Version: 3.1
     GED/J d-- s:++>: a- C++(++++)$ ULUO++ P+>+++ L++ !E---- W+(---) N+++
     o+ K+++ w+(---) O- M+$>++ V-- PS++(+++)>$ PE++(+)>$ Y++ PGP++ t- 5+++
     X++ R+++>$ tv+ b+ DI+++ D+++ G+++++>$ e++$>++++ h r-- y+**
     ------END GEEK CODE BLOCK------
   The geek code originated in 1993; it was inspired (according to the 
   inventor) by previous "bear", "smurf" and "twink" 
   style-and-sexual-preference codes from lesbian and gay {newsgroup}s. It 
   has in turn spawned imitators; there is now even a "Saturn geek code" 
   for owners of the Saturn car. See also {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}. 

:geekasm: Originally from a quote on the PBS show "Scientific American 
   Frontrers" (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 contexts. 

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

:General Public Virus: n. Pejorative name for some versions of the {GNU} 
   project {copyleft} or General Public License (GPL), which requires that 
   any tools or {app}s incorporating copylefted code must be 
   source-distributed on the same anti-proprietary terms as GNU stuff. Thus 
   it is alleged that the copyleft `infects' software generated with GNU 
   tools, which may in turn infect other software that reuses any of its 
   code. The Free Software Foundation's official position as of January 
   1991 is that copyright law limits the scope of the GPL to "programs 
   textually incorporating significant amounts of GNU code", and that the 
   `infection' is not passed on to third parties unless actual GNU source 
   is transmitted. Nevertheless, widespread suspicion that the {copyleft} 
   language is `boobytrapped' has caused many developers to avoid using GNU 
   tools and the GPL. Changes in the language of the version 2.0 GPL did 
   not eliminate this problem. 

:generate: vt. To produce something according to an algorithm or program 
   or set of rules, or as a (possibly unintended) side effect of the 
   execution of an algorithm or program. The opposite of {parse}. This term 
   retains its mechanistic connotations (though often humorously) when used 
   of human behavior. "The guy is rational most of the time, but mention 
   nuclear energy around him and he'll generate {infinite} flamage." 

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

:gensym: /jen'sim/ [from MacLISP for `generated symbol'] 1. v. To invent 
   a new name for something temporary, in such a way that the name is 
   almost certainly not in conflict with one already in use. 2. n. The 
   resulting name. The canonical form of a gensym is `Gnnnn' where nnnn 
   represents a number; any LISP hacker would recognize G0093 (for example) 
   as a gensym. 3. A freshly generated data structure with a gensymmed 
   name. Gensymmed names are useful for storing or uniquely identifying 
   crufties (see {cruft}). 

:Get a life!: imp. Hacker-standard way of suggesting that the person to 
   whom it is directed has succumbed to terminal geekdom (see {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 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:ginger: n. See {saga}. 

:GIPS: /gips/ or /jips/ n. [analogy with {MIPS}] Giga-Instructions per 
   Second (also possibly `Gillions of Instructions per Second'; see 
   {gillion}). In 1991, this is used of only a handful of highly parallel 
   machines, but this is expected to change. Compare {KIPS}. 

:glark: /glark/ vt. To figure something out from context. "The System III 
   manuals are pretty poor, but you can generally glark the meaning from 
   context." Interestingly, the word was originally `glork'; the context 
   was "This gubblick contains many nonsklarkish English flutzpahs, but the 
   overall pluggandisp can be glorked [sic] from context" (David Moser, 
   quoted by Douglas Hofstadter in his "Metamagical Themas" column in the 
   January 1981 "Scientific American"). It is conjectured that hacker usage 
   mutated the verb to `glark' because {glork} was already an established 
   jargon term (some hackers do report using the original term). Compare 
   {grok}, {zen}. 

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

:glass tty: /glas T-T-Y/ or /glas ti'tee/ n. A terminal that has a 
   display screen but which, because of hardware or software limitations, 
   behaves like a teletype or some other printing terminal, thereby 
   combining the disadvantages of both: like a printing terminal, it can't 
   do fancy display hacks, and like a display terminal, it doesn't produce 
   hard copy. An example is the early `dumb' version of Lear-Siegler ADM 3 
   (without cursor control). See {tube}, {tty}; compare {dumb terminal}, 
   {smart terminal}. See "{TV Typewriters}" (Appendix A) for an interesting 
   true story about a glass tty. 

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

:glitch: /glich/ [very common; from German `glitschig' 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 glitched". 2. vi. To commit a glitch. See 
   {gritch}. 3. vt. [Stanford] To scroll a display screen, esp. several 
   lines at a time. {{WAITS}} terminals used to do this in order to avoid 
   continuous scrolling, which is distracting to the eye. 4. obs. Same as 
   {magic cookie}, sense 2. 

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

:glob: /glob/, _not_ /glohb/ v.,n. [Unix; common] To expand special 
   characters in a wildcarded name, or the act of so doing (the action is 
   also called `globbing'). The Unix conventions for filename wildcarding 
   have become sufficiently pervasive that many hackers use some of them in 
   written English, especially in email or news on technical topics. Those 
   commonly encountered include the following: 

          wildcard for any string (see also {UN*X})
          wildcard for any single character (generally read this way
          only at the beginning or in the middle of a word)
          delimits a wildcard matching any of the enclosed characters
          alternation of comma-separated alternatives; thus,
          `foo{baz,qux}' would be read as `foobaz' or `fooqux'
   Some examples: "He said his name was [KC]arl" (expresses ambiguity). 
   "I don't read talk.politics.*" (any of the talk.politics subgroups on 
   {Usenet}). Other examples are given under the entry for {X}. Note that 
   glob patterns are similar, but not identical, to those used in 

   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 protected]>>. 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 protected]>>, founder of Usenet's anarchic alt.* 

: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 

: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. 

:Godzillagram: /god-zil'*-gram/ n. [from Japan's national hero] 1. A 
   network packet that in theory is a broadcast to every machine in the 
   universe. The typical case is an IP datagram whose destination IP 
   address is []. Fortunately, few gateways are foolish 
   enough to attempt to implement this case! 2. A network packet of maximum 
   size. An IP Godzillagram has 65,536 octets. Compare {super source 
   quench}, {Christmas tree packet}, {martian}. 

:golden: adj. [prob. from folklore's `golden egg'] When used to describe 
   a magnetic medium (e.g., `golden disk', `golden tape'), describes one 
   containing a tested, up-to-spec, ready-to-ship software version. Compare 
   {platinum-iridium}. 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 out}. 

:gonkulator: /gon'kyoo-lay-tr/ n. [common; from the 1960s "Hogan's 
   Heroes" TV series] A pretentious piece of equipment that actually serves 
   no useful purpose. Usually used to describe one's least favorite piece 
   of computer hardware. See {gonk}. 

:gonzo: /gon'zoh/ adj. [from Hunter S. Thompson] 1. With total 
   commitment, total concentration, and a mad sort of panache. (Thompson's 
   original sense.) 2. More loosely: Overwhelming; outrageous; over the 
   top; very large, esp. used of collections of source code, source files, 
   or individual functions. Has some of the connotations of {moby} and 
   {hairy}, but without the implication of obscurity or complexity. 

:Good Thing: n.,adj. [very common; 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.] 1. 
   Self-evidently wonderful to anyone in a position to notice: "A language 
   that manages dynamic memory automatically for you is a Good Thing." 2. 
   Something that can't possibly have any ill side-effects and may save 
   considerable grief later: "Removing the self-modifying code from that 
   shared library would be a Good Thing." 3. When said of software tools or 
   libraries, as in "YACC is a Good Thing", specifically connotes that the 
   thing has drastically reduced a programmer's work load. Oppose {Bad 

: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. A type of Internet service first floated around 1991 and 
   obsolesced around 1995 by the World Wide Web. Gopher presents a menuing 
   interface to a tree or graph of links; the links can be to documents, 
   runnable programs, or other gopher menus arbitrarily far across the net. 

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

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

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

: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 

:GOSMACS: /goz'maks/ n. [contraction of `Gosling EMACS'] The first 
   {EMACS}-in-C implementation, predating but now largely eclipsed by 
   {GNUMACS}. Originally freeware; a commercial version was modestly 
   popular as `UniPress EMACS' during the 1980s. The author, James Gosling, 
   went on to invent {NeWS} and the programming language Java; the latter 
   earned him {demigod} status. 

:Gosperism: /gos'p*r-izm/ n. A hack, invention, or saying due to {elder 
   days} arch-hacker R. William (Bill) Gosper. This notion merits its own 
   term because there are so many of them. Many of the entries in {HAKMEM} 
   are Gosperisms; see also {life}. 

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

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

:gray goo: n. A hypothetical substance composed of {sagan}s of 
   sub-micron-sized self-replicating robots programmed to make copies of 
   themselves out of whatever is available. The image that goes with the 
   term is one of the entire biosphere of Earth being eventually converted 
   to robot goo. This is the simplest of the {{nanotechnology}} disaster 
   scenarios, easily refuted by arguments from energy requirements and 
   elemental abundances. Compare {blue 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 Book: n. 1. One of the four standard {{PostScript}} references: 
   "PostScript Language Program Design", bylined `Adobe Systems' 
   (Addison-Wesley, 1988; QA76.73.P67P66 ISBN 0-201-14396-8); see also {Red 
   Book}, {Blue Book}, and the {White Book} (sense 2). 2. Informal name for 
   one of the three standard references on SmallTalk: "Smalltalk-80: Bits 
   of History, Words of Advice", by Glenn Krasner (Addison-Wesley, 1983; 
   QA76.8.S635S58; ISBN 0-201-11669-3) (this, too, is associated with blue 
   and red books). 3. The "X/Open Compatibility Guide", which defines an 
   international standard {{Unix}} environment that is a proper superset of 
   POSIX/SVID; also includes descriptions of a standard utility toolkit, 
   systems administration features, and the like. This grimoire is taken 
   with particular seriousness in Europe. See {Purple Book}. 4. The IEEE 
   1003.1 POSIX Operating Systems Interface standard has been dubbed "The 
   Ugly Green Book". 5. Any of the 1992 standards issued by the CCITT's 
   tenth plenary assembly. These include, among other things, the X.400 
   email standard and the Group 1 through 4 fax standards. See also {{book 

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

:green card: n. [after the "IBM System/360 Reference Data" card] A 
   summary of an assembly language, even if the color is not green and not 
   a card. Less frequently used now because of the decrease in the use of 
   assembly language. "I'll go get my green card so I can check the 
   addressing mode for that instruction." 

   The original green card became a yellow card when the System/370 was 
   introduced, and later a yellow booklet. An anecdote from IBM refers to a 
   scene that took place in a programmers' terminal room at Yorktown in 
   1978. A {luser} overheard one of the programmers ask another "Do you 
   have a green card?" The other grunted and passed the first a thick 
   yellow booklet. At this point the luser turned a delicate shade of olive 
   and rapidly left the room, never to return. 

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

:green lightning: n. [IBM] 1. Apparently random flashing streaks on the 
   face of 3278-9 terminals while a new symbol set is being downloaded. 
   This hardware bug was left deliberately unfixed, as some genius within 
   IBM suggested it would let the user know that `something is happening'. 
   That, it certainly does. Later microprocessor-driven IBM color graphics 
   displays were actually _programmed_ to produce green lightning! 2. 
   [proposed] Any bug perverted into an alleged feature by adroit 
   rationalization or marketing. "Motorola calls the CISC cruft in the 
   88000 architecture `compatibility logic', but I call it green 
   lightning". See also {feature} (sense 6). 

:green machine: n. A computer or peripheral device that has been designed 
   and built to military specifications for field equipment (that is, to 
   withstand mechanical shock, extremes of temperature and humidity, and so 
   forth). Comes from the olive-drab `uniform' paint used for military 

: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. Modems with 
   mismatched bitrates usually generate gribble (more specifically, {baud 
   barf}). Dumping a binary file to the screen is an excellent source of 
   gribble, and (if the bell/speaker is active) headaches. 

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

:grind: vt. 1. [MIT and Berkeley; now rare] To prettify hardcopy of code, 
   especially LISP code, by reindenting lines, printing keywords and 
   comments in distinct fonts (if available), etc. This usage was 
   associated with the MacLISP community and is now rare; {prettyprint} was 
   and is the generic term for such operations. 2. [Unix] To generate the 
   formatted version of a document from the {{nroff}}, {{troff}}, {{TeX}}, 
   or Scribe source. 3. [common] To run seemingly interminably, esp. (but 
   not necessarily) if performing some tedious and inherently useless task. 
   Similar to {crunch} or {grovel}. Grinding has a connotation of using a 
   lot of CPU time, but it is possible to grind a disk, network, etc. See 
   also {hog}. 4. To make the whole system slow. "Troff really grinds a 
   PDP-11." 5. `grind grind' excl. Roughly, "Isn't the machine slow today!" 

:grind crank: n. // A mythical accessory to a terminal. A crank on the 
   side of a monitor, which when operated makes a zizzing noise and causes 
   the computer to run faster. Usually one does not refer to a grind crank 
   out loud, but merely makes the appropriate gesture and noise. See 

   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 

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

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

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

:grok: /grok/, var. /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". 

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

:gun: vt. [ITS, now rare: from the `:GUN' command] To forcibly terminate 
   a program or job (computer, not career). "Some idiot left a background 
   process running soaking up half the cycles, so I gunned it." Compare 
   {can}, {blammo}. 

:gunch: /guhnch/ vt. [TMRC] To push, prod, or poke at a device that has 
   almost (but not quite) produced the desired result. Implies a threat to 

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

:gurfle: /ger'fl/ interj. An expression of shocked disbelief. "He said we 
   have to recode this thing in FORTRAN by next week. Gurfle!" Compare 

:guru: n. [Unix] An expert. Implies not only {wizard} skill but also a 
   history of being a knowledge resource for others. Less often, used (with 
   a qualifier) for other experts on other systems, as in `VMS guru'. See 
   {source of all good bits}. 

:guru meditation: n. Amiga equivalent of `panic' in Unix (sometimes just 
   called a `guru' or `guru event'). When the system crashes, a cryptic 
   message of the form "GURU MEDITATION #XXXXXXXX.YYYYYYYY" may appear, 
   indicating what the problem was. An Amiga guru can figure things out 
   from the numbers. Sometimes a {guru} event must be followed by a {Vulcan 
   nerve pinch}. 

   This term is (no surprise) an in-joke from the earliest days of the 
   Amiga. An earlier product of the Amiga corporation was a device called a 
   `Joyboard' which was basically a plastic board built onto a 
   joystick-like device; it was sold with a skiing game cartridge for the 
   Atari game machine. It is said that whenever the prototype OS crashed, 
   the system programmer responsible would calm down by concentrating on a 
   solution while sitting cross-legged on a Joyboard trying to keep the 
   board in balance. This position resembled that of a meditating guru. 
   Sadly, the joke was removed fairly early on (but there's a well-known 
   patch to restore it in more recent versions). 

:gweep: /gweep/ [WPI] 1. v. To {hack}, usually at night. At WPI, from 
   1975 onwards, one who gweeped could often be found at the College 
   Computing Center punching cards or crashing the {PDP-10} or, later, the 
   DEC-20. A correspondent who was there at the time opines that the term 
   was originally onomatopoetic, describing the keyclick sound of the 
   Datapoint terminals long connected to the PDP-10; 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}. 

= H =

:h: [from SF fandom] A method of `marking' common words, i.e., calling 
   attention to the fact that they are being used in a nonstandard, ironic, 
   or humorous way. Originated in the fannish catchphrase "Bheer is the One 
   True Ghod!" from decades ago. H-infix marking of `Ghod' and other words 
   spread into the 1960s counterculture via underground comix, and into 
   early hackerdom either from the counterculture or from SF fandom (the 
   three overlapped heavily at the time). More recently, the h infix has 
   become an expected feature of benchmark names (Dhrystone, Rhealstone, 
   etc.); this is probably patterning on the original Whetstone (the name 
   of a laboratory) but influenced by the fannish/counterculture h infix. 

:ha ha only serious: [from SF fandom, orig. as mutation of HHOK, `Ha Ha 
   Only Kidding'] A phrase (often seen abbreviated as HHOS) that aptly 
   captures the flavor of much hacker discourse. Applied especially to 
   parodies, absurdities, and ironic jokes that are both intended and 
   perceived to contain a possibly disquieting amount of truth, or truths 
   that are constructed on in-joke and self-parody. This lexicon contains 
   many examples of ha-ha-only-serious in both form and content. Indeed, 
   the entirety of hacker culture is often perceived as ha-ha-only-serious 
   by hackers themselves; to take it either too lightly or too seriously 
   marks a person as an outsider, a {wannabee}, or in {larval stage}. For 
   further enlightenment on this subject, consult any Zen master. See also 
   {{hacker humor}}, and {AI koans}. 

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

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

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

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

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

:hack value: n. Often adduced as the reason or motivation for expending 
   effort toward a seemingly useless goal, the point being that the 
   accomplished goal is a hack. For example, MacLISP had features for 
   reading and printing Roman numerals, which were installed purely for 
   hack value. See {display hack} for one method of computing hack value, 
   but this cannot really be explained, only experienced. As Louis 
   Armstrong once said when asked to explain jazz: "Man, if you gotta ask 
   you'll never know." (Feminists please note Fats Waller's explanation of 
   rhythm: "Lady, if you got to ask, you ain't got it.") 

:hacked off: adj. [analogous to `pissed off'] Said of system 
   administrators who have become annoyed, upset, or touchy owing to 
   suspicions that their sites have been or are going to be victimized by 
   crackers, or used for inappropriate, technically illegal, or even 
   overtly criminal activities. For example, having unreadable files in 
   your home directory called `worm', `lockpick', or `goroot' would 
   probably be an effective (as well as impressively obvious and stupid) 
   way to get your sysadmin hacked off at you. 

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

:hacked up: adj. Sufficiently patched, kluged, and tweaked that the 
   surgical scars are beginning to crowd out normal tissue (compare 
   {critical mass}). Not all programs that are hacked become `hacked up'; 
   if modifications are done with some eye to coherence and continued 
   maintainability, the software may emerge better for the experience. 
   Contrast {hack up}. 

:hacker: n. [originally, someone who makes furniture with an axe] 1. A 
   person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how 
   to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to 
   learn only the minimum necessary. 2. One who programs enthusiastically 
   (even obsessively) or who enjoys programming rather than just theorizing 
   about programming. 3. A person capable of appreciating {hack value}. 4. 
   A person who is good at programming quickly. 5. An expert at a 
   particular program, or one who frequently does work using it or on it; 
   as in `a Unix hacker'. (Definitions 1 through 5 are correlated, and 
   people who fit them congregate.) 6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. 
   One might be an astronomy hacker, for example. 7. One who enjoys the 
   intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing 
   limitations. 8. [deprecated] A malicious meddler who tries to discover 
   sensitive information by poking around. Hence `password hacker', 
   `network hacker'. The correct term for this sense is {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}, {computron}). 

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

   4. Fascination with puns and wordplay. 

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

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

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

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

:hacking run: n. [analogy with `bombing run' or `speed run'] A hack 
   session extended long outside normal working times, especially one 
   longer than 12 hours. May cause you to `change phase the hard way' (see 

:Hacking X for Y: n. [ITS] Ritual phrasing of part of the information 
   which ITS made publicly available about each user. This information (the 
   INQUIR record) was a sort of form in which the user could fill out 
   various fields. On display, two of these fields were always combined 
   into a project description of the form "Hacking X for Y" (e.g., 
   `"Hacking perceptrons for Minsky"'). This form of description became 
   traditional and has since been carried over to other systems with more 
   general facilities for self-advertisement (such as Unix {plan file}s). 

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

:hackish: /hak'ish/ adj. (also {hackishness} n.) 1. Said of something 
   that is or involves a hack. 2. Of or pertaining to hackers or the hacker 
   subculture. See also {true-hacker}. 

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

:hackitude: n. Syn. {hackishness}; this word is considered 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 hairball." 3. Any large amount of garbage coming out 
   suddenly. "Sendmail is coughing up a hairball, so expect some slowness 
   accessing the Internet." 

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

   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 incorrect.) 

   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 

   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 

   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 

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

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

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

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

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

   An HTML transcription of the entire document is available at 

:hakspek: /hak'speek/ n. A shorthand method of spelling found on many 
   British academic bulletin boards and {talker system}s. Syllables and 
   whole words in a sentence are replaced by single ASCII characters the 
   names of which are phonetically similar or equivalent, while multiple 
   letters are usually dropped. Hence, `for' becomes `4'; `two', `too', and 
   `to' become `2'; `ck' becomes `k'. "Before I see you tomorrow" becomes 
   "b4 i c u 2moro". First appeared in London about 1986, and was probably 
   caused by the slowness of available talker systems, which operated on 
   archaic machines with outdated operating systems and no standard methods 
   of communication. 

   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 afterwards. 

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

:hamster: n. 1. [Fairchild] A particularly slick little piece of code 
   that does one thing well; a small, self-contained hack. The image is of 
   a hamster {happily} spinning its exercise wheel. 2. A tailless mouse; 
   that is, one with an infrared link to a receiver on the machine, as 
   opposed to the conventional cable. 3. [UK] Any item of hardware made by 
   Amstrad, a company famous for its cheap plastic PC-almost-compatibles. 

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

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

:hand-hacking: n. 1. [rare] The practice of translating {hot spot}s from 
   an {HLL} into hand-tuned assembler, as opposed to trying to coerce the 
   compiler into generating better code. Both the term and the practice are 
   becoming uncommon. See {tune}, {by hand}; syn. with v. {cruft}. 2. 
   [common] More generally, manual construction or patching of data sets 
   that would normally be generated by a translation utility and 
   interpreted by another program, and aren't really designed to be read or 
   modified by humans. 

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

:handle: n. 1. [from CB slang] An electronic pseudonym; a `nom de guerre' 
   intended to conceal the user's true identity. Network and BBS handles 
   function as the same sort of simultaneous concealment and display one 
   finds on Citizen's Band radio, from which the term was adopted. Use of 
   grandiose handles is characteristic of {warez d00dz}, {cracker}s, 
   {weenie}s, {spod}s, and other lower forms of network life; true hackers 
   travel on their own reputations rather than invented legendry. Compare 
   {nick}, {screen name}. 2. A {magic cookie}, often in the form of a 
   numeric index into some array somewhere, through which you can 
   manipulate an object like a file or window. The form `file handle' is 
   especially common. 3. [Mac] A pointer to a pointer to 
   dynamically-allocated memory; the extra level of indirection allows 
   on-the-fly memory compaction (to cut down on fragmentation) or aging out 
   of unused resources, with minimal impact on the (possibly multiple) 
   parts of the larger program containing references to the allocated 
   memory. Compare {snap} (to snap a handle would defeat its purpose); see 
   also {aliasing bug}, {dangling pointer}. 

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

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

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

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

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

: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 block}s, 
   {fortune cookie} files and the login banners of BBS systems and 
   commercial networks. This probably reflects the hacker's daily 
   experience of environments created by well-intentioned but short-sighted 
   people. Compare {Sturgeon's Law}, {Ninety-Ninety Rule}. 

   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 avidence) Napoleon 

:happily: adv. Of software, used to emphasize that a program is unaware 
   of some important fact about its environment, either because it has been 
   fooled into believing a lie, or because it doesn't care. The sense of 
   `happy' here is not that of elation, but rather that of blissful 
   ignorance. "The program continues to run, happily unaware that its 
   output is going to /dev/null." Also used to suggest that a program or 
   device would really rather be doing something destructive, and is being 
   given an opportunity to do so. "If you enter an O here instead of a 
   zero, the program will happily erase all your data." Neverheless, use of 
   this term implies a basically benign attitude towards the program: It 
   didn't mean any harm, it was just eager to do its job. We'd like to be 
   angry at it but we shouldn't, we should try to understand it instead. 
   The adjective "cheerfully" is often used in exactly the same way. 

:haque: /hak/ n. [Usenet] Variant spelling of {hack}, used only for the 
   noun form and connoting an {elegant} hack, that is a {hack} in sense 2. 

:hard boot: n. See {boot}. 

:hardcoded: adj. 1. [common] Said of data inserted directly into a 
   program, where it cannot be easily modified, as opposed to data in some 
   {profile}, resource (see {de-rezz} sense 2), or environment variable 
   that a {user} or hacker can easily modify. 2. In C, this is esp. applied 
   to use of a literal instead of a `#define' macro (see {magic number}). 

:hardwarily: /hard-weir'*-lee/ adv. In a way pertaining to hardware. "The 
   system is hardwarily unreliable." The adjective `hardwary' is _not_ 
   traditionally used, though it has recently been reported from the U.K. 
   See {softwarily}. 

:hardwired: adj. 1. In software, syn. for {hardcoded}. 2. By extension, 
   anything that is not modifiable, especially in the sense of customizable 
   to one's particular needs or tastes. 

:has the X nature: [seems to derive from Zen Buddhist koans of the form 
   "Does an X have the Buddha-nature?"] adj. Common hacker construction for 
   `is an X', used for humorous emphasis. "Anyone who can't even use a 
   program with on-screen help embedded in it truly has the {loser} 
   nature!" See also {the X that can be Y is not the true X}. See also 

:hash bucket: n. A notional receptacle, a set of which might be used to 
   apportion data items for sorting or lookup purposes. When you look up a 
   name in the phone book (for example), you typically hash it by 
   extracting its first letter; the hash buckets are the alphabetically 
   ordered letter sections. This term is used as techspeak with respect to 
   code that uses actual hash functions; in jargon, it is used for human 
   associative memory as well. Thus, two things `in the same hash bucket' 
   are more difficult to discriminate, and may be confused. "If you hash 
   English words only by length, you get too many common grammar words in 
   the first couple of hash buckets." Compare {hash collision}. 

:hash collision: n. [from the techspeak] (var. `hash clash') When used of 
   people, signifies a confusion in associative memory or imagination, 
   especially a persistent one (see {thinko}). True story: One of us [ESR] 
   was once on the phone with a friend about to move out to Berkeley. When 
   asked what he expected Berkeley to be like, the friend replied: "Well, I 
   have this mental picture of naked women throwing Molotov cocktails, but 
   I think that's just a collision in my hash tables." Compare {hash 

:hat: n. Common (spoken) name for the circumflex (`^', ASCII 1011110) 
   character. See {ASCII} for other synonyms. 

:HCF: /H-C-F/ n. Mnemonic for `Halt and Catch Fire', any of several 
   undocumented and semi-mythical machine instructions with destructive 
   side-effects, supposedly included for test purposes on several 
   well-known architectures going as far back as the IBM 360. The MC6800 
   microprocessor was the first for which an HCF opcode became widely 
   known. This instruction caused the processor to {toggle} a subset of the 
   bus lines as rapidly as it could; in some configurations this could 
   actually cause lines to burn up. Compare {killer poke}. 

:heads down: [Sun] adj. Concentrating, usually so heavily and for so long 
   that everything outside the focus area is missed. See also {hack mode} 
   and {larval stage}, although this mode is hardly confined to fledgling 

:heartbeat: n. 1. The signal emitted by a Level 2 Ethernet transceiver at 
   the end of every packet to show that the collision-detection circuit is 
   still connected. 2. A periodic synchronization signal used by software 
   or hardware, such as a bus clock or a periodic interrupt. 3. The 
   `natural' oscillation frequency of a computer's clock crystal, before 
   frequency division down to the machine's clock rate. 4. A signal emitted 
   at regular intervals by software to demonstrate that it is still alive. 
   Sometimes hardware is designed to reboot the machine if it stops hearing 
   a heartbeat. See also {breath-of-life packet}. 

:heatseeker: n. [IBM] A customer who can be relied upon to buy, without 
   fail, the latest version of an existing product (not quite the same as a 
   member of the {lunatic fringe}). A 1993 example of a heatseeker was 
   someone who, owning a 286 PC and Windows 3.0, went out and bought 
   Windows 3.1 (which offers no worthwhile benefits unless you have a 386). 
   If all customers were heatseekers, vast amounts of money could be made 
   by just fixing some of the bugs in each release (n) and selling it to 
   them as release (n+1). Microsoft in fact seems to have mastered this 

: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 {Telerat}; see also {AIDX}, {Macintrash} {Nominal 
   Semidestructor}, {ScumOS}, {sun-stools}, {HP-SUX}, {Slowlaris}. 

: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 

:Helen Keller mode: n. 1. State of a hardware or software system that is 
   deaf, dumb, and blind, i.e., accepting no input and generating no 
   output, usually due to an infinite loop or some other excursion into 
   {deep space}. (Unfair to the real Helen Keller, whose success at 
   learning speech was triumphant.) See also {go flatline}, {catatonic}. 2. 
   On IBM PCs under DOS, refers to a specific failure mode in which a 
   screen saver has kicked in over an {ill-behaved} application which 
   bypasses the very interrupts the screen saver watches for activity. Your 
   choices are to try to get from the program's current state through a 
   successful save-and-exit without being able to see what you're doing, or 
   to re-boot the machine. This isn't (strictly speaking) a crash. 

: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, wall!: excl. See {wall}. 

:hello world: interj. 1. The canonical minimal test message in the C/Unix 
   universe. 2. Any of the minimal programs that emit this message (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?" 

: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 throne. 

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

:HHOK: See {ha ha only serious}. 

:HHOS: See {ha ha only serious}. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:hobbit: n. 1. [rare] The High Order BIT of a byte; same as the {meta 
   bit} or {high bit}. 2. The non-ITS name of <[email protected]> (*Hobbit*), 
   master of lasers. 

:hog: n.,vt. 1. Favored term to describe programs or hardware that seem 
   to eat far more than their share of a system's resources, esp. those 
   which noticeably degrade interactive response. _Not_ used of programs 
   that are simply extremely large or complex or that are merely painfully 
   slow themselves. More often than not encountered in qualified forms, 
   e.g., `memory hog', `core hog', `hog the processor', `hog the disk'. "A 
   controller that never gives up the I/O bus gets killed after the bus-hog 
   timer expires." 2. Also said of _people_ who use more than their fair 
   share of resources (particularly disk, where it seems that 10% of the 
   people use 90% of the disk, no matter how big the disk is or how many 
   people use it). Of course, once disk hogs fill up one filesystem, they 
   typically find some other new one to infect, claiming to the sysadmin 
   that they have an important new project to complete. 

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

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

:holy penguin pee: n. [Linux] Notional substance said to be sprinkled by 
   {Linus} onto other people's contributions. With this ritual, he blesses 
   them, officialy 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 
   war}s over {religious issues}. The paper by Danny Cohen that popularized 
   the terms {big-endian} and {little-endian} in connection with the 
   LSB-first/MSB-first controversy was entitled "On Holy Wars and a Plea 
   for Peace". 

   Great holy wars of the past have included {{ITS}} vs. {{Unix}}, 
   {{Unix}} vs. {VMS}, {BSD} Unix vs. 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 

: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 {cracker}s so that they can 
   be observed in action. It is usually well isolated from the rest of the 
   network, but has extensive logging (usually network layer, on a 
   different machine). Different from an {iron box} in that 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 

:hop: 1. n. [common] One file transmission in a series required to get a 
   file from point A to point B on a store-and-forward network. On such 
   networks (including {UUCPNET} and {FidoNet}), an important inter-machine 
   metric is the number of hops in the shortest path between them, which 
   can be more significant than their geographical separation. See {bang 
   path}. 2. v. [rare] To log in to a remote machine, esp. via rlogin or 
   telnet. "I'll hop over to foovax to FTP that." 

: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 adjective. 

:hose: 1. vt. [common] To make non-functional or greatly degraded in 
   performance. "That big ray-tracing program really hoses the system." See 
   {hosed}. 2. n. A narrow channel through which data flows under pressure. 
   Generally denotes data paths that represent performance bottlenecks. 3. 
   n. Cabling, especially thick Ethernet cable. This is sometimes called 
   `bit hose' or `hosery' (play on `hosiery') or `etherhose'. See also 
   {washing machine}. 

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

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

: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 button." 3. A screen region that is 
   sensitive to mouse gestures, which trigger some action. World Wide Web 
   pages now provide the {canonical} examples; WWW browsers present 
   hypertext links as hot spots which, when clicked on, point the browser 
   at another document (these are specifically called {hotlink}s). 4. In a 
   massively parallel computer with shared memory, the one location that 
   all 10,000 processors are trying to read or write at once (perhaps 
   because they are all doing a {busy-wait} on the same lock). 5. More 
   generally, any place in a hardware design that turns into a performance 
   bottleneck due to resource contention. 

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

:house wizard: n. [prob. from ad-agency tradetalk, `house freak'] A 
   hacker occupying a technical-specialist, R&D, or systems position at a 
   commercial shop. A really effective house wizard can have influence out 
   of all proportion to his/her ostensible rank and still not have to wear 
   a suit. Used esp. of Unix wizards. The term `house guru' is equivalent. 

:HP-SUX: /H-P suhks/ n. Unflattering hackerism for HP-UX, 
   Hewlett-Packard's Unix port, which features some truly unique bogosities 
   in the filesystem internals and elsewhere (these occasionally create 
   portability problems). HP-UX is often referred to as `hockey-pux' inside 
   HP, and one respondent claims that the proper pronunciation is /H-P 
   ukkkhhhh/ as though one were about to spit. Another such alternate 
   spelling and pronunciation is "H-PUX" /H-puhks/. Hackers at HP/Apollo 
   (the former Apollo Computers which was swallowed by HP in 1989) have 
   been heard to complain that Mr. Packard should have pushed to have his 
   name first, if for no other reason than the greater eloquence of the 
   resulting acronym. Compare {AIDX}, {buglix}. See also {Nominal 
   Semidestructor}, {Telerat}, {ScumOS}, {sun-stools}, {Slowlaris}. 

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

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

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

:hung: adj. [from `hung up'; common] Equivalent to {wedged}, but more 
   common at Unix/C sites. Not generally used of people. Syn. with {locked 
   up}, {wedged}; compare {hosed}. See also {hang}. A hung state is 
   distinguished from {crash}ed or {down}, where the program or system is 
   also unusable but because it is not running rather than because it is 
   waiting for something. However, the recovery from both situations is 
   often the same. It is also distinguished from the similar but more 
   drastic state {wedged} - hung software can be woken up with easy things 
   like interrupt keys, but wedged will need a kill -9 or even reboot. 

:hungry puppy: n. Syn. {slopsucker}. 

:hungus: /huhng'g*s/ adj. [perhaps related to slang `humongous'] Large, 
   unwieldy, usually unmanageable. "TCP is a hungus piece of code." "This 
   is a hungus set of modifications." The {Infocom} text adventure game 
   "Beyond Zork" included two monsters called hunguses. 

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

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

= I =

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

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

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

:IBM: /I-B-M/ Once upon a time, the computer company most hackers loved 
   to hate; today, the one they are most puzzled to find themselves liking. 

   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 underground. 

:IBM discount: n. A price increase. Outside IBM, this derives from the 
   common perception that IBM products are generally overpriced (see 
   {clone}); inside, it is said to spring from a belief that large numbers 
   of IBM employees living in an area cause prices to rise. 

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

:ice: n. [coined by Usenetter Tom Maddox, popularized by William Gibson's 
   cyberpunk SF novels: a contrived acronym for `Intrusion Countermeasure 
   Electronics'] Security software (in Gibson's novels, software that 
   responds to intrusion by attempting to immobilize or even literally kill 
   the intruder). Hence, `icebreaker': a program designed for cracking 
   security on a system. 

   Neither term is in serious use yet as of early 2001, but many hackers 
   find the metaphor attractive, and each may develop a denotation in the 
   future. In the meantime, the speculative usage could be confused with 
   `ICE', an acronym for "in-circuit emulator". 

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

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

:idempotent: adj. [from mathematical techspeak] Acting as if used only 
   once, even if used multiple times. This term is often used with respect 
   to {C} header files, which contain common definitions and declarations 
   to be included by several source files. If a header file is ever 
   included twice during the same compilation (perhaps due to nested 
   #include files), compilation errors can result unless the header file 
   has protected itself against multiple inclusion; a header file so 
   protected is said to be idempotent. The term can also be used to 
   describe an initialization subroutine that is arranged to perform some 
   critical action exactly once, even if the routine is called several 

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

:If you want X, you know where to find it.: There is a legend that Dennis 
   Ritchie, inventor of {C}, once responded to demands for features 
   resembling those of what at the time was a much more popular language by 
   observing "If you want PL/I, you know where to find it." Ever since, 
   this has been hackish standard form for fending off requests to alter a 
   new design to mimic some older (and, by implication, inferior and 
   {baroque}) one. The case X = {Pascal} manifests semi-regularly on 
   Usenet's comp.lang.c newsgroup. Indeed, the case X = X has been reported 
   in discussions of graphics software (see {X}). 

:ifdef out: /if'def owt/ v. Syn. for {condition out}, specific to {C}. 

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

:ill-behaved: adj. 1. [numerical analysis] Said of an algorithm or 
   computational method that tends to blow up because of accumulated 
   roundoff error or poor convergence properties. 2. Software that bypasses 
   the defined {OS} interfaces to do things (like screen, keyboard, and 
   disk I/O) itself, often in a way that depends on the hardware of the 
   machine it is running on or which is nonportable or incompatible with 
   other pieces of software. In the 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 
   are ill-behaved. See also {bare metal}. Oppose {well-behaved}, compare 
   {PC-ism}. See {mess-dos}. 

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

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

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

:inc: /ink/ v. Verbal (and only rarely written) shorthand for increment, 
   i.e. `increase by one'. Especially used by assembly programmers, as many 
   assembly languages have an `inc' mnemonic. Antonym: dec (see {DEC}). 

:incantation: n. Any particularly arbitrary or obscure command that one 
   must mutter at a system to attain a desired result. Not used of 
   passwords or other explicit security features. Especially used of tricks 
   that are so poorly documented that they must be learned from a {wizard}. 
   "This compiler normally locates initialized data in the data segment, 
   but if you {mutter} the right incantation they will be forced into text 

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

:include war: n. Excessive multi-leveled inclusion within a discussion 
   {thread}, a practice that tends to annoy readers. In a forum with 
   high-traffic newsgroups, such as Usenet, this can lead to {flame}s and 
   the urge to start a {kill file}. 

:indent style: n. [C, C++, and Java programmers] The rules one uses to 
   indent code in a readable fashion. There are four major C indent styles, 
   described below; all have the aim of making it easier for the reader to 
   visually track the scope of control constructs. They have been inherited 
   by C++ and Java, which have C-like syntaxes. The significant variable is 
   the placement of `{' and `}' with respect to the statement(s) they 
   enclose and to the guard or controlling statement (`if', `else', `for', 
   `while', or `do') on the block, if any. 

   `K&R style' -- Named after Kernighan & Ritchie, because the examples 
   in {K&R} are formatted this way. Also called `kernel style' because the 
   Unix kernel is written in it, and the `One True Brace Style' (abbrev. 
   1TBS) by its partisans. In C code, the body is typically indented by 
   eight spaces (or one tab) per level, as shown here. Four spaces are 
   occasionally seen in C, but in C++ and Java four tends to be the rule 
   rather than the exception. 

     if (<cond>) {
   `Allman style' -- Named for Eric Allman, a Berkeley hacker who wrote a 
   lot of the BSD utilities in it (it is sometimes called `BSD style'). 
   Resembles normal indent style in Pascal and Algol. It is the only style 
   other than K&R in widespread use among Java programmers. Basic indent 
   per level shown here is eight spaces, but four (or sometimes three) 
   spaces are generally preferred by C++ and Java programmers. 

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

     if (<cond>)
   `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 wars}. 

:Indent-o-Meter: [] 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 at 

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

:infant mortality: n. It is common lore among hackers (and in the 
   electronics industry at large; this term is possibly techspeak by now) 
   that the chances of sudden hardware failure drop off exponentially with 
   a machine's time since first use (that is, until the relatively distant 
   time at which enough mechanical wear in I/O devices and thermal-cycling 
   stress in components has accumulated for the machine to start going 
   senile). Up to half of all chip and wire failures happen within a new 
   system's first few weeks; such failures are often referred to as `infant 
   mortality' problems (or, occasionally, as `sudden infant death 
   syndrome'). See {bathtub curve}, {burn-in period}. 

:infinite: adj. [common] Consisting of a large number of objects; 
   extreme. Used very loosely as in: "This program produces infinite 
   garbage." "He is an infinite loser." The word most likely to follow 
   `infinite', though, is {hair}. (It has been pointed out that fractals 
   are an excellent example of infinite hair.) These uses are abuses of the 
   word's mathematical meaning. The term `semi-infinite', denoting an 
   immoderately large amount of some resource, is also heard. "This 
   compiler is taking a semi-infinite amount of time to optimize my 
   program." See also {semi}. 

:infinite loop: n. One that never terminates (that is, the machine 
   {spin}s or {buzz}es forever and goes {catatonic}). There is a standard 
   joke that has been made about each generation's exemplar of the 
   ultra-fast machine: "The Cray-3 is so fast it can execute an infinite 
   loop in under 2 seconds!" 

:Infinite-Monkey Theorem: n. "If you put an {infinite} number of monkeys 
   at typewriters, eventually one will bash out the script for Hamlet." 
   (One may also hypothesize a small number of monkeys and a very long 
   period of time.) This theorem asserts nothing about the intelligence of 
   the one {random} monkey that eventually comes up with the script (and 
   note that the mob will also type out all the possible _incorrect_ 
   versions of Hamlet). It may be referred to semi-seriously when 
   justifying a {brute force} method; the implication is that, with enough 
   resources thrown at it, any technical challenge becomes a {one-banana 
   problem}. This argument gets more respect since {Linux} justified the 
   {bazaar} mode of development. 

   Other hackers maintain that the Infinite-Monkey Theorem cannot be true 
   - otherwise the exponenntial 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, 
   whatever). 2. `minus infinity': The smallest such value, not necessarily 
   or even usually the simple negation of plus infinity. In N-bit 
   twos-complement arithmetic, infinity is 2^(N-1) - 1 but minus infinity 
   is - (2^(N-1)), not -(2^(N-1) - 1). Note also that this is different 
   from "time T equals minus infinity", which is closer to a 
   mathematician's usage of infinity. 

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

:Infocom: n. A now-legendary games company, active from 1979 to 1989, 
   that commercialized the MDL parser technology used for {Zork} to produce 
   a line of text adventure games that remain favorites among hackers. 
   Infocom's games were intelligent, funny, witty, erudite, irreverent, 
   challenging, satirical, and most thoroughly hackish in spirit. The 
   physical game packages from Infocom are now prized collector's items. 
   After being acquired by Activision in 1989 they did a few more "modern" 
   (e.g. graphics-intensive) games which were less successful than reissues 
   of their classics. 

   The software, thankfully, is still extant; Infocom games were written 
   in a kind of P-code (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 Java-capable. 

:initgame: /in-it'gaym/ n. [IRC] An {IRC} version of the trivia game 
   "Botticelli", in which one user changes his {nick} to the initials of a 
   famous person or other named entity, and the others on the channel ask 
   yes or no questions, with the one to guess the person getting to be "it" 
   next. As a courtesy, the one picking the initials starts by providing a 
   4-letter hint of the form sex, nationality, life-status, reality-status. 
   For example, MAAR means "Male, American, Alive, Real" (as opposed to 
   "fictional"). Initgame can be surprisingly addictive. See also {hing}. 

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

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

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

:INTERCAL: /in't*r-kal/ n. [said by the authors to stand for `Compiler 
   Language With No Pronounceable Acronym'] A computer language designed by 
   Don Woods and James Lyons in 1972. INTERCAL is purposely different from 
   all other computer languages in all ways but one; it is purely a written 
   language, being totally unspeakable. An excerpt from the INTERCAL 
   Reference Manual will make the style of the language clear: 

     It is a well-known and oft-demonstrated fact that a person whose
     work is incomprehensible is held in high esteem.  For example, if
     one were to state that the simplest way to store a value of 65536
     in a 32-bit INTERCAL variable is:
          DO :1 <- #0$#256
     any sensible programmer would say that that was absurd.  Since this
     is indeed the simplest method, the programmer would be made to look
     foolish in front of his boss, who would of course have happened to
     turn up, as bosses are wont to do.  The effect would be no less
     devastating for the programmer having been correct.
   INTERCAL has many other peculiar features designed to make it even 
   more unspeakable. The Woods-Lyons implementation was actually used by 
   many (well, at least several) people at Princeton. The language has been 
   recently reimplemented as C-INTERCAL and is consequently enjoying an 
   unprecedented level of unpopularity; there is even an alt.lang.intercal 
   newsgroup devoted to the study and ... appreciation of the language on 

   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}. 

:InterCaps: [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. 

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

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

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

   That year, 1994, was also the year the mainstream culture discovered 
   the Internet. Once again, the {killer app} was not the anticipated one - 
   rather, what caught the public imagination was the hypertext and 
   multimedia features of the World Wide Web. Subsequently the Internet has 
   seen off its only serious challenger (the OSI protocol stack favored by 
   European 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}, {AIDX}, {buglix}, {Macintrash}, {Telerat}, {ScumOS}, 
   {sun-stools}, {Slowlaris}. 

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

:interrupt: 1. [techspeak] n. On a computer, an event that interrupts 
   normal processing and temporarily diverts flow-of-control through an 
   "interrupt handler" routine. See also {trap}. 2. interj. A request for 
   attention from a hacker. Often explicitly spoken. "Interrupt -- have you 
   seen Joe recently?" See {priority interrupt}. 3. Under MS-DOS, nearly 
   synonymous with `system call', because the OS and BIOS routines are both 
   called using the INT instruction and because programmers so often had to 
   bypass the OS (going directly to a BIOS interrupt) to get reasonable 

: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}. 

:intertwingled: 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 {screen}s. 3. Small, 
   usually 64k, 40k or 4k {demo}. Sizes are generally dictated by {compo} 
   rules. See also {dentro}, {demo}. 

:IRC: /I-R-C/ n. [Internet Relay Chat] A worldwide "party line" network 
   that allows one to converse with others in real time. IRC is structured 
   as a network of Internet servers, each of which accepts connections from 
   client programs, one per user. The IRC community and the {Usenet} and 
   {MUD} communities overlap to some extent, including both hackers and 
   regular folks who have discovered the wonders of computer networks. Some 
   Usenet jargon has been adopted on IRC, as have some conventions such as 
   {emoticon}s. There is also a vigorous native jargon, represented in this 
   lexicon by entries marked `[IRC]'. See also {talk mode}. 

:iron: n. Hardware, especially older and larger hardware of {mainframe} 
   class with big metal cabinets housing relatively low-density electronics 
   (but the term is also used of modern supercomputers). Often in the 
   phrase {big iron}. Oppose {silicon}. See also {dinosaur}. 

:Iron Age: n. In the history of computing, 1961-1971 -- the formative era 
   of commercial {mainframe} technology, when ferrite-core {dinosaur}s 
   ruled the earth. The Iron Age began, ironically enough, with the 
   delivery of the first minicomputer (the PDP-1) and ended with the 
   introduction of the first commercial microprocessor (the Intel 4004) in 
   1971. See also {Stone Age}; compare {elder days}. 

:iron box: n. [Unix/Internet] A special environment set up to trap a 
   {cracker} logging in over remote connections long enough to be traced. 
   May include a modified {shell} restricting the cracker's movements in 
   unobvious ways, and `bait' files designed to keep him interested and 
   logged on. See also {back door}, {firewall machine}, {Venus flytrap}, 
   and Clifford Stoll's account in "{The Cuckoo's Egg}" of how he made and 
   used one (see the {Bibliography} in Appendix C). Compare {padded cell}, 
   {honey pot}. 

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

:ISO standard cup of tea: n. [South Africa] A cup of tea with milk and 
   one teaspoon of sugar, where the milk is poured into the cup before the 
   tea. Variations are ISO 0, with no sugar; ISO 2, with two spoons of 
   sugar; and so on. This may derive from the "NATO standard" cup of coffee 
   and tea (milk and two sugars), military slang going back to the late 
   1950s and parodying NATO's relentless bureacratic drive to standardize 
   parts across European and U.S. militaries. 

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

   [2000 update: There is now, in fact, 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}). 2. A 
   mythical image of operating-system perfection worshiped by a bizarre, 
   fervent retro-cult of old-time hackers and ex-users (see {troglodyte}, 
   sense 2). ITS worshipers manage somehow to continue believing that an OS 
   maintained by assembly-language hand-hacking that supported only 
   monocase 6-character filenames in one directory per account remains 
   superior to today's state of commercial art (their venom against {Unix} 
   is particularly intense). See also {holy wars}, {Weenix}. 

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

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

= J =

:J. Random: /J rand'm/ n. [common; generalized from {J. Random Hacker}] 
   Arbitrary; ordinary; any one; any old. `J. Random' is often prefixed to 
   a noun to make a name out of it. It means roughly `some particular' or 
   `any specific one'. "Would you let J. Random Loser marry your daughter?" 
   The most common uses are `J. Random Hacker', `J. Random Loser', and `J. 
   Random Nerd' ("Should J. Random Loser be allowed to {gun} down other 
   people?"), but it can be used simply as an elaborate version of {random} 
   in any sense. 

:J. Random Hacker: /J rand'm hak'r/ n. [very common] A mythical figure 
   like the Unknown Soldier; the archetypal hacker nerd. This term is one 
   of the oldest in the jargon, apparently going back to MIT in the 1960s. 
   See {random}, {Suzie COBOL}. This may originally have been inspired by 
   `J. Fred Muggs', a show-biz chimpanzee whose name was a household word 
   back in the early days of {TMRC}, and was probably influenced by `J. 
   Presper Eckert' (one of the co-inventors of the electronic computer). 
   See also {Fred Foobar}. 

:jack in: v. To log on to a machine or connect to a network or {BBS}, 
   esp. for purposes of entering a {virtual reality} simulation such as a 
   {MUD} or {IRC} (leaving is "jacking out"). This term derives from 
   {cyberpunk} SF, in which it was used for the act of plugging an 
   electrode set into neural sockets in order to interface the brain 
   directly to a virtual reality. It is primarily used by MUD and IRC fans 
   and younger hackers on BBS systems. 

:jaggies: /jag'eez/ n. The `stairstep' effect observable when an edge 
   (esp. a linear edge of very shallow or steep slope) is rendered on a 
   pixel device (as opposed to a vector display). 

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

   Java is indeed a stronger and cleaner design than C++ and has been 
   embraced by many in the hacker community - but it has been a 
   considerable source of frustration to many others, for reasons ranging 
   from uneven support on different Web browser platforms, performance 
   issues, and some notorious deficiencies 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 2001, these issues are still in the process of being 

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

:JCL: /J-C-L/ n. 1. IBM's supremely {rude} Job Control Language. JCL is 
   the script language used to control the execution of programs in IBM's 
   batch systems. JCL has a very {fascist} syntax, and some versions will, 
   for example, {barf} if two spaces appear where it expects one. Most 
   programmers confronted with JCL simply copy a working file (or card 
   deck), changing the file names. Someone who actually understands and 
   generates unique JCL is regarded with the mixed respect one gives to 
   someone who memorizes the phone book. It is reported that hackers at IBM 
   itself sometimes sing "Who's the breeder of the crud that mangles you 
   and me? I-B-M, J-C-L, M-o-u-s-e" to the tune of the "Mickey Mouse Club" 
   theme to express their opinion of the beast. 2. A comparative for any 
   very {rude} software that a hacker is expected to use. "That's as bad as 
   JCL." As with {COBOL}, JCL is often used as an archetype of ugliness 
   even by those who haven't experienced it. See also {IBM}, {fear and 

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

:JEDR: // n. Synonymous with {IYFEG}. At one time, people in the Usenet 
   newsgroup rec.humor.funny tended to use `JEDR' instead of {IYFEG} or 
   `<ethnic>'; this stemmed from a public attempt to suppress the group 
   once made by a loser with initials JEDR after he was offended by an 
   ethnic joke posted there. (The practice was {retcon}ned by 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}. 

:jibble: [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_. 4. Indeterminate time from a few seconds to 
   forever. "I'll do it in a jiffy" means certainly not now and possibly 
   never. This is a bit contrary to the more widespread use of the word. 
   Oppose {nano}. See also {Real Soon Now}. 

:job security: n. When some piece of code is written in a particularly 
   {obscure} fashion, and no good reason (such as time or space 
   optimization) can be discovered, it is often said that the programmer 
   was attempting to increase his job security (i.e., by making himself 
   indispensable for maintenance). This sour joke seldom has to be said in 
   full; if two hackers are looking over some code together and one points 
   at a section and says "job security", the other one may just nod. 

:jock: n. 1. A programmer who is characterized by large and somewhat 
   brute-force programs. See {brute force}. 2. When modified by another 
   noun, describes a specialist in some particular computing area. The 
   compounds `compiler jock' and `systems jock' seem to be the 
   best-established examples. 

:joe code: /joh' kohd`/ n. 1. Code that is overly {tense} and 
   unmaintainable. "{Perl} may be a handy program, but if you look at the 
   source, it's complete joe code." 2. Badly written, possibly buggy code. 

   Correspondents wishing to remain anonymous have fingered a particular 
   Joe at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and observed that usage has 
   drifted slightly; the original sobriquet `Joe code' was intended in 
   sense 1. 

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

:jolix: /joh'liks/ n.,adj. 386BSD, the freeware port of the BSD Net/2 
   release to the Intel i386 architecture by Bill Jolitz, Lynne Greer 
   Jolitz, and friends. Used to differentiate from BSDI's port based on the 
   same source tape, which used to be called BSD/386 and is now BSD/OS. See 

: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 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}. Example: "I signed your key, but I 
   really don't have the juice to be authoritative." 

: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: /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 

:K&R: [Kernighan and Ritchie] n. Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie's 
   book "The C Programming Language", esp. the classic and influential 
   first edition (Prentice-Hall 1978; ISBN 0-13-110163-3). Syn. {White 
   Book}, {Old Testament}. See also {New Testament}. 

:k-: pref. [rare; poss fr. `kilo-' prefix] Extremely. Rare among hackers, 
   but quite common among crackers and {warez d00dz} in compounds such as 
   `k-kool' /K'kool'/, `k-rad' /K'rad'/, and `k-awesome' /K'aw`sm/. Also 
   used to intensify negatives; thus, `k-evil', `k-lame', `k-screwed', and 
   `k-annoying'. Overuse of this prefix, or use in more formal or technical 
   contexts, is considered an indicator of {lamer} 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" 

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

:kangaroo code: n. Syn. {spaghetti code}. 

:ken: /ken/ n. 1. [Unix] Ken Thompson, principal inventor of Unix. In the 
   early days he used to hand-cut distribution tapes, often with a note 
   that read "Love, ken". Old-timers still use his first name (sometimes 
   uncapitalized, because it's a login name and mail address) in 
   third-person reference; it is widely understood (on Usenet, in 
   particular) that without a last name `Ken' refers only to Ken Thompson. 
   Similarly, Dennis without last name means Dennis Ritchie (and he is 
   often known as dmr). See also {demigod}, {{Unix}}. 2. A flaming user. 
   This was originated by the Software Support group at Symbolics because 
   the two greatest flamers in the user community were both named Ken. 

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

:kgbvax: /K-G-B'vaks/ n. See {kremvax}. 

:KIBO: /ki:'boh/ 1. [acronym] Knowledge In, Bullshit Out. A summary of 
   what happens whenever valid data is passed through an organization (or 
   person) that deliberately or accidentally disregards or ignores its 
   significance. Consider, for example, what an advertising campaign can do 
   with a product's actual specifications. Compare {GIGO}; see also {SNAFU 
   principle}. 2. James Parry <[email protected]>, a Usenetter infamous 
   for various surrealist net.pranks and an uncanny, machine-assisted knack 
   for joining any thread in which his nom de guerre is mentioned. He has a 
   website at `'. 

:kiboze: v. [Usenet] To {grep} the Usenet news for a string, especially 
   with the intention of posting a follow-up. This activity was popularised 
   by Kibo (see {KIBO}, sense 2). 

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

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

:kill file: n. [Usenet; very common] (alt. `KILL file') Per-user file(s) 
   used by some {Usenet} reading programs (originally Larry Wall's `rn(1)') 
   to discard summarily (without presenting for reading) articles matching 
   some particularly uninteresting (or unwanted) patterns of subject, 
   author, or other header lines. Thus to add a person (or subject) to 
   one's kill file is to arrange for that person to be ignored by one's 
   newsreader in future. By extension, it may be used for a decision to 
   ignore the person or subject in other media. See also {plonk}. 

:killer app: The application that actually makes a sustaining market for 
   a promising but under-utilized technology. First used in the mid-1980s 
   to describe Lotus 1-2-3 once it became evident that demand for that 
   product had been the major driver of the early business market for IBM 
   PCs. The term was then 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 

:killer micro: n. [popularized by Eugene Brooks] A microprocessor-based 
   machine that infringes on mini, mainframe, or supercomputer performance 
   turf. Often heard in "No one will survive the attack of the killer 
   micros!", the battle cry of the downsizers. Used esp. of RISC 

   The popularity of the phrase `attack of the killer micros' is 
   doubtless reinforced by the title of the movie "Attack Of The Killer 
   Tomatoes" (one of the {canonical} examples of so-bad-it's-wonderful 
   among hackers). This has even more {flavor} now that killer micros have 
   gone on the offensive not just individually (in workstations) but in 
   hordes (within massively parallel computers). 

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

:killer poke: n. A recipe for inducing hardware damage on a machine via 
   insertion of invalid values (see {poke}) into a memory-mapped control 
   register; used esp. of various fairly well-known tricks on {bitty box}es 
   without hardware memory management (such as the IBM PC and Commodore 
   PET) that can overload and trash analog electronics in the monitor. See 
   also {HCF}. 

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

:KIPS: /kips/ n. [abbreviation, by analogy with {MIPS} using {K}] 
   Thousands (_not_ 1024s) of Instructions Per Second. Usage: rare. 

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

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

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

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

:kludge: 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 whole.") 3. v. To use a 
   kludge to get around a problem. "I've kludged around it for now, but 
   I'll fix it up properly later." 

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

:kluge: /klooj/ [from the German `klug', clever; poss. related to Polish 
   & 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 fart}s are consistent that `kluge' was the 
   original spelling, reported around computers as far back as the 
   mid-1950s and, at that time, used exclusively of _hardware_ kluges. In 
   1947, the "New York Folklore Quarterly" reported a classic shaggy-dog 
   story `Murgatroyd the Kluge Maker' then current in the Armed Forces, in 
   which a `kluge' was a complex and puzzling artifact with a trivial 
   function. Other sources report that `kluge' was common Navy slang in the 
   WWII era for any piece of electronics that worked well on shore but 
   consistently failed at sea. 

   However, there is reason to believe this slang use may be a decade 
   older. Several respondents have connected it to the brand name of a 
   device called a "Kluge paper feeder", an adjunct to mechanical printing 
   presses. Legend has it that the Kluge feeder was designed before small, 
   cheap electric motors and control electronics; it relied on a fiendishly 
   complex assortment of cams, belts, and linkages to both power and 
   synchronize all its operations from one motive driveshaft. It was 
   accordingly temperamental, subject to frequent breakdowns, and 
   devilishly difficult to repair -- but oh, so clever! People who tell 
   this story also aver that `Kluge' was the name of a design engineer. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:Knuth: /ka-nooth'/ n. [Donald E. Knuth's "The Art of Computer 
   Programming"] Mythically, the reference that answers all questions about 
   data structures or algorithms. A safe answer when you do not know: "I 
   think you can find that in Knuth." Contrast {the literature}. See also 
   {bible}. There is a Donald Knuth home page at 

:koan: /koh'an/ n. A Zen teaching riddle. Classically, koans are 
   attractive paradoxes to be meditated on; their purpose is to help one to 
   enlightenment by temporarily jamming normal cognitive processing so that 
   something more interesting can happen (this practice is associated with 
   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}. 

:kook: [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 unaware. 

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

:Kool-Aid: [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 

   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 

   In fact, it was only six years later that the first genuine site in 
   Moscow,, joined Usenet. Some readers needed convincing that the 
   postings from it weren't just another prank. Vadim Antonov, senior 
   programmer at Demos and the major poster from there up to mid-1991, was 
   quite aware of all this, referred to it frequently in his own postings, 
   and at one point twitted some credulous readers by blandly asserting 
   that he _was_ a hoax! 

   Eventually he even arranged to have the domain's gateway site named 
   kremvax, thus neatly turning fiction into fact and demonstrating that 
   the hackish sense of humor transcends cultural barriers. [Mr. Antonov 
   also contributed the Russian-language material for this lexicon. --ESR] 

   In an even more ironic historical footnote, kremvax became an 
   electronic center of the anti-communist resistance during the bungled 
   hard-line coup of August 1991. During those three days the Soviet UUCP 
   network centered on kremvax became the only trustworthy news source for 
   many places within the USSR. Though the sysops were concentrating on 
   internal communications, cross-border postings included immediate 
   transliterations of Boris Yeltsin's decrees condemning the coup and 
   eyewitness reports of the demonstrations in Moscow's streets. In those 
   hours, years of speculation that totalitarianism would prove unable to 
   maintain its grip on politically-loaded information in the age of 
   computer networking were proved devastatingly accurate -- and the 
   original kremvax joke became a reality as Yeltsin and the new Russian 
   revolutionaries of `glasnost' and `perestroika' made kremvax one of the 
   timeliest means of their outreach to the West. 

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

= L =

:lace card: n. obs. A {{punched card}} with all holes punched (also 
   called a `whoopee card' or `ventilator card'). Card readers tended to 
   jam when they got to one of these, as the resulting card had too little 
   structural strength to avoid buckling inside the mechanism. Card punches 
   could also jam trying to produce these things owing to power-supply 
   problems. When some practical joker fed a lace card through the reader, 
   you needed to clear the jam with a `card knife' -- which you used on the 
   joker first. 

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

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

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

   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 together. 

:language lawyer: n. A person, usually an experienced or senior software 
   engineer, who is intimately familiar with many or most of the numerous 
   restrictions and features (both useful and esoteric) applicable to one 
   or more computer programming languages. A language lawyer is 
   distinguished by the ability to show you the five sentences scattered 
   through a 200-plus-page manual that together imply the answer to your 
   question "if only you had thought to look there". Compare {wizard}, 
   {legal}, {legalese}. 

:languages of choice: n. {C}, {C++}, {LISP}, and {Perl}. Nearly every 
   hacker knows one of C or LISP, and most good ones are fluent in both. 
   C++, despite some serious drawbacks, is generally preferred to other 
   object-oriented languages (though in 1999 it looks as though {Java} has 
   displaced it in the affections of hackers, if not everywhere). Since 
   around 1990 Perl has rapidly been gaining favor, especially as a tool 
   for systems-administration utilities and rapid prototyping. {Python}, 
   Smalltalk and Prolog are also popular in small but influential 

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

   Most hackers tend to frown on languages like {{Pascal}} and {{Ada}}, 
   which don't give them the near-total freedom considered necessary for 
   hacking (see {bondage-and-discipline language}), and to regard 
   everything even remotely connected with {COBOL} or other traditional 
   {card walloper} languages as a total and unmitigated {loss}. 

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

:larval stage: n. Describes a period of monomaniacal concentration on 
   coding apparently passed through by all fledgling hackers. Common 
   symptoms include the perpetration of more than one 36-hour {hacking run} 
   in a given week; neglect of all other activities including usual basics 
   like food, sleep, and personal hygiene; and a chronic case of advanced 
   bleary-eye. Can last from 6 months to 2 years, the apparent median being 
   around 18 months. A few so afflicted never resume a more `normal' life, 
   but the ordeal seems to be necessary to produce really wizardly (as 
   opposed to merely competent) programmers. See also {wannabee}. A less 
   protracted and intense version of larval stage (typically lasting about 
   a month) may recur when one is learning a new {OS} or programming 

:lase: /layz/ vt. To print a given document via a laser printer. "OK, 
   let's lase that sucker and see if all those graphics-macro calls did the 
   right things." 

:laser chicken: n. Kung Pao Chicken, a standard Chinese dish containing 
   chicken, peanuts, and hot red peppers in a spicy pepper-oil sauce. Many 
   hackers call it `laser chicken' for two reasons: It can {zap} you just 
   like a laser, and the sauce has a red color reminiscent of some laser 
   beams. The dish has also been called `gunpowder chicken'. 

   In a variation on this theme, it is reported that some Australian 
   hackers have redesignated the common dish `lemon chicken' as `Chernobyl 
   Chicken'. The name is derived from the color of the sauce, which is 
   considered bright enough to glow in the dark (as, mythically, do some of 
   the inhabitants of Chernobyl). 

:lasherism: n. [Harvard] A program that solves a standard problem (such 
   as the Eight Queens puzzle or implementing the {life} algorithm) in a 
   deliberately nonstandard way. Distinguished from a {crock} or {kluge} by 
   the fact that the programmer did it on purpose as a mental exercise. 
   Such constructions are quite popular in exercises such as the 
   {Obfuscated C Contest}, and occasionally in {retrocomputing}. Lew Lasher 
   was a student at Harvard around 1980 who became notorious for such 

:LDB: /l*'d*b/ vt. [from the PDP-10 instruction set] To extract from the 
   middle. "LDB me a slice of cake, please." This usage has been kept alive 
   by Common LISP's function of the same name. Considered silly. 

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

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

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

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

:leech: 1. n. (Also `leecher'.) Among BBS types, crackers and {warez 
   d00dz}, one who consumes knowledge without generating new software, 
   cracks, or techniques. BBS culture specifically defines a leech as 
   someone who downloads files with few or no uploads in return, and who 
   does not contribute to the message section. Cracker culture extends this 
   definition to someone (a {lamer}, usually) who constantly presses 
   informed sources for information and/or assistance, but has nothing to 
   contribute. 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 site}. 

:legal: adj. Loosely used to mean `in accordance with all the relevant 
   rules', esp. in connection with some set of constraints defined by 
   software. "The older =+ alternate for += is no longer legal syntax in 
   ANSI C." "This parser processes each line of legal input the moment it 
   sees the trailing linefeed." Hackers often model their work as a sort of 
   game played with the environment in which the objective is to maneuver 
   through the thicket of `natural laws' to achieve a desired objective. 
   Their use of `legal' is flavored as much by this game-playing sense as 
   by the more conventional one having to do with courts and lawyers. 
   Compare {language lawyer}, {legalese}. 

:legalese: n. Dense, pedantic verbiage in a language description, product 
   specification, or interface standard; text that seems designed to 
   obfuscate and requires a {language lawyer} to {parse} it. Though hackers 
   are not afraid of high information density and complexity in language 
   (indeed, they rather enjoy both), they share a deep and abiding loathing 
   for legalese; they associate it with deception, {suit}s, and situations 
   in which hackers generally get the short end of the stick. 

:LER: /L-E-R/ n. 1. [TMRC, from `Light-Emitting Diode'] A light-emitting 
   resistor (that is, one in the process of burning up). Ohm's law was 
   broken. See also {SED}. 2. An incandescent light bulb (the filament 
   emits light because it's resistively heated). 

:LERP: /lerp/ vi.,n. Quasi-acronym for Linear Interpolation, used as a 
   verb or noun for the operation. "Bresenham's algorithm lerps 
   incrementally between the two endpoints of the line." 

:let the smoke out: v. To fry hardware (see {fried}). See {magic smoke} 
   for a discussion of the underlying mythology. 

:letterbomb: 1. n. A piece of {email} containing {live data} intended to 
   do nefarious things to the recipient's machine or terminal. It used to 
   be possible, for example, to send letterbombs that would lock up some 
   specific kinds of terminals when they are viewed, so thoroughly that the 
   user must cycle power (see {cycle}, sense 3) to unwedge them. Under 
   Unix, a letterbomb can also try to get part of its contents interpreted 
   as a shell command to the mailer. The results of this could range from 
   silly to tragic; fortunately it has been some years since any of the 
   standard Unix/Internet mail software was vulnerable to such an attack 
   (though, as the Melissa virus attack demonstrated in early 1999, 
   Microsoft systems can have serious problems). See also {Trojan horse}; 
   compare {nastygram}. 2. Loosely, a {mailbomb}. 

:lexer: /lek'sr/ n. Common hacker shorthand for `lexical analyzer', the 
   input-tokenizing stage in the parser for a language (the part that 
   breaks it into word-like pieces). "Some C lexers get confused by the 
   old-style compound ops like `=-'." 

:lexiphage: /lek'si-fayj`/ n. A notorious word {chomper} on ITS. See 
   {bagbiter}. This program would draw on a selected victim's bitmapped 
   terminal the words "THE BAG" in ornate letters, followed by a pair of 
   jaws biting pieces of it off. 

:life: n. 1. A cellular-automata game invented by John Horton Conway and 
   first introduced publicly by Martin Gardner ("Scientific American", 
   October 1970); the game's popularity had to wait a few years for 
   computers on which it could reasonably be played, as it's no fun to 
   simulate the cells by hand. Many hackers pass through a stage of 
   fascination with it, and hackers at various places contributed heavily 
   to the mathematical analysis of this game (most notably Bill Gosper at 
   MIT, who even implemented life in {TECO}!; see {Gosperism}). When a 
   hacker mentions `life', he is much more likely to mean this game than 
   the magazine, the breakfast cereal, or the human state of existence. 2. 
   The opposite of {Usenet}. As in "{Get a life!}" 

:Life is hard: prov. [XEROX PARC] This phrase has two possible 
   interpretations: (1) "While your suggestion may have some merit, I will 
   behave as though I hadn't heard it." (2) "While your suggestion has 
   obvious merit, equally obvious circumstances prevent it from being 
   seriously considered." The charm of the phrase lies precisely in this 
   subtle but important ambiguity. 

:light pipe: n. Fiber optic cable. Oppose {copper}. 

:lightweight: adj. Opposite of {heavyweight}; usually found in combining 
   forms such as `lightweight process'. 

:like kicking dead whales down the beach: adj. Describes a slow, 
   difficult, and disgusting process. First popularized by a famous quote 
   about the difficulty of getting work done under one of IBM's mainframe 
   OSes. "Well, you _could_ write a C compiler in COBOL, but it would be 
   like kicking dead whales down the beach." See also {fear and loathing}. 

:like nailing jelly to a tree: adj. Used to describe a task thought to be 
   impossible, esp. one in which the difficulty arises from poor 
   specification or inherent slipperiness in the problem domain. "Trying to 
   display the `prettiest' arrangement of nodes and arcs that diagrams a 
   given graph is like nailing jelly to a tree, because nobody's sure what 
   `prettiest' means algorithmically." 

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

:line 666: [from Christian eschatological myth] n. The notional line of 
   source at which a program fails for obscure reasons, implying either 
   that _somebody_ is out to get it (when you are the programmer), or that 
   it richly deserves to be so gotten (when you are not). "It works when I 
   trace through it, but seems to crash on line 666 when I run it." "What 
   happens is that whenever a large batch comes through, mmdf dies on the 
   Line of the Beast. Probably some twit hardcoded a buffer size." 

:line eater, the: n. obs. [Usenet] 1. A bug in some now-obsolete versions 
   of the netnews software that used to eat up to BUFSIZ bytes of the 
   article text. The bug was triggered by having the text of the article 
   start with a space or tab. This bug was quickly personified as a 
   mythical creature called the `line eater', and postings often included a 
   dummy line of `line eater food'. Ironically, line eater `food' not 
   beginning with a space or tab wasn't actually eaten, since the bug was 
   avoided; but if there _was_ a space or tab before it, then the line 
   eater would eat the food _and_ the beginning of the text it was supposed 
   to be protecting. The practice of `sacrificing to the line eater' 
   continued for some time after the bug had been {nailed to the wall}, and 
   is still humorously referred to. The bug itself was still occasionally 
   reported to be lurking in some mail-to-netnews gateways as late as 1991. 
   2. See {NSA line eater}. 

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

:line starve: [MIT] 1. vi. To feed paper through a printer the wrong way 
   by one line (most printers can't do this). On a display terminal, to 
   move the cursor up to the previous line of the screen. "To print `X 
   squared', you just output `X', line starve, `2', line feed." (The line 
   starve causes the `2' to appear on the line above the `X', and the line 
   feed gets back to the original line.) 2. n. A character (or character 
   sequence) that causes a terminal to perform this action. ASCII 0011010, 
   also called SUB or control-Z, was one common line-starve character in 
   the days before microcomputers and the X3.64 terminal standard. Today, 
   the term might be used for the ISO reverse line feed character 0x8D. 
   Unlike `line feed', `line starve' is _not_ standard {{ASCII}} 
   terminology. Even among hackers it is considered a bit silly. 3. 
   [proposed] A sequence such as \c (used in System V echo, as well as 
   {{nroff}} and {{troff}}) that suppresses a {newline} or other 
   character(s) that would normally be emitted. 

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

:link farm: n. [Unix] A directory tree that contains many links to files 
   in a master directory tree of files. Link farms save space when one is 
   maintaining several nearly identical copies of the same source tree -- 
   for example, when the only difference is architecture-dependent object 
   files. "Let's freeze the source and then rebuild the FROBOZZ-3 and 
   FROBOZZ-4 link farms." Link farms may also be used to get around 
   restrictions on the number of `-I' (include-file directory) arguments on 
   older C preprocessors. However, they can also get completely out of 
   hand, becoming the filesystem equivalent of {spaghetti code}. See also 

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

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

:lint: [from Unix's `lint(1)', named for the bits of fluff it supposedly 
   picks from programs] 1. vt. To examine a program closely for style, 
   language usage, and portability problems, esp. if in C, esp. if via use 
   of automated analysis tools, most esp. if the Unix utility `lint(1)' is 
   used. This term used to be restricted to use of `lint(1)' itself, but 
   (judging by references on Usenet) it has become a shorthand for {desk 
   check} at some non-Unix shops, even in languages other than C. Also as 
   v. {delint}. 2. n. Excess verbiage in a document, as in "This draft has 
   too much lint". 

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

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

:Linux:: /lee'nuhks/ or /li'nuks/, _not_ /li:'nuhks/ n. The free Unix 
   workalike created by Linus Torvalds and friends starting about 1991. The 
   pronunciation /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 use). 

   Linux is what {GNU} aimed to be, and it relies on the GNU toolset. But 
   the Free Software Foundation didn't produce the kernel to go with that 
   toolset until 1999, which was too late. Other, similar efforts like 
   FreeBSD and NetBSD have been technically successful but never caught 
   fire the way Linux has; as this is written in 2001, Linux is seriously 
   challenging Microsoft's OS dominance. It has already captured 31% of the 
   Internet-server market and 25% of general business servers. 

   An earlier version of this entry opined "The secret of Linux's success 
   seems to be that Linus worked much harder early on to keep the 
   development process open and recruit other hackers, creating a snowball 
   effect." Truer than we knew. See {bazaar}. 

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

:lion food: n. [IBM] Middle management or HQ staff (or, by extension, 
   administrative drones in general). From an old joke about two lions who, 
   escaping from the zoo, split up to increase their chances but agree to 
   meet after 2 months. When they finally meet, one is skinny and the other 
   overweight. The thin one says: "How did you manage? I ate a human just 
   once and they turned out a small army to chase me -- guns, nets, it was 
   terrible. Since then I've been reduced to eating mice, insects, even 
   grass." The fat one replies: "Well, _I_ hid near an IBM office and ate a 
   manager a day. And nobody even noticed!" 

:Lions Book: n. "Source Code and Commentary on Unix level 6", by John 
   Lions. The two parts of this book contained (1) the entire source 
   listing of the Unix Version 6 kernel, and (2) a commentary on the source 
   discussing the algorithms. These were circulated internally at the 
   University of New South Wales beginning 1976-77, and were, for years 
   after, the _only_ detailed kernel documentation available to anyone 
   outside Bell Labs. Because Western Electric wished to maintain trade 
   secret status on the kernel, the Lions Book was only supposed to be 
   distributed to affiliates of source licensees. In spite of this, it soon 
   spread by {samizdat} to a good many of the early Unix hackers. 

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

   [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 now shares the 
   throne with {C}. Its partisans claim it is the only language that is 
   truly beautiful. See {languages of choice}. 

   All LISP functions and programs are expressions that return values; 
   this, together with the high memory utilization of LISPs, gave rise to 
   Alan Perlis's famous quip (itself a take on an Oscar Wilde quote) that 
   "LISP programmers know the value of everything and the cost of nothing". 

   One significant application for LISP has been as a proof by example 
   that most newer languages, such as {COBOL} and {Ada}, are full of 
   unnecessary {crock}s. When the {Right Thing} has already been done once, 
   there is no justification for {bogosity} in newer languages. 

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

:lithium lick: n. [NeXT] Steve Jobs. Employees who have gotten too much 
   attention from their esteemed founder are said to have `lithium lick' 
   when they begin to show signs of Jobsian fervor and repeat the most 
   recent catch phrases in normal conversation -- for example, "It just 
   works, right out of the box!" 

:little-endian: adj. Describes a computer architecture in which, within a 
   given 16- or 32-bit word, bytes at lower addresses have lower 
   significance (the word is stored `little-end-first'). The PDP-11 and VAX 
   families of computers and Intel microprocessors and a lot of 
   communications and networking hardware are little-endian. See 
   {big-endian}, {middle-endian}, {NUXI problem}. The term is sometimes 
   used to describe the ordering of units other than bytes; most often, 
   bits within a byte. 

:live: /li:v/ adj.,adv. [common] Opposite of `test'. Refers to actual 
   real-world data or a program working with it. For example, the response 
   to "I think the record deleter is finished" might be "Is it live yet?" 
   or "Have you tried it out on live data?" This usage usually carries the 
   connotation that live data is more fragile and must not be corrupted, or 
   bad things will happen. So a more appropriate response might be: "Well, 
   make sure it works perfectly before we throw live data at it." The 
   implication here is that record deletion is something pretty 
   significant, and a haywire record-deleter running amok live would 
   probably cause great harm. 

:live data: n. 1. Data that is written to be interpreted and takes over 
   program flow when triggered by some un-obvious operation, such as 
   viewing it. One use of such hacks is to break security. For example, 
   some smart terminals have commands that allow one to download strings to 
   program keys; this can be used to write live data that, when listed to 
   the terminal, infects it with a security-breaking {virus} that is 
   triggered the next time a hapless user strikes that key. For another, 
   there are some well-known bugs in {vi} that allow certain texts to send 
   arbitrary commands back to the machine when they are simply viewed. 2. 
   In C code, data that includes pointers to function {hook}s (executable 
   code). 3. An object, such as a {trampoline}, that is constructed on the 
   fly by a program and intended to be executed as code. 

:Live Free Or Die!: imp. 1. The state motto of New Hampshire, which 
   appears on that state's automobile license plates. 2. A slogan 
   associated with Unix in the romantic days when Unix aficionados saw 
   themselves as a tiny, beleaguered underground tilting against the 
   windmills of industry. The "free" referred specifically to freedom from 
   the {fascist} design philosophies and crufty misfeatures common on 
   competing operating systems. Armando Stettner, one of the early Unix 
   developers, used to give out fake license plates bearing this motto 
   under a large Unix, all in New Hampshire colors of green and white. 
   These are now valued collector's items. In 1994 {DEC} put an inferior 
   imitation of these in circulation with a red corporate logo added. 
   Compaq (half of which was once DEC) has continued the practice. 

:livelock: /li:v'lok/ n. A situation in which some critical stage of a 
   task is unable to finish because its clients perpetually create more 
   work for it to do after they have been serviced but before it can clear 
   its queue. Differs from {deadlock} in that the process is not blocked or 
   waiting for anything, but has a virtually infinite amount of work to do 
   and can never catch up. 

:liveware: /li:v'weir/ n. 1. Synonym for {wetware}. Less common. 2. 
   [Cambridge] Vermin. "Waiter, there's some liveware in my salad..." 

:lobotomy: n. 1. What a hacker subjected to formal management training is 
   said to have undergone. At IBM and elsewhere this term is used by both 
   hackers and low-level management; the latter doubtless intend it as a 
   joke. 2. The act of removing the processor from a microcomputer in order 
   to replace or upgrade it. Some very cheap {clone} systems are sold in 
   `lobotomized' form -- everything but the brain. 

:locals, the: pl.n. The users on one's local network (as opposed, say, to 
   people one reaches via public Internet 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 

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

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

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

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

   At Stanford, `logical' compass directions denote a coordinate system 
   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 

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

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

:lose: vi. 1. [very common] To fail. A program loses when it encounters 
   an exceptional condition or fails to work in the expected manner. 2. To 
   be exceptionally unesthetic or crocky. 3. Of people, to be obnoxious or 
   unusually stupid (as opposed to ignorant). See also {deserves to lose}. 
   4. n. Refers to something that is {losing}, especially in the phrases 
   "That's a lose!" and "What a lose!" 

:lose lose: interj. A reply to or comment on an undesirable situation. "I 
   accidentally deleted all my files!" "Lose, lose." 

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

:losing: adj. Said of anything that is or causes a {lose} or {lossage}. 
   "The compiler is losing badly when I try to use templates." 

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

:lossage: /los'*j/ n. [very common] The result of a bug or malfunction. 
   This is a mass or collective noun. "What a loss!" and "What lossage!" 
   are nearly synonymous. The former is slightly more particular to the 
   speaker's present circumstances; the latter implies a continuing {lose} 
   of which the speaker is currently a victim. Thus (for example) a 
   temporary hardware failure is a loss, but bugs in an important tool 
   (like a compiler) are serious lossage. 

:lossy: adj.[Usenet] 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 emotions. 

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

:lost in the underflow: adj. Too small to be worth considering; more 
   specifically, small beyond the limits of accuracy or measurement. This 
   is a reference to `floating underflow', a condition that can occur when 
   a floating-point arithmetic processor tries to handle quantities smaller 
   than its limit of magnitude. It is also a pun on `undertow' (a kind of 
   fast, cold current that sometimes runs just offshore and can be 
   dangerous to swimmers). "Well, sure, photon pressure from the stadium 
   lights alters the path of a thrown baseball, but that effect gets lost 
   in the underflow." Compare {epsilon}, {epsilon squared}; see also 
   {overflow bit}. 

:lots of MIPS but no I/O: adj. Used to describe a person who is 
   technically brilliant but can't seem to communicate with human beings 
   effectively. Technically it describes a machine that has lots of 
   processing power but is bottlenecked on input-output (in 1991, the IBM 
   Rios, a.k.a. RS/6000, was a notorious example). 

:low-bandwidth: adj. [from communication theory] Used to indicate a talk 
   that, although not {content-free}, was not terribly informative. "That 
   was a low-bandwidth talk, but what can you expect for an audience of 
   {suit}s!" Compare {zero-content}, {bandwidth}, {math-out}. 

:LPT: /L-P-T/ or /lip'it/ or /lip-it'/ n. 1. Line printer (originally 
   Line Printing Terminal). Rare under Unix, more common among hackers who 
   grew up with ITS, MS-DOS, CP/M and other operating systems that were 
   strongly influenced by early {DEC} conventions. 2. Local PorT. Used 
   among MS-DOS/Windows programmers (and so expanded in the MS-DOS 5 
   manual). It seems likely this is a {backronym}. 

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

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

:lunatic fringe: n. [IBM] Customers who can be relied upon to accept 
   release 1 versions of software. Compare {heatseeker}. 

:lurker: n. One of the `silent majority' in 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}, 

= M =

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

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

:macdink: /mak'dink/ vt. [from the Apple Macintosh, which is said to 
   encourage such behavior] To make many incremental and unnecessary 
   cosmetic changes to a program or file. Often the subject of the 
   macdinking would be better off without them. "When I left at 11 P.M. 
   last night, he was still macdinking the slides for his presentation." 
   See also {fritterware}, {window shopping}. 

:machinable: adj. Machine-readable. Having the {softcopy} nature. 

:machoflops: /mach'oh-flops/ n. [pun on `megaflops', a coinage for 
   `millions of FLoating-point Operations Per Second'] Refers to 
   artificially inflated performance figures often quoted by computer 
   manufacturers. Real applications are lucky to get half the quoted speed. 
   See {Your mileage may vary}, {benchmark}. 

:Macintoy: /mak'in-toy/ n. The Apple Macintosh, considered as a {toy}. 
   Less pejorative than {Macintrash}. 

:Macintrash: /mak'in-trash`/ n. The Apple Macintosh, as described by a 
   hacker who doesn't appreciate being kept away from the _real computer_ 
   by the interface. The term {maggotbox} has been reported in regular use 
   in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. Compare {Macintoy}. See 
   also {beige toaster}, {WIMP environment}, {point-and-drool interface}, 
   {drool-proof paper}, {user-friendly}. 

:macro: /mak'roh/ n. [techspeak] A name (possibly followed by a formal 
   {arg} list) that is equated to a text or symbolic expression to which it 
   is to be expanded (possibly with the substitution of actual arguments) 
   by a macro expander. This definition can be found in any technical 
   dictionary; what those won't tell you is how the hackish connotations of 
   the term have changed over time. 

   The term `macro' originated in early assemblers, which encouraged the 
   use of macros as a structuring and information-hiding device. During the 
   early 1970s, macro assemblers became ubiquitous, and sometimes quite as 
   powerful and expensive as {HLL}s, only to fall from favor as improving 
   compiler technology marginalized assembler programming (see {languages 
   of choice}). Nowadays the term is most often used in connection with the 
   C preprocessor, LISP, or one of several special-purpose languages built 
   around a macro-expansion facility (such as TeX or Unix's [nt]roff 

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

:macro-: pref. Large. Opposite of {micro-}. In the mainstream and among 
   other technical cultures (for example, medical people) this competes 
   with the prefix {mega-}, but hackers tend to restrict the latter to 

:macrology: /mak-rol'*-jee/ n. 1. Set of usually complex or crufty 
   macros, e.g., as part of a large system written in {LISP}, {TECO}, or 
   (less commonly) assembler. 2. The art and science involved in 
   comprehending a macrology in sense 1. Sometimes studying the macrology 
   of a system is not unlike archeology, ecology, or {theology}, hence the 
   sound-alike construction. See also {boxology}. 

:macrotape: /mak'roh-tayp/ n. An industry-standard reel of tape. 
   Originally, as opposed to a DEC microtape; nowadays, as opposed to 
   modern QIC and DDS tapes. Syn. {round tape}. 

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

:magic: 1. adj. As yet unexplained, or too complicated to explain; 
   compare {automagically} and (Arthur C.) Clarke's Third Law: "Any 
   sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." "TTY 
   echoing is controlled by a large number of magic bits." "This routine 
   magically computes the parity of an 8-bit byte in three instructions." 
   2. adj. Characteristic of something that works although no one really 
   understands why (this is especially called {black magic}). 3. n. 
   [Stanford] A feature not generally publicized that allows something 
   otherwise impossible, or a feature formerly in that category but now 
   unveiled. 4. n. The ultimate goal of all engineering & development, 
   elegance in the extreme; from the first corollary to Clarke's Third Law: 
   "Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced". 

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

:magic cookie: n. [Unix; common] 1. Something passed between routines or 
   programs that enables the receiver to perform some operation; a 
   capability ticket or opaque identifier. Especially used of small data 
   objects that contain data encoded in a strange or intrinsically 
   machine-dependent way. E.g., on non-Unix OSes with a non-byte-stream 
   model of files, the result of `ftell(3)' may be a magic cookie rather 
   than a byte offset; it can be passed to `fseek(3)', but not operated on 
   in any meaningful way. The phrase `it hands you a magic cookie' means it 
   returns a result whose contents are not defined but which can be passed 
   back to the same or some other program later. 2. An in-band code for 
   changing graphic rendition (e.g., inverse video or underlining) or 
   performing other control functions (see also {cookie}). Some older 
   terminals would leave a blank on the screen corresponding to mode-change 
   magic cookies; this was also called a {glitch} (or occasionally a 
   `turd'; compare {mouse droppings}). See also {cookie}. 

:magic number: n. [Unix/C; common] 1. In source code, some non-obvious 
   constant whose value is significant to the operation of a program and 
   that is inserted inconspicuously in-line ({hardcoded}), rather than 
   expanded in by a symbol set by a commented `#define'. Magic numbers in 
   this sense are bad style. 2. A number that encodes critical information 
   used in an algorithm in some opaque way. The classic examples of these 
   are the numbers used in hash or CRC functions, or the coefficients in a 
   linear congruential generator for pseudo-random numbers. This sense 
   actually predates and was ancestral to the more common sense 1. 3. 
   Special data located at the beginning of a binary data file to indicate 
   its type to a utility. Under Unix, the system and various applications 
   programs (especially the linker) distinguish between types of executable 
   file by looking for a magic number. Once upon a time, these magic 
   numbers were PDP-11 branch instructions that skipped over header data to 
   the start of executable code; 0407, for example, was octal for `branch 
   16 bytes relative'. Many other kinds of files now have magic numbers 
   somewhere; some magic numbers are, in fact, strings, like the `!<arch>' 
   at the beginning of a Unix archive file or the `%!' leading PostScript 
   files. Nowadays only a {wizard} knows the spells to create magic 
   numbers. How do you choose a fresh magic number of your own? Simple -- 
   you pick one at random. See? It's magic! 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 {hairball}. 

:mailbomb: (also mail bomb) [Usenet] 1. v. To send, or urge others to 
   send, massive amounts of {email} to a single system or person, esp. with 
   intent to crash or {spam} the recipient's system. Sometimes done in 
   retaliation for a perceived serious offense. Mailbombing is itself 
   widely regarded as a serious offense -- it can disrupt email traffic or 
   other facilities for innocent users on the victim's system, and in 
   extreme cases, even at upstream sites. 2. n. An automatic procedure with 
   a similar effect. 3. n. The mail sent. Compare {letterbomb}, 
   {nastygram}, {BLOB} (sense 2), {list-bomb}. 

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

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

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

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

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

   It has been common wisdom among hackers since the late 1980s that the 
   mainframe architectural tradition is essentially dead (outside of the 
   tiny market for {number-crunching} supercomputers (see {cray})), having 
   been swamped by the recent huge advances in IC technology and low-cost 
   personal computing. The wave of failures, takeovers, and mergers among 
   traditional mainframe makers in the early 1990s bore this out. The 
   biggest mainframer of all, IBM, was compelled to re-invent itself as a 
   huge systems-consulting house. (See {dinosaurs mating} and {killer 

   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 extinction. 

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

: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 "@memchr$qpxviui". 

:mangler: n. [DEC] A manager. Compare {management}. Note that {system 
   mangler} is somewhat different in connotation. 

:manularity: /man`yoo-la'ri-tee/ n. [prob. fr. techspeak `manual' + 
   `granularity'] A notional measure of the manual labor required for some 
   task, particularly one of the sort that automation is supposed to 
   eliminate. "Composing English on paper has much higher manularity than 
   using a text editor, especially in the revising stage." Hackers tend to 
   consider manularity a symptom of primitive methods; in fact, a true 
   hacker confronted with an apparent requirement to do a computing task 
   {by hand} will inevitably seize the opportunity to build another tool 
   (see {toolsmith}). 

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

:marginal: adj. [common] 1. [techspeak] An extremely small change. "A 
   marginal increase in {core} can decrease {GC} time drastically." In 
   everyday terms, this means that it is a lot easier to clean off your 
   desk if you have a spare place to put some of the junk while you sort 
   through it. 2. Of little merit. "This proposed new feature seems rather 
   marginal to me." 3. Of extremely small probability of {win}ning. "The 
   power supply was rather marginal anyway; no wonder it fried." 

: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 

: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 

: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}, 

: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 

:Matrix: n. [FidoNet] 1. What the Opus BBS software and sysops call 
   {FidoNet}. 2. Fanciful term for a {cyberspace} expected to emerge from 
   current networking experiments (see {the network}). The name of the 
   rather good 1999 {cypherpunk} movie "The Matrix" played on this sense, 
   which however had been established for years before. 3. The totality of 
   present-day computer networks (popularized in this sense by John 
   Quarterman; rare outside academic literature). 

:maximum Maytag mode: n. What a {washing machine} or, by extension, any 
   disk drive is in when it's being used so heavily that it's shaking like 
   an old Maytag with an unbalanced load. If prolonged for any length of 
   time, can lead to disks becoming {walking drives}. In 1999 it's been 
   some years since hard disks were large enough to do this, but the same 
   phenomenon has recently been reported with 24X CD-ROM drives. 

:McQuary limit: 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 
   {urchin}s. [That is, mice. This may no longer be in live use; it clearly 
   derives from the refrain of the early-1960s cartoon character Mr. 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 

:MEGO: /me'goh/ or /mee'goh/ [`My Eyes Glaze Over', often `Mine Eyes 
   Glazeth (sic) Over', attributed to the futurologist Herman Kahn] Also 
   `MEGO factor'. 1. n. A {handwave} intended to confuse the listener and 
   hopefully induce agreement because the listener does not want to admit 
   to not understanding what is going on. MEGO is usually directed at 
   senior management by engineers and contains a high proportion of {TLA}s. 
   2. excl. An appropriate response to MEGO tactics. 3. Among non-hackers, 
   often refers not to behavior that causes the eyes to glaze, but to the 
   eye-glazing reaction itself, which may be triggered by the mere threat 
   of technical detail as effectively as by an actual excess of it. 

:meltdown, network: n. See {network meltdown}. 

:meme: /meem/ n. [coined by analogy with `gene', by Richard Dawkins] An 
   idea considered as a {replicator}, esp. with the connotation that memes 
   parasitize people into propagating them much as viruses do. Used esp. in 
   the phrase `meme complex' denoting a group of mutually supporting memes 
   that form an organized belief system, such as a religion. This lexicon 
   is an (epidemiological) vector of the `hacker subculture' meme complex; 
   each entry might be considered a meme. However, `meme' is often misused 
   to mean `meme complex'. Use of the term connotes acceptance of the idea 
   that in humans (and presumably other tool- and language-using sophonts) 
   cultural evolution by selection of adaptive ideas has superseded 
   biological evolution by selection of hereditary traits. Hackers find 
   this idea congenial for tolerably obvious reasons. 

:meme plague: n. The spread of a successful but pernicious {meme}, esp. 
   one that parasitizes the victims into giving their all to propagate it. 
   Astrology, BASIC, and the other guy's religion are often considered to 
   be examples. This usage is given point by the historical fact that 
   `joiner' ideologies like Naziism or various forms of millennarian 
   Christianity have exhibited plague-like cycles of exponential growth 
   followed by collapses to small reservoir populations. 

:memetics: /me-met'iks/ n. [from {meme}] The study of memes. As of early 
   1999, this is still an extremely informal and speculative endeavor, 
   though the first steps towards at least statistical rigor have been made 
   by H. Keith Henson and others. Memetics is a popular topic for 
   speculation among hackers, who like to see themselves as the architects 
   of the new information ecologies in which memes live and replicate. 

:memory farts: n. The flatulent sounds that some DOS box BIOSes (most 
   notably AMI's) make when checking memory on bootup. 

:memory leak: n. An error in a program's dynamic-store allocation logic 
   that causes it to fail to reclaim discarded memory, leading to eventual 
   collapse due to memory exhaustion. Also (esp. at CMU) called {core 
   leak}. These problems were severe on older machines with small, 
   fixed-size address spaces, and special "leak detection" tools were 
   commonly written to root them out. With the advent of virtual memory, it 
   is unfortunately easier to be sloppy about wasting a bit of memory 
   (although when you run out of memory on a VM machine, it means you've 
   got a _real_ leak!). See {aliasing bug}, {fandango on core}, {smash the 
   stack}, {precedence lossage}, {overrun screw}, {leaky heap}, {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*/ or /may't*/ or (Commonwealth) /mee't*/ adj.,pref. [from 
   analytic philosophy] One level of description up. A metasyntactic 
   variable is a variable in notation used to describe syntax, and 
   meta-language is language used to describe language. This is difficult 
   to explain briefly, but much hacker humor turns on deliberate confusion 
   between meta-levels. See {{hacker humor}}. 

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

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

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

   Metasyntactic variables are so called because (1) they are variables 
   in the metalanguage used to talk about programs etc; (2) they are 
   variables whose values are often variables (as in usages 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 

    {foo}, {bar}, {baz}, {quux}, quuux, quuuux...:
          MIT/Stanford usage, now found everywhere (thanks largely to
          early versions of this lexicon!).  At MIT (but not at
          Stanford), {baz} dropped out of use for a while in the 1970s
          and '80s. A common recent mutation of this sequence inserts
          {qux} before {quux}.
    bazola, ztesch:
          Stanford (from mid-'70s on).
    {foo}, {bar}, thud, grunt:
          This series was popular at CMU.  Other CMU-associated
          variables include {gorp}.
    {foo}, {bar}, 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 Britishisms.
    {corge}, {grault}, {flarp}:
          Popular at Rutgers University and among {GOSMACS} hackers.
    zxc, spqr, wombat:
          Cambridge University (England).
          Berkeley, GeoWorks, Ingres.  Pronounced /shme/ with a short
    foo, bar, baz, bongo
          Yale, late 1970s.
    spam, eggs
          {Python} programmers.
          Brown University, early 1970s.
    {foo}, {bar}, zot
          Helsinki University of Technology, Finland.
    blarg, {wibble}
          New Zealand.
    toto, titi, tata, tutu
    pippo, pluto, paperino
          Italy.  Pippo /pee'po/ and Paperino /pa-per-ee'-no/ are the
          Italian names for Goofy and Donald Duck.
    aap, noot, mies
          The Netherlands.  These are the first words a child used to
          learn to spell on a Dutch spelling board.
    oogle, foogle, boogle; zork, gork, bork
          These two series (which may be continued with other initial
          consonents) are reportedly common in England, and said to go
          back to Lewis Carroll.
   Of all these, only `foo' and `bar' are universal (and {baz} nearly 
   so). The compounds {foobar} and `foobaz' also enjoy very wide 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 

: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 

:mickey mouse program: n. North American equivalent of a {noddy} (that 
   is, trivial) program. Doesn't necessarily have the belittling 
   connotations of mainstream slang "Oh, that's just mickey mouse stuff!"; 
   sometimes trivial programs can be very useful. 

:micro-: pref. 1. Very small; this is the root of its use as a quantifier 
   prefix. 2. A quantifier prefix, calling for multiplication by 10^(-6) 
   (see {{quantifiers}}). Neither of these uses is peculiar to hackers, but 
   hackers tend to fling them both around rather more freely than is 
   countenanced in standard English. It is recorded, for example, that one 
   CS professor used to characterize the standard length of his lectures as 
   a microcentury -- that is, about 52.6 minutes (see also {attoparsec}, 
   {nanoacre}, and especially {microfortnight}). 3. Personal or human-scale 
   -- that is, capable of being maintained or comprehended or manipulated 
   by one human being. This sense is generalized from `microcomputer', and 
   is esp. used in contrast with `macro-' (the corresponding Greek prefix 
   meaning `large'). 4. Local as opposed to global (or {macro-}). Thus a 
   hacker might say that buying a smaller car to reduce pollution only 
   solves a microproblem; the macroproblem of getting to work might be 
   better solved by using mass transit, moving to within walking distance, 
   or (best of all) telecommuting. 

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

:microfloppies: n. 3.5-inch floppies, as opposed to 5.25-inch {vanilla} 
   or mini-floppies and the now-obsolete 8-inch variety. This term may be 
   headed for obsolescence as 5.25-inchers pass out of use, only to be 
   revived if anybody floats a sub-3-inch floppy standard. See {stiffy}, 

:microfortnight: n. 1/1000000 of the fundamental unit of time in the 
   Furlong/Firkin/Fortnight system of measurement; 1.2096 sec. (A furlong 
   is 1/8th of a mile; a firkin is 1/4th of a barrel; the mass unit of the 
   system is taken to be a firkin of water). The VMS operating system has a 
   lot of tuning parameters that you can set with the SYSGEN utility, and 
   one of these is TIMEPROMPTWAIT, the time the system will wait for an 
   operator to set the correct date and time at boot if it realizes that 
   the current value is bogus. This time is specified in microfortnights! 

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

:microLenat: /mi:`-kroh-len'-*t/ n. The unit of {bogosity}. 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 {MicroDroid}. 

:Microsloth Windows: /mi:'kroh-sloth` win'dohz/ n. (Variants combine 
   {Microshift, Macroshaft, Microsuck} with {Windoze, WinDOS}. Hackerism(s) 
   for `Microsoft Windows'. A thirty-two bit extension and graphical shell 
   to a sixteen-bit patch to an eight-bit operating system originally coded 
   for a four-bit microprocessor which was written by a two-bit company 
   that can't stand one bit of competition. Also just called `Windoze', 
   with the implication that you can fall asleep waiting for it to do 
   anything; the latter term is extremely common on Usenet. See {Black 
   Screen of Death} and {Blue Screen of Death}; compare {X}, {sun-stools}. 

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

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

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

:milliLampson: /mil'*-lamp`sn/ n. A unit of talking speed, abbreviated 
   mL. Most people run about 200 milliLampsons. The eponymous Butler 
   Lampson (a CS theorist and systems implementor highly regarded among 
   hackers) goes at 1000. A few people speak faster. This unit is sometimes 
   used to compare the (sometimes widely disparate) rates at which people 
   can generate ideas and actually emit them in speech. For example, noted 
   computer architect C. Gordon Bell (designer of the PDP-11) is said, with 
   some awe, to think at about 1200 mL but only talk at about 300; he is 
   frequently reduced to fragments of sentences as his mouth tries to keep 
   up with his speeding brain. 

:minifloppies: n.,obs. 5.25-inch floppy disks, as opposed to 3.5-inch or 
   {microfloppies} and the long-obsolescent 8-inch variety (if there is 
   ever a smaller size, they will undoubtedly be tagged `nanofloppies'). At 
   one time, this term was a trademark of Shugart Associates for their 
   SA-400 minifloppy drive. Nobody paid any attention. See {stiffy}. 

: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 

:MIPS: /mips/ n. [abbreviation] 1. A measure of computing speed; 
   formally, `Million Instructions Per Second' (that's 10^6 per second, not 
   2^(20)!); often rendered by hackers as `Meaningless Indication of 
   Processor Speed' or in other unflattering ways, such as `Meaningless 
   Information Provided by Salesmen'. This joke expresses an attitude 
   nearly universal among hackers about the value of most {benchmark} 
   claims, said attitude being one of the great cultural divides between 
   hackers and {marketroid}s (see also {BogoMIPS}). The singular is 
   sometimes `1 MIP' even though this is clearly etymologically wrong. See 
   also {KIPS} and {GIPS}. 2. Computers, especially large computers, 
   considered abstractly as sources of {computron}s. "This is just a 
   workstation; the heavy MIPS are hidden in the basement." 3. The 
   corporate name of a particular RISC-chip company. 4. Acronym for 
   `Meaningless Information per Second' (a joke, prob. from sense 1). 

:misbug: /mis-buhg/ n. [MIT; rare (like its referent)] An unintended 
   property of a program that turns out to be useful; something that should 
   have been a {bug} but turns out to be a {feature}. Compare {green 
   lightning}. See {miswart}. 

:misfeature: /mis-fee'chr/ or /mis'fee`chr/ n. [common] A feature that 
   eventually causes lossage, possibly because it is not adequate for a new 
   situation that has evolved. Since it results from a deliberate and 
   properly implemented feature, a misfeature is not a bug. Nor is it a 
   simple unforeseen side effect; the term implies that the feature in 
   question was carefully planned, but its long-term consequences were not 
   accurately or adequately predicted (which is quite different from not 
   having thought ahead at all). A misfeature can be a particularly 
   stubborn problem to resolve, because fixing it usually involves a 
   substantial philosophical change to the structure of the system 

   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 

:missile address: n. See {ICBM address}. 

:miswart: /mis-wort/ n. [from {wart} by analogy with {misbug}] A 
   {feature} that superficially appears to be a {wart} but has been 
   determined to be the {Right Thing}. For example, in some versions of the 
   {EMACS} text editor, the `transpose characters' command exchanges the 
   character under the cursor with the one before it on the screen, 
   _except_ when the cursor is at the end of a line, in which case the two 
   characters before the cursor are exchanged. While this behavior is 
   perhaps surprising, and certainly inconsistent, it has been found 
   through extensive experimentation to be what most users want. This 
   feature is a miswart. 

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

:mobo: /moh'bo/ Written and (rarely) spoken contraction of "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 discussion.) 
   2. n. obs. The maximum address space of a machine (see below). For a 
   680[234]0 or VAX or most modern 32-bit architectures, it is 
   4,294,967,296 8-bit bytes (4 gigabytes). 3. A title of address (never of 
   third-person reference), usually used to show admiration, respect, 
   and/or friendliness to a competent hacker. "Greetings, moby Dave. How's 
   that address-book thing for the Mac going?" 4. adj. In backgammon, 
   doubles on the dice, as in `moby sixes', `moby ones', etc. Compare this 
   with {bignum} (sense 3): double sixes are both bignums and moby sixes, 
   but moby ones are not bignums (the use of `moby' to describe double ones 
   is sarcastic). Standard emphatic forms: `Moby foo', `moby win', `moby 
   loss'. `Foby moo': a spoonerism due to Richard Greenblatt. 5. The 
   largest available unit of something which is available in discrete 
   increments. Thus, ordering a "moby Coke" at the local fast-food joint is 
   not just a request for a large Coke, it's an explicit request for the 
   largest size they sell. 

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

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

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

:mod: vt.,n. [very common] 1. Short for `modify' or `modification'. Very 
   commonly used -- in fact the full terms are considered markers that one 
   is being formal. The plural `mods' is used esp. with reference to bug 
   fixes or minor design changes in hardware or software, most esp. with 
   respect to {patch} sets or a {diff}. 2. Short for {modulo} but used 
   _only_ for its techspeak sense. 

:mode: n. [common] A general state, usually used with an adjective 
   describing the state. Use of the word `mode' rather than `state' implies 
   that the state is extended over time, and probably also that some 
   activity characteristic of that state is being carried out. "No time to 
   hack; I'm in thesis mode." In its jargon sense, `mode' is most often 
   attributed to people, though it is sometimes applied to programs and 
   inanimate objects. In particular, see {hack mode}, {day mode}, {night 
   mode}, {demo mode}, {fireworks mode}, and {yoyo mode}; also {talk mode}. 

   One also often hears the verbs `enable' and `disable' used in 
   connection with jargon modes. Thus, for example, a sillier way of saying 
   "I'm going to crash" is "I'm going to enable crash mode now". One might 
   also hear a request to "disable flame mode, please". 

   In a usage much closer to techspeak, a mode is a special state that 
   certain user interfaces must pass into in order to perform certain 
   functions. For example, in order to insert characters into a document in 
   the Unix editor `vi', one must type the "i" key, which invokes the 
   "Insert" command. The effect of this command is to put vi into "insert 
   mode", in which typing the "i" key has a quite different effect (to wit, 
   it inserts an "i" into the document). One must then hit another special 
   key, "ESC", in order to leave "insert mode". Nowadays, modeful 
   interfaces are generally considered {losing} but survive in quite a few 
   widely used tools built in less enlightened times. 

:mode bit: n. [common] A {flag}, usually in hardware, that selects 
   between two (usually quite different) modes of operation. The 
   connotations are different from {flag} bit in that mode bits are mainly 
   written during a boot or set-up phase, are seldom explicitly read, and 
   seldom change over the lifetime of an ordinary program. The classic 
   example was the EBCDIC-vs.-ASCII bit (#12) of the Program Status Word of 
   the IBM 360. 

:modulo: /mod'yu-loh/ prep. Except for. An overgeneralization of 
   mathematical terminology; one can consider saying that 4 equals 22 
   except for the 9s (4 = 22 mod 9). "Well, LISP seems to work okay now, 
   modulo that {GC} bug." "I feel fine today modulo a slight headache." 

: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 
   at `'. 

: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 

: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 

:monkey, scratch: n. See {scratch monkey}. 

:monstrosity: 1. n. A ridiculously {elephantine} program or system, esp. 
   one that is buggy or only marginally functional. 2. adj. The quality of 
   being monstrous (see `Overgeneralization' in the discussion of 
   jargonification). See also {baroque}. 

:monty: /mon'tee/ n. 1. [US Geological Survey] A program with a 
   ludicrously complex user interface written to perform extremely trivial 
   tasks. An example would be a menu-driven, button clicking, pulldown, 
   pop-up windows program for listing directories. The original monty was 
   an infamous weather-reporting program, Monty the Amazing Weather Man, 
   written at the USGS. Monty had a widget-packed X-window interface with 
   over 200 buttons; and all monty actually _did_ was {FTP} files off the 
   network. 2. [Great Britain; commonly capitalized as `Monty' or as `the 
   Full Monty'] 16 megabytes of memory, when fitted to an IBM-PC or 
   compatible. A standard PC-compatible using the AT- or ISA-bus with a 
   normal BIOS cannot access more than 16 megabytes of RAM. Generally used 
   of a PC, Unix workstation, etc. to mean `fully populated with' memory, 
   disk-space or some other desirable resource. See the World Wide Words 
   article "The Full Monty" 
   ( for discussion of the 
   rather complex etymology that may lie behind this phrase. Compare 
   American {moby}. 

:Moof: /moof/ [Macintosh users] 1. n. The call of a semi-legendary 
   creature, properly called the {dogcow}. (Some previous versions of this 
   entry claimed, incorrectly, that Moof was the name of the _creature_.) 
   2. adj. Used to flag software that's a hack, something untested and on 
   the edge. On one Apple CD-ROM, certain folders such as "Tools & Apps 
   (Moof!)" and "Development Platforms (Moof!)", are so marked to indicate 
   that they contain software not fully tested or sanctioned by the powers 
   that be. When you open these folders you cross the boundary into 
   hackerland. 3. v. On the Microsoft Network, the term `moof' has gained 
   popularity as a verb meaning `to be suddenly disconnected by the 
   system'. One might say "I got moofed". 

:Moore's Law: /morz law/ prov. The observation that the logic density of 
   silicon integrated circuits has closely followed the curve (bits per 
   square inch) = 2^(t - 1962) where t is time in years; that is, the 
   amount of information storable on a given amount of silicon has roughly 
   doubled every year since the technology was invented. This relation, 
   first uttered in 1964 by semiconductor engineer Gordon Moore (who 
   co-founded Intel four years later) held until the late 1970s, at which 
   point the doubling period slowed to 18 months. The doubling period 
   remained at that value through time of writing (late 1999). Moore's Law 
   is apparently self-fulfilling. The implication is that somebody, 
   somewhere is going to be able to build a better chip than you if you 
   rest on your laurels, so you'd better start pushing hard on the problem. 
   See also {Parkinson's Law of Data} and {Gates's Law}. 

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

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

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

:MOTSS: /mots/ or /M-O-T-S-S/ n. [from the 1970 U.S. census forms via 
   Usenet] Member Of The Same Sex, esp. one considered as a possible sexual 
   partner. The gay-issues newsgroup on Usenet is called soc.motss. See 
   {MOTOS} and {MOTAS}, which derive from it. See also {SO}. 

:mouse ahead: vi. Point-and-click analog of `type ahead'. To manipulate a 
   computer's pointing device (almost always a mouse in this usage, but not 
   necessarily) and its selection or command buttons before a computer 
   program is ready to accept such input, in anticipation of the program 
   accepting the input. Handling this properly is rare, but it can help 
   make a {WIMP environment} much more usable, assuming the users are 
   familiar with the behavior of the user interface. 

:mouse 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 

: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}, {ill-behaved}. 

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

     A monk asked Joshu, "Does a dog have the Buddha nature?"  Joshu
     retorted, "Mu!"
   See also {has the X nature}, {Some AI Koans}, and Douglas Hofstadter's 
   "Go"del, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" (pointer in the 
   {Bibliography} in Appendix C. 

:MUD: /muhd/ n. [acronym, Multi-User Dungeon; alt. Multi-User Dimension] 
   1. A class of {virtual reality} experiments accessible via the Internet. 
   These are real-time chat forums with structure; they have multiple 
   `locations' like an adventure game, and may include combat, traps, 
   puzzles, magic, a simple economic system, and the capability for 
   characters to build more structure onto the database that represents the 
   existing world. 2. vi. To play a MUD. The acronym MUD is often 
   lowercased and/or verbed; thus, one may speak of `going mudding', etc. 

   Historically, MUDs (and their more recent progeny with names of MU- 
   form) derive from a hack by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw on the 
   University of Essex's DEC-10 in the early 1980s; descendants of that 
   game still exist today and are sometimes generically called BartleMUDs. 
   There is a widespread myth (repeated, unfortunately, by earlier versions 
   of this lexicon) that the name MUD was trademarked to the commercial MUD 
   run by Bartle on British Telecom (the motto: "You haven't _lived_ 'til 
   you've _died_ on MUD!"); however, this is false -- Richard Bartle 
   explicitly placed `MUD' in the public domain in 1985. BT was upset at 
   this, as they had already printed trademark claims on some maps and 
   posters, which were released and created the myth. 

   Students on the European academic networks quickly improved on the MUD 
   concept, spawning several new MUDs (VAXMUD, AberMUD, LPMUD). Many of 
   these had associated bulletin-board systems for social interaction. 
   Because these had an image as `research' they often survived 
   administrative hostility to BBSs in general. This, together with the 
   fact that Usenet feeds were often spotty and difficult to get in the 
   U.K., made the MUDs major foci of hackish social interaction there. 

   AberMUD and other variants crossed the Atlantic around 1988 and 
   quickly gained popularity in the U.S.; they became nuclei for large 
   hacker communities with only loose ties to traditional hackerdom (some 
   observers see parallels with the growth of Usenet in the early 1980s). 
   The second wave of MUDs (TinyMUD and variants) tended to emphasize 
   social interaction, puzzles, and cooperative world-building as opposed 
   to combat and competition (in writing, these social MUDs are sometimes 
   referred to as `MU*', with `MUD' implicitly reserved for the more 
   game-oriented ones). By 1991, over 50% of MUD sites were of a third 
   major variety, LPMUD, which synthesizes the combat/puzzle aspects of 
   AberMUD and older systems with the extensibility of TinyMud. In 1996 the 
   cutting edge of the technology is Pavel Curtis's MOO, even more 
   extensible using a built-in object-oriented language. The trend toward 
   greater programmability and flexibility will doubtless continue. 

   The state of the art in MUD design is still moving very rapidly, with 
   new simulation designs appearing (seemingly) every month. Around 1991 
   there was an unsuccessful movement to deprecate the term {MUD} itself, 
   as newer designs exhibit an exploding variety of names corresponding to 
   the different simulation styles being explored. It survived. See also 
   {bonk/oif}, {FOD}, {link-dead}, {mudhead}, {talk mode}. 

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

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

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

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

   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}. 

:multician: /muhl-ti'shn/ n. [coined at Honeywell, ca. 1970] Competent 
   user of {{Multics}}. Perhaps oddly, no one has ever promoted the 
   analogous `Unician'. 

:Multics:: /muhl'tiks/ n. [from "MULTiplexed Information and Computing 
   Service"] An early time-sharing {operating system} co-designed by a 
   consortium including MIT, GE, and Bell Laboratories as a successor to 
   {CTSS}. The design was first presented in 1965, planned for operation in 
   1967, first operational in 1969, and took several more years to achieve 
   respectable performance and stability. 

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

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

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

   MIT ended its development association with Multics in 1977. Honeywell 
   sold its computer business to Bull in the mid 80s, and development on 
   Multics was stopped in 1988. Four Multics sites were known to be still 
   in use as late as 1998, but the last one (a Canadian military site) was 
   decomissioned in November 2000. There is a Multics page at 

:multitask: n. Often used of humans in the same meaning it has for 
   computers, to describe a person doing several things at once (but see 
   {thrash}). The term `multiplex', from communications technology (meaning 
   to handle more than one channel at the same time), is used similarly. 

:mumblage: /muhm'bl*j/ n. The topic of one's mumbling (see {mumble}). 
   "All that mumblage" is used like "all that stuff" when it is not quite 
   clear how the subject of discussion works, or like "all that crap" when 
   `mumble' is being used as an implicit replacement for pejoratives. 

:mumble: interj. 1. Said when the correct response is too complicated to 
   enunciate, or the speaker has not thought it out. Often prefaces a 
   longer answer, or indicates a general reluctance to get into a long 
   discussion. "Don't you think that we could improve LISP performance by 
   using a hybrid reference-count transaction garbage collector, if the 
   cache is big enough and there are some extra cache bits for the 
   microcode to use?" "Well, mumble ... I'll have to think about it." 2. 
   [MIT] Expression of not-quite-articulated agreement, often used as an 
   informal vote of consensus in a meeting: "So, shall we dike out the 
   COBOL emulation?" "Mumble!" 3. Sometimes used as an expression of 
   disagreement (distinguished from sense 2 by tone of voice and other 
   cues). "I think we should buy a {VAX}." "Mumble!" Common variant: 
   `mumble frotz' (see {frotz}; interestingly, one does not say `mumble 
   frobnitz' even though `frotz' is short for `frobnitz'). 4. Yet another 
   {metasyntactic variable}, like {foo}. 5. When used as a question 
   ("Mumble?") means "I didn't understand you". 6. Sometimes used in 
   `public' contexts on-line as a placefiller for things one is barred from 
   giving details about. For example, a poster with pre-released hardware 
   in his machine might say "Yup, my machine now has an extra 16M of 
   memory, thanks to the card I'm testing for Mumbleco." 7. A 
   conversational wild card used to designate something one doesn't want to 
   bother spelling out, but which can be {glark}ed from context. Compare 
   {blurgle}. 8. [XEROX PARC] A colloquialism used to suggest that further 
   discussion would be fruitless. 

:munch: vt. [often confused with {mung}, q.v.] To transform information 
   in a serial fashion, often requiring large amounts of computation. To 
   trace down a data structure. Related to {crunch} and nearly synonymous 
   with {grovel}, but connotes less pain. 

:munching: n. Exploration of security holes of someone else's computer 
   for thrills, notoriety, or to annoy the system manager. Compare 
   {cracker}. See also {hacked off}. 

:munching squares: n. A {display hack} dating back to the PDP-1 (ca. 
   1962, reportedly discovered by Jackson Wright), which employs a trivial 
   computation (repeatedly plotting the graph Y = X XOR T for successive 
   values of T -- see {HAKMEM} items 146-148) to produce an impressive 
   display of moving and growing squares that devour the screen. The 
   initial value of T is treated as a parameter, which, when well-chosen, 
   can produce amazing effects. Some of these, later (re)discovered on the 
   LISP machine, have been christened `munching triangles' (try AND for XOR 
   and toggling points instead of plotting them), `munching w's', and 
   `munching mazes'. More generally, suppose a graphics program produces an 
   impressive and ever-changing display of some basic form, foo, on a 
   display terminal, and does it using a relatively simple program; then 
   the program (or the resulting display) is likely to be referred to as 
   `munching foos'. [This is a good example of the use of the word {foo} as 
   a {metasyntactic variable}.] 

:munchkin: /muhnch'kin/ n. [from the squeaky-voiced little people in L. 
   Frank Baum's "The Wizard of Oz"] A teenage-or-younger micro enthusiast 
   hacking BASIC or something else equally constricted. A term of mild 
   derision -- munchkins are annoying but some grow up to be hackers after 
   passing through a {larval stage}. The term {urchin} is also used. See 
   also {wannabee}, {bitty box}. 

:mundane: n. [from SF fandom] 1. A person who is not in science fiction 
   fandom. 2. A person who is not in the computer industry. In this sense, 
   most often an adjectival modifier as in "in my mundane life...." See 
   also {Real World}, {muggle}. 

:mung: /muhng/ vt. [in 1960 at MIT, `Mash Until No Good'; sometime after 
   that the derivation from the {{recursive acronym}} `Mung Until No Good' 
   became standard; but see {munge}] 1. To make changes to a file, esp. 
   large-scale and irrevocable changes. See {BLT}. 2. To destroy, usually 
   accidentally, occasionally maliciously. The system only mungs things 
   maliciously; this is a consequence of {Finagle's Law}. See {scribble}, 
   {mangle}, {trash}, {nuke}. Reports from {Usenet} suggest that the 
   pronunciation /muhnj/ is now usual in speech, but the spelling `mung' is 
   still common in program comments (compare the widespread confusion over 
   the proper spelling of {kluge}). 3. In the wake of the {spam} epidemics 
   of the 1990s, mung is now commonly used to describe the act of modifying 
   an email address in a sig block in a way that human beings can readily 
   reverse but that will fool an {address harvester}. Example: 
   [email protected]. 4. The kind of beans the sprouts of which are 
   used in Chinese food. (That's their real name! Mung beans! Really!) 

   Like many early hacker terms, this one seems to have originated at 
   {TMRC}; it was already in use there in 1958. Peter Samson (compiler of 
   the original TMRC lexicon) thinks it may originally have been 
   onomatopoeic for the sound of a relay spring (contact) being twanged. 
   However, it is known that during the World Wars, `mung' was U.S. army 
   slang for the ersatz creamed chipped beef better known as `SOS', and it 
   seems quite likely that the word in fact goes back to Scots-dialect 

   Charles Mackay's 1874 book "Lost Beauties of the English Language" 
   defined "mung" as follows: "Preterite of ming, to ming or mingle; when 
   the substantive meaning of mingled food of bread, potatoes, etc. thrown 
   to poultry. In America, "mung news" is a common expression applied to 
   false news, but probably having its derivation from mingled (or mung) 
   news, in which the true and the false are so mixed up together that it 
   is impossible to distinguish one from another." 

:munge: /muhnj/ vt. 1. [derogatory] To imperfectly transform information. 
   2. A comprehensive rewrite of a routine, data structure or the whole 
   program. 3. To modify data in some way the speaker doesn't need to go 
   into right now or cannot describe succinctly (compare {mumble}). 4. To 
   add {spamblock} to an email address. 

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

:Murphy's Law: prov. The correct, _original_ Murphy's Law reads: "If 
   there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can 
   result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it." This is a principle 
   of defensive design, cited here because it is usually given in mutant 
   forms less descriptive of the challenges of design for {luser}s. For 
   example, you don't make a two-pin plug symmetrical and then label it 
   `THIS WAY UP'; if it matters which way it is plugged in, then you make 
   the design asymmetrical (see also the anecdote under {magic smoke}). 

   Edward A. Murphy, Jr. was one of McDonnel-Douglas's quality-control 
   engineers on the rocket-sled experiments that were done by the U.S. Air 
   Force in 1949 to test human acceleration tolerances (USAF project 
   MX981). One experiment involved a set of 16 accelerometers mounted to 
   different parts of the subject's body. There were two ways each sensor 
   could be glued to its mount, and somebody methodically installed all 16 
   in a replacement set the wrong way around. Murphy then made the original 
   form of his pronouncement, which the test subject (Major John Paul 
   Stapp) mis-quoted (apparently in the more general form "Whatever can go 
   wrong, _will_ go wrong) at a news conference a few days later. 

   Within months `Murphy's Law' had spread to various technical cultures 
   connected to aerospace engineering. Before too many years had gone by 
   variants had passed into the popular imagination, changing as they went. 
   Most of these are variants on "Anything that can go wrong, will"; this 
   is more correctly referred to as {Finagle's Law}. The memetic drift 
   apparent in these mutants clearly demonstrates Murphy's Law acting on 

:music:: n. A common extracurricular interest of hackers (compare 
   {{science-fiction fandom}}, {{oriental food}}; see also {filk}). Hackish 
   folklore has long claimed that musical and programming abilities are 
   closely related, and there has been at least one large-scale statistical 
   study that supports this. Hackers, as a rule, like music and often 
   develop musical appreciation in unusual and interesting directions. Folk 
   music is very big in hacker circles; so is electronic music, and the 
   sort of elaborate instrumental jazz/rock that used to be called 
   `progressive' and isn't recorded much any more. The hacker's musical 
   range tends to be wide; many can listen with equal appreciation to (say) 
   Talking Heads, Yes, Gentle Giant, Pat Metheny, Scott Joplin, Tangerine 
   Dream, Dream Theater, King Sunny Ade, The Pretenders, Screaming Trees, 
   or the Brandenburg Concerti. It is also apparently true that hackerdom 
   includes a much higher concentration of talented amateur musicians than 
   one would expect from a similar-sized control group of {mundane} types. 

:mutter: vt. To quietly enter a command not meant for the ears, eyes, or 
   fingers of ordinary mortals. Often used in `mutter an {incantation}'. 
   See also {wizard}. 

= N =

:N: /N/ quant. 1. A large and indeterminate number of objects: "There 
   were N bugs in that crock!" Also used in its original sense of a 
   variable name: "This crock has N bugs, as N goes to infinity." (The true 
   number of bugs is always at least N + 1; see {Lubarsky's Law of 
   Cybernetic Entomology}.) 2. A variable whose value is inherited from the 
   current context. For example, when a meal is being ordered at a 
   restaurant, N may be understood to mean however many people there are at 
   the table. From the remark "We'd like to order N wonton soups and a 
   family dinner for N - 1" you can deduce that one person at the table 
   wants to eat only soup, even though you don't know how many people there 
   are (see {great-wall}). 3. `Nth': adj. The ordinal counterpart of N, 
   senses 1 and 2. "Now for the Nth and last time..." In the specific 
   context "Nth-year grad student", N is generally assumed to be at least 
   4, and is usually 5 or more (see {tenured graduate student}). See also 
   {{random numbers}}, {two-to-the-N}. 

:nadger: /nad'jr/ v. [UK, from rude slang noun `nadgers' for testicles; 
   compare American & British `bollixed'] Of software or hardware (not 
   people), to twiddle some object in a hidden manner, generally so that it 
   conforms better to some format. For instance, string printing routines 
   on 8-bit processors often take the string text from the instruction 
   stream, thus a print call looks like `jsr print:"Hello world"'. The 
   print routine has to `nadger' the saved instruction pointer so that the 
   processor doesn't try to execute the text as instructions when the 
   subroutine returns. See {adger}. 

:nagware: /nag'weir/ n. [Usenet] The variety of {shareware} that displays 
   a large screen at the beginning or end reminding you to register, 
   typically requiring some sort of keystroke to continue so that you can't 
   use the software in batch mode. Compare {annoyware}, {crippleware}. 

:nailed to the wall: adj. [like a trophy] Said of a bug finally 
   eliminated after protracted, and even heroic, effort. 

:nailing jelly: vi. See {like nailing jelly to a tree}. 

:naive: adj. 1. Untutored in the perversities of some particular program 
   or system; one who still tries to do things in an intuitive way, rather 
   than the right way (in really good designs these coincide, but most 
   designs aren't `really good' in the appropriate sense). This trait is 
   completely unrelated to general maturity or competence, or even 
   competence at any other specific program. It is a sad commentary on the 
   primitive state of computing that the natural opposite of this term is 
   often claimed to be `experienced user' but is really more like `cynical 
   user'. 2. Said of an algorithm that doesn't take advantage of some 
   superior but advanced technique, e.g., the {bubble sort}. It may imply 
   naivete on the part of the programmer, although there are situations 
   where a naive algorithm is preferred, because it is more important to 
   keep the code comprehensible than to go for maximum performance. "I know 
   the linear search is naive, but in this case the list typically only has 
   half a dozen items." Compare {brute force}. 

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

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

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

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

:nano: /nan'oh/ n. [CMU: from `nanosecond'] A brief period of time. "Be 
   with you in a nano" means you really will be free shortly, i.e., implies 
   what mainstream people mean by "in a jiffy" (whereas the hackish use of 
   `jiffy' is quite different -- see {jiffy}). 

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

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

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

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

:nanofortnight: n. [Adelaide University] 1 fortnight * 10^(-9), or about 
   1.2 msec. This unit was used largely by students doing undergraduate 
   practicals. See {microfortnight}, {attoparsec}, and {micro-}. 

:nanotechnology:: /nan'-oh-tek-no`l*-jee/ n. A hypothetical fabrication 
   technology in which objects are designed and built with the individual 
   specification and placement of each separate atom. The first unequivocal 
   nanofabrication experiments took place in 1990, for example with the 
   deposition of individual xenon atoms on a nickel substrate to spell the 
   logo of a certain very large computer company. Nanotechnology has been a 
   hot topic in the hacker subculture ever since the term was coined by K. 
   Eric Drexler in his book "Engines of Creation" (Anchor/Doubleday, ISBN 
   0-385-19973-2), where he predicted that nanotechnology could give rise 
   to replicating assemblers, permitting an exponential growth of 
   productivity and personal wealth (there's an authorized transcription at 
   `'). See also {blue goo}, {gray 
   goo}, {nanobot}. 

:narg: [Cambridge] Short for "Not A Real Gentleman", i.e. one who 
   excessively talks shop out of hours. 

:nasal demons: n. Recognized shorthand on the Usenet group comp.std.c for 
   any unexpected behavior of a C compiler on encountering an undefined 
   construct. During a discussion on that group in early 1992, a regular 
   remarked "When the compiler encounters [a given undefined construct] it 
   is legal for it to make demons fly out of your nose" (the implication is 
   that the compiler may choose any arbitrarily bizarre way to interpret 
   the code without violating the ANSI C standard). Someone else followed 
   up with a reference to "nasal demons", which quickly became established. 
   The original post is web-accessible at 

:nastygram: /nas'tee-gram/ n. 1. A protocol packet or item of email (the 
   latter is also called a {letterbomb}) that takes advantage of 
   misfeatures or security holes on the target system to do untoward 
   things. 2. Disapproving mail, esp. from a {net.god}, pursuant to a 
   violation of {netiquette} or a complaint about failure to correct some 
   mail- or news-transmission problem. Compare {shitogram}, {mailbomb}. 3. 
   A status report from an unhappy, and probably picky, customer. "What'd 
   Corporate say in today's nastygram?" 4. [deprecated] An error reply by 
   mail from a {daemon}; in particular, a {bounce message}. 

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

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

:neat hack: n. [very common] 1. A clever technique. 2. A brilliant 
   practical joke, where neatness is correlated with cleverness, 
   harmlessness, and surprise value. Example: the Caltech Rose Bowl card 
   display switch (see {Appendix A} for discussion). See also {hack}. 

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

:neep-neep: /neep neep/ n. [onomatopoeic, widely spread through SF fandom 
   but reported to have originated at Caltech in the 1970s] One who is 
   fascinated by computers. Less specific than {hacker}, as it need not 
   imply more skill than is required to play games on a PC. The derived 
   noun `neeping' applies specifically to the long conversations about 
   computers that tend to develop in the corners at most SF-convention 
   parties (the term `neepery' is also in wide use). Fandom has a related 
   proverb to the effect that "Hacking is a conversational black hole!". 

:neophilia: /nee`oh-fil'-ee-*/ n. The trait of being excited and pleased 
   by novelty. Common among most hackers, SF fans, and members of several 
   other connected leading-edge subcultures, including the pro-technology 
   `Whole Earth' wing of the ecology movement, space activists, many 
   members of Mensa, and the Discordian/neo-pagan underground (see {geek}). 
   All these groups overlap heavily and (where evidence is available) seem 
   to share characteristic hacker tropisms for science fiction, {{music}}, 
   and {{oriental food}}. The opposite tendency is `neophobia'. 

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

   The word itself appears to derive from the lines "And then, just to 
   show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo / And Bring Back an It-Kutch, a Preep 
   and a Proo, / A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker, too!" in the Dr. Seuss 
   book "If I Ran the Zoo" (1950). (The spellings `nurd' and `gnurd' also 
   used to be current at MIT, where `nurd' is reported from as far back as 
   1957.) How it developed its mainstream meaning is unclear, but sense 1 
   seems to have entered mass culture in the early 1970s (there are reports 
   that in the mid-1960s it meant roughly "annoying misfit" without the 
   connotation of intelligence). 

   An IEEE Spectrum article (4/95, page 16) once derived `nerd' in its 
   variant form `knurd' from the word `drunk' backwards, but this bears all 
   the hallmarks of a bogus folk etymology. Apparently this etymology was 
   folklore at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute around 1979. 

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

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

:net.-: /net dot/ pref. [Usenet] Prefix used to describe people and 
   events related to Usenet. From the time before the {Great Renaming}, 
   when most non-local newsgroups had names beginning `net.'. Includes 
   {net.god}s, `net.goddesses' (various charismatic net.women with circles 
   of on-line admirers), `net.lurkers' (see {lurker}), `net.person', 
   `net.parties' (a synonym for {boink}, sense 2), and many similar 
   constructs. See also {net.police}. 

:net.god: /net god/ n. Accolade referring to anyone who satisfies some 
   combination of the following conditions: has been visible on Usenet for 
   more than 5 years, ran one of the original backbone sites, moderated an 
   important newsgroup, wrote news software, or knows Gene, Mark, Rick, 
   Mel, Henry, Chuq, and Greg personally. See {demigod}. Net.goddesses such 
   as Rissa or the Slime Sisters have (so far) been distinguished more by 
   personality than by authority. 

:net.personality: /net per`sn-al'-*-tee/ n. Someone who has made a name 
   for him or herself on {Usenet}, through either longevity or 
   attention-getting posts, but doesn't meet the other requirements of 

:net.police: /net-p*-lees'/ n. (var. `net.cops') Those Usenet readers who 
   feel it is their responsibility to pounce on and {flame} any posting 
   which they regard as offensive or in violation of their understanding of 
   {netiquette}. Generally used sarcastically or pejoratively. Also spelled 
   `net police'. See also {net.-}, {code police}. 

:netburp: n. [IRC] When {netlag} gets really bad, and delays between 
   servers exceed a certain threshhold, the {IRC} network effectively 
   becomes partitioned for a period of time, and large numbers of people 
   seem to be signing off at the same time and then signing back on again 
   when things get better. An instance of this is called a `netburp' (or, 
   sometimes, {netsplit}). 

:netdead: n. [IRC] The state of someone who signs off {IRC}, perhaps 
   during a {netburp}, and doesn't sign back on until later. In the 
   interim, he is "dead to the net". Compare {link-dead}. 

:nethack: /net'hak/ n. [Unix] A dungeon game similar to {rogue} but more 
   elaborate, distributed in C source over {Usenet} and very popular at 
   Unix sites and on PC-class machines (nethack is probably the most widely 
   distributed of the freeware dungeon games). The earliest versions, 
   written by Jay Fenlason and later considerably enhanced by Andries 
   Brouwer, were simply called `hack'. The name changed when maintenance 
   was taken over by a group of hackers originally organized by Mike 
   Stephenson. There is now an official site at `'. 
   See also {moria}, {rogue}, {Angband}. 

:netiquette: /net'ee-ket/ or /net'i-ket/ n. [Coined by Chuq von Rospach 
   c.1983] [portmanteau, network + etiquette] The conventions of politeness 
   recognized on {Usenet}, such as avoidance of cross-posting to 
   inappropriate groups and refraining from commercial pluggery outside the 
   biz groups. 

:netlag: n. [IRC, MUD] A condition that occurs when the delays in the 
   {IRC} network or on a {MUD} become severe enough that servers briefly 
   lose and then reestablish contact, causing messages to be delivered in 
   bursts, often with delays of up to a minute. (Note that this term has 
   nothing to do with mainstream "jet lag", a condition which hackers tend 
   not to be much bothered by.) Often shortened to just `lag'. 

:netnews: /net'n[y]ooz/ n. 1. The software that makes {Usenet} run. 2. 
   The content of Usenet. "I read netnews right after my mail most 

:netrock: /net'rok/ n. [IBM] A {flame}; used esp. on VNET, IBM's internal 
   corporate network. 

:Netscrape: n. [sometimes elaborated to `Netscrape Fornicator', also 
   `Nutscrape'] Standard name-of-insult for Netscape 
   Navigator/Communicator, Netscape's overweight Web browser. Compare 
   {Internet Exploiter}. 

:netsplit: n. Syn. {netburp}. 

:netter: n. 1. Loosely, anyone with a {network address}. 2. More 
   specifically, a {Usenet} regular. Most often found in the plural. "If 
   you post _that_ in a technical group, you're going to be flamed by angry 
   netters for the rest of time!" 

:network address: n. (also `net address') As used by hackers, means an 
   address on `the' network (see {the network}; this used to include {bang 
   path} addresses but now always implies an Internet address). Net 
   addresses are often used in email text as a more concise substitute for 
   personal names; indeed, hackers may come to know each other quite well 
   by network names without ever learning each others' `legal' monikers. 
   Display of a network address (e.g. on business cards) used to function 
   as an important hacker identification signal, like lodge pins among 
   Masons or tie-dyed T-shirts among Grateful Dead fans. In the day of 
   pervasive Internet this is less true, but you can still be fairly sure 
   that anyone with a network address handwritten on his or her convention 
   badge is a hacker. 

:network meltdown: n. A state of complete network overload; the network 
   equivalent of {thrash}ing. This may be induced by a {Chernobyl packet}. 
   See also {broadcast storm}, {kamikaze packet}. 

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

:New Jersey: adj. [primarily Stanford/Silicon Valley] Brain-damaged or of 
   poor design. This refers to the allegedly wretched quality of such 
   software as C, C++, and Unix (which originated at Bell Labs in Murray 
   Hill, New Jersey). "This compiler bites the bag, but what can you expect 
   from a compiler designed in New Jersey?" Compare {Berkeley Quality 
   Software}. See also {Unix conspiracy}. 

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

:newbie: /n[y]oo'bee/ n. [very common; orig. from British public-school 
   and military slang variant of `new boy'] A Usenet neophyte. This term 
   surfaced in the {newsgroup} talk.bizarre but is now in wide use (the 
   combination "clueless newbie" is especially common). Criteria for being 
   considered a newbie vary wildly; a person can be called a newbie in one 
   newsgroup while remaining a respected regular in another. The label 
   `newbie' is sometimes applied as a serious insult to a person who has 
   been around Usenet for a long time but who carefully hides all evidence 
   of having a clue. See {B1FF}; see also {gnubie}. Compare {chainik}, 

:newgroup wars: /n[y]oo'groop worz/ n. [Usenet] The salvos of dueling 
   `newgroup' and `rmgroup' messages sometimes exchanged by persons on 
   opposite sides of a dispute over whether a {newsgroup} should be created 
   net-wide, or (even more frequently) whether an obsolete one should be 
   removed. These usually settle out within a week or two as it becomes 
   clear whether the group has a natural constituency (usually, it 
   doesn't). At times, especially in the completely anarchic alt hierarchy, 
   the names of newsgroups themselves become a form of comment or humor; 
   e.g., the group alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork which originated as a 
   birthday joke for a Muppets fan, or any number of specialized abuse 
   groups named after particularly notorious {flamer}s, e.g., alt.weemba. 

:newline: /n[y]oo'li:n/ n. 1. [techspeak, primarily Unix] The ASCII LF 
   character (0001010), used under {{Unix}} as a text line terminator. 
   Though the term `newline' appears in ASCII standards, it never caught on 
   in the general computing world before Unix. 2. More generally, any magic 
   character, character sequence, or operation (like Pascal's writeln 
   procedure) required to terminate a text record or separate lines. See 
   {crlf}, {terpri}. 

:NeWS: /nee'wis/, /n[y]oo'is/ or /n[y]ooz/ n. [acronym; the `Network 
   Window System'] The road not taken in window systems, an elegant 
   {{PostScript}}-based environment that would almost certainly have won 
   the standards war with {X} if it hadn't been {proprietary} to Sun 
   Microsystems. There is a lesson here that too many software vendors 
   haven't yet heeded. Many hackers insist on the two-syllable 
   pronunciations above as a way of distinguishing NeWS from Usenet news 
   (the {netnews} software). 

:newsfroup: // n. [Usenet] Silly synonym for {newsgroup}, originally a 
   typo but now in regular use on Usenet's talk.bizarre, and other 
   lunatic-fringe groups. Compare {hing}, {grilf}, {pr0n} and {filk}. 

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

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

:nick: n. [IRC; very common] Short for nickname. On {IRC}, every user 
   must pick a nick, which is sometimes the same as the user's real name or 
   login name, but is often more fanciful. Compare {handle}, {screen name}. 

:nickle: /ni'kl/ n. [from `nickel', common name for the U.S. 5-cent coin] 
   A {nybble} + 1; 5 bits. Reported among developers for Mattel's GI 1600 
   (the Intellivision games processor), a chip with 16-bit-wide RAM but 
   10-bit-wide ROM. See also {deckle}, and {nybble} for names of other bit 

:night mode: n. See {phase} (of people). 

:Nightmare File System: n. Pejorative hackerism for Sun's Network File 
   System (NFS). In any nontrivial network of Suns where there is a lot of 
   NFS cross-mounting, when one Sun goes down, the others often freeze up. 
   Some machine tries to access the down one, and (getting no response) 
   repeats indefinitely. This causes it to appear dead to some messages 
   (what is actually happening is that it is locked up in what should have 
   been a brief excursion to a higher {spl} level). Then another machine 
   tries to reach either the down machine or the pseudo-down machine, and 
   itself becomes pseudo-down. The first machine to discover the down one 
   is now trying both to access the down one and to respond to the 
   pseudo-down one, so it is even harder to reach. This situation snowballs 
   very quickly, and soon the entire network of machines is frozen -- worst 
   of all, the user can't even abort the file access that started the 
   problem! Many of NFS's problems are excused by partisans as being an 
   inevitable result of its statelessness, which is held to be a great 
   feature (critics, of course, call it a great {misfeature}). (ITS 
   partisans are apt to cite this as proof of Unix's alleged bogosity; ITS 
   had a working NFS-like shared file system with none of these problems in 
   the early 1970s.) See also {broadcast storm}. 

:NIL: /nil/ No. Used in reply to a question, particularly one asked using 
   the `-P' convention. Most hackers assume this derives simply from LISP 
   terminology for `false' (see also {T}), but NIL as a negative reply was 
   well-established among radio hams decades before the advent of LISP. The 
   historical connection between early hackerdom and the ham radio world 
   was strong enough that this may have been an influence. 

:Ninety-Ninety Rule: n. "The first 90% of the code accounts for the first 
   90% of the development time. The remaining 10% of the code accounts for 
   the other 90% of the development time." Attributed to Tom Cargill of 
   Bell Labs, and popularized by Jon Bentley's September 1985 
   "Bumper-Sticker Computer Science" column in "Communications of the ACM". 
   It was there called the "Rule of Credibility", a name which seems not to 
   have stuck. Other maxims in the same vein include the law attributed to 
   the early British computer scientist Douglas Hartree: "The time from now 
   until the completion of the project tends to become constant." 

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

:NMI: /N-M-I/ n. Non-Maskable Interrupt. An IRQ 7 on the PDP-11 or 
   680[01234]0; the NMI line on an 80[1234]86. In contrast with a {priority 
   interrupt} (which might be ignored, although that is unlikely), an NMI 
   is _never_ ignored. Except, that is, on {clone} boxes, where NMI is 
   often ignored on the motherboard because flaky hardware can generate 
   many spurious ones. 

:no-op: /noh'op/ n.,v. alt. NOP /nop/ [no operation] 1. A machine 
   instruction that does nothing (sometimes used in assembler-level 
   programming as filler for data or patch areas, or to overwrite code to 
   be removed in binaries). 2. A person who contributes nothing to a 
   project, or has nothing going on upstairs, or both. As in "He's a 
   no-op." 3. Any operation or sequence of operations with no effect, such 
   as circling the block without finding a parking space, or putting money 
   into a vending machine and having it fall immediately into the 
   coin-return box, or asking someone for help and being told to go away. 
   "Oh, well, that was a no-op." Hot-and-sour soup (see {great-wall}) that 
   is insufficiently either is `no-op soup'; so is wonton soup if everybody 
   else is having hot-and-sour. 

:noddy: /nod'ee/ adj. [UK: from the children's books] 1. Small and 
   un-useful, but demonstrating a point. Noddy programs are often written 
   by people learning a new language or system. The archetypal noddy 
   program is {hello world}. Noddy code may be used to demonstrate a 
   feature or bug of a compiler. May be used of real hardware or software 
   to imply that it isn't worth using. "This editor's a bit noddy." 2. A 
   program that is more or less instant to produce. In this use, the term 
   does not necessarily connote uselessness, but describes a {hack} 
   sufficiently trivial that it can be written and debugged while carrying 
   on (and during the space of) a normal conversation. "I'll just throw 
   together a noddy {awk} script to dump all the first fields." In North 
   America this might be called a {mickey mouse program}. See {toy 

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

:Nominal Semidestructor: n. Soundalike slang for `National 
   Semiconductor', found among other places in the Networking/2 networking 
   sources. During the late 1970s to mid-1980s this company marketed a 
   series of microprocessors including the NS16000 and NS32000 and several 
   variants. At one point early in the great microprocessor race, the specs 
   on these chips made them look like serious competition for the rising 
   Intel 80x86 and Motorola 680x0 series. Unfortunately, the actual parts 
   were notoriously flaky and never implemented the full instruction set 
   promised in their literature, apparently because the company couldn't 
   get any of the mask steppings to work as designed. They eventually sank 
   without trace, joining the Zilog Z8000 and a few even more obscure 
   also-rans in the graveyard of forgotten microprocessors. Compare 
   {HP-SUX}, {AIDX}, {buglix}, {Macintrash}, {Telerat}, {ScumOS}, 
   {sun-stools}, {Slowlaris}, {Internet Exploder}. 

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

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

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

:not entirely unlike X: Used ironically of things which are in fact 
   almost entirely unlike X, except for one feature which the speaker 
   clearly regards as insignificant. "That is not entirely unlike 
   least it's small". Comes directly from the Hitchiker's Guide to the 
   Galaxy scene in which the food synthesizer on the starship Heart of Gold 
   dispenses something "almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea". 

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

:notwork: /not'werk/ n. A network, when it is acting {flaky} or is 
   {down}. Compare {nyetwork}. Said at IBM to have originally referred to a 
   particular period of flakiness on IBM's VNET corporate network ca. 1988; 
   but there are independent reports of the term from elsewhere. 

:NP-: /N-P/ pref. Extremely. Used to modify adjectives describing a level 
   or quality of difficulty; the connotation is often `more so than it 
   should be'. This is generalized from the computer-science terms 
   `NP-hard' and `NP-complete'; NP-complete problems all seem to be very 
   hard, but so far no one has found a proof that they are. NP is the set 
   of Nondeterministic-Polynomial algorithms, those that can be completed 
   by a nondeterministic Turing machine in an amount of time that is a 
   polynomial function of the size of the input; a solution for one 
   NP-complete problem would solve all the others. "Coding a BitBlt 
   implementation to perform correctly in every case is NP-annoying." 

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

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

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

   The standard countermeasure is to put loaded phrases like `KGB', 
   `Uzi', `nuclear materials', `Palestine', `cocaine', and `assassination' 
   in their {sig block}s in a (probably futile) attempt to confuse and 
   overload the creature. The {GNU} version of {EMACS} actually has a 
   command that randomly inserts a bunch of insidious anarcho-verbiage into 
   your edited text. 

   As far back as the 1970s there was a mainstream variant of this myth 
   involving a `Trunk Line Monitor', which supposedly used speech 
   recognition to extract words from telephone trunks. This is much harder 
   than noticing keywords in email, and most of the people who originally 
   propagated it had no idea of then-current technology or the storage, 
   signal-processing, or speech recognition needs of such a project. On the 
   basis of mass-storage costs alone it would have been cheaper to hire 50 
   high-school students and just let them listen in. 

   Twenty years and several orders of technological magnitude later, 
   however, there are clear indications that the NSA has actually deployed 
   such filtering (again, very much against U.S. law). In 2000, the FBI 
   wants to get into this act with its `Carnivore' surveillance system. 

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

:nude: adj. Said of machines delivered without an operating system 
   (compare {bare metal}). "We ordered 50 systems, but they all arrived 
   nude, so we had to spend an extra weekend with the installation disks." 
   This usage is a recent innovation reflecting the fact that most IBM-PC 
   clones are now delivered with an operating system pre-installed at the 
   factory. Other kinds of hardware are still normally delivered without 
   OS, so this term is particular to PC support groups. 

:nugry: /n[y]oo'gree/ [Usenet, 'newbie' + '-gry'] `. n. A {newbie} who 
   posts a {FAQ} in the rec.puzzles newsgroup, especially if it is a 
   variant of the notorious trick question: "Think of words ending in 
   'gry'. Angry and hungry are two of them. There are three words in the 
   English language. What is the third word?" In the newsgroup, the 
   canonical answer is of course `nugry' itself. Plural is `nusgry' 
   /n[y]oos'gree/. 2. adj. Having the qualities of a nugry. 

:nuke: /n[y]ook/ vt. [common] 1. To intentionally delete the entire 
   contents of a given directory or storage volume. "On Unix, `rm -r /usr' 
   will nuke everything in the usr filesystem." Never used for accidental 
   deletion; contrast {blow away}. 2. Syn. for {dike}, applied to smaller 
   things such as files, features, or code sections. Often used to express 
   a final verdict. "What do you want me to do with that 80-meg session 
   file?" "Nuke it." 3. Used of processes as well as files; nuke is a 
   frequent verbal alias for `kill -9' on Unix. 4. On IBM PCs, a bug that 
   results in {fandango on core} can trash the operating system, including 
   the FAT (the in-core copy of the disk block chaining information). This 
   can utterly scramble attached disks, which are then said to have been 
   `nuked'. This term is also used of analogous lossages on Macintoshes and 
   other micros without memory protection. 

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

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

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

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

   Following `bit', `byte' and `nybble' there have been quite a few 
   analogical attempts to construct unambiguous terms for bit blocks of 
   other sizes. All of these are strictly jargon, not techspeak, and not 
   very common jargon at that (most hackers would recognize them in context 
   but not use them spontaneously). We collect them here for reference 
   together with the ambiguous techspeak terms `word', `half-word', `double 
   word', and `quad' or `quad word'; some (indicated) have substantial 
   information separate entries. 

    2 bits:
          {crumb}, {quad}, {quarter}, tayste, tydbit, morsel
    4 bits:
    5 bits:
    10 bits:
    16 bits:
          playte, {chawmp} (on a 32-bit machine), word (on a 16-bit
          machine), half-word (on a 32-bit machine).
    18 bits:
          {chawmp} (on a 36-bit machine), half-word (on a 36-bit
    32 bits:
          dynner, {gawble} (on a 32-bit machine), word (on a 32-bit
          machine), longword (on a 16-bit machine).
    36 bits:
          word (on a 36-bit machine)
    48 bits:
          {gawble} (under circumstances that remain obscure)
    64 bits:
          double word (on a 32-bit machine) quad (on a 16-bit machine)
    128 bits:
          quad (on a 32-bit machine)
   The fundamental motivation for most of these jargon terms (aside from 
   the normal hackerly enjoyment of punning wordplay) is the extreme 
   ambiguity of the term `word' and its derivatives. 

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

= O =

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

:Obfuscated C Contest: n. (in full, the `International Obfuscated C Code 
   Contest', or IOCCC) An annual contest run since 1984 over Usenet by 
   Landon Curt Noll and friends. The overall winner is whoever produces the 
   most unreadable, creative, and bizarre (but working) C program; various 
   other prizes are awarded at the judges' whim. C's terse syntax and 
   macro-preprocessor facilities give contestants a lot of maneuvering 
   room. The winning programs often manage to be simultaneously (a) funny, 
   (b) breathtaking works of art, and (c) horrible examples of how _not_ to 
   code in C. 

   This relatively short and sweet entry might help convey the flavor of 
   obfuscated C: 

      * HELLO WORLD program
      * by Jack Applin and Robert Heckendorn, 1985
      * (Note: depends on being able to modify elements of argv[],
      * which is not guaranteed by ANSI and often not possible.)
     main(v,c)char**c;{for(v[c++]="Hello, world!\n)";
   Here's another good one: 

      * Program to compute an approximation of pi
      * by Brian Westley, 1988
      * (requires pcc macro concatenation; try gcc -traditional-cpp)
     #define _ -F<00||--F-OO--;
     int F=00,OO=00;
   Note that this program works by computing its own area. For more 
   digits, write a bigger program. See also {hello world}. 

   The IOCCC has an official home page at `'. 

:obi-wan error: /oh'bee-won` er'*r/ n. [RPI, from `off-by-one' and the 
   Obi-Wan Kenobi character in "Star Wars"] A loop of some sort in which 
   the index is off by 1. Common when the index should have started from 0 
   but instead started from 1. A kind of {off-by-one error}. See also 

:Objectionable-C: n. Hackish take on "Objective-C", the name of an 
   object-oriented dialect of C in competition with the better-known C++ 
   (it is used to write native applications on the NeXT machine). 
   Objectionable-C uses a Smalltalk-like syntax, but lacks the flexibility 
   of Smalltalk method calls, and (like many such efforts) comes 
   frustratingly close to attaining the {Right Thing} without actually 
   doing so. 

:obscure: adj. Used in an exaggeration of its normal meaning, to imply 
   total incomprehensibility. "The reason for that last crash is obscure." 
   "The `find(1)' command's syntax is obscure!" The phrase `moderately 
   obscure' implies that something could be figured out but probably isn't 
   worth the trouble. The construction `obscure in the extreme' is the 
   preferred emphatic form. 

:octal forty: /ok'tl for'tee/ n. Hackish way of saying "I'm drawing a 
   blank." Octal 40 is the {{ASCII}} space character, 0100000; by an odd 
   coincidence, {hex} 40 (01000000) is the {{EBCDIC}} space character. See 

:off the trolley: adj. Describes the behavior of a program that 
   malfunctions and goes catatonic, but doesn't actually {crash} or abort. 
   See {glitch}, {bug}, {deep space}, {wedged}. 

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

:off-by-one error: n. [common] Exceedingly common error induced in many 
   ways, such as by starting at 0 when you should have started at 1 or 
   vice-versa, or by writing `< N' instead of `<= N' or vice-versa. Also 
   applied to giving something to the person next to the one who should 
   have gotten it. Often confounded with {fencepost error}, which is 
   properly a particular subtype of it. 

:offline: adv. Not now or not here. "Let's take this discussion offline." 
   Specifically used on {Usenet} to suggest that a discussion be moved off 
   a public newsgroup to email. 

:ogg: /og/ v. [CMU] 1. In the multi-player space combat game Netrek, to 
   execute kamikaze attacks against enemy ships which are carrying armies 
   or occupying strategic positions. Named during a game in which one of 
   the players repeatedly used the tactic while playing Orion ship G, 
   showing up in the player list as "Og". This trick has been roundly 
   denounced by those who would return to the good old days when the tactic 
   of dogfighting was dominant, but as Sun Tzu wrote, "What is of supreme 
   importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy, not his tactics." 
   However, the traditional answer to the newbie question "What does ogg 
   mean?" is just "Pick up some armies and I'll show you." 2. In other 
   games, to forcefully attack an opponent with the expectation that the 
   resources expended will be renewed faster than the opponent will be able 
   to regain his previous advantage. Taken more seriously as a tactic since 
   it has gained a simple name. 3. To do anything forcefully, possibly 
   without consideration of the drain on future resources. "I guess I'd 
   better go ogg the problem set that's due tomorrow." "Whoops! I looked 
   down at the map for a sec and almost ogged that oncoming car." 

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

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

:old fart: n. Tribal elder. A title self-assumed with remarkable 
   frequency by (esp.) Usenetters who have been programming for more than 
   about 25 years; often appears in {sig block}s attached to Jargon File 
   contributions of great archeological significance. This is a term of 
   insult in the second or third person but one of pride in first person. 

:Old Testament: n. [C programmers] The first edition of {K&R}, the sacred 
   text describing {Classic C}. 

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

:one-banana problem: n. At mainframe shops, where the computers have 
   operators for routine administrivia, the programmers and hardware people 
   tend to look down on the operators and claim that a trained monkey could 
   do their job. It is frequently observed that the incentives that would 
   be offered said monkeys can be used as a scale to describe the 
   difficulty of a task. A one-banana problem is simple; hence, "It's only 
   a one-banana job at the most; what's taking them so long?" 

   At IBM, folklore divides the world into one-, two-, and three-banana 
   problems. Other cultures have different hierarchies and may divide them 
   more finely; at ICL, for example, five grapes (a bunch) equals a banana. 
   Their upper limit for the in-house {sysape}s is said to be two bananas 
   and three grapes (another source claims it's three bananas and one 
   grape, but observes "However, this is subject to local variations, 
   cosmic rays and ISO"). At a complication level any higher than that, one 
   asks the manufacturers to send someone around to check things. 

   See also {Infinite-Monkey Theorem}. 

:one-line fix: n. Used (often sarcastically) of a change to a program 
   that is thought to be trivial or insignificant right up to the moment it 
   crashes the system. Usually `cured' by another one-line fix. See also {I 
   didn't change anything!} 

:one-liner wars: n. A game popular among hackers who code in the language 
   APL (see {write-only language} and {line noise}). The objective is to 
   see who can code the most interesting and/or useful routine in one line 
   of operators chosen from APL's exceedingly {hairy} primitive set. A 
   similar amusement was practiced among {TECO} hackers and is now popular 
   among {Perl} aficionados. 

   Ken Iverson, the inventor of APL, has been credited with a one-liner 
   that, given a number N, produces a list of the prime numbers from 1 to N 
   inclusive. It looks like this: 

   (2 = 0 +.= T o.| T) / T <- iN 

   where `o' is the APL null character, the assignment arrow is a single 
   character, and `i' represents the APL iota. 

   Here's a {Perl} program that prints primes: 

             perl -wle '(1 x $_) !~ /^(11+)\1+$/ && print while ++ $_'
   In the Perl world this game is sometimes called Perl Golf because the 
   player with the fewest (key)strokes wins. 

:ooblick: /oo'blik/ n. [from the Dr. Seuss title "Bartholomew and the 
   Oobleck"; the spelling `oobleck' is still current in the mainstream] A 
   bizarre semi-liquid sludge made from cornstarch and water. Enjoyed among 
   hackers who make batches during playtime at parties for its amusing and 
   extremely non-Newtonian behavior; it pours and splatters, but resists 
   rapid motion like a solid and will even crack when hit by a hammer. 
   Often found near lasers. 

   Here is a field-tested ooblick recipe contributed by GLS: 

   1 cup cornstarch 1 cup baking soda 3/4 cup water N drops of food 
   coloring This recipe isn't quite as non-Newtonian as a pure cornstarch 
   ooblick, but has an appropriately slimy feel. 

   Some, however, insist that the notion of an ooblick _recipe_ is far 
   too mechanical, and that it is best to add the water in small increments 
   so that the various mixed states the cornstarch goes through as it 
   _becomes_ ooblick can be grokked in fullness by many hands. For optional 
   ingredients of this experience, see the "{Ceremonial Chemicals}" section 
   of Appendix B. 

:OP: // [Usenet; common] Abbreviation for "original poster", the 
   originator of a particular thread. 

:op: /op/ n. 1. In England and Ireland, common verbal abbreviation for 
   `operator', as in system operator. Less common in the U.S., where 
   {sysop} seems to be preferred. 2. [IRC] Someone who is endowed with 
   privileges on {IRC}, not limited to a particular channel. These are 
   generally people who are in charge of the IRC server at their particular 
   site. Sometimes used interchangeably with {CHOP}. Compare {sysop}. 

:open: n. Abbreviation for `open (or left) parenthesis' -- used when 
   necessary to eliminate oral ambiguity. To read aloud the LISP form 
   (DEFUN FOO (X) (PLUS X 1)) one might say: "Open defun foo, open eks 
   close, open, plus eks one, close close." 

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

:open switch: n. [IBM: prob. from railroading] An unresolved question, 
   issue, or problem. 

:operating system:: n. [techspeak] (Often abbreviated `OS') The 
   foundation software of a machine; that which schedules tasks, allocates 
   storage, and presents a default interface to the user between 
   applications. The facilities an operating system provides and its 
   general design philosophy exert an extremely strong influence on 
   programming style and on the technical cultures that grow up around its 
   host machines. Hacker folklore has been shaped primarily by the 
   {{Unix}}, {{ITS}}, {{TOPS-10}}, {{TOPS-20}}/{{TWENEX}}, {{WAITS}}, 
   {{CP/M}}, {{MS-DOS}}, and {{Multics}} operating systems (most 
   importantly by ITS and Unix). 

:optical diff: n. See {vdiff}. 

:optical grep: n. See {vgrep}. 

:optimism: n. What a programmer is full of after fixing the last bug and 
   before discovering the _next_ last bug. Fred Brooks's book "The Mythical 
   Man-Month" (See "Brooks's Law") contains the following paragraph that 
   describes this extremely well: 

     All programmers are optimists.  Perhaps this modern sorcery
     especially attracts those who believe in happy endings and fairy
     godmothers.  Perhaps the hundreds of nitty frustrations drive away
     all but those who habitually focus on the end goal.  Perhaps it is
     merely that computers are young, programmers are younger, and the
     young are always optimists.  But however the selection process
     works, the result is indisputable: "This time it will surely run,"
     or "I just found the last bug.".
   See also {Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic Entomology}. 

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

:Orange Book: n. The U.S. Government's (now obsolete) standards document 
   "Trusted Computer System Evaluation Criteria, DOD standard 5200.28-STD, 
   December, 1985" which characterize secure computing architectures and 
   defines levels A1 (most secure) through D (least). Modern Unixes are 
   roughly C2. See also {{crayola books}}, {{book titles}}. 

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

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

:orphaned i-node: /or'f*nd i:'nohd/ n. [Unix] 1. [techspeak] A file that 
   retains storage but no longer appears in the directories of a 
   filesystem. 2. By extension, a pejorative for any person no longer 
   serving a useful function within some organization, esp. {lion food} 
   without subordinates. 

:orthogonal: adj. [from mathematics] Mutually independent; well 
   separated; sometimes, irrelevant to. Used in a generalization of its 
   mathematical meaning to describe sets of primitives or capabilities 
   that, like a vector basis in geometry, span the entire `capability 
   space' of the system and are in some sense non-overlapping or mutually 
   independent. For example, in architectures such as the PDP-11 or VAX 
   where all or nearly all registers can be used interchangeably in any 
   role with respect to any instruction, the register set is said to be 
   orthogonal. Or, in logic, the set of operators `not' and `or' is 
   orthogonal, but the set `nand', `or', and `not' is not (because any one 
   of these can be expressed in terms of the others). Also used in comments 
   on human discourse: "This may be orthogonal to the discussion, but...." 

:OS: /O-S/ 1. [Operating System] n. An abbreviation heavily used in 
   email, occasionally in speech. 2. n. obs. On ITS, an output spy. See 
   "{OS and JEDGAR}" in Appendix A. 

:OS/2: /O S too/ n. The anointed successor to MS-DOS for Intel 286- and 
   386-based micros; proof that IBM/Microsoft couldn't get it right the 
   second time, either. Often called `Half-an-OS'. Mentioning it is usually 
   good for a cheap laugh among hackers -- the design was so {baroque}, and 
   the implementation of 1.x so bad, that 3 years after introduction you 
   could still count the major {app}s shipping for it on the fingers of two 
   hands -- in unary. The 2.x versions were said to have improved somewhat, 
   and informed hackers rated them superior to Microsoft Windows (an 
   endorsement which, however, could easily be construed as damning with 
   faint praise). In the mid-1990s IBM put OS/2 on life support, refraining 
   from killing it outright purely for internal political reasons; by 1999 
   the success of {Linux} had effectively ended any possibility of a 
   renaissance. See {monstrosity}, {cretinous}, {second-system effect}. 

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

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

:OT: // [Usenet: common] Abbreviation for "off-topic". This is used to 
   respond to a question that is inappropriate for the newsgroup that the 
   questioner posted to. Often used in an HTML-style modifier or with 
   adverbs. See also {TAN}. 

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

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

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

:overflow bit: n. 1. [techspeak] A {flag} on some processors indicating 
   an attempt to calculate a result too large for a register to hold. 2. 
   More generally, an indication of any kind of capacity overload 
   condition. "Well, the {{Ada}} description was {baroque} all right, but I 
   could hack it OK until they got to the exception handling ... that set 
   my overflow bit." 3. The hypothetical bit that will be set if a hacker 
   doesn't get to make a trip to the Room of Porcelain Fixtures: "I'd 
   better process an internal interrupt before the overflow bit gets set." 

:overflow pdl: n. [MIT] The place where you put things when your {PDL} is 
   full. If you don't have one and too many things get pushed, you forget 
   something. The overflow pdl for a person's memory might be a memo pad. 
   This usage inspired the following doggerel: 

     Hey, diddle, diddle
     The overflow pdl
     To get a little more stack;
     If that's not enough
     Then you lose it all,
     And have to pop all the way back.
     -The Great Quux
   The term `pdl' (see {PDL}) seems to be primarily an MITism; outside 
   MIT this term is replaced by `overflow {stack}' (but that wouldn't rhyme 
   with `diddle'). 

:overrun: n. 1. [techspeak] Term for a frequent consequence of data 
   arriving faster than it can be consumed, esp. in serial line 
   communications. For example, at 9600 baud there is almost exactly one 
   character per millisecond, so if a {silo} can hold only two characters 
   and the machine takes longer than 2 msec to get to service the 
   interrupt, at least one character will be lost. 2. Also applied to 
   non-serial-I/O communications. "I forgot to pay my electric bill due to 
   mail overrun." "Sorry, I got four phone calls in 3 minutes last night 
   and lost your message to overrun." When {thrash}ing at tasks, the next 
   person to make a request might be told "Overrun!" Compare {firehose 
   syndrome}. 3. More loosely, may refer to a {buffer overflow} not 
   necessarily related to processing time (as in {overrun screw}). 

:overrun screw: n. [C programming] A variety of {fandango on core} 
   produced by scribbling past the end of an array (C implementations 
   typically have no checks for this error). This is relatively benign and 
   easy to spot if the array is static; if it is auto, the result may be to 
   {smash the stack} -- often resulting in {heisenbug}s of the most 
   diabolical subtlety. The term `overrun screw' is used esp. of scribbles 
   beyond the end of arrays allocated with `malloc(3)'; this typically 
   trashes the allocation header for the next block in the {arena}, 
   producing massive lossage within malloc and often a core dump on the 
   next operation to use `stdio(3)' or `malloc(3)' itself. See {spam}, 
   {overrun}; see also {memory leak}, {memory smash}, {aliasing bug}, 
   {precedence lossage}, {fandango on core}, {secondary damage}. 

:owned: [cracker slang; often written "0wned"] Your condition when your 
   machine has been cracked by a root exploit, and the attacker can do 
   anything with it. 

= P =

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

:P.O.D.: /P-O-D/ [rare; sometimes `POD' without the periods] Acronym for 
   `Piece Of Data' or `Plain Old Data' (as opposed to a code section, or a 
   section containing mixed code and data). See also {pod}. The latter 
   expansion was in use by the C++ standards committee, for which it 
   indicated a struct or class which only contains data (as in C), 
   distinguished from one which has a constructor and member functions. 
   There are things which you can do with a P.O.D. which you can't with a 
   more general class. 

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

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

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

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

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

:paper-net: n. Hackish way of referring to the postal service, 
   analogizing it to a very slow, low-reliability network. Usenet {sig 
   block}s sometimes include a "Paper-Net:" header just before the sender's 
   postal address; common variants of this are "Papernet" and "P-Net". Note 
   that the standard {netiquette} guidelines discourage this practice as a 
   waste of bandwidth, since netters are quite unlikely to casually use 
   postal addresses. Compare {voice-net}, {snail-mail}, {P-mail}. 

:param: /p*-ram'/ n. [common] Shorthand for `parameter'. See also {parm}; 
   compare {arg}, {var}. 

:PARC: n. See {XEROX PARC}. 

:parent message: n. What a {followup} follows up. 

:parity errors: pl.n. Little lapses of attention or (in more severe 
   cases) consciousness, usually brought on by having spent all night and 
   most of the next day hacking. "I need to go home and crash; I'm starting 
   to get a lot of parity errors." Derives from a relatively common but 
   nearly always correctable transient error in memory hardware. It 
   predates RAM; in fact, this term is reported to have already have been 
   in use in its jargon sense back in the 1960s when magnetic cores ruled. 
   Parity errors can also afflict mass storage and serial communication 
   lines; this is more serious because not always correctable. 

:Parkinson's Law of Data: prov. "Data expands to fill the space available 
   for storage"; buying more memory encourages the use of more 
   memory-intensive techniques. It has been observed since the mid-1980s 
   that the memory usage of evolving systems tends to double roughly once 
   every 18 months. Fortunately, memory density available for constant 
   dollars also tends to about double once every 18 months (see {Moore's 
   Law}); unfortunately, the laws of physics guarantee that the latter 
   cannot continue indefinitely. 

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

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

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

     9. There is no escape
     This last point is perhaps the most important.  The language is
     inadequate but circumscribed, because there is no way to escape its
     limitations.  There are no casts to disable the type-checking when
     necessary.  There is no way to replace the defective run-time
     environment with a sensible one, unless one controls the compiler
     that defines the "standard procedures".  The language is closed.
     People who use Pascal for serious programming fall into a fatal
     trap.  Because the language is impotent, it must be extended.  But
     each group extends Pascal in its own direction, to make it look
     like whatever language they really want.  Extensions for separate
     compilation, FORTRAN-like COMMON, string data types, internal
     static variables, initialization, octal numbers, bit operators,
     etc., all add to the utility of the language for one group but
     destroy its portability to others.
     I feel that it is a mistake to use Pascal for anything much beyond
     its original target.  In its pure form, Pascal is a toy language,
     suitable for teaching but not for real programming.
   Pascal has since been entirely displaced (mainly by {C}) from the 
   niches it had acquired in serious applications and systems programming, 
   and from its role as a teaching language by Java. 

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

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

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

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

   This term comes from the Perl development community, but has been