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#========= THIS IS THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 2.9.10, 01 JUL 1992 =========#


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 2.9.10" or

"The on-line hacker Jargon File, version 2.9.10, 01 JUL 1992".)


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    eric@snark.thyrsus.com  (215)-296-5718


Although there is no requirement that you do so, it is considered good

form to check with an editor before quoting the File in a published work

or commercial product.  We may have additional information that would be

helpful to you and can assist you in framing your quote to reflect

not only the letter of the File but its spirit as well.


All contributions and suggestions about this file sent to a volunteer

editor are gratefully received and will be regarded, unless otherwise

labelled, as freely given donations for possible use as part of this

public-domain file.


From time to time a snapshot of this file has been polished, edited,

and formatted for commercial publication with the cooperation of the

volunteer editors and the hacker community at large.  If you wish to

have a bound paper copy of this file, you may find it convenient to

purchase one of these.  They often contain additional material not

found in on-line versions.  The two `authorized' editions so far are

described in the Revision History section; there may be more in the






:About This File:



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 35 years old.


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

culture together --- it helps hackers recognize each other's places in

the community and expresses shared values and experiences.  Also as

usual, *not* knowing the slang (or using it inappropriately) defines one

as an outsider, a mundane, or (worst of all in hackish vocabulary)

possibly even a {suit}.  All human cultures use slang in this threefold

way --- as a tool of communication, and of inclusion, and of exclusion.


Among hackers, though, slang has a subtler aspect, paralleled perhaps in

the slang of jazz musicians and some kinds of fine artists but hard to

detect in most technical or scientific cultures; parts of it are code

for shared states of *consciousness*.  There is a whole range of altered

states and problem-solving mental stances basic to high-level hacking

which don't fit into conventional linguistic reality any better than a

Coltrane solo or one of Maurits Escher's `trompe l'oeil' compositions

(Escher is a favorite of hackers), and hacker slang encodes these

subtleties in many unobvious ways.  As a simple example, take the

distinction between a {kluge} and an {elegant} solution, and the

differing connotations attached to each.  The distinction is not only of

engineering significance; it reaches right back into the nature of the

generative processes in program design and asserts something important

about two different kinds of relationship between the hacker and the

hack.  Hacker slang is unusually rich in implications of this kind, of

overtones and undertones that illuminate the hackish psyche.


But there is more.  Hackers, as a rule, love wordplay and are very

conscious and inventive in their use of language.  These traits seem to

be common in young children, but the conformity-enforcing machine we are

pleased to call an educational system bludgeons them out of most of us

before adolescence.  Thus, linguistic invention in most subcultures of

the modern West is a halting and largely unconscious process.  Hackers,

by contrast, regard slang formation and use as a game to be played for

conscious pleasure.  Their inventions thus display an almost unique

combination of the neotenous enjoyment of language-play with the

discrimination of educated and powerful intelligence.  Further, the

electronic media which knit them together are fluid, `hot' connections,

well adapted to both the dissemination of new slang and the ruthless

culling of weak and superannuated specimens.  The results of this

process give us perhaps a uniquely intense and accelerated view of

linguistic evolution in action.


Hackish slang also challenges some common linguistic and

anthropological assumptions.  For example, it has recently become

fashionable to speak of `low-context' versus `high-context'

communication, and to classify cultures by the preferred context level

of their languages and art forms.  It is usually claimed that

low-context communication (characterized by precision, clarity, and

completeness of self-contained utterances) is typical in cultures

which value logic, objectivity, individualism, and competition; by

contrast, high-context communication (elliptical, emotive,

nuance-filled, multi-modal, heavily coded) is associated with cultures

which value subjectivity, consensus, cooperation, and tradition.  What

then are we to make of hackerdom, which is themed around extremely

low-context interaction with computers and exhibits primarily

"low-context" values, but cultivates an almost absurdly high-context

slang style?


The intensity and consciousness of hackish invention make a compilation

of hacker slang a particularly effective window into the surrounding

culture --- and, in fact, this one is the latest version of an evolving

compilation called the `Jargon File', maintained by hackers themselves

for over 15 years.  This one (like its ancestors) is primarily a

lexicon, but also includes `topic entries' which collect background or

sidelight information on hacker culture that would be awkward to try to

subsume under individual entries.


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 {appendix B}, "A Portrait of J. Random Hacker".  {Appendix C} is a

bibliography of 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 hackish slang is traditionally `the jargon'.  When talking about the

jargon there is therefore no convenient way to distinguish 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 hackish 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-technicalsubcultures (bikers, rock fans, surfers, etc).

   *`jargon': without qualifier, denotes informal `slangy' languagepeculiar to hackers --- the subject of this lexicon.

   *`techspeak': the formal technical vocabulary of programming, computerscience, electronics, and other fields connected to hacking.


This terminology will be consistently used throughout the remainder of

this lexicon.


The jargon/techspeak distinction is the delicate one.  A lot of

techspeak originated as jargon, and there is a steady continuing uptake

of jargon into techspeak.  On the other hand, a lot of jargon arises

from overgeneralization of techspeak terms (there is more about this in

the "Jargon Construction" section below).


In general, we have considered techspeak any term that communicates

primarily by a denotation well established in textbooks, technical

dictionaries, or standards documents.


A few obviously techspeak terms (names of operating systems, languages,

or documents) are listed when they are tied to hacker folklore that

isn't covered in formal sources, or sometimes to convey critical

historical background necessary to understand other entries to which

they are cross-referenced.  Some other techspeak senses of jargon words

are listed in order to make the jargon senses clear; where the text does

not specify that a straight technical sense is under discussion, these

are marked with `[techspeak]' as an etymology.  Some entries have a

primary sense marked this way, with subsequent jargon meanings explained

in terms of it.


We have also tried to indicate (where known) the apparent origins of

terms.  The results are probably the least reliable information in the

lexicon, for several reasons.  For one thing, it is well known that many

hackish usages have been independently reinvented multiple times, even

among the more obscure and intricate neologisms.  It often seems that

the generative processes underlying hackish jargon formation have an

internal logic so powerful as to create substantial parallelism across

separate cultures and even in different languages!  For another, the

networks tend to propagate innovations so quickly that `first use' is

often impossible to pin down.  And, finally, compendia like this one

alter what they observe by implicitly stamping cultural approval on

terms and widening their use.


:Revision History:



The original Jargon File was a collection of hacker jargon from

technical cultures including the MIT AI Lab, the Stanford AI lab (SAIL),

and others of the old ARPANET AI/LISP/PDP-10 communities including Bolt,

Beranek and Newman (BBN), Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU), and

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).


The Jargon File (hereafter referred to as `jargon-1' or `the File') was

begun by Raphael Finkel at Stanford in 1975.  From this time until the

plug was finally pulled on the SAIL computer in 1991, the File was named

AIWORD.RF[UP,DOC] there.  Some terms in it date back considerably

earlier ({frob} and some senses of {moby}, for instance, go back to the

Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT and are believed to date at least back

to the early 1960s).  The revisions of jargon-1 were all unnumbered and

may be collectively considered `Version 1'.


In 1976, Mark Crispin, having seen an announcement about the File on the

SAIL computer, {FTP}ed a copy of the File to MIT.  He noticed that it

was hardly restricted to `AI words' and so stored the file on his

directory as AI:MRC;SAIL JARGON.


The file was quickly renamed JARGON > (the `>' means numbered with a

version number) as a flurry of enhancements were made by Mark Crispin

and Guy L. Steele Jr.  Unfortunately, amidst all this activity, nobody

thought of correcting the term `jargon' to `slang' until the compendium

had already become widely known as the Jargon File.


Raphael Finkel dropped out of active participation shortly thereafter

and Don Woods became the SAIL contact for the File (which was

subsequently kept in duplicate at SAIL and MIT, with periodic



The File expanded by fits and starts until about 1983; Richard Stallman

was prominent among the contributors, adding many MIT and ITS-related



In Spring 1981, a hacker named Charles Spurgeon got a large chunk of the

File published in Russell Brand's `CoEvolution Quarterly' (pages 26-35)

with illustrations by Phil Wadler and Guy Steele (including a couple of

the Crunchly cartoons).  This appears to have been the File's first

paper publication.


A late version of jargon-1, expanded with commentary for the mass

market, was edited by Guy Steele into a book published in 1983 as `The

Hacker's Dictionary' (Harper & Row CN 1082, ISBN 0-06-091082-8).  The

other jargon-1 editors (Raphael Finkel, Don Woods, and Mark Crispin)

contributed to this revision, as did Richard M. Stallman and Geoff

Goodfellow.  This book (now out of print) is hereafter referred to as

`Steele-1983' and those six as the Steele-1983 coauthors.


Shortly after the publication of Steele-1983, the File effectively

stopped growing and changing.  Originally, this was due to a desire to

freeze the file temporarily to facilitate the production of Steele-1983,

but external conditions caused the `temporary' freeze to become



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



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 hackish language and humor.  Even as the advent of the microcomputer

and other trends fueled a tremendous expansion of hackerdom, the File

(and related materials such as the AI Koans in Appendix A) came to be

seen as a sort of sacred epic, a hacker-culture Matter of Britain

chronicling the heroic exploits of the Knights of the Lab.  The pace of

change in hackerdom at large accelerated tremendously --- but the Jargon

File, having passed from living document to icon, remained essentially

untouched for seven years.


This revision contains nearly the entire text of a late version of

jargon-1 (a few obsolete PDP-10-related entries were dropped after

careful consultation with the editors of Steele-1983).  It merges in

about 80% of the Steele-1983 text, omitting some framing material and a

very few entries introduced in Steele-1983 that are now also obsolete.


This new version casts a wider net than the old Jargon File; its aim is

to cover not just AI or PDP-10 hacker culture but all the technical

computing cultures wherein the true hacker-nature is manifested.  More

than half of the entries now derive from {USENET} and represent jargon

now current in the C and UNIX communities, but special efforts have been

made to collect jargon from other cultures including IBM PC programmers,

Amiga fans, Mac enthusiasts, and even the IBM mainframe world.


Eric S. Raymond <eric@snark.thyrsus.com> maintains the new File with

assistance from Guy L. Steele Jr. <gls@think.com>; 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 jargon@thyrsus.com

(UUCP-only sites without connections to an autorouting smart site can

use ...!uunet!snark!jargon).


(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

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 (as well as The

Untimely Demise of Mabel The Monkey).


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 2.9.8, Jan 01 1992: first public release since the book,

including over fifty new entries and numerous corrections/additions to

old ones.  Packaged with version 1.1 of vh(1) hypertext reader.  This

version had 19509 lines, 153108 words, 1006023 characters, and 1760



Version 2.9.9, Apr 01 1992: folded in XEROX PARC lexicon.  This version

had 20298 lines, 159651 words, 1048909 characters, and 1821 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 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.).

Someday, the next maintainer will take over and spawn `version 3'.

Usually later versions will either completely supersede or incorporate

earlier versions, so there is generally no point in keeping old versions



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 <jn11+@andrew.cmu.edu>, Bernie Cosell

<cosell@bbn.com>, Earl Boebert <boebert@SCTC.com>, and Joe Morris



We were fortunate enough to have the aid of some accomplished linguists.

David Stampe <stampe@uhunix.uhcc.hawaii.edu> and Charles Hoequist

<hoequist@bnr.ca> contributed valuable criticism; Joe Keane

<jgk@osc.osc.com> helped us improve the pronunciation guides.


A few bits of this text quote previous works.  We are indebted to Brian

A. LaMacchia <bal@zurich.ai.mit.edu> for obtaining permission for us to

use material from the `TMRC Dictionary'; also, Don Libes

<libes@cme.nist.gov> contributed some appropriate material from his

excellent book `Life With UNIX'.  We thank Per Lindberg <per@front.se>,

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 <Marc_Weiser.PARC@xerox.com> for securing us

permission to quote from PARC's own jargon lexicon and shipping us a



It is a particular pleasure to acknowledge the major contributions of

Mark Brader <msb@sq.com> to the final manuscript; he read and reread

many drafts, checked facts, caught typos, submitted an amazing number of

thoughtful comments, and did yeoman service in catching typos and minor

usage bobbles.  Mr. Brader's rare combination of enthusiasm,

persistence, wide-ranging technical knowledge, and precisionism in

matters of language made his help invaluable, and the sustained volume

and quality of his input over many months only allowed him to escape

co-editor credit by the slimmest of margins.


Finally, George V.  Reilly <gvr@cs.brown.edu> helped with TeX arcana and

painstakingly proofread some 2.7 and 2.8 versions; Steve Summit

<scs@adam.mit.edu> contributed a number of excellent new entries and

many small improvements to 2.9.10; and Eric Tiedemann <est@thyrsus.com>

contributed sage advice throughout on rhetoric, amphigory, and



: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 the following:



: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 classics include

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


sci.physics.edward.teller.boom.boom.boom, and




:Soundalike slang: ------------------ Hackers will often make rhymes or

puns in order to convert an ordinary word or phrase into something more

interesting.  It is considered particularly {flavorful} if the phrase is

bent so as to include some other jargon word; thus the computer hobbyist

magazine `Dr. Dobb's Journal' is almost always referred to among hackers

as `Dr. Frob's Journal' or simply `Dr. Frob's'.  Terms of this kind that

have been in fairly wide use include names for newspapers:


     Boston Herald => Horrid (or Harried)

     Boston Globe => Boston Glob

     Houston (or San Francisco) Chronicle

            => the Crocknicle (or the Comical)

     New York Times => New York Slime


However, terms like these are often made up on the spur of the moment.

Standard examples include:


     Data General => Dirty Genitals

     IBM 360 => IBM Three-Sickly

     Government Property --- Do Not Duplicate (on keys)

            => Government Duplicity --- Do Not Propagate

     for historical reasons => for hysterical raisins

     Margaret Jacks Hall (the CS building at Stanford)

            => Marginal Hacks Hall


This is not really similar to the Cockney rhyming slang it has been

compared to in the past, because Cockney substitutions are opaque

whereas hacker punning jargon is intentionally transparent.



:The `-P' convention: --------------------- Turning a word into a

question by appending the syllable `P'; from the LISP convention of

appending the letter `P' to denote a predicate (a boolean-valued

function).  The question should expect a yes/no answer, though it

needn't.  (See {T} and {NIL}.)


     At dinnertime:

           Q: "Foodp?"

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


     At any time:

           Q: "State-of-the-world-P?"

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

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


     On the phone to Florida:

           Q: "State-p Florida?"

           A: "Been reading JARGON.TXT again, eh?"


[One of the best of these is a {Gosperism}.  Once, when we were at a

Chinese restaurant, Bill Gosper wanted to know whether someone would

like to share with him a two-person-sized bowl of soup.  His inquiry

was: "Split-p soup?" --- GLS]



:Overgeneralization: -------------------- A very conspicuous feature of

jargon is the frequency with which techspeak items such as names of

program tools, command language primitives, and even assembler opcodes

are applied to contexts outside of computing wherever hackers find

amusing analogies to them.  Thus (to cite one of the best-known

examples) UNIX hackers often {grep} for things rather than searching for

them.  Many of the lexicon entries are generalizations of exactly this



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


Also, note that all nouns can be verbed.  E.g.: "All nouns can be

verbed", "I'll mouse it up", "Hang on while I clipboard it over", "I'm

grepping the files".  English as a whole is already heading in this

direction (towards pure-positional grammar like Chinese); hackers are

simply a bit ahead of the curve.


However, note that 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 noted

that the defined plural of `caboose' is `cabeese', and includes an entry

which implies that the plural of `mouse' is {meeces}.  On a similarly

Anglo-Saxon note, almost anything ending in `x' may form plurals in

`-xen' (see {VAXen} and {boxen} in the main text).  Even words ending in

phonetic /k/ alone are sometimes treated this way; e.g., `soxen' for a

bunch of socks.  Other funny plurals are `frobbotzim' for the plural of

`frobbozz' (see {frobnitz}) and `Unices' and `Twenices' (rather than

`Unixes' and `Twenexes'; see {UNIX}, {TWENEX} in main text).  But note

that `Unixen' and `Twenexen' are never used; it has been suggested that

this is because `-ix' and `-ex' are Latin singular endings that attract

a Latinate plural.  Finally, it has been suggested to general approval

that the plural of `mongoose' ought to be `polygoose'.


The pattern here, as with other hackish grammatical quirks, is

generalization of an inflectional rule that in English is either an

import or a fossil (such as the Hebrew plural ending `-im', or the

Anglo-Saxon plural suffix `-en') to cases where it isn't normally

considered to apply.


This is not `poor grammar', as hackers are generally quite well aware of

what they are doing when they distort the language.  It is grammatical

creativity, a form of playfulness.  It is done not to impress but to

amuse, and never at the expense of clarity.



:Spoken inarticulations: ------------------------ Words such as

`mumble', `sigh', and `groan' are spoken in places where their referent

might more naturally be used.  It has been suggested that this usage

derives from the impossibility of representing such noises on a comm

link or in electronic mail (interestingly, the same sorts of

constructions have been showing up with increasing frequency in comic

strips).  Another expression sometimes heard is "Complain!", meaning "I

have a complaint!"



:Anthromorphization: -------------------- Semantically, one rich source

of jargon constructions is the hackish tendency to anthropomorphize

hardware and software.  This isn't done in a na"ive way; hackers don't

personalize their stuff in the sense of feeling empathy with it, nor do

they mystically believe that the things they work on every day are

`alive'.  What *is* common is to hear hardware or software talked about

as though it has homunculi talking to each other inside it, with

intentions and desires.  Thus, one hears "The protocol handler got

confused", or that programs "are trying" to do things, or one may say of

a routine that "its goal in life is to X".  One even hears explanations

like "...  and its poor little brain couldn't understand X, and it

died."  Sometimes modelling things this way actually seems to make them

easier to understand, perhaps because it's instinctively natural to

think of anything with a really complex behavioral repertoire as `like a

person' rather than `like a thing'.




Of the six listed constructions, verb doubling, peculiar noun

formations, anthromorphization, and (especially) spoken inarticulations

have become quite general; but punning jargon is still largely confined

to MIT and other large universities, and the `-P' convention is found

only where LISPers flourish.


Finally, note that many words in hacker jargon have to be understood as

members of sets of comparatives.  This is especially true of the

adjectives and nouns used to describe the beauty and functional quality

of code.  Here is an approximately correct spectrum:


     monstrosity  brain-damage  screw  bug  lose  misfeature

     crock  kluge  hack  win  feature  elegance  perfection


The last is spoken of as a mythical absolute, approximated but never

actually attained.  Another similar scale is used for describing the

reliability of software:


     broken  flaky  dodgy  fragile  brittle

     solid  robust  bulletproof  armor-plated


Note, however, that `dodgy' is primarily Commonwealth hackish (it is

rare in the U.S.) and may change places with `flaky' for some speakers.


Coinages for describing {lossage} seem to call forth the very finest in

hackish linguistic inventiveness; it has been truly said that hackers

have even more words for equipment failures than Yiddish has for

obnoxious people.


:Hacker Writing Style:



We've already seen that hackers often coin jargon by overgeneralizing

grammatical rules.  This is one aspect of a more general fondness for

form-versus-content language jokes that shows up particularly in hackish

writing.  One correspondent reports that he consistently misspells

`wrong' as `worng'.  Others have been known to criticize glitches in

Jargon File drafts by observing (in the mode of Douglas Hofstadter)

"This sentence no verb", or "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



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 this:


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


Standard usage would make this


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


but that would be very bad -- because the reader would be prone to type

the string d-d-dot, and it happens that in `vi(1)' dot repeats the last

command accepted.  The net result would be to delete *two* lines!


The Jargon File follows hackish usage throughout.


Interestingly, a similar style is now preferred practice in Great

Britain, though the older style (which became established for

typographical reasons having to do with the aesthetics of comma and

quotes in typeset text) is still accepted there.  `Hart's Rules' and the

`Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors' call the hacker-like style

`new' or `logical' quoting.


Another hacker quirk is a tendency to distinguish between `scare' quotes

and `speech' quotes; that is, to use British-style single quotes for

marking and reserve American-style double quotes for actual reports of

speech or text included from elsewhere.  Interestingly, some authorities

describe this as correct general usage, but mainstream American English

has gone to using double-quotes indiscriminately enough that hacker

usage appears marked [and, in fact, I thought this was a personal quirk

of mine until I checked with USENET --- ESR].  One further permutation

that is definitely *not* standard is a hackish tendency to do marking

quotes by using apostrophes (single quotes) in pairs; that is, 'like

this'.  This is modelled on string and character literal syntax in some

programming languages (reinforced by the fact that many character-only

terminals display the apostrophe in typewriter style, as a vertical

single quote).


One quirk that shows up frequently in the {email} style of UNIX hackers

in particular is a tendency for some things that are normally

all-lowercase (including usernames and the names of commands and C

routines) to remain uncapitalized even when they occur at the beginning

of sentences.  It is clear that, for many hackers, the case of such

identifiers becomes a part of their internal representation (the

`spelling') and cannot be overridden without mental effort (an

appropriate reflex because UNIX and C both distinguish cases and

confusing them can lead to {lossage}).  A way of escaping this dilemma

is simply to avoid using these constructions at the beginning of



There seems to be a meta-rule behind these nonstandard hackerisms to the

effect that precision of expression is more important than conformance

to traditional rules; where the latter create ambiguity or lose

information they can be discarded without a second thought.  It is

notable in this respect that other hackish inventions (for example, in

vocabulary) also tend to carry very precise shades of meaning even when

constructed to appear slangy and loose.  In fact, to a hacker, the

contrast between `loose' form and `tight' content in jargon is a

substantial part of its humor!


Hackers have also developed a number of punctuation and emphasis

conventions adapted to single-font all-ASCII communications links, and

these are occasionally carried over into written documents even when

normal means of font changes, underlining, and the like are available.


One of these is that TEXT IN ALL CAPS IS INTERPRETED AS `LOUD', and this

becomes such an ingrained synesthetic reflex that a person who goes to

caps-lock while in {talk mode} may be asked to "stop shouting, please,

you're hurting my ears!".


Also, it is common to use bracketing with unusual characters to signify

emphasis.  The asterisk is most common, as in "What the *hell*?" even

though this interferes with the common use of the asterisk suffix as a

footnote mark.  The underscore is also common, suggesting underlining

(this is particularly common with book titles; for example, "It is often

alleged that Joe Haldeman wrote _The_Forever_War_ as a rebuttal to

Robert Heinlein's earlier novel of the future military,

_Starship_Troopers_.").  Other forms exemplified by "=hell=", "\hell/",

or "/hell/" are occasionally seen (it's claimed that in the last example

the first slash pushes the letters over to the right to make them

italic, and the second keeps them from falling over).  Finally, words

may also be emphasized L I K E T H I S, or by a series of carets (^)

under them on the next line of the text.


There is a semantic difference between *emphasis like this* (which

emphasizes the phrase as a whole), and *emphasis* *like* *this* (which

suggests the writer speaking very slowly and distinctly, as if to a

very young child or a mentally impaired person).  Bracketing a word with

the `*' character may also indicate that the writer wishes readers to

consider that an action is taking place or that a sound is being made.

Examples: *bang*, *hic*, *ring*, *grin*, *kick*, *stomp*, *mumble*.


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



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


would be read as "Be nice to this fool, I mean this gentleman...".  This

comes from the fact that the digraph ^H is often used as a print

representation for a backspace.  It parallels (and may have been

influenced by) the ironic use of `slashouts' in science-fiction



In a formula, `*' signifies multiplication but two asterisks in a row

are a shorthand for exponentiation (this derives from FORTRAN).  Thus,

one might write 2 ** 8 = 256.


Another notation for exponentiation one sees more frequently uses the

caret (^, ASCII 1011110); one might write instead `2^8 = 256'.  This

goes all the way back to Algol-60, which used the archaic ASCII

`up-arrow' that later became the caret; this was picked up by Kemeny and

Kurtz's original BASIC, which in turn influenced the design of the

`bc(1)' and `dc(1)' UNIX tools, which have probably done most to

reinforce the convention on USENET.  The notation is mildly confusing to

C programmers, because `^' means bitwise {XOR} in C.  Despite this, it

was favored 3:1 over ** in a late-1990 snapshot of USENET.  It is used

consistently in this text.


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 `<', `>=', and `=<' are often combined with English.  The Pascal

not-equals, `<>', is also recognized, and occasionally one sees `/=' for

not-equals (from Ada, Common Lisp, and Fortran 90).  The use of prefix

`!' as a loose synonym for `not-' or `no-' is particularly common; thus,

`!clue' is read `no-clue' or `clueless'.


A related practice borrows syntax from preferred programming languages

to express ideas in a natural-language text.  For example, one might

see the following:


     I resently 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



     #ifdef FLAME

     Hasn't anyone told those idiots that you can't get

     decent bogon suppression with AFJ filters at today's

     net speeds?

     #endif /* FLAME */


     I guess they figured the price premium for true

     frame-based semantic analysis was too high.

     Unfortunately, it's also the only workable approach.

     I wouldn't recommend purchase of this product unless

     you're on a *very* tight budget.


     #include <disclaimer.h>


                           == Frank Foonly (Fubarco Systems)


In the above, the `#ifdef'/`#endif' pair is a conditional

compilation syntax from C; here, it implies that the text between

(which is a {flame}) should be evaluated only if you have turned on

(or defined on) the switch FLAME.  The `#include' at the end is C

for "include standard disclaimer here"; the `standard disclaimer' is

understood to read, roughly, "These are my personal opinions and not

to be construed as the official position of my employer."


Another habit is that of using angle-bracket enclosure to genericize a

term; this derives from conventions used in {BNF}.  Uses like the

following are common:


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


Hackers also mix letters and numbers more freely than in mainstream

usage.  In particular, it is good hackish style to write a digit

sequence where you intend the reader to understand the text string that

names that number in English.  So, hackers prefer to write `1970s'

rather than `nineteen-seventies' or `1970's' (the latter looks like a



It should also be noted that hackers exhibit much less reluctance to use

multiply nested parentheses than is normal in English.  Part of this is

almost certainly due to influence from LISP (which uses deeply nested

parentheses (like this (see?)) in its syntax a lot), but it has also

been suggested that a more basic hacker trait of enjoying playing with

complexity and pushing systems to their limits is in operation.


One area where hackish conventions for on-line writing are still in some

flux is the marking of included material from earlier messages --- what

would be called `block quotations' in ordinary English.  From the usual

typographic convention employed for these (smaller font at an extra

indent), there derived the notation of included text being indented by

one ASCII TAB (0001001) character, which under UNIX and many other

environments gives the appearance of an 8-space indent.


Early mail and netnews readers had no facility for including messages

this way, so people had to paste in copy manually.  BSD `Mail(1)' was

the first message agent to support inclusion, and early USENETters

emulated its style.  But the TAB character tended to push included text

too far to the right (especially in multiply nested inclusions), leading

to ugly wraparounds.  After a brief period of confusion (during which an

inclusion leader consisting of three or four spaces became established

in EMACS and a few mailers), the use of leading `>' or `> ' became

standard, perhaps owing to its use in `ed(1)' to display tabs

(alternatively, it may derive from the `>' that some early UNIX mailers

used to quote lines starting with "From" in text, so they wouldn't look

like the beginnings of new message headers).  Inclusions within

inclusions keep their `>' leaders, so the `nesting level' of a quotation

is visually apparent.


A few other idiosyncratic quoting styles survive because they are

automatically generated.  One particularly ugly one looks like this:


     /* Written hh:mm pm  Mmm dd, yyyy by user@site in <group> */

     /* ---------- "Article subject, chopped to 35 ch" ---------- */

        <quoted text>

     /* End of text from local:group */


It is generated by an elderly, variant news-reading system called

`notesfiles'.  The overall trend, however, is definitely away from such



The practice of including text from the parent article when posting a

followup helped solve what had been a major nuisance on USENET: the fact

that articles do not arrive at different sites in the same order.

Careless posters used to post articles that would begin with, or even

consist entirely of, "No, that's wrong" or "I agree" or the like.  It

was hard to see who was responding to what.  Consequently, around 1984,

new news-posting software evolved a facility to automatically include

the text of a previous article, marked with "> " or whatever the poster

chose.  The poster was expected to delete all but the relevant lines.

The result has been that, now, careless posters post articles containing

the *entire* text of a preceding article, *followed* only by "No, that's

wrong" or "I agree".


Many people feel that this cure is worse than the original disease, and

there soon appeared newsreader software designed to let the reader skip

over included text if desired.  Today, some posting software rejects

articles containing too high a proportion of lines beginning with `>' --

but this too has led to undesirable workarounds, such as the deliberate

inclusion of zero-content filler lines which aren't quoted and thus pull

the message below the rejection threshold.


Because the default mailers supplied with UNIX and other operating

systems haven't evolved as quickly as human usage, the older conventions

using a leading TAB or three or four spaces are still alive; however,

>-inclusion is now clearly the prevalent form in both netnews and mail.


In 1991 practice is still evolving, and disputes over the `correct'

inclusion style occasionally lead to {holy wars}.  One variant style

reported uses the citation character `|' in place of `>' for extended

quotations where original variations in indentation are being retained.

One also sees different styles of quoting a number of authors in the

same message: one (deprecated because it loses information) uses a

leader of `> ' for everyone, another (the most common) is `> > > > ', `>

> > ', etc. (or `>>>> ', `>>> ', etc., depending on line length and

nesting depth) reflecting the original order of messages, and yet

another is to use a different citation leader for each author, say `> ',

`: ', `| ', `} ' (preserving nesting so that the inclusion order of

messages is still apparent, or tagging the inclusions with authors'

names).  Yet *another* style is to use each poster's initials (or login

name) as a citation leader for that poster.  Occasionally one sees a `#

' leader used for quotations from authoritative sources such as

standards documents; the intended allusion is to the root prompt (the

special UNIX command prompt issued when one is running as the privileged



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.  The good one is that it encourages honesty

and tends to break down hierarchical authority relationships; the bad 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.


:Hacker Speech Style:



Hackish speech generally features extremely precise diction, careful

word choice, a relatively large working vocabulary, and relatively

little use of contractions or street slang.  Dry humor, irony, puns, and

a mildly flippant attitude are highly valued --- but an underlying

seriousness and intelligence are essential.  One should use just enough

jargon to communicate precisely and identify oneself as a member of the

culture; overuse of jargon or a breathless, excessively gung-ho attitude

is considered tacky and the mark of a loser.


This speech style is a variety of the precisionist English normally

spoken by scientists, design engineers, and academics in technical

fields.  In contrast with the methods of jargon construction, it is

fairly constant throughout hackerdom.


It has been observed that many hackers are confused by negative

questions --- or, at least, that the people to whom they are talking are

often confused by the sense of their answers.  The problem is that they

have done so much programming that distinguishes between


     if (going) {




     if (!going) {


that when they parse the question "Aren't you going?" it seems to be

asking the opposite question from "Are you going?", and so merits an

answer in the opposite sense.  This confuses English-speaking

non-hackers because they were taught to answer as though the negative

part weren't there.  In some other languages (including Russian,

Chinese, and Japanese) the hackish interpretation is standard and the

problem wouldn't arise.  Hackers often find themselves wishing for a

word like French `si' or German `doch' with which one could

unambiguously answer `yes' to a negative question.


For similar reasons, English-speaking hackers almost never use double

negatives, even if they live in a region where colloquial usage allows

them.  The thought of uttering something that logically ought to be an

affirmative knowing it will be misparsed as a negative tends to disturb



Here's a related quirk.  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 English'.  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 are reported to

often use a mixture of English and their native languages for technical

conversation.  Occasionally they develop idioms in their English usage

that are influenced by their native-language styles.  Some of these are

reported here.


A few notes on hackish usages in Russian have been added where they are

parallel with English idioms and thus comprehensible to



: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).


  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".


  3. Uppercase letters are pronounced as their English letter names; thus

     (for example) /H-L-L/ is equivalent to /aitch el el/.  /Z/ may

     be pronounced /zee/ or /zed/ depending on your local dialect.


  4. Vowels are represented as follows:



            back, that


            far, mark


            flaw, caught


            bake, rain


            less, men


            easy, ski


            their, software


            trip, hit


            life, sky


            father, palm


            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/)


A /*/ is used for the `schwa' sound of unstressed or occluded vowels

(the one that is often written with an upside-down `e').  The schwa

vowel is omitted in syllables containing vocalic r, l, m or n; that is,

`kitten' and `color' would be rendered /kit'n/ and /kuhl'r/, not

/kit'*n/ and /kuhl'*r/.


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 after Z.  The case-blindness is a feature, not a



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 freeware distributed

over USENET).  The UNIX manuals use `foo(n)' to refer to item foo in

section (n) of the manual, where n=1 is utilities, n=2 is system calls,

n=3 is C library routines, n=6 is games, and n=8 (where present) is

system administration utilities.  Sections 4, 5, and 7 of the manuals

have changed roles frequently and in any case are not referred to in any

of the entries.


Various abbreviations used frequently in the lexicon are summarized 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:



     University of California at Berkeley


     the university in England (*not* the city in Massachusetts where

     MIT happens to be located!)


     Bolt, Beranek & Newman


     Carnegie-Mellon University


     Commodore Business Machines


     The Digital Equipment Corporation


     The Fairchild Instruments Palo Alto development group


     See the {Fidonet} entry


     International Business Machines


     Massachusetts Institute of Technology; esp. the legendary MIT AI Lab

     culture of roughly 1971 to 1983 and its feeder groups, including the

     Tech Model Railroad Club


     Naval Research Laboratories


     New York University


     The Oxford English Dictionary


     Purdue University


     Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (at Stanford



     From Syst`eme International, the name for the standard

     conventions of metric nomenclature used in the sciences


     Stanford University


     Sun Microsystems


     Some MITisms go back as far as the Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) at

     MIT c. 1960.  Material marked TMRC is from `An Abridged Dictionary

     of the TMRC Language', originally compiled by Pete Samson in 1959


     University of California at Los Angeles


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


     See the {USENET} entry


     Worcester Polytechnic Institute, site of a very active community of

     PDP-10 hackers during the 1970s


     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



:Format For New Entries:



All contributions and suggestions about the Jargon File will be

considered donations to be placed in the public domain as part of this

File, and may be used in subsequent paper editions.  Submissions may

be edited for accuracy, clarity and concision.


Try to conform to the format already being used --- head-words

separated from text by a colon (double colon for topic entries),

cross-references in curly brackets (doubled for topic entries),

pronunciations in slashes, etymologies in square brackets,

single-space after definition numbers and word classes, etc.  Stick to

the standard ASCII character set (7-bit printable, no high-half

characters or [nt]roff/TeX/Scribe escapes), as one of the versions

generated from the master file is an info document that has to be

viewable on a character tty.


We are looking to expand the file's range of technical specialties covered.

There are doubtless rich veins of jargon yet untapped in the scientific

computing, graphics, and networking hacker communities; also in numerical

analysis, computer architectures and VLSI design, language design, and many

other related fields.  Send us your jargon!


We are *not* interested in straight technical terms explained by

textbooks or technical dictionaries unless an entry illuminates

`underground' meanings or aspects not covered by official histories.

We are also not interested in `joke' entries --- there is a lot of

humor in the file but it must flow naturally out of the explanations

of what hackers do and how they think.


It is OK to submit items of jargon you have originated if they have spread

to the point of being used by people who are not personally acquainted with

you.  We prefer items to be attested by independent submission from two

different sites.


The Jargon File will be regularly maintained and re-posted from now on

and will include a version number.  Read it, pass it around,

contribute --- this is *your* monument!


The Jargon Lexicon



= A =



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



:ABEND: [ABnormal END] /ah'bend/, /*-bend'/ n. Abnormal

   termination (of software); {crash}; {lossage}.  Derives from an

   error message on the IBM 360; used jokingly by hackers but

   seriously mainly by {code grinder}s.  Usually capitalized, but may

   appear as `abend'.  Hackers will try to persuade you that ABEND is

   called `abend' because it is what system operators do to the

   machine late on Friday when they want to call it a day, and hence

   is from the German `Abend' = `Evening'.


:accumulator: n. 1. Archaic term for a register.  On-line use of it

   as a synonym for `register' is a fairly reliable indication that

   the user has been around for quite a while and/or that the

   architecture under discussion is quite old.  The term in full is

   almost never used of microprocessor registers, for example, though

   symbolic names for arithmetic registers beginning in `A' derive

   from historical use of the term `accumulator' (and not, actually,

   from `arithmetic').  Confusingly, though, an `A' register name

   prefix may also stand for `address', as for example on the

   Motorola 680x0 family.  2. A register being used for arithmetic or

   logic (as opposed to addressing or a loop index), especially one

   being used to accumulate a sum or count of many items.  This use is

   in context of a particular routine or stretch of code.  "The

   FOOBAZ routine uses A3 as an accumulator."  3. One's in-basket

   (esp. among old-timers who might use sense 1).  "You want this

   reviewed?  Sure, just put it in the accumulator."  (See {stack}.)


:ACK: /ak/ interj. 1. [from the ASCII mnemonic for 0000110]

   Acknowledge.  Used to register one's presence (compare mainstream

   *Yo!*).  An appropriate response to {ping} or {ENQ}.

   2. [from the comic strip "Bloom County"] An exclamation of

   surprised disgust, esp. in "Ack pffft!"  Semi-humorous.

   Generally this sense is not spelled in caps (ACK) and is

   distinguished by a following exclamation point.  3. Used to

   politely interrupt someone to tell them you understand their point

   (see {NAK}).  Thus, for example, you might cut off an overly

   long explanation with "Ack.  Ack.  Ack.  I get it now".


   There is also a usage "ACK?" (from sense 1) meaning "Are you

   there?", often used in email when earlier mail has produced no

   reply, or during a lull in {talk mode} to see if the person has

   gone away (the standard humorous response is of course {NAK}

   (sense 2), i.e., "I'm not here").


:ad-hockery: /ad-hok'*r-ee/ [Purdue] n. 1. Gratuitous assumptions

   made inside certain programs, esp. expert systems, which lead to

   the appearance of semi-intelligent behavior but are in fact

   entirely arbitrary.  For example, fuzzy-matching input tokens that

   might be typing errors against a symbol table can make it look as

   though a program knows how to spell.  2. Special-case code to cope

   with some awkward input that would otherwise cause a program to

   {choke}, presuming normal inputs are dealt with in some cleaner

   and more regular way.  Also called `ad-hackery', `ad-hocity'

   (/ad-hos'*-tee/), `ad-crockery'.  See also {ELIZA effect}.


:Ada:: n. A {{Pascal}}-descended language that has been made

   mandatory for Department of Defense software projects by the

   Pentagon.  Hackers are nearly unanimous in observing that,

   technically, it is precisely what one might expect given that kind

   of endorsement by fiat; designed by committee, crockish, difficult

   to use, and overall a disastrous, multi-billion-dollar boondoggle

   (one common description is "The PL/I of the 1980s").  Hackers

   find Ada's exception-handling and inter-process communication

   features particularly hilarious.  Ada Lovelace (the daughter of

   Lord Byron who became the world's first programmer while

   cooperating with Charles Babbage on the design of his mechanical

   computing engines in the mid-1800s) would almost certainly blanch

   at the use to which her name has latterly been put; the kindest

   thing that has been said about it is that there is probably a good

   small language screaming to get out from inside its vast,

   {elephantine} bulk.


:adger: /aj'r/ [UCLA] vt. To make a bonehead move with consequences

   that could have been foreseen with a slight amount of mental

   effort.  E.g., "He started removing files and promptly adgered the

   whole project".  Compare {dumbass attack}.


:admin: /ad-min'/ n. Short for `administrator'; very commonly

   used in speech or on-line to refer to the systems person in charge

   on a computer.  Common constructions on this include `sysadmin'

   and `site admin' (emphasizing the administrator's role as a site

   contact for email and news) or `newsadmin' (focusing specifically

   on news).  Compare {postmaster}, {sysop}, {system



:ADVENT: /ad'vent/ n. The prototypical computer adventure game, first

   implemented on the {PDP-10} by Will Crowther as an attempt at

   computer-refereed fantasy gaming, and expanded into a

   puzzle-oriented game by Don Woods.  Now better known as Adventure,

   but the {{TOPS-10}} operating system permitted only 6-letter

   filenames.  See also {vadding}.


   This game defined the terse, dryly humorous style now expected in

   text adventure games, and popularized several tag lines that have

   become fixtures of hacker-speak:  "A huge green fierce snake bars

   the way!"  "I see no X here" (for some noun X).  "You are in a

   maze of twisty little passages, all alike."  "You are in a little

   maze of twisty passages, all different."  The `magic words'

   {xyzzy} and {plugh} also derive from this game.


   Crowther, by the way, participated in the exploration of the

   Mammoth & Flint Ridge cave system; it actually *has* a

   `Colossal Cave' and a `Bedquilt' as in the game, and the `Y2' that

   also turns up is cavers' jargon for a map reference to a secondary



:AFJ: n. Written-only abbreviation for "April Fool's Joke".

   Elaborate April Fool's hoaxes are a hallowed tradition on USENET

   and Internet; see {kremvax} for an example.  In fact, April

   Fool's Day is the *only* seasonal holiday marked by customary

   observances on the hacker networks.


:AI-complete: /A-I k*m-pleet'/ [MIT, Stanford: by analogy with

   `NP-complete' (see {NP-})] adj. 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 (1991) to solve them have

   foundered on the amount of context information and `intelligence'

   they seem to require. See also {gedanken}.


:AI koans: /A-I koh'anz/ pl.n. A series of pastiches of Zen

   teaching riddles created by Danny Hillis at the MIT AI Lab around

   various major figures of the Lab's culture (several are included

   under "{A Selection of AI Koans}" in {appendix

   A}).  See also {ha ha only serious}, {mu}, and {{Humor,



:AIDS: /aydz/ n. Short for A* Infected Disk Syndrome (`A*' is a

   {glob} pattern that matches, but is not limited to, Apple),

   this condition is quite often the result of practicing unsafe

   {SEX}.  See {virus}, {worm}, {Trojan horse},



:AIDX: n. /aydkz/ n. Derogatory term for IBM's perverted version

   of UNIX, AIX, especially for the AIX 3.? used in the IBM RS/6000

   series.  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

   {terminak}, {Macintrash} {Nominal Semidestructor},

   {Open DeathTrap}, {ScumOS}, {sun-stools}.


:airplane rule: n. "Complexity increases the possibility of

   failure; a twin-engine airplane has twice as many engine problems

   as a single-engine airplane."  By analogy, in both software and

   electronics, the rule that simplicity increases robustness (see

   also {KISS Principle}).  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*



: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 more than one pointer addresses

   (`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.  Also

   avoidable by use of higher-level languages, such as {LISP},

   which employ a garbage collector (see {GC}).  Also called a

   {stale pointer bug}.  See also {precedence lossage},

   {smash the stack}, {fandango on core}, {memory leak},

   {memory smash}, {overrun screw}, {spam}.


   Historical note: Though this term is nowadays associated with

   C programming, it was already in use in a very similar sense in the

   Algol-60 and FORTRAN communities in the 1960s.


:all-elbows: adj. Of a TSR (terminate-and-stay-resident) IBM PC

   program, such as the N pop-up calendar and calculator utilities

   that circulate on {BBS} systems: unsociable.  Used to describe a

   program that rudely steals the resources that it needs without

   considering that other TSRs may also be resident.  One particularly

   common form of rudeness is lock-up due to programs fighting over

   the keyboard interrupt.  See {rude}, also {mess-dos}.


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


:alt: /awlt/ 1. n. The alt shift key on an IBM PC or {clone}.

   2. n. The `clover' or `Command' key on a Macintosh; use of this

   term usually reveals that the speaker hacked PCs before coming to

   the Mac (see also {feature key}).  Some Mac hackers,

   confusingly, reserve `alt' for the Option key.  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 was probably 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).


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


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


:Aluminum Book: [MIT] n. `Common LISP: The Language', by

   Guy L.  Steele Jr. (Digital Press, first edition 1984, second

   edition 1990).  Note that due to a technical screwup some printings

   of the second edition are actually of a color the author describes

   succinctly as "yucky green".  See also {{book titles}}.


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


:amp off: [Purdue] vt. 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.


:angle brackets: n. Either of the characters `<' (ASCII

   0111100) and `>' (ASCII 0111110) (ASCII less-than or

   greater-than signs).  The {Real World} angle brackets used by

   typographers are actually taller than a less-than or greater-than


   See {broket}, {{ASCII}}.


:angry fruit salad: n. A bad visual-interface design that uses too

   many colors.  This 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/ [IRC] n. See {robot}.


:AOS: 1. /aws/ (East Coast), /ay-os/ (West Coast) [based on a

   PDP-10 increment instruction] vt.,obs. To increase the amount of

   something.  "AOS the campfire."  Usage: considered silly, and now

   obsolete.  Now largely supplanted by {bump}.  See {SOS}.  2. A

   {{Multics}}-derived OS supported at one time by Data General.  This

   was pronounced /A-O-S/ or /A-os/.  A spoof of the standard

   AOS system administrator's manual (`How to Load and Generate

   your AOS System') was created, issued a part number, and circulated

   as photocopy folklore.  It was called `How to Goad and

   Levitate your CHAOS System'.  3. Algebraic Operating System, in

   reference to those calculators which use infix instead of postfix

   (reverse Polish) notation.


   Historical note: AOS in sense 1 was the name of a {PDP-10}

   instruction that took any memory location in the computer and added

   1 to it; AOS meant `Add One and do not Skip'.  Why, you may ask,

   does the `S' stand for `do not Skip' rather than for `Skip'?  Ah,

   here was a beloved piece of PDP-10 folklore.  There were eight such

   instructions: AOSE added 1 and then skipped the next instruction

   if the result was Equal to zero; AOSG added 1 and then skipped if

   the result was Greater than 0; AOSN added 1 and then skipped

   if the result was Not 0; AOSA added 1 and then skipped Always;

   and so on.  Just plain AOS didn't say when to skip, so it never



   For similar reasons, AOJ meant `Add One and do not Jump'.  Even

   more bizarre, SKIP meant `do not SKIP'!  If you wanted to skip the

   next instruction, you had to say `SKIPA'.  Likewise, JUMP meant

   `do not JUMP'; the unconditional form was JUMPA.  However, hackers

   never did this.  By some quirk of the 10's design, the {JRST}

   (Jump and ReSTore flag with no flag specified) was actually faster

   and so was invariably used.  Such were the perverse mysteries of

   assembler programming.


:app: /ap/ n. Short for `application program', as opposed to a

   systems program.  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.  Oppose {tool}, {operating



:arc: [primarily MSDOS] vt. To create a compressed {archive} from a

   group of files using SEA ARC, PKWare PKARC, or a compatible

   program.  Rapidly becoming obsolete as the ARC compression method

   is falling into disuse, having been replaced by newer compression

   techniques.  See {tar and feather}, {zip}.


:arc wars: [primarily MSDOS] n. {holy wars} over which archiving

   program one should use.  The first arc war was sparked when System

   Enhancement Associates (SEA) sued PKWare for copyright and

   trademark infringement on its ARC program.  PKWare's PKARC

   outperformed ARC on both compression and speed while largely

   retaining compatibility (it introduced a new compression type that

   could be disabled for backward-compatibility).  PKWare settled out

   of court to avoid enormous legal costs (both SEA and PKWare are

   small companies); as part of the settlement, the name of PKARC was

   changed to PKPAK.  The public backlash against SEA for bringing

   suit helped to hasten the demise of ARC as a standard when PKWare

   and others introduced new, incompatible archivers with better

   compression algorithms.


:archive: n. 1. A collection of several files bundled into one file

   by a program such as `ar(1)', `tar(1)', `cpio(1)',

   or {arc} for shipment or archiving (sense 2).  See also {tar

   and feather}.  2. A collection of files or archives (sense 1) made

   available from an `archive site' via {FTP} or an email server.


:arena: [UNIX] n. The area of memory attached to a process by

   `brk(2)' and `sbrk(2)' and used by `malloc(3)' as

   dynamic storage.  So named from a semi-mythical `malloc:

   corrupt arena' message supposedly emitted when some early versions

   became terminally confused.  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}.


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


:asbestos: adj. Used as a modifier to anything intended to protect

   one from {flame}s.  Important cases of this include {asbestos

   longjohns} and {asbestos cork award}, but it is used more



: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'.  Persons in any doubt as

   to the intended application of the cork should consult the

   etymology under {flame}.  Since then, it is agreed that only a

   select few have risen to the heights of bombast required to earn

   this dubious dignity --- but there is no agreement on *which*



:asbestos longjohns: n. Notional garments often 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:: [American Standard Code for Information Interchange]

   /as'kee/ n. The predominant character set encoding of present-day

   computers.  Uses 7 bits for each character, whereas most earlier

   codes (including an early version of ASCII) used fewer.  This

   change allowed the inclusion of lowercase letters --- a major

   {win} --- but it did not provide for accented letters or any

   other letterforms not used in English (such as the German sharp-S

   and the ae-ligature

   which is a letter in, for example, Norwegian).  It could be worse,

   though.  It could be much worse.  See {{EBCDIC}} to understand how.


   Computers are much pickier and less flexible about spelling than

   humans; thus, hackers need to be very precise when talking about

   characters, and have developed a considerable amount of verbal

   shorthand for them.  Every character has one or more names --- some

   formal, some concise, some silly.  Common jargon names for ASCII

   characters are collected here.  See also individual entries for

   {bang}, {excl}, {open}, {ques}, {semi}, {shriek},

   {splat}, {twiddle}, and {Yu-Shiang Whole Fish}.


   This list derives from revision 2.3 of the USENET ASCII

   pronunciation guide.  Single characters are listed in ASCII order;

   character pairs are sorted in by first member.  For each character,

   common names are given in rough order of popularity, followed by

   names that are reported but rarely seen; official ANSI/CCITT names

   are surrounded by brokets: <>.  Square brackets mark the

   particularly silly names introduced by {INTERCAL}.  Ordinary

   parentheticals provide some usage information.



          Common: {bang}; pling; excl; shriek; <exclamation mark>.

          Rare: factorial; exclam; smash; cuss; boing; yell; wow; hey;

          wham; eureka; [spark-spot]; soldier.



          Common: double quote; quote.  Rare: literal mark;

          double-glitch; <quotation marks>; <dieresis>; dirk;

          [rabbit-ears]; double prime.



          Common: <number sign>; pound; pound sign; hash; sharp;

          {crunch}; hex; [mesh]; octothorpe.  Rare: flash; crosshatch;

          grid; pig-pen; tictactoe; scratchmark; thud; thump; {splat}.



          Common: dollar; <dollar sign>.  Rare: currency symbol; buck;

          cash; string (from BASIC); escape (when used as the echo of

          ASCII ESC); ding; cache; [big money].



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




          Common: <ampersand>; amper; and.  Rare: address (from C);

          reference (from C++); andpersand; bitand; background (from

          `sh(1)'); pretzel; amp.  [INTERCAL called this `ampersand';

          what could be sillier?]



          Common: single quote; quote; <apostrophe>.  Rare: prime;

          glitch; tick; irk; pop; [spark]; <closing single quotation

          mark>; <acute accent>.



          Common: left/right paren; left/right parenthesis; left/right;

          paren/thesis; open/close paren; open/close; open/close

          parenthesis; left/right banana.  Rare: so/al-ready;

          lparen/rparen; <opening/closing parenthesis>; open/close round

          bracket, parenthisey/unparenthisey; [wax/wane]; left/right




          Common: star; [{splat}]; <asterisk>.  Rare: wildcard; gear;

          dingle; mult; spider; aster; times; twinkle; glob (see

          {glob}); {Nathan Hale}.



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



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



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




          Common: dot; point; <period>; <decimal point>.  Rare: radix

          point; full stop; [spot].



          Common: slash; stroke; <slant>; forward slash.  Rare:

          diagonal; solidus; over; slak; virgule; [slat].



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



          Common: <semicolon>; semi.  Rare: weenie; [hybrid],




          Common: <less/greater than>; left/right angle bracket;

          bra/ket; left/right broket.  Rare: from/{into, towards}; read

          from/write to; suck/blow; comes-from/gozinta; in/out;

          crunch/zap (all from UNIX); [angle/right angle].



          Common: <equals>; gets; takes.  Rare: quadrathorpe;




          Common: query; <question mark>; {ques}.  Rare: whatmark;

          [what]; wildchar; huh; hook; buttonhook; hunchback.



          Common: at sign; at; strudel.  Rare: each; vortex; whorl;

          [whirlpool]; cyclone; snail; ape; cat; rose; cabbage;

          <commercial at>.



          Rare: [book].



          Common: left/right square bracket; <opening/closing bracket>;

          bracket/unbracket; left/right bracket.  Rare: square/unsquare;

          [U turn/U turn back].



          Common: backslash; escape (from C/UNIX); reverse slash; slosh;

          backslant; backwhack.  Rare: bash; <reverse slant>; reversed

          virgule; [backslat].



          Common: hat; control; uparrow; caret; <circumflex>.  Rare:

          chevron; [shark (or shark-fin)]; to the (`to the power of');

          fang; pointer (in Pascal).



          Common: <underline>; underscore; underbar; under.  Rare:

          score; backarrow; skid; [flatworm].



          Common: backquote; left quote; left single quote; open quote;

          <grave accent>; grave.  Rare: backprime; [backspark];

          unapostrophe; birk; blugle; back tick; back glitch; push;

          <opening single quotation mark>; quasiquote.



          Common: open/close brace; left/right brace; left/right

          squiggly; left/right squiggly bracket/brace; left/right curly

          bracket/brace; <opening/closing brace>.  Rare: brace/unbrace;

          curly/uncurly; leftit/rytit; left/right squirrelly;




          Common: bar; or; or-bar; v-bar; pipe; vertical bar.  Rare:

          <vertical line>; gozinta; thru; pipesinta (last three from

          UNIX); [spike].



          Common: <tilde>; squiggle; {twiddle}; not.  Rare: approx;

          wiggle; swung dash; enyay; [sqiggle (sic)].


   The pronunciation of `#' as `pound' is common in the U.S.

   but a bad idea; {{Commonwealth Hackish}} has its own, rather more

   apposite use of `pound sign' (confusingly, on British keyboards

   the pound graphic

   happens to replace `#'; thus Britishers sometimes

   call `#' on a U.S.-ASCII keyboard `pound', compounding the

   American error).  The U.S. usage derives from an old-fashioned

   commercial practice of using a `#' suffix to tag pound weights

   on bills of lading.  The character is usually pronounced `hash'

   outside the U.S.


   The `uparrow' name for circumflex and `leftarrow' name for

   underline are historical relics from archaic ASCII (the 1963

   version), which had these graphics in those character positions

   rather than the modern punctuation characters.


   The `swung dash' or `approximation' sign is not quite the same

   as tilde in typeset material

   but the ASCII tilde serves for both (compare {angle



   Some other common usages cause odd overlaps.  The `#',

   `$', `>', and `&' characters, for example, are all

   pronounced "hex" in different communities because various

   assemblers use them as a prefix tag for hexadecimal constants (in

   particular, `#' in many assembler-programming cultures,

   `$' in the 6502 world, `>' at Texas Instruments, and

   `&' on the BBC Micro, Sinclair, and some Z80 machines).  See

   also {splat}.


   The inability of ASCII text to correctly represent any of the

   world's other major languages makes the designers' choice of 7 bits

   look more and more like a serious {misfeature} as the use of

   international networks continues to increase (see {software

   rot}).  Hardware and software from the U.S. still tends to embody

   the assumption that ASCII is the universal character set; this is a

   a major irritant to people who want to use a character set suited

   to their own languages.  Perversely, though, efforts to solve this

   problem by proliferating `national' character sets produce an

   evolutionary pressure to use a *smaller* subset common to all

   those in use.


:ASCII art: n. The fine art of drawing diagrams using the ASCII

   character set (mainly `|', `-', `/', `\', and

   `+').  Also known as `character graphics' or `ASCII

   graphics'; see also {boxology}.  Here is a serious example:



         o----)||(--+--|<----+   +---------o + D O

           L  )||(  |        |   |             C U

         A I  )||(  +-->|-+  |   +-\/\/-+--o -   T

         C N  )||(        |  |   |      |        P

           E  )||(  +-->|-+--)---+--)|--+-o      U

              )||(  |        |          | GND    T



            A power supply consisting of a full

            wave rectifier circuit feeding a

            capacitor input filter circuit


                               Figure 1.


   And here are some very silly examples:



       |\/\/\/|     ____/|              ___    |\_/|    ___

       |      |     \ o.O|   ACK!      /   \_  |` '|  _/   \

       |      |      =(_)=  THPHTH!   /      \/     \/      \

       | (o)(o)        U             /                       \

       C      _)  (__)                \/\/\/\  _____  /\/\/\/

       | ,___|    (oo)                       \/     \/

       |   /       \/-------\         U                  (__)

      /____\        ||     | \    /---V  `v'-            oo )

     /      \       ||---W||  *  * |--|   || |`.         |_/\


                               Figure 2.


   There is an important subgenre of humorous ASCII art that takes

   advantage of the names of the various characters to tell a

   pun-based joke.



     |      ^^^^^^^^^^^^                                      |

     | ^^^^^^^^^^^            ^^^^^^^^^                       |

     |                 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^            ^^^^^^^^^^^^^ |

     |        ^^^^^^^         B       ^^^^^^^^^               |

     |  ^^^^^^^^^          ^^^            ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^      |


                  " A Bee in the Carrot Patch "


                               Figure 3.


   Within humorous ASCII art, there is for some reason an entire

   flourishing subgenre of pictures of silly cows.  Four of these are

   reproduced in Figure 2; here are three more:



              (__)              (__)              (__)

              (\/)              ($$)              (**)

       /-------\/        /-------\/        /-------\/

      / | 666 ||        / |=====||        / |     ||

     *  ||----||       *  ||----||       *  ||----||

        ~~    ~~          ~~    ~~          ~~    ~~

     Satanic cow    This cow is a Yuppie   Cow in love


                               Figure 4.


:attoparsec: n. `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



:autobogotiphobia: /aw'to-boh-got`*-foh'bee-*/ n. See {bogotify}.


:automagically: /aw-toh-maj'i-klee/ or /aw-toh-maj'i-k*l-ee/ 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."


:avatar: [CMU, Tektronix] n. Syn. {root}, {superuser}.  There

   are quite a few UNIX machines on which the name of the superuser

   account is `avatar' rather than `root'.  This quirk was

   originated by a CMU hacker who disliked the term `superuser',

   and was propagated through an ex-CMU hacker at Tektronix.


:awk: 1. n. [UNIX techspeak] An interpreted language for massaging

   text data developed by Alfred Aho, Peter Weinberger, and Brian

   Kernighan (the name is from their initials).  It is characterized

   by C-like syntax, a declaration-free approach to variable typing

   and declarations, associative arrays, and field-oriented text

   processing.  See also {Perl}.  2. n.  Editing term for an

   expression awkward to manipulate through normal {regexp}

   facilities (for example, one containing a {newline}).  3. vt. To

   process data using `awk(1)'.


= B =



:back door: n. A hole in the security of a system deliberately left

   in place by designers or maintainers.  The motivation for this 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.


   Historically, back doors have often lurked in systems longer than

   anyone expected or planned, and a few have become widely known.

   The infamous {RTM} worm of late 1988, for example, used a back door

   in the {BSD} UNIX `sendmail(8)' utility.


   Ken Thompson's 1983 Turing Award lecture to the ACM revealed the

   existence of a back door in early UNIX versions that may have

   qualified as the most fiendishly clever security hack of all time.

   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, leaving his back door in place

   and active but with no trace in the sources.


   The talk that revealed this truly moby hack was published as

   "Reflections on Trusting Trust", `Communications of the

   ACM 27', 8 (August 1984), pp. 761--763.


   Syn. {trap door}; may also be called a `wormhole'.  See also

   {iron box}, {cracker}, {worm}, {logic bomb}.


:backbone cabal: n. A group of large-site administrators who pushed

   through the {Great Renaming} and reined in the chaos of {USENET}

   during most of the 1980s.  The cabal {mailing list} disbanded in

   late 1988 after a bitter internal catfight, but the net hardly



:backbone site: n. A key USENET and email site; one that processes

   a large amount of third-party traffic, especially if it is the home

   site of any of the regional coordinators for the USENET maps.

   Notable backbone sites as of early 1991 include uunet and the

   mail machines at Rutgers University, UC Berkeley, DEC's Western

   Research Laboratories, Ohio State University, and the University of

   Texas.  Compare {rib site}, {leaf site}.


:backgammon:: See {bignum}, {moby}, and {pseudoprime}.


:background: n.,adj.,vt.  To do a task `in background' is to do

   it whenever {foreground} matters are not claiming your undivided

   attention, and `to background' something means to relegate it to

   a lower priority.  "For now, we'll just print a list of nodes and

   links; I'm working on the graph-printing problem in background."

   Note that this implies ongoing activity but at a reduced level or

   in spare time, in contrast to mainstream `back burner' (which

   connotes benign neglect until some future resumption of activity).

   Some people prefer to use the term for processing that they have

   queued up for their unconscious minds (a tack that one can often

   fruitfully take upon encountering an obstacle in creative work).

   Compare {amp off}, {slopsucker}.


   Technically, a task running in background is detached from the

   terminal where it was started (and often running at a lower

   priority); oppose {foreground}.  Nowadays this term is primarily

   associated with {{UNIX}}, but it appears to have been first used

   in this sense on OS/360.


:backspace and overstrike: interj. Whoa!  Back up.  Used to suggest

   that someone just said or did something wrong.  Common among

   APL programmers.


:backward combatability: /bak'w*rd k*m-bat'*-bil'*-tee/ [from

   `backward compatibility'] n. A property of hardware or software

   revisions in which previous protocols, formats, and layouts are

   discarded in favor of `new and improved' protocols, formats, and

   layouts.  Occurs usually when making the transition between major

   releases.  When the change is so drastic that the old formats are

   not retained in the new version, it is said to be `backward

   combatable'.  See {flag day}.


:BAD: /B-A-D/ [IBM: acronym, `Broken As Designed'] adj.  Said

   of a program that is {bogus} because of bad design and misfeatures

   rather than because of bugginess.  See {working as designed}.


:Bad Thing: [from the 1930 Sellar & Yeatman parody `1066 And

   All That'] n. Something that can't possibly result in improvement

   of the subject.  This term is always capitalized, as in "Replacing

   all of the 9600-baud modems with bicycle couriers would be a Bad

   Thing".  Oppose {Good Thing}.  British correspondents confirm

   that {Bad Thing} and {Good Thing} (and prob. therefore {Right

   Thing} and {Wrong Thing}) come from the book referenced in the

   etymology, which discusses rulers who were Good Kings but Bad

   Things.  This has apparently created a mainstream idiom on the

   British side of the pond.


:bag on the side: n. An extension to an established hack that is

   supposed to add some functionality to the original.  Usually

   derogatory, implying that the original was being overextended and

   should have been thrown away, and the new product is ugly,

   inelegant, or bloated.  Also v. phrase, `to hang a bag on the 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



: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. adj. `bagbiting' 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}).  4. `bite

   the bag' vi. To fail in some manner.  "The computer keeps crashing

   every 5 minutes."  "Yes, the disk controller is really biting the

   bag."  The original loading of these terms was almost undoubtedly

   obscene, possibly referring to the scrotum, but in their current

   usage they have become almost completely sanitized.


   A program called Lexiphage on the old MIT AI PDP-10 would draw on

   a selected victim's bitmapped terminal the words "THE BAG" in

   ornate letters, and then a pair of jaws biting pieces of it off.

   This is the first and to date only known example of a program

   *intended* to be a bagbiter.


:bamf: /bamf/ 1. [from old X-Men comics] 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 sense 1.  3. [from `Don

   Washington's Survival Guide'] n. Acronym for `Bad-Ass Mother

   Fucker', used to refer to one of the handful of nastiest monsters

   on an LPMUD or other similar MUD.


:banana label: n. The labels often used on the sides of {macrotape}

   reels, so called because they are shaped roughly like blunt-ended

   bananas.  This term, like macrotapes themselves, is still current

   but visibly headed for obsolescence.


:banana problem: n. [from the story of the little girl who said "I

   know how to spell `banana', but I don't know when to stop"].  Not

   knowing where or when to bring a production to a close (compare

   {fencepost error}).  One may say `there is a banana problem' of an

   algorithm with poorly defined or incorrect termination conditions,

   or in discussing the evolution of a design that may be succumbing

   to featuritis (see also {creeping elegance}, {creeping

   featuritis}).  See item 176 under {HAKMEM}, which describes a

   banana problem in a {Dissociated Press} implementation.  Also,

   see {one-banana problem} for a superficially similar but

   unrelated usage.


:bandwidth: n. 1. Used by hackers in a generalization of its

   technical meaning as the volume of information per unit time that a

   computer, person, or transmission medium can handle.  "Those are

   amazing graphics, but I missed some of the detail --- not enough

   bandwidth, I guess."  Compare {low-bandwidth}.  2. Attention

   span.  3. On {USENET}, a measure of network capacity that is

   often wasted by people complaining about how items posted by others

   are a waste of bandwidth.


:bang: 1. n. Common spoken name for `!' (ASCII 0100001),

   especially when used in pronouncing a {bang path} in spoken

   hackish.  In {elder days} this was considered a CMUish usage,

   with MIT and Stanford hackers preferring {excl} or {shriek};

   but the spread of UNIX has carried `bang' with it (esp. via the

   term {bang path}) and it is now certainly the most common spoken

   name for `!'.  Note that it is used exclusively for

   non-emphatic written `!'; one would not say "Congratulations

   bang" (except possibly for humorous purposes), but if one wanted

   to specify the exact characters `foo!' one would speak "Eff oh oh

   bang".  See {shriek}, {{ASCII}}.  2. interj. An exclamation

   signifying roughly "I have achieved enlightenment!", or "The

   dynamite has cleared out my brain!"  Often used to acknowledge

   that one has perpetrated a {thinko} immediately after one has

   been called on it.


:bang on: vt. To stress-test a piece of hardware or software: "I

   banged on the new version of the simulator all day yesterday and it

   didn't crash once.  I guess it is ready for release."  The term

   {pound on} is synonymous.


:bang path: n. An old-style UUCP electronic-mail address specifying

   hops to get from some assumed-reachable location to the addressee,

   so called because each {hop} is signified by a {bang} sign.

   Thus, for example, the path ...!bigsite!foovax!barbox!me

   directs people to route their mail to machine bigsite (presumably

   a well-known location accessible to everybody) and from there

   through the machine foovax to the account of user me on



   In the bad old days of not so long ago, before autorouting mailers

   became commonplace, people often published compound bang addresses

   using the { } convention (see {glob}) to give paths from

   *several* big machines, in the hopes that one's correspondent

   might be able to get mail to one of them reliably (example:

   ...!{seismo, ut-sally, ihnp4}!rice!beta!gamma!me).  Bang paths

   of 8 to 10 hops were not uncommon in 1981.  Late-night dial-up

   UUCP links would cause week-long transmission times.  Bang paths

   were often selected by both transmission time and reliability, as

   messages would often get lost.  See {{Internet address}},

   {network, the}, and {sitename}.


:banner: n. 1. The title page added to printouts by most print

   spoolers (see {spool}).  Typically includes user or account ID

   information in very large character-graphics capitals.  Also called

   a `burst page', because it indicates where to burst (tear apart)

   fanfold paper to separate one user's printout from the next.  2. A

   similar printout generated (typically on multiple pages of fan-fold

   paper) from user-specified text, e.g., by a program such as UNIX's

   `banner({1,6})'.  3. On interactive software, a first screen

   containing a logo and/or author credits and/or a copyright notice.


:bar: /bar/ n. 1. The second {metasyntactic variable}, after {foo}

   and before {baz}.  "Suppose we have two functions: FOO and BAR.

   FOO calls BAR...."  2. Often appended to {foo} to produce



:bare metal: n. 1. New computer hardware, unadorned with such

   snares and delusions as an {operating system}, an {HLL}, or

   even assembler.  Commonly used in the phrase `programming on the

   bare metal', which refers to the arduous work of {bit bashing}

   needed to create these basic tools for a new machine.  Real

   bare-metal programming involves things like building boot proms and

   BIOS chips, implementing basic monitors used to test device

   drivers, and writing the assemblers that will be used to write the

   compiler back ends that will give the new machine a real

   development environment.  2. `Programming on the bare metal' is

   also used to describe a style of {hand-hacking} that relies on

   bit-level peculiarities of a particular hardware design, esp.

   tricks for speed and space optimization that rely on crocks such as

   overlapping instructions (or, as in the famous case described in

   {The Story of Mel, a Real Programmer} (in {appendix A}),

   interleaving of opcodes on a magnetic drum to minimize fetch delays

   due to the device's rotational latency).  This sort of thing has

   become less common as the relative costs of programming time and

   machine resources have changed, but is still found in heavily

   constrained environments such as industrial embedded systems.  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 are held in high regard.


:barf: /barf/ [from mainstream slang meaning `vomit']

   1. interj.  Term of disgust.  This is the closest hackish

   equivalent of the Val\-speak "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.  May mean to give an error message.  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



: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



:barfulation: /bar`fyoo-lay'sh*n/ interj. Variation of {barf}

   used around the Stanford area.  An exclamation, expressing disgust.

   On seeing some particularly bad code one might exclaim,

   "Barfulation!  Who wrote this, Quux?"


:barfulous: /bar'fyoo-l*s/ adj. (alt. `barfucious',

   /bar-fyoo-sh*s/) Said of something that would make anyone barf,

   if only for esthetic reasons.


:barney: n. In Commonwealth hackish, `barney' is to {fred}

   (sense #1) as {bar} is to {foo}.  That is, people who

   commonly use `fred' as their first metasyntactic variable will

   often use `barney' second.  The reference is, of course, to Fred

   Flintstone and Barney Rubble in the Flintstones cartoons.


:baroque: adj. Feature-encrusted; complex; gaudy; verging on

   excessive.  Said of hardware or (esp.) software designs, this has

   many of the connotations of {elephantine} or {monstrosity} but is

   less extreme and not pejorative in itself.  "Metafont even has

   features to introduce random variations to its letterform output.

   Now *that* is baroque!"  See also {rococo}.


:BartleMUD: /bar'tl-muhd/ n. Any of the MUDs derived from the

   original MUD game by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw (see

   {MUD}).  BartleMUDs are noted for their (usually slightly

   offbeat) humor, dry but friendly syntax, and lack of adjectives in

   object descriptions, so a player is likely to come across

   `brand172', for instance (see {brand brand brand}).  Bartle has

   taken a bad rap in some MUDding circles for supposedly originating

   this term, but (like the story that MUD is a trademark) this

   appears to be a myth; he uses `MUD1'.


:BASIC: n. A programming language, originally designed for

   Dartmouth's experimental timesharing system in the early 1960s,

   which has since become the leading cause of brain-damage in

   proto-hackers.  This is another case (like {Pascal}) of the bad

   things that happen 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 is (a) very painful, and (b) encourages bad habits

   that will bite him/her later if he/she tries to hack in a real

   language.  This wouldn't be so bad if historical accidents hadn't

   made BASIC so common on low-end micros.  As it is, it ruins

   thousands of potential wizards a year.


: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. Accumulation of a number of small tasks that can be

   lumped together for greater efficiency.  "I'm batching up those

   letters to send sometime"  "I'm batching up bottles to take to the

   recycling center."


:bathtub curve: n. Common term for the curve (resembling an

   end-to-end section of one of those claw-footed antique bathtubs)

   that describes the expected failure rate of electronics with time:

   initially high, dropping to near 0 for most of the system's

   lifetime, then rising again as it `tires out'.  See also {burn-in

   period}, {infant mortality}.


:baud: /bawd/ [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.


   Histotical note: this was originally a unit of telegraph signalling

   speed, set at one pulse per second.  It was proposed at the

   International Telegraph Conference of 1927, and named after J.M.E.

   Baudot (1845-1903), the French engineer who constructed the first

   successful teleprinter.


:baud barf: /bawd barf/ n. The garbage one gets on the monitor

   when using a modem connection with some protocol setting (esp.

   line speed) incorrect, or when someone picks up a voice extension

   on the same line, or when really bad line noise disrupts the

   connection.  Baud barf is not completely {random}, by the way;

   hackers with a lot of serial-line experience can usually tell

   whether the device at the other end is expecting a higher or lower

   speed than the terminal is set to.  *Really* experienced ones

   can identify particular speeds.


:baz: /baz/ n. 1. The third {metasyntactic variable} "Suppose we

   have three functions: FOO, BAR, and BAZ.  FOO calls BAR, which

   calls BAZ...." (See also {fum}) 2. interj. A term of mild

   annoyance.  In this usage the term is often drawn out for 2 or 3

   seconds, producing an effect not unlike the bleating of a sheep;

   /baaaaaaz/.  3. Occasionally appended to {foo} to produce



   Earlier versions of this lexicon derived `baz' as a Stanford

   corruption of {bar}.  However, Pete Samson (compiler of the

   {TMRC} lexicon) reports it was already current when he joined TMRC

   in 1958.  He says "It came from `Pogo'.  Albert the Alligator,

   when vexed or outraged, would shout `Bazz Fazz!' or `Rowrbazzle!'

   The club layout was said to model the (mythical) New England

   counties of Rowrfolk and Bassex (Rowrbazzle mingled with



:bboard: /bee'bord/ [contraction of `bulletin board'] n.

   1. Any electronic bulletin board; esp. used of {BBS} systems

   running on personal micros, less frequently of a USENET

   {newsgroup} (in fact, use of the 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 a old-fashioned, non-electronic cork memo board.  At CMU,

   it refers to a particular one outside the CS Lounge.


   In either of senses 1 or 2, the term is usually prefixed by the

   name of the intended board (`the Moonlight Casino bboard' or

   `market bboard'); however, if the context is clear, the better-read

   bboards may be referred to by name alone, as in (at CMU) "Don't

   post for-sale ads on general".


:BBS: /B-B-S/ [abbreviation, `Bulletin Board System'] n. An electronic

   bulletin board system; that is, a message database where people can

   log in and leave broadcast messages for others grouped (typically)

   into {topic group}s.  Thousands of local BBS systems are in

   operation throughout the U.S., typically run by amateurs for fun

   out of their homes on MS-DOS boxes with a single modem line each.

   Fans of USENET and Internet or the big commercial timesharing

   bboards such as CompuServe and GEnie tend to consider local BBSes

   the low-rent district of the hacker culture, but they serve a

   valuable function by knitting together lots of hackers and users in

   the personal-micro world who would otherwise be unable to exchange

   code at all.


:beam: [from Star Trek Classic's "Beam me up, Scotty!"] vt. To

   transfer {softcopy} of a file electronically; most often in

   combining forms such as `beam me a copy' or `beam that over to

   his site'.  Compare {blast}, {snarf}, {BLT}.


:beanie key: [Mac users] n. See {command key}.


:beep: n.,v. Syn. {feep}.  This term seems to be preferred among micro



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

   {Macintrash}, {maggotbox}.


:bells and whistles: [by analogy with the toyboxes on theater

   organs] n. Features added to a program or system to make it more

   {flavorful} from a hacker's point of view, without necessarily

   adding to its utility for its primary function.  Distinguished from

   {chrome}, which is intended to attract users.  "Now that we've

   got the basic program working, let's go back and add some bells and

   whistles."  No one seems to know what distinguishes a bell from a



:bells, whistles, and gongs: n. A standard elaborated form of

   {bells and whistles}; typically said with a pronounced and ironic

   accent on the `gongs'.


:benchmark: [techspeak] n. An inaccurate measure of computer

   performance.  "In the computer industry, there are three kinds of

   lies: lies, damn lies, and benchmarks."  Well-known ones include

   Whetstone, Dhrystone, Rhealstone (see {h}), the Gabriel LISP

   benchmarks (see {gabriel}), the SPECmark suite, and LINPACK.  See

   also {machoflops}, {MIPS}, {smoke and mirrors}.


:Berkeley Quality Software: adj. (often abbreviated `BQS') Term used

   in a pejorative sense to refer to software that was apparently

   created by rather spaced-out hackers late at night to solve some

   unique problem.  It usually has nonexistent, incomplete, or

   incorrect documentation, has been tested on at least two examples,

   and core dumps when anyone else attempts to use it.  This term was

   frequently applied to early versions of the `dbx(1)' debugger.

   See also {Berzerkeley}.


:berklix: /berk'liks/ n.,adj. [contraction of `Berkeley UNIX'] See

   {BSD}.  Not used at Berkeley itself.  May be more common among

   {suit}s attempting to sound like cognoscenti than among hackers,

   who usually just say `BSD'.


:berserking: vi. A {MUD} term meaning to gain points *only*

   by killing other players and mobiles (non-player characters).

   Hence, a Berserker-Wizard is a player character that has achieved

   enough points to become a wizard, but only by killing other

   characters.  Berserking is sometimes frowned upon because of its

   inherently antisocial nature, but some MUDs have a `berserker

   mode' in which a player becomes *permanently* berserk, can

   never flee from a fight, cannot use magic, gets no score for

   treasure, but does get double kill points.  "Berserker

   wizards can seriously damage your elf!"


:Berzerkeley: /b*r-zer'klee/ [from `berserk', via the name of a

   now-deceased record label] n. Humorous distortion of `Berkeley'

   used esp. to refer to the practices or products of the

   {BSD} UNIX hackers.  See {software bloat}, {Missed'em-five},

   {Berkeley Quality Software}.


   Mainstream use of this term in reference to the cultural and

   political peculiarities of UC Berkeley as a whole has been reported

   from as far back as the 1960s.


:beta: /bay't*/, /be't*/ or (Commonwealth) /bee't*/ n. 1. In

   the {Real World}, software often goes through two stages of

   testing: Alpha (in-house) and Beta (out-house?).  Software is said

   to be `in beta'.  2. Anything that is new and experimental is in

   beta. "His girlfriend is in beta" means that he is still testing

   for compatibility and reserving judgment.  3. Beta software is

   notoriously buggy, so `in beta' connotes flakiness.


   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 customers and users.  This term

   derives from early 1960s terminology for product cycle checkpoints,

   first used at IBM but later standard throughout the industry.

   `Alpha Test' was the unit, module, or component test phase; `Beta

   Test' was initial system test.  These themselves came from earlier

   A- and B-tests for hardware.  The A-test was a feasibility and

   manufacturability evaluation done before any commitment to design

   and development.  The B-test was a demonstration that the

   engineering model functioned as specified.  The C-test

   (corresponding to today's beta) was the B-test performed on early

   samples of the production design.


:BFI: /B-F-I/ n. See {brute force and ignorance}.  Also

   encountered in the variants `BFMI', `brute force and

   *massive* ignorance' and `BFBI' `brute force and bloody



:bible: n. 1. One of a small number of fundamental source books

   such as {Knuth} and {K&R}.  2. The most detailed and

   authoritative reference for a particular language, operating

   system, or other complex software system.


:BiCapitalization: n. The act said to have been performed on

   trademarks (such as {PostScript}, NeXT, {NeWS}, VisiCalc,

   FrameMaker, TK!solver, EasyWriter) that have been raised above the

   ruck of common coinage by nonstandard capitalization.  Too many

   {marketroid} types think this sort of thing is really cute, even

   the 2,317th time they do it.  Compare {studlycaps}.


:BIFF: /bif/ [USENET] n. The most famous {pseudo}, and the

   prototypical {newbie}.  Articles from BIFF are characterized by

   all uppercase letters sprinkled liberally with bangs, typos,

   `cute' misspellings (EVRY BUDY LUVS GOOD OLD BIFF CUZ HE"S A


   THIS!!!), use (and often misuse) of fragments of {talk mode}

   abbreviations, a long {sig block} (sometimes even a {doubled

   sig}), and unbounded na"ivet'e.  BIFF posts articles using his

   elder brother's VIC-20.  BIFF'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

   BIFF is a denizen of BITNET is supported by BIFF's (unfortunately

   invalid) electronic mail address: BIFF@BIT.NET.


:biff: /bif/ vt. To notify someone of incoming mail.  From the

   BSD utility `biff(1)', which was in turn named after a

   friendly golden Labrador who used to chase frisbees in the halls at

   UCB while 4.2BSD was in development (it had a well-known habit of

   barking whenever the mailman came).  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)

   DEC documentation comes with gray binders; under VMS version 4 the

   binders were orange (`big orange wall'), and under version 3 they

   were blue.  See {VMS}.  Often contracted to `Gray Wall'.


:big iron: n. Large, expensive, ultra-fast computers.  Used generally

   of {number-crunching} supercomputers such as Crays, but can include

   more conventional big commercial IBMish mainframes.  Term of

   approval; compare {heavy metal}, oppose {dinosaur}.


:Big Red Switch: [IBM] n. 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 machines physically drop a block into place so that

   they can't be pushed back in.  People get fired for pulling them,

   especially inappropriately (see also {molly-guard}).  Compare

   {power cycle}, {three-finger salute}, {120 reset}; see

   also {scram switch}.


:Big Room, the: n. The extremely large room with the blue ceiling

   and intensely bright light (during the day) or black ceiling with

   lots of tiny night-lights (during the night) found outside all

   computer installations.  "He can't come to the phone right now,

   he's somewhere out in the Big Room."


:big win: n. Serendipity.  "Yes, those two physicists discovered

   high-temperature superconductivity in a batch of ceramic that had

   been prepared incorrectly according to their experimental schedule.

   Small mistake; big win!" See {win big}.


:big-endian: [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] adj. 1. Describes a computer

   architecture in which, within a given multi-byte numeric

   representation, the most significant byte has the lowest address

   (the word is stored `big-end-first').  Most processors,

   including the IBM 370 family, the {PDP-10}, the Motorola

   microprocessor families, and most of the various RISC designs

   current in mid-1991, are big-endian.  See {little-endian},

   {middle-endian}, {NUXI problem}.  2. An {{Internet address}}

   the wrong way round.  Most of the world follows the Internet

   standard and writes email addresses starting with the name of the

   computer and ending up with the name of the country.  In the U.K.

   the Joint Networking Team had decided to do it the other way round

   before the Internet domain standard was established; e.g.,

   me@uk.ac.wigan.cs.  Most gateway sites have {ad-hockery} in

   their mailers to handle this, but can still be confused.  In

   particular, the address above could be in the U.K. (domain uk)

   or Czechoslovakia (domain cs).


:bignum: /big'nuhm/ [orig. from MIT MacLISP] n. 1. [techspeak] A

   multiple-precision computer representation for very large integers.

   More generally, any very large number.  "Have you ever looked at

   the United States Budget?  There's bignums for you!"

   2. [Stanford] In backgammon, large numbers on the dice are called

   `bignums', especially a roll of double fives or double sixes

   (compare {moby}, sense 4).  See also {El Camino Bignum}.


   Sense 1 may require some explanation.  Most computer languages

   provide a kind of data called `integer', but such computer

   integers are usually very limited in size; usually they must be

   smaller than than 2^(31) (2,147,483,648) or (on a losing

   {bitty box}) 2^(15) (32,768).  If you want to work with

   numbers larger than that, you have to use floating-point numbers,

   which are usually accurate to only six or seven decimal places.

   Computer languages that provide bignums can perform exact

   calculations on very large numbers, such as 1000!  (the factorial

   of 1000, which is 1000 times 999 times 998 times ... times 2

   times 1).  For example, this value for 1000!  was computed by the

   MacLISP system using bignums:























































:bigot: n. A person who is religiously attached to a particular

   computer, language, operating system, editor, or other tool (see

   {religious issues}).  Usually found with a specifier; thus,

   `cray bigot', `ITS bigot', `APL bigot', `VMS bigot',

   `Berkeley bigot'.  True 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 said "You can

   tell a bigot, but you can't tell him much."  Compare



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

   1. [techspeak] The unit of information; the amount of information

   obtained by asking a yes-or-no question for which the two outcomes

   are equally probable.  2. [techspeak] A computational quantity that

   can take on one of two values, such as true and false or 0 and 1.

   3. A mental flag: a reminder that something should be done

   eventually.  "I have a bit set for you."  (I haven't seen you for

   a while, and I'm supposed to tell or ask you something.)  4. More

   generally, a (possibly incorrect) mental state of belief.  "I have

   a bit set that says that you were the last guy to hack on EMACS."

   (Meaning "I think you were the last guy to hack on EMACS, and what

   I am about to say is predicated on this, so please stop me if this

   isn't true.")


   "I just need one bit from you" is a polite way of indicating that

   you intend only a short interruption for a question that can

   presumably be answered yes or no.


   A bit is said to be `set' if its value is true or 1, and

   `reset' or `clear' if its value is false or 0.  One speaks of

   setting and clearing bits.  To {toggle} or `invert' a bit is

   to change it, either from 0 to 1 or from 1 to 0.  See also

   {flag}, {trit}, {mode bit}.


   The term `bit' first appeared in print in the computer-science

   sense in 1949, and seems to have been coined by early computer

   scientist John Tukey.  Tukey records that it evolved over a lunch

   table as a handier alternative to `bigit' or `binit'.


:bit bang: n. Transmission of data on a serial line, when

   accomplished by rapidly tweaking a single output bit at the

   appropriate times.  The technique is a simple

   loop with eight OUT and SHIFT instruction pairs for each byte.

   Input is more interesting.  And full duplex (doing input and output

   at the same time) is one way to separate the real hackers from the



   Bit bang was used on certain early models of Prime computers,

   presumably when UARTs were too expensive, and on archaic Z80 micros

   with a Zilog PIO but no SIO.  In an interesting instance of the

   {cycle of reincarnation}, this technique is now (1991) coming

   back into use on some RISC architectures because it consumes such

   an infinitesimal part of the processor that it actually makes sense

   not to have a UART.


:bit bashing: n. (alt. `bit diddling' or {bit twiddling}) Term

   used to describe any of several kinds of low-level programming

   characterized by manipulation of {bit}, {flag}, {nybble},

   and other smaller-than-character-sized pieces of data; these

   include low-level device control, encryption algorithms, checksum

   and error-correcting codes, hash functions, some flavors of

   graphics programming (see {bitblt}), and assembler/compiler code

   generation.  May connote either tedium or a real technical

   challenge (more usually the former).  "The command decoding for

   the new tape driver looks pretty solid but the bit-bashing for the

   control registers still has bugs."  See also {bit bang},

   {mode bit}.


:bit bucket: n. 1. The universal data sink (originally, the

   mythical receptacle used to catch bits when they fall off the end

   of a register during a shift instruction).  Discarded, lost, or

   destroyed data is said to have `gone to the bit bucket'.  On

   {{UNIX}}, often used for {/dev/null}.  Sometimes amplified as

   `the Great Bit Bucket in the Sky'.  2. The place where all lost

   mail and news messages eventually go.  The selection is performed

   according to {Finagle's Law}; important mail is much more likely

   to end up in the bit bucket than junk mail, which has an almost

   100% probability of getting delivered.  Routing to the bit bucket

   is automatically performed by mail-transfer agents, news systems,

   and the lower layers of the network.  3. The ideal location for all

   unwanted mail responses: "Flames about this article to the bit

   bucket."  Such a request is guaranteed to overflow one's mailbox

   with flames.  4. Excuse for all mail that has not been sent.  "I

   mailed you those figures last week; they must have ended in the bit

   bucket."  Compare {black hole}.


   This term is used purely in jest.  It is based on the fanciful

   notion that bits are objects that are not destroyed but only

   misplaced.  This appears to have been a mutation of an earlier term

   `bit box', about which the same legend was current; old-time

   hackers also report that trainees used to be told that when the CPU

   stored bits into memory it was actually pulling them `out of the

   bit box'.  See also {chad box}.


   Another variant of this legend has it that, as a consequence of the

   `parity preservation law', the number of 1 bits that go to the bit

   bucket must equal the number of 0 bits.  Any imbalance results in

   bits filling up the bit bucket.  A qualified computer technician

   can empty a full bit bucket as part of scheduled maintenance.


:bit decay: n. See {bit rot}.  People with a physics background

   tend to prefer this one for the analogy with particle decay.  See

   also {computron}, {quantum bogodynamics}.


:bit rot: n. Also {bit decay}.  Hypothetical disease the existence

   of which has been deduced from the observation that unused programs

   or features will often stop working after sufficient time has

   passed, even if `nothing has changed'.  The theory explains that

   bits decay as if they were radioactive.  As time passes, the

   contents of a file or the code in a program will become

   increasingly garbled.


   There actually are physical processes that produce such effects

   (alpha particles generated by trace radionuclides in ceramic chip

   packages, for example, can change the contents of a computer memory

   unpredictably, and various kinds of subtle media failures can

   corrupt files in mass storage), but they are quite rare (and

   computers are built with error-detecting circuitry to compensate

   for them).  The notion long favored among hackers that cosmic

   rays are among the causes of such events turns out to be a myth;

   see the {cosmic rays} entry for details.


   The term {software rot} is almost synonymous.  Software rot is

   the effect, bit rot the notional cause.


:bit twiddling: n. 1. (pejorative) An exercise in tuning (see

   {tune}) in which incredible amounts of time and effort go to

   produce little noticeable improvement, often with the result that

   the code has become incomprehensible.  2. Aimless small

   modification to a program, esp. for some pointless goal.

   3. Approx. syn. for {bit bashing}; esp. used for the act of

   frobbing the device control register of a peripheral in an attempt

   to get it back to a known state.


:bit-paired keyboard: n. obs. (alt. `bit-shift keyboard') A

   non-standard keyboard layout that seems to have originated with the

   Teletype ASR-33 and remained common for several years on early

   computer equipment.  The ASR-33 was a mechanical device (see

   {EOU}), so the only way to generate the character codes from

   keystrokes was by some physical linkage.  The design of the ASR-33

   assigned each character key a basic pattern that could be modified

   by flipping bits if the SHIFT or the CTRL key was pressed.  In

   order to avoid making the thing more of a Rube Goldberg kluge than

   it already was, the design had to group characters that shared the

   same basic bit pattern on one key.


   Looking at the ASCII chart, we find:


     high  low bits

     bits  0000 0001 0010 0011 0100 0101 0110 0111 1000 1001

      010        !    "    #    $    %    &    '    (    )

      011   0    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9


   This is why the characters !"#$%&'() appear where they do on a

   Teletype (thankfully, they didn't use shift-0 for space).  This was

   *not* the weirdest variant of the {QWERTY} layout widely

   seen, by the way; that prize should probably go to one of several

   (differing) arrangements on IBM's even clunkier 026 and 029 card



   When electronic terminals became popular, in the early 1970s, there

   was no agreement in the industry over how the keyboards should be

   laid out.  Some vendors opted to emulate the Teletype keyboard,

   while others used the flexibility of electronic circuitry to make

   their product look like an office typewriter.  These alternatives

   became known as `bit-paired' and `typewriter-paired' keyboards.  To

   a hacker, the bit-paired keyboard seemed far more logical --- and

   because most hackers in those days had never learned to touch-type,

   there was little pressure from the pioneering users to adapt

   keyboards to the typewriter standard.


   The doom of the bit-paired keyboard was the large-scale

   introduction of the computer terminal into the normal office

   environment, where out-and-out technophobes were expected to use

   the equipment.  The `typewriter-paired' standard became universal,

   `bit-paired' hardware was quickly junked or relegated to dusty

   corners, and both terms passed into disuse.


:bitblt: /bit'blit/ n. [from {BLT}, q.v.] 1. Any of a family

   of closely related algorithms for moving and copying rectangles of

   bits between main and display memory on a bit-mapped device, or

   between two areas of either main or display memory (the requirement

   to do the {Right Thing} in the case of overlapping source and

   destination rectangles is what makes BitBlt tricky).  2. Synonym

   for {blit} or {BLT}.  Both uses are borderline techspeak.


:BITNET: /bit'net/ [acronym: Because It's Time NETwork] n.

   Everybody's least favorite piece of the network (see {network,

   the}).  The BITNET hosts are a collection of IBM dinosaurs and

   VAXen (the latter with lobotomized comm hardware) that communicate

   using 80-character {{EBCDIC}} card images (see {eighty-column

   mind}); thus, they tend to mangle the headers and text of

   third-party traffic from the rest of the ASCII/RFC-822 world with

   annoying regularity.  BITNET is also notorious as the apparent home

   of {BIFF}.


:bits: n.pl. 1. Information.  Examples: "I need some bits about file

   formats."  ("I need to know about file formats.")  Compare {core

   dump}, sense 4.  2. Machine-readable representation of a document,

   specifically as contrasted with paper:  "I have only a photocopy

   of the Jargon File; does anyone know where I can get the bits?".

   See {softcopy}, {source of all good bits} See also {bit}.


:bitty box: /bit'ee boks/ n. 1. A computer sufficiently small,

   primitive, or incapable as to cause a hacker acute claustrophobia

   at the thought of developing software on or for it.  Especially

   used of small, obsolescent, single-tasking-only personal machines

   such as the Atari 800, Osborne, Sinclair, VIC-20, TRS-80, or

   IBM PC.  2. [Pejorative] More generally, the opposite of `real

   computer' (see {Get a real computer!}).  See also {mess-dos},

   {toaster}, and {toy}.


:bixie: /bik'see/ n. Variant {emoticon}s used on BIX (the Byte

   Information eXchange).  The {smiley} bixie is <@_@>, apparently

   intending to represent two cartoon eyes and a mouth.  A few others

   have been reported.


:black art: n. A collection of arcane, unpublished, and (by

   implication) mostly ad-hoc techniques developed for a particular

   application or systems area (compare {black magic}).  VLSI design

   and compiler code optimization were (in their beginnings)

   considered classic examples of black art; as theory developed they

   became {deep magic}, and once standard textbooks had been written,

   became merely {heavy wizardry}.  The huge proliferation of formal

   and informal channels for spreading around new computer-related

   technologies during the last twenty years has made both the term

   `black art' and what it describes less common than formerly.  See

   also {voodoo programming}.


:black hole: n. When a piece of email or netnews disappears

   mysteriously between its origin and destination sites (that is,

   without returning a {bounce message}) it is commonly said to have

   `fallen into a black hole'.  "I think there's a black hole at

   foovax!" conveys suspicion that site foovax has been dropping

   a lot of stuff on the floor lately (see {drop on the floor}).

   The implied metaphor of email as interstellar travel is interesting

   in itself.  Compare {bit bucket}.


:black magic: n. A technique that works, though nobody really

   understands why.  More obscure than {voodoo programming}, which

   may be done by cookbook.  Compare also {black art}, {deep

   magic}, and {magic number} (sense 2).


:blargh: /blarg/ [MIT] n. 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. vt.,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/ [from Yiddish/German `brechen', to vomit, poss.

   via comic-strip exclamation `blech'] interj.  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},

   {bagbiter}, {bogus}, and {random}.  The term {bletcherous}

   applies to the esthetics of the thing so described; similarly for

   {cretinous}.  By contrast, something that is `losing' or

   `bagbiting' may be failing to meet objective criteria.  See also

   {bogus} and {random}, which have richer and wider shades of

   meaning than any of the above.


:blinkenlights: /blink'*n-li:tz/ n. Front-panel diagnostic lights

   on a computer, esp. a {dinosaur}.  Derives from the last word

   of the famous blackletter-Gothic sign in mangled pseudo-German that

   once graced about half the computer rooms in the English-speaking

   world.  One version ran in its entirety as follows:


                   ACHTUNG!  ALLES LOOKENSPEEPERS!  Das

     computermachine ist nicht fuer gefingerpoken und mittengrabben.

     Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und poppencorken

     mit spitzensparken.  Ist nicht fuer gewerken bei das dumpkopfen.

     Das rubbernecken sichtseeren keepen das cotten-pickenen hans in das

     pockets muss; relaxen und watchen das blinkenlichten.



   This silliness dates back at least as far as 1959 at Stanford

   University and had already gone international by the early 1960s,

   when it was reported at London University's ATLAS computing site.

   There are several variants of it in circulation, some of which

   actually do end with the word `blinkenlights'.


   In an amusing example of turnabout-is-fair-play, German hackers

   have developed their own versions of the blinkenlights poster in

   fractured English, one of which is reproduced here:



        This room is fullfilled mit special electronische equippment.

        Fingergrabbing and pressing the cnoeppkes from the computers is

        allowed for die experts only!  So all the "lefthanders" stay away

        and do not disturben the brainstorming von here working

        intelligencies.  Otherwise you will be out thrown and kicked

        anderswhere!  Also: please keep still and only watchen astaunished

        the blinkenlights.


   See also {geef}.


:blit: /blit/ vt. 1. To copy a large array of bits from one part

   of a computer's memory to another part, particularly when the

   memory is being used to determine what is shown on a display

   screen.  "The storage allocator picks through the table and copies

   the good parts up into high memory, and then blits it all back

   down again."  See {bitblt}, {BLT}, {dd}, {cat},

   {blast}, {snarf}.  More generally, to perform some operation

   (such as toggling) on a large array of bits while moving them.

   2. 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.)


:blitter: /blit'r/ n. A special-purpose chip or hardware system

   built to perform {blit} operations, esp. used for fast

   implementation of bit-mapped graphics.  The Commodore Amiga and a

   few other micros have these, but in 1991 the trend is away from

   them (however, see {cycle of reincarnation}).  Syn. {raster



:blivet: /bliv'*t/ [allegedly from a World War II military term

   meaning "ten pounds of manure in a five-pound bag"] n. 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.


   This term has other meanings in other technical cultures; among

   experimental physicists and hardware engineers of various kinds it

   seems to mean any random object of unknown purpose (similar to

   hackish use of {frob}).  It has also been used to describe an

   amusing trick-the-eye drawing resembling a three-pronged fork that

   appears to depict a three-dimensional object until one realizes

   that the parts fit together in an impossible way.


:BLOB: [acronym, Binary Large OBject] n. Used by database people to

   refer to any random large block of bits which 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 you can't interpret within the

   database itself.


:block: [from process scheduling terminology in OS theory] 1. vi.

   To delay or sit idle while waiting for something.  "We're blocking

   until everyone gets here."  Compare {busy-wait}.  2. `block

   on' vt. To block, waiting for (something).  "Lunch is blocked on

   Phil's arrival."


:block transfer computations: n. From the television series

   "Dr. Who", in which it referred to computations so fiendishly

   subtle and complex that they could not be performed by machines.

   Used to refer to any task that should be expressible as an

   algorithm in theory, but isn't.


: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 arises 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.  Thus, one was said to `blow' (or `blast') a PROM, and

   the terminology carried over 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. 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 three standard

   references on the page-layout and graphics-control language

   {PostScript} (`PostScript Language Tutorial and Cookbook',

   Adobe Systems, Addison-Wesley 1985, QA76.73.P67P68, ISBN

   0-201-10179-3); the other two 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 is also associated with green and red

   books).  3. Any of the 1988 standards issued by the CCITT's

   ninth plenary assembly.  Until now, they have changed color each

   review cycle (1984 was {Red Book}, 1992 would be {Green

   Book}); however, it is rumored that this convention is going to be

   dropped before 1992.  These include, among other things, the

   X.400 email spec and the Group 1 through 4 fax standards.  See also

   {{book titles}}.


:Blue Glue: [IBM] n. IBM's SNA (Systems Network Architecture), an

   incredibly {losing} and {bletcherous} communications protocol

   widely favored at commercial shops that don't know any better.  The

   official IBM definition is "that which binds blue boxes

   together."  See {fear and loathing}.  It may not be irrelevant

   that {Blue Glue} is the trade name of a 3M product that is

   commonly used to hold down the carpet squares to the removable

   panel floors common in {dinosaur pen}s.  A correspondent at

   U. Minn. reports that the CS department there has about 80 bottles

   of the stuff hanging about, so they often refer to any messy work

   to be done as `using the blue glue'.


:blue goo: n. Term for `police' {nanobot}s intended to prevent

   {gray goo}, denature hazardous waste, destroy pollution, put

   ozone back into the stratosphere, prevent halitosis, and promote

   truth, justice, and the American way, etc.  See



:blue wire: [IBM] n. Patch wires added to circuit boards at the factory to

   correct design or fabrication problems.  This may be necessary if

   there hasn't been time to design and qualify another board version.

   Compare {purple wire}, {red wire}, {yellow wire}.


:blurgle: /bler'gl/ [Great Britain] n. Spoken {metasyntactic

   variable}, to indicate some text which is obvious from context, or

   which is already known. If several words are to be replaced,

   blurgle may well be doubled or trebled. "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 6.


:BNF: /B-N-F/ n. 1. [techspeak] Acronym for `Backus-Naur Form', a

   metasyntactic notation used to specify the syntax of programming

   languages, command sets, and the like.  Widely used for language

   descriptions but seldom documented anywhere, so that it must

   usually be learned by osmosis from other hackers.  Consider this

   BNF for a U.S. postal address:


      <postal-address> ::= <name-part> <street-address> <zip-part>


      <personal-part> ::= <name> | <initial> "."


      <name-part> ::= <personal-part> <last-name> [<jr-part>] <EOL>

                    | <personal-part> <name-part>


      <street-address> ::= [<apt>] <house-num> <street-name> <EOL>


      <zip-part> ::= <town-name> "," <state-code> <ZIP-code> <EOL>


   This translates into English as: "A postal-address consists of a

   name-part, followed by a street-address part, followed by a

   zip-code part.  A personal-part consists of either a first name or

   an initial followed by a dot.  A name-part consists of either: a

   personal-part followed by a last name followed by an optional

   `jr-part' (Jr., Sr., or dynastic number) and end-of-line, or a

   personal part followed by a name part (this rule illustrates the

   use of recursion in BNFs, covering the case of people who use

   multiple first and middle names and/or initials).  A street address

   consists of an optional apartment specifier, followed by a street

   number, followed by a street name.  A zip-part consists of a

   town-name, followed by a comma, followed by a state code, followed

   by a ZIP-code followed by an end-of-line."  Note that many things

   (such as the format of a personal-part, apartment specifier, or

   ZIP-code) are left unspecified.  These are presumed to be obvious

   from context or detailed somewhere nearby.  See also {parse}.

   2. The term is also used loosely for any number of variants and

   extensions, 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}}, BNF means `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



:board: n. 1. In-context synonym for {bboard}; sometimes used

   even for USENET newsgroups.  2. An electronic circuit board

   (compare {card}).


:boat anchor: n. 1. Like {doorstop} but more severe; implies that

   the offending hardware is irreversibly dead or useless.  "That was

   a working motherboard once.  One lightning strike later, instant

   boat anchor!"  2. A person who just takes up space.


:BOF: /B-O-F/ or /bof/ n. Abbreviation for the phrase "Birds

   Of a Feather" (flocking together), an informal discussion group

   and/or bull session scheduled on a conference program.  It is not

   clear where or when this term originated, but it is now associated

   with the USENIX conferences for UNIX techies and was already

   established there by 1984.  It was used earlier than that at DECUS

   conferences, and is reported to have been common at SHARE meetings

   as far back as the early 1960s.


:bogo-sort: /boh`goh-sort'/ n. (var. `stupid-sort') The

   archetypical perversely awful algorithm (as opposed to {bubble

   sort}, which is merely the generic *bad* algorithm).

   Bogo-sort is equivalent to repeatedly throwing a deck of cards in

   the air, picking them up at random, and then testing whether they

   are in order.  It serves as a sort of canonical example of

   awfulness.  Looking at a program and seeing a dumb algorithm, one

   might say "Oh, I see, this program uses bogo-sort."  Compare

   {bogus}, {brute force}.


:bogometer: /boh-gom'-*t-er/ n. See {bogosity}.  Compare the

   `wankometer' described in the {wank} entry; see also



:bogon: /boh'gon/ [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}] n.

   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}).  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. The degree to which something is

   {bogus}.  At CMU, bogosity is measured with a {bogometer}; in

   a seminar, when a speaker says something bogus, a listener might

   raise his hand and say "My bogometer just triggered".  More

   extremely, "You just pinned my bogometer" means you just said or

   did something so outrageously bogus that it is off the scale,

   pinning the bogometer needle at the highest possible reading (one

   might also say "You just redlined my bogometer").  The

   agreed-upon unit of bogosity is the microLenat /mi:k`roh-len'*t/

   (uL).  The consensus is that this is the largest unit practical

   for everyday use.  2. The potential field generated by a {bogon

   flux}; see {quantum bogodynamics}.  See also {bogon flux},

   {bogon filter}, {bogus}.


   Historical note: The microLenat was invented as an attack against

   noted computer scientist Doug Lenat by a {tenured graduate

   student}.  Doug had failed the student on an important exam for

   giving only "AI is bogus" as his answer to the questions.  The

   slur is generally considered unmerited, but it has become a running

   gag nevertheless.  Some of Doug's friends argue that *of

   course* a microLenat is bogus, since it is only one millionth of a

   Lenat.  Others have suggested that the unit should be redesignated

   after the grad student, as the microReid.


:bogotify: /boh-go't*-fi:/ vt. To make or become bogus.  A

   program that has been changed so many times as to become completely

   disorganized has become bogotified.  If you tighten a nut too hard

   and strip the threads on the bolt, the bolt has become bogotified

   and you had better not use it any more.  This coinage led to the

   notional `autobogotiphobia' defined as `the fear of becoming

   bogotified'; but is not clear that the latter has ever been

   `live' jargon rather than a self-conscious joke in jargon about

   jargon.  See also {bogosity}, {bogus}.


:bogue out: /bohg owt/ vi. To become bogus, suddenly and

   unexpectedly.  "His talk was relatively sane until somebody asked

   him a trick question; then he bogued out and did nothing but

   {flame} afterwards."  See also {bogosity}, {bogus}.


:bogus: adj. 1. Non-functional.  "Your patches are bogus."

   2. Useless.  "OPCON is a bogus program."  3. False.  "Your

   arguments are bogus."  4. Incorrect.  "That algorithm is bogus."

   5. Unbelievable.  "You claim to have solved the halting problem

   for Turing Machines?  That's totally bogus."  6. Silly.  "Stop

   writing those bogus sagas."


   Astrology is bogus.  So is a bolt that is obviously about to break.

   So is someone who makes blatantly false claims to have solved a

   scientific problem.  (This word seems to have some, but not all, of

   the connotations of {random} --- mostly the negative ones.)


   It is claimed that `bogus' was originally used in the hackish sense

   at Princeton in the late 1960s.  It was spread to CMU and Yale by

   Michael Shamos, a migratory Princeton alumnus.  A glossary of bogus

   words was compiled at Yale when the word was first popularized (see

   {autobogotiphobia} under {bogotify}). The word spread into

   hackerdom from CMU and MIT.  By the early 1980s it was also

   current in something like the hackish sense in West Coast teen

   slang, and it had gone mainstream by 1985.  A correspondent from

   Cambridge reports, by contrast, that these uses of `bogus' grate on

   British nerves; in Britain the word means, rather specifically,

   `counterfeit', as in "a bogus 10-pound note".


:Bohr bug: /bohr buhg/ [from quantum physics] n. A repeatable

   {bug}; one that manifests reliably under a possibly unknown but

   well-defined set of conditions.  Antonym of {heisenbug}; see also

   {mandelbug}, {schroedinbug}.


:boink: /boynk/ [USENET: ascribed there to the TV series

   "Cheers" and "Moonlighting"] 1. To have sex with;

   compare {bounce}, sense 3. (This is mainstream slang.) In

   Commonwealth hackish the variant `bonk' is more common.  2. After

   the original Peter Korn `Boinkon' {USENET} parties, used for

   almost any net social gathering, e.g., Miniboink, a small boink

   held by Nancy Gillett in 1988; Minniboink, a Boinkcon in Minnesota

   in 1989; Humpdayboinks, Wednesday get-togethers held in the San

   Francisco Bay Area.  Compare {@-party}.  3. Var of `bonk';

   see {bonk/oif}.


:bomb: 1. v. General synonym for {crash} (sense 1) except that

   it is not used as a noun; esp. used of software or OS failures.

   "Don't run Empire with less than 32K stack, it'll bomb."

   2. n.,v. Atari ST and Macintosh equivalents of a UNIX `panic' or

   Amiga {guru} (sense 2), where 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: A language (such as Pascal, Ada,

   APL, or Prolog) that, though ostensibly general-purpose, is

   designed so as to enforce an author's theory of `right

   programming' even though said theory is demonstrably inadequate for

   systems hacking or even vanilla general-purpose programming.  Often

   abbreviated `B&D'; thus, one may speak of things "having the

   B&D nature".  See {{Pascal}}; oppose {languages of choice}.


:bonk/oif: /bonk/, /oyf/ interj. In the {MUD} community, it has

   become traditional to express pique or censure by `bonking' the

   offending person.  There is a convention that one should

   acknowledge a bonk by saying `oif!' and a myth to the effect that

   failing to do so upsets the cosmic bonk/oif balance, causing much

   trouble in the universe.  Some MUDs have implemented special

   commands for bonking and oifing.  See also {talk mode},



:book titles:: There is a tradition in hackerdom of informally

   tagging important textbooks and standards documents with the

   dominant color of their covers or with some other conspicuous

   feature of the cover.  Many of these are described in this lexicon

   under their own entries. See {Aluminum Book}, {Blue Book},

   {Cinderella Book}, {Devil Book}, {Dragon Book}, {Green

   Book}, {Orange Book}, {Pink-Shirt Book}, {Purple Book},

   {Red Book}, {Silver Book}, {White Book}, {Wizard Book},

   {Yellow Book}, and {bible}; see also {rainbow



:boot: [techspeak; from `by one's bootstraps'] v.,n. 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} intended to clear

   some state of {wedgitude}.  This is sometimes used of human

   thought processes, as in the following exchange: "You've lost

   me."  "OK, reboot.  Here's the theory...."


   This term is also found in the variants `cold boot' (from

   power-off condition) and `warm boot' (with the CPU and all

   devices already powered up, as after a hardware reset or software



   Another variant: `soft boot', reinitialization of only part of a

   system, under control of other software still running: "If

   you're running the {mess-dos} emulator, control-alt-insert will

   cause a soft-boot of the emulator, while leaving the rest of the

   system running."


   Opposed to this there is `hard boot', which connotes hostility

   towards or frustration with the machine being booted:  "I'll have

   to hard-boot this losing Sun."  "I recommend booting it

   hard."  One often hard-boots by performing a {power cycle}.


   Historical note: this term derives from `bootstrap loader', a short

   program that was read in from cards or paper tape, or toggled in

   from the front panel switches.  This program was always very short

   (great efforts were expended on making it short in order to

   minimize the labor and chance of error involved in toggling it in),

   but was just smart enough to read in a slightly more complex

   program (usually from a card or paper tape reader), to which it

   handed control; this program in turn was smart enough to read the

   application or operating system from a magnetic tape drive or disk

   drive.  Thus, in successive steps, the computer `pulled itself up

   by its bootstraps' to a useful operating state.  Nowadays the

   bootstrap is usually found in ROM or EPROM, and reads the first

   stage in from a fixed location on the disk, called the `boot

   block'.  When this program gains control, it is powerful enough to

   load the actual OS and hand control over to it.


:bottom feeder: n. syn. for {slopsucker} derived from the

   fisherman's and naturalist's term for finny creatures who subsist

   on the primordial ooze.


:bottom-up implementation: n. Hackish opposite of the techspeak term

   `top-down design'.  It is now received wisdom in most

   programming cultures that it is best to design from higher levels

   of abstraction down to lower, specifying sequences of action in

   increasing detail until you get to actual code.  Hackers often find

   (especially in exploratory designs that cannot be closely

   specified in advance) that it works best to *build* things in

   the opposite order, by writing and testing a clean set of primitive

   operations and then knitting them together.


:bounce: v. 1. [perhaps from the image of a thrown ball bouncing

   off a wall] 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.

   At the now-demolished {D. C. Power Lab} building used by the

   Stanford AI Lab in the 1970s, there was 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 the

   computer would become unavailable, and over the intercom a voice

   would cry, "Now hear this: bounce, bounce!" followed by Brian

   McCune loudly bouncing a volleyball on the floor outside the

   offices of known volleyballers.  3. To engage in sexual

   intercourse; prob. from the expression `bouncing the mattress',

   but influenced by Roo's psychosexually loaded "Try bouncing me,

   Tigger!" from the "Winnie-the-Pooh" books.  Compare

   {boink}.  4. To casually reboot a system in order to clear up a

   transient problem.  Reported primarily among {VMS} users.

   5. [IBM] To {power cycle} a peripheral in order to reset it.


:bounce message: [UNIX] n. 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}).

   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}.

   The terms `bounce mail' and `barfmail' are also common.


:boustrophedon: [from a Greek word for turning like an ox while

   plowing] n. An ancient method of writing using alternate

   left-to-right and right-to-left lines.  This term is actually

   philologists' techspeak and typesetter's jargon.  Erudite hackers

   use it for an optimization performed by some computer typesetting

   software (notably UNIX `troff(1)').  The adverbial form

   `boustrophedonically' is also found (hackers purely love

   constructions like this).


:box: n. 1. A computer; esp. in the construction `foo box'

   where foo is some functional qualifier, like `graphics', or

   the name of an OS (thus, `UNIX box', `MS-DOS box', etc.)  "We

   preprocess the data on UNIX boxes before handing it up to the

   mainframe."  2. [within IBM] Without qualification but within an

   SNA-using site, this refers specifically to an IBM front-end

   processor or FEP /F-E-P/.  An FEP is a small computer necessary

   to enable an IBM {mainframe} to communicate beyond the limits of

   the {dinosaur pen}.  Typically used in expressions like the cry

   that goes up when an SNA network goes down: "Looks like the

   {box} has fallen over." (See {fall over}.) See also

   {IBM}, {fear and loathing}, {fepped out}, {Blue



: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/ [by analogy with {VAXen}] pl.n. Fanciful

   plural of {box} often encountered in the phrase `UNIX boxen',

   used to describe commodity {{UNIX}} hardware.  The connotation is

   that any two UNIX boxen are interchangeable.


:boxology: /bok-sol'*-jee/ n. Syn. {ASCII art}.  This term

   implies a more restricted domain, that of box-and-arrow drawings.

   "His report has a lot of boxology in it."  Compare



:bozotic: /boh-zoh'tik/ or /boh-zo'tik/ [from the name of a TV

   clown even more losing than Ronald McDonald] adj. 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)



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


:brain dump: n. The act of telling someone everything one knows

   about a particular topic or project.  Typically used when someone

   is going to let a new party maintain a piece of code.  Conceptually

   analogous to an operating system {core dump} in that it saves a

   lot of useful {state} before an exit.  "You'll have to

   give me a brain dump on FOOBAR before you start your new job at

   HackerCorp."  See {core dump} (sense 4).  At Sun, this is also

   known as `TOI' (transfer of information).


:brain fart: n. The actual result of a {braino}, as opposed to

   the mental glitch which is the braino itself.  E.g. typing

   `dir' on a UNIX box after a session with DOS.


:brain-damaged: 1. [generalization of `Honeywell Brain Damage'

   (HBD), a theoretical disease invented to explain certain utter

   cretinisms in Honeywell {{Multics}}] adj. Obviously wrong;

   {cretinous}; {demented}.  There is an implication that the

   person responsible must have suffered brain damage, because he

   should have known better.  Calling something brain-damaged is

   really bad; it also implies it is unusable, and that its failure to

   work is due to poor design rather than some accident.  "Only six

   monocase characters per file name?  Now *that's*

   brain-damaged!"  2. [esp. in the Mac world] May refer to free

   demonstration software that has been deliberately crippled in some

   way so as not to compete with the commercial product it is

   intended to sell.  Syn.  {crippleware}.


:brain-dead: adj. Brain-damaged in the extreme.  It tends to imply

   terminal design failure rather than malfunction or simple

   stupidity.  "This comm program doesn't know how to send a break

   --- how brain-dead!"


:braino: /bray'no/ n. Syn. for {thinko}. See also {brain



:branch to Fishkill: [IBM: from the location of one of the

   corporation's facilities] n. Any unexpected jump in a program that

   produces catastrophic or just plain weird results.  See {jump

   off into never-never land}, {hyperspace}.


:brand brand brand: n. Humorous catch-phrase from {BartleMUD}s, in

   which players were described carrying a list of objects, the most

   common of which would usually be a brand.  Often used as a joke in

   {talk mode} as in "Fred the wizard is here, carrying brand ruby

   brand brand brand kettle broadsword flamethrower".  A brand is a

   torch, of course; one burns up a lot of those exploring dungeons.

   Prob. influenced by the famous Monty Python "Spam" skit.


:bread crumbs: n. Debugging statements inserted into a program that

   emit output or log indicators of the program's {state} to a file

   so you can see where it dies, or pin down the cause of surprising

   behavior. The term is probably a reference to the Hansel and Gretel

   story from the Brothers Grimm; in several variants, a character

   leaves a trail of breadcrumbs so as not to get lost in the



: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) or delete does this.  5. `break break' may be said to

   interrupt a conversation (this is an example of verb doubling).

   This usage comes from radio communications, which in turn probably

   came from landline telegraph/teleprinter usage, as badly abused in

   the Citizen's Band craze a few years ago.


:break-even point: n. in the process of implementing a new computer

   language, the point at which the language is sufficiently effective

   that one can implement the language in itself.  That is, for a new

   language called, hypothetically, FOOGOL, one has reached break-even

   when one can write a demonstration compiler for FOOGOL in FOOGOL,

   discard the original implementation language, and thereafter use

   older versions of FOOGOL to develop newer ones.  This is an

   important milestone; see {MFTL}.


:breath-of-life packet: [XEROX PARC] n. An Ethernet packet that

   contained bootstrap (see {boot}) code, periodically sent out

   from a working computer to infuse the `breath of life' into any

   computer on the network that had 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}.


:breedle: n. See {feep}.


:bring X to its knees: v. To present a machine, operating system,

   piece of software, or algorithm with a load so extreme or

   {pathological} that it grinds to a halt.  "To bring a MicroVAX

   to its knees, try twenty users running {vi} --- or four running

   {EMACS}."  Compare {hog}.


:brittle: adj. Said of software that is functional but easily broken

   by changes in operating environment or configuration, or by any

   minor tweak to the software itself.  Also, any system that

   responds inappropriately and disastrously to expected external

   stimuli; e.g., a file system that is usually totally scrambled by a

   power failure is said to be brittle.  This term is often used to

   describe the results of a research effort that were never intended

   to be robust, but it can be applied to commercially developed

   software, which displays the quality far more often than it ought

   to.  Oppose {robust}.


:broadcast storm: n. An incorrect packet broadcast on a network that

   causes most hosts to respond all at once, typically with wrong

   answers that start the process over again.  See {network



:broken: adj. 1. Not working properly (of programs).  2. Behaving

   strangely; especially (when used of people) exhibiting extreme



:broken arrow: [IBM] n. 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. In true

   {luser} fashion, the original documentation of these codes

   (visible on every 3270 terminal, and necessary for debugging

   network problems) was confined to an IBM customer engineering



   Note: to appreciate this term fully, it helps to know that `broken

   arrow' is also military jargon for an accident involving nuclear



:broket: /broh'k*t/ or /broh'ket`/ [by analogy with `bracket': a

   `broken bracket'] n. 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



:Brooks's Law: prov. "Adding manpower to a late software project

   makes it later" --- a result of the fact that the advantage from

   splitting work among N programmers is O(N) (that is,

   proportional to N), but the complexity and communications

   cost associated with coordinating and then merging their work

   is O(N^2) (that is, proportional to the square of N).

   The quote is from Fred Brooks, a manager of IBM's OS/360 project

   and author of `The Mythical Man-Month' (Addison-Wesley, 1975,

   ISBN 0-201-00650-2), an excellent early book on software

   engineering.  The myth in question has been most tersely expressed

   as "Programmer time is fungible" and Brooks established

   conclusively that it is not.  Hackers have never forgotten his

   advice; too often, {management} does.  See also

   {creationism}, {second-system effect}.


: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 na"ive

   methods suited to small problems directly to large ones.


   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 he or she visit

   them 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}).  See

   also {NP-}.


   A more simple-minded example of brute-force programming is finding

   the smallest number in a large list by first using an existing

   program to sort the list in ascending order, and then picking the

   first number off the front.


   Whether brute-force programming should be considered stupid or not

   depends on the context; if the problem isn't too big, the extra CPU

   time spent on a brute-force solution may cost less than the

   programmer time it would take to develop a more `intelligent'

   algorithm.  Additionally, a more intelligent algorithm may imply

   more long-term complexity cost and bug-chasing than are justified

   by the speed improvement.


   Ken Thompson, co-inventor of UNIX, is reported to have uttered the

   epigram "When in doubt, use brute force".  He probably intended

   this as a {ha ha only serious}, but the original UNIX kernel's

   preference for simple, robust, and portable algorithms over

   {brittle} `smart' ones does seem to have been a significant

   factor in the success of that OS.  Like so many other tradeoffs in

   software design, the choice between brute force and complex,

   finely-tuned cleverness is often a difficult one that requires both

   engineering savvy and delicate esthetic judgment.


:brute force and ignorance: n. A popular design technique at many

   software houses --- {brute force} coding unrelieved by any

   knowledge of how problems have been previously solved in elegant

   ways.  Dogmatic adherence to design methodologies tends to

   encourage it.  Characteristic of early {larval stage}

   programming; unfortunately, many never outgrow it.  Often

   abbreviated BFI: "Gak, they used a bubble sort!  That's strictly

   from BFI."  Compare {bogosity}.


:BSD: /B-S-D/ n. [abbreviation for `Berkeley System Distribution'] a

   family of {{UNIX}} versions for the DEC {VAX} and PDP-11

   developed by Bill Joy and others at {Berzerkeley} starting

   around 1980, incorporating paged virtual memory, TCP/IP networking

   enhancements, and many other features.  The BSD versions (4.1, 4.2,

   and 4.3) and the commercial versions derived from them (SunOS,

   ULTRIX, and Mt. Xinu) held the technical lead in the UNIX world

   until AT&T's successful standardization efforts after about 1986,

   and are still widely popular.  See {{UNIX}}, {USG UNIX}.


:BUAF: // [abbreviation, from the alt.fan.warlord] n.  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: // [abbreviation, from the alt.fan.warlord] n.  Big

   Ugly ASCII Graphic.  Pejorative term for ugly {ASCII ART},

   especially as found in {sig block}s.  For some reason, mutations

   of the head of Bart Simpson are particularly common in the least

   imaginative {sig block}s. See {warlording}.


:bubble sort: n. Techspeak for a particular sorting technique in

   which pairs of adjacent values in the list to be sorted are

   compared and interchanged if they are out of order; thus, list

   entries `bubble upward' in the list until they bump into one with a

   lower sort value.  Because it is not very good relative to other

   methods and is the one typically stumbled on by {na"ive} and

   untutored programmers, hackers consider it the {canonical}

   example of a na"ive algorithm.  The canonical example of a really

   *bad* algorithm is {bogo-sort}.  A bubble sort might be used

   out of ignorance, but any use of bogo-sort could issue only from

   brain damage or willful perversity.


:bucky bits: /buh'kee bits/ n. 1. obs. The bits produced by the

   CONTROL and META shift keys on a SAIL keyboard (octal 200 and 400

   respectively), resulting in a 9-bit keyboard character set.  The

   MIT AI TV (Knight) keyboards extended this with TOP and separate

   left and right CONTROL and META keys, resulting in a 12-bit

   character set; later, LISP Machines added such keys as SUPER,

   HYPER, and GREEK (see {space-cadet keyboard}).  2. By extension,

   bits associated with `extra' shift keys on any keyboard, e.g.,

   the ALT on an IBM PC or command and option keys on a Macintosh.


   It is rumored that `bucky bits' were named for Buckminster Fuller

   during a period when he was consulting at Stanford.  Actually,

   `Bucky' was Niklaus Wirth's nickname when *he* was at

   Stanford; he first suggested the idea of an EDIT key to set the

   8th bit of an otherwise 7-bit ASCII character.  This was used in a

   number of editors written at Stanford or in its environs (TV-EDIT

   and NLS being the best-known).  The term spread to MIT and CMU

   early and is now in general use.  See {double bucky},

   {quadruple bucky}.


:buffer overflow: n. What happens when you try to stuff more data

   into a buffer (holding area) than it can handle.  This may be due

   to a mismatch in the processing rates of the producing and

   consuming processes (see {overrun} and {firehose syndrome}),

   or because the buffer is simply too small to hold all the data that

   must accumulate before a piece of it can be processed.  For example,

   in a text-processing tool that {crunch}es a line at a time, a

   short line buffer can result in {lossage} as input from a long

   line overflows the buffer and trashes data beyond it.  Good

   defensive programming would check for overflow on each character

   and stop accepting data when the buffer is full up.  The term is

   used of and by humans in a metaphorical sense.  "What time did I

   agree to meet you?  My buffer must have overflowed."  Or "If I

   answer that phone my buffer is going to overflow."  See also

   {spam}, {overrun screw}.


:bug: n. An unwanted and unintended property of a program or piece

   of hardware, esp. one that causes it to malfunction.  Antonym of

   {feature}.  Examples: "There's a bug in the editor: it writes

   things out backwards."  "The system crashed because of a hardware

   bug."  "Fred is a winner, but he has a few bugs" (i.e., Fred is

   a good guy, but he has a few personality problems).


   Historical note: Some have said this term came from telephone

   company usage, in which "bugs in a telephone cable" were blamed

   for noisy lines, but this appears to be an incorrect folk

   etymology.  Admiral Grace Hopper (an early computing pioneer better

   known for inventing {COBOL}) liked to tell a story in which a

   technician solved a persistent {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.  The entire story, with a picture of the logbook

   and the moth taped into it, is recorded in the `Annals of the

   History of Computing', Vol. 3, No. 3 (July 1981), pp. 285--286.


   The text of the log entry (from September 9, 1945), reads "1545

   Relay #70 Panel F (moth) in relay.  First actual case of bug being

   found".  This wording seems to establish 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 `bug' in the sense of an disruptive

   event goes back to Shakespeare!  In the first edition of Samuel

   Johnson's dictionary one meaning of `bug' is "A frightful

   object; a walking spectre"; this is traced to `bugbear', a Welsh

   term for a variety of mythological monster which (to complete the

   circle) has recently been reintroduced into the popular lexicon

   through fantasy role-playing games.


   In any case, in jargon the word almost never refers to insects.

   Here is a plausible conversation that never actually happened:


   "There is a bug in this ant farm!"


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


   "That's the bug."


   [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.  Thus, the

   process of investigating the original-computer-bug bug fixed it in

   an entirely unexpected way, by making the myth true!  --- ESR]


   [1992 update: the plot thickens!  A usually reliable source reports

   having seen The Bug at the Smithsonian in 1978.  I am unable to

   reconcile the conflicting histories I have been offered, and merely

   report this fact here. --- ESR.]


:bug-compatible: adj. Said of a design or revision that has been

   badly compromised by a requirement to be compatible with

   {fossil}s or {misfeature}s in other programs or (esp.)

   previous releases of itself. "MS-DOS 2.0 used \ as a path

   separator to be bug-compatible with some cretin's choice of / as an

   option character in 1.0."


:bug-for-bug compatible: n. Same as {bug-compatible}, with the

   additional implication that much tedious effort went into ensuring

   that each (known) bug was replicated.


:buglix: /buhg'liks/ n. Pejorative term referring to DEC's ULTRIX

   operating system in its earlier *severely* buggy versions.

   Still used to describe ULTRIX, but without venom.  Compare

   {AIDX}, {HP-SUX}, {Nominal Semidestructor}, {Telerat},



:bulletproof: adj. Used of an algorithm or implementation considered

   extremely {robust}; lossage-resistant; capable of correctly

   recovering from any imaginable exception condition.  This is a rare

   and valued quality.  Syn. {armor-plated}.


:bum: 1. vt. To make highly efficient, either in time or space,

   often at the expense of clarity.  "I managed to bum three more

   instructions out of that code."  "I spent half the night bumming

   the interrupt code."  In {elder days}, John McCarthy (inventor

   of {LISP}) used to compare some efficiency-obsessed hackers

   among his students to "ski bums"; thus, optimization became

   "program bumming", and eventually just "bumming".  2. To

   squeeze out excess; to remove something in order to improve

   whatever it was removed from (without changing function; this

   distinguishes the process from a {featurectomy}).  3. n. A small

   change to an algorithm, program, or hardware device to make it more

   efficient.  "This hardware bum makes the jump instruction

   faster."  Usage: now uncommon, largely superseded by v. {tune}

   (and n. {tweak}, {hack}), though none of these exactly

   capture sense 2.  All these uses are rare in Commonwealth hackish,

   because in the parent dialects of English `bum' is a rude synonym

   for `buttocks'.


:bump: vt. Synonym for increment.  Has the same meaning as

   C's ++ operator.  Used esp. of counter variables, pointers, and

   index dummies in `for', `while', and `do-while'



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


:buried treasure: n. A surprising piece of code found in some

   program.  While usually not wrong, it tends to vary from {crufty}

   to {bletcherous}, and has lain undiscovered only because it was

   functionally correct, however horrible it is.  Used sarcastically,

   because what is found is anything *but* treasure.  Buried

   treasure almost always needs to be dug up and removed.  "I just

   found that the scheduler sorts its queue using {bubble sort}!

   Buried treasure!"


:burn-in period: n. 1. A factory test designed to catch systems

   with {marginal} components before they get out the door; the

   theory is that burn-in will protect customers by outwaiting the

   steepest part of the {bathtub curve} (see {infant

   mortality}).  2. A period of indeterminate length in which a person

   using a computer is so intensely involved in his project that he

   forgets basic needs such as food, drink, sleep, etc.  Warning:

   Excessive burn-in can lead to burn-out.  See {hack mode},

   {larval stage}.


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


:busy-wait: vi. Used of human behavior, conveys that the subject is

   busy waiting for someone or something, intends to move instantly as

   soon as it shows up, and thus cannot do anything else at the

   moment.  "Can't talk now, I'm busy-waiting till Bill gets off the



   Technically, `busy-wait' means to wait on an event by

   {spin}ning through a tight or timed-delay loop that polls for

   the event on each pass, as opposed to setting up an interrupt

   handler and continuing execution on another part of the task.  This

   is a wasteful technique, best avoided on time-sharing systems where

   a busy-waiting program may {hog} the processor.


:buzz: vi. 1. Of a program, to run with no indication of progress

   and perhaps without guarantee of ever finishing; esp. said of

   programs thought to be executing tight loops of code.  A program

   that is buzzing appears to be {catatonic}, but you never get out

   of catatonia, while a buzzing loop may eventually end of its own

   accord.  "The program buzzes for about 10 seconds trying to sort

   all the names into order."  See {spin}; see also {grovel}.

   2. [ETA Systems] To test a wire or printed circuit trace for

   continuity by applying an AC rather than DC signal.  Some wire

   faults will pass DC tests but fail a buzz test.  3. To process an

   array or list in sequence, doing the same thing to each element.

   "This loop buzzes through the tz array looking for a terminator



:BWQ: /B-W-Q/ [IBM: abbreviation, `Buzz Word Quotient'] The

   percentage of buzzwords in a speech or documents.  Usually roughly

   proportional to {bogosity}.  See {TLA}.


:by hand: adv. 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}.


:byte:: /bi:t/ [techspeak] n. 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 originated 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 term `byte' was

   coined by mutating the word `bite' so it would not be accidentally

   misspelled as {bit}.  See also {nybble}.


:bytesexual: /bi:t`sek'shu-*l/ adj. Said of hardware, denotes

   willingness to compute or pass data in either {big-endian} or

   {little-endian} format (depending, presumably, on a {mode bit}

   somewhere).  See also {NUXI problem}.


:bzzzt, wrong: /bzt rong/ [USENET/Internet] From a Robin Williams

   routine in the movie "Dead Poets Society" spoofing radio or

   TV quiz programs, such as *Truth or Consequences*, where an

   incorrect answer earns one a blast from the buzzer and condolences

   from the interlocutor.  A way of expressing mock-rude disagreement,

   usually immediately following an included quote from another

   poster.  The less abbreviated "*Bzzzzt*, wrong, but thank you for

   playing" is also common; capitalization and emphasis of the

   buzzer sound varies.


= C =



:C: n. 1. The third letter of the English alphabet.  2. ASCII

   1000011.  3. The name of a programming language designed by

   Dennis Ritchie during the early 1970s and immediately used to

   reimplement {{UNIX}}; so called because many features derived

   from an earlier compiler named `B' in commemoration of

   *its* parent, BCPL.  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

   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 done his bit 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.


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


: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.


: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.  This 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 often they are triggered

   during development and how many headaches checking for them turns

   out to head off.


: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 are like this.  The usual intent of such

   designs is that they be as English-like as possible, on the theory

   that they will then be easier for unskilled people to program.

   This intention comes to grief on the reality that syntax isn't what

   makes programming hard; it's the mental effort and organization

   required to specify an algorithm precisely that costs.  Thus the

   invariable result is that `candygrammar' languages are just as

   difficult to program in as terser ones, and far more painful for

   the experienced hacker.


   [The overtones from the old Chevy Chase skit on Saturday Night Live

   should not be overlooked.  (This was a "Jaws" parody.

   Someone lurking outside an apartment door tries all kinds of bogus

   ways to get the occupant to open up, while ominous music plays in

   the background.  The last attempt is a half-hearted "Candygram!"

   When the door is opened, a shark bursts in and chomps the poor

   occupant.  There is a moral here for those attracted to

   candygrammars.  Note that, in many circles, pretty much the same

   ones who remember Monty Python sketches, all it takes is the word

   "Candygram!", suitably timed, to get people rolling on the

   floor.) --- GLS]


:canonical: [historically, `according to religious law'] adj. The

   usual or standard state or manner of something.  This word has a

   somewhat more technical meaning in mathematics.  Two formulas such

   as 9 + x and x + 9 are said to be equivalent because

   they mean the same thing, but the second one is in `canonical

   form' because it is written in the usual way, with the highest

   power of x first.  Usually there are fixed rules you can use

   to decide whether something is in canonical form.  The jargon

   meaning, a relaxation of the technical meaning, acquired its

   present loading in computer-science culture largely through its

   prominence in Alonzo Church's work in computation theory and

   mathematical logic (see {Knights of the Lambda Calculus}).

   Compare {vanilla}.


   This word has an interesting history.  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



   The word `canon' derives ultimately from the Greek


   (akin to the English `cane') referring to a reed.  Reeds were used

   for measurement, and in Latin and later Greek the word `canon'

   meant a rule or a standard.  The establishment of a canon of

   scriptures within Christianity was meant to define a standard or a

   rule for the religion.  The above non-techspeak academic usages

   stem from this instance of a defined and accepted body of work.

   Alongside this usage was the promulgation of `canons' (`rules')

   for the government of the Catholic Church.  The techspeak usages

   ("according to religious law") derive from this use of the Latin



   Hackers invest this term with a playfulness that makes an ironic

   contrast with its historical meaning.  A true story: One Bob

   Sjoberg, new at the MIT AI Lab, expressed some annoyance at the use

   of jargon.  Over his loud objections, GLS and RMS made a point of

   using it as much 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: n. 1. An electronic printed-circuit board (see also {tall

   card}, {short card}.  2. obs. Syn. {{punched card}}.


:card walloper: n. An EDP programmer who grinds out batch programs

   that do stupid things like print people's paychecks.  Compare

   {code grinder}.  See also {{punched card}}, {eighty-column



:careware: /keir'weir/ n. {Shareware} for which either the

   author suggests that some payment be made to a nominated charity

   or a levy directed to charity is included on top of the

   distribution charge.  Syn. {charityware}; compare

   {crippleware}, sense 2.


:cargo cult programming: n. A style of (incompetent) programming

   dominated by ritual inclusion of code or program structures that

   serve no real purpose.  A cargo cult programmer will usually

   explain the extra code as a way of working around some bug

   encountered in the past, but usually neither the bug nor the reason

   the code apparently avoided the bug was ever fully understood

   (compare {shotgun debugging}, {voodoo programming}).


   The term `cargo cult' is a reference to aboriginal religions that

   grew up in the South Pacific after World War II.  The practices of

   these cults center on building elaborate mockups of airplanes and

   military style landing strips in the hope of bringing the return of

   the god-like airplanes that brought such marvelous cargo during the

   war.  Hackish usage probably derives from Richard Feynman's

   characterization of certain practices as "cargo cult science" in

   his book `Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman' (W. W. Norton

   & Co, New York 1985, ISBN 0-393-01921-7).


:cascade: n. 1. A huge volume of spurious error-message output

   produced by a compiler with poor error recovery.  This can happen

   when one initial error 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 of 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: [from `cut and paste'] n. 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.


:casters-up mode: [IBM] n. 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 "{A Selection

   of AI Koans}" ({appendix A}).


:cat: [from `catenate' via {{UNIX}} `cat(1)'] vt.

   1. [techspeak] To spew an entire file to the screen or some other

   output sink without pause.  2. By extension, to dump large amounts

   of data at an unprepared target or with no intention of browsing it

   carefully.  Usage: considered silly.  Rare outside UNIX sites.  See

   also {dd}, {BLT}.


   Among UNIX fans, `cat(1)' is considered an excellent example

   of user-interface design, because it outputs 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.  This because it is more

   often used to {blast} a file to standard output than to

   concatenate two files.  The name `cat' for the former

   operation is just as unintuitive as, say, LISP's {cdr}.


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


:catatonic: adj. Describes a condition of suspended animation in

   which something is so {wedged} or {hung} that it makes no

   response.  If you are typing on a terminal and suddenly the

   computer doesn't even echo the letters back to the screen as you

   type, let alone do what you're asking it to do, then the computer

   is suffering from catatonia (possibly because it has crashed).

   "There I was in the middle of a winning game of {nethack} and it

   went catatonic on me!  Aaargh!" Compare {buzz}.


:cd tilde: /see-dee til-d*/ vi.  To go home.  From the UNIX

   C-shell and Korn-shell command `cd ~', which takes

   one `$HOME'.  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."


:cdr: /ku'dr/ or /kuh'dr/ [from LISP] vt. 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 7090 that hosted

   the original LISP implementation featured two 15-bit fields called

   the `address' and `decrement' parts.  The term `cdr' was originally

   `Contents of Decrement part of Register'.  Similarly, `car' stood

   for `Contents of Address part of Register'.


   The cdr and car operations have since become bases for

   formation of compound metaphors in non-LISP contexts.  GLS recalls,

   for example, a programming project in which strings were

   represented as linked lists; the get-character and skip-character

   operations were of course called CHAR and CHDR.


:chad: /chad/ n. 1. The perforated edge strips on printer paper, after

   they have been separated from the printed portion.  Also called

   {selvage} and {perf}.  2. obs. The confetti-like paper bits punched

   out of cards or paper tape; this was also called `chaff', `computer

   confetti', and `keypunch droppings'.


   Historical note: One correspondent believes `chad' (sense 2)

   derives from the Chadless keypunch (named for its inventor), which

   cut little u-shaped tabs in the card to make a hole when the tab

   folded back, rather than punching out a circle/rectangle; it was

   clear that if the Chadless keypunch didn't make them, then the

   stuff that other keypunches made had to be `chad'.


:chad box: n. {Iron Age} card punches contained boxes inside them,

   about the size of a lunchbox (or in some models a large

   wastebasket), that held the {chad} (sense 2).  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. [orig. from BASIC's `CHAIN' statement] vi. 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. A series of linked data areas within an

   operating system or application.  `Chain rattling' is the process

   of repeatedly running through the linked data areas searching for

   one which is of interest to the executing program.  The implication

   is that there is a very large number of links on the chain.


:channel: [IRC] n.  The basic unit of discussion on {IRC}.  Once

   one joins a channel, everything one types is read by others on that

   channel.  Channels can either be named with numbers or with strings

   that begin with a `#' sign, and can have topic descriptions (which

   are generally irrelevant to the actual subject of discussion).

   Some notable channels are `#initgame', `#hottub', and

   `#report'.  At times of international crisis, `#report'

   has hundreds of members, some of whom take turns listening to

   various news services and summarizing 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: [IRC, GEnie] n.  To rapidly switch channels on

   {IRC}, or GEnie chat board, just as a social butterfly might hop

   from one group to another at a party.  This may derive from the TV

   watcher's idiom `channel surfing'.


:channel op: /chan'l op/ [IRC] n. Someone who is endowed with

   privileges on a particular {IRC} channel; commonly abbreviated

   `chanop' or `CHOP'.  These privileges include the right to

   {kick} users, to change various status bits, and to make others

   into CHOPs.


:chanop: /chan'-op/ [IRC] n. 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: /char'it-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 dump

   (interactively or on a large piece of paper printed with hex

   {runes}) following dynamic data-structures.  Used only in a

   debugging context.


: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 it's often

   humorously extended to non-technical problems. For example, the

   term `child check' has been used to refer to the problems caused

   by a small child who is curious to know what happens when s/he

   presses all the cute buttons on a computer's console (of course,

   this particular problem could have been prevented with



:chemist: [Cambridge] n. 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 {network meltdown} (the result of a {broadcast

   storm}), 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



:chicken head: [Commodore] n. The Commodore Business Machines logo,

   which strongly resembles a poultry part.  Rendered in ASCII as

   `C='.  With the arguable exception of the Amiga (see {amoeba}),

   Commodore's machines are notoriously crocky little {bitty box}es

   (see also {PETSCII}).  Thus, this usage may owe something to

   Philip K.  Dick's novel `Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'

   (the basis for the movie `Blade Runner'), in which a

   `chickenhead' is a mutant with below-average intelligence.


:chiclet keyboard: n. A keyboard with small rectangular or

   lozenge-shaped rubber or plastic keys that look like pieces of

   chewing gum.  (Chiclets is the brand name of a variety of chewing

   gum that does in fact resemble the keys of chiclet keyboards.)

   Used esp. to describe the original IBM PCjr keyboard.  Vendors

   unanimously liked these because they were cheap, and a lot of early

   portable and laptop products got launched using them.  Customers

   rejected the idea with almost equal unanimity, and chiclets are not

   often seen on anything larger than a digital watch any more.


:chine nual: /sheen'yu-*l/ [MIT] n.,obs. The Lisp Machine Manual, so

   called because the title was wrapped around the cover so only those

   letters showed on the front.


:Chinese Army technique: n. Syn. {Mongolian Hordes technique}.


:choke: v. 1. To reject input, often ungracefully.  "NULs make System

   V's `lpr(1)' choke."  "I tried building an {EMACS} binary to

   use {X}, but `cpp(1)' choked on all those `#define's."

   See {barf}, {gag}, {vi}.   2. [MIT] More generally, to fail at any

   endeavor, but with some flair or bravado; the popular definition is

   "to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory."


:chomp: vi. To {lose}; specifically, to chew on something of

   which more was bitten off than one can.  Probably related to

   gnashing of teeth.  See {bagbiter}.  A hand gesture commonly

   accompanies this.  To perform it, hold the four fingers together

   and place the thumb against their tips.  Now open and close your

   hand rapidly to suggest a biting action (much like what Pac-Man

   does in the classic video game, though this pantomime seems to

   predate that).  The gesture alone means `chomp chomp' (see

   "{Verb Doubling}" in the "{Jargon

   Construction}" section of the Prependices).  The hand may be

   pointed at the object of complaint, and for real emphasis you can

   use both hands at once.  Doing this to a person is equivalent to

   saying "You chomper!"  If you point the gesture at yourself, it

   is a humble but humorous admission of some failure.  You might do

   this if someone told you that a program you had written had failed

   in some surprising way and you felt dumb for not having anticipated



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

   {loser}, {bagbiter}, {chomp}.


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


:Christmas tree: n. A kind of RS-232 line tester or breakout box

   featuring rows of blinking red and green LEDs suggestive of

   Christmas lights.


:Christmas tree packet: n. A packet with every single option set for

   whatever protocol is in use.  See {kamikaze packet}, {Chernobyl

   packet}.  (The term doubtless derives from a fanciful image of each

   little option bit being represented by a different-colored light

   bulb, all turned on.)


:chrome: [from automotive slang via wargaming] n. Showy features

   added to attract users but contributing little or nothing to

   the power of a system.  "The 3D icons in Motif are just chrome,

   but they certainly are *pretty* chrome!"  Distinguished from

   {bells and whistles} by the fact that the latter are usually

   added to gratify developers' own desires for featurefulness.

   Often used as a term of contempt.


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

   chugging like crazy."


:Church of the SubGenius: n. A mutant offshoot of

   {Discordianism} launched in 1981 as a spoof of fundamentalist

   Christianity by the `Reverend' Ivan Stang, a brilliant satirist

   with a gift for promotion.  Popular among hackers as a rich source

   of bizarre imagery and references such as "Bob" the divine

   drilling-equipment salesman, the Benevolent Space Xists, and the

   Stark Fist of Removal.  Much SubGenius theory is concerned with the

   acquisition of the mystical substance or quality of `slack'.


:Cinderella Book: [CMU] n. `Introduction to Automata Theory,

   Languages, and Computation', by John Hopcroft and Jeffrey Ullman,

   (Addison-Wesley, 1979).  So called because the cover depicts a girl

   (putatively Cinderella) sitting in front of a Rube Goldberg device

   and holding a rope coming out of it.  The back cover depicts the

   girl with the device in shambles after she has pulled on the rope.

   See also {{book titles}}.


:CI$: // n. Hackerism for `CIS', CompuServe Information Service.

   The dollar sign refers to CompuServe's rather steep line charges.

   Often used in {sig block}s just before a CompuServe address.

   Syn. {Compu$erve}.


:Classic C: /klas'ik C/ [a play on `Coke Classic'] n. The

   C programming language as defined in the first edition of {K&R},

   with some small additions.  It is also known as `K&R C'.  The name

   came into use while C was being standardized by the ANSI X3J11

   committee.  Also `C Classic'.  This is sometimes applied

   elsewhere: thus, `X Classic', where X = Star Trek (referring to the

   original TV series) or X = PC (referring to IBM's ISA-bus machines

   as opposed to the PS/2 series).  This construction is especially

   used of product series in which the newer versions are considered

   serious losers relative to the older ones.


:clean: 1. adj. Used of hardware or software designs, implies

   `elegance in the small', that is, a design or implementation that

   may not hold any surprises but does things in a way that is

   reasonably intuitive and relatively easy to comprehend from the

   outside.  The antonym is `grungy' or {crufty}.  2. v. To remove

   unneeded or undesired files in a effort to reduce clutter:  "I'm

   cleaning up my account."  "I cleaned up the garbage and now have

   100 Meg free on that partition."


:CLM: /C-L-M/ [Sun: `Career Limiting Move'] 1. n. An action

   endangering one's future prospects of getting plum projects and

   raises, and possibly one's job:  "His Halloween costume was a

   parody of his manager.  He won the prize for `best CLM'."

   2. adj.  Denotes extreme severity of a bug, discovered by a

   customer and obviously missed earlier because of poor testing:

   "That's a CLM bug!"


:clobber: vt. To overwrite, usually unintentionally: "I walked off

   the end of the array and clobbered the stack."  Compare {mung},

   {scribble}, {trash}, and {smash the stack}.


:clocks: n. Processor logic cycles, so called because each

   generally corresponds to one clock pulse in the processor's timing.

   The relative execution times of instructions on a machine are

   usually discussed in clocks rather than absolute fractions of a

   second; one good reason for this is that clock speeds for various

   models of the machine may increase as technology improves, and it

   is usually the relative times one is interested in when discussing

   the instruction set.  Compare {cycle}.


:clone: n. 1. An exact duplicate: "Our product is a clone of

   their product."  Implies a legal reimplementation from

   documentation or by reverse-engineering.  Also connotes lower

   price.  2. A shoddy, spurious copy: "Their product is a

   clone of our product."  3. A blatant ripoff, most likely violating

   copyright, patent, or trade secret protections: "Your

   product is a clone of my product."  This use implies legal

   action is pending.  4. A `PC clone'; a PC-BUS/ISA or

   EISA-compatible 80x86-based microcomputer (this use is sometimes

   spelled `klone' or `PClone').  These invariably have much

   more bang for the buck than the IBM archetypes they resemble.

   5. In the construction `UNIX clone': An OS designed to deliver

   a UNIX-lookalike environment without UNIX license fees, or with

   additional `mission-critical' features such as support for

   real-time programming.  6. v. To make an exact copy of something.

   "Let me clone that" might mean "I want to borrow that paper so I

   can make a photocopy" or "Let me get a copy of that file before

   you {mung} it".


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


:clustergeeking: /kluh'st*r-gee`king/ [CMU] n.  Spending more time

   at a computer cluster doing CS homework than most people spend



:COBOL: /koh'bol/ [COmmon Business-Oriented Language] n.

   (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.  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; thus it is

   alleged that programming too much in COBOL causes one's fingers to

   wear down to stubs by the endless typing.  "I refuse to type in

   all that source code again; it would give me COBOL fingers!"


:code grinder: n. 1. A {suit}-wearing minion of the sort hired in

   legion strength by banks and insurance companies to implement

   payroll packages in RPG and other such unspeakable horrors.  In its

   native habitat, the code grinder often removes the suit jacket to

   reveal an underplumage consisting of button-down shirt (starch

   optional) and a tie.  In times of dire stress, the sleeves (if

   long) may be rolled up and the tie loosened about half an inch.  It

   seldom helps.  The {code grinder}'s milieu is about as far from

   hackerdom as one can get and still touch a computer; the term

   connotes pity.  See {Real World}, {suit}.  2. Used of or to a

   hacker, a really serious slur on the person's creative ability;

   connotes a design style characterized by primitive technique,

   rule-boundedness, {brute force}, and utter lack of imagination.

   Compare {card walloper}; contrast {hacker}, {real



:code police: [by analogy with George Orwell's `thought police'] n.

   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.


: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 rather heavy use of

   pseudo-mathematical metaphors.  Four particularly important ones

   involve the terms `coefficient', `factor', `index', and

   `quotient'.  They are often loosely applied to things you

   cannot really be quantitative about, but there are subtle

   distinctions among them that convey information about the way the

   speaker mentally models whatever he or she is describing.


   `Foo factor' and `foo quotient' tend to describe something for

   which the issue is one of presence or absence.  The canonical

   example is {fudge factor}.  It's not important how much you're

   fudging; the term simply acknowledges that some fudging is needed.

   You might talk of liking a movie for its silliness factor.

   Quotient tends to imply that the property is a ratio of two

   opposing factors: "I would have won except for my luck quotient."

   This could also be "I would have won except for the luck factor",

   but using *quotient* emphasizes that it was bad luck

   overpowering good luck (or someone else's good luck overpowering

   your own).


   `Foo index' and `coefficient of foo' both tend to imply

   that foo is, if not strictly measurable, at least something that

   can be larger or smaller.  Thus, you might refer to a paper or

   person as having a `high bogosity index', whereas you would be less

   likely to speak of a `high bogosity factor'.  `Foo index' suggests

   that foo is a condensation of many quantities, as in the mundane

   cost-of-living index; `coefficient of foo' suggests that foo is a

   fundamental quantity, as in a coefficient of friction.  The choice

   between these terms is often one of personal preference; e.g., some

   people might feel that bogosity is a fundamental attribute and thus

   say `coefficient of bogosity', whereas others might feel it is a

   combination of factors and thus say `bogosity index'.


:cokebottle: /kohk'bot-l/ n. Any very unusual character,

   particularly one you can't type because it it isn't on your

   keyboard.  MIT people used to complain about the

   `control-meta-cokebottle' commands at SAIL, and SAIL people

   complained right back about the `{altmode}-altmode-cokebottle'

   commands at MIT.  After the demise of the {space-cadet

   keyboard}, `cokebottle' faded away as serious usage, but was

   often invoked humorously to describe an (unspecified) weird or

   non-intuitive keystroke command.  It may be due for a second

   inning, however.  The OSF/Motif window manager, `mwm(1)', has

   a reserved keystroke for switching to the default set of

   keybindings and behavior.  This keystroke is (believe it or not)

   `control-meta-bang' (see {bang}).  Since the exclamation point

   looks a lot like an upside down Coke bottle, Motif hackers have

   begun referring to this keystroke as `cokebottle'.  See also

   {quadruple bucky}.


:cold boot: n. See {boot}.


:COME FROM: n. A semi-mythical language construct dual to the `go

   to'; `COME FROM' <label> would cause the referenced label to

   act as a sort of trapdoor, so that if the program ever reached it

   control would quietly and {automagically} be transferred to the

   statement following the `COME FROM'.  `COME FROM' was

   first proposed in R.L. Clark's "A Linguistic Contribution to

   GOTO-less programming", which appeared in a 1973 {Datamation}

   issue (and was reprinted in the April 1984 issue of

   `Communications of the ACM').  This parodied the then-raging

   `structured programming' {holy wars} (see {considered

   harmful}).  Mythically, some variants are the `assigned COME

   FROM' and the `computed COME FROM' (parodying some nasty control

   constructs in FORTRAN and some extended BASICs).  Of course,

   multi-tasking (or non-determinism) could be implemented by having

   more than one `COME FROM' statement coming from the same



   In some ways the FORTRAN `DO' looks like a `COME FROM'

   statement.  After the terminating statement number/`CONTINUE'

   is reached, control continues at the statement following the DO.

   Some generous FORTRANs would allow arbitrary statements (other than

   `CONTINUE') for the statement, leading to examples like:


           DO 10 I=1,LIMIT

     C imagine many lines of code here, leaving the

     C original DO statement lost in the spaghetti...

           WRITE(6,10) I,FROB(I)

      10   FORMAT(1X,I5,G10.4)


   in which the trapdoor is just after the statement labeled 10.

   (This is particularly surprising because the label doesn't appear

   to have anything to do with the flow of control at all!)


   While sufficiently astonishing to the unsuspecting reader, this

   form of `COME FROM' statement isn't completely general.  After

   all, control will eventually pass to the following statement.  The

   implementation of the general form was left to Univac FORTRAN,

   ca. 1975 (though a roughly similar feature existed on the IBM 7040

   ten years earlier).  The statement `AT 100' would perform a

   `COME FROM 100'.  It was intended strictly as a debugging aid,

   with dire consequences promised to anyone so deranged as to use it

   in production code.  More horrible things had already been

   perpetrated in production languages, however; doubters need only

   contemplate the `ALTER' verb in {COBOL}.


   `COME FROM' was supported under its own name for the first

   time 15 years later, in C-INTERCAL (see {INTERCAL},

   {retrocomputing}); knowledgeable observers are still reeling

   from the shock.


:comm mode: /kom mohd/ [ITS: from the feature supporting on-line

   chat; the term may spelled with one or two m's] Syn. for {talk



:command key: [Mac users] n. 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 you want to leave

   it in the source to make the intent of the active code clearer;

   also when the code in that section is broken and you want to bypass

   it in order to debug some other part of the code.  Compare

   {condition out}, usually the preferred technique in languages

   (such as {C}) that make it possible.


:Commonwealth Hackish:: n. Hacker jargon as spoken outside

   the U.S., esp. in the British Commonwealth.  It is reported that

   Commonwealth speakers are more likely to pronounce truncations like

   `char' and `soc', etc., as spelled (/char/, /sok/), as

   opposed to American /keir/ and /sohsh/.  Dots in {newsgroup}

   names tend to be pronounced more often (so soc.wibble is /sok dot

   wib'l/ rather than /sohsh wib'l/).  The prefix {meta} may be

   pronounced /mee't*/; similarly, Greek letter beta is often

   /bee't*/, zeta is often /zee't*/, and so forth.  Preferred

   {metasyntactic variable}s include {blurgle}, `eek',

   `ook', `frodo', and `bilbo'; `wibble',

   `wobble', and in emergencies `wubble'; `banana',

   `wombat', `frog', {fish}, and so on and on (see

   {foo}, sense 4).


   Alternatives to verb doubling include suffixes `-o-rama',

   `frenzy' (as in feeding frenzy), and `city' (examples: "barf

   city!"  "hack-o-rama!"  "core dump frenzy!").  Finally, note

   that the American terms `parens', `brackets', and `braces' for (),

   [], and {} are uncommon; Commonwealth hackish prefers

   `brackets', `square brackets', and `curly brackets'.  Also, the

   use of `pling' for {bang} is common outside the United States.


   See also {attoparsec}, {calculator}, {chemist},

   {console jockey}, {fish}, {go-faster stripes},

   {grunge}, {hakspek}, {heavy metal}, {leaky heap},

   {lord high fixer}, {loose bytes}, {muddie}, {nadger},

   {noddy}, {psychedelicware}, {plingnet}, {raster

   blaster}, {RTBM}, {seggie}, {spod}, {sun lounge},

   {terminal junkie}, {tick-list features}, {weeble},

   {weasel}, {YABA}, and notes or definitions under {Bad

   Thing}, {barf}, {bogus}, {bum}, {chase pointers},

   {cosmic rays}, {crippleware}, {crunch}, {dodgy},

   {gonk}, {hamster}, {hardwarily}, {mess-dos},

   {nybble}, {proglet}, {root}, {SEX}, {tweak}, and



:compact: adj. Of a design, describes the valuable property that it

   can all be apprehended at once in one's head.  This generally means

   the thing created from the design can be used with greater facility

   and fewer errors than an equivalent tool that is not compact.

   Compactness does not imply triviality or lack of power; for

   example, C is compact and FORTRAN is not, but C is more powerful

   than FORTRAN.  Designs become non-compact through accreting

   {feature}s and {cruft} that don't merge cleanly into the

   overall design scheme (thus, some fans of {Classic C} maintain

   that ANSI C is no longer compact).


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


:compress: [UNIX] vt. When used without a qualifier, generally

   refers to {crunch}ing of a file using a particular

   C implementation of compression by James A. Woods et al. and

   widely circulated via {USENET}; use of {crunch} itself in

   this sense is rare among UNIX hackers.  Specifically, compress is

   built around the Lempel-Ziv-Welch algorithm as described in "A

   Technique for High Performance Data Compression", Terry A. Welch,

   `IEEE Computer', vol. 17, no. 6 (June 1984), pp. 8-19.


:Compu$erve: n. See {CI$}.  The synonyms CompuSpend and

   Compu$pend are also reported.


:computer confetti: n. Syn. {chad}.  Though this term is common,

   this use of punched-card chad is not a good idea, as the pieces are

   stiff and have sharp corners that could injure the eyes.  GLS

   reports that he once attended a wedding at MIT during which he and

   a few other guests enthusiastically threw chad instead of rice. The

   groom later grumbled that he and his bride had spent most of the

   evening trying to get the stuff out of their hair.


:computer geek: n. One who eats (computer) bugs for a living.  One

   who fulfills all the dreariest negative stereotypes about hackers:

   an asocial, malodorous, pasty-faced monomaniac with all the

   personality of a cheese grater.  Cannot be used by outsiders

   without implied insult to all hackers; compare black-on-black usage

   of `nigger'.  A computer geek may be either a fundamentally

   clueless individual or a proto-hacker in {larval stage}.  Also

   called `turbo nerd', `turbo geek'.  See also {propeller head},

   {clustergeeking}, {geek out}, {wannabee}, {terminal

   junkie}, {spod}, {weenie}.


:computron: /kom'pyoo-tron`/ n. 1. A notional unit of computing

   power combining instruction speed and storage capacity, dimensioned

   roughly in instructions-per-second times megabytes-of-main-store

   times megabytes-of-mass-storage.  "That machine can't run GNU

   EMACS, it doesn't have enough computrons!"  This usage is usually

   found in metaphors that treat computing power as a fungible

   commodity good, like a crop yield or diesel horsepower.  See

   {bitty box}, {Get a real computer!}, {toy}, {crank}.

   2. A mythical subatomic particle that bears the unit quantity of

   computation or information, in much the same way that an electron

   bears one unit of electric charge (see also {bogon}).  An

   elaborate pseudo-scientific theory of computrons has been developed

   based on the physical fact that the molecules in a solid object

   move more rapidly as it is heated.  It is argued that an object

   melts because the molecules have lost their information about where

   they are supposed to be (that is, they have emitted computrons).

   This explains why computers get so hot and require air

   conditioning; they use up computrons.  Conversely, it should be

   possible to cool down an object by placing it in the path of a

   computron beam.  It is believed that this may also explain why

   machines that work at the factory fail in the computer room: the

   computrons there have been all used up by the other hardware.

   (This theory probably owes something to the "Warlock" stories

   by Larry Niven, the best known being "What Good is a Glass

   Dagger?", in which magic is fueled by an exhaustible natural

   resource called `mana'.)


: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 are `#if

   0' (or `#ifdef notdef', though some find this {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}.


:confuser: n. Common soundalike slang for `computer'.  Usually

   encountered in compounds such as `confuser room', `personal

   confuser', `confuser guru'.  Usage: silly.


:connector conspiracy: [probably came into prominence with the

   appearance of the KL-10 (one model of the {PDP-10}), none of

   whose connectors matched anything else] n. 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 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.  The Apple

   Macintosh takes this one step further, requiring not only a hex

   wrench but a specialized case-cracking tool to open the box.)


   In these latter days of open-systems computing this term has fallen

   somewhat into disuse, to be replaced by the observation that

   "Standards are great!  There are so *many* of them to choose

   from!"  Compare {backward combatability}.


:cons: /konz/ or /kons/ [from LISP] 1. vt. To add a new element

   to a specified list, esp. at the top.  "OK, cons picking a

   replacement for the console TTY onto the agenda."  2. `cons up':

   vt. To synthesize from smaller pieces: "to cons up an example".


   In LISP itself, `cons' is the most fundamental operation for

   building structures.  It takes any two objects and returns a

   `dot-pair' or two-branched tree with one object hanging from each

   branch.  Because the result of a cons is an object, it can be used

   to build binary trees of any shape and complexity.  Hackers think

   of it as a sort of universal constructor, and that is where the

   jargon meanings spring from.


:considered harmful: adj. Edsger W. Dijkstra's note in the

   March 1968 `Communications of the ACM', "Goto Statement

   Considered Harmful", fired the first salvo in the structured

   programming wars.  Amusingly, the ACM considered the resulting

   acrimony sufficiently harmful that it will (by policy) no longer

   print an article taking so assertive a position against a coding

   practice.  In the ensuing decades, a large number of both serious

   papers and parodies have borne titles of the form "X

   considered Y".  The structured-programming wars eventually blew

   over with the realization that both sides were wrong, but use of

   such titles has remained as a persistent minor in-joke (the

   `considered silly' found at various places in this lexicon is



:console:: n. 1. The operator's station of a {mainframe}.  In

   times past, this was a privileged location that conveyed godlike

   powers to anyone with fingers on its keys.  Under UNIX and other

   modern timesharing OSes, such privileges are guarded by passwords

   instead, and the console is just the {tty} the system was booted

   from.  Some of the mystique remains, however, and it is traditional

   for sysadmins to post urgent messages to all users from the console

   (on UNIX, /dev/console).  2. On microcomputer UNIX boxes, the main

   screen and keyboard (as opposed to character-only terminals talking

   to a serial port).  Typically only the console can do real graphics

   or run {X}.  See also {CTY}.


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


:content-free: [by analogy with techspeak `context-free'] adj.

   Used of a message that adds nothing to the recipient's knowledge.

   Though this adjective is sometimes applied to {flamage}, it more

   usually connotes derision for communication styles that exalt form

   over substance or are centered on concerns irrelevant to the

   subject ostensibly at hand.  Perhaps most used with reference to

   speeches by company presidents and other professional manipulators.

   "Content-free?  Uh...that's anything printed on glossy

   paper."  See also {four-color glossies}.  "He gave a talk on

   the implications of electronic networks for postmodernism and the

   fin-de-siecle aesthetic.  It was content-free."


:control-C: vi. 1. "Stop whatever you are doing."  From the

   interrupt character used on many operating systems to abort a

   running program.  Considered silly.  2. interj. Among BSD UNIX

   hackers, the canonical humorous response to "Give me a break!"


:control-O: vi. "Stop talking."  From the character used on some

   operating systems to abort output but allow the program to keep on

   running.  Generally means that you are not interested in hearing

   anything more from that person, at least on that topic; a standard

   response to someone who is flaming.  Considered silly.  Compare



:control-Q: vi. "Resume."  From the ASCII DC1 or {XON}

   character (the pronunciation /X-on/ is therefore also used), used

   to undo a previous {control-S}.


:control-S: vi. "Stop talking for a second."  From the ASCII DC3

   or XOFF character (the pronunciation /X-of/ is therefore also

   used).  Control-S differs from {control-O} in that the person is

   asked to stop talking (perhaps because you are on the phone) but

   will be allowed to continue when you're ready to listen to him ---

   as opposed to control-O, which has more of the meaning of

   "Shut up."  Considered silly.


:Conway's Law: prov. The rule that the organization of the software and

   the organization of the software team will be congruent; originally

   stated as "If you have four groups working on a compiler, you'll

   get a 4-pass compiler".


   This was originally promulgated by 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.


:cookbook: [from amateur electronics and radio] n. 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) 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 is analogous to the role

   of phrasebooks in human languages.


:cooked mode: [UNIX] n. The normal character-input mode, with

   interrupts enabled and with erase, kill and other special-character

   interpretations done directly by the tty driver.  Oppose {raw

   mode}, {rare mode}.  This is techspeak under UNIX but jargon

   elsewhere; other operating systems often have similar mode

   distinctions, and the raw/rare/cooked way of describing them has

   spread widely along with the C language and other UNIX exports.

   Most generally, `cooked mode' may refer to any mode of a

   system that does extensive preprocessing before presenting data to

   a program.


:cookie: n. A handle, transaction ID, or other token of agreement

   between cooperating programs.  "I give him a packet, he gives me

   back a cookie."  The claim check you get from a dry-cleaning shop

   is a perfect mundane example of a cookie; the only thing it's

   useful for is to relate a later transaction to this one (so you get

   the same clothes back).  Compare {magic cookie}; see also

   {fortune cookie}.


:cookie bear: n. Syn. {cookie monster}.


:cookie file: n. A collection of {fortune cookie}s in a format

   that facilitates retrieval by a fortune program.  There are several

   different ones in public distribution, and site admins often

   assemble their own from various sources including this lexicon.


:cookie monster: [from "Sesame Street"] n. 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.  See also {wabbit}.


:copious free time: [Apple; orig. fr. the intro to Tom Lehrer's

   song "It Makes A Fellow Proud To Be A Soldier"] n. 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 (occasionally clever) methods for

   preventing incompetent pirates from stealing software and

   legitimate customers from using it.  Considered silly.


:copybroke: /ko'pee-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.


:copyleft: /kop'ee-left/ [play on `copyright'] n. 1. The

   copyright notice (`General Public License') carried by {GNU}

   {EMACS} and other Free Software Foundation software, granting reuse

   and reproduction rights to all comers (but see also {General

   Public Virus}).  2. By extension, any copyright notice intended to

   achieve similar aims.


:copywronged: /ko'pee-rongd/ [play on `copyright'] adj. 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.  Commonwealth hackish

   prefers {store}.


:core cancer: n. A process which exhibits a slow but inexorable

   resource {leak} --- like a cancer, it kills by crowding out

   productive `tissue'.


:core dump: n. [common {Iron Age} jargon, preserved by UNIX]

   1. [techspeak] A copy of the contents of {core}, produced when a

   process is aborted by certain kinds of internal error.  2. By

   extension, used for humans passing out, vomiting, or registering

   extreme shock.  "He dumped core.  All over the floor.  What a

   mess."  "He heard about X and dumped core."  3. Occasionally

   used for a human rambling on pointlessly at great length; esp. in

   apology: "Sorry, I dumped core on you".  4. A recapitulation of

   knowledge (compare {bits}, sense 1).  Hence, spewing all one

   knows about a topic (syn. {brain dump}), esp. in a lecture or

   answer to an exam question.  "Short, concise answers are better

   than core dumps" (from the instructions to an exam at Columbia).

   See {core}.


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


:Core Wars: n. A game between `assembler' programs in a

   simulated machine, where the objective is to kill your opponent's

   program by overwriting it.  Popularized by A. K. Dewdney's column

   in `Scientific American' magazine, this was actually

   devised by Victor Vyssotsky, Robert Morris, and Dennis Ritchie in

   the early 1960s (their original game was called `Darwin' and ran on

   a PDP-1 at Bell Labs).  See {core}.


:corge: /korj/ [originally, the name of a cat] n. Yet another

   {metasyntactic variable}, invented by Mike Gallaher and propagated

   by the {GOSMACS} documentation.  See {grault}.


:cosmic rays: n. Notionally, the cause of {bit rot}.  However, this is

   a semi-independent usage that may be invoked as a humorous way to

   {handwave} away any minor {randomness} that doesn't seem worth the

   bother of investigating.  "Hey, Eric --- I just got a burst of

   garbage on my {tube}, where did that come from?"  "Cosmic rays, I

   guess."  Compare {sunspots}, {phase of the moon}.  The British seem

   to prefer the usage `cosmic showers'; `alpha particles' is also

   heard, because stray alpha particles passing through a memory chip

   can cause single-bit errors (this becomes increasingly more likely

   as memory sizes and densities increase).


   Factual note: Alpha particles cause bit rot, cosmic rays do not

   (except occasionally in spaceborne computers).  Intel could not

   explain random bit drops in their early chips, and one hypothesis

   was cosmic rays.  So they created the World's Largest Lead Safe,

   using 25 tons of the stuff, and used two identical boards for

   testing.  One was placed in the safe, one outside.  The hypothesis

   was that if cosmic rays were causing the bit drops, they should see

   a statistically significant difference between the error rates on

   the two boards.  They did not observe such a difference.  Further

   investigation demonstrated conclusively that the bit drops were due

   to alpha particle emissions from thorium (and to a much lesser

   degree uranium) in the encapsulation material.  Since it is

   impossible to eliminate these radioactives (they are uniformly

   distributed through the earth's crust, with the statistically

   insignificant exception of uranium lodes) it became obvious that

   you have 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}.


:cowboy: [Sun, from William Gibson's {cyberpunk} SF] n. Synonym

   for {hacker}.  It is reported that at Sun this word is often

   said with reverence.


:CP/M:: /C-P-M/ n. [Control Program for Microcomputers] An early

   microcomputer {OS} written by hacker Gary Kildall for 8080- and

   Z80-based machines, very popular in the late 1970s but virtually

   wiped out by MS-DOS after the release of the IBM PC in 1981.

   Legend has it that Kildall's company blew its chance to write the

   OS for the IBM PC because Kildall decided to spend a day IBM's reps

   wanted to meet with him enjoying the perfect flying weather in his

   private plane.  Many of CP/M's features and conventions strongly

   resemble those of early DEC operating systems such as

   {{TOPS-10}}, OS/8, RSTS, and RSX-11.  See {{MS-DOS}},

   {operating system}.


:CPU Wars: /C-P-U worz/ n. A 1979 large-format comic by Chas

   Andres chronicling the attempts of the brainwashed androids of IPM

   (Impossible to Program Machines) to conquer and destroy the

   peaceful denizens of HEC (Human Engineered Computers).  This rather

   transparent allegory featured many references to {ADVENT} and

   the immortal line "Eat flaming death, minicomputer mongrels!"

   (uttered, of course, by an IPM stormtrooper).  It is alleged that

   the author subsequently received a letter of appreciation on IBM

   company stationery from the head of IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research

   Laboratories (then, as now, one of the few islands of true

   hackerdom in the IBM archipelago).  The lower loop of the B in the

   IBM logo, it is said, had been carefully whited out.  See {eat

   flaming death}.


:crack root: v. To defeat the security system of a UNIX machine and

   gain {root} privileges thereby; see {cracking}.


:cracker: n. One who breaks security on a system.  Coined ca. 1985

   by hackers in defense against journalistic misuse of {hacker}

   (q.v., sense 8).  An earlier attempt to establish `worm' in this

   sense around 1981--82 on USENET was largely a failure.


   Both these neologisms reflected a strong revulsion against the

   theft and vandalism perpetrated by cracking rings.  While it is

   expected that any real hacker will have done some playful cracking

   and knows many of the basic techniques, anyone past {larval

   stage} is expected to have outgrown the desire to do so.


   Thus, there is far less overlap between hackerdom and crackerdom

   than the {mundane} reader misled by sensationalistic journalism

   might expect.  Crackers tend to gather in small, tight-knit, very

   secretive groups that have little overlap with the huge, open

   poly-culture this lexicon describes; though crackers often like to

   describe *themselves* as hackers, most true hackers consider

   them a separate and lower form of life.


   Ethical considerations aside, hackers figure that anyone who can't

   imagine a more interesting way to play with their computers than

   breaking into someone else's has to be pretty {losing}.  Some

   other reasons crackers are looked down on are discussed in the

   entries on {cracking} and {phreaking}.  See also

   {samurai}, {dark-side hacker}, and {hacker ethic,



:cracking: n. The act of breaking into a computer system; what a

   {cracker} does.  Contrary to widespread myth, this does not

   usually involve some mysterious leap of hackerly brilliance, but

   rather persistence and the dogged repetition of a handful of fairly

   well-known tricks that exploit common weaknesses in the security of

   target systems.  Accordingly, most crackers are only mediocre



:crank: [from automotive slang] vt. 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."


:crash: 1. n. A sudden, usually drastic failure.  Most often said

   of the {system} (q.v., sense 1), esp. of magnetic disk drives

   (the term originally described what happened when the air gap of a

   Winchester disk collapses).  "Three {luser}s lost their files

   in last night's disk crash."  A disk crash that involves the

   read/write heads dropping onto the surface of the disks and

   scraping off the oxide may also be referred to as a `head crash',

   whereas the term `system crash' usually, though not always,

   implies that the operating system or other software was at fault.

   2. v. To fail suddenly.  "Has the system just crashed?"

   "Something crashed the OS!" See {down}.  Also used

   transitively to indicate the cause of the crash (usually a person

   or a program, or both).  "Those idiots playing {SPACEWAR}

   crashed the system." 3. vi. Sometimes said of people hitting the

   sack after a long {hacking run}; see {gronk out}.


:crash and burn: vi.,n. A spectacular crash, in the mode of the

   conclusion of the car-chase scene in the movie "Bullitt" and

   many subsequent imitators (compare {die horribly}).  Sun-3

   monitors losing the flyback transformer and lightning strikes on

   VAX-11/780 backplanes are notable crash and burn generators.  The

   construction `crash-and-burn machine' is reported for a computer

   used exclusively for alpha or {beta} testing, or reproducing

   bugs (i.e., not for development).  The implication is that it

   wouldn't be such a disaster if that machine crashed, since only the

   testers would be inconvenienced.


:crawling horror: n. Ancient crufty hardware or software that is

   kept obstinately alive by forces beyond the control of the hackers

   at a site.  Like {dusty deck} or {gonkulator}, but connotes

   that the thing described is not just an irritation but an active

   menace to health and sanity.  "Mostly we code new stuff in C, but

   they pay us to maintain one big FORTRAN II application from

   nineteen-sixty-X that's a real crawling horror...."  Compare



:cray: /kray/ n. 1. (properly, capitalized) One of the line of

   supercomputers designed by Cray Research.  2. Any supercomputer at

   all.  3. The {canonical} {number-crunching} machine.


   The term is actually the lowercased last name of Seymour Cray, a

   noted computer architect and co-founder of the company.  Numerous

   vivid legends surround him, some true and some admittedly invented

   by Cray Research brass to shape their corporate culture and image.


:cray instability: n. 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.


: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}.


:crayon: n. 1. Someone who works on Cray supercomputers.  More

   specifically, it implies a programmer, probably of the CDC ilk,

   probably male, and almost certainly wearing a tie (irrespective of

   gender).  Systems types who have a UNIX background tend not to be

   described as crayons.  2. A {computron} (sense 2) that

   participates only in {number-crunching}.  3. A unit of

   computational power equal to that of a single Cray-1.  There is a

   standard joke about this that derives from an old Crayola crayon

   promotional gimmick: When you buy 64 crayons you get a free



:creationism: n. The (false) belief that large, innovative software

   designs can be completely specified in advance and then painlessly

   magicked out of the void by the normal efforts of a team of

   normally talented programmers.  In fact, experience has shown

   repeatedly that good designs arise only from evolutionary,

   exploratory interaction between one (or at most a small handful of)

   exceptionally able designer(s) and an active user population ---

   and that the first try at a big new idea is always wrong.

   Unfortunately, because these truths don't fit the planning models

   beloved of {management}, they are generally ignored.


:creep: v. To advance, grow, or multiply inexorably.  In hackish usage

   this verb has overtones of menace and silliness, evoking the

   creeping horrors of low-budget monster movies.


:creeping elegance: n. Describes a tendency for parts of a design to

   become {elegant} past the point of diminishing return.  This

   often happens at the expense of the less interesting parts of the

   design, the schedule, and other things deemed important in the

   {Real World}.  See also {creeping featurism}, {second-system

   effect}, {tense}.


:creeping featurism: /kree'ping fee'chr-izm/ n. 1. Describes a

   systematic tendency to load more {chrome} and {feature}s onto

   systems at the expense of whatever elegance they may have possessed

   when originally designed.  See also {feeping creaturism}.  "You

   know, the main problem with {BSD} UNIX has always been creeping

   featurism."  2. More generally, the tendency for anything

   complicated to become even more complicated because people keep

   saying "Gee, it would be even better if it had this feature too".

   (See {feature}.)  The result is usually a patchwork because it

   grew one ad-hoc step at a time, rather than being planned.

   Planning is a lot of work, but it's easy to add just one extra

   little feature to help someone ... and then another ... and

   another.... When creeping featurism gets out of hand, it's

   like a cancer.  Usually this term is used to describe computer

   programs, but it could also be said of the federal government, the

   IRS 1040 form, and new cars.  A similar phenomenon sometimes

   afflicts conscious redesigns; see {second-system effect}.  See

   also {creeping elegance}.


:creeping featuritis: /kree'ping fee'-chr-i:`t*s/ n. Variant of

   {creeping featurism}, with its own spoonerization: `feeping

   creaturitis'.  Some people like to reserve this form for the

   disease as it actually manifests in software or hardware, as

   opposed to the lurking general tendency in designers' minds.

   (After all, -ism means `condition' or `pursuit of', whereas

   -itis usually means `inflammation of'.)


:cretin: /kret'n/ 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

   /kre'tn/ over standard American /kree'tn/; it is thought this may

   be due to the insidious phonetic influence of Monty Python's Flying



:cretinous: /kret'n-*s/ 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' (see

   {bagbiter}), {losing}, {brain-damaged}.


:crippleware: n. 1. Software that has some important functionality

   deliberately removed, so as to entice potential users to pay for a

   working version.  2. [Cambridge] {Guiltware} that exhorts you to

   donate to some charity (compare {careware}).  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

   disabled.  To upgrade, you buy another 486 chip with everything

   *but* the co-processor disabled.  When you put them together

   you have two crippled chips doing the work of one.  Don't you love



: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.  When software achieves

   critical mass, 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) followed by a line

   feed (LF).  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: [from the obvious mainstream scatologism] n. 1. An awkward

   feature or programming technique that ought to be made cleaner.

   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

   depending on the machine opcodes having particular bit patterns so

   that you can use instructions as data words too; a tightly woven,

   almost completely unmodifiable structure.  See {kluge},

   {brittle}.  Also in the adjectives `crockish' and

   `crocky', and the nouns `crockishness' and `crockitude'.


:cross-post: [USENET] vi. To post a single article simultaneously to

   several newsgroups.  Distinguished from posting the article

   repeatedly, once to each newsgroup, which causes people to see it

   multiple times (this is very bad form).  Gratuitous cross-posting

   without a Followup-To line directing responses to a single followup

   group is frowned upon, as it tends to cause {followup} articles

   to go to inappropriate newsgroups when people respond to only one

   part of the original posting.


:crudware: /kruhd'weir/ n. Pejorative term for the hundreds of

   megabytes of low-quality {freeware} circulated by user's groups

   and BBS systems in the micro-hobbyist world.  "Yet *another*

   set of disk catalog utilities for {{MS-DOS}}?  What crudware!"


:cruft: /kruhft/ [back-formation from {crufty}] 1. n. An

   unpleasant substance.  The dust that gathers under your bed is

   cruft; the TMRC Dictionary correctly noted that attacking it with a

   broom only produces more.  2. n. The results of shoddy

   construction.  3. vt. [from `hand cruft', pun on `hand craft']

   To write assembler code for something normally (and better) done by

   a compiler (see {hand-hacking}).  4. n. Excess; superfluous

   junk.  Esp. used of redundant or superseded code.


   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 1992) the windows appear to be full of random

   techno-junk.  MIT or Lincoln Labs people may well have coined the

   term as a knock on the competition.


:cruft together: vt. (also `cruft up') To throw together

   something ugly but temporarily workable.  Like vt. {kluge up},

   but more pejorative.  "There isn't any program now to reverse all

   the lines of a file, but I can probably cruft one together in about

   10 minutes."  See {hack together}, {hack up}, {kluge up},



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

   antithesis of craftsmanship.


:crufty: /kruhf'tee/ [origin unknown; poss. from `crusty' or

   `cruddy'] adj. 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)."


:crumb: n. Two binary digits; a {quad}.  Larger than a {bit},

   smaller than a {nybble}.  Considered silly.  Syn. {tayste}.


: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 like a paper document

   would if somebody crunched the paper into a wad.)  Since such

   compression usually takes more computations than simpler methods

   such as run-length encoding, the term is doubly appropriate.  (This

   meaning is usually used in the construction `file crunch(ing)' to

   distinguish it from {number-crunching}.)  See {compress}.

   3. n. The character `#'.  Used at XEROX and CMU, among other

   places.  See {{ASCII}}.  4. vt. To squeeze program source into a

   minimum-size representation that will still compile or execute.

   The term came into being specifically for a famous program on the

   BBC micro that crunched BASIC source in order to make it run more

   quickly (it was a wholly interpretive BASIC, so the number of

   characters mattered).  {Obfuscated C Contest} entries are often

   crunched; see the first example under that entry.


:cruncha cruncha cruncha: /kruhn'ch* kruhn'ch* kruhn'ch*/ interj.

   An encouragement sometimes muttered to a machine bogged down in a

   serious {grovel}.  Also describes a notional sound made by

   groveling hardware.  See {wugga wugga}, {grind} (sense 3).


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

   cryptographic software or hardware.


:CTSS: /C-T-S-S/ n. Compatible Time-Sharing System.  An early

   (1963) experiment in the design of interactive time-sharing

   operating systems, ancestral to {{Multics}}, {{UNIX}}, and

   {{ITS}}.  The name {{ITS}} (Incompatible Time-sharing System)

   was a hack on CTSS, meant both as a joke and to express some basic

   differences in philosophy about the way I/O services should be

   presented to user programs.


:CTY: /sit'ee/ or /C-T-Y/ n. [MIT] The terminal physically

   associated with a computer's system {{console}}.  The term is a

   contraction of `Console {tty}', that is, `Console TeleTYpe'.

   This {{ITS}}- and {{TOPS-10}}-associated term has become less

   common, as most UNIX hackers simply refer to the CTY as `the



: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: [parallel with `tubing'] vi. 1. Hacking on an IPSC (Intel

   Personal SuperComputer) hypercube.  "Louella's gone cubing

   *again*!!"  2. Hacking Rubik's Cube or related puzzles,

   either physically or mathematically.  3. An indescribable form of

   self-torture (see sense 1 or 2).


:cursor dipped in X: n. There are a couple of metaphors in English

   of the form `pen dipped in X' (perhaps the most common values of X

   are `acid', `bile', and `vitriol').  These map over neatly to this

   hackish usage (the cursor being what moves, leaving letters behind,

   when one is composing on-line).  "Talk about a {nastygram}!  He

   must've had his cursor dipped in acid when he wrote that one!"


:cuspy: /kuhs'pee/ [WPI: from the DEC abbreviation CUSP, for `Commonly

   Used System Program', i.e., a utility program used by many people]

   adj. 1. (of a program) Well-written.  2. Functionally excellent.  A

   program that performs well and interfaces well to users is cuspy.

   See {rude}.  3. [NYU] Said of an attractive woman, especially one

   regarded as available.  Implies a certain curvaceousness.


:cut a tape: vi. To write a software or document distribution on

   magnetic tape for shipment.  Has nothing to do with physically

   cutting the medium!  Early versions of this lexicon claimed that

   one never analogously speaks of `cutting a disk', but this has

   since been reported as live usage.  Related slang usages are

   mainstream business's `cut a check', the recording industry's

   `cut a record', and the military's `cut an order'.


   All of these usages reflect physical processes in obsolete

   recording and duplication technologies.  The first stage in

   manufacturing an old-style vinyl record involved cutting grooves in

   a stamping die with a precision lathe.  More mundanely, the

   dominant technology for mass duplication of paper documents in

   pre-photocopying days involved "cutting a stencil", punching away

   portions of the wax overlay on a silk screen.  More directly,

   paper tape with holes punched in it was an inportant early storage



:cybercrud: /si:'ber-kruhd/ [coined by Ted Nelson] n. Obfuscatory

   tech-talk.  Verbiage with a high {MEGO} factor.  The computer

   equivalent of bureaucratese.


:cyberpunk: /si:'ber-puhnk/ [orig. by SF writer Bruce Bethke

   and/or editor Gardner Dozois] n.,adj. 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 "{True Names ... and Other Dangers}" in

   appendix C) to John Brunner's 1975 novel `The Shockwave

   Rider').  Gibson's near-total ignorance of computers and the

   present-day hacker culture enabled him to speculate about the role

   of computers and hackers in the future in ways hackers have since

   found both irritatingly na"ive and tremendously stimulating.

   Gibson's work was widely imitated, in particular by the short-lived

   but innovative "Max Headroom" TV series.  See

   {cyberspace}, {ice}, {jack in}, {go flatline}.


:cyberspace: /si:'ber-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.  At the time of this writing (mid-1991),

   serious efforts to construct {virtual reality} interfaces

   modeled explicitly on Gibsonian cyberspace are already under way,

   using more conventional devices such as glove sensors and binocular

   TV headsets.  Few hackers are prepared to deny outright the

   possibility of a cyberspace someday evolving out of the network

   (see {network, the}).  2. Occasionally, the metaphoric location

   of the mind of a person in {hack mode}.  Some hackers report

   experiencing strong eidetic imagery when in hack mode;

   interestingly, independent reports from multiple sources suggest

   that there are common features to the experience.  In particular,

   the dominant colors of this subjective `cyberspace' are often

   gray and silver, and the imagery often involves constellations of

   marching dots, elaborate shifting patterns of lines and angles, or

   moire patterns.


:cycle: 1. n. The basic unit of computation.  What every hacker

   wants more of (noted hacker Bill Gosper describes himself as a

   "cycle junkie"). One can describe an instruction as taking so

   many `clock cycles'.  Often the computer can access its

   memory once on every clock cycle, and so one speaks also of

   `memory cycles'.  These are technical meanings of {cycle}.  The

   jargon meaning comes from the observation that there are only so

   many cycles per second, and when you are sharing a computer the

   cycles get divided up among the users.  The more cycles the

   computer spends working on your program rather than someone else's,

   the faster your program will run.  That's why every hacker wants

   more cycles: so he can spend less time waiting for the computer to

   respond.  2. By extension, a notional unit of *human* thought

   power, emphasizing that lots of things compete for the typical

   hacker's think time.  "I refused to get involved with the Rubik's

   Cube back when it was big.  Knew I'd burn too many cycles on it if

   I let myself."  3. vt. Syn. {bounce}, {120 reset}; from the

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

   still hung."


:cycle crunch: n. A situation where the number of people trying to

   use the 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 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 in recent years, so much so that the very term `cycle

   crunch' now has a faintly archaic flavor; most hackers now use

   workstations or personal computers as opposed to traditional

   timesharing systems.


:cycle drought: n. A scarcity of cycles.  It may be due to a {cycle

   crunch}, but it could also occur because part of the computer is

   temporarily not working, leaving fewer cycles to go around.

   "The {high moby} is {down}, so we're running with only

   half the usual amount of memory.  There will be a cycle drought

   until it's fixed."


:cycle of reincarnation: [coined by Ivan Sutherland ca. 1970] n.

   Term used to refer to a well-known effect whereby function in a

   computing system family is migrated out to special-purpose

   peripheral hardware for speed, then the peripheral evolves toward

   more computing power as it does its job, then somebody notices that

   it is inefficient to support two asymmetrical processors in the

   architecture and folds the function back into the main CPU, at

   which point the cycle begins again.  Several iterations of this

   cycle have been observed in graphics-processor design, and at least

   one or two in communications and floating-point processors.  Also

   known as `the Wheel of Life', `the Wheel of Samsara', and other

   variations of the basic Hindu/Buddhist theological idea.


:cycle server: n. A powerful machine that exists primarily for

   running large {batch} jobs.  Implies that interactive tasks such as

   editing are done on other machines on the network, such as



= D =



:D. C. Power Lab: n. The former site of {{SAIL}}.  Hackers thought

   this was very funny because the obvious connection to electrical

   engineering was nonexistent --- the lab was named for a Donald C.

   Power.  Compare {Marginal Hacks}.


:daemon: /day'mn/ or /dee'mn/ [from the mythological meaning,

   later rationalized as the acronym `Disk And Execution MONitor'] n.

   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 not

   compete for access to the {LPT}.  They simply enter their

   implicit requests and let the daemon decide what to do with them.

   Daemons are usually spawned automatically by the system, and may

   either live forever or be regenerated at intervals.  Daemon and

   {demon} are often used interchangeably, but seem to have

   distinct connotations.  The term `daemon' was introduced to

   computing by {CTSS} people (who pronounced it /dee'mon/) and

   used it to refer to what ITS called a {dragon}.  Although the

   meaning and the pronunciation have drifted, we think this glossary

   reflects current (1991) usage.


:dangling pointer: n. A reference that doesn't actually lead

   anywhere (in C and some other languages, a pointer that doesn't

   actually point at anything valid).  Usually this is because it

   formerly pointed to something that has moved or disappeared.  Used

   as jargon in a generalization of its techspeak meaning; for

   example, a local phone number for a person who has since moved to

   the other coast is a dangling pointer.


:dark-side hacker: n. A criminal or malicious hacker; a

   {cracker}.  From George Lucas's Darth Vader, "seduced by the

   dark side of the Force".  The implication that hackers form a

   sort of elite of technological Jedi Knights is intended.  Oppose



: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?'" It used to

   publish something hackishly funny every once in a while, like the

   original paper on {COME FROM} in 1973, but it has since become much

   more exclusively {suit}-oriented and boring.


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


:dd: /dee-dee/ [UNIX: from IBM {JCL}] vt. Equivalent to

   {cat} or {BLT}.  This was originally the name of a UNIX copy

   command with special options suitable for block-oriented devices.

   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 `Data

   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).  Replaced by

   {BLT} or simple English `copy'.


:DDT: /D-D-T/ n. 1. Generic term for a program that assists in

   debugging other programs by showing individual machine instructions

   in a readable symbolic form and letting the user change them.  In

   this sense the term DDT is now archaic, having been widely

   displaced by `debugger' or names of individual programs like

   `dbx', `adb', `gdb', or `sdb'.  2. [ITS] Under

   MIT's fabled {{ITS}} operating system, DDT (running under the alias

   HACTRN) was also used as the {shell} or top level command

   language used to execute other programs.  3. Any one of several

   specific DDTs (sense 1) supported on early DEC hardware.  The DEC

   PDP-10 Reference Handbook (1969) contained a footnote on the first

   page of the documentation for DDT which 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.


   Sadly, this quotation was removed from later editions of the

   handbook after the {suit}s took over and DEC became much more



   The history above is known to many old-time hackers.  But there's

   more: Peter Samson, author of the {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. On a Macintosh, many

   program structures (including the code itself) are managed in small

   segments of the program file known as `resources'. The standard

   resource compiler is Rez.  The standard resource decompiler is

   DeRez.  Thus, decompiling a resource is `derezzing'.  Usage: very



: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.


: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.  Syn.



:DEADBEEF: /ded-beef/ n. The hexadecimal word-fill pattern for

   freshly allocated memory (decimal -21524111) under a number of

   IBM environments, including the RS/6000.  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



: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', where 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 both move the same

   way at the same time.


:deadly embrace: n. Same as {deadlock}, though usually used only when

   exactly 2 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).

   Death code is much less common, and more anti-social, on modern

   multi-user machines.  It was very impressive on earlier hardware

   that provided front panel switches and displays to show register

   and memory contents, esp. when these were used to prod the corpse

   to see why it died.


   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 Star: [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' for an incorrectly done AT&T logo

   in which the inner circle in the top left is dark instead of light

   --- a frequent result of dark-on-light logo images.


:DEC 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



:DEChead: /dek'hed/ n. 1. A DEC {field servoid}.  Not flattering.

   2. [from `deadhead'] A Grateful Dead fan working at DEC.


:deckle: /dek'l/ [from dec- and {nybble}; the original

   spelling seems to have been `decle'] n. 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.


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


:deep magic: [poss. from C. S. Lewis's "Narnia" books] n. An

   awesomely arcane technique central to a program or system, esp. one

   not generally published and available to hackers at large (compare

   {black art}); one that could only have been composed by a true

   {wizard}.  Compiler optimization techniques and many aspects of

   {OS} design used to be {deep magic}; many techniques in

   cryptography, signal processing, graphics, and AI still are.

   Compare {heavy wizardry}.  Esp. found in comments of the form

   "Deep magic begins here...".  Compare {voodoo programming}.


:deep space: n. 1. Describes the notional location of any program

   that has gone {off the trolley}.  Esp. used of programs that

   just sit there silently grinding long after either failure or some

   output is expected.  "Uh oh.  I should have gotten a prompt ten

   seconds ago.  The program's in deep space somewhere." Compare

   {buzz}, {catatonic}, {hyperspace}.  2. The metaphorical

   location of a human so dazed and/or confused or caught up in some

   esoteric form of {bogosity} that he or she no longer responds

   coherently to normal communication.  Compare {page out}.


:defenestration: [from the traditional Czechoslovak method of

   assassinating prime ministers, via SF fandom] n. 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. [proposed] The requirement to support a command-line interface.

   "It has to run on a VT100."  "Curses!  I've been



:defined as: adj. In the role of, usually in an organization-chart

   sense.  "Pete is currently defined as bug prioritizer."  Compare



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


:delint: /dee-lint/ v. To modify code to remove problems detected

   when {lint}ing.  Confusingly, this is also referred to as

   `linting' code.


:delta: n. 1. [techspeak] A quantitative change, especially a small

   or incremental one (this use is general in physics and

   engineering).  "I just doubled the speed of my program!"  "What

   was the delta on program size?"  "About 30 percent."  (He

   doubled the speed of his program, but increased its size by only 30

   percent.)  2. [UNIX] A {diff}, especially a {diff} stored

   under the set of version-control tools called SCCS (Source Code

   Control System) or RCS (Revision Control System).  3. n. A small

   quantity, but not as small as {epsilon}.  The jargon usage of

   {delta} and {epsilon} stems from the traditional use of these

   letters in mathematics for very small numerical quantities,

   particularly in `epsilon-delta' proofs in limit theory (as in the

   differential calculus).  The term {delta} is often used, once

   {epsilon} has been mentioned, to mean a quantity that is

   slightly bigger than {epsilon} but still very small.  "The cost

   isn't epsilon, but it's delta" means that the cost isn't totally

   negligible, but it is nevertheless very small.  Common

   constructions include `within delta of ---', `within epsilon of

   ---': that is, close to and even closer to.


:demented: adj. Yet another term of disgust used to describe a

   program.  The connotation in this case is that the program works as

   designed, but the design is bad.  Said, for example, of a program

   that generates large numbers of meaningless error messages,

   implying that it is on the brink of imminent collapse.  Compare

   {wonky}, {bozotic}.


:demigod: n. A hacker with years of experience, a national 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}) and Richard M. Stallman (inventor of

   {EMACS}).  In their hearts of hearts, most hackers dream of

   someday becoming demigods themselves, and more than one major

   software project has been driven to completion by the author's

   veiled hopes of apotheosis.  See also {net.god}, {true-hacker}.


:demo: /de'moh/ [short for `demonstration'] 1. v. To

   demonstrate a product or prototype.  A far more effective way of

   inducing bugs to manifest than any number of {test} runs,

   especially when important people are watching.  2. n. The act of

   demoing.  3. n.  Esp. as `demo version', can refer to either a

   special version of a program (frequently with some features

   crippled) which is distributed at little or no cost to the user for

   demonstration purposes.


:demo mode: [Sun] n. 1. 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 there 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



: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.  Demons 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.  2. [outside MIT] Often used

   equivalently to {daemon} --- especially in the {{UNIX}} world,

   where the latter spelling and pronunciation is considered mildly



:depeditate: /dee-ped'*-tayt/ [by (faulty) analogy with

   `decapitate'] vt.  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

   which write them decide that a sufficient number of users have

   written code which depends on specific features which are out of



:deserves to lose: adj. Said of someone who willfully does the

   {Wrong Thing}; humorously, if one uses a feature known to be

   {marginal}.  What is meant is that one deserves the consequences

   of one's {losing} actions.  "Boy, anyone who tries to use

   {mess-dos} deserves to {lose}!" ({{ITS}} fans used to say this

   of {{UNIX}}; many still do.)  See also {screw}, {chomp},



: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}.


:Devil 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) --- the standard reference book on the internals

   of {BSD} UNIX.  So called because the cover has a picture

   depicting a little devil (a visual play on {daemon}) in

   sneakers, holding a pitchfork (referring to one of the

   characteristic features of UNIX, the `fork(2)' system call).


:devo: /dee'voh/ [orig. in-house jargon at Symbolics] n. A person in a

   development group.  See also {doco} and {mango}.


: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: [USENET] n. 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.


: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.  See also {vdiff}, {mod}.


:digit: n. An employee of Digital Equipment Corporation.  See also

   {VAX}, {VMS}, {PDP-10}, {{TOPS-10}}, {DEChead}, {double

   DECkers}, {field circus}.


:dike: vt. To remove or disable a portion of something, as a wire

   from a computer or a subroutine from a program.  A standard slogan

   is "When in doubt, dike it out".  (The implication is that it is

   usually more effective to attack software problems by reducing

   complexity than by increasing it.)  The word `dikes' is widely

   used among mechanics and engineers to mean `diagonal cutters',

   esp.  a heavy-duty metal-cutting device, but may also refer to a

   kind of wire-cutters used by electronics techs.  To `dike

   something out' means to use such cutters to remove something.

   Indeed, the TMRC Dictionary defined dike as "to attack with

   dikes".  Among hackers this term has been metaphorically extended

   to informational objects such as sections of code.


:ding: n.,vi. 1. Synonym for {feep}.  Usage: rare among hackers,

   but commoner in the {Real World}.  2. `dinged': What happens

   when someone in authority gives you a minor bitching about

   something, esp. something trivial.  "I was dinged for having a

   messy desk."


:dink: /dink/ n. 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.


: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 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



:dinosaurs mating: n. Said to occur when yet another {big iron}

   merger or buyout occurs; reflects a perception by hackers that

   these signal another stage in the long, slow dying of the

   {mainframe} industry.  In its glory days of the 1960s, it was

   `IBM and the Seven Dwarves': Burroughs, Control Data, General

   Electric, Honeywell, NCR, RCA, and Univac.  RCA and GE sold out

   early, and it was `IBM and the Bunch' (Burroughs, Univac, NCR,

   Control Data, and Honeywell) for a while.  Honeywell was bought out

   by Bull; Burroughs merged with Univac to form Unisys (in 1984 ---

   this was when the phrase `dinosaurs mating' was coined); and as

   this is written (early 1991) AT&T is attempting to recover from a

   disastrously bad first six years in the hardware industry by

   absorbing NCR.  More such earth-shaking unions of doomed giants

   seem inevitable.


:dirtball: [XEROX PARC] n.  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] n. Statement ritually appended to many USENET

   postings (sometimes automatically, by the posting software) reiterating

   the fact (which should be obvious, but is easily forgotten) that the

   article reflects its author's opinions and not necessarily those of

   the organization running the machine through which the article

   entered the network.


:Discordianism: /dis-kor'di-*n-ism/ n. The veneration of

   {Eris}, a.k.a. Discordia; widely popular among hackers.

   Discordianism was popularized by Robert Shea and Robert Anton

   Wilson's `{Illuminatus!}' trilogy 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} under {appendix B}, {Church of the

   SubGenius}, and {ha ha only serious}.


:disk farm: n. (also {laundromat}) A large room or rooms filled

   with disk drives (esp. {washing machine}s).


:display hack: n. A program with the same approximate purpose as a

   kaleidoscope: to make pretty pictures.  Famous display hacks

   include {munching squares}, {smoking clover}, the BSD UNIX

   `rain(6)' program, `worms(6)' on miscellaneous UNIXes,

   and the {X} `kaleid(1)' program.  Display hacks can also be

   implemented without programming by creating text files containing

   numerous escape sequences for interpretation by a video terminal;

   one notable example displayed, on any VT100, a Christmas tree with

   twinkling lights and a toy train circling its base.  The {hack

   value} of a display hack is proportional to the esthetic value of

   the images times the cleverness of the algorithm divided by the

   size of the code.  Syn. {psychedelicware}.


:Dissociated Press: [play on `Associated Press'; perhaps inspired

   by a reference in the 1949 Bugs Bunny cartoon "What's Up,

   Doc?"] n.  An algorithm for transforming any text into potentially

   humorous garbage even more efficiently than by passing it through a

   {marketroid}.  You start by printing any N consecutive

   words (or letters) in the text.  Then at every step you search for

   any random occurrence in the original text of the last N

   words (or letters) already printed and then print the next word or

   letter.  {EMACS} has a handy command for this.  Here is a short

   example of word-based Dissociated Press applied to an earlier

   version of this Jargon File:


     wart: n. A small, crocky {feature} that sticks out of

     an array (C has no checks for this).  This is relatively

     benign and easy to spot if the phrase is bent so as to be

     not worth paying attention to the medium in question.


   Here is a short example of letter-based Dissociated Press applied

   to the same source:


     window sysIWYG: n. A bit was named aften /bee't*/ prefer

     to use the other guy's re, especially in every cast a

     chuckle on neithout getting into useful informash speech

     makes removing a featuring a move or usage actual

     abstractionsidered interj. Indeed spectace logic or problem!


   A hackish idle pastime is to apply letter-based Dissociated Press

   to a random body of text and {vgrep} the output in hopes of finding

   an interesting new word.  (In the preceding example, `window

   sysIWYG' and `informash' show some promise.)  Iterated applications

   of Dissociated Press usually yield better results.  Similar

   techniques called `travesty generators' have been employed with

   considerable satirical effect to the utterances of USENET flamers;

   see {pseudo}.


:distribution: n. 1. A software source tree packaged for

   distribution; but see {kit}.  2. A vague term encompassing

   mailing lists and USENET newsgroups (but not {BBS} {fora}); any

   topic-oriented message channel with multiple recipients.  3. An

   information-space domain (usually loosely correlated with

   geography) to which propagation of a USENET message is restricted;

   a much-underutilized feature.


:do protocol: [from network protocol programming] vi. 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' (documentation available on-line).


:doco: /do'koh/ [orig. in-house jargon at Symbolics] n. A

   documentation writer.  See also {devo} and {mango}.


: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 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}.


: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. 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, eric@snark.thyrsus.com specifies the machine

   called snark in the subdomain called thyrsus within the

   top-level domain called com.  See also {big-endian}, sense 2.

   2. Said of a site, mailer, or routing program which knows how to

   handle domainist addresses.  3. Said of a person (esp. a site

   admin) who prefers domain addressing, supports a domainist mailer,

   or prosyletizes for domainist addressing and disdains {bang

   path}s.  This is now (1991) semi-obsolete, as most sites have



:Don't do that, then!: [from an old doctor's office joke about a

   patient with a trivial complaint] Stock response to a user

   complaint.  "When I type control-S, the whole system comes to a

   halt for thirty seconds."  "Don't do that, then!" (or "So don't

   do that!").  Compare {RTFM}.


:dongle: /dong'gl/ n. 1. A security or {copy protection}

   device for commercial microcomputer programs consisting of a

   serialized EPROM and some drivers in a D-25 connector shell, which

   must be connected to an I/O port of the computer while the program

   is run.  Programs that use a dongle query the port at startup and

   at programmed intervals thereafter, and terminate if it does not

   respond with the dongle's programmed validation code.  Thus, users

   can make as many copies of the program as they want but must pay

   for each dongle.  The idea was clever, but it was initially a

   failure, as users disliked tying up a serial port this way.  Most

   dongles on the market today (1991) will pass data through the port

   and monitor for {magic} codes (and combinations of status lines)

   with minimal if any interference with devices further down the line

   --- this innovation was necessary to allow daisy-chained dongles

   for multiple pieces of software.  The devices are still not widely

   used, as the industry has moved away from copy-protection schemes

   in general.  2. By extension, any physical electronic key or

   transferrable ID required for a program to function.  See



   [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. See {dongle}; a `dongle-disk'

   is a floppy disk which 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'.


:donuts: n.obs. A collective noun for any set of memory bits.  This

   is extremely archaic and may no longer be live jargon; it dates

   from the days of ferrite-{core} memories in which each bit was

   implemented by a doughnut-shaped magnetic flip-flop.


:doorstop: n. Used to describe equipment that is non-functional and

   halfway expected to remain so, especially obsolete equipment kept

   around for political reasons or ostensibly as a backup.  "When we

   get another Wyse-50 in here, that ADM 3 will turn into a doorstop."

   Compare {boat anchor}.


:dot file: [UNIX] n. A file which 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 {rc file}.


:double bucky: adj. Using both the CTRL and META keys.  "The

   command to burn all LEDs is double bucky F."


   This term originated on the Stanford extended-ASCII keyboard, and

   was later taken up by users of the {space-cadet keyboard} at

   MIT.  A typical MIT comment was that the Stanford {bucky bits}

   (control and meta shifting keys) were nice, but there weren't

   enough of them; you could type only 512 different characters on a

   Stanford keyboard.  An obvious way to address this was simply to

   add more shifting keys, and this was eventually done; but a

   keyboard with that many shifting keys is hard on touch-typists, who

   don't like to move their hands away from the home position on the

   keyboard.  It was half-seriously suggested that the extra shifting

   keys be implemented as pedals; typing on such a keyboard would be

   very much like playing a full pipe organ.  This idea is mentioned

   in a parody of a very fine song by Jeffrey Moss called

   "Rubber Duckie", which was published in `The Sesame

   Street Songbook' (Simon and Schuster 1971, ISBN 0-671-21036-X).

   These lyrics were written on May 27, 1978, in celebration of the

   Stanford keyboard:


                        Double Bucky


        Double bucky, you're the one!

        You make my keyboard lots of fun.

            Double bucky, an additional bit or two:


        Control and meta, side by side,

        Augmented ASCII, nine bits wide!

            Double bucky!  Half a thousand glyphs, plus a few!


                I sure wish that I

                Had a couple of

                    Bits more!

                Perhaps a

                Set of pedals to

                Make the number of

                    Bits four:

                Double double bucky!

        Double bucky, left and right

        OR'd together, outta sight!

            Double bucky, I'd like a whole word of

            Double bucky, I'm happy I heard of

            Double bucky, I'd like a whole word of you!


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


   [This, by the way, is an excellent example of computer {filk}

   --- ESR] See also {meta bit}, {cokebottle}, and {quadruple



:double DECkers: n. Used to describe married couples in which both

   partners work for Digital Equipment Corporation.


:doubled sig: [USENET] n. A {sig block} that has been included

   twice in a {USENET} article or, less commonly, in an electronic

   mail message.  An article or message with a doubled sig can be

   caused by improperly configured software.  More often, however, it

   reveals the author's lack of experience in electronic

   communication.  See {BIFF}, {pseudo}.


:down: 1. adj. Not operating.  "The up escalator is down" is

   considered a humorous thing to say, 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

   usage has passed into the mainstream; the extension to other kinds

   of machine is still hackish.  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

   "The system will go down in 5 minutes".  3. `take down',

   `bring down' vt. To deactivate purposely, usually for repair work

   or {PM}.  "I'm taking the system down to work on that bug in the

   tape drive."  Occasionally one hears the word `down' by itself

   used as a verb in this vt. sense.  See {crash}; oppose {up}.


:download: vt. To transfer data or (esp.) code from a larger `host'

   system (esp. a {mainframe}) over a digital comm link to a smaller

   `client' system, esp. a microcomputer or specialized peripheral.

   Oppose {upload}.


   However, note that ground-to-space communications has its own usage

   rule for this term.  Space-to-earth transmission is always download

   and the reverse upload regardless of the relative size of the

   computers involved.  So far the in-space machines have invariably

   been smaller; thus the upload/download distinction has been

   reversed from its usual sense.


:DP: /D-P/ n. 1. Data Processing.  Listed here because,

   according to hackers, use of the term marks one immediately as a

   {suit}.  See {DPer}.  2. Common abbrev for {Dissociated



:DPB: /d*-pib'/ [from the PDP-10 instruction set] vt. To plop

   something down in the middle.  Usage: silly.  "DPB

   yourself into that couch there."  The connotation would be that

   the couch is full except for one slot just big enough for you to

   sit in.  DPB means `DePosit Byte', and was the name of a PDP-10

   instruction that inserts some bits into the middle of some other

   bits.  This usage has been kept alive by the Common LISP function

   of the same name.


:DPer: /dee-pee-er/ n. Data Processor.  Hackers are absolutely

   amazed that {suit}s use this term self-referentially.

   "*Computers* process data, not people!"  See {DP}.


:dragon: n. [MIT] A program similar to a {daemon}, except that

   it is not invoked at all, but is instead used by the system to

   perform various secondary tasks.  A typical example would be an

   accounting program, which keeps track of who is logged in,

   accumulates load-average statistics, etc.  Under ITS, many

   terminals displayed a list of people logged in, where they were,

   what they were running, etc., along with some random picture (such

   as a unicorn, Snoopy, or the Enterprise), which was generated by

   the `name dragon'.  Usage: rare outside MIT --- under UNIX and most

   other OSes this would be called a `background demon' or

   {daemon}.  The best-known UNIX example of a dragon is

   `cron(1)'.  At SAIL, they called this sort of thing a



:Dragon Book: n. The classic text `Compilers: Principles,

   Techniques and Tools', by Alfred V. Aho, Ravi Sethi, and Jeffrey D.

   Ullman (Addison-Wesley 1986; ISBN 0-201-10088-6), so called because

   of the cover design featuring a dragon labeled `complexity of

   compiler design' and a knight bearing the lance `LALR parser

   generator' among his other trappings.  This one is more

   specifically known as the `Red Dragon Book' (1986); an earlier

   edition, sans Sethi and titled `Principles Of Compiler Design'

   (Alfred V. Aho and Jeffrey D. Ullman; Addison-Wesley, 1977; ISBN

   0-201-00022-9), was the `Green Dragon Book' (1977).  (Also `New

   Dragon Book', `Old Dragon Book'.)  The horsed knight and the

   Green Dragon were warily eying each other at a distance; now the

   knight is typing (wearing gauntlets!) at a terminal showing a

   video-game representation of the Red Dragon's head while the rest

   of the beast extends back in normal space.  See also {{book



:drain: [IBM] v. Syn. for {flush} (sense 2).  Has a connotation

   of finality about it; one speaks of draining a device before taking

   it offline.


:dread high-bit disease: n. A condition endemic to PRIME (a.k.a.

   PR1ME) minicomputers that results in all the characters having

   their high (0x80) bit ON rather than OFF.  This of course makes

   transporting files to other systems much more difficult, not to

   mention talking to true 8-bit devices.  Folklore had 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 manfully to cure it.

   Whoever was responsible, this probably qualifies as one of the

   most {cretinous} design tradeoffs ever made.  See {meta bit}.

   A few other machines have exhibited similar brain damage.


:DRECNET: /drek'net/ [from Yiddish/German `dreck', meaning

   dirt] n. 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, `driver' also means a program that translates some

   device-independent or other common format to something a real

   device can actually understand.


:droid: n. A person (esp. a low-level bureaucrat or

   service-business employee) exhibiting most of the following

   characteristics: (a) na"ive trust in the wisdom of the parent

   organization or `the system'; (b) a propensity to believe

   obvious nonsense emitted by authority figures (or computers!);

   blind faith; (c) a rule-governed mentality, one unwilling or unable

   to look beyond the `letter of the law' in exceptional

   situations; and (d) no interest 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.  This

   becomes a problem when the software has not been properly debugged.

   The term `droid mentality' is also used to describe the mindset

   behind this behavior. Compare {suit}, {marketroid}; see



:drool-proof paper: n. Documentation that has been obsessively {dumbed

   down}, to the point where only a {cretin} could bear to read it, is

   said to have succumbed to the `drool-proof paper syndrome' or to

   have been `written on drool-proof paper'.  For example, this is

   an actual quote from Apple's LaserWriter manual: "Do not expose

   your LaserWriter to open fire or flame."


:drop on the floor: vt. To react to an error condition by silently

   discarding messages or other valuable data.  "The gateway

   ran out of memory, so it just started dropping packets on the

   floor."  Also frequently used of faulty mail and netnews relay

   sites that lose messages.  See also {black hole}, {bit bucket}.


:drop-ins: [prob. by analogy with {drop-outs}] n. 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: 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

   (this can happen under UNIX when a bad connection to a modem swamps

   the processor with spurious character interrupts).  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 (but see {appendix B}).  2. Of hardware,

   very slow relative to normal performance.


:drum: adj,n.  Ancient techspeak term referring to slow,

   cylindrical magnetic media which were once state-of-the-art

   mass-storage devices.  Under BSD UNIX the disk partition used for

   swapping is still called `/dev/drum'; this has led to

   considerable humor and not a few straight-faced but utterly bogus

   `explanations' getting foisted on {newbie}s.  See also "{The

   Story of Mel, a Real Programmer}" in {appendix A}.


:drunk mouse syndrome: (also `mouse on drugs') n. A malady

   exhibited by the mouse pointing device of some computers.  The

   typical symptom is for the mouse cursor on the screen to move in

   random directions and not in sync with the motion of the actual

   mouse.  Can usually be corrected by unplugging the mouse and

   plugging it back again.  Another recommended fix for optical mice

   is to rotate your mouse pad 90 degrees.


   At Xerox PARC in the 1970s, most people kept a can of copier

   cleaner (isopropyl alcohol) at their desks.  When the steel ball on

   the mouse had picked up enough {cruft} to be unreliable, the

   mouse was doused in cleaner, which restored it for a while.

   However, this operation left a fine residue that accelerated the

   accumulation of cruft, so the dousings became more and more

   frequent.  Finally, the mouse was declared `alcoholic' and sent

   to the clinic to be dried out in a CFC ultrasonic bath.


:Duff's device: n. The most dramatic use yet seen of {fall

   through} in C, invented by Tom Duff when he was at Lucasfilm.

   Trying to {bum} all the instructions he could out of an inner

   loop that copied data serially onto an output port, he decided to

   {unroll} it.  He then realized that the unrolled version could

   be implemented by *interlacing* the structures of a switch and

   a loop:


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


        switch (count % 8)


        case 0: do {    *to = *from++;

        case 7:         *to = *from++;

        case 6:         *to = *from++;

        case 5:         *to = *from++;

        case 4:         *to = *from++;

        case 3:         *to = *from++;

        case 2:         *to = *from++;

        case 1:         *to = *from++;

             } while (--n > 0);



   Having verified that the device is valid portable C, Duff announced

   it.  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."


:dumb terminal: n. A terminal which is one step above a {glass tty},

   having a minimally-addressable cursor but no on-screen editing or

   other features which are claimed by a {smart terminal}.  Once upon a

   time, when glass ttys were common and addressable cursors were

   something special, what is now called a dumb terminal could pass for

   a smart terminal.


:dumbass attack: /duhm'as *-tak'/ [Purdue] n. 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 this 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/ [FidoNet] n. 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') [FidoNet] n. An

   incorrectly configured system or network gateway may propagate

   duplicate messages on one or more {echo}es, with different

   identification information that renders {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).  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}.


: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}).


   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.  This led a number of victims of DWIM to

   claim the acronym stood for `Damn Warren's Infernal



   In one notorious incident, Warren added a DWIM feature to the

   command interpreter used at Xerox PARC.  One day another hacker

   there typed `delete *$' to free up some disk space.  (The

   editor there named backup files by appending `$' to the

   original file name, so he was trying to delete any backup files

   left over from old editing sessions.)  It happened that there

   weren't any editor backup files, so DWIM helpfully reported

   `*$ not found, assuming you meant 'delete *'.' It then started

   to delete all the files on the disk!  The hacker managed to stop it

   with a {Vulcan nerve pinch} after only a half dozen or so files

   were lost.


   The hacker later said he had been sorely tempted to go to Warren's

   office, tie Warren down in his chair in front of his workstation,

   and then type `delete *$' twice.


   DWIM is often suggested in jest as a desired feature for a complex

   program; it is also occasionally described as the single

   instruction the ideal computer would have.  Back when proofs of

   program correctness were in vogue, there were also jokes about

   `DWIMC' (Do What I Mean, Correctly).  A related term, more often

   seen as a verb, is DTRT (Do The Right Thing); see {Right



:dynner: /din'r/ 32 bits, by analogy with {nybble} and

   {{byte}}.  Usage: rare and extremely silly.  See also {playte},

   {tayste}, {crumb}.


= E =



:earthquake: [IBM] n. 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: [from the custom of the Easter Egg hunt observed in

   the U.S. and many psparts of Europe] n. 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: [IBM] n. The act of replacing unrelated parts 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.  Compare {shotgun debugging}.


:eat flaming death: imp. A construction popularized among hackers by

   the infamous {CPU Wars} comic; supposed to derive from a famously

   turgid line in a WWII-era anti-Nazi propaganda comic that ran

   "Eat flaming death, non-Aryan mongrels!" or something of the sort

   (however, it is also reported that the Firesign Theater's

   1975 album "In The Next World, You're On Your Own" included the

   phrase "Eat flaming death, fascist media pigs"; this may have been

   an influence).  Used in humorously overblown expressions of

   hostility. "Eat flaming death, {{EBCDIC}} users!"


:EBCDIC:: /eb's*-dik/, /eb'see`dik/, or /eb'k*-dik/ [abbreviation,

   Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code] n. 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}.


:eighty-column mind: [IBM] n. The sort said to be possessed by

   persons for whom the transition from {punched card} to tape was

   traumatic (nobody has dared tell them about disks yet).  It is said

   that these people, including (according to an old joke) the founder

   of IBM, will be buried `face down, 9-edge first' (the 9-edge being

   the bottom of the card).  This directive is inscribed on IBM's

   1402 and 1622 card readers and is referenced in a famous bit of

   doggerel called "The Last Bug", the climactic lines of which

   are as follows:


        He died at the console

        Of hunger and thirst.

        Next day he was buried,

        Face down, 9-edge first.


   The eighty-column mind is thought by most hackers to dominate IBM's

   customer base and its thinking.  See {IBM}, {fear and

   loathing}, {card walloper}.


:El Camino Bignum: /el' k*-mee'noh big'nuhm/ n. The road

   mundanely called El Camino Real, a road through the San Francisco

   peninsula that originally extended all the way down to Mexico City

   and many portions of which 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 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 7

   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}.)


: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}.


:elegant: [from mathematical usage] adj. Combining simplicity,

   power, and a certain ineffable grace of design.  Higher praise than

   `clever', `winning', or even {cuspy}.


: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



:elevator controller: n. Another 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}.


:ELIZA effect: /*-li:'z* *-fekt'/ [AI community] n. 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 psychoanalyst by rephrasing many of the

   patient's statements as questions and posing them to the patient.

   It worked by simple pattern recognition and substitution of key

   words into canned phrases.  It was so convincing, however, that

   there are many anecdotes about people becoming very emotionally

   caught up in dealing with ELIZA.  All this was due to people's

   tendency to attach to words meanings which the computer never put

   there.  The ELIZA effect is a {Good Thing} when writing a

   programming language, but it can blind you to serious shortcomings

   when analyzing an Artificial Intelligence system.  Compare

   {ad-hockery}; see also {AI-complete}.


:elvish: n. 1. The Tengwar of Feanor, a table of letterforms

   resembling the beautiful Celtic half-uncial hand of the `Book

   of Kells'.  Invented and described by J. R. R. Tolkien

   in `The Lord of The Rings' as an orthography for his fictional

   `elvish' languages, this system (which is both visually and

   phonetically elegant) has long fascinated hackers (who tend to be

   interested by artificial languages in general).  It is traditional

   for graphics printers, plotters, window systems, and the like to

   support a Feanorian typeface as one of their demo items.  See also

   {elder days}.  2. By extension, any odd or unreadable typeface

   produced by a graphics device.  3. The typeface mundanely called

   `B"ocklin', an art-decoish display font.


:EMACS: /ee'maks/ [from Editing MACroS] n. 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 which run

   under most major operating systems.  Perhaps the most widely used

   version, also written by Stallman and now called "{GNU} EMACS"

   or {GNUMACS}, runs principally under UNIX.  It includes

   facilities to run compilation subprocesses and send and receive

   mail; many hackers spend up to 80% of their {tube time} inside

   it.  Other variants include {GOSMACS}, CCA EMACS, UniPress

   EMACS, Montgomery EMACS, jove, epsilon, and MicroEMACS.


   Some EMACS versions running under window managers iconify as an

   overflowing kitchen sink, perhaps to suggest the one feature the

   editor does not (yet) include.  Indeed, some hackers find EMACS too

   heavyweight and {baroque} for their taste, and expand the name as

   `Escape Meta Alt Control Shift' to spoof its heavy reliance on

   keystrokes decorated with {bucky bits}.  Other spoof expansions

   include `Eight Megabytes And Constantly Swapping', `Eventually

   `malloc()'s All Computer Storage', and `EMACS Makes A Computer

   Slow' (see {{recursive acronym}}).  See also {vi}.


:email: /ee'mayl/ 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 arranged in a net work".

   A use from 1480 is given. The word is derived from French

   `emmailleure', network.


:emoticon: /ee-moh'ti-kon/ n. An ASCII glyph used to indicate an

   emotional state in email or news.  Although originally intended

   mostly as jokes, emoticons (or some other explicit humor

   indication) are virtually required under certain circumstances in

   high-volume text-only communication forums such as USENET; the lack

   of verbal and visual cues can otherwise cause what were intended to

   be humorous, sarcastic, ironic, or otherwise non-100%-serious

   comments to be badly misinterpreted (not always even by

   {newbie}s), resulting in arguments and {flame war}s.


   Hundreds of emoticons have been proposed, but only a few are in

   common use.  These include:



          `smiley face' (for humor, laughter, friendliness,

          occasionally sarcasm)



          `frowney face' (for sadness, anger, or upset)



          `half-smiley' ({ha ha only serious});

          also known as `semi-smiley' or `winkey face'.



          `wry face'


   (These may become more comprehensible if you tilt your head

   sideways, to the left.)


   The first two listed are by far the most frequently encountered.

   Hyphenless forms of them are common on CompuServe, GEnie, and BIX;

   see also {bixie}.  On {USENET}, `smiley' is often used as a

   generic term synonymous with {emoticon}, as well as specifically

   for the happy-face emoticon.


   It appears that the emoticon was invented by one Scott Fahlman on

   the CMU {bboard} systems around 1980.  He later wrote: "I wish I

   had saved the original post, or at least recorded the date for

   posterity, but I had no idea that I was starting something that

   would soon pollute all the world's communication channels."  [GLS

   confirms that he remembers this original posting].


   Note for the {newbie}: Overuse of the smiley is a mark of

   loserhood!  More than one per paragraph is a fairly sure sign that

   you've gone over the line.


:empire: n. Any of a family of military simulations derived from a

   game written by Peter Langston many years ago.  There are five or

   six multi-player variants of varying degrees of sophistication, and

   one single-player version implemented for both UNIX and VMS; the

   latter is even available as MS-DOS freeware.  All are notoriously



:engine: n. 1. A piece of hardware that encapsulates some function

   but can't be used without some kind of {front end}.  Today we

   have, especially, `print engine': the guts of a laser printer.

   2. An analogous piece of software; notionally, one that does a lot

   of noisy crunching, such as a `database engine'.


   The hackish senses of `engine' are actually close to its original,

   pre-Industrial-Revolution sense of a skill, clever device, or

   instrument (the word is cognate to `ingenuity').  This sense had

   not been completely eclipsed by the modern connotation of

   power-transducing machinery in Charles Babbage's time, which

   explains why he named the stored-program computer that

   he designed in 1844 the `Analytical Engine'.


:English: 1. n.,obs. The source code for a program, which may be in

   any language, as opposed to the linkable or executable binary

   produced from it by a compiler.  The idea behind the term is that

   to a real hacker, a program written in his favorite programming

   language is at least as readable as English.  Usage: used mostly by

   old-time hackers, though recognizable in context.  2. The official

   name of the database language used by the Pick Operating System,

   actually a sort of crufty, brain-damaged SQL with delusions of

   grandeur.  The name permits {marketroid}s to say "Yes, and you

   can program our computers in English!" to ignorant {suit}s

   without quite running afoul of the truth-in-advertising laws.


:enhancement: n. {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/ [abbreviation, `End Of File'] n. 1. [techspeak]

   Refers esp. to whatever {out-of-band} value is returned by

   C's sequential character-input functions (and their equivalents in

   other environments) when end of file has been reached.  This value

   is -1 under C libraries postdating V6 UNIX, but was

   originally 0.  2. [UNIX] The keyboard character (usually control-D,

   the ASCII EOT (End Of Transmission) character) which 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/ [End Of Line] n. 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 could make an ASR-33 Teletype explode

   on receipt.  This parodied 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: [UNIX: prob. from astronomical timekeeping] n. 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 GMT of November 17,

   1858 (base date of the U.S. Naval Observatory's ephemerides).

   System time is measured in seconds or {tick}s past the epoch.

   Weird problems may ensue when the clock wraps around (see {wrap

   around}), which is not necessarily a rare event; on systems

   counting 10 ticks per second, a signed 32-bit count of ticks is

   good only for 6.8 years.  The 1-tick-per-second clock of UNIX is

   good only until January 18, 2038, assuming at least some software

   continues to consider it signed and that word lengths don't

   increase by then.  See also {wall time}.


:epsilon: [see {delta}] 1. n. A small quantity of anything.  "The

   cost is epsilon."  2. adj. Very small, negligible; less than

   {marginal}.  "We can get this feature for epsilon cost."

   3. `within epsilon of': close enough to be indistinguishable for

   all practical purposes.  This is even closer than being `within

   delta of'.  "That's not what I asked for, but it's within

   epsilon of what I wanted."  Alternatively, it may mean not close

   enough, but very little is required to get it there: "My program

   is within epsilon of working."


:epsilon squared: n. A quantity even smaller than {epsilon}, as

   small in comparison to epsilon as epsilon is to something normal;

   completely negligible.  If you buy a supercomputer for a million

   dollars, the cost of the thousand-dollar terminal to go with it is

   {epsilon}, and the cost of the ten-dollar cable to connect them

   is epsilon squared.  Compare {lost in the underflow}, {lost

   in the noise}.


:era, the: Syn. {epoch}.  Webster's Unabridged makes these words

   almost synonymous, but `era' usually connotes a span of time rather

   than a point in time.  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. 1986; this was doubtless influenced by the

   numerous `Eric' jokes in the Monty Python oeuvre.  There do indeed

   seem to be considerably more mustachioed Erics in hackerdom than

   the frequency of these three traits can account for unless they are

   correlated in some arcane way.  Well-known examples include Eric

   Allman (he of the `Allman style' described under {indent style})

   and Erik Fair (co-author of NNTP); your editor has heard from about

   fourteen others by email, and the organization line `Eric

   Conspiracy Secret Laboratories' now emanates regularly from more

   than one site.


:Eris: /e'ris/ n. The Greek goddess of Chaos, Discord, Confusion,

   and Things You Know Not Of; her name was latinized to Discordia and

   she was worshiped by that name in Rome.  Not a very friendly deity

   in the Classical original, she was reinvented as a more benign

   personification of creative anarchy starting in 1959 by the

   adherents of {Discordianism} and has since been a semi-serious

   subject of veneration in several `fringe' cultures, including

   hackerdom.  See {Discordianism}, {Church of the SubGenius}.


:erotics: /ee-ro'tiks/ n. [Helsinki University of Technology,

   Finland] n. English-language university slang for electronics.

   Often used by hackers in Helsinki, maybe because good electronics

   excites them and makes them warm.


:error 33: [XEROX PARC] n. 1. Predicating one research effort upon

   the success of another.  2. Allowing your own research effort to be

   placed on the critical path of some other project (be it a research

   effort or not).


:essentials: n. Things necessary to maintain a productive and secure

   hacking environment.  "A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, a

   20-megahertz 80386 box with 8 meg of core and a 300-megabyte disk

   supporting full UNIX with source and X windows and EMACS and UUCP

   via a 'blazer to a friendly Internet site, and thou."


: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 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/.


:exa-: /ek's*/ [SI] pref. See {{quantifiers}}.


:examining the entrails: n. The process of {grovel}ling through

   a core dump or hex image in the 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 tend to be thinking instead of the {PostScript}

   exchange operator (which is usually written in lowercase).


:excl: /eks'kl/ n. Abbreviation for `exclamation point'.  See

   {bang}, {shriek}, {{ASCII}}.


:EXE: /eks'ee/ or /eek'see/ or /E-X-E/ n. An executable

   binary file.  Some operating systems (notably MS-DOS, VMS, and

   TWENEX) use the extension .EXE to mark such files.  This usage is

   also occasionally found among UNIX programmers even though UNIX

   executables don't have any required suffix.


:exec: /eg-zek'/ vt.,n.  1. [UNIX: from `execute'] Synonym for

   {chain}, derives from the `exec(2)' call.  2. [from

   `executive'] obs. The command interpreter for an {OS} (see

   {shell}); term esp. used around mainframes, and prob.

   derived from UNIVAC's archaic EXEC 2 and EXEC 8 operating systems.

   3. At IBM and VM/CMS shops, the equivalent of a shell command file

   (among VM/CMS users).


   The mainstream `exec' as an abbreviation for (human) executive is

   *not* used.  To a hacker, an `exec' is a always a program,

   never a person.


:exercise, left as an: [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.


:eyeball search: n. 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 =



:fab: /fab/ [from `fabricate'] v. 1. To produce chips from a

   design that may have been created by someone at another company.

   Fabbing chips based on the designs of others is the activity of a

   {silicon foundry}.  To a hacker, `fab' is practically never short

   for `fabulous'.  2. `fab line': the production system

   (lithography, diffusion, etching, etc.) for chips at a chip

   manufacturer.  Different `fab lines' are run with different

   process parameters, die sizes, or technologies, or simply to

   provide more manufacturing volume.


:face time: n. Time spent interacting with somebody face-to-face (as

   opposed to via electronic links).  "Oh, yeah, I spent some face

   time with him at the last Usenix."


:factor: n. See {coefficient of X}.


:fall over: [IBM] vi. 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 this 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



:fandango on core: [UNIX/C hackers, from the Mexican dance] n.

   In C, a wild pointer that runs out of bounds, causing a {core

   dump}, or corrupts the `malloc(3)' {arena} in such a way as

   to cause mysterious failures later on, is sometimes said to have

   `done a fandango on core'.  On low-end personal machines without an

   MMU, this can corrupt the OS itself, causing massive lossage.

   Other frenetic dances such as the rhumba, cha-cha, or watusi, may

   be substituted.  See {aliasing bug}, {precedence lossage},

   {smash the stack}, {memory leak}, {memory smash},

   {overrun screw}, {core}.


:FAQ list: /F-A-Q list/ or /fak list/ [USENET] n. A compendium

   of accumulated lore, posted periodically to high-volume newsgroups

   in an attempt to forestall Frequently Asked Questions.  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 posting.

   Examples: "What is the proper type of NULL?"  and "What's that

   funny name for the `#' character?" are both Frequently Asked

   Questions.  Several extant FAQ lists do (or should) make reference

   to the Jargon File (the on-line version of this lexicon).


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


:farming: [Adelaide University, Australia] n. What the heads of a

   disk drive are said to do when they plow little furrows in the

   magnetic media.  Associated with a {crash}.  Typically used as

   follows: "Oh no, the machine has just crashed; I hope the hard

   drive hasn't gone {farming} again."


:fascist: adj. 1. Said of a computer system with excessive or

   annoying security barriers, usage limits, or access policies.  The

   implication is that said policies are preventing hackers from

   getting interesting work done.  The variant `fascistic' seems

   to have been preferred at MIT, poss. by analogy with

   `touristic' (see {tourist}).  2. In the design of languages

   and other software tools, `the fascist alternative' is the most

   restrictive and structured way of capturing a particular function;

   the implication is that this may be desirable in order to simplify

   the implementation or provide tighter error checking.  Compare

   {bondage-and-discipline language}, but 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 up, and use

   special auxiliary taps on the *bottom* of the coil.  Now,

   this is a problem, because when they do that they get not ordinary

   or `thin' electrons, but the fat'n'sloppy electrons that are

   heavier and so settle to the bottom of the generator.  These flow

   down ordinary wires just fine, but when they have to turn a sharp

   corner (as in an integrated-circuit via) they're apt to get stuck.

   This is what causes computer glitches.  [Fascinating.  Obviously,

   fat electrons must gain mass by {bogon} absorption --- ESR]

   Compare {bogon}, {magic smoke}.


:faulty: adj. Non-functional; buggy.  Same denotation as

   {bletcherous}, {losing}, q.v., but the connotation is much



:fd leak: /F-D leek/ n. A kind of programming bug analogous to a

   {core leak}, in which a program fails to close file descriptors

   (`fd's) after file operations are completed, and thus eventually

   runs out of them.  See {leak}.


:fear and loathing: [from Hunter Thompson] n. A state inspired by the

   prospect of dealing with certain real-world systems and standards

   that are totally {brain-damaged} but ubiquitous --- Intel 8086s,

   or {COBOL}, or {{EBCDIC}}, or any {IBM} machine except the

   Rios (a.k.a.  the RS/6000).  "Ack!  They want PCs to be able to

   talk to the AI machine.  Fear and loathing time!"


:feature: n. 1. A good property or behavior (as of a program).

   Whether it was intended or not is immaterial.  2. An intended

   property or behavior (as of a program).  Whether it is good or not

   is immaterial (but if bad, it is also a {misfeature}).  3. A

   surprising property or behavior; in particular, one that is

   purposely inconsistent because it works better that way --- such an

   inconsistency is therefore a {feature} and not a {bug}.  This

   kind of feature is sometimes called a {miswart}; see that entry

   for a classic example.  4. A property or behavior that is

   gratuitous or unnecessary, though perhaps also impressive or cute.

   For example, one feature of Common LISP's `format' function is

   the ability to print numbers in two different Roman-numeral formats

   (see {bells, whistles, and gongs}).  5. A property or behavior

   that was put in to help someone else but that happens to be in your

   way.  6. A bug that has been documented.  To call something a

   feature sometimes means the author of the program did not consider

   the particular case, and that the program responded in a way that

   was unexpected but not strictly incorrect.  A standard joke is that

   a bug can be turned into a {feature} simply by documenting it

   (then theoretically no one can complain about it because it's in

   the manual), or even by simply declaring it to be good.  "That's

   not a bug, that's a feature!" is a common catchphrase.  See also

   {feetch feetch}, {creeping featurism}, {wart}, {green



   The relationship among bugs, features, misfeatures, warts, and

   miswarts might be clarified by the following hypothetical exchange

   between two hackers on an airliner:


   A: "This seat doesn't recline."


   B: "That's not a bug, that's a feature.  There is an emergency

   exit door built around the window behind you, and the route has to

   be kept clear."


   A: "Oh.  Then it's a misfeature; they should have increased the

   spacing between rows here."


   B: "Yes.  But if they'd increased spacing in only one section it

   would have been a wart --- they would've had to make

   nonstandard-length ceiling panels to fit over the displaced



   A: "A miswart, actually.  If they increased spacing throughout

   they'd lose several rows and a chunk out of the profit margin.  So

   unequal spacing would actually be the Right Thing."


   B: "Indeed."


   `Undocumented feature' is a common, allegedly humorous euphemism

   for a {bug}.


:feature creature: [poss. fr. slang `creature feature' for a

   horror movie] n. 1. One who loves to add features to designs or

   programs, perhaps at the expense of coherence, concision, or

   {taste}.  2. Alternately, a semi-mythical being that induces

   otherwise rational programmers to perpetrate such crocks.  See also

   {feeping creaturism}, {creeping featurism}.


:feature key: n. The Macintosh key with the cloverleaf graphic on

   its keytop; sometimes referred to as `flower', `pretzel',

   `clover', `propeller', `beanie' (an apparent reference to the

   major feature of a propeller beanie), {splat}, or the `command

   key'.  The Mac's equivalent of an {alt} key.  The proliferation

   of terms for this creature may illustrate one subtle peril of

   iconic interfaces.


   Many people have been mystified by the cloverleaf-like symbol that

   appears on the feature key.  Its oldest name is `cross of St.

   Hannes', but it occurs in pre-Christian Viking art as a decorative

   motif.  Throughout Scandinavia today the road agencies use it to

   mark sites of historical interest.  Many of these are old churches;

   hence, the Swedish idiom for the symbol is `kyrka', cognate to

   English `church' and Scots-dialect `kirk' but pronounced

   /shir'k*/ in modern Swedish.  This is in fact where Apple got the

   symbol; they give the translation "interesting feature"!


:feature shock: [from Alvin Toffler's book title `Future

   Shock'] n.  A user's (or programmer's!) confusion when confronted

   with a package that has too many features and poor introductory



: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.  (This 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 5 seconds).  The `feeper' on a VT-52 has been

   compared to the sound of a '52 Chevy stripping its gears.  See also



:feeper: /fee'pr/ n. The device in a terminal or workstation (usually

   a loudspeaker of some kind) that makes the {feep} sound.


:feeping creature: [from {feeping creaturism}] n. 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. [among users of optimizing compilers] Any

   technique, usually exploiting knowledge about the compiler, that

   blocks certain optimizations.  Used when explicit mechanisms are

   not available or are overkill.  Typically a hack: "I call a dummy

   procedure there to force a flush of the optimizer's

   register-coloring info" can be expressed by the shorter "That's a

   fence procedure".


:fencepost error: n. 1. A problem with the discrete equivalent of a

   boundary condition.  Often exhibited in programs by iterative

   loops.  From the following problem: "If you build a fence 100 feet

   long with posts 10 feet apart, how many posts do you need?"

   Either 9 or 11 is a better answer than the obvious 10.  For

   example, suppose you have a long list or array of items, and want

   to process items m through n; how many items are there?  The

   obvious answer is n - m, but that is off by one; the right

   answer is n - m + 1.  A program that used the `obvious'

   formula would have a fencepost error in it.  See also {zeroth}

   and {off-by-one error}, and note that not all off-by-one errors

   are fencepost errors.  The game of Musical Chairs involves a

   catastrophic off-by-one error where N people try to sit in

   N - 1 chairs, but it's not a fencepost error.  Fencepost

   errors come from counting things rather than the spaces between

   them, or vice versa, or by neglecting to consider whether one

   should count one or both ends of a row.  2. Occasionally, an error

   induced by unexpectedly regular spacing of inputs, which can (for

   instance) screw up your hash table.


:fepped out: /fept owt/ adj. The Symbolics 3600 Lisp Machine has a

   Front-End Processor called a `FEP' (compare sense 2 of {box}).

   When the main processor gets {wedged}, the FEP takes control of

   the keyboard and screen.  Such a machine is said to have

   `fepped out'.


:FidoNet: n. A worldwide hobbyist network of personal computers

   which exchange mail, discussion groups, and files.  Founded in 1984

   and originally consisting only of IBM PCs and compatibles, FidoNet

   now includes such diverse machines as Apple ][s, Ataris, Amigas,

   and UNIX systems.  Though it is much younger than {USENET},

   FidoNet is already (in early 1991) a significant fraction of

   USENET's size at some 8000 systems.


:field circus: [a derogatory pun on `field service'] n. The field

   service organization of any hardware manufacturer, but especially

   DEC.  There is an entire genre of jokes about DEC field circus



     Q: How can you recognize a DEC field circus engineer

        with a flat tire?

     A: He's changing one tire at a time to see which one is flat.


     Q: How can you recognize a DEC field circus engineer

        who is out of gas?

     A: He's changing one tire at a time to see which one is flat.


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


   There is also the `Field Circus Cheer' (from the {plan file} for

   DEC on MIT-AI):


     Maynard! Maynard!

     Don't mess with us!

     We're mean and we're tough!

     If you get us confused

     We'll screw up your stuff.


   (DEC's service HQ is located in Maynard, Massachusetts.)


:field servoid: [play on `android'] /fee'ld ser'voyd/ n.

   Representative of a field service organization (see {field

   circus}).  This has many of the implications of {droid}.


:Fight-o-net: [FidoNet] n. Deliberate distortion of {FidoNet},

   often applied after a flurry of {flamage} in a particular

   {echo}, especially the SYSOP echo or Fidonews (see {'Snooze}).


:File Attach: [FidoNet] 1. n. A file sent along with a mail message

   from one BBS to another.  2. vt. Sending someone a file by using

   the File Attach option in a BBS mailer.


:File Request: [FidoNet] 1. n. The {FidoNet} equivalent of

   {FTP}, in which one BBS system automatically dials another and

   {snarf}s one or more files.  Often abbreviated `FReq'; files

   are often announced as being "available for FReq" in the same way

   that files are announced as being "available for/by anonymous

   FTP" on the Internet.  2. vt. The act of getting a copy of a file

   by using the File Request option of the BBS mailer.


:file signature: n. A {magic number} sense 3.


:filk: /filk/ [from SF fandom, where a typo for `folk' was

   adopted as a new word] n.,v. A `filk' is a popular or folk song

   with lyrics revised or completely new lyrics, intended for humorous

   effect when read and/or to be sung late at night at SF conventions.

   There is a flourishing subgenre of these called `computer filks',

   written by hackers and often containing rather sophisticated

   technical humor.  See {double bucky} for an example.  Compare

   {hing} and {newsfroup}.


:film at 11: [MIT: in parody of TV newscasters] 1. Used in

   conversation to announce ordinary events, with a sarcastic

   implication that these events are earth-shattering.  "{{ITS}}

   crashes; film at 11."  "Bug found in scheduler; film at 11."

   2. Also widely used outside MIT to indicate that additional

   information will be available at some future time, *without*

   the implication of anything particularly ordinary about the

   referenced event.  For example, "The mail file server died this

   morning; we found garbage all over the root directory.  Film at

   11." would indicate that a major failure had occurred but the

   people working on it have no additional information about it.  Use

   of the phrase in this way suggests gently people would appreciate

   it if users would quit bothering them and wait for the 11:00 news

   for additional information.


:filter: [orig. {{UNIX}}, now also in {{MS-DOS}}] n. 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}).


:Finagle's Law: n. The generalized or `folk' version of

   {Murphy's Law}, fully named "Finagle's Law of Dynamic

   Negatives" and usually rendered "Anything that can go wrong,

   will".  One variant favored among hackers is "The perversity of

   the Universe tends towards a maximum" (but see also {Hanlon's

   Razor}).  The label `Finagle's Law' was popularized by SF author

   Larry Niven in several stories depicting a frontier culture of

   asteroid miners; this `Belter' culture professed a religion

   and/or running joke involving the worship of the dread god Finagle

   and his mad prophet Murphy.


:fine: [WPI] adj. 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 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.  2. vt. To apply finger

   to a username.  3. vt. By extension, to check a human's current

   state by any means.  "Foodp?"  "T!"  "OK, finger Lisa and see

   if she's idle."  4. Any picture (composed of ASCII characters)

   depicting `the finger'.  Originally a humorous component of one's

   plan file to deter the curious fingerer (sense 2), it has entered

   the arsenal of some {flamer}s.


:finger-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: [IRC] v.  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.


:firebottle: n. A large, primitive, power-hungry active electrical

   device, similar in function to a FET but constructed out of glass,

   metal, and vacuum.  Characterized by high cost, low density, low

   reliability, high-temperature operation, and high power

   dissipation.  Sometimes mistakenly called a `tube' in the U.S.

   or a `valve' in England; another hackish term is {glassfet}.


:firefighting: n. 1. What sysadmins have to do to correct sudden

   operational problems.  An opposite of hacking.  "Been hacking your

   new newsreader?"  "No, a power glitch hosed the network and I spent

   the whole afternoon fighting fires."  2. The act of throwing lots

   of manpower and late nights at a project, esp. to get it out

   before deadline.  See also {gang bang}, {Mongolian Hordes

   technique}; however, the term `firefighting' connotes that the

   effort is going into chasing bugs rather than adding features.


:firehose syndrome: n. In mainstream folklore it is observed that

   trying to drink from a firehose can be a good way to rip your lips

   off.  On computer networks, the absence or failure of flow control

   mechanisms can lead to situations in which the sending system

   sprays a massive flood of packets at an unfortunate receiving

   system; more than it can handle.  Compare {overrun}, {buffer



:firewall code: n. 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.


:firewall machine: n. A dedicated gateway machine with special

   security precautions on it, used to service outside network

   connections and dial-in lines.  The idea is to protect a cluster of

   more loosely administered machines hidden behind it from

   {cracker}s.  The typical firewall is an inexpensive micro-based

   UNIX box kept clean of critical data, with a bunch of modems and

   public network ports on it but just one carefully watched

   connection back to the rest of the cluster.  The special

   precautions may include threat monitoring, callback, and even a

   complete {iron box} keyable to particular incoming IDs or

   activity patterns.  Syn. {flytrap}, {Venus flytrap}.


:fireworks mode: n. The mode a machine is sometimes said to be in when

   it is performing a {crash and burn} operation.


:firmy: /fer'mee/ Syn. {stiffy} (a 3.5-inch floppy disk).


:fish: [Adelaide University, Australia] n. 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: [acronym, by analogy with FIFO (First In, First Out)]

   n. `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: // [Thinking Machines, Inc.] Fixed In the Next Release.

   A written-only notation attached to bug reports.  Often wishful



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

   times to be ignored.


:flag: n. A variable or quantity that can take on one of two

   values; a bit, particularly one that is used to indicate one of two

   outcomes or is used to control which of two things is to be done.

   "This flag controls whether to clear the screen before printing

   the message."  "The program status word contains several flag

   bits."  Used of humans analogously to {bit}.  See also

   {hidden flag}, {mode bit}.


:flag day: n. A software change that is neither forward- nor

   backward-compatible, and which is costly to make and costly to

   reverse.  "Can we install that without causing a flag day for all

   users?"  This term has nothing to do with the use of the word

   {flag} to mean a variable that has two values.  It came into use

   when a massive change was made to the {{Multics}} timesharing

   system to convert from the old ASCII code to the new one; this was

   scheduled for Flag Day (a U.S. holiday), June 14, 1966.  See also

   {backward combatability}.


:flaky: adj. (var sp. `flakey') Subject to frequent {lossage}.

   This use is of course related to the common slang use of the word

   to describe a person as eccentric, crazy, or just unreliable.  A

   system that is flaky is working, sort of --- enough that you are

   tempted to try to use it --- but fails frequently enough that the

   odds in favor of finishing what you start are low.  Commonwealth

   hackish prefers {dodgy} or {wonky}.


:flamage: /flay'm*j/ n. Flaming verbiage, esp. high-noise,

   low-signal postings to {USENET} or other electronic {fora}.

   Often in the phrase `the usual flamage'.  `Flaming' is the act

   itself; `flamage' the content; a `flame' is a single flaming

   message.  See {flame}.


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

   provoke.  2. vi. To speak incessantly and/or rabidly on some

   relatively uninteresting subject or with a patently ridiculous

   attitude.  3. vt. Either of senses 1 or 2, directed with

   hostility at a particular person or people.  4. n. An instance of

   flaming.  When a discussion degenerates into useless controversy,

   one might tell the participants "Now you're just flaming" or

   "Stop all that flamage!" to try to get them to cool down (so to



   USENETter Marc Ramsey, who was at WPI from 1972 to 1976, adds: "I

   am 99% certain that the use of `flame' originated at WPI.  Those

   who made a nuisance of themselves insisting that they needed to use

   a TTY for `real work' came to be known as `flaming asshole lusers'.

   Other particularly annoying people became `flaming asshole ravers',

   which shortened to `flaming ravers', and ultimately `flamers'.  I

   remember someone picking up on the Human Torch pun, but I don't

   think `flame on/off' was ever much used at WPI."  See also



   The term may have been independently invented at several different

   places; it is also reported that `flaming' was in use to mean

   something like `interminably drawn-out semi-serious discussions'

   (late-night bull sessions) at Carleton College during 1968--1971.


   It's 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 be right at home on USENET.


:flame bait: n. A posting intended to trigger a {flame war}, or one

   that invites flames in reply.


:flame on: vi.,interj.  1. To begin to {flame}.  The punning

   reference to Marvel Comics's Human Torch is no longer widely

   recognized.  2. To continue to flame.  See {rave}, {burble}.


:flame war: n. (var. `flamewar') An acrimonious dispute,

   especially when conducted on a public electronic forum such as



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

   {USENET} personalities.


:flap: vt. 1. To unload a DECtape (so it goes flap, flap,

   flap...).  Old-time hackers at MIT tell of the days when the

   disk was device 0 and {microtape}s were 1, 2,... and

   attempting to flap device 0 would instead start a motor banging

   inside a cabinet near the disk.  2. By extension, to unload any

   magnetic tape.  See also {macrotape}.  Modern cartridge tapes no

   longer actually flap, but the usage has remained.  (The term could

   well be re-applied to DEC's TK50 cartridge tape drive, a

   spectacularly misengineered contraption which makes a loud flapping

   sound, almost like an old reel-type lawnmower, in one of its many

   tape-eating failure modes.)


:flarp: /flarp/ [Rutgers University] n. Yet another {metasyntactic

   variable} (see {foo}).  Among those who use it, it is associated

   with a legend that any program not containing the word `flarp'

   somewhere will not work.  The legend is discreetly silent on the

   reliability of programs which *do* contain the magic word.


:flat: adj. 1. Lacking any complex internal structure.  "That

   {bitty box} has only a flat filesystem, not a hierarchical

   one."  The verb form is {flatten}.  2. Said of a memory

   architecture (like that of the VAX or 680x0) that is one big linear

   address space (typically with each possible value of a processor

   register corresponding to a unique core address), as opposed to a

   `segmented' architecture (like that of the 80x86) in which

   addresses are composed from a base-register/offset pair (segmented

   designs are generally considered {cretinous}).


   Note that sense 1 (at least with respect to filesystems) is usually

   used pejoratively, while sense 2 is a {Good Thing}.


:flat-ASCII: adj. Said of a text file that contains only 7-bit ASCII

   characters and uses only ASCII-standard control characters (that

   is, has no embedded codes specific to a particular text formatter

   or markup language, 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}



:flatten: vt. To remove structural information, esp. to filter

   something with an implicit tree structure into a simple sequence of

   leaves; also tends to imply mapping to {flat-ASCII}.  "This code

   flattens an expression with parentheses into an equivalent

   {canonical} form."


:flavor: n. 1. Variety, type, kind.  "DDT commands come in two

   flavors."  "These lights come in two flavors, big red ones and

   small green ones."  See {vanilla}.  2. The attribute that causes

   something to be {flavorful}.  Usually used in the phrase "yields

   additional flavor".  "This convention yields additional flavor by

   allowing one to print text either right-side-up or upside-down."

   See {vanilla}.  This usage was certainly reinforced by the

   terminology of quantum chromodynamics, in which quarks (the

   constituents of, e.g., protons) come in six flavors (up, down,

   strange, charm, top, bottom) and three colors (red, blue, green)

   --- however, hackish use of `flavor' at MIT predated QCD.  3. The

   term for `class' (in the object-oriented sense) in the LISP Machine

   Flavors system.  Though the Flavors design has been superseded

   (notably by the Common LISP CLOS facility), the term `flavor' is

   still used as a general synonym for `class' by some LISP hackers.


:flavorful: adj. Full of {flavor}; esthetically pleasing.  See

   {random} and {losing} for antonyms.  See also the entries for

   {taste} and {elegant}.


:flippy: /flip'ee/ n. A single-sided floppy disk altered for

   double-sided use by addition of a second write-notch, so called

   because it must be flipped over for the second side to be

   accessible.  No longer common.


:flood: [IRC] v.  To dump large amounts of text onto an {IRC}

   channel.  This is especially rude when the text is uninteresting

   and the other users are trying to carry on a serious conversation.


:flowchart:: [techspeak] n. 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 is because (from a

   hacker's point of view) they are no easier to read than code, are

   less precise, and tend to fall out of sync with the code (so that

   they either obfuscate it rather than explaining it or require

   extra maintenance effort that doesn't improve the code).  See also

   {pdl}, sense 3.


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


:flush: v. 1. To delete something, usually superfluous, or to abort

   an operation.  "All that nonsense has been flushed."  2. [UNIX/C]

   To force buffered I/O to disk, as with an `fflush(3)' call.

   This is *not* an abort or deletion as in sense 1, but a

   demand for early completion!  3. To leave at the end of a day's

   work (as opposed to leaving for a meal).  "I'm going to flush

   now."  "Time to flush."  4. To exclude someone from an activity,

   or to ignore a person.


   `Flush' was standard ITS terminology for aborting an output

   operation; one spoke of the text that would have been printed, but

   was not, as having been flushed.  It is speculated that this term

   arose from a vivid image of flushing unwanted characters by hosing

   down the internal output buffer, washing the characters away before

   they can be printed.  The UNIX/C usage, on the other hand, was

   propagated by the `fflush(3)' call in C's standard I/O library

   (though it is reported to have been in use among BLISS programmers

   at DEC and on Honeywell and IBM machines as far back as 1965).

   UNIX/C hackers find the ITS usage confusing, and vice versa.


:flypage: /fli: payj/n. (alt. `fly page') A {banner}, sense 1.


:Flyspeck 3: n. Standard name for any font that is so tiny as to be

   unreadable (by analogy with such names as `Helvetica 10' for

   10-point Helvetica).  Legal boilerplate is usually printed in

   Flyspeck 3.


:flytrap: n. See {firewall machine}.


:FM: n. *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?"


:FOAF: // [USENET] n. Acronym for `Friend Of A Friend'.  The

   source of an unverified, possibly untrue story.  This 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 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 does to the engine.


:fold case: v. See {smash case}.  This term tends to be used

   more by people who don't mind that their tools smash case.  It also

   connotes that case is ignored but case distinctions in data

   processed by the tool in question aren't destroyed.


:followup: n. On USENET, a {posting} generated in response to

   another posting (as opposed to a {reply}, which goes by email

   rather than being broadcast).  Followups include the ID of the

   {parent message} in their headers; smart news-readers can use

   this information to present USENET news in `conversation' sequence

   rather than order-of-arrival.  See {thread}.


:fontology: [XEROX PARC] n. The body of knowledge dealing with the

   construction and use of new fonts (e.g. for window systems and

   typesetting software).  It has been said that fontology

   recapitulates file-ogeny.


   [Unfortunately, this reference to the embryological dictum that

   "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" is not merely a joke.  On the

   Macintosh, for example, System 7 has to go through contortions to

   compensate for an earlier design error that created a whole

   different set of abstractions for fonts parallel to `files' and

   `folders' --- ESR]


:foo: /foo/ 1. interj. Term of disgust.  2. Used very generally

   as a sample name for absolutely anything, esp. programs and files

   (esp. scratch files).  3. First on the standard list of

   {metasyntactic variable}s used in syntax examples.  See also

   {bar}, {baz}, {qux}, {quux}, {corge}, {grault},

   {garply}, {waldo}, {fred}, {plugh}, {xyzzy},



   The etymology of hackish `foo' is obscure.  When used in

   connection with `bar' it is generally traced to the WWII-era Army

   slang acronym FUBAR (`Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition'), later

   bowdlerized to {foobar}.  (See also {FUBAR}).


   However, the use of the word `foo' itself has more complicated

   antecedents, including a long history in comic strips and cartoons.

   The old "Smokey Stover" comic strips by Bill Holman often

   included the word `FOO', in particular on license plates of cars;

   allegedly, `FOO' and `BAR' also occurred in Walt Kelly's

   "Pogo" strips.  In the 1938 cartoon "Daffy Doc", a very

   early version of Daffy Duck holds up a sign saying "SILENCE IS

   FOO!"; oddly, this seems to refer to some approving or positive

   affirmative use of foo.  It has been suggested that this might be

   related to the Chinese word `fu' (sometimes transliterated

   `foo'), which can mean "happiness" when spoken with the proper

   tone (the lion-dog guardians flanking the steps of many Chinese

   restaurants are properly called "fu dogs").


   It is even possible that hacker usage actually springs from

   `FOO, Lampoons and Parody', the title of a comic book first

   issued in September 1958; the byline read `C. Crumb' but the style

   of the art suggests this may well have been a sort-of pseudonym for

   noted weird-comix artist Robert Crumb.  The title FOO was featured

   in large letters on the front cover.  What the word meant to Mr.

   Crumb is anybody's guess.


   An old-time member reports that in the 1959 `Dictionary of the

   TMRC Language', compiled at {TMRC} there was