# THIS IS THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 2.9.10, 01 JUL 1992 # This is the Jargon File, a compre

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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 future. :Introduction: ************** :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 resynchronizations). The File expanded by fits and starts until about 1983; Richard Stallman was prominent among the contributors, adding many MIT and ITS-related coinages. In Spring 1981, a hacker named Charles Spurgeon got a large chunk of the File published in 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 permanent. The AI Lab culture had been hit hard in the late 1970s by funding cuts and the resulting administrative decision to use vendor-supported hardware and software instead of homebrew whenever possible. At MIT, most AI work had turned to dedicated LISP Machines. At the same time, the commercialization of AI technology lured some of the AI Lab's best and brightest away to startups along the Route 128 strip in Massachusetts and out West in Silicon Valley. The startups built LISP machines for MIT; the central MIT-AI computer became a {TWENEX} system rather than a host for the AI hackers' beloved {ITS}. The Stanford AI Lab had effectively ceased to exist by 1980, although the SAIL computer continued as a Computer Science Department resource until 1991. Stanford became a major {TWENEX} site, at one point operating more than a dozen TOPS-20 systems; but by the mid-1980s most of the interesting software work was being done on the emerging BSD UNIX standard. In April 1983, the PDP-10-centered cultures that had nourished the File were dealt a death-blow by the cancellation of the Jupiter project at Digital Equipment Corporation. The File's compilers, already dispersed, moved on to other things. Steele-1983 was partly a monument to what its authors thought was a dying tradition; no one involved realized at the time just how wide its influence was to be. By the mid-1980s the File's content was dated, but the legend that had grown up around it never quite died out. The book, and softcopies obtained off the ARPANET, circulated even in cultures far removed from MIT and Stanford; the content exerted a strong and continuing influence on 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 maintains the new File with assistance from Guy L. Steele Jr. ; these are the persons primarily reflected in the File's editorial `we', though we take pleasure in acknowledging the special contribution of the other coauthors of Steele-1983. Please email all additions, corrections, and correspondence relating to the Jargon File to 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 community. 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 entries. Version 2.9.8, Jan 01 1992: first public release since the book, including over fifty new entries and numerous corrections/additions to old ones. Packaged with version 1.1 of vh(1) hypertext reader. This version had 19509 lines, 153108 words, 1006023 characters, and 1760 entries. Version 2.9.9, Apr 01 1992: folded in XEROX PARC lexicon. This version had 20298 lines, 159651 words, 1048909 characters, and 1821 entries. Version 2.9.10, Jul 01 1992: lots of new historical material. This version had 21349 lines, 168330 words, 1106991 characters, and 1891 entries. Version numbering: Version numbers should be read as major.minor.revision. Major version 1 is reserved for the `old' (ITS) Jargon File, jargon-1. Major version 2 encompasses revisions by ESR (Eric S. Raymond) with assistance from GLS (Guy L. Steele, Jr.). 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 around. Our thanks to the coauthors of Steele-1983 for oversight and assistance, and to the hundreds of USENETters (too many to name here) who contributed entries and encouragement. More thanks go to several of the old-timers on the USENET group alt.folklore.computers, who contributed much useful commentary and many corrections and valuable historical perspective: Joseph M. Newcomer , Bernie Cosell , Earl Boebert , and Joe Morris . We were fortunate enough to have the aid of some accomplished linguists. David Stampe and Charles Hoequist contributed valuable criticism; Joe Keane helped us improve the pronunciation guides. A few bits of this text quote previous works. We are indebted to Brian A. LaMacchia for obtaining permission for us to use material from the `TMRC Dictionary'; also, Don Libes contributed some appropriate material from his excellent book `Life With UNIX'. We thank Per Lindberg , author of the remarkable Swedish-language 'zine `Hackerbladet', for bringing `FOO!' comics to our attention and smuggling one of the IBM hacker underground's own baby jargon files out to us. Thanks also to Maarten Litmaath for generously allowing the inclusion of the ASCII pronunciation guide he formerly maintained. And our gratitude to Marc Weiser of XEROX PARC for securing us permission to quote from PARC's own jargon lexicon and shipping us a copy. It is a particular pleasure to acknowledge the major contributions of Mark Brader 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 helped with TeX arcana and painstakingly proofread some 2.7 and 2.8 versions; Steve Summit contributed a number of excellent new entries and many small improvements to 2.9.10; and Eric Tiedemann contributed sage advice throughout on rhetoric, amphigory, and philosophunculism. :How Jargon Works: ****************** :Jargon Construction: ===================== There are some standard methods of jargonification that became established quite early (i.e., before 1970), spreading from such sources as the Tech Model Railroad Club, the PDP-1 SPACEWAR hackers, and John McCarthy's original crew of LISPers. These include 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, comp.unix.internals.system.calls.brk.brk.brk, sci.physics.edward.teller.boom.boom.boom, and alt.sadistic.dentists.drill.drill.drill. :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 kind. Hackers enjoy overgeneralization on the grammatical level as well. Many hackers love to take various words and add the wrong endings to them to make nouns and verbs, often by extending a standard rule to nonuniform cases (or vice versa). For example, because porous => porosity generous => generosity hackers happily generalize: mysterious => mysteriosity ferrous => ferrosity obvious => obviosity dubious => dubiosity 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 concerned. Hackers tend to use quotes as balanced delimiters like parentheses, much to the dismay of American editors. Thus, if "Jim is going" is a phrase, and so are "Bill runs" and "Spock groks", then hackers generally prefer to write: "Jim is going", "Bill runs", and "Spock groks". This is incorrect according to standard American usage (which would put the continuation commas and the final period inside the string quotes); however, it is counter-intuitive to hackers to mutilate literal strings with characters that don't belong in them. Given the sorts of examples that can come up in discussions of programming, American-style quoting can even be grossly misleading. When communicating command lines or small pieces of code, extra characters can be a real pain in the neck. Consider, for example, a sentence in a {vi} tutorial that looks like 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 sentences. There seems to be a meta-rule behind these nonstandard hackerisms to the effect that precision of expression is more important than conformance to traditional rules; where the latter create ambiguity or lose information they can be discarded without a second thought. It is notable in this respect that other hackish inventions (for example, in vocabulary) also tend to carry very precise shades of meaning even when constructed to appear slangy and loose. In fact, to a hacker, the contrast between `loose' form and `tight' content in jargon is a substantial part of its humor! Hackers have also developed a number of punctuation and emphasis conventions adapted to single-font all-ASCII communications links, and these are occasionally carried over into written documents even when normal means of font changes, underlining, and the like are available. One of these is that TEXT IN ALL CAPS IS INTERPRETED AS `LOUD', and this becomes such an ingrained synesthetic reflex that a person who goes to caps-lock while in {talk mode} may be asked to "stop shouting, please, you're hurting my ears!". Also, it is common to use bracketing with unusual characters to signify emphasis. The asterisk is most common, as in "What the *hell*?" even though this interferes with the common use of the asterisk suffix as a footnote mark. The underscore is also common, suggesting underlining (this is particularly common with book titles; for example, "It is often alleged that Joe Haldeman wrote _The_Forever_War_ as a rebuttal to Robert Heinlein's earlier novel of the future military, _Starship_Troopers_."). Other forms exemplified by "=hell=", "\hell/", or "/hell/" are occasionally seen (it's claimed that in the last example the first slash pushes the letters over to the right to make them italic, and the second keeps them from falling over). 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 text 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 fanzines. 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 desired. #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 -- == 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 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 possessive). It should also be noted that hackers exhibit much less reluctance to use multiply nested parentheses than is normal in English. Part of this is almost certainly due to influence from LISP (which uses deeply nested parentheses (like this (see?)) in its syntax a lot), but it has also been suggested that a more basic hacker trait of enjoying playing with complexity and pushing systems to their limits is in operation. 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 */ /* ---------- "Article subject, chopped to 35 ch" ---------- */ /* 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 verbosity. 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 super-user). 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) { and 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 them. 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 English-speakers. :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: a back, that ar far, mark aw flaw, caught ay bake, rain e less, men ee easy, ski eir their, software i trip, hit i: life, sky o father, palm oh flow, sew oo loot, through or more, door ow out, how oy boy, coin uh but, some u put, foot y yet, young yoo few, chew [y]oo /oo/ with optional fronting as in `news' (/nooz/ or /nyooz/) 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 bug. The beginning of each entry is marked by a colon (`:') at the left margin. This convention helps out tools like hypertext browsers that benefit from knowing where entry boundaries are, but aren't as context-sensitive as humans. In pure ASCII renderings of the Jargon File, you will see {} used to bracket words which themselves have entries in the File. This isn't done all the time for every such word, but it is done everywhere that a reminder seems useful that the term has a jargon meaning and one might wish to refer to its entry. In this all-ASCII version, headwords for topic entries are distinguished from those for ordinary entries by being followed by "::" rather than ":"; similarly, references are surrounded by "{{" and "}}" rather than "{" and "}". Defining instances of terms and phrases appear in `slanted type'. A defining instance is one which occurs near to or as part of an explanation of it. Prefix * is used as linguists do; to mark examples of incorrect usage. We follow the `logical' quoting convention described in the Writing Style section above. In addition, we reserve double quotes for actual excerpts of text or (sometimes invented) speech. Scare quotes (which mark a word being used in a nonstandard way), and philosopher's quotes (which turn an utterance into the string of letters or words that name it) are both rendered with single quotes. References such as `malloc(3)' and `patch(1)' are to UNIX facilities (some of which, such as `patch(1)', are actually 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: abbrev. abbreviation adj. adjective adv. adverb alt. alternate cav. caveat esp. especially excl. exclamation imp. imperative interj. interjection n. noun obs. obsolete pl. plural poss. possibly pref. prefix prob. probably prov. proverbial quant. quantifier suff. suffix syn. synonym (or synonymous with) v. verb (may be transitive or intransitive) var. variant vi. intransitive verb vt. transitive verb Where alternate spellings or pronunciations are given, alt. separates two possibilities with nearly equal distribution, while var. prefixes one that is markedly less common than the primary. Where a term can be attributed to a particular subculture or is known to have originated there, we have tried to so indicate. Here is a list of abbreviations used in etymologies: Berkeley University of California at Berkeley Cambridge the university in England (*not* the city in Massachusetts where MIT happens to be located!) BBN Bolt, Beranek & Newman CMU Carnegie-Mellon University Commodore Commodore Business Machines DEC The Digital Equipment Corporation Fairchild The Fairchild Instruments Palo Alto development group Fidonet See the {Fidonet} entry IBM International Business Machines MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology; esp. the legendary MIT AI Lab culture of roughly 1971 to 1983 and its feeder groups, including the Tech Model Railroad Club NRL Naval Research Laboratories NYU New York University OED The Oxford English Dictionary Purdue Purdue University SAIL Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (at Stanford University) SI From Syst`eme International, the name for the standard conventions of metric nomenclature used in the sciences Stanford Stanford University Sun Sun Microsystems TMRC Some MITisms go back as far as the Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) at MIT c. 1960. Material marked TMRC is from `An Abridged Dictionary of the TMRC Language', originally compiled by Pete Samson in 1959 UCLA University of California at Los Angeles UK the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland) USENET See the {USENET} entry WPI Worcester Polytechnic Institute, site of a very active community of PDP-10 hackers during the 1970s XEROX PARC XEROX's Palo Alto Research Center, site of much pioneering research in user interface design and networking Yale Yale University Some other etymology abbreviations such as {UNIX} and {PDP-10} refer to technical cultures surrounding specific operating systems, processors, or other environments. The fact that a term is labelled with any one of these abbreviations does not necessarily mean its use is confined to that culture. In particular, many terms labelled `MIT' and `Stanford' are in quite general use. We have tried to give some indication of the distribution of speakers in the usage notes; however, a number of factors mentioned in the introduction conspire to make these indications less definite than might be desirable. A few new definitions attached to entries are marked [proposed]. These are usually generalizations suggested by editors or USENET respondents in the process of commenting on previous definitions of those entries. These are *not* represented as established jargon. :Format For New Entries: ======================== 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 `abbreviation'. :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 mangler}. :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 entrance. :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, Hacker}}. :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}, {virgin}. :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* basket. :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 `&' operator. :amper: n. Common abbreviation for the name of the ampersand (`&', ASCII 0100110) character. See {{ASCII}} for other synonyms. :angle brackets: n. Either of the characters `<' (ASCII 0111100) and `>' (ASCII 0111110) (ASCII less-than or greater-than signs). The {Real World} angle brackets used by typographers are actually taller than a less-than or greater-than sign. 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 skipped. For similar reasons, AOJ meant `Add One and do not Jump'. Even more bizarre, SKIP meant `do not SKIP'! If you wanted to skip the next instruction, you had to say `SKIPA'. Likewise, JUMP meant `do not JUMP'; the unconditional form was JUMPA. However, hackers never did this. By some quirk of the 10's design, the {JRST} (Jump and ReSTore flag with no flag specified) was actually faster and so was invariably used. Such were the perverse mysteries of assembler 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 system}. :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 generally. :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* few. :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; . Rare: factorial; exclam; smash; cuss; boing; yell; wow; hey; wham; eureka; [spark-spot]; soldier. " Common: double quote; quote. Rare: literal mark; double-glitch; ; ; dirk; [rabbit-ears]; double prime. # Common: ; pound; pound sign; hash; sharp; {crunch}; hex; [mesh]; octothorpe. Rare: flash; crosshatch; grid; pig-pen; tictactoe; scratchmark; thud; thump; {splat}. $ Common: dollar; . Rare: currency symbol; buck; cash; string (from BASIC); escape (when used as the echo of ASCII ESC); ding; cache; [big money]. % Common: percent; ; mod; grapes. Rare: [double-oh-seven]. & Common: ; 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; . Rare: prime; glitch; tick; irk; pop; [spark]; ; . () 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; ; open/close round bracket, parenthisey/unparenthisey; [wax/wane]; left/right ear. * Common: star; [{splat}]; . Rare: wildcard; gear; dingle; mult; spider; aster; times; twinkle; glob (see {glob}); {Nathan Hale}. + Common: ; add. Rare: cross; [intersection]. , Common: . Rare: ; [tail]. - Common: dash; ; . Rare: [worm]; option; dak; bithorpe. . Common: dot; point; ; . Rare: radix point; full stop; [spot]. / Common: slash; stroke; ; forward slash. Rare: diagonal; solidus; over; slak; virgule; [slat]. : Common: . Rare: dots; [two-spot]. ; Common: ; semi. Rare: weenie; [hybrid], pit-thwong. <> Common: ; 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: ; gets; takes. Rare: quadrathorpe; [half-mesh]. ? Common: query; ; {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; . V Rare: [book]. [] Common: left/right square 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; ; reversed virgule; [backslat]. ^ Common: hat; control; uparrow; caret; . Rare: chevron; [shark (or shark-fin)]; to the (`to the power of'); fang; pointer (in Pascal). _ Common: ; underscore; underbar; under. Rare: score; backarrow; skid; [flatworm]. ` Common: backquote; left quote; left single quote; open quote; ; grave. Rare: backprime; [backspark]; unapostrophe; birk; blugle; back tick; back glitch; push; ; quasiquote. {} Common: open/close brace; left/right brace; left/right squiggly; left/right squiggly bracket/brace; left/right curly bracket/brace; . Rare: brace/unbrace; curly/uncurly; leftit/rytit; left/right squirrelly; [embrace/bracelet]. | Common: bar; or; or-bar; v-bar; pipe; vertical bar. Rare: ; gozinta; thru; pipesinta (last three from UNIX); [spike]. ~ Common: ; 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 brackets}). Some other common usages cause odd overlaps. The `#', `$', `>', and `&' characters, for example, are all pronounced "hex" in different communities because various assemblers use them as a prefix tag for hexadecimal constants (in particular, `#' in many assembler-programming cultures, `$' in the 6502 world, `>' at Texas Instruments, and `&' on the BBC Micro, Sinclair, and some Z80 machines). See also {splat}. The inability of ASCII text to correctly represent any of the world's other major languages makes the designers' choice of 7 bits look more and more like a serious {misfeature} as the use of international networks continues to increase (see {software rot}). Hardware and software from the U.S. still tends to embody the assumption that ASCII is the universal character set; 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 o----)||(--+--|<----+----------+ 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 {micro-}. :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 noticed. :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 system." :bagbiter: /bag'bi:t-*r/ n. 1. Something, such as a program or a computer, that fails to work, or works in a remarkably clumsy manner. "This text editor won't let me make a file with a line longer than 80 characters! What a bagbiter!" 2. A person who has caused you some trouble, inadvertently or otherwise, typically by failing to program the computer properly. Synonyms: {loser}, {cretin}, {chomper}. 3. 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 barbox. In the bad old days of not so long ago, before autorouting mailers became commonplace, people often published compound bang addresses using the { } convention (see {glob}) to give paths from *several* big machines, in the hopes that one's correspondent might be able to get mail to one of them reliably (example: ...!{seismo, ut-sally, ihnp4}!rice!beta!gamma!me). Bang paths of 8 to 10 hops were not uncommon in 1981. Late-night dial-up UUCP links would cause week-long transmission times. Bang paths were often selected by both transmission time and reliability, as messages would often get lost. See {{Internet address}}, {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 {foobar}. :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 {bar}. :barfmail: n. Multiple {bounce message}s accumulating to the level of serious annoyance, or worse. The sort of thing that happens when an inter-network mail gateway goes down or wonky. :barfulation: /bar`fyoo-lay'sh*n/ interj. Variation of {barf} used around the Stanford area. An exclamation, expressing disgust. On seeing some particularly bad code one might exclaim, "Barfulation! Who wrote this, Quux?" :barfulous: /bar'fyoo-l*s/ adj. (alt. `barfucious', /bar-fyoo-sh*s/) Said of something that would make anyone barf, if only for esthetic reasons. :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 `foobaz'. Earlier versions of this lexicon derived `baz' as a Stanford corruption of {bar}. However, Pete Samson (compiler of the {TMRC} lexicon) reports it was already current when he joined TMRC in 1958. He says "It came from `Pogo'. Albert the Alligator, when vexed or outraged, would shout `Bazz Fazz!' or `Rowrbazzle!' The club layout was said to model the (mythical) New England counties of Rowrfolk and Bassex (Rowrbazzle mingled with (Norfolk/Suffolk/Middlesex/Essex)." :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 hobbyists. :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 whistle. :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 ignorance'. :bible: n. 1. One of a small number of fundamental source books such as {Knuth} and {K&R}. 2. The most detailed and authoritative reference for a particular language, operating system, or other complex software system. :BiCapitalization: n. The act said to have been performed on trademarks (such as {PostScript}, NeXT, {NeWS}, VisiCalc, FrameMaker, TK!solver, EasyWriter) that have been raised above the ruck of common coinage by nonstandard capitalization. Too many {marketroid} types think this sort of thing is really cute, even the 2,317th time they do it. Compare {studlycaps}. :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 K00L DOOD AN HE RITES REEL AWESUM THINGZ IN CAPITULL LETTRS LIKE THIS!!!), use (and often misuse) of fragments of {talk mode} abbreviations, a long {sig block} (sometimes even a {doubled sig}), and unbounded 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 {BIFF}. :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: 40238726007709377354370243392300398571937486421071 46325437999104299385123986290205920442084869694048 00479988610197196058631666872994808558901323829669 94459099742450408707375991882362772718873251977950 59509952761208749754624970436014182780946464962910 56393887437886487337119181045825783647849977012476 63288983595573543251318532395846307555740911426241 74743493475534286465766116677973966688202912073791 43853719588249808126867838374559731746136085379534 52422158659320192809087829730843139284440328123155 86110369768013573042161687476096758713483120254785 89320767169132448426236131412508780208000261683151 02734182797770478463586817016436502415369139828126 48102130927612448963599287051149649754199093422215 66832572080821333186116811553615836546984046708975 60290095053761647584772842188967964624494516076535 34081989013854424879849599533191017233555566021394 50399736280750137837615307127761926849034352625200 01588853514733161170210396817592151090778801939317 81141945452572238655414610628921879602238389714760 88506276862967146674697562911234082439208160153780 88989396451826324367161676217916890977991190375403 12746222899880051954444142820121873617459926429565 81746628302955570299024324153181617210465832036786 90611726015878352075151628422554026517048330422614 39742869330616908979684825901254583271682264580665 26769958652682272807075781391858178889652208164348 34482599326604336766017699961283186078838615027946 59551311565520360939881806121385586003014356945272 24206344631797460594682573103790084024432438465657 24501440282188525247093519062092902313649327349756 55139587205596542287497740114133469627154228458623 77387538230483865688976461927383814900140767310446 64025989949022222176590433990188601856652648506179 97023561938970178600408118897299183110211712298459 01641921068884387121855646124960798722908519296819 37238864261483965738229112312502418664935314397013 74285319266498753372189406942814341185201580141233 44828015051399694290153483077644569099073152433278 28826986460278986432113908350621709500259738986355 42771967428222487575867657523442202075736305694988 25087968928162753848863396909959826280956121450994 87170124451646126037902930912088908694202851064018 21543994571568059418727489980942547421735824010636 77404595741785160829230135358081840096996372524230 56085590370062427124341690900415369010593398383577 79394109700277534720000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 000000000000000000. :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 {weenie}. :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 {wannabee}s. Bit bang was used on certain early models of Prime computers, presumably when UARTs were too expensive, and on archaic Z80 micros with a Zilog PIO but no SIO. In an interesting instance of the {cycle of reincarnation}, this technique 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 punches. When electronic terminals became popular, in the early 1970s, there was no agreement in the industry over how the keyboards should be laid out. Some vendors opted to emulate the Teletype keyboard, while others used the flexibility of electronic circuitry to make their product look like an office typewriter. These alternatives became known as `bit-paired' and `typewriter-paired' keyboards. To a hacker, the bit-paired keyboard seemed far more logical --- and because most hackers in those days had never learned to touch-type, there was little pressure from the pioneering users to adapt keyboards to the typewriter standard. The doom of the bit-paired keyboard was the large-scale introduction of the computer terminal into the normal office environment, where out-and-out technophobes were expected to use the equipment. The `typewriter-paired' standard became universal, `bit-paired' hardware was quickly junked or relegated to dusty corners, and both terms passed into disuse. :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: ATTENTION 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 blaster}. :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 {{nanotechnology}}. :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: ::= ::= | "." ::= [] | ::= [] ::= "," 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 `Anaconda'. :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 {bogus}. :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}, {posing}. :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 series}. :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 crash). Another variant: `soft boot', reinitialization of only part of a system, under control of other software still running: "If you're running the {mess-dos} emulator, control-alt-insert will cause a soft-boot of the emulator, while leaving the rest of the system running." Opposed to this there is `hard boot', which connotes hostility towards or frustration with the machine being booted: "I'll have to hard-boot this losing Sun." "I recommend booting it hard." One often hard-boots by performing a {power cycle}. Historical note: this term derives from `bootstrap loader', a short program that was read in from cards or paper tape, or toggled in from the front panel switches. This program was always very short (great efforts were expended on making it short in order to minimize the labor and chance of error involved in toggling it in), but was just smart enough to read in a slightly more complex program (usually from a card or paper tape reader), to which it handed control; this program in turn was smart enough to read the application or operating system from a magnetic tape drive or disk drive. Thus, in successive steps, the computer `pulled itself up by its bootstraps' to a useful operating state. Nowadays the bootstrap is usually found in ROM or EPROM, and reads the first stage in from a fixed location on the disk, called the `boot block'. When this program gains control, it is powerful enough to load the actual OS and hand control over to it. :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 Glue}. :boxed comments: n. Comments (explanatory notes attached to program instructions) that occupy several lines by themselves; so called because in assembler and C code they are often surrounded by a box in a style something like this: /************************************************* * * This is a boxed comment in C style * *************************************************/ Common variants of this style omit the asterisks in column 2 or add a matching row of asterisks closing the right side of the box. The sparest variant omits all but the comment delimiters themselves; the `box' is implied. Oppose {winged comments}. :boxen: /bok'sn/ [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 {macrology}. :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) `bozoish'. :BQS: /B-Q-S/ adj. Syn. {Berkeley Quality Software}. :brain dump: n. The act of telling someone everything one knows about a particular topic or project. Typically used when someone is going to let a new party maintain a piece of code. Conceptually analogous to an operating system {core dump} in that it saves a lot of useful {state} before an exit. "You'll have to give me a brain dump on FOOBAR before you start your new job at HackerCorp." See {core dump} (sense 4). At Sun, this is also known as `TOI' (transfer of information). :brain fart: n. The actual result of a {braino}, as opposed to the mental glitch 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 fart}. :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 woods. :break: 1. vt. To cause to be broken (in any sense). "Your latest patch to the editor broke the paragraph commands." 2. v. (of a program) To stop temporarily, so that it may debugged. The place where it stops is a `breakpoint'. 3. [techspeak] vi. To send an RS-232 break (two character widths of line high) over a serial comm line. 4. [UNIX] vi. To strike whatever key currently causes the tty driver to send SIGINT to the current process. Normally, break (sense 3) 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 meltdown}. :broken: adj. 1. Not working properly (of programs). 2. Behaving strangely; especially (when used of people) exhibiting extreme depression. :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 manual. Note: to appreciate this term fully, it helps to know that `broken arrow' is also military jargon for an accident involving nuclear weapons.... :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 brackets}.) :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}, {sun-stools}. :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' loops. :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 phone." Technically, `busy-wait' means to wait on an event by {spin}ning through a tight or timed-delay loop that polls for the event on each pass, as opposed to setting up an interrupt handler and continuing execution on another part of the task. 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 type." :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 investigate. The word `canon' derives ultimately from the Greek `kanon' (akin to the English `cane') referring to a reed. Reeds were used for measurement, and in Latin and later Greek the word `canon' meant a rule or a standard. The establishment of a canon of scriptures within Christianity was meant to define a standard or a rule for the religion. The above non-techspeak academic usages stem from this instance of a defined and accepted body of work. Alongside this usage was the promulgation of `canons' (`rules') for the government of the Catholic Church. The techspeak usages ("according to religious law") derive from this use of the Latin `canon'. Hackers invest this term with a playfulness that makes an ironic contrast with its historical meaning. A true story: One Bob Sjoberg, new at the MIT AI Lab, expressed some annoyance at the 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 mind}. :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 {molly-guard}s). :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 packet}. :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 it. :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 breathing. :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 programmer}. :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'