#======= THIS IS THE JARGON FILE, VERSION  3.3.1,  25 JAN 1996 =======#

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 3.3.1" or "The

on-line hacker Jargon File, version 3.3.1, 25 JAN 1996".)

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 esr@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




This document is a collection of slang terms used by various

subcultures of computer hackers.  Though some technical material is

included for background and flavor, it is not a technical dictionary;

what we describe here is the language hackers use among themselves for

fun, social communication, and technical debate.

The `hacker culture' is actually a loosely networked collection of

subcultures that is nevertheless conscious of some important shared

experiences, shared roots, and shared values.  It has its own myths,

heroes, villains, folk epics, in-jokes, taboos, and dreams.  Because

hackers as a group are particularly creative people who define

themselves partly by rejection of `normal' values and working habits,

it has unusually rich and conscious traditions for an intentional

culture less than 40 years old.

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

their culture together -- it helps hackers recognize each other's

places in the community and expresses shared values and experiences.

Also as usual, *not* knowing the slang (or using it inappropriately)

defines one as an outsider, a mundane, or (worst of all in hackish

vocabulary) possibly even a {suit}.  All human cultures use slang in

this threefold way -- as a tool of communication, and of inclusion,

and of exclusion.

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

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

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

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

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

hacking which don't fit into conventional linguistic reality any

better than a Coltrane solo or one of Maurits Escher's `trompe l'oeil'

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

encodes these subtleties in many unobvious ways.  As a simple example,

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

the differing connotations attached to each.  The distinction is not

only of engineering significance; it reaches right back into the

nature of the generative processes in program design and asserts

something important about two different kinds of relationship between

the hacker and the hack.  Hacker slang is unusually rich in

implications of this kind, of overtones and undertones that illuminate

the hackish psyche.

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

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

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

we are pleased to call an educational system bludgeons them out of

most of us before adolescence.  Thus, linguistic invention in most

subcultures of the modern West is a halting and largely unconscious

process.  Hackers, by contrast, regard slang formation and use as a

game to be played for conscious pleasure.  Their inventions thus

display an almost unique combination of the neotenous enjoyment of

language-play with the discrimination of educated and powerful

intelligence.  Further, the electronic media which knit them together

are fluid, `hot' connections, well adapted to both the dissemination

of new slang and the ruthless culling of weak and superannuated

specimens.  The results of this process give us perhaps a uniquely

intense and accelerated view of linguistic evolution in action.

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, {Hacker Folklore}. The `outside' reader's attention is

particularly directed to Appendix B, {A Portrait of J. Random Hacker}.

Appendix C, the {Bibliography}, lists some non-technical works which

have either influenced or described the hacker culture.

Because hackerdom is an intentional culture (one each individual must

choose by action to join), one should not be surprised that the line

between description and influence can become more than a little

blurred.  Earlier versions of the Jargon File have played a central

role in spreading hacker language and the culture that goes with it to

successively larger populations, and we hope and expect that this one

will do likewise.

:Of Slang, Jargon, and Techspeak:


Linguists usually refer to informal language as `slang' and reserve

the term `jargon' for the technical vocabularies of various

occupations.  However, the ancestor of this collection was called the

`Jargon File', and hackish slang is traditionally `the jargon'.  When

talking about the jargon there is therefore no convenient way to

distinguish it from what a *linguist* would call hackers' jargon

--- the formal vocabulary they learn from textbooks, technical papers,

and manuals.

To make a confused situation worse, the line between 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-technical subcultures (bikers, rock fans, surfers, etc).

   * `jargon': without qualifier, denotes informal `slangy' language

     peculiar to or predominantly found among hackers -- the subject

     of this lexicon.

   * `techspeak': the formal technical vocabulary of programming,

     computer science, electronics, and other fields connected to


This terminology will be consistently used throughout the remainder of

this lexicon.

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

techspeak originated as jargon, and there is a steady continuing

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

arises from overgeneralization of techspeak terms (there is more about

this in the {Jargon Construction} section below).

In general, we have considered techspeak any term that communicates

primarily by a denotation well established in textbooks, technical

dictionaries, or standards documents.

A few obviously techspeak terms (names of operating systems,

languages, or documents) are listed when they are tied to hacker

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

critical historical background necessary to understand other entries

to which they are cross-referenced.  Some other techspeak senses of

jargon words are listed in order to make the jargon senses clear;

where the text does not specify that a straight technical sense is

under discussion, these are marked with `[techspeak]' as an etymology.

Some entries have a primary sense marked this way, with subsequent

jargon meanings explained in terms of it.

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

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

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

many hackish usages have been independently reinvented multiple times,

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

that the generative processes underlying hackish jargon formation have

an internal logic so powerful as to create substantial parallelism

across separate cultures and even in different languages!  For

another, the networks tend to propagate innovations so quickly that

`first use' is often impossible to pin down.  And, finally, compendia

like this one alter what they observe by implicitly stamping cultural

approval on terms and widening their use.

Despite these problems, the organized collection of jargon-related

oral history for the new compilations has enabled us to put to rest

quite a number of folk etymologies, place credit where credit is due,

and illuminate the early history of many important hackerisms such as

{kluge}, {cruft}, and {foo}.  We believe specialist lexicographers

will find many of the historical notes more than casually instructive.

:Revision History:


The original Jargon File was a collection of hacker jargon from

technical cultures including the MIT AI Lab, the Stanford AI lab

(SAIL), and others of the old ARPANET AI/LISP/PDP-10 communities

including Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN), Carnegie-Mellon University

(CMU), and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).

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

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

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

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

considerably earlier ({frob} and some senses of {moby}, for instance,

go back to the Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT and are believed to

date at least back to the early 1960s).  The revisions of jargon-1

were all unnumbered and may be collectively considered `Version 1'.

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

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

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

directory as AI:MRC;SAIL JARGON.

The file was quickly renamed JARGON > (the `>' caused versioning under

ITS) as a flurry of enhancements were made by Mark Crispin and Guy L.

Steele Jr.  Unfortunately, amidst all this activity, nobody thought of

correcting the term `jargon' to `slang' until the compendium had

already become widely known as the Jargon File.

Raphael Finkel dropped out of active participation shortly thereafter

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

subsequently kept in duplicate at SAIL and MIT, with periodic


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

Stallman was prominent among the contributors, adding many MIT and

ITS-related coinages.

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

the File published in Stewart Brand's "CoEvolution Quarterly" (issue

29, pages 26--35) with illustrations by Phil Wadler and Guy Steele

(including a couple of the Crunchly cartoons).  This appears to have

been the File's first paper publication.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

freeze the file temporarily to facilitate the production of

Steele-1983, but external conditions caused the `temporary' freeze to

become permanent.

The AI Lab culture had been hit hard in the late 1970s by funding cuts

and the resulting administrative decision to use vendor-supported

hardware and software instead of homebrew whenever possible.  At MIT,

most AI work had turned to dedicated LISP Machines.  At the same time,

the commercialization of AI technology lured some of the AI Lab's best

and brightest away to startups along the Route 128 strip in

Massachusetts and out West in Silicon Valley.  The startups built LISP

machines for MIT; the central MIT-AI computer became a {TWENEX} system

rather than a host for the AI hackers' beloved {ITS}.

The Stanford AI Lab had effectively ceased to exist by 1980, although

the SAIL computer continued as a Computer Science Department resource

until 1991.  Stanford became a major {TWENEX} site, at one point

operating more than a dozen TOPS-20 systems; but by the mid-1980s most

of the interesting software work was being done on the emerging BSD

Unix standard.

In April 1983, the PDP-10-centered cultures that had nourished the

File were dealt a death-blow by the cancellation of the Jupiter

project at Digital Equipment Corporation.  The File's compilers,

already dispersed, moved on to other things.  Steele-1983 was partly a

monument to what its authors thought was a dying tradition; no one

involved realized at the time just how wide its influence was to be.

By the mid-1980s the File's content was dated, but the legend that had

grown up around it never quite died out.  The book, and softcopies

obtained off the ARPANET, circulated even in cultures far removed from

MIT and Stanford; the content exerted a strong and continuing

influence on 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


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


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.

(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


The 3.0.0 version was published in September 1993 as the second

edition of "The New Hacker's Dictionary", again from MIT Press (ISBN


If you want the book, you should be able to find it at any of the

major bookstore chains.  Failing that, you can order by mail from

        The MIT Press

        55 Hayward Street

        Cambridge, MA 02142

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

The maintainers are committed to updating the on-line version of the

Jargon File through and beyond paper publication, and will continue to

make it available to archives and public-access sites as a trust of

the hacker community.

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


Version 2.1.1, Jun 12 1990: the Jargon File comes alive again after a

seven-year hiatus.  Reorganization and massive additions were by Eric

S.  Raymond, approved by Guy Steele.  Many items of UNIX, C, USENET,

and microcomputer-based jargon were added at that time.

Version 2.9.6, Aug 16 1991: corresponds to reproduction copy for book.

This version had 18952 lines, 148629 words, 975551 characters, and

1702 entries.

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

including over fifty new entries and numerous corrections/additions to

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

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


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

version had 20298 lines, 159651 words, 1048909 characters, and 1821


Version 2.9.10, Jul 01 1992: lots of new historical material.  This

version had 21349 lines, 168330 words, 1106991 characters, and 1891


Version 2.9.11, Jan 01 1993: lots of new historical material.  This

version had 21725 lines, 171169 words, 1125880 characters, and 1922


Version 2.9.12, May 10 1993: a few new entries & changes, marginal

MUD/IRC slang and some borderline techspeak removed, all in

preparation for 2nd Edition of TNHD.  This version had 22238 lines,

175114 words, 1152467 characters, and 1946 entries.

Version 3.0.0, Jul 27 1993: manuscript freeze for 2nd edition of TNHD.

This version had 22548 lines, 177520 words, 1169372 characters, and

1961 entries.

Version 3.1.0, Oct 15 1994: interim release to test WWW conversion.

This version had 23197 lines, 181001 words, 1193818 characters, and

1990 entries.

Version 3.2.0, Mar 15 1995: Spring 1995 update.  This version had

23822 lines, 185961 words, 1226358 characters, and 2031 entries.

Version 3.3.0, Jan 20 1996: Winter 1996 update.  This version had

24055 lines, 187957 words, 1239604 characters, and 2045 entries.

Version 3.3.1, Jan 25 1996: Copy-corrected improvement on 3.3.0

shipped to MIT Press as a step towards TNHD III.  This version had

24147 lines, 188728 words, 1244554 characters, and 2050 entries.

Version numbering: Version numbers should be read as

major.minor.revision.  Major version 1 is reserved for the `old' (ITS)

Jargon File, jargon-1.  Major version 2 encompasses revisions by ESR

(Eric S. Raymond) with assistance from GLS (Guy L.  Steele, Jr.)

leading up to and including the second paper edition.  From now on,

major version number N.00 will probably correspond to the Nth paper

edition.  Usually later versions will either completely supersede or

incorporate earlier versions, so there is generally no point in

keeping old versions around.

Our thanks to the coauthors of Steele-1983 for oversight and

assistance, and to the hundreds of Usenetters (too many to name here)

who contributed entries and encouragement.  More thanks go to several

of the old-timers on the Usenet group alt.folklore.computers, who

contributed much useful commentary and many corrections and valuable

historical perspective: Joseph M. Newcomer ,

Bernie Cosell , Earl Boebert , and

Joe Morris .

We were fortunate enough to have the aid of some accomplished

linguists.  David Stampe  and Charles Hoequist

 contributed valuable criticism; Joe Keane

 helped us improve the pronunciation guides.

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

Brian A. LaMacchia  for obtaining permission

for us to use material from the "TMRC Dictionary"; also, Don Libes

 contributed some appropriate material from his

excellent book "Life With UNIX".  We thank Per Lindberg

, author of the remarkable Swedish-language 'zine

"Hackerbladet", for bringing "FOO!" comics to our attention and

smuggling one of the IBM hacker underground's own baby jargon files

out to us.  Thanks also to Maarten Litmaath for generously allowing

the inclusion of the ASCII pronunciation guide he formerly maintained.

And our gratitude to Marc Weiser of XEROX PARC

 for securing us permission to quote from

PARC's own jargon lexicon and shipping us a copy.

It is a particular pleasure to acknowledge the major contributions of

Mark Brader  and Steve Summit  to the File

and Dictionary; they have read and reread many drafts, checked facts,

caught typos, submitted an amazing number of thoughtful comments, and

done yeoman service in catching typos and minor usage bobbles.  Their

rare combination of enthusiasm, persistence, wide-ranging technical

knowledge, and precisionism in matters of language has been of

invaluable help.  Indeed, the sustained volume and quality of

Mr. Brader's input over several years and several different editions

has only allowed him to escape co-editor credit by the slimmest of


Finally, George V. Reilly  helped with TeX

arcana and painstakingly proofread some 2.7 and 2.8 versions, and Eric

Tiedemann  contributed sage advice throughout on

rhetoric, amphigory, and philosophunculism.

:How Jargon Works:


:Jargon Construction:


There are some standard methods of jargonification that became

established quite early (i.e., before 1970), spreading from such

sources as the Tech Model Railroad Club, the PDP-1 SPACEWAR hackers,

and John McCarthy's original crew of LISPers.  These include verb

doubling, soundalike slang, the `-P' convention, overgeneralization,

spoken inarticulations, and anthromorphization.  Each is discussed

below.  We also cover the standard comparatives for design quality.

Of these six, verb doubling, overgeneralization, anthromorphization,

and (especially) spoken inarticulations have become quite general; but

soundalike slang is still largely confined to MIT and other large

universities, and the `-P' convention is found only where LISPers


:Verb Doubling:


A standard construction in English is to double a verb and use it as

an exclamation, such as "Bang, bang!" or "Quack, quack!".  Most of

these are names for noises.  Hackers also double verbs as a concise,

sometimes sarcastic comment on what the implied subject does.  Also, a

doubled verb is often used to terminate a conversation, in the process

remarking on the current state of affairs or what the speaker intends

to do next.  Typical examples involve {win}, {lose}, {hack}, {flame},

{barf}, {chomp}:

     "The disk heads just crashed."  "Lose, lose."

     "Mostly he talked about his latest crock.  Flame, flame."

     "Boy, what a bagbiter!  Chomp, chomp!"

Some verb-doubled constructions have special meanings not immediately

obvious from the verb.  These have their own listings in the lexicon.

The {Usenet} culture has one *tripling* convention unrelated to this;

the names of `joke' topic groups often have a tripled last element.

The first and paradigmatic example was alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork

(a "Muppet Show" reference); other infamous examples have included:






: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]



A very conspicuous feature of jargon is the frequency with which

techspeak items such as names of program tools, command language

primitives, and even assembler opcodes are applied to contexts outside

of computing wherever hackers find amusing analogies to them.  Thus

(to cite one of the best-known examples) Unix hackers often {grep} for

things rather than searching for them.  Many of the lexicon entries

are generalizations of exactly this kind.

Hackers enjoy overgeneralization on the grammatical level as well.

Many hackers love to take various words and add the wrong endings to

them to make nouns and verbs, often by extending a standard rule to

nonuniform cases (or vice versa).  For example, because

     porous => porosity

     generous => generosity

hackers happily generalize:

     mysterious => mysteriosity

     ferrous => ferrosity

     obvious => obviosity

     dubious => dubiosity

Another class of common construction uses the suffix `-itude' to

abstract a quality from just about any adjective or noun.  This usage

arises especially in cases where mainstream English would perform the

same abstraction through `-iness' or `-ingness'.  Thus:

     win => winnitude (a common exclamation)

     loss => lossitude

     cruft => cruftitude

     lame => lameitude

Some hackers cheerfully reverse this transformation; they argue, for

example, that the horizontal degree lines on a globe ought to be

called `lats' -- after all, they're measuring latitude!

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

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

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

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

simply a bit ahead of the curve.

However, hackers avoid the unimaginative verb-making techniques

characteristic of marketroids, bean-counters, and the Pentagon; a

hacker would never, for example, `productize', `prioritize', or

`securitize' things.  Hackers have a strong aversion to bureaucratic

bafflegab and regard those who use it with contempt.

Similarly, all verbs can be nouned.  This is only a slight

overgeneralization in modern English; in hackish, however, it is good

form to mark them in some standard nonstandard way.  Thus:

     win => winnitude, winnage

     disgust => disgustitude

     hack => hackification

Further, note the prevalence of certain kinds of nonstandard plural

forms.  Some of these go back quite a ways; the TMRC Dictionary

includes an entry which implies that the plural of `mouse' is

{meeces}, and notes that the defined plural of `caboose' is `cabeese'.

This latter has apparently been standard (or at least a standard joke)

among railfans (railroad enthusiasts) for many years.

On a similarly Anglo-Saxon note, almost anything ending in `x' may

form plurals in `-xen' (see {VAXen} and {boxen} in the main text).

Even words ending in phonetic /k/ alone are sometimes treated this

way; e.g., `soxen' for a bunch of socks.  Other funny plurals are

`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!"



Semantically, one rich source of jargon constructions is the hackish

tendency to anthropomorphize hardware and software.  This isn't done

in a naive way; hackers don't personalize their stuff in the sense of

feeling empathy with it, nor do they mystically believe that the

things they work on every day are `alive'.  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'.



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


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

in hackish linguistic inventiveness; it has been truly said that

hackers have even more words for equipment failures than Yiddish has

for obnoxious people.

:Hacker Writing Style:


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

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

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

hackish writing.  One correspondent reports that he consistently

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

glitches in Jargon File drafts by observing (in the mode of Douglas

Hofstadter) "This sentence no verb", or "Too repetetetive", or "Bad

speling", or "Incorrectspa cing."  Similarly, intentional spoonerisms

are often made of phrases relating to confusion or things that are

confusing; `dain bramage' for `brain damage' is perhaps the most

common (similarly, a hacker would be likely to write "Excuse me, I'm

cixelsyd today", rather than "I'm dyslexic today").  This sort of

thing is quite common and is enjoyed by all concerned.

Hackers tend to use quotes as balanced delimiters like parentheses,

much to the dismay of American editors.  Thus, if "Jim is going" is a

phrase, and so are "Bill runs" and "Spock groks", then hackers

generally prefer to write: "Jim is going", "Bill runs", and "Spock

groks".  This is incorrect according to standard American usage (which

would put the continuation commas and the final period inside the

string quotes); however, it is counter-intuitive to hackers to

mutilate literal strings with characters that don't belong in them.

Given the sorts of examples that can come up in discussions of

programming, American-style quoting can even be grossly misleading.

When communicating command lines or small pieces of code, extra

characters can be a real pain in the neck.

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


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

Standard usage would make this

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

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

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

repeats the last command accepted.  The net result would be to delete

*two* lines!

The Jargon File follows hackish usage throughout.

Interestingly, a similar style is now preferred practice in Great

Britain, though the older style (which became established for

typographical reasons having to do with the aesthetics of comma and

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

the "Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors" call the hacker-like

style `new' or `logical' quoting.

Another hacker habit is a tendency to distinguish between `scare'

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

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

reports of speech or text included from elsewhere.  Interestingly,

some authorities describe this as correct general usage, but

mainstream American English has gone to using double-quotes

indiscriminately enough that hacker usage appears marked [and, in

fact, I thought this was a personal quirk of mine until I checked with

Usenet -- ESR].  One further permutation that is definitely

*not* standard is a hackish tendency to do marking quotes by

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

This is modelled on string and character literal syntax in some

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

terminals display the apostrophe in typewriter style, as a vertical

single quote).

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

hackers in particular is a tendency for some things that are normally

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

routines) to remain uncapitalized even when they occur at the

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

of such identifiers becomes a part of their internal representation

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

appropriate reflex because Unix and C both distinguish cases and

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

is simply to avoid using these constructions at the beginning of


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

the effect that precision of expression is more important than

conformance to traditional rules; where the latter create ambiguity or

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

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

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

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

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

substantial part of its humor!

Hackers have also developed a number of punctuation and emphasis

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

these are occasionally carried over into written documents even when

normal means of font changes, underlining, and the like are 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*,


One might also see the above sound effects as , , ,

, , , .  This use of angle brackets to mark

their contents originally derives from conventions used in {BNF}.  but

since about 1993 it has been reinforced by the HTML markup used on the

World Wide Web.

Angle-bracket enclosure is also used to indicate that a term stands

for some {random} member of a larger class (this is straight from

{BNF}). Examples like the following are common:

     So this  walks into a bar one day...

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


     Be nice to this fool^H^H^H^Hgentleman,

     he's visiting from corporate HQ.

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


A related habit uses editor commands to signify corrections to

previous text.  This custom is fading as more mailers get good editing

capabilities, but one occasionally still sees things like this:

     I've seen that term used on alt.foobar often.

     Send it to Erik for the File.  Oops...s/Erik/Eric/.

The s/Erik/Eric/ says "change Erik to Eric in the preceding".  This

syntax is borrowed from the Unix editing tools `ed' and `sed', but is

widely recognized by non-Unix hackers as well.

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

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

one might write 2 ** 8 = 256.

Another notation for exponentiation one sees more frequently uses the

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

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

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

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

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

reinforce the convention on Usenet.  The notation is mildly confusing

to C programmers, because `^' means bitwise exclusive-or in C.

Despite this, it was favored 3:1 over ** in a late-1990 snapshot of

Usenet.  It is used consistently in this lexicon.

In on-line exchanges, hackers tend to use decimal forms or improper

fractions (`3.5' or `7/2') rather than `typewriter style' mixed

fractions (`3-1/2').  The major motive here is probably that the

former are more readable in a monospaced font, together with a desire

to avoid the risk that the latter might be read as `three minus

one-half'.  The decimal form is definitely preferred for fractions

with a terminating decimal representation; there may be some cultural

influence here from the high status of scientific notation.

Another on-line convention, used especially for very large or very

small numbers, is taken from C (which derived it from FORTRAN).  This

is a form of `scientific notation' using `e' to replace `*10^'; for

example, one year is about 3e7 seconds long.

The tilde (~) is commonly used in a quantifying sense of

`approximately'; that is, `~50' means `about fifty'.

On Usenet and in the {MUD} world, common C boolean, logical, and

relational operators such as `|', `&', `||', `&&', `!', `==', `!=',

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

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

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

prefix `!' as a loose synonym for `not-' or `no-' is particularly

common; thus, `!clue' is read `no-clue' or `clueless'.

A related practice borrows syntax from preferred programming languages

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

see the following:

     In  J. R. Hacker wrote:

     >I recently had occasion to field-test the Snafu

     >Systems 2300E adaptive gonkulator.  The price was

     >right, and the racing stripe on the case looked

     >kind of neat, but its performance left something

     >to be desired.

     Yeah, I tried one out too.

     #ifdef FLAME

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

     decent bogon suppression with AFJ filters at today's

     net volumes?

     #endif /* FLAME */

     I guess they figured the price premium for true

     frame-based semantic analysis was too high.

     Unfortunately, it's also the only workable approach.

     I wouldn't recommend purchase of this product unless

     you're on a *very* tight budget.



                      == Frank Foonly (Fubarco Systems)

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

syntax from C; here, it implies that the text between (which is a

{flame}) should be evaluated only if you have turned on (or defined

on) the switch FLAME.  The `#include' at the end is C for "include

standard disclaimer here"; the `standard disclaimer' is understood to

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

as the official position of my employer."

The top section in the example, with > at the left margin, is an

example of an inclusion convention we'll discuss below.

More recently, following on the huge popularity of the World Wide Web,

pseudo-HTML markup has become popular for similar purposes:


     The flame goes here.


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


     This is an extremely hot flame.


Hackers also mix letters and numbers more freely than in mainstream

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

sequence where you intend the reader to understand the text string

that names that number in English.  So, hackers prefer to write

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

like a possessive).

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

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

this is almost certainly due to influence from LISP (which uses deeply

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

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

with complexity and pushing systems to their limits is in operation.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that many studies of on-line

communication have shown that electronic links have a de-inhibiting

effect on people.  Deprived of the body-language cues through which

emotional state is expressed, people tend to forget everything about

other parties except what is presented over that ASCII link.  This has

both good and bad effects.  A good one is that it encourages honesty

and tends to break down hierarchical authority relationships; a bad

one is that it may encourage depersonalization and gratuitous

rudeness.  Perhaps in response to this, experienced netters often

display a sort of conscious formal politesse in their writing that has

passed out of fashion in other spoken and written media (for example,

the phrase "Well said, sir!" is not uncommon).

Many introverted hackers who are next to inarticulate in person

communicate with considerable fluency over the net, perhaps precisely

because they can forget on an unconscious level that they are dealing

with people and thus don't feel stressed and anxious as they would

face to face.

Though it is considered gauche to publicly criticize posters for poor

spelling or grammar, the network places a premium on literacy and

clarity of expression.  It may well be that future historians of

literature will see in it a revival of the great tradition of personal

letters as art.

:Email Quotes and Inclusion Conventions:


One area where 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.

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).

:Hacker Speech Style:


Hackish speech generally features extremely precise diction, careful

word choice, a relatively large working vocabulary, and relatively

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

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

seriousness and intelligence are essential.  One should use just

enough jargon to communicate precisely and identify oneself as a

member of the culture; overuse of jargon or a breathless, excessively

gung-ho attitude is considered tacky and the mark of a loser.

This speech style is a variety of the precisionist English normally

spoken by scientists, design engineers, and academics in technical

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

fairly constant throughout hackerdom.

It has been observed that many hackers are confused by negative

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

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

they have done so much programming that distinguishes between

     if (going) ...


     if (!going) ...

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

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

answer in the opposite sense.  This confuses English-speaking

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

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

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

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

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

unambiguously answer `yes' to a negative question.

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

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

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

affirmative knowing it will be misparsed as a negative tends to

disturb them.

In a related vein, hackers sometimes make a game of answering

questions containing logical connectives with a strictly literal

rather than colloquial interpretation.  A non-hacker who is indelicate

enough to ask a question like "So, are you working on finding that bug

*now* or leaving it until later?"  is likely to get the perfectly

correct answer "Yes!" (that is, "Yes, I'm doing it either now or

later, and you didn't ask which!").

:International Style:


Although the Jargon File remains primarily a lexicon of hacker usage

in American English, we have made some effort to get input from

abroad.  Though the hacker-speak of other languages often uses

translations of jargon from English (often as transmitted to them by

earlier Jargon File versions!), the local variations are interesting,

and knowledge of them may be of some use to travelling hackers.

There are some references herein to `Commonwealth hackish'.  These are

intended to describe some variations in hacker usage as reported in

the English spoken in Great Britain and the Commonwealth (Canada,

Australia, India, etc. -- though Canada is heavily influenced by

American usage).  There is also an entry on {{Commonwealth Hackish}}

reporting some general phonetic and vocabulary differences from

U.S. hackish.

Hackers in Western Europe and (especially) Scandinavia report that

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

technical conversation.  Occasionally they develop idioms in their

English usage that are influenced by their native-language styles.

Some of these are reported here.

On the other hand, English often gives rise to grammatical and

vocabulary mutations in the native language.  For example, Italian

hackers often use the nonexistent verbs `scrollare' (to scroll) and

`deletare' (to delete) rather than native Italian `scorerre' and

`cancellare'.  Similarly, the English verb `to hack' has been seen

conjugated in Swedish.  European hackers report that this happens

partly because the English terms make finer distinctions than are

available in their native vocabularies, and partly because deliberate

language-crossing makes for amusing wordplay.

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

are parallel with English idioms and thus comprehensible to


From the late 1980s onward, a flourishing culture of local,

MS-DOS-based bulletin boards has been developing separately from

Internet hackerdom.  The BBS culture has, as its seamy underside, a

stratum of `pirate boards' inhabited by {cracker}s, phone phreaks, and

{warez d00dz}.  These people (mostly teenagers running PC-clones from

their bedrooms) have developed their own characteristic jargon,

heavily influenced by skateboard lingo and underground-rock slang.

Though crackers often call themselves `hackers', they aren't (they

typically have neither significant programming ability, nor Internet

expertise, nor experience with UNIX or other true multi-user systems).

Their vocabulary has little overlap with hackerdom's.  Nevertheless,

this lexicon covers much of it so the reader will be able to

understand what goes by on bulletin-board systems.

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

   * Misspell frequently.  The substitutions

               phone => fone

               freak => phreak

     are obligatory.

   * Always substitute `z's for `s's.  (i.e. "codes" -> "codez").

   * Type random emphasis characters after a post line (i.e. "Hey


   * Use the emphatic `k' prefix ("k-kool", "k-rad", "k-awesome")


   * Abbreviate compulsively ("I got lotsa warez w/ docs").

   * Substitute `0' for `o' ("r0dent", "l0zer").



These traits are similar to those of {B1FF}, who originated as a

parody of naive BBS users.  For further discussion of the pirate-board

subculture, see {lamer}, {elite}, {leech}, {poser}, {cracker}, and

especially {warez d00dz}.

:How to Use the Lexicon:


:Pronunciation Guide:


Pronunciation keys are provided in the jargon listings for all entries

that are neither dictionary words pronounced as in standard English

nor obvious compounds thereof.  Slashes bracket phonetic

pronunciations, which are to be interpreted using the following


  1. Syllables are hyphen-separated, except that an accent or

     back-accent follows each accented syllable (the back-accent marks

     a secondary accent in some words of four or more syllables).  If

     no accent is given, the word is pronounced with equal

     accentuation on all syllables (this is common for abbreviations).

  2. Consonants are pronounced as in American English.  The letter `g'

     is always hard (as in "got" rather than "giant"); `ch' is soft

     ("church" rather than "chemist").  The letter `j' is the sound

     that occurs twice in "judge".  The letter `s' is always as in

     "pass", never a z sound.  The digraph `kh' is the guttural of

     "loch" or "l'chaim".  The digraph 'gh' is the aspirated g+h of

     "bughouse" or "ragheap" (rare in English).

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

     thus (for example) /H-L-L/ is equivalent to /aych el el/.  /Z/

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

  4. Vowels are represented as follows:


            back, that


            father, palm (see note)


            far, mark


            flaw, caught


            bake, rain


            less, men


            easy, ski


            their, software


            trip, hit


            life, sky


            block, stock (see note)


            flow, sew


            loot, through


            more, door


            out, how


            boy, coin


            but, some


            put, foot


            yet, young


            few, chew


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


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/.

Note that the above table reflects mainly distinctions found in

standard American English (that is, the neutral dialect spoken by TV

network announcers and typical of educated speech in the Upper

Midwest, Chicago, Minneapolis/St.Paul and Philadelphia).  However, we

separate /o/ from /ah/, which tend to merge in standard American.

This may help readers accustomed to accents resembling British

Received Pronunciation.

The intent of this scheme is to permit as many readers as possible to

map the pronunciations into their local dialect by ignoring some

subset of the distinctions we make.  Speakers of British RP, for

example, can smash terminal /r/ and all unstressed vowels.  Speakers

of many varieties of southern American will automatically map /o/ to

/aw/; and so forth.  (Standard American makes a good reference dialect

for this purpose because it has crisp consonents and more vowel

distinctions than other major dialects, and tends to retain

distinctions between unstressed vowels.  It also happens to be what

your editor speaks.)

Entries with a pronunciation of `//' are written-only usages.  (No,

Unix weenies, this does *not* mean `pronounce like previous


:Other Lexicon Conventions:


Entries are sorted in case-blind ASCII collation order (rather than

the letter-by-letter order ignoring interword spacing common in

mainstream dictionaries), except that all entries beginning with

nonalphabetic characters are sorted after Z.  The case-blindness is a

feature, not a bug.

The beginning of each entry is marked by a colon (`:') at the left

margin.  This convention helps out tools like hypertext browsers that

benefit from knowing where entry boundaries are, but aren't as

context-sensitive as humans.

In pure ASCII renderings of the Jargon File, you will see {} used to

bracket words which themselves have entries in the File.  This isn't

done all the time for every such word, but it is done everywhere that

a reminder seems useful that the term has a jargon meaning and one

might wish to refer to its entry.

In this all-ASCII version, headwords for topic entries are

distinguished from those for ordinary entries by being followed by

"::" rather than ":"; similarly, references are surrounded by "{{" and

"}}" rather than "{" and "}".

Defining instances of terms and phrases appear in `slanted type'.  A

defining instance is one which occurs near to or as part of an

explanation of it.

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


We follow the `logical' quoting convention described in the Writing

Style section above.  In addition, we reserve double quotes for actual

excerpts of text or (sometimes invented) speech.  Scare quotes (which

mark a word being used in a nonstandard way), and philosopher's quotes

(which turn an utterance into the string of letters or words that name

it) are both rendered with single quotes.

References such as `malloc(3)' and `patch(1)' are to Unix facilities

(some of which, such as `patch(1)', are actually freeware distributed

over Usenet).  The Unix manuals use `foo(n)' to refer to item foo in

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

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

present) is system administration utilities.  Sections 4, 5, and 7 of

the manuals have changed roles frequently and in any case are not

referred to in any of the entries.

Various abbreviations used frequently in the lexicon are summarized









































     synonym (or synonymous with)


     verb (may be transitive or intransitive)




     intransitive verb


     transitive verb

Where alternate spellings or pronunciations are given, alt.  separates

two possibilities with nearly equal distribution, while var. prefixes

one that is markedly less common than the primary.

Where a term can be attributed to a particular subculture or is known

to have originated there, we have tried to so indicate.  Here is a

list of abbreviations used in etymologies:

Amateur Packet Radio

     A technical culture of ham-radio sites using AX.25 and TCP/IP for

     wide-area networking and BBS systems.


     University of California at Berkeley


     Bolt, Beranek & Newman


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

     MIT happens to be located!)


     Carnegie-Mellon University


     Commodore Business Machines


     The Digital Equipment Corporation


     The Fairchild Instruments Palo Alto development group


     See the {FidoNet} entry


     International Business Machines


     Massachusetts Institute of Technology; esp. the legendary MIT AI

     Lab culture of roughly 1971 to 1983 and its feeder groups,

     including the Tech Model Railroad Club


     Naval Research Laboratories


     New York University


     The Oxford English Dictionary


     Purdue University


     Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (at Stanford



     From Syst`eme International, the name for the standard

     conventions of metric nomenclature used in the sciences


     Stanford University


     Sun Microsystems


     Some MITisms go back as far as the Tech Model Railroad Club

     (TMRC) at MIT c. 1960.  Material marked TMRC is from "An Abridged

     Dictionary of the TMRC Language", originally compiled by Pete

     Samson in 1959


     University of California at Los Angeles


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


     See the {Usenet} entry


     Worcester Polytechnic Institute, site of a very active community

     of PDP-10 hackers during the 1970s


     The World-Wide-Web.


     XEROX's Palo Alto Research Center, site of much pioneering

     research in user interface design and networking


     Yale University

Some other etymology abbreviations such as {Unix} and {PDP-10} refer

to technical cultures surrounding specific operating systems,

processors, or other environments.  The fact that a term is labelled

with any one of these abbreviations does not necessarily mean its use

is confined to that culture.  In particular, many terms labelled `MIT'

and `Stanford' are in quite general use.  We have tried to give some

indication of the distribution of speakers in the usage notes;

however, a number of factors mentioned in the introduction conspire to

make these indications less definite than might be desirable.

A few new definitions attached to entries are marked [proposed].

These are usually generalizations suggested by editors or Usenet

respondents in the process of commenting on previous definitions of

those entries.  These are *not* represented as established jargon.

:Format For New Entries:


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 in the ASCII on-line version

--- 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.

There is now an HTML version of the File available at

//www.ccil.org/jargon.  Please send us URLs for materials related to

the entries, so we can enrich the File's link structure.

The Jargon File will be regularly maintained and made available for

FTP over Internet, and will include a version number.  Read it, pass

it around, contribute -- this is *your* monument!

The Jargon Lexicon


= A =


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


:ABEND: /o'bend/, /*-bend'/ n.  [ABnormal END] 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").

:Acme: n.  The canonical supplier of bizarre, elaborate, and

   non-functional gadgetry -- where Rube Goldberg and Heath Robinson

   shop.  Describing some X as an "Acme X" either means "This is

   {insanely great}", or, more likely, "This looks {insanely

   great} on paper, but in practice it's really easy to shoot yourself

   in the foot with it."  Compare {pistol}.

   This term, specially cherished by American hackers and explained

   here for the benefit of our overseas brethren, comes from the

   Warner Brothers' series of "Roadrunner" cartoons.  In these

   cartoons, the famished Wile E. Coyote was forever attempting to

   catch up with, trap, and eat the Roadrunner.  His attempts usually

   involved one or more high-technology Rube Goldberg devices --

   rocket jetpacks, catapults, magnetic traps, high-powered

   slingshots, etc.  These were usually delivered in large cardboard

   boxes, labeled prominently with the Acme name.  These devices

   invariably malfunctioned in violent and improbable ways.

:acolyte: n.,obs.  [TMRC] An {OSU} privileged enough to

   submit data and programs to a member of the {priesthood}.

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

   assumptions made inside certain programs, esp. expert systems,

   which lead to the appearance of semi-intelligent behavior but are

   in fact entirely arbitrary.  For example, fuzzy-matching against

   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/ vt.  [UCLA mutant of {nadger}] To make a

   bonehead move with consequences that could have been foreseen with

   even slight mental effort.  E.g., "He started removing files and

   promptly adgered the whole project".  Compare {dumbass attack}.

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

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

   in charge on a computer.  Common constructions on this include

   `sysadmin' and `site admin' (emphasizing the administrator's

   role as a site contact for email and news) or `newsadmin'

   (focusing specifically on news).  Compare {postmaster},

   {sysop}, {system mangler}.

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

   game, first designed by Will Crowther on the {PDP-10} in the

   mid-1970s as an attempt at computer-refereed fantasy gaming, and

   expanded into a puzzle-oriented game by Don Woods at Stanford in

   1976.  Now better known as Adventure, but the {{TOPS-10}}

   operating system permitted only six-letter filenames.  See also

   {vadding}, {Zork}, and {Infocom}.

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

   text adventure games, and popularized several tag lines that have

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

   Joke".  Elaborate April Fool's hoaxes are a long-established

   tradition on Usenet and Internet; see {kremvax} for an example.

   In fact, April Fool's Day is the *only* seasonal holiday

   marked by customary observances on the hacker networks.

:AI: /A-I/ n.  Abbreviation for `Artificial Intelligence',

   so common that the full form is almost never written or spoken

   among hackers.

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

   analogy with `NP-complete' (see {NP-})] Used to describe

   problems or subproblems in AI, to indicate that the solution

   presupposes a solution to the `strong AI problem' (that is, the

   synthesis of a human-level intelligence).  A problem that is

   AI-complete is, in other words, just too hard.

   Examples of AI-complete problems are `The Vision Problem'

   (building a system that can see as well as a human) and `The

   Natural Language Problem' (building a system that can understand

   and speak a natural language as well as a human).  These may appear

   to be modular, but all attempts so far (1996) 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 {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},


: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 (some hackers think it is funnier just to pronounce

   "AIX" as "aches").  A victim of the dreaded "hybridism"

   disease, this attempt to combine the two main currents of the Unix

   stream ({BSD} and {USG Unix}) became a {monstrosity} to

   haunt system administrators' dreams.  For example, if new accounts

   are created while many users are logged on, the load average jumps

   quickly over 20 due to silly implementation of the user databases.

   For a quite similar disease, compare {HP-SUX}.  Also, compare

   {Macintrash} {Nominal Semidestructor}, {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.  It is

   correspondingly argued that the right way to build reliable systems

   is to put all your eggs in one basket, after making sure that

   you've built a really *good* basket.  See also {KISS


:aliasing bug: n.  A class of subtle programming errors that

   can arise in code that does dynamic allocation, esp. via

   `malloc(3)' or equivalent.  If several pointers address

   (`aliases for') a given hunk of storage, it may happen that the

   storage is freed or reallocated (and thus moved) through one alias

   and then referenced through another, which may lead to subtle (and

   possibly intermittent) lossage depending on the state and the

   allocation history of the malloc {arena}.  Avoidable by use of

   allocation strategies that never alias allocated core, or by use of

   higher-level languages, such as {LISP}, which employ a garbage

   collector (see {GC}).  Also called a {stale pointer bug}.

   See also {precedence lossage}, {smash the stack},

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

   {overrun screw}, {spam}.

   Historical note: Though this term is nowadays associated with

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

   Algol-60 and FORTRAN communities in the 1960s.

:all-elbows: adj.  [MS-DOS] Of a TSR

   (terminate-and-stay-resident) IBM PC program, such as the N

   pop-up calendar and calculator utilities that circulate on {BBS}

   systems: unsociable.  Used to describe a program that rudely steals

   the resources that it needs without considering that other TSRs may

   also be resident.  One particularly common form of rudeness is

   lock-up due to programs fighting over the keyboard interrupt.  See

   {rude}, also {mess-dos}.

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

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

   {clone} keyboard; see {bucky bits}, sense 2 (though typical

   PC usage does not simply set the 0200 bit).  2. n. The `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 (and it is so labeled on some Mac II keyboards).

   3. n.obs.  [PDP-10; often capitalized to ALT] Alternate name for

   the ASCII ESC character (ASCII 0011011), after the keycap labeling

   on some older terminals; also `altmode' (/awlt'mohd/).  This

   character was almost never pronounced `escape' on an ITS system,

   in {TECO}, or under TOPS-10 -- always alt, as in "Type alt alt

   to end a TECO command" or "alt-U onto the system" (for "log

   onto the [ITS] system").  This usage probably arose because alt is

   more convenient to say than `escape', especially when followed by

   another alt or a character (or another alt *and* a character,

   for that matter).  3. The alt hierarchy on Usenet, the tree of

   newsgroups created by users without a formal vote and approval

   procedure.  There is a myth, not entirely implausible, that

   alt is acronymic for "anarchists, lunatics, and terrorists";

   but in fact it is simply short for "alternative".

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


:amp off: vt.  [Purdue] To run in {background}.  From the

   Unix shell `&' operator.

:amper: n.  Common abbreviation for the name of the ampersand

   (`&', ASCII 0100110) character.  See {{ASCII}} for other synonyms.

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

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

   greater-than signs).  Typographers in the {Real World} use angle

   brackets which are either taller and slimmer (the ISO `Bra' and

   `Ket' characters), or significantly smaller (single or double

   guillemets) than the less-than and greater-than signs.

   See {broket}, {{ASCII}}.

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

   uses too many colors.  (This term derives, of course, from the

   bizarre day-glo colors found in canned fruit salad.)  Too often one

   sees similar effects from interface designers using color window

   systems such as {X}; there is a tendency to create displays that

   are flashy and attention-getting but uncomfortable for long-term


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

:ANSI: n. /an'see/  1. n. [techspeak] The American National

   Standards Institue. ANSI, along with the International Standards

   Organization (ISO), standardized the C programming language (see

   {K&R}, {Classic C}), and promulgates many other important

   software standards.  2. n. [techspeak] A terminal may be said to be

   `ANSI' if it meets the ANSI X.364 standard for terminal control.

   Unfortunately, this standard was both over-complicated and too

   permissive.  It has been retired and replaced by the ECMA-48

   standard, which shares both flaws.  3. n. [BBS jargon] The set of

   screen-painting codes that most MS-DOS and Amiga computers accept.

   This comes from the ANSI.SYS device driver that must be loaded on

   an MS-DOS computer to view such codes.  Unfortunately, neither DOS

   ANSI nor the BBS ANSIs derived from it exactly match the ANSI X.364

   terminal standard.  For example, the ESC-[1m code turns on the bold

   highlight on large machines, but in IBM PC/MS-DOS ANSI, it turns on

   `intense' (bright) colors.  Also, in BBS-land, the term `ANSI' is

   often used to imply that a particular computer uses or can emulate

   the IBM high-half character set from MS-DOS.  Particular use

   depends on context. Occasionally, the vanilla ASCII character set

   is used with the color codes, but on BBSs, ANSI and `IBM

   characters' tend to go together.

:AOS: 1. /aws/ (East Coast), /ay-os/ (West Coast) vt.,obs.

   To increase the amount of something. "AOS the campfire."

   [based on a PDP-10 increment instruction] Usage:

   considered silly, and now obsolete.  Now largely supplanted by

   {bump}.  See {SOS}.  2. n. 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. n. Algebraic Operating System, in reference

   to those calculators which use infix instead of postfix (reverse

   Polish) notation.  4. A {BSD}-like operating system for the IBM


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

   instruction that took any memory location in the computer and added

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

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

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

   instructions: AOSE added 1 and then skipped the next instruction

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   assembler programming.

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

   to a systems program.  Apps are what systems vendors are forever

   chasing developers to create for their environments so they can

   sell more boxes.  Hackers tend not to think of the things they

   themselves run as apps; thus, in hacker parlance the term excludes

   compilers, program editors, games, and messaging systems, though a

   user would consider all those to be apps.  (Broadly, an app is

   often a self-contained environment for performing some well-defined

   task such as `word processing'; hackers tend to prefer more

   general-purpose tools.) Oppose {tool}, {operating system}.

: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 `malloc: corrupt arena'

   message emitted when some early versions detected an impossible

   value in the free block list.  See {overrun screw}, {aliasing

   bug}, {memory leak}, {memory smash}, {smash the stack}.

:arg: /arg/ n.  Abbreviation for `argument' (to a

   function), used so often as to have become a new word (like

   `piano' from `pianoforte').  "The sine function takes 1 arg,

   but the arc-tangent function can take either 1 or 2 args."

   Compare {param}, {parm}, {var}.

:ARMM: n.  [acronym, `Automated Retroactive Minimal

   Moderation'] A Usenet robot created by Dick Depew of Munroe Falls,

   Ohio.  ARMM was intended to automatically cancel posts from

   anonymous-posting sites.  Unfortunately, the robot's recognizer for

   anonymous postings triggered on its own automatically-generated

   control messages!  Transformed by this stroke of programming

   ineptitude into a monster of Frankensteinian proportions, it broke

   loose on the night of March 31, 1993 and proceeded to {spam}

   news.admin.policy with a recursive explosion of over 200


   ARMM's bug produced a recursive {cascade} of messages each of which

   mechanically added text to the ID and Subject and some other

   headers of its parent.  This produced a flood of messages in which

   each header took up several screens and each message ID and subject

   line got longer and longer and longer.

   Reactions varied from amusement to outrage.  The pathological

   messages crashed at least one mail system, and upset people paying

   line charges for their Usenet feeds.  One poster described the ARMM

   debacle as "instant Usenet history" (also establishing the term

   {despew}), and it has since been widely cited as a cautionary

   example of the havoc the combination of good intentions and

   incompetence can wreak on a network.  Compare {Great Worm, the};

   {sorcerer's apprentice mode}.  See also {software laser},

   {network meltdown}.

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

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

   protect one from {flame}s; also in other highly

   {flame}-suggestive usages.  See, for example, {asbestos

   longjohns} and {asbestos cork award}.

:asbestos cork award: n.  Once, long ago at MIT, there was a

   {flamer} so consistently obnoxious that another hacker designed,

   had made, and distributed posters announcing that said flamer had

   been nominated for the `asbestos cork award'.  (Any reader in

   doubt as to the intended application of the cork should consult the

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

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

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


:asbestos longjohns: n.  Notional garments donned by

   {Usenet} posters just before emitting a remark they expect will

   elicit {flamage}.  This is the most common of the {asbestos}

   coinages.  Also `asbestos underwear', `asbestos overcoat', etc.

:ASCII:: /as'kee/ n.  [acronym: American Standard Code for

   Information Interchange] The predominant character set encoding of

   present-day computers.  The modern version 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

   or the ae-ligature

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

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

   Computers are much pickier and less flexible about spelling than

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

   characters, and have developed a considerable amount of verbal

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

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

   characters are collected here.  See also individual entries for

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

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

   This list derives from revision 2.3 of the Usenet ASCII

   pronunciation guide.  Single characters are listed in ASCII order;

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

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

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

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

   particularly silly names introduced by {INTERCAL}.  The

   abbreviations "l/r" and "o/c" stand for left/right and

   "open/close" respectively.  Ordinary parentheticals provide some

   usage information.


          Common: {bang}; pling; excl; shriek; .

          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: number sign; pound; pound sign; hash; sharp;

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

          flash; , 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:



          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: l/r paren; l/r parenthesis; left/right; open/close;

          paren/thesis; o/c paren; o/c parenthesis; l/r parenthesis;

          l/r banana.  Rare: so/already; lparen/rparen;

          ; o/c round bracket, l/r round

          bracket, [wax/wane]; parenthisey/unparenthisey; l/r 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;



          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],


     < >

          Common: ; bra/ket; l/r angle; l/r angle

          bracket; l/r broket.  Rare: from/{into, towards}; read

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

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


          Common: ; gets; takes.  Rare: quadrathorpe;



          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;



          Rare: [book].

     [ ]

          Common: l/r square bracket; l/r bracket; ; bracket/unbracket.  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: o/c brace; l/r brace; l/r squiggly; l/r squiggly

          bracket/brace; l/r curly bracket/brace; .  Rare: brace/unbrace; curly/uncurly; leftit/rytit;

          l/r 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


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

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

   pronounced "hex" in different communities because various

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

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

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

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

   also {splat}.

   The inability of ASCII text to correctly represent any of the

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

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

   international networks continues to increase (see {software

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

   the assumption that ASCII is the universal character set and that

   characters have 7 bits; this is a a major irritant to people who

   want to use a character set suited to their own languages.

   Perversely, though, efforts to solve this problem by proliferating

   `national' character sets produce an evolutionary pressure to use

   a *smaller* subset common to all those in use.

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

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

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

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


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

           L  )||(  |        |   |             C U

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

         C N  )||(        |  |   |      |        P

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

              )||(  |        |          | GND    T


         A power supply consisting of a full wave rectifier circuit

         feeding a capacitor input filter circuit

                              Figure 1.

   And here are some very silly examples:

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

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

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

       | (o)(o)        U             /                       \

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

       | ,___|    (oo)                       \/     \/

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

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

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



         ====___\   /.. ..\   /___====      Klingons rule OK!

       //        ---\__O__/---        \\

       \_\                           /_/

                              Figure 2.

   There is an important subgenre of ASCII art that puns on the

   standard character names in the fashion of a rebus.


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

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

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

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

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


                  " A Bee in the Carrot Patch "

                              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.

   There is a newsgroup, alt.ascii.art, devoted to this

   genre; however, see also {warlording}.

:ASCIIbetical order: /as'kee-be'-t*-kl or'dr/ adj.,n.  Used

   to indicate that data is sorted in ASCII collated order rather than

   alphabetical order.  This lexicon is sorted in something close to

   ASCIIbetical order, but with case ignored and entries beginning

   with non-alphabetic characters moved to the end.

:atomic: adj.  [from Gk. `atomos', indivisible]

   1. Indivisible; cannot be split up.  For example, an instruction

   may be said to do several things `atomically', i.e., all the

   things are done immediately, and there is no chance of the

   instruction being half-completed or of another being interspersed.

   Used esp. to convey that an operation cannot be screwed up by

   interrupts.  "This routine locks the file and increments the

   file's semaphore atomically."  2. [primarily techspeak] Guaranteed

   to complete successfully or not at all, usu. refers to database

   transactions.  If an error prevents a partially-performed

   transaction from proceeding to completion, it must be "backed out,"

   as the database must not be left in an inconsistent state.

   Computer usage, in either of the above senses, has none of the

   connotations that `atomic' has in mainstream English (i.e.  of

   particles of matter, nuclear explosions etc.).

:attoparsec: n.  About an inch.  `atto-' is the standard SI

   prefix for multiplication by 10^(-18).  A parsec

   (parallax-second) is 3.26 light-years; an attoparsec is thus

   3.26 * 10^(-18) light years, or about 3.1 cm (thus, 1

   attoparsec/{microfortnight} equals about 1 inch/sec).  This unit

   is reported to be in use (though probably not very seriously) among

   hackers in the U.K.  See {micro-}.

:autobogotiphobia: /aw'toh-boh-got`*-foh'bee-*/  n. See


:automagically: /aw-toh-maj'i-klee/ adv.  Automatically, but

   in a way that, for some reason (typically because it is too

   complicated, or too ugly, or perhaps even too trivial), the speaker

   doesn't feel like explaining to you.  See {magic}.  "The

   C-INTERCAL compiler generates C, then automagically invokes

   `cc(1)' to produce an executable."

:avatar: n. Syn.  1. Among people working on virtual reality

   and {cyberspace} interfaces, an "avatar" is an icon or

   representation of a user in a shared virtual reality.  The term is

   sumetimes used on {MUD}s.  2. [CMU, Tektronix] {root},

   {superuser}.  There are quite a few Unix machines on which the

   name of the superuser account is `avatar' rather than `root'.

   This quirk was originated by a CMU hacker who disliked the term

   `superuser', and was propagated through an ex-CMU hacker at


:awk: /awk/  1. n. [Unix techspeak] An interpreted language

   for massaging text data developed by Alfred Aho, Peter Weinberger,

   and Brian Kernighan (the name derives from their initials).  It is

   characterized by C-like syntax, a declaration-free approach to

   variable typing and declarations, associative arrays, and

   field-oriented text processing.  See also {Perl}.  2. n.

   Editing term for an expression awkward to manipulate through normal

   {regexp} facilities (for example, one containing a

   {newline}).  3. vt. To process data using `awk(1)'.

= B =


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

   deliberately left in place by designers or maintainers.  The

   motivation for such holes is not always sinister; some operating

   systems, for example, come out of the box with privileged accounts

   intended for use by field service technicians or the vendor's

   maintenance programmers.  Syn. {trap door}; may also be called a

   `wormhole'.  See also {iron box}, {cracker}, {worm},

   {logic bomb}.

   Historically, back doors have often lurked in systems longer than

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

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

   possibility of a back door in early Unix versions that may have

   qualified as the most fiendishly clever security hack of all time

   In this scheme, the C compiler contained code that would recognize

   when the `login' command was being recompiled and insert some

   code recognizing a password chosen by Thompson, giving him entry to

   the system whether or not an account had been created for him.

   Normally such a back door could be removed by removing it from the

   source code for the compiler and recompiling the compiler.  But to

   recompile the compiler, you have to *use* the compiler -- so

   Thompson also arranged that the compiler would *recognize when

   it was compiling a version of itself*, and insert into the

   recompiled compiler the code to insert into the recompiled

   `login' the code to allow Thompson entry -- and, of course, the

   code to recognize itself and do the whole thing again the next time

   around!  And having done this once, he was then able to recompile

   the compiler from the original sources; the hack perpetuated itself

   invisibly, leaving the back door in place and active but with no

   trace in the sources.

   The talk that suggested this truly moby hack was published as

   "Reflections on Trusting Trust", "Communications of the ACM

   27", 8 (August 1984), pp. 761--763.  Ken Thompson has since

   confirmed that this hack was implemented and that the Trojan Horse

   code did appear in the login binary of a Unix Support group

   machine.  Ken says the crocked compiler was never distributed.

   Your editor has heard two separate reports that suggest that the

   crocked login did make it out of Bell Labs, notably to BBN, and

   that it enabled at least one late-night login across the network by

   someone using the login name `kt'.

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

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

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

   disbanded in late 1988 after a bitter internal catfight.

: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 1993, when this sense of

   the term was beginning to pass out of general use due to wide

   availability of cheap Internet connections, included uunet and

   the mail machines at Rutgers University, UC Berkeley, {DEC}'s

   Western Research Laboratories, Ohio State University, and the

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

   [1996 update: This term is seldom heard any more.  The UUCP network

   world that gave it meaning has nearly disappeared; everyone is on

   the Internet now and network traffic is distributed in very

   different patterns. --ESR]

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

   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/ n.

   [CMU, Tektronix: from `backward compatibility'] A property of

   hardware or software revisions in which previous protocols,

   formats, layouts, etc. are irrevocably discarded in favor of `new

   and improved' protocols, formats, and layouts, leaving the previous

   ones not merely deprecated but actively defeated.  (Too often, the

   old and new versions cannot definitively be distinguished, such

   that lingering instances of the previous ones yield crashes or

   other infelicitous effects, as opposed to a simple "version

   mismatch" message.)  A backwards compatible change, on the other

   hand, allows old versions to coexist without crashes or error

   messages, but too many major changes incorporating elaborate

   backwards compatibility processing can lead to extreme {software

   bloat}.  See also {flag day}.

:BAD: /B-A-D/ adj.  [IBM: acronym, `Broken As Designed']

   Said of a program that is {bogus} because of bad design and

   misfeatures rather than because of bugginess.  See {working as


:Bad Thing: n.  [from the 1930 Sellar & Yeatman parody "1066

   And All That"] Something that can't possibly result in

   improvement of the subject.  This term is always capitalized, as in

   "Replacing all of the 9600-baud modems with bicycle couriers would

   be a Bad Thing".  Oppose {Good Thing}.  British correspondents

   confirm that {Bad Thing} and {Good Thing} (and prob.

   therefore {Right Thing} and {Wrong Thing}) come from the book

   referenced in the etymology, which discusses rulers who were Good

   Kings but Bad Things.  This has apparently created a mainstream

   idiom on the British side of the pond.

:bag on the side: n.  An extension to an established hack that

   is supposed to add some functionality to the original.  Usually

   derogatory, implying that the original was being overextended and

   should have been thrown away, and the new product is ugly,

   inelegant, or bloated.  Also v. phrase, `to hang a bag on the side

   [of]'.  "C++?  That's just a bag on the side of C ...."

   "They want me to hang a bag on the side of the accounting


:bagbiter: /bag'bi:t-*r/ n.  1. Something, such as a program

   or a computer, that fails to work, or works in a remarkably clumsy

   manner.  "This text editor won't let me make a file with a line

   longer than 80 characters!  What a bagbiter!"  2. A person who has

   caused you some trouble, inadvertently or otherwise, typically by

   failing to program the computer properly.  Synonyms: {loser},

   {cretin}, {chomper}.  3. `bite the bag' vi. To fail in some

   manner.  "The computer keeps crashing every five minutes."

   "Yes, the disk controller is really biting the bag."  The

   original loading of these terms was almost undoubtedly obscene,

   possibly referring to the scrotum, but in their current usage they

   have become almost completely sanitized.

   ITS's {lexiphage} program is the first and to date only known

   example of a program *intended* to be a bagbiter.

:bagbiting: adj.  Having the quality of a {bagbiter}.

   "This bagbiting system won't let me compute the factorial of a

   negative number."  Compare {losing}, {cretinous},

   {bletcherous}, `barfucious' (under {barfulous}) and

   `chomping' (under {chomp}).

:balloonian variable: n.  [Commodore users; perh. a deliberate

   phonetic mangling of `boolean variable'?] Any variable that

   doesn't actually hold or control state, but must nevertheless be

   declared, checked, or set.  A typical balloonian variable started

   out as a flag attached to some environment feature that either

   became obsolete or was planned but never implemented.

   Compatibility concerns (or politics attached to same) may require

   that such a flag be treated as though it were live.

:bamf: /bamf/  1. [from X-Men comics; originally "bampf"]

   interj. Notional sound made by a person or object teleporting in or

   out of the hearer's vicinity.  Often used in {virtual reality}

   (esp. {MUD}) electronic {fora} when a character wishes to

   make a dramatic entrance or exit.  2. The sound of magical

   transformation, used in virtual reality {fora} like MUDs. 3. In

   MUD circles, "bamf" is also used to refer to the act by which a

   MUD server sends a special notification to the MUD client to switch

   its connection to another server ("I'll set up the old site to

   just bamf people over to our new location.").  4. Used by MUDders

   on occasion in a more general sense related to sense 3, to refer to

   directing someone to another location or resource ("A user was

   asking about some technobabble so I bamfed them to


:banana label: n.  The labels often used on the sides of

   {macrotape} reels, so called because they are shaped roughly

   like blunt-ended bananas.  This term, like macrotapes themselves,

   is still current but visibly headed for obsolescence.

:banana problem: n.  [from the story of the little girl who

   said "I know how to spell `banana', but I don't know when to

   stop"].  Not knowing where or when to bring a production to a

   close (compare {fencepost error}).  One may say `there is a

   banana problem' of an algorithm with poorly defined or incorrect

   termination conditions, or in discussing the evolution of a design

   that may be succumbing to featuritis (see also {creeping

   elegance}, {creeping featuritis}).  See item 176 under

   {HAKMEM}, which describes a banana problem in a {Dissociated

   Press} implementation.  Also, see {one-banana problem} for a

   superficially similar but unrelated usage.

:bandwidth: n.  1. 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, and

   in the code of hackers who just can't let go of that low-level

   control.  See {Real Programmer}.

   In the world of personal computing, bare metal programming

   (especially in sense 1 but sometimes also in sense 2) is often

   considered a {Good Thing}, or at least a necessary evil

   (because these machines have often been sufficiently slow and

   poorly designed to make it necessary; see {ill-behaved}).

   There, the term usually refers to bypassing the BIOS or OS

   interface and writing the application to directly access device

   registers and machine addresses.  "To get 19.2 kilobaud on the

   serial port, you need to get down to the bare metal."  People who

   can do this sort of thing well are held in high regard.

:barf: /barf/  [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, perhaps with a suitable error message, perhaps not.

   Examples: "The division operation barfs if you try to divide by

   0."  (That is, the division operation checks for an attempt to

   divide by zero, and if one is encountered it causes the operation

   to fail in some unspecified, but generally obvious, manner.) "The

   text editor barfs if you try to read in a new file before writing

   out the old one."  See {choke}, {gag}.  In Commonwealth

   Hackish, `barf' is generally replaced by `puke' or `vom'.

   {barf} is sometimes also used as a {metasyntactic variable},

   like {foo} or {bar}.

:barfmail: n.  Multiple {bounce message}s accumulating to

   the level of serious annoyance, or worse.  The sort of thing that

   happens when an inter-network mail gateway goes down or wonky.

:barfulation: /bar`fyoo-lay'sh*n/ interj.  Variation of

   {barf} used around the Stanford area.  An exclamation,

   expressing disgust.  On seeing some particularly bad code one might

   exclaim, "Barfulation!  Who wrote this, Quux?"

:barfulous: /bar'fyoo-l*s/ adj.  (alt. `barfucious',

   /bar-fyoo-sh*s/) Said of something that would make anyone

   barf, if only for esthetic reasons.

: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}.

:BASIC: n.  [acronym: Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic

   Instruction Code] 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.  Edsger W. Dijkstra observed in "Selected

   Writings on Computing: A Personal Perspective" that "It is

   practically impossible to teach good programming style to students

   that have had prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers

   they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration.".  This

   is another case (like {Pascal}) of the cascading lossage that

   happens when a language deliberately designed as an educational toy

   gets taken too seriously.  A novice can write short BASIC programs

   (on the order of 10--20 lines) very easily; writing anything longer

   (a) is very painful, and (b) encourages bad habits that will make

   it harder to use more powerful languages well.  This wouldn't be so

   bad if historical accidents hadn't made BASIC so common on low-end

   micros.  As it is, it ruins thousands of potential wizards a


   [1995: Some languages called `BASIC' aren't quite this nasty any

   more, having acquired Pascal- and C-like procedures and control

   structures and shed their line numbers. -- ESR]

:batch: adj.  1. Non-interactive.  Hackers use this somewhat

   more loosely than the traditional technical definitions justify; in

   particular, switches on a normally interactive program that prepare

   it to receive non-interactive command input are often referred to

   as `batch mode' switches.  A `batch file' is a series of

   instructions written to be handed to an interactive program running

   in batch mode.  2. Performance of dreary tasks all at one sitting.

   "I finally sat down in batch mode and wrote out checks for all

   those bills; I guess they'll turn the electricity back on next

   week..." 3. `batching up': Accumulation of a number of small

   tasks that can be lumped together for greater efficiency.  "I'm

   batching up those letters to send sometime" "I'm batching up

   bottles to take to the recycling center."

:bathtub curve: n.  Common term for the curve (resembling an

   end-to-end section of one of those claw-footed antique bathtubs)

   that describes the expected failure rate of electronics with time:

   initially high, dropping to near 0 for most of the system's

   lifetime, then rising again as it `tires out'.  See also

   {burn-in period}, {infant mortality}.

:baud: /bawd/  [simplified from its technical meaning]

   n. Bits per second.  Hence kilobaud or Kbaud, thousands of bits per

   second.  The technical meaning is `level transitions per

   second'; this coincides with bps only for two-level modulation with

   no framing or stop bits.  Most hackers are aware of these nuances

   but blithely ignore them.

   Historical note: `baud' was originally a unit of telegraph

   signalling speed, set at one pulse per second.  It was proposed at

   the 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


:bboard: /bee'bord/ n.  [contraction of `bulletin board']

   1. Any electronic bulletin board; esp. used of {BBS} systems

   running on personal micros, less frequently of a Usenet

   {newsgroup} (in fact, use of this term for a newsgroup generally

   marks one either as a {newbie} fresh in from the BBS world or as

   a real old-timer predating Usenet).  2. At CMU and other colleges

   with similar facilities, refers to campus-wide electronic bulletin

   boards.  3. The term `physical bboard' is sometimes used to refer

   to an old-fashioned, non-electronic cork-and-thumbtack memo board.

   At CMU, it refers to a particular one outside the CS Lounge.

   In either of senses 1 or 2, the term is usually prefixed by the

   name of the intended board (`the Moonlight Casino bboard' or

   `market bboard'); however, if the context is clear, the better-read

   bboards may be referred to by name alone, as in (at CMU) "Don't

   post for-sale ads on general".

:BBS: /B-B-S/ n.  [abbreviation, `Bulletin Board System'] An

   electronic bulletin board system; that is, a message database where

   people can log in and leave broadcast messages for others grouped

   (typically) into {topic group}s.  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.  See also {bboard}.

:beam: vt.  [from Star Trek Classic's "Beam me up, Scotty!"]

   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: n.  [Mac users] 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: n.  [by analogy with the toyboxes on theater

   organs] Features added to a program or system to make it more

   {flavorful} from a hacker's point of view, without necessarily

   adding to its utility for its primary function.  Distinguished from

   {chrome}, which is intended to attract users.  "Now that we've

   got the basic program working, let's go back and add some bells and

   whistles."  No one seems to know what distinguishes a bell from a


:bells, whistles, and gongs: n.  A standard elaborated form of

   {bells and whistles}; typically said with a pronounced and

   ironic accent on the `gongs'.

:benchmark: [techspeak] n.  An inaccurate measure of computer

   performance.  "In the computer industry, there are three kinds of

   lies: lies, damn lies, and benchmarks."  Well-known ones include

   Whetstone, Dhrystone, Rhealstone (see {h}), the Gabriel LISP

   benchmarks (see {gabriel}), the SPECmark suite, and LINPACK.

   See also {machoflops}, {MIPS}, {smoke and mirrors}.

:Berkeley Quality Software: adj.  (often abbreviated `BQS')

   Term used in a pejorative sense to refer to software that was

   apparently created by rather spaced-out hackers late at night to

   solve some unique problem.  It usually has nonexistent, incomplete,

   or incorrect documentation, has been tested on at least two

   examples, and core dumps when anyone else attempts to use it.  This

   term was frequently applied to early versions of the `dbx(1)'

   debugger.  See also {Berzerkeley}.

   Note to British and Commonwealth readers: that's /berk'lee/, not

   /bark'lee/ as in British Received Pronunciation.

:berklix: /berk'liks/ n.,adj.  [contraction of `Berkeley

   Unix'] See {BSD}.  Not used at Berkeley itself.  May be more

   common among {suit}s attempting to sound like cognoscenti than

   among hackers, who usually just say `BSD'.

:Berzerkeley: /b*r-zer'klee/ n.  [from `berserk', via the

   name of a now-deceased record label] Humorous distortion of

   `Berkeley' used esp. to refer to the practices or products of the

   {BSD} Unix hackers.  See {software bloat},

   {Missed'em-five}, {Berkeley Quality Software}.

   Mainstream use of this term in reference to the cultural and

   political peculiarities of UC Berkeley as a whole has been reported

   from as far back as the 1960s.

:beta: /bay't*/, /be't*/ or (Commonwealth) /bee't*/ n.

   1. Mostly working, but still under test; usu. used with `in': `in

   beta'.  In the {Real World}, systems (hardware or software)

   software often go through two stages of release testing: Alpha

   (in-house) and Beta (out-house?).  Beta releases are generally made

   to a small number of lucky (or unlucky), trusted customers.

   2. Anything that is new and experimental.  "His girlfriend is in

   beta" means that he is still testing for compatibility and

   reserving judgment.  3. Flaky; dubious; suspect (since beta

   software is notoriously buggy).

   Historical note: More formally, to beta-test is to test a

   pre-release (potentially unreliable) version of a piece of software

   by making it available to selected customers and users.  This term

   derives from early 1960s terminology for product cycle checkpoints,

   first used at IBM but later standard throughout the industry.

   `Alpha Test' was the unit, module, or component test phase; `Beta

   Test' was initial system test.  These themselves came from earlier

   A- and B-tests for hardware.  The A-test was a feasibility and

   manufacturability evaluation done before any commitment to design

   and development.  The B-test was a demonstration that the

   engineering model functioned as specified.  The C-test

   (corresponding to today's beta) was the B-test performed on early

   samples of the production design.

:BFI: /B-F-I/ n.  See {brute force and ignorance}.  Also

   encountered in the variants `BFMI', `brute force and

   *massive* ignorance' and `BFBI' `brute force and bloody


:bible: n.  1. One of a small number of fundamental source

   books such as {Knuth} and {K&R}.  2. The most detailed and

   authoritative reference for a particular language, operating

   system, or other complex software system.

:BiCapitalization: n.  The act said to have been performed on

   trademarks (such as {PostScript}, NeXT, {NeWS}, VisiCalc,

   FrameMaker, TK!solver, EasyWriter) that have been raised above the

   ruck of common coinage by nonstandard capitalization.  Too many

   {marketroid} types think this sort of thing is really cute, even

   the 2,317th time they do it.  Compare {studlycaps}.

:B1FF: /bif/ [Usenet] (alt. `BIFF') n.  The most famous

   {pseudo}, and the prototypical {newbie}.  Articles from B1FF

   feature by all uppercase letters sprinkled liberally with bangs,

   typos, `cute' misspellings (EVRY BUDY LUVS GOOD OLD BIFF CUZ


   LIKE THIS!!!), use (and often misuse) of fragments of {talk mode}

   abbreviations, a long {sig block} (sometimes even a {doubled

   sig}), and unbounded naivete.  B1FF posts articles using his

   elder brother's VIC-20.  B1FF's location is a mystery, as his

   articles appear to come from a variety of sites.  However,

   {BITNET} seems to be the most frequent origin.  The theory that

   B1FF is a denizen of BITNET is supported by B1FF's (unfortunately

   invalid) electronic mail address: B1FF@BIT.NET.

   [1993: Now It Can Be Told!  My spies inform me that B1FF was

   originally created by Joe Talmadge , also the

   author of the infamous and much-plagiarized "Flamer's Bible".

   The BIFF filter he wrote was later passed to Richard Sexton, who

   posted BIFFisms much more widely.  Versions have since been posted

   for the amusement of the net at large. -- ESR]

: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.  There was a legend that it

   had a habit of barking whenever the mailman came, but the author of

   `biff' says this is not true.  No relation to {B1FF}.

:Big Gray Wall: n.  What faces a {VMS} user searching for

   documentation.  A full VMS kit comes on a pallet, the documentation

   taking up around 15 feet of shelf space before the addition of

   layered products such as compilers, databases, multivendor

   networking, and programming tools.  Recent (since VMS version 5)

   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: n.  [IBM] The power switch on a computer,

   esp. the `Emergency Pull' switch on an IBM {mainframe} or the

   power switch on an IBM PC where it really is large and red.  "This

   !@%$% {bitty box} is hung again; time to hit the Big Red

   Switch."  Sources at IBM report that, in tune with the company's

   passion for {TLA}s, this is often abbreviated as `BRS' (this

   has also become established on FidoNet and in the PC {clone}

   world).  It is alleged that the emergency pull switch on an IBM

   360/91 actually fired a non-conducting bolt into the main power

   feed; the BRSes on more recent mainframes physically drop a block

   into place so that they can't be pushed back in.  People get fired

   for pulling them, especially inappropriately (see also

   {molly-guard}).  Compare {power cycle}, {three-finger

   salute}, {120 reset}; see also {scram switch}.

:Big Room, 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: adj.  [From Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" via

   the famous paper "On Holy Wars and a Plea for Peace" by Danny

   Cohen, USC/ISI IEN 137, dated April 1, 1980] 1. Describes a

   computer architecture in which, within a given multi-byte numeric

   representation, the most significant byte has the lowest address

   (the word is stored `big-end-first').  Most processors,

   including the IBM 370 family, the {PDP-10}, the Motorola

   microprocessor families, and most of the various RISC designs

   current in late 1995, are big-endian.  Big-endian byte order is

   also sometimes called `network order'. See {little-endian},

   {middle-endian}, {NUXI problem}, {swab}.  2. An

   {{Internet address}} the wrong way round.  Most of the world

   follows the Internet standard and writes email addresses starting

   with the name of the computer and ending up with the name of the

   country.  In the U.K. the Joint Networking Team had decided to do

   it the other way round before the Internet domain standard was

   established; e.g., me@as.pys.bris.ac.uk.  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 the domain as (American Samoa) on the

   opposite side of the world.

:bignum: /big'nuhm/ n.  [orig. from MIT MacLISP]

   1. [techspeak] A multiple-precision computer representation for

   very large integers.  2. More generally, any very large number.

   "Have you ever looked at the United States Budget?  There's

   bignums for you!"  3. [Stanford] In backgammon, large numbers on

   the dice especially a roll of double fives or double sixes (compare

   {moby}, sense 4).  See also {El Camino Bignum}.

   Sense 1 may require some explanation.  Most computer languages

   provide a kind of data called `integer', but such computer

   integers are usually very limited in size; usually they must be

   smaller than than 2^(31) (2,147,483,648) or (on a

   {bitty box}) 2^(15) (32,768).  If you want to work

   with numbers larger than that, you have to use floating-point

   numbers, which are usually accurate to only six or seven decimal

   places.  Computer languages that provide bignums can perform exact

   calculations on very large numbers, such as 1000! (the factorial

   of 1000, which is 1000 times 999 times 998 times ... times 2

   times 1).  For example, this value for 1000!  was computed by the

   MacLISP system using bignums:





















































:bigot: n.  A person who is religiously attached to a

   particular computer, language, operating system, editor, or other

   tool (see {religious issues}).  Usually found with a specifier;

   thus, `cray bigot', `ITS bigot', `APL bigot', `VMS bigot',

   `Berkeley bigot'.  Real bigots can be distinguished from mere

   partisans or zealots by the fact that they refuse to learn

   alternatives even when the march of time and/or technology is

   threatening to obsolete the favored tool.  It is truly said "You

   can tell a bigot, but you can't tell him much."  Compare


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

   1. [techspeak] The unit of information; the amount of information

   obtained by asking a yes-or-no question for which the two outcomes

   are equally probable.  2. [techspeak] A computational quantity that

   can take on one of two values, such as true and false or 0 and 1.

   3. A mental flag: a reminder that something should be done

   eventually.  "I have a bit set for you."  (I haven't seen you for

   a while, and I'm supposed to tell or ask you something.)  4. More

   generally, a (possibly incorrect) mental state of belief.  "I have

   a bit set that says that you were the last guy to hack on EMACS."

   (Meaning "I think you were the last guy to hack on EMACS, and what

   I am about to say is predicated on this, so please stop me if this

   isn't true.")

   "I just need one bit from you" is a polite way of indicating that

   you intend only a short interruption for a question that can

   presumably be answered yes or no.

   A bit is said to be `set' if its value is true or 1, and

   `reset' or `clear' if its value is false or 0.  One speaks of

   setting and clearing bits.  To {toggle} or `invert' a bit is

   to change it, either from 0 to 1 or from 1 to 0.  See also

   {flag}, {trit}, {mode bit}.

   The term `bit' first appeared in print in the computer-science

   sense in 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, in software,

   at the appropriate times.  The technique is a simple loop with

   eight OUT and SHIFT instruction pairs for each byte.  Input is more

   interesting.  And full duplex (doing input and output at the same

   time) is one way to separate the real hackers from the


   Bit bang was used on certain early models of Prime computers,

   presumably when UARTs were too expensive, and on archaic Z80 micros

   with a Zilog PIO but no SIO.  In an interesting instance of the

   {cycle of reincarnation}, this technique returned to use in the

   early 1990s on some RISC architectures because it consumes such

   an infinitesimal part of the processor that it actually makes sense

   not to have a UART.  Compare {cycle of reincarnation}.

:bit bashing: n.  (alt. `bit diddling' or {bit

   twiddling}) Term used to describe any of several kinds of low-level

   programming characterized by manipulation of {bit}, {flag},

   {nybble}, and other smaller-than-character-sized pieces of data;

   these include low-level device control, encryption algorithms,

   checksum and error-correcting codes, hash functions, some flavors

   of graphics programming (see {bitblt}), and assembler/compiler

   code generation.  May connote either tedium or a real technical

   challenge (more usually the former).  "The command decoding for

   the new tape driver looks pretty solid but the bit-bashing for the

   control registers still has bugs."  See also {bit bang},

   {mode bit}.

:bit bucket: n.  1. The universal data sink (originally, the

   mythical receptacle used to catch bits when they fall off the end

   of a register during a shift instruction).  Discarded, lost, or

   destroyed data is said to have `gone to the bit bucket'.  On

   {{Unix}}, often used for {/dev/null}.  Sometimes amplified as

   `the Great Bit Bucket in the Sky'.  2. The place where all lost

   mail and news messages eventually go.  The selection is performed

   according to {Finagle's Law}; important mail is much more likely

   to end up in the bit bucket than junk mail, which has an almost

   100% probability of getting delivered.  Routing to the bit bucket

   is automatically performed by mail-transfer agents, news systems,

   and the lower layers of the network.  3. The ideal location for all

   unwanted mail responses: "Flames about this article to the bit

   bucket."  Such a request is guaranteed to overflow one's mailbox

   with flames.  4. Excuse for all mail that has not been sent.  "I

   mailed you those figures last week; they must have landed in the

   bit bucket."  Compare {black hole}.

   This term is used purely in jest.  It is based on the fanciful

   notion that bits are objects that are not destroyed but only

   misplaced.  This appears to have been a mutation of an earlier term

   `bit box', about which the same legend was current; old-time

   hackers also report that trainees used to be told that when the CPU

   stored bits into memory it was actually pulling them `out of the

   bit box'.  See also {chad box}.

   Another variant of this legend has it that, as a consequence of the

   `parity preservation law', the number of 1 bits that go to the bit

   bucket must equal the number of 0 bits.  Any imbalance results in

   bits filling up the bit bucket.  A qualified computer technician

   can empty a full bit bucket as part of scheduled maintenance.

:bit decay: n.  See {bit rot}.  People with a physics

   background tend to prefer this variant for the analogy with

   particle decay.  See also {computron}, {quantum


: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 becomes incomprehensible.  2. Aimless small modification

   to a program, esp. for some pointless goal.  3. Approx. syn. for

   {bit bashing}; esp. used for the act of frobbing the device

   control register of a peripheral in an attempt to get it back to a

   known state.

:bit-paired keyboard: n. obs.  (alt. `bit-shift keyboard')

   A non-standard keyboard layout that seems to have originated with

   the Teletype ASR-33 and remained common for several years on early

   computer equipment.  The ASR-33 was a mechanical device (see

   {EOU}), so the only way to generate the character codes from

   keystrokes was by some physical linkage.  The design of the ASR-33

   assigned each character key a basic pattern that could be modified

   by flipping bits if the SHIFT or the CTRL key was pressed.  In

   order to avoid making the thing more of a Rube Goldberg kluge than

   it already was, the design had to group characters that shared the

   same basic bit pattern on one key.

   Looking at the ASCII chart, we find:

     high  low bits

     bits  0000 0001 0010 0011 0100 0101 0110 0111 1000 1001

      010        !    "    #    $    %    &    '    (    )

      011   0    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9

   This is why the characters !"#$%&'() appear where they do on a

   Teletype (thankfully, they didn't use shift-0 for space).  This was

   *not* the weirdest variant of the {QWERTY} layout widely

   seen, by the way; that prize should probably go to one of several

   (differing) arrangements on IBM's even clunkier 026 and 029 card


   When electronic terminals became popular, in the early 1970s, there

   was no agreement in the industry over how the keyboards should be

   laid out.  Some vendors opted to emulate the Teletype keyboard,

   while others used the flexibility of electronic circuitry to make

   their product look like an office typewriter.  These alternatives

   became known as `bit-paired' and `typewriter-paired' keyboards.  To

   a hacker, the bit-paired keyboard seemed far more logical -- and

   because most hackers in those days had never learned to touch-type,

   there was little pressure from the pioneering users to adapt

   keyboards to the typewriter standard.

   The doom of the bit-paired keyboard was the large-scale

   introduction of the computer terminal into the normal office

   environment, where out-and-out technophobes were expected to use

   the equipment.  The `typewriter-paired' standard became universal,

   `bit-paired' hardware was quickly junked or relegated to dusty

   corners, and both terms passed into disuse.

:bitblt: /bit'blit/ n.  [from {BLT}, q.v.] 1. Any of a

   family of closely related algorithms for moving and copying

   rectangles of bits between main and display memory on a bit-mapped

   device, or between two areas of either main or display memory (the

   requirement to do the {Right Thing} in the case of overlapping

   source and destination rectangles is what makes BitBlt tricky).

   2. Synonym for {blit} or {BLT}.  Both uses are borderline


:BITNET: /bit'net/ n.  [acronym: Because It's Time NETwork]

   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 was also notorious as the

   apparent home of {B1FF}.

: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.  What a piece of email or netnews has fallen

   into if it disappears mysteriously between its origin and

   destination sites (that is, without returning a {bounce

   message}).  "I think there's a black hole at foovax!" conveys

   suspicion that site foovax has been dropping a lot of stuff on

   the floor lately (see {drop on the floor}).  The implied

   metaphor of email as interstellar travel is interesting in itself.

   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).

:blammo: v.  [Oxford Brookes University and alumni, UK] To

   forcibly remove someone from any interactive system, especially

   talker systems. The operators, who may remain hidden, may `blammo'


   user who is misbehaving.  Very similar to MIT {gun}; in fact,

   the `blammo-gun' is a notional device used to `blammo' someone.

   While in actual fact the only incarnation of the blammo-gun is the

   command used to forcibly eject a user, operators speak of different

   levels of blammo-gun fire; e.g., a blammo-gun to `stun' will

   temporarily remove someone, but a blammo-gun set to `maim' will

   stop someone coming back on for a while.

:blargh: /blarg/ n.  [MIT] 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/ interj.  [from Yiddish/German `brechen', to

   vomit, poss.  via comic-strip exclamation `blech'] Term

   of disgust.  Often used in "Ugh, bletch".  Compare {barf}.

:bletcherous: /blech'*-r*s/ adj.  Disgusting in design or

   function; esthetically unappealing.  This word is seldom used of

   people.  "This keyboard is bletcherous!" (Perhaps the keys don't

   work very well, or are misplaced.)  See {losing},

   {cretinous}, {bagbiting}, {bogus}, and {random}.  The

   term {bletcherous} applies to the esthetics of the thing so

   described; similarly for {cretinous}.  By contrast, something

   that is `losing' or `bagbiting' may be failing to meet

   objective criteria.  See also {bogus} and {random}, which

   have richer and wider shades of meaning than any of the above.

:blink: v.,n.  To use a navigator or off-line message reader

   to minimize time spent on-line to a commercial network service.

   As of late 1994, this term was said to be in wide use in the U.K.,

   but is rare or unknown in the US.

: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


                   ACHTUNG!  ALLES LOOKENSPEEPERS!  Das

     computermachine ist nicht fuer gefingerpoken und mittengrabben.

     Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und poppencorken

     mit spitzensparken.  Ist nicht fuer gewerken bei das dumpkopfen.

     Das rubbernecken sichtseeren keepen das cotten-pickenen hans in

     das pockets muss; relaxen und watchen das blinkenlichten.

   This silliness dates back at least as far as 1959 at Stanford

   University and had already gone international by the early 1960s,

   when it was reported at London University's ATLAS computing site.

   There are several variants of it in circulation, some of which

   actually do end with the word `blinkenlights'.

   In an amusing example of turnabout-is-fair-play, German hackers

   have developed their own versions of the blinkenlights poster in

   fractured English, one of which is reproduced here:


     This room is fullfilled mit special electronische equippment.

     Fingergrabbing and pressing the cnoeppkes from the computers is

     allowed for die experts only!  So all the "lefthanders" stay away

     and do not disturben the brainstorming von here working

     intelligencies.  Otherwise you will be out thrown and kicked

     anderswhere!  Also: please keep still and only watchen

     astaunished the blinkenlights.

   See also {geef}.

   Old-time hackers sometimes get nostalgic for blinkenlights because

   they were so much more fun to look at than a blank panel.  Sadly,

   very few computers still have them (the three LEDs on a PC keyboard

   certainly don't count). The obvious reasons (cost of wiring, cost

   of front-panel cutouts, almost nobody needs or wants to interpret

   machine-register states on the fly anymore) are only part of the

   story.  Another part of it is that radio-frequency leakage from the

   lamp wiring was beginning to be a problem as far back as transistor

   machines.  But the most fundamental fact is that there are very few

   signals slow enough to blink an LED these days!  With slow CPUs,

   you could watch the bus register or instruction counter tick, but

   at 33/66/150MHz it's all a blur.

: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. Sometimes

   all-capitalized as `BLIT': an early experimental bit-mapped

   terminal designed by Rob Pike at Bell Labs, later commercialized as

   the AT&T 5620.  (The folk etymology from `Bell Labs Intelligent

   Terminal' is incorrect.  Its creators liked to claim that "Blit"

   stood for the Bacon, Lettuce, and Interactive Tomato.)

:blitter: /blit'r/ n.  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 sine 1990 the trend is away from

   them (however, see {cycle of reincarnation}).  Syn. {raster


:blivet: /bliv'*t/ n.  [allegedly from a World War II

   military term meaning "ten pounds of manure in a five-pound bag"]

   1. An intractable problem.  2. A crucial piece of hardware that

   can't be fixed or replaced if it breaks.  3. A tool that has been

   hacked over by so many incompetent programmers that it has become

   an unmaintainable tissue of hacks.  4. An out-of-control but

   unkillable development effort.  5. An embarrassing bug that pops up

   during a customer demo.  6. In the subjargon of computer security

   specialists, a denial-of-service attack performed by hogging

   limited resources that have no access controls (for example, shared

   spool space on a multi-user system).

   This term has other meanings in other technical cultures; among

   experimental physicists and hardware engineers of various kinds it

   seems to mean any random object of unknown purpose (similar to

   hackish use of {frob}).  It has also been used to describe an

   amusing trick-the-eye drawing resembling a three-pronged fork that

   appears to depict a three-dimensional object until one realizes

   that the parts fit together in an impossible way.

:BLOB:  1. n. [acronym: Binary Large OBject] Used by database

   people to refer to any random large block of bits that needs to be

   stored in a database, such as a picture or sound file.  The

   essential point about a BLOB is that it's an object that cannot be

   interpreted within the database itself.  2. v. To {mailbomb}

   someone by sending a BLOB him/her; esp. used as a mild threat.

   "If that program crashes again, I'm going to BLOB the core dump to


: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"] 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


:Bloggs Family, the: n.  An imaginary family consisting of

   Fred and Mary Bloggs and their children.  Used as a standard

   example in knowledge representation to show the difference between

   extensional and intensional objects.  For example, every occurrence

   of "Fred Bloggs" is the same unique person, whereas occurrences

   of "person" may refer to different people.  Members of the Bloggs

   family have been known to pop up in bizarre places such as the DEC

   Telephone Directory.  Compare {Mbogo, Dr. Fred}.

:blow an EPROM: /bloh *n ee'prom/ v.  (alt. `blast an

   EPROM', `burn an EPROM') To program a read-only memory, e.g.

   for use with an embedded system.  This term arose because the

   programming process for the Programmable Read-Only Memories (PROMs)

   that preceded present-day Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memories

   (EPROMs) involved intentionally blowing tiny electrical fuses on

   the chip.  The usage lives on (it's too vivid and expressive to

   discard) even though the write process on EPROMs is nondestructive.

:blow away: vt.  To remove (files and directories) from

   permanent storage, generally by accident.  "He reformatted the

   wrong partition and blew away last night's netnews."  Oppose


:blow out: vi.  [prob. from mining and tunneling jargon] Of

   software, to fail spectacularly; almost as serious as {crash and

   burn}.  See {blow past}, {blow up}, {die horribly}.

:blow past: vt.  To {blow out} despite a safeguard.  "The

   server blew past the 5K reserve buffer."

:blow up: vi.  1. [scientific computation] To become unstable.

   Suggests that the computation is diverging so rapidly that it will

   soon overflow or at least go {nonlinear}.  2.  Syn. {blow


: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 three official guides are known as the

   {Green Book}, the {Red Book}, and the {White Book} (sense

   2).  2. Informal name for one of the three standard references on

   Smalltalk: "Smalltalk-80: The Language and its

   Implementation", David Robson, Addison-Wesley 1983, QA76.8.S635G64,

   ISBN 0-201-11371-63 (this book also has green and red siblings).

   3. Any of the 1988 standards issued by the CCITT's ninth plenary

   assembly.  These include, among other things, the X.400 email spec

   and the Group 1 through 4 fax standards.  See also {{book


:blue box:  n. 1. obs. Once upon a time, before all-digital switches

   made it possible for the phone companies to move them out of the

   audible range, one could actually hear the switching tones used to

   route long-distance calls.  Early {phreaker}s built devices

   called `blue boxes' that could reproduce these tones, which could

   be used to commandeer portions of the phone network.  (This was not

   as hard as it may sound; one early phreak acquired the sobriquet

   `Captain Crunch' after he proved that he could generate switching

   tones with a plastic whistle pulled out of a box of Captain Crunch

   cereal!) 2. n. An {IBM} machine, especially a large (non-PC)


:Blue Glue: n.  [IBM] IBM's SNA (Systems Network

   Architecture), an incredibly {losing} and {bletcherous}

   communications protocol widely favored at commercial shops that

   don't know any better.  The official IBM definition is "that which

   binds blue boxes together."  See {fear and loathing}.  It may

   not be irrelevant that {Blue Glue} is the trade name of a 3M

   product that is commonly used to hold down the carpet squares to

   the removable panel floors common in {dinosaur pen}s.  A

   correspondent at U. Minn. reports that the CS department there has

   about 80 bottles of the stuff hanging about, so they often refer to

   any messy work to be done as `using the blue glue'.

:blue goo: n.  Term for `police' {nanobot}s intended to

   prevent {gray goo}, denature hazardous waste, destroy pollution,

   put ozone back into the stratosphere, prevent halitosis, and

   promote truth, justice, and the American way, etc.  The term

   `Blue Goo' can be found in Dr. Seuss's "Fox In Socks" to

   refer to a substance much like bubblegum.  `Would you like to

   chew blue goo, sir?'.  See {{nanotechnology}}.

:blue wire: n.  [IBM] Patch wires added to circuit boards at

   the factory to correct design or fabrication problems.  These 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/ n.  [UK] Spoken {metasyntactic

   variable}, to indicate some text that is obvious from context, or

   which is already known. If several words are to be replaced,

   blurgle may well be doubled or 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 7.

: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. Any of a number number of variants and extensions of BNF proper,

   possibly containing some or all of the {regexp} wildcards such

   as `*' or `+'.  In fact the example above isn't the pure

   form invented for the Algol-60 report; it uses `[]', which was

   introduced a few years later in IBM's PL/I definition but is now

   universally recognized.  3. In {{science-fiction fandom}}, a

   `Big-Name Fan' (someone famous or notorious).  Years ago a fan

   started handing out black-on-green BNF buttons at SF conventions;

   this confused the hacker contingent terribly.

:boa: [IBM] n.  Any one of the fat cables that lurk under the

   floor in a {dinosaur pen}.  Possibly so called because they

   display a ferocious life of their own when you try to lay them

   straight and flat after they have been coiled for some time.  It is

   rumored within IBM that channel cables for the 370 are limited to

   200 feet because beyond that length the boas get dangerous -- and

   it is worth noting that one of the major cable makers uses the

   trademark `Anaconda'.

:board: n.  1. In-context synonym for {bboard}; sometimes

   used even for Usenet newsgroups (but see usage note under

   {bboard}, sense 1).  2. An electronic circuit board.

:boat anchor: n.  1. Like {doorstop} but more severe;

   implies that the offending hardware is irreversibly dead or

   useless.  "That was a working motherboard once.  One lightning

   strike later, instant boat anchor!"  2. A person who just takes up

   space.  3. Obsolete but still working hardware, especially

   when used of an old S100-bus hobbyist system; originally a term of

   annoyance, but became more and more affectionate as the hardware

   became more and more obsolete.

:bodysurf code: n  A program or segment of code written

   quickly in the heat of inspiration without the benefit of formal

   design or deep thought.  Like its namesake sport, the result is

   too often a wipeout that leaves the programmer eating sand.

:BOF: /B-O-F/ or /bof/ n.  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}, {Lasherism}.

:bogometer: /boh-gom'-*t-er/ n.  A notional instrument for

   measuring {bogosity}.  Compare the `wankometer' described in

   the {wank} entry; see also {bogus}.

:bogon: /boh'gon/ n.  [by analogy with

   proton/electron/neutron, but doubtless reinforced after 1980 by the

   similarity to Douglas Adams's `Vogons'; see the {Bibliography}

   in Appendix C and note that Arthur Dent actually mispronounces

   `Vogons' as `Bogons' at one point] 1. The elementary particle of

   bogosity (see {quantum bogodynamics}).  For instance, "the

   Ethernet is emitting bogons again" means that it is broken or

   acting in an erratic or bogus fashion.  2. A query packet sent from

   a TCP/IP domain resolver to a root server, having the reply bit set

   instead of the query bit.  3. Any bogus or incorrectly formed

   packet sent on a network.  4. By synecdoche, used to refer to any

   bogus thing, as in "I'd like to go to lunch with you but I've got

   to go to the weekly staff bogon".  5. A person who is bogus or

   who says bogus things.  This was historically the original usage,

   but has been overtaken by its derivative senses 1--4.  See also

   {bogosity}, {bogus}; compare {psyton}, {fat electrons},

   {magic smoke}.

   The bogon has become the type case for a whole bestiary of nonce

   particle names, including the `clutron' or `cluon' (indivisible

   particle of cluefulness, obviously the antiparticle of the bogon)

   and the futon (elementary particle of {randomness}, or sometimes

   of lameness).  These are not so much live usages in themselves as

   examples of a live meta-usage: that is, it has become a standard

   joke or linguistic maneuver to "explain" otherwise mysterious

   circumstances by inventing nonce particle names.  And these imply

   nonce particle theories, with all their dignity or lack thereof (we

   might note parenthetically that this is a generalization from

   "(bogus particle) theories" to "bogus (particle theories)"!).

   Perhaps such particles are the modern-day equivalents of trolls and

   wood-nymphs as standard starting-points around which to construct

   explanatory myths.  Of course, playing on an existing word (as in

   the `futon') yields additional flavor.  Compare {magic


: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}.  2. The potential field generated by a {bogon

   flux}; see {quantum bogodynamics}.  See also {bogon flux},

   {bogon filter}, {bogus}.

:bogotify: /boh-go't*-fi:/ vt.  To make or become bogus.  A

   program that has been changed so many times as to become completely

   disorganized has become bogotified.  If you tighten a nut too hard

   and strip the threads on the bolt, the bolt has become bogotified

   and you had better not use it any more.  This coinage led to the

   notional `autobogotiphobia' defined as `the fear of becoming

   bogotified'; but is not clear that the latter has ever been

   `live' jargon rather than a self-conscious joke in jargon about

   jargon.  See also {bogosity}, {bogus}.

:bogue out: /bohg owt/ vi.  To become bogus, suddenly and

   unexpectedly.  "His talk was relatively sane until somebody asked

   him a trick question; then he bogued out and did nothing but

   {flame} afterwards."  See also {bogosity}, {bogus}.

:bogus: adj.  1. Non-functional.  "Your patches are bogus."

   2. Useless.  "OPCON is a bogus program."  3. False.  "Your

   arguments are bogus."  4. Incorrect.  "That algorithm is bogus."

   5. Unbelievable.  "You claim to have solved the halting problem

   for Turing Machines?  That's totally bogus."  6. Silly.  "Stop

   writing those bogus sagas."

   Astrology is bogus.  So is a bolt that is obviously about to break.

   So is someone who makes blatantly false claims to have solved a

   scientific problem.  (This word seems to have some, but not all, of

   the connotations of {random} -- mostly the negative ones.)

   It is claimed that `bogus' was originally used in the hackish sense

   at Princeton in the late 1960s.  It was spread to CMU and Yale by

   Michael Shamos, a migratory Princeton alumnus.  A glossary of bogus

   words was compiled at Yale when the word was first popularized (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/ n.  [from quantum physics] A repeatable

   {bug}; one that manifests reliably under a possibly unknown but

   well-defined set of conditions.  Antonym of {heisenbug}; see also

   {mandelbug}, {schroedinbug}.

:boink: /boynk/  [Usenet: variously ascribed to the TV

   series "Cheers" "Moonlighting", and "Soap"] 1. 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), in which icons of little

   black-powder bombs or mushroom clouds are displayed, indicating

   that the system has died.  On the Mac, this may be accompanied by a

   decimal (or occasionally hexadecimal) number indicating what went

   wrong, similar to the Amiga {guru meditation} number.

   {{MS-DOS}} machines tend to get {locked up} in this situation.

:bondage-and-discipline language:  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.  Convention holds that one should

   acknowledge a bonk by saying `oif!' and there is a myth to the

   effect that failing to do so upsets the cosmic bonk/oif balance,

   causing much trouble in the universe.  Some MUDs have implemented

   special commands for bonking and oifing.  See also {talk mode}.

:book titles::  There is a tradition in hackerdom of

   informally tagging important textbooks and standards documents with

   the dominant color of their covers or with some other conspicuous

   feature of the cover.  Many of these are described in this lexicon

   under their own entries. See {Aluminum Book}, {Blue Book},

   {Camel Book}, {Cinderella Book}, {Devil Book}, {Dragon

   Book}, {Green Book}, {Orange Book}, {Pink-Shirt Book},

   {Purple Book}, {Red Book}, {Silver Book}, {White Book},

   {Wizard Book}, {Yellow Book}, and {bible}; see also

   {rainbow series}.  Since about 1983 this tradition has gotten a

   boost from the popular O'Reilly Associates line of technical books,

   which usually feature some kind of exotic animal on the


:boot: v.,n.  [techspeak; from `by one's bootstraps'] To

   load and initialize the operating system on a machine.  This usage

   is no longer jargon (having passed into techspeak) but has given

   rise to some derivatives that are still jargon.

   The derivative `reboot' implies that the machine hasn't been down

   for long, or that the boot is a {bounce} (sense 4) intended to

   clear some state of {wedgitude}.  This is sometimes used of

   human thought processes, as in the following exchange: "You've

   lost me."  "OK, reboot.  Here's the theory...."

   This term is also found in the variants `cold boot' (from

   power-off condition) and `warm boot' (with the CPU and all

   devices already powered up, as after a hardware reset or software


   Another variant: `soft boot', reinitialization of only part of a

   system, under control of other software still running: "If

   you're running the {mess-dos} emulator, control-alt-insert will

   cause a soft-boot of the emulator, while leaving the rest of the

   system running."

   Opposed to this there is `hard boot', which connotes hostility

   towards or frustration with the machine being booted: "I'll have

   to hard-boot this losing Sun."  "I recommend booting it

   hard."  One often hard-boots by performing a {power cycle}.

   Historical note: this term derives from `bootstrap loader', a short

   program that was read in from cards or paper tape, or toggled in

   from the front panel switches.  This program was always very short

   (great efforts were expended on making it short in order to

   minimize the labor and chance of error involved in toggling it in),

   but was just smart enough to read in a slightly more complex

   program (usually from a card or paper tape reader), to which it

   handed control; this program in turn was smart enough to read the

   application or operating system from a magnetic tape drive or disk

   drive.  Thus, in successive steps, the computer `pulled itself up

   by its bootstraps' to a useful operating state.  Nowadays the

   bootstrap is usually found in ROM or EPROM, and reads the first

   stage in from a fixed location on the disk, called the `boot

   block'.  When this program gains control, it is powerful enough to

   load the actual OS and hand control over to it.

:bottom feeder: n.  Syn. for {slopsucker}, derived from the

   fishermen's and naturalists' 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 by analogy to a bouncing check] An

   electronic mail message that is undeliverable and returns an error

   notification to the sender is said to `bounce'.  See also

   {bounce message}.  2. [Stanford] To play volleyball.  The

   now-demolished {D. C. Power Lab} building used by the Stanford

   AI Lab in the 1970s had a volleyball court on the front lawn.  From

   5 P.M. to 7 P.M. was the scheduled maintenance time for the

   computer, so every afternoon at 5 would come over the intercom the

   cry: "Now hear this: bounce, bounce!", followed by Brian McCune

   loudly bouncing a volleyball on the floor outside the offices of

   known volleyballers.  3. To engage in sexual intercourse; prob.

   from the expression `bouncing the mattress', but influenced by

   Roo's psychosexually loaded "Try bouncing me, Tigger!" from the

   "Winnie-the-Pooh" books.  Compare {boink}.  4. To casually

   reboot a system in order to clear up a transient problem.  Reported

   primarily among {VMS} users.  5.  [VM/CMS programmers]

   *Automatic* warm-start of a machine after an error.  "I

   logged on this morning and found it had bounced 7 times during the

   night" 6. [IBM] To {power cycle} a peripheral in order to reset


:bounce message: n.  [Unix] Notification message returned to sender

   by a site unable to relay {email} to the intended {{Internet

   address}} recipient or the next link in a {bang path} (see

   {bounce}, sense 1).  Reasons might include a nonexistent or

   misspelled username or a {down} relay site.  Bounce messages can

   themselves fail, with occasionally ugly results; see {sorcerer's

   apprentice mode} and {software laser}.  The terms `bounce

   mail' and `barfmail' are also common.

:boustrophedon: n.  [from a Greek word for turning like an ox

   while plowing] An ancient method of writing using alternate

   left-to-right and right-to-left lines.  This term is actually

   philologists' techspeak and typesetters' jargon.  Erudite hackers

   use it for an optimization performed by some computer typesetting

   software and moving-head printers.  The adverbial form

   `boustrophedonically' is also found (hackers purely love

   constructions like this).

:box: n.  1. A computer; esp. in the construction `foo

   box' where foo is some functional qualifier, like

   `graphics', or the name of an OS (thus, `Unix box', `MS-DOS

   box', etc.)  "We preprocess the data on Unix boxes before handing

   it up to the mainframe."  2. [IBM] Without qualification but

   within an SNA-using site, this refers specifically to an IBM

   front-end processor or FEP /F-E-P/.  An FEP is a small computer

   necessary to enable an IBM {mainframe} to communicate beyond the

   limits of the {dinosaur pen}.  Typically used in expressions

   like the cry that goes up when an SNA network goes down: "Looks

   like the {box} has fallen over." (See {fall over}.) See also

   {IBM}, {fear and loathing}, {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/ pl.n.  [by analogy with {VAXen}]

   Fanciful plural of {box} often encountered in the phrase `Unix

   boxen', used to describe commodity {{Unix}} hardware.  The

   connotation is that any two Unix boxen are interchangeable.

:boxology: /bok-sol'*-jee/ n.  Syn. {ASCII art}.  This

   term implies a more restricted domain, that of box-and-arrow

   drawings.  "His report has a lot of boxology in it."  Compare


:bozotic: /boh-zoh'tik/ or /boh-zo'tik/ adj.  [from the name of

   a TV clown even more losing than Ronald McDonald] Resembling

   or having the quality of a bozo; that is, clownish, ludicrously

   wrong, unintentionally humorous.  Compare {wonky},

   {demented}.  Note that the noun `bozo' occurs in slang, but

   the mainstream adjectival form would be `bozo-like' or (in New

   England) `bozoish'.

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

:brain dump: n.  The act of telling someone everything one

   knows about a particular topic or project.  Typically used when

   someone is going to let a new party maintain a piece of code.

   Conceptually analogous to an operating system {core dump} in

   that it saves a lot of useful {state} before an exit.  "You'll

   have to give me a brain dump on FOOBAR before you start your new

   job at HackerCorp."  See {core dump} (sense 4).  At Sun, this

   is also known as `TOI' (transfer of information).

:brain fart: n.  The actual result of a {braino}, as

   opposed to the mental glitch that is the braino itself.  E.g.,

   typing `dir' on a Unix box after a session with DOS.

:brain-damaged: 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: n.  [IBM: from the location of one of the

   corporation's facilities] Any unexpected jump in a program that

   produces catastrophic or just plain weird results.  See {jump

   off into never-never land}, {hyperspace}.

:bread crumbs: n.  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 bread crumbs 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), delete or {control-C} does

   this.  5. `break break' may be said to interrupt a conversation

   (this is an example of verb doubling).  This usage comes from radio

   communications, which in turn probably came from landline

   telegraph/teleprinter usage, as badly abused in the Citizen's Band

   craze a few years ago.

:break-even point: n.  In the process of implementing a new

   computer language, the point at which the language is sufficiently

   effective that one can implement the language in itself.  That is,

   for a new language called, hypothetically, FOOGOL, one has reached

   break-even when one can write a demonstration compiler for FOOGOL

   in FOOGOL, discard the original implementation language, and

   thereafter use working versions of FOOGOL to develop newer ones.

   This is an important milestone; see {MFTL}.

   Since this entry was first written, several correspondents have

   reported that there actually was a compiler for a tiny Algol-like

   language called Foogol floating around on various {VAXen} in the

   early and mid-1980s.

:breath-of-life packet: n.  [XEROX PARC] An Ethernet packet

   that contains bootstrap (see {boot}) code, periodically sent out

   from a working computer to infuse the `breath of life' into any

   computer on the network that has happened to crash.  Machines

   depending on such packets have sufficient hardware or firmware code

   to wait for (or request) such a packet during the reboot process.

   See also {dickless workstation}.

   The notional `kiss-of-death packet', with a function

   complementary to that of a breath-of-life packet, is recommended

   for dealing with hosts that consume too many network resources.

   Though `kiss-of-death packet' is usually used in jest, there is

   at least one documented instance of an Internet subnet with limited

   address-table slots in a gateway machine in which such packets were

   routinely used to compete for slots, rather like Christmas shoppers

   competing for scarce parking spaces.

:breedle: n.  See {feep}.

: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 abnormal but expected

   external stimuli; e.g., a file system that is usually totally

   scrambled by a power failure is said to be brittle.  This term is

   often used to describe the results of a research effort that were

   never intended to be robust, but it can be applied to 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}; compare {mail storm}.

:brochureware: n.  Planned but non-existent product like

   {vaporware}, but with the added implication that marketing is

   actively selling and promoting it (they've printed brochures).

   Brochureware is often deployed as a strategic weapon; the idea is

   to con customers into not committing to an existing product of the

   competition's.  It is a safe bet that when a brochureware product

   finally becomes real, it will be more expensive than and inferior

   to the alternatives that had been available for years.

:broken: adj.  1. Not working properly (of programs).

   2. Behaving strangely; especially (when used of people) exhibiting

   extreme depression.

:broken arrow: n.  [IBM] The error code displayed on line 25

   of a 3270 terminal (or a PC emulating a 3270) for various kinds of

   protocol violations and "unexpected" error conditions (including

   connection to a {down} computer).  On a PC, simulated with

   `->/_', with the two center characters overstruck.

   Note: to appreciate this term fully, it helps to know that `broken

   arrow' is also military jargon for an accident involving nuclear


:broket: /broh'k*t/ or /broh'ket`/ n.  [by analogy with

   `bracket': a `broken bracket'] Either of the characters

   `<' and `>', when used as paired enclosing delimiters.

   This word originated as a contraction of the phrase `broken

   bracket', that is, a bracket that is bent in the middle.  (At MIT,

   and apparently in the {Real World} as well, these are usually

   called {angle brackets}.)

:Brooks's Law: prov.  "Adding manpower to a late software

   project makes it later" -- a result of the fact that the expected

   advantage from splitting 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} still does.  See

   also {creationism}, {second-system effect}, {optimism}.

:browser:   A program specifically designed to help users view

   and navigate hypertext, on-line documentation, or a database.

   While this general sense has been present in jargon for a long

   time, the proliferation of browsers for the World Wide Web after

   1992 has made it much more popular and provided a central or

   default meaning of the word previously lacking in hacker usage.

   Nowadays, if someone mentions using a `browser' without

   qualification, one may assume it is a Web browser.

:BRS: /B-R-S/ n.  Syn. {Big Red Switch}.  This

   abbreviation is fairly common on-line.

:brute force: adj.  Describes a primitive programming style,

   one in which the programmer relies on the computer's processing

   power instead of using his or her own intelligence to simplify the

   problem, often ignoring problems of scale and applying naive

   methods suited to small problems directly to large ones.  The term

   can also be used in reference to programming style: brute-force

   programs are written in a heavyhanded, tedious way, full of

   repetition and devoid of any elegance or useful abstraction (see

   also {brute force and ignorance}).

   The {canonical} example of a brute-force algorithm is associated

   with the `traveling salesman problem' (TSP), a classical

   {NP-}hard problem: Suppose a person is in, say, Boston, and

   wishes to drive to N other cities.  In what order should the

   cities be visited in order to minimize the distance travelled?  The

   brute-force method is to simply generate all possible routes and

   compare the distances; while guaranteed to work and simple to

   implement, this algorithm is clearly very stupid in that it

   considers even obviously absurd routes (like going from Boston to

   Houston via San Francisco and New York, in that order).  For very

   small N it works well, but it rapidly becomes absurdly

   inefficient when N increases (for N = 15, there are

   already 1,307,674,368,000 possible routes to consider, and for

   N = 1000 -- well, see {bignum}).  Sometimes,

   unfortunately, there is no better general solution than brute

   force.  See also {NP-}.

   A more simple-minded example of brute-force programming is finding

   the smallest number in a large list by first using an existing

   program to sort the list in ascending order, and then picking the

   first number off the front.

   Whether brute-force programming should actually be considered

   stupid or not depends on the context; if the problem is not

   terribly big, the extra CPU time spent on a brute-force solution

   may cost less than the programmer time it would take to develop a

   more `intelligent' algorithm.  Additionally, a more intelligent

   algorithm may imply more long-term complexity cost and bug-chasing

   than are justified by the speed improvement.

   Ken Thompson, co-inventor of Unix, is reported to have uttered the

   epigram "When in doubt, use brute force".  He probably intended

   this as a {ha ha only serious}, but the original Unix kernel's

   preference for simple, robust, and portable algorithms over

   {brittle} `smart' ones does seem to have been a significant

   factor in the success of that OS.  Like so many other tradeoffs in

   software design, the choice between brute force and complex,

   finely-tuned cleverness is often a difficult one that requires both

   engineering savvy and delicate esthetic judgment.

:brute force and ignorance: n.  A popular design technique at

   many software houses -- {brute force} coding unrelieved by any

   knowledge of how problems have been previously solved in elegant

   ways.  Dogmatic adherence to design methodologies tends to

   encourage this sort of thing.  Characteristic of early {larval

   stage} programming; unfortunately, many never outgrow it.  Often

   abbreviated BFI: "Gak, they used a {bubble sort}!  That's

   strictly from BFI."  Compare {bogosity}.

:BSD: /B-S-D/ n.  [abbreviation for `Berkeley Software

   Distribution'] a family of {{Unix}} versions for the {DEC}

   {VAX} and PDP-11 developed by Bill Joy and others at

   {Berzerkeley} starting around 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.  Note that

   BSD versions going back to 2.9 are often referred to by their

   version numbers, without the BSD prefix.  See {4.2}, {{Unix}},

   {USG Unix}.

:BUAF: // n.  [abbreviation, from alt.fan.warlord] Big

   Ugly ASCII Font -- a special form of {ASCII art}.  Various

   programs exist for rendering text strings into block, bloob, and

   pseudo-script fonts in cells between four and six character cells

   on a side; this is smaller than the letters generated by older

   {banner} (sense 2) programs.  These are sometimes used to render

   one's name in a {sig block}, and are critically referred to as

   `BUAF's.  See {warlording}.

:BUAG: // n.  [abbreviation, from alt.fan.warlord] Big

   Ugly ASCII Graphic.  Pejorative term for ugly {ASCII art},

   especially as found in {sig block}s.  For some reason, mutations

   of the head of Bart Simpson are particularly common in the least

   imaginative {sig block}s.  See {warlording}.

:bubble sort: n.  Techspeak for a particular sorting technique

   in which pairs of adjacent values in the list to be sorted are

   compared and interchanged if they are out of order; thus, list

   entries `bubble upward' in the list until they bump into one

   with a lower sort value.  Because it is not very good relative to

   other methods and is the one typically stumbled on by {naive}

   and untutored programmers, hackers consider it the {canonical}

   example of a naive algorithm.  The canonical example of a really

   *bad* algorithm is {bogo-sort}.  A bubble sort might be

   used out of ignorance, but any use of bogo-sort could issue only

   from brain damage or willful perversity.

:bucky bits: /buh'kee bits/ n.  1. obs. The bits produced by

   the CONTROL and META shift keys on a SAIL keyboard (octal 200 and

   400 respectively), resulting in a 9-bit keyboard character set.

   The MIT AI TV (Knight) keyboards extended this with TOP and

   separate left and right CONTROL and META keys, resulting in a

   12-bit character set; later, LISP Machines added such keys as

   SUPER, HYPER, and GREEK (see {space-cadet keyboard}).  2. By

   extension, bits associated with `extra' shift keys on any

   keyboard, e.g., the ALT on an IBM PC or command and option keys on

   a Macintosh.

   It has long been rumored that `bucky bits' were named for

   Buckminster Fuller during a period when he was consulting at

   Stanford.  Actually, bucky bits were invented by Niklaus Wirth when

   *he* was at Stanford in 1964--65; he first suggested the idea

   of an EDIT key to set the 8th bit of an otherwise 7-bit ASCII

   character).  It seems that, unknown to Wirth, certain Stanford

   hackers had privately nicknamed him `Bucky' after a prominent

   portion of his dental anatomy, and this nickname transferred to the

   bit.  Bucky-bit commands were used in a number of editors written

   at Stanford, including most notably TV-EDIT and NLS.

   The term spread to MIT and CMU early and is now in general use.

   Ironically, Wirth himself remained unaware of its derivation for

   nearly 30 years, until GLS dug up this history in early 1993!  See

   {double bucky}, {quadruple bucky}.

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


: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: Admiral Grace Hopper (an early computing pioneer

   better known for inventing {COBOL}) liked to tell a story in

   which a technician solved a {glitch} in the Harvard Mark II

   machine by pulling an actual insect out from between the contacts

   of one of its relays, and she subsequently promulgated {bug} in

   its hackish sense as a joke about the incident (though, as she was

   careful to admit, she was not there when it happened).  For many

   years the logbook associated with the incident and the actual bug

   in question (a moth) sat in a display case at the Naval Surface

   Warfare Center (NSWC).  The entire story, with a picture of the

   logbook and the moth taped into it, is recorded in the "Annals

   of the History of Computing", Vol. 3, No. 3 (July 1981),

   pp. 285--286.

   The text of the log entry (from September 9, 1947), reads "1545

   Relay #70 Panel F (moth) in relay.  First actual case of bug being

   found".  This wording establishes that the term was already

   in use at the time in its current specific sense -- and Hopper

   herself reports that the term `bug' was regularly applied to

   problems in radar electronics during WWII.

   Indeed, the use of `bug' to mean an industrial defect was already

   established in Thomas Edison's time, and a more specific and rather

   modern use can be found in an electrical handbook from 1896

   ("Hawkin's New Catechism of Electricity", Theo. Audel & Co.)

   which says: "The term `bug' is used to a limited extent to

   designate any fault or trouble in the connections or working of

   electric apparatus."  It further notes that the term is "said to

   have originated in quadruplex telegraphy and have been transferred

   to all electric apparatus."

   The latter observation may explain a common folk etymology of the

   term; that it came from telephone company usage, in which "bugs in

   a telephone cable" were blamed for noisy lines.  Though this

   derivation seems to be mistaken, it may well be a distorted memory

   of a joke first current among *telegraph* operators more than

   a century ago!

   Or perhaps not a joke.  Historians of the field inform us that the

   term "bug" was regularly used in the early days of telegraphy to

   refer to a variety of semi-automatic telegraphy keyers that would

   send a string of dots if you held them down.  In fact, the

   Vibroplex keyers (which were among the most common of this type)

   even had a graphic of a beetle on them!  While the ability to send

   repeated dots automatically was very useful for professional morse

   code operators, these were also significantly trickier to use than

   the older manual keyers, and it could take some practice to ensure

   one didn't introduce extraneous dots into the code by holding the

   key down a fraction too long.  In the hands of an inexperienced

   operator, a Vibroplex "bug" on the line could mean that a lot

   of garbled Morse would soon be coming your way.

   Actually, use of `bug' in the general sense of a 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."

   A careful discussion of the etymological issues can be found in a

   paper by Fred R. Shapiro, 1987, "Entomology of the Computer Bug:

   History and Folklore", American Speech 62(4):376-378.

   [There has been a widespread myth that the original bug was moved

   to the Smithsonian, and an earlier version of this entry so

   asserted.  A correspondent who thought to check discovered that the

   bug was not there.  While investigating this in late 1990, your

   editor discovered that the NSWC still had the bug, but had

   unsuccessfully tried to get the Smithsonian to accept it -- and

   that the present curator of their History of American Technology

   Museum didn't know this and agreed that it would make a worthwhile

   exhibit.  It was moved to the Smithsonian in mid-1991, but due to

   space and money constraints has not yet been exhibited.  Thus, the

   process of investigating the original-computer-bug bug fixed it in

   an entirely unexpected way, by making the myth true!  -- ESR]

:bug-compatible: adj.  Said of a design or revision that has

   been badly compromised by a requirement to be compatible with

   {fossil}s or {misfeature}s in other programs or (esp.)

   previous releases of itself. "MS-DOS 2.0 used \ as a path

   separator to be bug-compatible with some cretin's choice of / as an

   option character in 1.0."

:bug-for-bug compatible: n.  Same as {bug-compatible}, with

   the additional implication that much tedious effort went into

   ensuring that each (known) bug was replicated.

:bug-of-the-month club: n.  A mythical club which users of

   {sendmail} belong to; this was coined on the Usenet newsgroup

   comp.security.unix at a time when sendmail security holes, which

   allowed outside {cracker}s access to the system, were being

   uncovered at an alarming rate, forcing sysadmins to update very

   often.  Also, more completely, `fatal security bug-of-the-month


: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 nearly

   so much venom.  Compare {AIDX}, {HP-SUX}, {Nominal

   Semidestructor}, {Telerat}, {sun-stools}.

:bulletproof: adj.  Used of an algorithm or implementation

   considered extremely {robust}; lossage-resistant; capable of

   correctly recovering from any imaginable exception condition -- a

   rare and valued quality.  Syn. {armor-plated}.

:bum:  1. vt. To make highly efficient, either in time or

   space, often at the expense of clarity.  "I managed to bum three

   more instructions out of that code."  "I spent half the night

   bumming the interrupt code."  In {elder days}, John McCarthy

   (inventor of {LISP}) used to compare some efficiency-obsessed

   hackers among his students to "ski bums"; thus, optimization

   became "program bumming", and eventually just "bumming".  2. To

   squeeze out excess; to remove something in order to improve

   whatever it was removed from (without changing function; this

   distinguishes the process from a {featurectomy}).  3. n. A small

   change to an algorithm, program, or hardware device to make it more

   efficient.  "This hardware bum makes the jump instruction

   faster."  Usage: now uncommon, largely superseded by v. {tune}

   (and n. {tweak}, {hack}), though none of these exactly

   capture sense 2.  All these uses are rare in Commonwealth hackish,

   because in the parent dialects of English `bum' is a rude synonym

   for `buttocks'.

:bump: vt.  Synonym for increment.  Has the same meaning as

   C's ++ operator.  Used esp. of counter variables, pointers, and

   index dummies in `for', `while', and `do-while'


:burble: v.  [from Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky"] Like

   {flame}, but connotes that the source is truly clueless and

   ineffectual (mere flamers can be competent).  A term of deep

   contempt.  "There's some guy on the phone burbling about how he

   got a DISK FULL error and it's all our comm software's fault."

   This is mainstream slang in some parts of England.

:buried treasure: n.  A surprising piece of code found in some

   program.  While usually not wrong, it tends to vary from

   {crufty} to {bletcherous}, and has lain undiscovered only

   because it was functionally correct, however horrible it is.  Used

   sarcastically, because what is found is anything *but*

   treasure.  Buried treasure almost always needs to be dug up and

   removed.  "I just found that the scheduler sorts its queue using

   {bubble sort}!  Buried treasure!"

:burn-in period: n.  1. A factory test designed to catch

   systems with {marginal} components before they get out the door;

   the theory is that burn-in will protect customers by outwaiting the

   steepest part of the {bathtub curve} (see {infant

   mortality}).  2. A period of indeterminate length in which a person

   using a computer is so intensely involved in his project that he

   forgets basic needs such as food, drink, sleep, etc.  Warning:

   Excessive burn-in can lead to burn-out.  See {hack mode},

   {larval stage}.

: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 never

   gets out of catatonia, while a buzzing loop may eventually end of

   its own accord.  "The program buzzes for about 10 seconds trying

   to sort all the names into order."  See {spin}; see also

   {grovel}.  2. [ETA Systems] To test a wire or printed circuit

   trace for continuity by applying an AC rather than DC signal.  Some

   wire faults will pass DC tests but fail a buzz test.  3. To process

   an array or list in sequence, doing the same thing to each element.

   "This loop buzzes through the tz array looking for a terminator


:BWQ: /B-W-Q/ n.  [IBM: abbreviation, `Buzz Word Quotient']

   The percentage of buzzwords in a speech or documents.  Usually

   roughly proportional to {bogosity}.  See {TLA}.

:by hand: adv.  1. Said of an operation (especially a

   repetitive, trivial, and/or tedious one) that ought to be performed

   automatically by the computer, but which a hacker instead has to

   step tediously through.  "My mailer doesn't have a command to

   include the text of the message I'm replying to, so I have to do it

   by hand."  This does not necessarily mean the speaker has to

   retype a copy of the message; it might refer to, say, dropping into

   a subshell from the mailer, making a copy of one's mailbox file,

   reading that into an editor, locating the top and bottom of the

   message in question, deleting the rest of the file, inserting `>'

   characters on each line, writing the file, leaving the editor,

   returning to the mailer, reading the file in, and later remembering

   to delete the file.  Compare {eyeball search}.  2. By extension,

   writing code which does something in an explicit or low-level way

   for which a presupplied library routine ought to have been

   available.  "This cretinous B-tree library doesn't supply a decent

   iterator, so I'm having to walk the trees by hand."

:byte:: /bi:t/ n.  [techspeak] A unit of memory or data equal to

   the amount used to represent one character; on modern architectures

   this is usually 8 bits, but may be 9 on 36-bit machines.  Some

   older architectures used `byte' for quantities of 6 or 7 bits, and

   the PDP-10 supported `bytes' that were actually bitfields of

   1 to 36 bits!  These usages are now obsolete, and even 9-bit bytes

   have become rare in the general trend toward power-of-2 word sizes.

   Historical note: The term was coined by Werner Buchholz in 1956

   during the early design phase for the IBM Stretch computer;

   originally it was described as 1 to 6 bits (typical I/O equipment

   of the period used 6-bit chunks of information).  The move to an

   8-bit byte happened in late 1956, and this size was later adopted

   and promulgated as a standard by the System/360.  The word was

   coined by mutating the word `bite' so it would not be

   accidentally misspelled as {bit}.  See also {nybble}.

: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


: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.

   (BCPL was in turn descended from an earlier Algol-derived language,

   CPL.)  Before Bjarne Stroustrup settled the question by designing

   C++, there was a humorous debate over whether C's successor should

   be named `D' or `P'.  C became immensely popular outside Bell Labs

   after about 1980 and is now the dominant language in systems and

   microcomputer applications programming.  See also {languages of

   choice}, {indent style}.

   C is often described, with a mixture of fondness and disdain

   varying according to the speaker, as "a language that combines

   all the elegance and power of assembly language with all the

   readability and maintainability of assembly language".

:C Programmer's Disease: n.  The tendency of the undisciplined

   C programmer to set arbitrary but supposedly generous static limits

   on table sizes (defined, if you're lucky, by constants in header

   files) rather than taking the trouble to do proper dynamic storage

   allocation.  If an application user later needs to put 68 elements

   into a table of size 50, the afflicted programmer reasons that he

   or she can easily reset the table size to 68 (or even as much as

   70, to allow for future expansion) and recompile.  This gives the

   programmer the comfortable feeling of having made the effort to

   satisfy the user's (unreasonable) demands, and often affords the

   user multiple opportunities to explore the marvelous consequences

   of {fandango on core}.  In severe cases of the disease, the

   programmer cannot comprehend why each fix of this kind seems only

   to further disgruntle the user.

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

:Camel Book: n.  Universally recognized nickname for the book

   "Programming Perl", by Larry Wall and Randall L. Schwartz,

   O'Reilly Associates 1991, ISBN 0-93715-64-1.  The definitive

   reference on {Perl}.

:can: vt.  To abort a job on a time-sharing system.  Used

   esp. when the person doing the deed is an operator, as in

   "canned from the {{console}}".  Frequently used in an imperative

   sense, as in "Can that print job, the LPT just popped a

   sprocket!"  Synonymous with {gun}.  It is said that the ASCII

   character with mnemonic CAN (0011000) was used as a kill-job

   character on some early OSes.  Alternatively, this term may derive

   from mainstream slang `canned' for being laid off or fired.

:can't happen:  The traditional program comment for code

   executed under a condition that should never be true, for example a

   file size computed as negative.  Often, such a condition being true

   indicates data corruption or a faulty algorithm; it is almost

   always handled by emitting a fatal error message and terminating or

   crashing, since there is little else that can be done.  Some case

   variant of "can't happen" is also often the text emitted if the

   `impossible' error actually happens!  Although "can't happen"

   events are genuinely infrequent in production code, programmers

   wise enough to check for them habitually are often surprised at how

   frequently they are triggered during development and how many

   headaches checking for them turns out to head off. See also

   {firewall code} (sense 2).

:candygrammar: n.  A programming-language grammar that is

   mostly {syntactic sugar}; the term is also a play on

   `candygram'.  {COBOL}, Apple's Hypertalk language, and a lot

   of the so-called `4GL' database languages share this property.

   The usual intent of such designs is that they be as English-like as

   possible, on the theory that they will then be easier for unskilled

   people to program.  This intention comes to grief on the reality

   that syntax isn't what makes programming hard; it's the mental

   effort and organization required to specify an algorithm precisely

   that costs.  Thus the invariable result is that `candygrammar'

   languages are just as difficult to program in as terser ones, and

   far more painful for the experienced hacker.

   [The overtones from the old Chevy Chase skit on Saturday Night Live

   should not be overlooked.  This was a "Jaws" parody.

   Someone lurking outside an apartment door tries all kinds of bogus

   ways to get the occupant to open up, while ominous music plays in

   the background.  The last attempt is a half-hearted "Candygram!"

   When the door is opened, a shark bursts in and chomps the poor

   occupant.  There is a moral here for those attracted to

   candygrammars.  Note that, in many circles, pretty much the same

   ones who remember Monty Python sketches, all it takes is the word

   "Candygram!", suitably timed, to get people rolling on the

   floor. -- GLS]

:canonical: adj.  [historically, `according to religious law']

   The usual or standard state or manner of something.  This word has

   a somewhat more technical meaning in mathematics.  Two formulas

   such as 9 + x and x + 9 are said to be equivalent

   because they mean the same thing, but the second one is in

   `canonical form' because it is written in the usual way, with the

   highest power of x first.  Usually there are fixed rules you

   can use to decide whether something is in canonical form.  The

   jargon meaning, a relaxation of the technical meaning, acquired its

   present loading in computer-science culture largely through its

   prominence in Alonzo Church's work in computation theory and

   mathematical logic (see {Knights of the Lambda Calculus}).

   Compare {vanilla}.

   This word has an interesting history.  Non-technical academics do

   not use the adjective `canonical' in any of the senses defined

   above with any regularity; they do however use the nouns `canon'

   and `canonicity' (not **canonicalness or **canonicality). The

   `canon' of a given author is the complete body of authentic works

   by that author (this usage is familiar to Sherlock Holmes fans as

   well as to literary scholars).  `*The* canon' is the body of

   works in a given field (e.g., works of literature, or of art, or of

   music) deemed worthwhile for students to study and for scholars to


   The word `canon' derives ultimately from the Greek


   (akin to the English `cane') referring to a reed.  Reeds were used

   for measurement, and in Latin and later Greek the word `canon'

   meant a rule or a standard.  The establishment of a canon of

   scriptures within Christianity was meant to define a standard or a

   rule for the religion.  The above non-techspeak academic usages

   stem from this instance of a defined and accepted body of work.

   Alongside this usage was the promulgation of `canons' (`rules')

   for the government of the Catholic Church.  The techspeak usages

   ("according to religious law") derive from this use of the Latin


   Hackers invest this term with a playfulness that makes an ironic

   contrast with its historical meaning.  A true story: One Bob

   Sjoberg, new at the MIT AI Lab, expressed some annoyance at the

   incessant use of jargon.  Over his loud objections, GLS and RMS

   made a point of using as much of it as possible in his presence,

   and eventually it began to sink in.  Finally, in one conversation,

   he used the word `canonical' in jargon-like fashion without

   thinking.  Steele: "Aha!  We've finally got you talking jargon

   too!"  Stallman: "What did he say?"  Steele: "Bob just used

   `canonical' in the canonical way."

   Of course, canonicality depends on context, but it is implicitly

   defined as the way *hackers* normally expect things to be.

   Thus, a hacker may claim with a straight face that `according to

   religious law' is *not* the canonical meaning of


:card walloper: n.  An EDP programmer who grinds out batch

   programs that do stupid things like print people's paychecks.

   Compare {code grinder}.  See also {{punched card}},

   {eighty-column mind}.

:careware: /keir'weir/ n.  A variety of {shareware} for

   which either the author suggests that some payment be made to a

   nominated charity or a levy directed to charity is included on top

   of the distribution charge.  Syn. {charityware}; compare

   {crippleware}, sense 2.

:cargo cult programming: n.  A style of (incompetent)

   programming dominated by ritual inclusion of code or program

   structures that serve no real purpose.  A cargo cult programmer

   will usually explain the extra code as a way of working around some

   bug encountered in the past, but usually neither the bug nor the

   reason the code apparently avoided the bug was ever fully

   understood (compare {shotgun debugging}, {voodoo


   The term `cargo cult' is a reference to aboriginal religions that

   grew up in the South Pacific after World War II.  The practices of

   these cults center on building elaborate mockups of airplanes and

   military style landing strips in the hope of bringing the return of

   the god-like airplanes that brought such marvelous cargo during the

   war.  Hackish usage probably derives from Richard Feynman's

   characterization of certain practices as "cargo cult science" in

   his book "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" (W. W. Norton

   & Co, New York 1985, ISBN 0-393-01921-7).

:cascade: n.  1. A huge volume of spurious error-message

   output produced by a compiler with poor error recovery.  Too

   frequently, one trivial syntax error (such as a missing `)' or

   `}') throws the parser out of synch so that much of the remaining

   program text is interpreted as garbaged or ill-formed.  2. A chain

   of Usenet followups, each adding some trivial variation or riposte

   to the text of the previous one, all of which is reproduced in the

   new message; an {include war} in which the object is to create a

   sort of communal graffito.

:case and paste: n.  [from `cut and paste'] 1. The addition of a new

   {feature} to an existing system by selecting the code from an

   existing feature and pasting it in with minor changes.  Common in

   telephony circles because most operations in a telephone switch are

   selected using `case' statements.  Leads to {software bloat}.

   In some circles of EMACS users this is called `programming by

   Meta-W', because Meta-W is the EMACS command for copying a block of

   text to a kill buffer in preparation to pasting it in elsewhere.

   The term is condescending, implying that the programmer is acting

   mindlessly rather than thinking carefully about what is required to

   integrate the code for two similar cases.

   At DEC, this is sometimes called `clone-and-hack' coding.

:casters-up mode: n.  [IBM, prob. fr. slang belly up] Yet

   another synonym for `broken' or `down'.  Usually connotes a

   major failure.  A system (hardware or software) which is `down'

   may be already being restarted before the failure is noticed,

   whereas one which is `casters up' is usually a good excuse to

   take the rest of the day off (as long as you're not responsible for

   fixing it).

:casting the runes: n.  What a {guru} does when you ask him

   or her to run a particular program and type at it because it never

   works for anyone else; esp. used when nobody can ever see what

   the guru is doing different from what J. Random Luser does.

   Compare {incantation}, {runes}, {examining the entrails};

   also see the AI koan about Tom Knight in "{AI Koans}"

   (Appendix A).

   A correspondent from England tells us that one of ICL's most

   talented systems designers used to be called out occasionally to

   service machines which the {field circus} had given up on.

   Since he knew the design inside out, he could often find faults

   simply by listening to a quick outline of the symptoms.  He used to

   play on this by going to some site where the field circus had just

   spent the last two weeks solid trying to find a fault, and

   spreading a diagram of the system out on a table top.  He'd then

   shake some chicken bones and cast them over the diagram, peer at

   the bones intently for a minute, and then tell them that a certain

   module needed replacing.  The system would start working again

   immediately upon the replacement.

:cat: [from `catenate' via {{Unix}} `cat(1)'] vt.

   1. [techspeak] To spew an entire file to the screen or some other

   output sink without pause.  2. By extension, to dump large amounts

   of data at an unprepared target or with no intention of browsing it

   carefully.  Usage: considered silly.  Rare outside Unix sites.  See

   also {dd}, {BLT}.

   Among Unix fans, `cat(1)' is considered an excellent example

   of user-interface design, because it delivers the file contents

   without such verbosity as spacing or headers between the files, and

   because it does not require the files to consist of lines of text,

   but works with any sort of data.

   Among Unix haters, `cat(1)' is considered the {canonical}

   example of *bad* user-interface design, because of its

   woefully unobvious name.  It is far more often used to {blast} a

   file to standard output than to concatenate two files.  The name

   `cat' for the former operation is just as unintuitive as, say,

   LISP's {cdr}.

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

:catatonic: adj.  Describes a condition of suspended animation

   in which something is so {wedged} or {hung} that it makes no

   response.  If you are typing on a terminal and suddenly the

   computer doesn't even echo the letters back to the screen as you

   type, let alone do what you're asking it to do, then the computer

   is suffering from catatonia (possibly because it has crashed).

   "There I was in the middle of a winning game of {nethack} and

   it went catatonic on me!  Aaargh!" Compare {buzz}.

:cd tilde: /C-D til-d*/ vi.  To go home.  From the Unix

   C-shell and Korn-shell command `cd ~', which takes one to

   one's `$HOME' (`cd' with no arguments happens to do the

   same thing).  By extension, may be used with other arguments; thus,

   over an electronic chat link, `cd ~coffee' would mean "I'm

   going to the coffee machine."

:cdr: /ku'dr/ or /kuh'dr/ vt.  [from LISP] To skip past

   the first item from a list of things (generalized from the LISP

   operation on binary tree structures, which returns a list

   consisting of all but the first element of its argument).  In the

   form `cdr down', to trace down a list of elements: "Shall we cdr

   down the agenda?"  Usage: silly.  See also {loop through}.

   Historical note: The instruction format of the IBM 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 has also been

   called `chaff', `computer confetti', and `keypunch

   droppings'.  This use may now be mainstream; it has been reported

   seen (1993) in directions for a card-based voting machine in


   Historical note: One correspondent believes `chad' (sense 2)

   derives from the Chadless keypunch (named for its inventor), which

   cut little u-shaped tabs in the card to make a hole when the tab

   folded back, rather than punching out a circle/rectangle; it was

   clear that if the Chadless keypunch didn't make them, then the

   stuff that other keypunches made had to be `chad'.  There is a

   legend that the word was originally acronymic, standing for

   "Card Hole Aggregate Debris", but this has all the earmarks of

   a bogus folk etymology.

:chad box: n.  A metal box about the size of a lunchbox (or in

   some models a large wastebasket), for collecting the {chad}

   (sense 2) that accumulated in {Iron Age} card punches.  You had

   to open the covers of the card punch periodically and empty the

   chad box.  The {bit bucket} was notionally the equivalent device

   in the CPU enclosure, which was typically across the room in

   another great gray-and-blue box.

:chain:  1. vi. [orig. from BASIC's `CHAIN' statement]

   To hand off execution to a child or successor without going

   through the {OS} command interpreter that invoked it.  The state

   of the parent program is lost and there is no returning to it.

   Though this facility used to be common on memory-limited micros and

   is still widely supported for backward compatibility, the jargon

   usage is semi-obsolescent; in particular, most Unix programmers

   will think of this as an {exec}.  Oppose the more modern

   `subshell'.  2. n. A series of linked data areas within an

   operating system or application.  `Chain rattling' is the process

   of repeatedly running through the linked data areas searching for

   one which is of interest to the executing program.  The implication

   is that there is a very large number of links on the chain.

:channel: n.  [IRC] The basic unit of discussion on {IRC}.

   Once one joins a channel, everything one types is read by others on

   that channel.  Channels 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 typing in summaries of

   the news, or in some cases, giving first-hand accounts of the

   action (e.g., Scud missile attacks in Tel Aviv during the Gulf War

   in 1991).

:channel hopping: n.  [IRC, GEnie] To rapidly switch channels

   on {IRC}, or a GEnie chat board, just as a social butterfly

   might hop from one group to another at a party.  This term may

   derive from the TV watcher's idiom, `channel surfing'.

:channel op: /chan'l op/ n.  [IRC] Someone who is endowed

   with privileges on a particular {IRC} channel; commonly

   abbreviated `chanop' or `CHOP'.  These privileges include the

   right to {kick} users, to change various status bits, and to

   make others into CHOPs.

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

:char: /keir/ or /char/; rarely, /kar/ n.  Shorthand for

   `character'.  Esp. used by C programmers, as `char' is C's

   typename for character data.

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

:chase pointers:  1. vi. To go through multiple levels of

   indirection, as in traversing a linked list or graph structure.

   Used esp. by programmers in C, where explicit pointers are a very

   common data type.  This is techspeak, but it remains jargon when

   used of human networks.  "I'm chasing pointers.  Bob said you

   could tell me who to talk to about...." See {dangling

   pointer} and {snap}.  2. [Cambridge] `pointer chase' or

   `pointer hunt': The process of going through a {core dump}

   (sense 1), interactively or on a large piece of paper printed with

   hex {runes}, following dynamic data-structures.  Used only in a

   debugging context.

:chawmp: n.  [University of Florida] 16 or 18 bits (half of a

   machine word).  This term was used by FORTH hackers during the late

   1970s/early 1980s; it is said to have been archaic then, and may

   now be obsolete.  It was coined in revolt against the promiscuous

   use of `word' for anything between 16 and 32 bits; `word' has

   an additional special meaning for FORTH hacks that made the

   overloading intolerable.  For similar reasons, /gaw'bl/ (spelled

   `gawble' or possibly `gawbul') was in use as a term for 32 or

   48 bits (presumably a full machine word, but our sources are

   unclear on this).  These terms are more easily understood if one

   thinks of them as faithful phonetic spellings of `chomp' and

   `gobble' pronounced in a Florida or other Southern U.S. dialect.

   For general discussion of similar terms, see {nybble}.

:check: n.  A hardware-detected error condition, most commonly

   used to refer to actual hardware failures rather than

   software-induced traps.  E.g., a `parity check' is the result of

   a hardware-detected parity error.  Recorded here because the word

   often humorously extended to non-technical problems. For example,

   the term `child check' has been used to refer to the problems

   caused by a small child who is curious to know what happens when

   s/he presses all the cute buttons on a computer's console (of

   course, this particular problem could have been prevented with


:chemist: n.  [Cambridge] Someone who wastes computer time

   on {number-crunching} when you'd far rather the machine were

   doing something more productive, such as working out anagrams of

   your name or printing Snoopy calendars or running {life}

   patterns.  May or may not refer to someone who actually studies


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

:Chernobyl packet: /cher-noh'b*l pak'*t/ n.  A network

   packet that induces a {broadcast storm} and/or {network

   meltdown}, in memory of the April 1986 nuclear accident at

   Chernobyl in Ukraine.  The typical scenario involves an IP Ethernet

   datagram that passes through a gateway with both source and

   destination Ether and IP address set as the respective broadcast

   addresses for the subnetworks being gated between.  Compare

   {Christmas tree packet}.

:chicken head: n.  [Commodore] The Commodore Business

   Machines logo, which strongly resembles a poultry part.  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"; the

   novel is now sold under that title), in which a `chickenhead' is

   a mutant with below-average intelligence.

:chiclet keyboard: n.  A keyboard with a small, flat

   rectangular or lozenge-shaped rubber or plastic keys that look like

   pieces of chewing gum.  (Chiclets is the brand name of a variety of

   chewing gum that does in fact resemble the keys of chiclet

   keyboards.)  Used esp. to describe the original IBM PCjr

   keyboard.  Vendors unanimously liked these because they were cheap,

   and a lot of early portable and laptop products got launched using

   them.  Customers rejected the idea with almost equal unanimity, and

   chiclets are not often seen on anything larger than a digital watch

   any more.

:chine nual: /sheen'yu-*l/ n.,obs.  [MIT] 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


:choad: /chohd/ n.  Synonym for `penis' used in

   alt.tasteless and popularized by the denizens thereof.  They

   say: "We think maybe it's from Middle English but we're all too

   damned lazy to check the OED."  [I'm not.  It isn't. -- ESR] This

   term is alleged to have been inherited through 1960s underground

   comics, and to have been recently sighted in the Beavis and

   Butthead cartoons.

:choke: v.  1. To reject input, often ungracefully.  "NULs

   make System V's `lpr(1)' choke."  "I tried building an

   {EMACS} binary to use {X}, but `cpp(1)' choked on all

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

   2. [MIT] More generally, to fail at any endeavor, but with some

   flair or bravado; the popular definition is "to snatch defeat from

   the jaws of victory."

:chomp: vi.  To {lose}; specifically, to chew on something

   of which more was bitten off than one can.  Probably related to

   gnashing of teeth.  See {bagbiter}.

   A hand gesture commonly accompanies this.  To perform it, hold the

   four fingers together and place the thumb against their tips.  Now

   open and close your hand rapidly to suggest a biting action (much

   like what Pac-Man does in the classic video game, though this

   pantomime seems to predate that).  The gesture alone means `chomp

   chomp' (see "{Verb Doubling}" in the "{Jargon

   Construction}" section of the Prependices).  The hand may be

   pointed at the object of complaint, and for real emphasis you can

   use both hands at once.  Doing this to a person is equivalent to

   saying "You chomper!"  If you point the gesture at yourself, it

   is a humble but humorous admission of some failure.  You might do

   this if someone told you that a program you had written had failed

   in some surprising way and you felt dumb for not having anticipated


:chomper: n.  Someone or something that is chomping; a loser.

   See {loser}, {bagbiter}, {chomp}.

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

:Christmas tree: n.  A kind of RS-232 line tester or breakout

   box featuring rows of blinking red and green LEDs suggestive of

   Christmas lights.

:Christmas tree packet: n.  A packet with every single option

   set for whatever protocol is in use.  See {kamikaze packet},

   {Chernobyl packet}.  (The term doubtless derives from a fanciful

   image of each little option bit being represented by a

   different-colored light bulb, all turned on.)

:chrome: n.  [from automotive slang via wargaming] Showy features

   added to attract users but contributing little or nothing to

   the power of a system.  "The 3D icons in Motif are just chrome,

   but they certainly are *pretty* chrome!"  Distinguished from

   {bells and whistles} by the fact that the latter are usually

   added to gratify developers' own desires for featurefulness.

   Often used as a term of contempt.

:chug: vi.  To run slowly; to {grind} or {grovel}.

   "The disk is chugging like crazy."

:Church of the SubGenius: n.  A mutant offshoot of

   {Discordianism} launched in 1981 as a spoof of fundamentalist

   Christianity by the `Reverend' Ivan Stang, a brilliant satirist

   with a gift for promotion.  Popular among hackers as a rich source

   of bizarre imagery and references such as "Bob" the divine

   drilling-equipment salesman, the Benevolent Space Xists, and the

   Stark Fist of Removal.  Much SubGenius theory is concerned with the

   acquisition of the mystical substance or quality of {slack}.

:Cinderella Book: [CMU] n.  "Introduction to Automata

   Theory, Languages, and Computation", by John Hopcroft and Jeffrey

   Ullman, (Addison-Wesley, 1979).  So called because the cover

   depicts a girl (putatively Cinderella) sitting in front of a Rube

   Goldberg device and holding a rope coming out of it.  On the back

   cover, the device is in shambles after she has (inevitably) pulled

   on the rope.  See also {{book titles}}.

:CI$: // n.  Hackerism for `CIS', CompuServe Information

   Service.  The dollar sign refers to CompuServe's rather steep line

   charges.  Often used in {sig block}s just before a CompuServe

   address.  Syn. {Compu$erve}.

:Classic C: /klas'ik C/ [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'.

   An analogous construction is sometimes applied elsewhere: thus,

   `X Classic', where X = Star Trek (referring to the original TV

   series) or X = PC (referring to IBM's ISA-bus machines as opposed

   to the PS/2 series).  This construction is especially used of

   product series in which the newer versions are considered serious

   losers relative to the older ones.

:clean: 1. adj.  Used of hardware or software designs, implies

   `elegance in the small', that is, a design or implementation that

   may not hold any surprises but does things in a way that is

   reasonably intuitive and relatively easy to comprehend from the

   outside.  The antonym is `grungy' or {crufty}.  2. v. To

   remove unneeded or undesired files in a effort to reduce clutter:

   "I'm cleaning up my account."  "I cleaned up the garbage and now

   have 100 Meg free on that partition."

:CLM: /C-L-M/  [Sun: `Career Limiting Move'] 1. n. An action

   endangering one's future prospects of getting plum projects and

   raises, and possibly one's job: "His Halloween costume was a

   parody of his manager.  He won the prize for `best CLM'."  2. adj.

   Denotes extreme severity of a bug, discovered by a customer and

   obviously missed earlier because of poor testing: "That's a CLM


: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. `PC clone:' a PC-BUS/ISA or EISA-compatible 80x86-based

   microcomputer (this use is sometimes spelled `klone' or

   `PClone').  These invariably have much more bang for the buck

   than the IBM archetypes they resemble.  5. In the construction

   `Unix clone': An OS designed to deliver a Unix-lookalike

   environment without Unix license fees, or with additional

   `mission-critical' features such as support for real-time

   programming.  6. v. To make an exact copy of something.  "Let me

   clone that" might mean "I want to borrow that paper so I can make

   a photocopy" or "Let me get a copy of that file before you

   {mung} it".

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

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

:clustergeeking: /kluh'st*r-gee`king/ n.  [CMU] Spending

   more time at a computer cluster doing CS homework than most people

   spend breathing.

:COBOL: /koh'bol/ n.  [COmmon Business-Oriented Language]

   (Synonymous with {evil}.)  A weak, verbose, and flabby language

   used by {card walloper}s to do boring mindless things on

   {dinosaur} mainframes.  Hackers believe that all COBOL

   programmers are {suit}s or {code grinder}s, and no

   self-respecting hacker will ever admit to having learned the

   language.  Its very name is seldom uttered without ritual

   expressions of disgust or horror.  One popular one is Edsger

   Dijkstra's famous observation that "The use of COBOL cripples the

   mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal

   offense." (from "Selected Writings on Computing: A Personal

   Perspective") See also {fear and loathing}, {software


:COBOL fingers: /koh'bol fing'grz/ n.  Reported from Sweden,

   a (hypothetical) disease one might get from coding in COBOL.  The

   language requires code verbose beyond all reason (see

   {candygrammar}); thus it is alleged that programming too much in

   COBOL causes one's fingers to wear down to stubs by the endless

   typing.  "I refuse to type in all that source code again; it would

   give me COBOL fingers!"

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

:code police: n.  [by analogy with George Orwell's `thought

   police'] A mythical team of Gestapo-like storm troopers that might

   burst into one's office and arrest one for violating programming

   style rules.  May be used either seriously, to underline a claim

   that a particular style violation is dangerous, or ironically, to

   suggest that the practice under discussion is condemned mainly by

   anal-retentive {weenie}s.  "Dike out that goto or the code

   police will get you!"  The ironic usage is perhaps more common.

:codes: n.  [scientific computing] Programs.  This usage is common

   in people who hack supercomputers and heavy-duty

   {number-crunching}, rare to unknown elsewhere (if you say

   "codes" to hackers outside scientific computing, their

   first association is likely to be "and cyphers").

:codewalker: n.  A program component that traverses other

   programs for a living.  Compilers have codewalkers in their front

   ends; so do cross-reference generators and some database front

   ends.  Other utility programs that try to do too much with source

   code may turn into codewalkers.  As in "This new `vgrind'

   feature would require a codewalker to implement."

:coefficient of X: n.  Hackish speech makes heavy use of

   pseudo-mathematical metaphors.  Four particularly important

   ones involve the terms `coefficient', `factor', `index', 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'