========= THIS IS THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 2.1.1 (DRAFT) 12 JUN 1990 =========
INTRODUCTION This `jargon file' is a collection of slang terms used by various subcultures of computer hackers.
The original `jargon file' was a collection of hacker slang from technical cultures including 1) the MIT AI Lab, 2) the Stanford AI lab, 3) the old ARPANET AI/LISP/PDP-10 communities, 3) Carnegie- Mellon University, 4) Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Some entries dated back to the early 1970s. This version was published as _The_ Hacker's_Dictionary_ in 1983.
This new version casts a wider net than the old jargon file; its aim is to cover not just AI but all the technical computing cultures wherein the true hacker-nature is manifested. More than half of the entries now derive from USENET and the C and UNIX communities.
The present maintainers of the jargon file are Guy L. Steele (email@example.com) and Eric S. Raymond (firstname.lastname@example.org). Send all additions, corrections and correspondence relating to the jargon file to email@example.com.
CREDITS The original jargon file was compiled by Guy L. Steele Jr., Raphael Finkel, Don Woods, and Mark Crispin, with assistance from the MIT and Stanford AI communities and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Some contributions were submitted via the ARPAnet from miscellaneous sites. The `old' jargon file was last revised in 1983; its revisions are all un-numbered and may be collectively considered `Version 1'.
Version 2.1: the jargon file reorganization and massive additions were by Eric S. Raymond, approved by Guy Steele. Many items of UNIX, C, USENET and microcomputer-based slang were added at that time (as well as Appendix A, The Untimely Demise of Mabel The Monkey). Some obsolescent usages (mostly PDP-10 derived) were moved to appendix B.
Our thanks to all the USENETters who contributed entries and encouragement. Special thanks to our Scandinavian correspondent Per Lindberg (firstname.lastname@example.org), author of the remarkable Swedish language 'zine _Hackerbladet_, for bring FOO! comics to our attention and smuggling the IBM hacker underground's own baby jargon file out to us. Also special gratitude to ace hacker/linguist Joe Keane (email@example.com) for helping us improve the pronunciation guides.
FORMAT FOR NEW ENTRIES Try to conform to the format already being used -- 70 character lines, 3-character indentations, pronunciations in parentheses, etymologies in brackets, single-space after def'n numbers and word classes, etc. Stick to the standard ASCII character set.
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 slang!
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 slang you have originated if they have spread to the point of being used by people who are not personally acquainted with you. We prefer items to be attested by independent submission from two different sites.
The slang file will be regularly maintained and re-posted from now on and will include a version number. Read it, pass it around, contribute -- this is *your* monument!
NOTES ON JARGON CONSTRUCTION There are some standard methods of jargonification which became established quite early (i.e before 1970), spreading from such sources as the MIT Model Railroad Club, the PDP-1 SPACEWAR hackers and John McCarthy's original crew of LISPers. These include:
Verb doubling: a standard construction is to double a verb and use it as a comment on what the implied subject does. Often used to terminate a conversation. Typical examples involve WIN, LOSE, HACK, FLAME, BARF, CHOMP: "The disk heads just crashed." "Lose, lose." "Mostly he just talked about his @#!!$% crock. Flame, flame." "Boy, what a bagbiter! Chomp, chomp!"
Soundalike slang: similar to Cockney rhyming slang. Often made up on the spur of the moment. Standard examples: Boston Globe => Boston Glob Herald American => Horrid (Harried) American New York Times => New York Slime Prime Time => Slime Time government property - do not duplicate (seen on keys) => government duplicity - do not propagate Often the substitution will be made in such a way as to slip in a standard jargon word: Dr. Dobb's Journal => Dr. Frob's Journal Margaret Jacks Hall => Marginal Hacks Hall Data General => Dirty Genitals
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: "Foodp?" "Yeah, I'm pretty hungry." or "T!" "State-of-the-world-P?" (Straight) "I'm about to go home." (Humorous) "Yes, the world has a state." [One of the best of these is a Gosperism (i.e., due to Bill Gosper). When we were at a Chinese restaurant, he 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]
Peculiar nouns: MIT AI 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. Examples: porous => porosity generous => generosity Ergo: mysterious => mysteriosity ferrous => ferrocity
Other examples: winnitude, disgustitude, hackification.
Also, note that all nouns can be verbed. eg: "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.
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 in a com link. Another expression sometimes heard is "complain!", meaning "I have a complaint!"
Hacker speech style: 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 is essential. One should use just enough jargon to communicate precisely and identify oneself as "in the culture"; overuse and a breathless, excessively gung-ho attitude are considered tacky and the mark of a loser.
Hacker speech style (a variety of the precisionist English normally spoken by scientists, design engineers, and academics in technical fields) is fairly constant everywhere. Of the four other listed constructions, verb doubling and peculiar noun formations have become quite general; but rhyming slang is still largely confined to MIT and other large universities, and the P convention is found only where LISPers flourish.
One final note. 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:
The pronunciation keys in the jargon listing use the following simple system:
1) Syllables are hyphen-separated, except that an apostrophe or back-apostrophe follows each accented syllable (the back apostrophe marks a secondary accent in some words of four or more syllables).
2) Consonants are pronounced as in American English. The letter "g" is always hard (as in "got" rather than "giant"); "ch" is soft ("church" rather than "chemist"). The letter "j" is the sound that occurs twice in "judge". The letter "s" is always as in "pass", never a z sound (but it is sometimes doubled at the end of syllables to emphasize this). The digraph `dh' is the th of `these clothes', not of `thick'.
3) Vowels are represented as follows:
a back, that ah father, palm ar far, mark aw flaw, caught ay bake, rain e less, men ee easy, ski eir their, software i trip, hit ie life, sky o cot, top oh flow, sew oo loot, through or more, door ow out, how oy boy, coin uh but, some u put, foot y yet yoo few [y]oo oo with optional `fronting' as in `news' (noos or nyoos).
An at-sign 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 "kul'r".
THE JARGON ITSELF
@BEGIN [primarily CMU] with @End, used humorously in writing to indicate a context or to remark on the surrounded text. From the SCRIBE command of the same name. For example: @Begin(Flame) Predicate logic is the only good programming language. Anyone who would use anything else is an idiot. Also, computers should be tredecimal instead of binary. @End(Flame) On USENET, this construct would more frequently be rendered as and .
= A =
ABEND (ab'end) n. Abnormal termination (of software); crash; lossage. Derives from an error message on the IBM 360, but has passed into more general use.
ACK (ak) interj. 1. [from the ASCII mnemonic for 000110] Acknowledge. Used to register one's presence (compare mainstream "Yo!"). An appropriate response to PING. 2. [prob. from _Bloom_County_] An exclamation of surprised disgust, esp. in "Oop ack!". Semi-humorous.
ADGER (adj'r) [UCLA] v. To make a bonehead move that could have been forseen with a slight amount of mental effort, i.e., "He started removing files and promptly adgered the whole project".
AD-HOCKERY (ad-hok'@r-ee) [Purdue] n. Gratuitous assumptions made inside certain programs, esp. expert systems, which lead to the appearance of semi-intelligent behavior, but are in fact entirely arbitrary.
ADVENT (ad'vent) n. The prototypical computer adventure game, first implemented on the PDP-10 by MIT hackers Dave Lebling, Mark Blank and Don R. Woods as a demo for a natural-language parser they were hacking on at the time. Now better known as Adventure, but the TOPS-10 operating system only permitted 6-letter filenames. "A huge green fierce snake bars the way!"
ALIASING SCREW (ayl'ee-@-sing) [C programmers] n. A class of subtle programming errors which can arise in code that does dynamic allocation via malloc(3). If more than one pointer addresses (`aliases for') a given hunk of storage, it may happen that the storage is freed through one alias and then referenced through another, leading 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. See also PRECEDENCE SCREW, SMASH THE STACK, FANDANGO ON CORE, MEMORY LEAK, OVERRUN SCREW.
ALT BIT (ahlt bit) [from alternate?] adj. See META BIT.
ANGLE BRACKETS (ang'@l brak'@ts) [primarily MIT] n. Either of the characters "<" and ">". See BROKET.
APP (ap) n. Short for `application program', as opposed to a systems program. What systems vendors are forever chasing developers to do 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 apps. Oppose TOOL, OPERATING SYSTEM.
ARENA (a-ree'nuh) [UNIX] n. The area of memory attached to a process by brk(2) and sbrk(2) and used by malloc(3) as dynamic storage. So named from a semi-mythical "malloc: corrupt arena" message supposedly emitted when some early versions became terminally confused. See OVERRUN SCREW, ALIASING SCREW, MEMORY LEAK, SMASH THE STACK.
ARG (arg) n. Abbreviation for "argument" (to a function), used so often as to have become a new word. Compare PARAM, VAR.
ASBESTOS LONGJOHNS (as-bes't@s long'jons), UNDIES (uhn'dees), or OVERCOAT (o'vr-koht) n. Metaphoric garments often donned by USENET posters just before emitting a remark they expect will elicit FLAMAGE.
ASCII (as'kee) Common slang names for ASCII characters are collected here. See individual entries for BANG, CLOSE, EXCL, OPEN, QUES, SEMI, SHRIEK, SPLAT, TWIDDLE, WHAT, WOW, and YIU-SHANG WHOLE FISH. This list is snarfed from USENET circa 1983. Single characters are listed in ASCII order, followed by multiples. For each character, "official" names appear first, then others in order of popularity (more or less).
ASSEMBLER (as'em-bler) 1. A program translator that allows human beings to generate machine code using mnemonics and symbolic names for memory locations rather than raw binary; distinguished from an HLL (q.v.) by the fact that a single assembler step generally maps to a single machine instruction (see also LANGUAGES OF CHOICE). 2.A NANOBOT which is a physical REPLICATOR. (This is the "official" term, coined by Eric Drexler; see NANOTECHNOLOGY).
AUTOMAGICALLY (aw-toh-maj'i-klee, aw-toh-maj'i-kl-ee) adv. Automatically, but in a way which, for some reason (typically because it is too complicated, or too ugly, or perhaps even too trivial), I don't feel like explaining to you. See MAGIC. Example: Some programs which produce XGP output files spool them automagically.
= B =
BACKBONE CABAL (bak'bohn k@-bawl') n. Semi-mythical group of large-site administrators who pushed through the GREAT RENAMING and reined in the chaos of USENET during most of the 1980s. The cabal mailing list disbanded in late 1988 after a bitter internal catfight, but the net hardly noticed.
BACK DOOR (bak dor) n. A hole in the security of a system deliberately left in place by designers or maintainers. The motivation for this is not always sinister; some operating systems, for example, come out of the box with privileged accounts intended for use by field service or the vendor's maintenance programmers. Historically, back doors have often lurked in systems longer than any one expected or planned, and a few have become widely known. The famous RTM worm of late 1988, for example, used a back door in the BSD UNIX sendmail(1) utility. See also IRON BOX, CRACKER, WORM, LOGIC BOMB.
BACKGROUND (bak'grownd) v.,adj. A task running in background is detached from the terminal where it was started and running at a lower priority (oppose FOREGROUND). Nowadays this term is primarily associated with UNIX, but it was appears first to have been used in this sense on OS/360. By extension, 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. Compare SLOPSUCKER.
BAD THING (bad thing) n. Something which 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.
BAGBITER (bag'biet-@r) 1. n. Equipment or program that fails, usually intermittently. 2. BAGBITING: adj. Failing hardware or software. "This bagbiting system won't let me get out of SPACEWAR." Usage: verges on obscenity. Grammatically separable; one may speak of "biting the bag". Synonyms: LOSER, LOSING, CRETINOUS, BLETCHEROUS, BARFUCIOUS.
BAMF (bamf) [from comix] interj. Notional sound made by a person or object teleporting in or out of the hearer's vicinity. Often used in VIRTUAL REALITY (q.v.) electronic fora when a character wishes to make a dramatic entrance or exit.
BANG (bang) 1. n. Common alternate name for EXCL (q.v.), especially at CMU and when used in pronouncing a BANG PATH (q.v.) in spoken hackish. See SHRIEK. 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 PATH (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 the path "...!bigsite!foovax!barbox!me" directs correspondents 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". See INTERNET ADDRESS and NETWORK.
BAR (bar) 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.
BARF (barf) [from the "layman" slang, meaning "vomit"] 1. interj. Term of disgust. See BLETCH. 2. v. Choke, as on input. May mean to give an error message. "The function `=' compares two fixnums or two flonums, and barfs on anything else." 3. BARFULOUS, BARFUCIOUS: adj. Said of something which would make anyone barf, if only for aesthetic reasons. See CHOKE, GAG.
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.
BAZ (baz) 1. The third metasyntactic variable, after FOO and BAR and before QUX. "Suppose we have three functions FOO, BAR, and BAZ. FOO calls BAR, which calls BAZ..." 2. Occasionally appended to FOO to produce FOOBAZ.
BELLS AND WHISTLES (belz and hwis'@lz) [by analogy with locomotives] n. Features added to a program or system to make it more FLAVORFUL from a hacker's point of view, without necessarily adding to its utility for its primary function. Distinguished from CHROME which is intended to attract users.
BENCHMARK (bench'mark) n. An inaccurate measure of computer performance. As in "In the computer industry, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and benchmarks."
BERKLIX (ber'kliks) n.,adj. Contraction of Berkeley UNIX. See BSD. Not used at Berkeley itself. [This one, in my experience, is more common among suit-wearers attempting to sound "hip" than hackers -- ESR]
BERZERKELY (b@r-zer'klee) [from the name of a now-deceased record label] n. Humorous, often-used distortion of "Berkeley" used esp. to refer to the practices or products of the BSD UNIX hackers.
BIG-ENDIAN (big'-en-di-@n) adj. Describes a computer architecture in which, within a given 16- or 32-bit word, lower byte addresses have higher significance (the word is stored `big-end-first'). Most processors including the IBM 370 family and the PDP-10 and the Intel and Motorola microprocessor families and the various RISC designs current in 1990 are big-endian. See LITTLE-ENDIAN.
BIG IRON (big ie'@rn) n. Large, expensive, ultra-fast computers. Used generally of number crunching supercomputers such as Crays, but can include more conventional big commercial IBMish mainframes. Believed to have originated in the title of a paper given at a Usenix, "Unix on Big Iron". Term of approval, compare DINOSAUR.
BIG RED SWITCH (big red swich) [IBM] n. The power switch on a computer, esp. on an IBM-PC where it really is large and red. As in "This !@%$% BITTY BOX is hung again, time to hit the big red switch".
BIGNUMS (big'nuhms) [from Macsyma] n. 1. In backgammon, large numbers on the dice. 2. Multiple-precision (sometimes infinitely extendable) integers and, through analogy, any very large numbers. 3. EL CAMINO BIGNUM: El Camino Real, a street through the San Francisco peninsula that originally extended (and still appears in places) all the way to Mexico City. It was termed "El Camino Double Precision" when someone noted it was a very long street, and then "El Camino Bignum" when it was pointed out that it was hundreds of miles long.
BINARY (bie'na-ree) n. The object code for a program.
BIT BANG (bit bang) n. Transmission of data on a serial line accomplished by rapidly tweaking a single output bit at the appropriate times (popular on certain early models of PRIME computers, presumably when UARTs were too expensive; and on archaic Z-80 micros with a Zilog PIO but no SIO). The technique is a simple loop with eight OUT, SHIFT, OUT etc 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 wannabees.
BIT BUCKET (bit buhk'@t) n. The great data sink in the sky. Data that is discarded is said to "go to the bit bucket". On UNIX, often used for /dev/null. Sometimes amplified as THE GREAT BIT BUCKET IN THE SKY.
BIT DECAY (bit d@-kay') n. See SOFTWARE ROT. People with a physics background tend to prefer this one for the analogy with particle decay.
BIT ROT (bit rot) n. See SOFTWARE ROT.
BITBLT (bit'blit, bit'belt) n. [from BLT, q.v.] 1. One of a closely related family of 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. An early experimental bit-mapped terminal at Bell Labs, later commercialized as the AT&T 5620.
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 for it. Especially used of small, obsolescent, single-tasking-only personal machines like the Atari 800X, Osborne, Sinclair, VIC-20, or TRS-80. 2. More generally, the opposite of `real computer' (see GET A REAL COMPUTER). Pejorative. See also MESS-DOS, TOASTER, and TOY.
BIXIE (biks'ee) n. Synonym for EMOTICON used on BIX (the Byte Information Exchange); BIXers believe the emoticon was invented there.
BLAST (blast) v.,n. Synonym for BLT (q.v.), used esp. for large data sends over a network or comm line. Opposite of SNARF. Usage: uncommon.
BLAZER (blay'zr) n. Nickname for the Telebit Trailblazer, an expensive but extremely reliable and effective high-speed modem, popular at UNIX sites that pass large volumes of EMAIL and USENET news.
BLETCH (blech) [from German "brechen", to vomit (?)] 1. interj. Term of disgust. 2. BLETCHEROUS: adj. Disgusting in design or function. "This keyboard is bletcherous!" Usage: slightly comic.
BLINKENLIGHTS (blink'@n-lietz) n. Front-panel diagnostic lights on a mainframe CPU. Derives from the last word of the famous blackletter-Gothic "ACHTUNG! ALLES LOOKENSPEEPERS!" notice in mangled pseudo-German that once graced about half the computer rooms in the English-speaking world. The following text ran: "Das computermachine ist nicht fur gefingerpoken und mittengrabben. Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und poppencorken mit spitzensparken. Ist nicht fur gewerken bei das dumpkopfen. Das rubbernecken sichtseeren keepen hans in das pockets muss; relaxen und watch das blinkenlichten." This silliness dates back at least as far as the London University ATLAS site in the 1960s, but (judging by the idioms) was probably composed by an American at some still-earlier date.
BLOCK (blok) [From computer science usage] 1. vi. To delay while waiting for something. "We're blocking until everyone gets here." 2. in BLOCK ON vt. To block, waiting for (something). "Lunch is blocked on Phil's arrival."
BLOCK TRANSFER COMPUTATIONS (blok trans'fer kom-pyoo-tay'shns) n. From the Dr. Who television series: in the show, it referred to computations so fiendishly subtle and complex that they could not be performed by machines. Used to refer to any task that should be expressible as an algorithm in theory, but isn't.
BLOW AWAY (bloh @-way') v. To remove files and directories from permanant storage with extreme prejudice, generally by accident. Oppose NUKE.
BLOW OUT (bloh owt) v. Of software, to fail spectacularly; almost as serious as CRASH AND BURN. See BLOW PAST.
BLOW PAST (bloh past) v. To BLOW OUT despite a safeguard. "The server blew past the 5K reserve buffer."
BLT (blit, belt [very rarely]) v. To transfer a large contiguous package of information from one place to another. This usage has outlasted the PDP-10 BLock Transfer instruction for which it derives. See DD, CAT, BLAST, SNARF, Appendix B.
BLUE GLUE (bloo gloo) [IBM] n. IBM's SNA (Systems Network Architecture) an incredibly losing and bletcherous protocol suite widely favored at commercial shops that don't know any better. See FEAR AND LOATHING.
BLUE GOO (bloo goo) n. Term for "police" NANOBOTS intended to prevent GRAY GOO (q.v.), denature hazardous waste, destroy pollution, put ozone back into the stratosphere, prevent halitosis, and to promote truth, justice, and the American way, etc., etc. See NANOTECHNOLOGY.
BNF (bee-en-ef) n. Hacker 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 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 name-part consists of a first-name followed by an optional middle-part followed by a last-name. A middle-part consists of either a middle name or a middle initial followed by a dot. A street address consists of an optional apartment specifier followed by a street number, followed by a street name. A zip-part consts of a town-name, followed by a state code, followed by a zip code. Note that many things such as the format of a first-name, apartment specifier or zip-code are left unspecified. These are presumed to be obvious from context or detailed in another part of the specification the BNF is part of.
BOA (bo'uh) [IBM] n. Any one of the fat cables that lurk under the floor in DINOSAUR PENS. It is rumored within IBM that 370 channel cables are limited to 200 feet because beyond that length the boas get dangerous...
BOAT ANCHOR (boht an'kr) n. Like DOORSTOP (q.v.) but more severe, implies that the offending hardware is irreversibly dead or useless.
BOGOMETER (boh-goh'm@-tr) n. An instrument to measure BOGOSITY, generally a conversational device, as in "my bogometer is reading in the red on that idea" or "I think you just bent the needle on my bogometer".
BOGON (bo'gon) [by analogy with proton/electron/neutron, but doubtless reinforced by the similarity to "Vogon"] n. 1. The elementary particle of bogosity (see QUANTUM BOGODYNAMICS). For instance, "the ethernet is emitting bogons again," meaning 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 extension, used to refer metasyntactically to any bogus thing, such as "I'd like to go to lunch with you but I've got to go to the weekly staff bogon."
BOGON FILTER (bo'gon fil'tr) n. Any device, software or hardware, which limits or suppresses the flow and/or emission of bogons. Example: "Engineering hacked a bogon filter between the Cray and the VAXen and now we're getting fewer dropped packets."
BOGOSITY (boh-gos-@-tee) n. 1. The degree to which something is BOGUS (q.v.). At CMU, bogosity is measured with a bogometer; typical use: in a seminar, when a speaker says something bogus, a listener might raise his hand and say, "My bogometer just triggered." The agreed-upon unit of bogosity is the microLenat (uL). 2. The potential field generated by a bogon flux; see QUANTUM BOGODYNAMICS.
BOGUS (boh'guhs) [WPI, Yale, Stanford] 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. Silly. "Stop writing those bogus sagas." (This word seems to have some, but not all, of the connotations of RANDOM.) [Etymological note from Lehman/Reid at CMU: "Bogus" was originally used (in this sense) at Princeton, in the late 60s. It was used not particularly in the CS department, but all over campus. It came to Yale, where one of us (Lehman) was an undergraduate, and (we assume) elsewhere through the efforts of Princeton alumni who brought the word with them from their alma mater. In the Yale case, the alumnus is Michael Shamos, who was a graduate student at Yale and is now a faculty member here. A glossary of bogus words was compiled at Yale when the word was first popularized (e.g., autobogophobia: the fear of becoming bogotified).]
BOHR BUG (bor buhg) [from quantum physics] n. A repeatable BUG; one which manifests reliably under a possibly unknown but well-defined set of conditions. Antonym of HEISENBUG.
BOINK (boynk) [USENET] 1. To have sex with; compare BOUNCE, sense #3. 2. After the original Peter Korn "Boinkcon" 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.
BONDAGE-AND-DISCIPLINE LANGUAGE (bon'd@j @n dis'@-plin lang'w@j) A language such as Pascal, 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 or even vanilla general-purpose programming. See LANGUAGES OF CHOICE.
BOOT (boot) [from "by one's bootstraps"] v.,n. To load and initialize the operating system on a machine. This usage is no longer slang (having become jargon in the strict sense), but the following variants still are. COLD BOOT: a boot from a power- off condition. WARM BOOT: a reboot with the CPU and all devices already powered up, as after a hardware reset or software crash.
BOTTLENECKED (bot'l-nekt) adj. 1. Used by hackers specifically to describe hardware under which performance is usually limited by contention for one particular resource (such as disk, memory or processor CLOCKS); see BALANCED. 2. Less often, applied to the software analogue of sense #1, a slow code section or algorithm through which all computation must pass (see also HOT SPOT).
BOUNCE (bowns) v. 1. [UNIX] An electronic mail message which is undeliverable and returns an error notification to the sender is said to `bounce'. See also BOUNCE MESSAGE. 2. [Stanford] To play volleyball. "Bounce, bounce! Stop wasting time on the computer and get out to the court!" 3. To engage in sexual intercourse.
BOUNCE MESSAGE (bowns mes'@j) [UNIX] n. Notification message returned to sender by a site unable to relay EMAIL to the intended INTERNET ADDRESS recipient or the next link in a BANG PATH (see BOUNCE). Reasons might include a nonexistent or misspelled username or a down relay site. Bounce messages can themselves fail, with occasionally ugly results; see SORCERER'S APPRENTICE MODE.
BOXEN (bok'sn) pl n. [back-formation from VAXEN] Fanciful plural of `box' often encountered in the phrase `UNIX boxen', used to describe commodity UNIX hardware. The implication is that any two UNIX boxen are interchangeable.
BRAIN-DAMAGED (brayn'dam-@jd) [generalization of "Honeywell Brain Damage" (HBD), a theoretical disease invented to explain certain utter cretinisms in 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.
BRANCH TO FISHKILL (branch to fish'kill) [IBM, from the location of one of their facilities] n. Any unexpected jump in a program that produces catastrophic or just plain weird results. See HYPERSPACE.
BREAK (brayk) v. 1. To cause to be broken (in any sense). "Your latest patch to the system broke the TELNET server." 2. (of a program) To stop temporarily, so that it may be examined for debugging purposes. The place where it stops is a BREAKPOINT.
BREAKAGE (brayk'@j) [IBM] n. The extra people that must be added to an organization because its master plan has changed; used esp. of software and hardware development teams.
BRITTLE (bri'tl) adj. Said of software that's easily broken. Often describes the results of a research effort that were never intended to be robust, but equally can apply commercially developed software.
BROADCAST STORM (brod'kast 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. Also called NETWORK MELTDOWN. See also CHERNOBYL PACKET.
BROKEN (broh'kn) adj. 1. Not working properly (of programs). 2. Behaving strangely; especially (of people), exhibiting extreme depression.
BROKET (broh'k@t, broh'ket) [by analogy with "bracket": a "broken bracket"] (primarily Stanford) n. Either of the characters "<" and ">". (At MIT, and apparently in THE REAL WORLD (q.v.) as well, these are usually called ANGLE BRACKETS.)
BRUTE FORCE AND IGNORANCE (broot fohrs @nd ig'nohr-ans) n. A popular design technique at many software houses. Dogmatic adherence to design methodologies tends to encourage it. Characteristic of early LARVAL STAGE programming; unfortunately, many never outgrow it. Often abbreviated BFI, as in: "Gak, they used a bubble sort! That's strictly from BFI." Compare BOGOSITY.
BSD (bee-ess-dee) n. [acronym for Berkeley System Distribution] a family of UNIX versions for the DEC VAX developed by Bill Joy and others at UC Berkeley starting around 1980, incorporating TCP/IP networking enhancements and many other features. The BSD versions (4.1, 4.2, and 4.3) and commercial versions derived from them (SunOS and Mt. Xinu) held the technical lead in the UNIX world until AT&T's successful standardization efforts after about 1986, and are still widely popular. See UNIX, USG UNIX.
BUCKY BITS (buh'kee bits) [primarily Stanford] n. The bits produced by the CTRL and META shift keys on a Stanford (or Knight) keyboard. It is rumored that these were in fact named for Buckminster Fuller during a period when he was consulting at Stanford. Unfortunately, legend also has it that "Bucky" was Niklaus Wirth's nickname when *he* was consulting at Stanford and that he first suggested the idea of the meta key, so its bit was named after him. DOUBLE BUCKY: adj. Using both the CTRL and META keys. "The command to burn all LEDs is double bucky F." See also META BIT, COKEBOTTLE.
BUFFER OVERFLOW (buhf'r oh'vr-floh) n. What typically happens when an OS or application is fed data faster than it can buffer and process it. Used metaphorically of human mental processes. Ex. "Sorry, I got four phone calls in three minutes last night and lost your message to a buffer overflow."
BUG (buhg) [from telephone terminology, "bugs in a telephone cable", blamed for noisy lines] n. An unwanted and unintended property of a program, esp. one which causes it to malfunction. See FEATURE.
BULLETPROOF (bul'@t-proof) adj. Used of an algorithm or implementation considered extremely robust; lossage-resistant; capable of correctly recovering from any imaginable exception condition. This is a rare and valued quality.
BUM (buhm) 1. v. To make highly efficient, either in time or space, often at the expense of clarity. "I managed to bum three more instructions." 2. n. A small change to an algorithm to make it more efficient. Usage: somewhat rare. See TUNE.
BUMP (buhmp) v. Synonym for increment. Has the same meaning as C's ++ operator. Used esp. of counter variables, pointers (see POINTER ARITHMETIC) and index dummies in for, while, and do-until loops.
BURBLE (ber'bl) v. Like FLAME, but connotes that the source is truly clueless and ineffectual (mere flamers can be competent). A term of deep contempt.
BUSY-WAIT (bi'zee-wayt) v. To wait on an event by SPINning through a tight or timed-delay loop that checks for the event on each pass, as opposed to setting up an interrupt handler and continuing execution on another part of the task. A wasteful technique, best avoided on time-sharing systems where a busy-waiting program may hog the processor.
BUZZ (buhz) v. To run in a very tight loop, perhaps without guarantee of getting out. See SPIN.
BWQ [bee duhb'l-yoo kyoo) [IBM] n. Buzz Word Quotient. Usually roughly proportional to BOGOSITY. See TLA.
BYTESEXUAL (biet-seks'u-@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).
= C =
C (see) n. 1. The third letter of the Latin alphabet. 2. The name of a programming language designed by Dennis Ritchie during the early 1970s and first used to implement UNIX (q.v.). So called because many features derived from an earlier interpreter named 'B' in commemoration of *its* parent, BCPL; before Bjarne Stroustrup settled the question by designing C++, there was a humorous debate over whether C's successor should be named `D' or 'P'. C became immensely popular outside Bell Labs after about 1980 and is now the dominant language in systems and microcomputer applications programming. See LANGUAGES OF CHOICE.
CAMBRIDGE NOTATION (kaym'brij no-ta'shn) [LISP] n. The now-standard way of writing LISP expressions as nested lists, with parens and spaces; as opposed to the earlier and technically purer practice of writing full S-expressions with cons dots. Supposedly invented as a KLUGE because a full parser for S-expressions would have been harder to write.
CAN (can) v. 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!". Synymous with GUN.
CANONICAL (k@-nahn'i-kl) adj. The usual or standard state or manner of something. A true story: One Bob Sjoberg, new at the MIT AI Lab, expressed some annoyance at the use of jargon. Over his loud objections, we made a point of using jargon as much as possible in his presence, and eventually it began to sink in. Finally, in one conversation, he used the word "canonical" in jargon-like fashion without thinking. Steele: "Aha! We've finally got you talking jargon too!" Stallman: "What did he say?" Steele: "He just used `canonical' in the canonical way."
CASTERS UP MODE (cas'trz uhp mohd) [IBM] n. Yet another synonym for `broken' or `down'.
CAT (cat) [from UNIX cat(1)] v. To spew an entire (notionally large) file to the screen or some other output sink without pause; 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.
CATATONIA (kat-@-toh'nee-uh) n. A condition of suspended animation in which the system is in a wedged (CATATONIC) state.
CDR (ku'dr) [from LISP] v. With "down", to trace down a list of elements. "Shall we cdr down the agenda?" Usage: silly.
CELL-REPAIR MACHINES (sel r:-peir' m:-sheens') n. An often-discussed probable consequence of NANOTECHNOLOGY; NANOBOTS specifically programmed to repair tissue at the cellular level. Possible uses include reversing freezing damage from CRYONICS procedures and correction of mutagen-damaged DNA (including eradication of retrovirii and oncogenes).
CHAD (chad) n. 1. The perforated edge strips on printer paper, after they have been separated from the printed portion. Also called SELVAGE and PERF. 2. obs. the confetti-like paper bits punched out of cards or paper tape; this was also called `chaff'.
CHAIN (chayn) [orig. from BASIC's CHAIN statement] v. When used of programming languages, refers to a statement that allows a parent executable to hand off execution to a child without going through the OS command interpreter. 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.
CHAR (keir; [rarely] char) n. Shorthand for `character'. Esp. used by C programmers, as `char' is C's typename for character data.
CHASE POINTERS (chays uh poyn'tr) v. 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.
CHERNOBYL PACKET (cher-no'b@l pa'k@t) n. An IP Ethergram with both source and destination Ether and IP address set as the respective broadcast address. So called because it induces NETWORK MELTDOWN.
CHINESE RAVS (chie'neez ravs) [MIT] n. Pot-stickers. Kuo-teh. Gyoza. Oriental dumplings, especially when pan-fried rather than steamed. A favorite hacker appetizer. See ORIENTAL FOOD, STIR-FRIED RANDOM.
CHOKE (chohk) vi. To reject input, often ungracefully. Examples: "I tried building X, but cpp choked on all those #define's." See BARF, GAG.
CHOMP (chomp) v. To lose; 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, consisting of the four fingers held together as if in a mitten or hand puppet, and the fingers and thumb open and close rapidly to illustrate a biting action. The gesture alone means CHOMP CHOMP (see Verb Doubling).
CHRISTMAS TREE PACKET (krist'm@s tree pa'k@t) n. A packet with every single option set for whatever protocol is in use.
CHROME (krohm) [from automotive slang via wargaming] n. Showy features added to attract users, but which contribute little or nothing to the power of a system. "The 3D icons in Motif are just chrome!" Distinguished from BELLS AND WHISTLES by the fact that the former are usually added to gratify developers' own desires for featurefulness.
CHURCH OF THE SUB-GENIUS (cherch @v dh@ suhb-gee'-ny@s) A mutant offshoot of DISCORDIANISM launched in 1981 as a spoof of fundamentalist Christianity by the "Rev." 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 Sub-Genius theory is concerned with the acquisition of the mystical substance or quality of "slack".
CLASSIC C (klas'ik see) n. The C programming language as defined in the first edition of the book ``The C Programming Language'' by ``Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie'' with some small additions. It is also known as ``K & R C.'' The name came into use during the standardisation process for C by the ANSI X3J11 committee.
CLOCKS (kloks) 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.
CLONE (klohn) n. 1. An exact duplicate, as in "our product is a clone of their product." 2. A shoddy, spurious copy, as in "their product is a clone of our product." 3. A PC-BUS/ISA or EISA-compatible 80x86 based microcomputer (in-context shorthand for "PC clone"). 3. In the construction UNIX CLONE: An OS designed to deliver a UNIX-lookalike environment sans UNIX license fees, or with additional "mission-critical" features such as support for real-time programming.
CLOSE (klohz) n. Abbreviation for "close (or right) parenthesis", used when necessary to eliminate oral ambiguity. See OPEN.
CLUSTERGEEKING (kluh'ster-gee`king) [CMU] n. An activity defined by spending more time at a computer cluster doing CS homework than most people spend breathing.
COBOL FINGERS (koh'bol fing'grs) n. Reported from Sweden, a (hypothetical) disease one might get from programming in COBOL. The language requires extremely voluminous code. Programming too much in COBOL causes the fingers to wear down (by endless typing), until short stubs remain. This malformity is called COBOL FINGERS. "I refuse to type in all that source code again, it will give me cobol fingers!"
CODE GRINDER (kohd grien'dr) 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. This is about as far from hackerdom as you can get and still touch a computer. Connotes pity. See REAL WORLD. 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, and utter lack of imagination.
CODE POLICE (kohd p@-lees') [by analogy with "thought police"] n. A mythical team of Gestapo-like storm troopers that might burst into one's office and arrest one for violating style rules. May be used either "seriously" (to underline a claim that a particular style violation is dangerous) or (more often) ironically (to suggest that the practice under discussion is condemned mainly by anal-retentive weenies).
CODEWALKER (kohd'wok-r) 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. As in "This language extension would require a codewalker to implement."
COKEBOTTLE (kohk'bot-l) n. Any very unusual character. 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. Since the demise of the SPACE-CADET KEYBOARD this is no longer a serious usage, but may be invoked humorously to describe an (unspecified) weird or non-intuitive keystroke command.
COME FROM (kuhm fruhm) n. A semi-mythical language construct dual to the `go to'; COME FROM
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