Part 13 out of 29
orders such as 3-4-1-2 or 2-1-4-3, occasionally found in the
packed-decimal formats of minicomputer manufacturers who shall remain
nameless. See NUXI problem. Non-US hackers use this term to
describe the American mm/dd/yy style of writing dates (Europeans write
little-endian dd/mm/yy, and Japanese use big-endian yy/mm/dd for
Node:middle-out implementation, Next:milliLampson,
Previous:middle-endian, Up:= M =
See bottom-up implementation.
Node:milliLampson, Next:minifloppies, Previous:middle-out
implementation, Up:= M =
milliLampson /mil'*-lamp`sn/ n.
A unit of talking speed, abbreviated mL. Most people run about 200
milliLampsons. The eponymous Butler Lampson (a CS theorist and systems
implementor highly regarded among hackers) goes at 1000. A few people
speak faster. This unit is sometimes used to compare the (sometimes
widely disparate) rates at which people can generate ideas and
actually emit them in speech. For example, noted computer architect C.
Gordon Bell (designer of the PDP-11) is said, with some awe, to think
at about 1200 mL but only talk at about 300; he is frequently reduced
to fragments of sentences as his mouth tries to keep up with his
Node:minifloppies, Next:MIPS, Previous:milliLampson,
Up:= M =
5.25-inch floppy disks, as opposed to 3.5-inch or microfloppies
and the long-obsolescent 8-inch variety (if there is ever a smaller
size, they will undoubtedly be tagged `nanofloppies'). At one time,
this term was a trademark of Shugart Associates for their SA-400
minifloppy drive. Nobody paid any attention. See stiffy.
Node:MIPS, Next:misbug, Previous:minifloppies, Up:=
MIPS /mips/ n.
[abbreviation] 1. A measure of computing speed; formally, `Million
Instructions Per Second' (that's 10^6 per second, not 2^(20)!); often
rendered by hackers as `Meaningless Indication of Processor Speed' or
in other unflattering ways, such as `Meaningless Information Provided
by Salesmen'. This joke expresses an attitude nearly universal among
hackers about the value of most benchmark claims, said attitude
being one of the great cultural divides between hackers and
marketroids (see also BogoMIPS). The singular is sometimes
`1 MIP' even though this is clearly etymologically wrong. See also
KIPS and GIPS. 2. Computers, especially large computers,
considered abstractly as sources of computrons. "This is just a
workstation; the heavy MIPS are hidden in the basement." 3. The
corporate name of a particular RISC-chip company; among other things,
they designed the processor chips used in DEC's 3100 workstation
series. 4. Acronym for `Meaningless Information per Second' (a joke,
prob. from sense 1).
Node:misbug, Next:misfeature, Previous:MIPS, Up:= M
misbug /mis-buhg/ n.
[MIT; rare (like its referent)] An unintended property of a program
that turns out to be useful; something that should have been a
bug but turns out to be a feature. Compare green
lightning. See miswart.
Node:misfeature, Next:Missed'em-five, Previous:misbug,
Up:= M =
misfeature /mis-fee'chr/ or /mis'fee`chr/ n.
[common] A feature that eventually causes lossage, possibly because it
is not adequate for a new situation that has evolved. Since it results
from a deliberate and properly implemented feature, a misfeature is
not a bug. Nor is it a simple unforeseen side effect; the term implies
that the feature in question was carefully planned, but its long-term
consequences were not accurately or adequately predicted (which is
quite different from not having thought ahead at all). A misfeature
can be a particularly stubborn problem to resolve, because fixing it
usually involves a substantial philosophical change to the structure
of the system involved.
Many misfeatures (especially in user-interface design) arise because
the designers/implementors mistake their personal tastes for laws of
nature. Often a former feature becomes a misfeature because trade-offs
were made whose parameters subsequently change (possibly only in the
judgment of the implementors). "Well, yeah, it is kind of a misfeature
that file names are limited to six characters, but the original
implementors wanted to save directory space and we're stuck with it
Node:Missed'em-five, Next:missile address,
Previous:misfeature, Up:= M =
Pejorative hackerism for AT&T System V Unix, generally used by
BSD partisans in a bigoted mood. (The synonym `SysVile' is also
encountered.) See software bloat, Berzerkeley.
Node:missile address, Next:miswart,
Previous:Missed'em-five, Up:= M =
missile address n.
See ICBM address.
Node:miswart, Next:MMF, Previous:missile address,
Up:= M =
miswart /mis-wort/ n.
[from wart by analogy with misbug] A feature that
superficially appears to be a wart but has been determined to be
the Right Thing. For example, in some versions of the
EMACS text editor, the `transpose characters' command exchanges
the character under the cursor with the one before it on the screen,
except when the cursor is at the end of a line, in which case the two
characters before the cursor are exchanged. While this behavior is
perhaps surprising, and certainly inconsistent, it has been found
through extensive experimentation to be what most users want. This
feature is a miswart.
Node:MMF, Next:mobo, Previous:miswart, Up:= M =
[Usenet; common] Abbreviation: "Make Money Fast". Refers to any kind
of scheme which promises participants large profits with little or no
risk or effort. Typically, it is a some kind of multi-level marketing
operation which involves recruiting more members, or an illegal
pyramid scam. The term is also used to refer to any kind of spam which
promotes this. For more information, see the Make Money Fast
Node:mobo, Next:moby, Previous:MMF, Up:= M =
Written and (rarely) spoken contraction of "motherboard"
Node:moby, Next:mockingbird, Previous:mobo, Up:= M =
[MIT: seems to have been in use among model railroad fans years ago.
Derived from Melville's "Moby Dick" (some say from `Moby Pickle'). Now
common.] 1. adj. Large, immense, complex, impressive. "A Saturn V
rocket is a truly moby frob." "Some MIT undergrads pulled off a moby
hack at the Harvard-Yale game." (See Appendix A for discussion.)
2. n. obs. The maximum address space of a machine (see below). For a
6800 or VAX or most modern 32-bit architectures, it is
4,294,967,296 8-bit bytes (4 gigabytes). 3. A title of address (never
of third-person reference), usually used to show admiration, respect,
and/or friendliness to a competent hacker. "Greetings, moby Dave.
How's that address-book thing for the Mac going?" 4. adj. In
backgammon, doubles on the dice, as in `moby sixes', `moby ones', etc.
Compare this with bignum (sense 3): double sixes are both
bignums and moby sixes, but moby ones are not bignums (the use of
`moby' to describe double ones is sarcastic). Standard emphatic forms:
`Moby foo', `moby win', `moby loss'. `Foby moo': a spoonerism due to
Richard Greenblatt. 5. The largest available unit of something which
is available in discrete increments. Thus, ordering a "moby Coke" at
the local fast-food joint is not just a request for a large Coke, it's
an explicit request for the largest size they sell.
This term entered hackerdom with the Fabritek 256K memory added to the
MIT AI PDP-6 machine, which was considered unimaginably huge when it
was installed in the 1960s (at a time when a more typical memory size
for a timesharing system was 72 kilobytes). Thus, a moby is
classically 256K 36-bit words, the size of a PDP-6 or PDP-10 moby.
Back when address registers were narrow the term was more generally
useful, because when a computer had virtual memory mapping, it might
actually have more physical memory attached to it than any one program
could access directly. One could then say "This computer has 6 mobies"
meaning that the ratio of physical memory to address space is 6,
without having to say specifically how much memory there actually is.
That in turn implied that the computer could timeshare six
`full-sized' programs without having to swap programs between memory
Nowadays the low cost of processor logic means that address spaces are
usually larger than the most physical memory you can cram onto a
machine, so most systems have much less than one theoretical `native'
moby of core. Also, more modern memory-management techniques
(esp. paging) make the `moby count' less significant. However, there
is one series of widely-used chips for which the term could stand to
be revived -- the Intel 8088 and 80286 with their incredibly
brain-damaged segmented-memory designs. On these, a `moby' would
be the 1-megabyte address span of a segment/offset pair (by
coincidence, a PDP-10 moby was exactly 1 megabyte of 9-bit bytes).
Node:mockingbird, Next:mod, Previous:moby, Up:= M =
Software that intercepts communications (especially login
transactions) between users and hosts and provides system-like
responses to the users while saving their responses (especially
account IDs and passwords). A special case of Trojan horse.
Node:mod, Next:mode, Previous:mockingbird, Up:= M =
[very common] 1. Short for `modify' or `modification'. Very commonly
used -- in fact the full terms are considered markers that one is
being formal. The plural `mods' is used esp. with reference to bug
fixes or minor design changes in hardware or software, most esp. with
respect to patch sets or a diff. 2. Short for modulo
but used only for its techspeak sense.
Node:mode, Next:mode bit, Previous:mod, Up:= M =
[common] A general state, usually used with an adjective describing
the state. Use of the word `mode' rather than `state' implies that the
state is extended over time, and probably also that some activity
characteristic of that state is being carried out. "No time to hack;
I'm in thesis mode." In its jargon sense, `mode' is most often
attributed to people, though it is sometimes applied to programs and
inanimate objects. In particular, see hack mode, day mode,
night mode, demo mode, fireworks mode, and
yoyo mode; also talk mode.
One also often hears the verbs `enable' and `disable' used in
connection with jargon modes. Thus, for example, a sillier way of
saying "I'm going to crash" is "I'm going to enable crash mode now".
One might also hear a request to "disable flame mode, please".
In a usage much closer to techspeak, a mode is a special state that
certain user interfaces must pass into in order to perform certain
functions. For example, in order to insert characters into a document
in the Unix editor vi, one must type the "i" key, which invokes the
"Insert" command. The effect of this command is to put vi into "insert
mode", in which typing the "i" key has a quite different effect (to
wit, it inserts an "i" into the document). One must then hit another
special key, "ESC", in order to leave "insert mode". Nowadays, modeful
interfaces are generally considered losing but survive in quite
a few widely used tools built in less enlightened times.
Node:mode bit, Next:modulo, Previous:mode, Up:= M =
mode bit n.
[common] A flag, usually in hardware, that selects between two
(usually quite different) modes of operation. The connotations are
different from flag bit in that mode bits are mainly written
during a boot or set-up phase, are seldom explicitly read, and seldom
change over the lifetime of an ordinary program. The classic example
was the EBCDIC-vs.-ASCII bit (#12) of the Program Status Word of the
Node:modulo, Next:molly-guard, Previous:mode bit,
Up:= M =
modulo /mod'yu-loh/ prep.
Except for. An overgeneralization of mathematical terminology; one can
consider saying that 4 equals 22 except for the 9s (4 = 22 mod 9).
"Well, LISP seems to work okay now, modulo that GC bug." "I feel
fine today modulo a slight headache."
Node:molly-guard, Next:Mongolian Hordes technique,
Previous:modulo, Up:= M =
molly-guard /mol'ee-gard/ n.
[University of Illinois] A shield to prevent tripping of some
Big Red Switch by clumsy or ignorant hands. Originally used of
the plexiglass covers improvised for the BRS on an IBM 4341 after a
programmer's toddler daughter (named Molly) frobbed it twice in one
day. Later generalized to covers over stop/reset switches on disk
drives and networking equipment. In hardware catalogues, you'll see
the much less interesting description "guarded button".
Node:Mongolian Hordes technique, Next:monkey up,
Previous:molly-guard, Up:= M =
Mongolian Hordes technique n.
[poss. from the Sixties counterculture expression `Mongolian
clusterfuck' for a public orgy] Development by gang bang.
Implies that large numbers of inexperienced programmers are being put
on a job better performed by a few skilled ones (but see
bazaar). Also called `Chinese Army technique'; see also
Node:monkey up, Next:monkey scratch, Previous:Mongolian
Hordes technique, Up:= M =
monkey up vt.
To hack together hardware for a particular task, especially a one-shot
job. Connotes an extremely crufty and consciously temporary
solution. Compare hack up, kluge up, cruft together.
Node:monkey scratch, Next:monstrosity, Previous:monkey up,
Up:= M =
monkey, scratch n.
See scratch monkey.
Node:monstrosity, Next:monty, Previous:monkey scratch,
Up:= M =
1. n. A ridiculously elephantine program or system, esp. one
that is buggy or only marginally functional. 2. adj. The quality of
being monstrous (see `Overgeneralization' in the discussion of
jargonification). See also baroque.
Node:monty, Next:Moof, Previous:monstrosity, Up:= M
monty /mon'tee/ n.
1. [US Geological Survey] A program with a ludicrously complex user
interface written to perform extremely trivial tasks. An example would
be a menu-driven, button clicking, pulldown, pop-up windows program
for listing directories. The original monty was an infamous
weather-reporting program, Monty the Amazing Weather Man, written at
the USGS. Monty had a widget-packed X-window interface with over 200
buttons; and all monty actually did was FTP files off the
network. 2. [Great Britain; commonly capitalized as `Monty' or as `the
Full Monty'] 16 megabytes of memory, when fitted to an IBM-PC or
compatible. A standard PC-compatible using the AT- or ISA-bus with a
normal BIOS cannot access more than 16 megabytes of RAM. Generally
used of a PC, Unix workstation, etc. to mean `fully populated with'
memory, disk-space or some other desirable resource. This usage may be
related to a TV commercial for Del Monte fruit juice, in which one of
the characters insisted on "the full Del Monte"; but see the World
Wide Words article "The Full Monty" for discussion of the rather
complex etymology that may lie behind this. Compare American
Node:Moof, Next:Moore's Law, Previous:monty, Up:= M
[Macintosh users] 1. n. The call of a semi-legendary creature,
properly called the dogcow. (Some previous versions of this
entry claimed, incorrectly, that Moof was the name of the creature.)
2. adj. Used to flag software that's a hack, something untested and on
the edge. On one Apple CD-ROM, certain folders such as "Tools & Apps
(Moof!)" and "Development Platforms (Moof!)", are so marked to
indicate that they contain software not fully tested or sanctioned by
the powers that be. When you open these folders you cross the boundary
into hackerland. 3. v. On the Microsoft Network, the term `moof' has
gained popularity as a verb meaning `to be suddenly disconnected by
the system'. One might say "I got moofed".
Node:Moore's Law, Next:moose call, Previous:Moof,
Up:= M =
Moore's Law /morz law/ prov.
The observation that the logic density of silicon integrated circuits
has closely followed the curve (bits per square inch) = 2^(t - 1962)
where t is time in years; that is, the amount of information storable
on a given amount of silicon has roughly doubled every year since the
technology was invented. This relation, first uttered in 1964 by
semiconductor engineer Gordon Moore (who co-founded Intel four years
later) held until the late 1970s, at which point the doubling period
slowed to 18 months. The doubling period remained at that value
through time of writing (late 1999). Moore's Law is apparently
self-fulfilling. The implication is that somebody, somewhere is going
to be able to build a better chip than you if you rest on your
laurels, so you'd better start pushing hard on the problem. See also
Parkinson's Law of Data and Gates's Law.
Node:moose call, Next:moria, Previous:Moore's Law,
Up:= M =
moose call n.
Node:moria, Next:MOTAS, Previous:moose call, Up:= M
moria /mor'ee-*/ n.
Like nethack and rogue, one of the large PD
Dungeons-and-Dragons-like simulation games, available for a wide range
of machines and operating systems. The name is from Tolkien's Mines of
Moria; compare elder days, elvish. The game is extremely
addictive and a major consumer of time better used for hacking. See
also nethack, rogue, Angband.
Node:MOTAS, Next:MOTOS, Previous:moria, Up:= M =
MOTAS /moh-tahz/ n.
[Usenet: Member Of The Appropriate Sex, after MOTOS and
MOTSS] A potential or (less often) actual sex partner. See also
Node:MOTOS, Next:MOTSS, Previous:MOTAS, Up:= M =
MOTOS /moh-tohs/ n.
[acronym from the 1970 U.S. census forms via Usenet: Member Of The
Opposite Sex] A potential or (less often) actual sex partner. See
MOTAS, MOTSS, SO. Less common than MOTSS or
MOTAS, which has largely displaced it.
Node:MOTSS, Next:mouse ahead, Previous:MOTOS, Up:= M
MOTSS /mots/ or /M-O-T-S-S/ n.
[from the 1970 U.S. census forms via Usenet] Member Of The Same Sex,
esp. one considered as a possible sexual partner. The gay-issues
newsgroup on Usenet is called soc.motss. See MOTOS and
MOTAS, which derive from it. See also SO.
Node:mouse ahead, Next:mouse around, Previous:MOTSS,
Up:= M =
mouse ahead vi.
Point-and-click analog of `type ahead'. To manipulate a computer's
pointing device (almost always a mouse in this usage, but not
necessarily) and its selection or command buttons before a computer
program is ready to accept such input, in anticipation of the program
accepting the input. Handling this properly is rare, but it can help
make a WIMP environment much more usable, assuming the users are
familiar with the behavior of the user interface.
Node:mouse around, Next:mouse belt, Previous:mouse ahead,
Up:= M =
mouse around vi.
To explore public portions of a large system, esp. a network such as
Internet via FTP or TELNET, looking for interesting stuff
Node:mouse belt, Next:mouse droppings, Previous:mouse
around, Up:= M =
mouse belt n.
See rat belt.
Node:mouse droppings, Next:mouse elbow, Previous:mouse
belt, Up:= M =
mouse droppings n.
[MS-DOS] Pixels (usually single) that are not properly restored when
the mouse pointer moves away from a particular location on the screen,
producing the appearance that the mouse pointer has left droppings
behind. The major causes for this problem are programs that write to
the screen memory corresponding to the mouse pointer's current
location without hiding the mouse pointer first, and mouse drivers
that do not quite support the graphics mode in use.
Node:mouse elbow, Next:mouso, Previous:mouse droppings,
Up:= M =
mouse elbow n.
A tennis-elbow-like fatigue syndrome resulting from excessive use of a
WIMP environment. Similarly, `mouse shoulder'; GLS reports that
he used to get this a lot before he taught himself to be
Node:mouso, Next:MS-DOS, Previous:mouse elbow, Up:=
mouso /mow'soh/ n.
[by analogy with `typo'] An error in mouse usage resulting in an
inappropriate selection or graphic garbage on the screen. Compare
Node:MS-DOS, Next:mu, Previous:mouso, Up:= M =
MS-DOS /M-S-dos/ n.
[MicroSoft Disk Operating System] A clone of CP/M for the
8088 crufted together in 6 weeks by hacker Tim Paterson at Seattle
Computer Products, who called the original QDOS (Quick and Dirty
Operating System) and is said to have regretted it ever since.
Microsoft licensed QDOS order to have something to demo for IBM on
time, and the rest is history. Numerous features, including vaguely
Unix-like but rather broken support for subdirectories, I/O
redirection, and pipelines, were hacked into Microsoft's 2.0 and
subsequent versions; as a result, there are two or more incompatible
versions of many system calls, and MS-DOS programmers can never agree
on basic things like what character to use as an option switch or
whether to be case-sensitive. The resulting appalling mess is now the
highest-unit-volume OS in history. Often known simply as DOS, which
annoys people familiar with other similarly abbreviated operating
systems (the name goes back to the mid-1960s, when it was attached to
IBM's first disk operating system for the 360). The name further
annoys those who know what the term operating system does (or
ought to) connote; DOS is more properly a set of relatively simple
interrupt services. Some people like to pronounce DOS like "dose", as
in "I don't work on dose, man!", or to compare it to a dose of
brain-damaging drugs (a slogan button in wide circulation among
hackers exhorts: "MS-DOS: Just say No!"). See mess-dos,
Node:mu, Next:MUD, Previous:MS-DOS, Up:= M =
The correct answer to the classic trick question "Have you stopped
beating your wife yet?". Assuming that you have no wife or you have
never beaten your wife, the answer "yes" is wrong because it implies
that you used to beat your wife and then stopped, but "no" is worse
because it suggests that you have one and are still beating her.
According to various Discordians and Douglas Hofstadter the correct
answer is usually "mu", a Japanese word alleged to mean "Your question
cannot be answered because it depends on incorrect assumptions".
Hackers tend to be sensitive to logical inadequacies in language, and
many have adopted this suggestion with enthusiasm. The word `mu' is
actually from Chinese, meaning `nothing'; it is used in mainstream
Japanese in that sense. Native speakers do not recognize the
Discordian question-denying use, which almost certainly derives from
overgeneralization of the answer in the following well-known Rinzai
A monk asked Joshu, "Does a dog have the Buddha nature?" Joshu
See also has the X nature, Some AI Koans, and Douglas
Hofstadter's "Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" (pointer
in the Bibliography in Appendix C.
Node:MUD, Next:muddie, Previous:mu, Up:= M =
MUD /muhd/ n.
[acronym, Multi-User Dungeon; alt. Multi-User Dimension] 1. A class of
virtual reality experiments accessible via the Internet. These
are real-time chat forums with structure; they have multiple
`locations' like an adventure game, and may include combat, traps,
puzzles, magic, a simple economic system, and the capability for
characters to build more structure onto the database that represents
the existing world. 2. vi. To play a MUD. The acronym MUD is often
lowercased and/or verbed; thus, one may speak of `going mudding', etc.
Historically, MUDs (and their more recent progeny with names of MU-
form) derive from a hack by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw on the
University of Essex's DEC-10 in the early 1980s; descendants of that
game still exist today and are sometimes generically called
BartleMUDs. There is a widespread myth (repeated, unfortunately, by
earlier versions of this lexicon) that the name MUD was trademarked to
the commercial MUD run by Bartle on British Telecom (the motto: "You
haven't lived 'til you've died on MUD!"); however, this is false --
Richard Bartle explicitly placed `MUD' in the public domain in 1985.
BT was upset at this, as they had already printed trademark claims on
some maps and posters, which were released and created the myth.
Students on the European academic networks quickly improved on the MUD
concept, spawning several new MUDs (VAXMUD, AberMUD, LPMUD). Many of
these had associated bulletin-board systems for social interaction.
Because these had an image as `research' they often survived
administrative hostility to BBSs in general. This, together with the
fact that Usenet feeds were often spotty and difficult to get in the
U.K., made the MUDs major foci of hackish social interaction there.
AberMUD and other variants crossed the Atlantic around 1988 and
quickly gained popularity in the U.S.; they became nuclei for large
hacker communities with only loose ties to traditional hackerdom (some
observers see parallels with the growth of Usenet in the early 1980s).
The second wave of MUDs (TinyMUD and variants) tended to emphasize
social interaction, puzzles, and cooperative world-building as opposed
to combat and competition (in writing, these social MUDs are sometimes
referred to as `MU*', with `MUD' implicitly reserved for the more
game-oriented ones). By 1991, over 50% of MUD sites were of a third
major variety, LPMUD, which synthesizes the combat/puzzle aspects of
AberMUD and older systems with the extensibility of TinyMud. In 1996
the cutting edge of the technology is Pavel Curtis's MOO, even more
extensible using a built-in object-oriented language. The trend toward
greater programmability and flexibility will doubtless continue.
The state of the art in MUD design is still moving very rapidly, with
new simulation designs appearing (seemingly) every month. Around 1991
there was an unsuccessful movement to deprecate the term MUD
itself, as newer designs exhibit an exploding variety of names
corresponding to the different simulation styles being explored. It
survived. See also bonk/oif, FOD, link-dead,
mudhead, talk mode.
Node:muddie, Next:mudhead, Previous:MUD, Up:= M =
Syn. mudhead. More common in Great Britain, possibly because
system administrators there like to mutter "bloody muddies" when
annoyed at the species.
Node:mudhead, Next:muggle, Previous:muddie, Up:= M =
Commonly used to refer to a MUD player who eats, sleeps, and
breathes MUD. Mudheads have been known to fail their degrees, drop
out, etc., with the consolation, however, that they made wizard level.
When encountered in person, on a MUD, or in a chat system, all a
mudhead will talk about is three topics: the tactic, character, or
wizard that is supposedly always unfairly stopping him/her from
becoming a wizard or beating a favorite MUD; why the specific game
he/she has experience with is so much better than any other; and the
MUD he or she is writing or going to write because his/her design
ideas are so much better than in any existing MUD. See also
To the anthropologically literate, this term may recall the Zuni/Hopi
legend of the mudheads or `koyemshi', mythical half-formed children of
an unnatural union. Figures representing them act as clowns in Zuni
sacred ceremonies. Others may recall the `High School Madness'
sequence from the Firesign Theatre album "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand
Me the Pliers", in which there is a character named "Mudhead".
Node:muggle, Next:multician, Previous:mudhead, Up:=
[from J.K. Rowling's `Harry Potter' books, 1998] A non-wizard.
Not as disparaging as luser; implies vague pity rather than
contempt. In the universe of Rowling's enormously (and deservedly)
popular children's series, muggles and wizards inhabit the same modern
world, but each group is ignorant of the commonplaces of the others'
existence - most muggles are unaware that wizards exist, and wizards
(used to magical ways of doing everything) are perplexed and
fascinated by muggle artifacts.
In retrospect it seems completely inevitable that hackers would adopt
this metaphor, and in hacker usage it readily forms compounds such as
`muggle-friendly'. Compare luser, mundane.
Node:multician, Next:Multics, Previous:muggle, Up:=
multician /muhl-ti'shn/ n.
[coined at Honeywell, ca. 1970] Competent user of Multics.
Perhaps oddly, no one has ever promoted the analogous `Unician'.
Node:Multics, Next:multitask, Previous:multician,
Up:= M =
Multics /muhl'tiks/ n.
[from "MULTiplexed Information and Computing Service"] An early
time-sharing operating system co-designed by a consortium
including MIT, GE, and Bell Laboratories as a successor to CTSS.
The design was first presented in 1965, planned for operation in 1967,
first operational in 1969, and took several more years to achieve
respectable performance and stability.
Multics was very innovative for its time -- among other things, it
provided a hierarchical file system with access control on individual
files and introduced the idea of treating all devices uniformly as
special files. It was also the first OS to run on a symmetric
multiprocessor, and the only general-purpose system to be awarded a B2
security rating by the NSA (see Orange Book).
Bell Labs left the development effort in 1969 after judging that
second-system effect had bloated Multics to the point of
practical unusability. Honeywell commercialized Multics in 1972 after
buying out GE's computer group, but it was never very successful: at
its peak in the 1980s, there were between 75 and 100 Multics sites,
each a multi-million dollar mainframe.
One of the former Multics developers from Bell Labs was Ken Thompson,
and Unix deliberately carried through and extended many of
Multics' design ideas; indeed, Thompson described the very name `Unix'
as `a weak pun on Multics'. For this and other reasons, aspects of the
Multics design remain a topic of occasional debate among hackers. See
also brain-damaged and GCOS.
MIT ended its development association with Multics in 1977. Honeywell
sold its computer business to Bull in the mid 80s, and development on
Multics was stopped in 1988. Four Multics sites were known to be still
in use as late as 1998. There is a Multics page at
Node:multitask, Next:mumblage, Previous:Multics,
Up:= M =
Often used of humans in the same meaning it has for computers, to
describe a person doing several things at once (but see thrash).
The term `multiplex', from communications technology (meaning to
handle more than one channel at the same time), is used similarly.
Node:mumblage, Next:mumble, Previous:multitask, Up:=
mumblage /muhm'bl*j/ n.
The topic of one's mumbling (see mumble). "All that mumblage" is
used like "all that stuff" when it is not quite clear how the subject
of discussion works, or like "all that crap" when `mumble' is being
used as an implicit replacement for pejoratives.
Node:mumble, Next:munch, Previous:mumblage, Up:= M =
1. Said when the correct response is too complicated to enunciate, or
the speaker has not thought it out. Often prefaces a longer answer, or
indicates a general reluctance to get into a long discussion. "Don't
you think that we could improve LISP performance by using a hybrid
reference-count transaction garbage collector, if the cache is big
enough and there are some extra cache bits for the microcode to use?"
"Well, mumble ... I'll have to think about it." 2. [MIT] Expression of
not-quite-articulated agreement, often used as an informal vote of
consensus in a meeting: "So, shall we dike out the COBOL emulation?"
"Mumble!" 3. Sometimes used as an expression of disagreement
(distinguished from sense 2 by tone of voice and other cues). "I think
we should buy a VAX." "Mumble!" Common variant: `mumble frotz'
(see frotz; interestingly, one does not say `mumble frobnitz'
even though `frotz' is short for `frobnitz'). 4. Yet another
metasyntactic variable, like foo. 5. When used as a
question ("Mumble?") means "I didn't understand you". 6. Sometimes
used in `public' contexts on-line as a placefiller for things one is
barred from giving details about. For example, a poster with
pre-released hardware in his machine might say "Yup, my machine now
has an extra 16M of memory, thanks to the card I'm testing for
Mumbleco." 7. A conversational wild card used to designate something
one doesn't want to bother spelling out, but which can be
glarked from context. Compare blurgle. 8. [XEROX PARC] A
colloquialism used to suggest that further discussion would be
Node:munch, Next:munching, Previous:mumble, Up:= M =
[often confused with mung, q.v.] To transform information in a
serial fashion, often requiring large amounts of computation. To trace
down a data structure. Related to crunch and nearly synonymous
with grovel, but connotes less pain.
Node:munching, Next:munching squares, Previous:munch,
Up:= M =
Exploration of security holes of someone else's computer for thrills,
notoriety, or to annoy the system manager. Compare cracker. See
also hacked off.
Node:munching squares, Next:munchkin, Previous:munching,
Up:= M =
munching squares n.
A display hack dating back to the PDP-1 (ca. 1962, reportedly
discovered by Jackson Wright), which employs a trivial computation
(repeatedly plotting the graph Y = X XOR T for successive values of T
-- see HAKMEM items 146-148) to produce an impressive display of
moving and growing squares that devour the screen. The initial value
of T is treated as a parameter, which, when well-chosen, can produce
amazing effects. Some of these, later (re)discovered on the LISP
machine, have been christened `munching triangles' (try AND for XOR
and toggling points instead of plotting them), `munching w's', and
`munching mazes'. More generally, suppose a graphics program produces
an impressive and ever-changing display of some basic form, foo, on a
display terminal, and does it using a relatively simple program; then
the program (or the resulting display) is likely to be referred to as
`munching foos'. [This is a good example of the use of the word
foo as a metasyntactic variable.]
Node:munchkin, Next:mundane, Previous:munching squares,
Up:= M =
munchkin /muhnch'kin/ n.
[from the squeaky-voiced little people in L. Frank Baum's "The Wizard
of Oz"] A teenage-or-younger micro enthusiast hacking BASIC or
something else equally constricted. A term of mild derision --
munchkins are annoying but some grow up to be hackers after passing
through a larval stage. The term urchin is also used. See
also wannabee, bitty box.
Node:mundane, Next:mung, Previous:munchkin, Up:= M =
[from SF fandom] 1. A person who is not in science fiction fandom. 2.
A person who is not in the computer industry. In this sense, most
often an adjectival modifier as in "in my mundane life...." See also
Real World, muggle.
Node:mung, Next:munge, Previous:mundane, Up:= M =
mung /muhng/ vt.
[in 1960 at MIT, `Mash Until No Good'; sometime after that the
derivation from the recursive acronym `Mung Until No Good'
became standard; but see munge] 1. To make changes to a file,
esp. large-scale and irrevocable changes. See BLT. 2. To
destroy, usually accidentally, occasionally maliciously. The system
only mungs things maliciously; this is a consequence of
Finagle's Law. See scribble, mangle, trash,
nuke. Reports from Usenet suggest that the pronunciation
/muhnj/ is now usual in speech, but the spelling `mung' is still
common in program comments (compare the widespread confusion over the
proper spelling of kluge). 3. The kind of beans the sprouts of
which are used in Chinese food. (That's their real name! Mung beans!
Like many early hacker terms, this one seems to have originated at
TMRC; it was already in use there in 1958. Peter Samson
(compiler of the original TMRC lexicon) thinks it may originally have
been onomatopoeic for the sound of a relay spring (contact) being
twanged. However, it is known that during the World Wars, `mung' was
U.S. army slang for the ersatz creamed chipped beef better known as
`SOS', and it seems quite likely that the word in fact goes back to
Node:munge, Next:Murphy's Law, Previous:mung, Up:= M
munge /muhnj/ vt.
1. [derogatory] To imperfectly transform information. 2. A
comprehensive rewrite of a routine, data structure or the whole
program. 3. To modify data in some way the speaker doesn't need to go
into right now or cannot describe succinctly (compare mumble).
4. To add spamblock to an email address.
This term is often confused with mung, which probably was
derived from it. However, it also appears the word `munge' was in
common use in Scotland in the 1940s, and in Yorkshire in the 1950s, as
a verb, meaning to munch up into a masticated mess, and as a noun,
meaning the result of munging something up (the parallel with the
kluge/kludge pair is amusing). The OED reports `munge' as
an archaic verb nmeaning "to wipe (a person's nose)".
Node:Murphy's Law, Next:music, Previous:munge, Up:=
Murphy's Law prov.
The correct, original Murphy's Law reads: "If there are two or more
ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a
catastrophe, then someone will do it." This is a principle of
defensive design, cited here because it is usually given in mutant
forms less descriptive of the challenges of design for lusers.
For example, you don't make a two-pin plug symmetrical and then label
it `THIS WAY UP'; if it matters which way it is plugged in, then you
make the design asymmetrical (see also the anecdote under magic
Edward A. Murphy, Jr. was one of the engineers on the rocket-sled
experiments that were done by the U.S. Air Force in 1949 to test human
acceleration tolerances (USAF project MX981). One experiment involved
a set of 16 accelerometers mounted to different parts of the subject's
body. There were two ways each sensor could be glued to its mount, and
somebody methodically installed all 16 the wrong way around. Murphy
then made the original form of his pronouncement, which the test
subject (Major John Paul Stapp) quoted at a news conference a few days
Within months `Murphy's Law' had spread to various technical cultures
connected to aerospace engineering. Before too many years had gone by
variants had passed into the popular imagination, changing as they
went. Most of these are variants on "Anything that can go wrong,
will"; this is correctly referred to as Finagle's Law. The
memetic drift apparent in these mutants clearly demonstrates Murphy's
Law acting on itself!
Node:music, Next:mutter, Previous:Murphy's Law, Up:=
A common extracurricular interest of hackers (compare
science-fiction fandom, oriental food; see also
filk). Hackish folklore has long claimed that musical and
programming abilities are closely related, and there has been at least
one large-scale statistical study that supports this. Hackers, as a
rule, like music and often develop musical appreciation in unusual and
interesting directions. Folk music is very big in hacker circles; so
is electronic music, and the sort of elaborate instrumental jazz/rock
that used to be called `progressive' and isn't recorded much any more.
The hacker's musical range tends to be wide; many can listen with
equal appreciation to (say) Talking Heads, Yes, Gentle Giant, Pat
Metheny, Scott Joplin, Tangerine Dream, Dream Theater, King Sunny Ade,
The Pretenders, Screaming Trees, or the Brandenburg Concerti. It is
also apparently true that hackerdom includes a much higher
concentration of talented amateur musicians than one would expect from
a similar-sized control group of mundane types.
Node:mutter, Next:N, Previous:music, Up:= M =
To quietly enter a command not meant for the ears, eyes, or fingers of
ordinary mortals. Often used in `mutter an incantation'. See
Node:= N =, Next:= O =, Previous:= M =, Up:The
= N =
* nailed to the wall:
* nailing jelly:
* naive user:
* nasal demons:
* Nathan Hale:
* neat hack:
* neats vs. scruffies:
* nerd knob:
* network address:
* network meltdown:
* New Jersey:
* New Testament:
* newgroup wars:
* night mode:
* Nightmare File System:
* Ninety-Ninety Rule:
* nipple mouse:
* Nominal Semidestructor:
* non-optimal solution:
* not ready for prime time:
* NSA line eater:
* NUXI problem:
Node:N, Next:nadger, Previous:mutter, Up:= N =
N /N/ quant.
1. A large and indeterminate number of objects: "There were N bugs in
that crock!" Also used in its original sense of a variable name: "This
crock has N bugs, as N goes to infinity." (The true number of bugs is
always at least N + 1; see Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic
Entomology.) 2. A variable whose value is inherited from the current
context. For example, when a meal is being ordered at a restaurant, N
may be understood to mean however many people there are at the table.
From the remark "We'd like to order N wonton soups and a family dinner
for N - 1" you can deduce that one person at the table wants to eat
only soup, even though you don't know how many people there are (see
great-wall). 3. `Nth': adj. The ordinal counterpart of N, senses
1 and 2. "Now for the Nth and last time..." In the specific context
"Nth-year grad student", N is generally assumed to be at least 4, and
is usually 5 or more (see tenured graduate student). See also
random numbers, two-to-the-N.
Node:nadger, Next:nagware, Previous:N, Up:= N =
nadger /nad'jr/ v.
[UK, from rude slang noun `nadgers' for testicles; compare American &
British `bollixed'] Of software or hardware (not people), to twiddle
some object in a hidden manner, generally so that it conforms better
to some format. For instance, string printing routines on 8-bit
processors often take the string text from the instruction stream,
thus a print call looks like jsr print:"Hello world". The print
routine has to `nadger' the saved instruction pointer so that the
processor doesn't try to execute the text as instructions when the
subroutine returns. See adger.
Node:nagware, Next:nailed to the wall, Previous:nadger,
Up:= N =
nagware /nag'weir/ n.
[Usenet] The variety of shareware that displays a large screen
at the beginning or end reminding you to register, typically requiring
some sort of keystroke to continue so that you can't use the software
in batch mode. Compare annoyware, crippleware.
Node:nailed to the wall, Next:nailing jelly,
Previous:nagware, Up:= N =
nailed to the wall adj.
[like a trophy] Said of a bug finally eliminated after protracted, and
even heroic, effort.
Node:nailing jelly, Next:naive, Previous:nailed to the
wall, Up:= N =
nailing jelly vi.
See like nailing jelly to a tree.
Node:naive, Next:naive user, Previous:nailing jelly,
Up:= N =
1. Untutored in the perversities of some particular program or system;
one who still tries to do things in an intuitive way, rather than the
right way (in really good designs these coincide, but most designs
aren't `really good' in the appropriate sense). This trait is
completely unrelated to general maturity or competence, or even
competence at any other specific program. It is a sad commentary on
the primitive state of computing that the natural opposite of this
term is often claimed to be `experienced user' but is really more like
`cynical user'. 2. Said of an algorithm that doesn't take advantage of
some superior but advanced technique, e.g., the bubble sort. It
may imply naivete on the part of the programmer, although there are
situations where a naive algorithm is preferred, because it is more
important to keep the code comprehensible than to go for maximum
performance. "I know the linear search is naive, but in this case the
list typically only has half a dozen items."
Node:naive user, Next:NAK, Previous:naive, Up:= N =
naive user n.
A luser. Tends to imply someone who is ignorant mainly owing to
inexperience. When this is applied to someone who has experience,
there is a definite implication of stupidity.
Node:NAK, Next:NANA, Previous:naive user, Up:= N =
NAK /nak/ interj.
[from the ASCII mnemonic for 0010101] 1. On-line joke answer to
ACK?: "I'm not here." 2. On-line answer to a request for chat:
"I'm not available." 3. Used to politely interrupt someone to tell
them you don't understand their point or that they have suddenly
stopped making sense. See ACK, sense 3. "And then, after we
recode the project in COBOL...." "Nak, Nak, Nak! I thought I heard you
say COBOL!" 4. A negative answer. "OK if I boot the server?" "NAK!"
Node:NANA, Next:nano, Previous:NAK, Up:= N =
[Usenet] The newsgroups news.admin.net-abuse.*, devoted to fighting
spam and network abuse. Each individual newsgroup is often
referred to by adding a letter to NANA. For example, NANAU would refer
When spam began to be a serious problem around 1995, and a loose
network of anti-spammers formed to combat it, spammers immediately
accused them of being the backbone cabal, or the Cabal reborn.
Though this was not true, spam-fighters ironically accepted the label
and the tag line "There is No Cabal" reappeared (later, and now
commonly, abbreviated to "TINC"). Nowadays "the Cabal" is generally
understood to refer to the NANA regulars.
Node:nano, Next:nano-, Previous:NANA, Up:= N =
nano /nan'oh/ n.
[CMU: from `nanosecond'] A brief period of time. "Be with you in a
nano" means you really will be free shortly, i.e., implies what
mainstream people mean by "in a jiffy" (whereas the hackish use of
`jiffy' is quite different -- see jiffy).
Node:nano-, Next:nanoacre, Previous:nano, Up:= N =
[SI: the next quantifier below micro-; meaning * 10^(-9)]
Smaller than micro-, and used in the same rather loose and
connotative way. Thus, one has nanotechnology (coined by hacker
K. Eric Drexler) by analogy with `microtechnology'; and a few machine
architectures have a `nanocode' level below `microcode'. Tom Duff at
Bell Labs has also pointed out that "Pi seconds is a nanocentury". See
also quantifiers, pico-, nanoacre, nanobot,
Node:nanoacre, Next:nanobot, Previous:nano-, Up:= N
nanoacre /nan'oh-ay`kr/ n.
A unit (about 2 mm square) of real estate on a VLSI chip. The term
gets its giggle value from the fact that VLSI nanoacres have costs in
the same range as real acres once one figures in design and
Node:nanobot, Next:nanocomputer, Previous:nanoacre,
Up:= N =
nanobot /nan'oh-bot/ n.
A robot of microscopic proportions, presumably built by means of
nanotechnology. As yet, only used informally (and
speculatively!). Also called a `nanoagent'.
Node:nanocomputer, Next:nanofortnight, Previous:nanobot,
Up:= N =
nanocomputer /nan'oh-k*m-pyoo'tr/ n.
A computer with molecular-sized switching elements. Designs for
mechanical nanocomputers which use single-molecule sliding rods for
their logic have been proposed. The controller for a nanobot
would be a nanocomputer.
Previous:nanocomputer, Up:= N =
[Adelaide University] 1 fortnight * 10^(-9), or about 1.2 msec. This
unit was used largely by students doing undergraduate practicals. See
microfortnight, attoparsec, and micro-.
Node:nanotechnology, Next:nasal demons,
Previous:nanofortnight, Up:= N =
nanotechnology /nan'-oh-tek-no`l*-jee/ n.
A hypothetical fabrication technology in which objects are designed
and built with the individual specification and placement of each
separate atom. The first unequivocal nanofabrication experiments took
place in 1990, for example with the deposition of individual xenon
atoms on a nickel substrate to spell the logo of a certain very large
computer company. Nanotechnology has been a hot topic in the hacker
subculture ever since the term was coined by K. Eric Drexler in his
book "Engines of Creation" (Anchor/Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-19973-2),
where he predicted that nanotechnology could give rise to replicating
assemblers, permitting an exponential growth of productivity and
personal wealth (there's an authorized transcription at
http://www.foresight.org/EOC/index.php.). See also blue
goo, gray goo, nanobot.
Node:nasal demons, Next:nastygram,
Previous:nanotechnology, Up:= N =
nasal demons n.
Recognized shorthand on the Usenet group comp.std.c for any unexpected
behavior of a C compiler on encountering an undefined construct.
During a discussion on that group in early 1992, a regular remarked
"When the compiler encounters [a given undefined construct] it is
legal for it to make demons fly out of your nose" (the implication is
that the compiler may choose any arbitrarily bizarre way to interpret
the code without violating the ANSI C standard). Someone else followed
up with a reference to "nasal demons", which quickly became
Node:nastygram, Next:Nathan Hale, Previous:nasal demons,
Up:= N =
nastygram /nas'tee-gram/ n.
1. A protocol packet or item of email (the latter is also called a
letterbomb) that takes advantage of misfeatures or security
holes on the target system to do untoward things. 2. Disapproving
mail, esp. from a net.god, pursuant to a violation of
netiquette or a complaint about failure to correct some mail- or
news-transmission problem. Compare shitogram, mailbomb. 3.
A status report from an unhappy, and probably picky, customer. "What'd
Corporate say in today's nastygram?" 4. [deprecated] An error reply by
mail from a daemon; in particular, a bounce message.
Node:Nathan Hale, Next:nature, Previous:nastygram,
Up:= N =
Nathan Hale n.
An asterisk (see also splat, ASCII). Oh, you want an
etymology? Notionally, from "I regret that I have only one asterisk
for my country!", a misquote of the famous remark uttered by Nathan
Hale just before he was hanged. Hale was a (failed) spy for the rebels
in the American War of Independence.
Node:nature, Next:neat hack, Previous:Nathan Hale,
Up:= N =
See has the X nature.
Node:neat hack, Next:neats vs. scruffies, Previous:nature,
Up:= N =
neat hack n.
[very common] 1. A clever technique. 2. A brilliant practical joke,
where neatness is correlated with cleverness, harmlessness, and
surprise value. Example: the Caltech Rose Bowl card display switch
(see Appendix A for discussion). See also hack.
Node:neats vs. scruffies, Next:neep-neep, Previous:neat
hack, Up:= N =
neats vs. scruffies n.
The label used to refer to one of the continuing holy wars in AI
research. This conflict tangles together two separate issues. One is
the relationship between human reasoning and AI; `neats' tend to try
to build systems that `reason' in some way identifiably similar to the
way humans report themselves as doing, while `scruffies' profess not
to care whether an algorithm resembles human reasoning in the least as
long as it works. More importantly, neats tend to believe that logic
is king, while scruffies favor looser, more ad-hoc methods driven by
empirical knowledge. To a neat, scruffy methods appear promiscuous,
successful only by accident, and not productive of insights about how
intelligence actually works; to a scruffy, neat methods appear to be
hung up on formalism and irrelevant to the hard-to-capture `common
sense' of living intelligences.
Node:neep-neep, Next:neophilia, Previous:neats vs.
scruffies, Up:= N =
neep-neep /neep neep/ n.
[onomatopoeic, widely spread through SF fandom but reported to have
originated at Caltech in the 1970s] One who is fascinated by
computers. Less specific than hacker, as it need not imply more
skill than is required to boot games on a PC. The derived noun
`neeping' applies specifically to the long conversations about
computers that tend to develop in the corners at most SF-convention
parties (the term `neepery' is also in wide use). Fandom has a related
proverb to the effect that "Hacking is a conversational black hole!".
Node:neophilia, Next:nerd, Previous:neep-neep, Up:=
neophilia /nee`oh-fil'-ee-*/ n.
The trait of being excited and pleased by novelty. Common among most
hackers, SF fans, and members of several other connected leading-edge
subcultures, including the pro-technology `Whole Earth' wing of the
ecology movement, space activists, many members of Mensa, and the
Discordian/neo-pagan underground. All these groups overlap heavily and
(where evidence is available) seem to share characteristic hacker
tropisms for science fiction, music, and oriental food.
The opposite tendency is `neophobia'.
Node:nerd, Next:nerd knob, Previous:neophilia, Up:=
1. [mainstream slang] Pejorative applied to anyone with an
above-average IQ and few gifts at small talk and ordinary social
rituals. 2. [jargon] Term of praise applied (in conscious ironic
reference to sense 1) to someone who knows what's really important and
interesting and doesn't care to be distracted by trivial chatter and
silly status games. Compare the two senses of computer geek.
The word itself appears to derive from the lines "And then, just to
show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo / And Bring Back an It-Kutch, a Preep
and a Proo, / A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker, too!" in the Dr.
Seuss book "If I Ran the Zoo" (1950). (The spellings `nurd' and
`gnurd' also used to be current at MIT, where `nurd' is reported from
as far back as 1957.) How it developed its mainstream meaning is
unclear, but sense 1 seems to have entered mass culture in the early
1970s (there are reports that in the mid-1960s it meant roughly
"annoying misfit" without the connotation of intelligence).
An IEEE Spectrum article (4/95, page 16) once derived `nerd' in its
variant form `knurd' from the word `drunk' backwards, but this bears
all the hallmarks of a bogus folk etymology.
Hackers developed sense 2 in self-defense perhaps ten years later, and
some actually wear "Nerd Pride" buttons, only half as a joke. At MIT
one can find not only buttons but (what else?) pocket protectors
bearing the slogan and the MIT seal.
Node:nerd knob, Next:net.-, Previous:nerd, Up:= N =
nerd knob n.
[Cisco] a command in a complex piece of software which is more likely
to be used by an extremely experienced user to tweak a setting of one
sort or another - a setting which the average user may not even know
exists. Nerd knobs tend to be toggles, turning on or off a particular,
specific, narrowly defined behavior.
Node:net.-, Next:net.god, Previous:nerd knob, Up:= N
net.- /net dot/ pref.
[Usenet] Prefix used to describe people and events related to Usenet.
From the time before the Great Renaming, when most non-local
newsgroups had names beginning `net.'. Includes net.gods,
`net.goddesses' (various charismatic net.women with circles of on-line
admirers), `net.lurkers' (see lurker), `net.person',
`net.parties' (a synonym for boink, sense 2), and many similar
constructs. See also net.police.
Node:net.god, Next:net.personality, Previous:net.-,
Up:= N =
net.god /net god/ n.
Accolade referring to anyone who satisfies some combination of the
following conditions: has been visible on Usenet for more than 5
years, ran one of the original backbone sites, moderated an important
newsgroup, wrote news software, or knows Gene, Mark, Rick, Mel, Henry,
Chuq, and Greg personally. See demigod. Net.goddesses such as
Rissa or the Slime Sisters have (so far) been distinguished more by
personality than by authority.
Node:net.personality, Next:net.police, Previous:net.god,
Up:= N =
net.personality /net per`sn-al'-*-tee/ n.
Someone who has made a name for him or herself on Usenet,
through either longevity or attention-getting posts, but doesn't meet
the other requirements of net.godhood.
Node:net.police, Next:NetBOLLIX, Previous:net.personality,
Up:= N =
net.police /net-p*-lees'/ n.
(var. `net.cops') Those Usenet readers who feel it is their
responsibility to pounce on and flame any posting which they
regard as offensive or in violation of their understanding of
netiquette. Generally used sarcastically or pejoratively. Also
spelled `net police'. See also net.-, code police.
Node:NetBOLLIX, Next:netburp, Previous:net.police,
Up:= N =
[from bollix: to bungle, or British `bollocks'] IBM's NetBIOS,
an extremely brain-damaged network protocol that, like
Blue Glue, is used at commercial shops that don't know any
Node:netburp, Next:netdead, Previous:NetBOLLIX, Up:=
[IRC] When netlag gets really bad, and delays between servers
exceed a certain threshhold, the IRC network effectively becomes
partitioned for a period of time, and large numbers of people seem to
be signing off at the same time and then signing back on again when
things get better. An instance of this is called a `netburp' (or,
Node:netdead, Next:nethack, Previous:netburp, Up:= N
[IRC] The state of someone who signs off IRC, perhaps during a
netburp, and doesn't sign back on until later. In the interim,
he is "dead to the net". Compare link-dead.
Node:nethack, Next:netiquette, Previous:netdead,
Up:= N =
nethack /net'hak/ n.
[Unix] A dungeon game similar to rogue but more elaborate,
distributed in C source over Usenet and very popular at Unix
sites and on PC-class machines (nethack is probably the most widely
distributed of the freeware dungeon games). The earliest versions,
written by Jay Fenlason and later considerably enhanced by Andries
Brouwer, were simply called `hack'. The name changed when maintenance
was taken over by a group of hackers originally organized by Mike
Stephenson. There is now an official site one at
http://www.nethack.org/. See also moria, rogue,
Node:netiquette, Next:netlag, Previous:nethack, Up:=
netiquette /net'ee-ket/ or /net'i-ket/ n.
[portmanteau, network + etiquette] The conventions of politeness
recognized on Usenet, such as avoidance of cross-posting to
inappropriate groups and refraining from commercial pluggery outside
the biz groups.
Node:netlag, Next:netnews, Previous:netiquette, Up:=
[IRC, MUD] A condition that occurs when the delays in the IRC
network or on a MUD become severe enough that servers briefly
lose and then reestablish contact, causing messages to be delivered in
bursts, often with delays of up to a minute. (Note that this term has
nothing to do with mainstream "jet lag", a condition which hackers
tend not to be much bothered by.) Often shortened to just `lag'.
Node:netnews, Next:netrock, Previous:netlag, Up:= N
netnews /net'n[y]ooz/ n.
1. The software that makes Usenet run. 2. The content of Usenet.
"I read netnews right after my mail most mornings."
Node:netrock, Next:Netscrape, Previous:netnews, Up:=
netrock /net'rok/ n.
[IBM] A flame; used esp. on VNET, IBM's internal corporate
Node:Netscrape, Next:netsplit, Previous:netrock,
Up:= N =
[sometimes elaborated to `Netscrape Fornicator', also `Nutscrape']
Standard name-of-insult for Netscape Navigator/Communicator,
Netscape's overweight Web browser. Compare Internet Exploiter.
Node:netsplit, Next:netter, Previous:Netscrape, Up:=
Node:netter, Next:network address, Previous:netsplit,
Up:= N =
1. Loosely, anyone with a network address. 2. More specifically,
a Usenet regular. Most often found in the plural. "If you post
that in a technical group, you're going to be flamed by angry netters
for the rest of time!"
Node:network address, Next:network meltdown,
Previous:netter, Up:= N =
network address n.
(also `net address') As used by hackers, means an address on `the'
network (see the network; this used to include bang path
addresses but now almost always implies an Internet address).
Net addresses are often used in email text as a more concise
substitute for personal names; indeed, hackers may come to know each
other quite well by network names without ever learning each others'
`legal' monikers. Indeed, display of a network address (e.g on
business cards) used to function as an important hacker identification
signal, like lodge pins among Masons or tie-dyed T-shirts among
Grateful Dead fans. In the day of pervasive Internet this is less
true, but you can still be fairly sure that anyone with a network
address handwritten on his or her convention badge is a hacker.
Node:network meltdown, Next:New Jersey, Previous:network
address, Up:= N =
network meltdown n.
A state of complete network overload; the network equivalent of
thrashing. This may be induced by a Chernobyl packet. See
also broadcast storm, kamikaze packet.
Network meltdown is often a result of network designs that are
optimized for a steady state of moderate load and don't cope well with
the very jagged, bursty usage patterns of the real world. One amusing
instance of this is triggered by the popular and very bloody
shoot-'em-up game Doom on the PC. When used in multiplayer mode over a
network, the game uses broadcast packets to inform other machines when
bullets are fired. This causes problems with weapons like the chain
gun which fire rapidly -- it can blast the network into a meltdown
state just as easily as it shreds opposing monsters.
Node:New Jersey, Next:New Testament, Previous:network
meltdown, Up:= N =
New Jersey adj.
[primarily Stanford/Silicon Valley] Brain-damaged or of poor design.
This refers to the allegedly wretched quality of such software as C,
C++, and Unix (which originated at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New
Jersey). "This compiler bites the bag, but what can you expect from a
compiler designed in New Jersey?" Compare Berkeley Quality
Software. See also Unix conspiracy.
Node:New Testament, Next:newbie, Previous:New Jersey,
Up:= N =
New Testament n.
[C programmers] The second edition of K&R's "The C Programming
Language" (Prentice-Hall, 1988; ISBN 0-13-110362-8), describing ANSI
Standard C. See K&R; this version is also called `K&R2'.
Node:newbie, Next:newgroup wars, Previous:New Testament,
Up:= N =
newbie /n[y]oo'bee/ n.
[verry common; orig. from British public-school and military slang
variant of `new boy'] A Usenet neophyte. This term surfaced in the
newsgroup talk.bizarre but is now in wide use (the combination
"clueless newbie" is especially common). Criteria for being considered
a newbie vary wildly; a person can be called a newbie in one newsgroup
while remaining a respected regular in another. The label `newbie' is
sometimes applied as a serious insult to a person who has been around
Usenet for a long time but who carefully hides all evidence of having
a clue. See B1FF; see also gnubie.
Node:newgroup wars, Next:newline, Previous:newbie,
Up:= N =
newgroup wars /n[y]oo'groop worz/ n.
[Usenet] The salvos of dueling newgroup and rmgroup messages sometimes
exchanged by persons on opposite sides of a dispute over whether a
newsgroup should be created net-wide, or (even more frequently)
whether an obsolete one should be removed. These usually settle out
within a week or two as it becomes clear whether the group has a
natural constituency (usually, it doesn't). At times, especially in
the completely anarchic alt hierarchy, the names of newsgroups
themselves become a form of comment or humor; e.g., the group
alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork which originated as a birthday joke
for a Muppets fan, or any number of specialized abuse groups named
after particularly notorious flamers, e.g., alt.weemba.
Node:newline, Next:NeWS, Previous:newgroup wars,
Up:= N =
newline /n[y]oo'li:n/ n.
1. [techspeak, primarily Unix] The ASCII LF character (0001010), used
under Unix as a text line terminator. Though the term `newline'
appears in ASCII standards, it never caught on in the general
computing world before Unix. 2. More generally, any magic character,
character sequence, or operation (like Pascal's writeln procedure)
required to terminate a text record or separate lines. See crlf,
Node:NeWS, Next:newsfroup, Previous:newline, Up:= N
NeWS /nee'wis/, /n[y]oo'is/ or /n[y]ooz/ n.
[acronym; the `Network Window System'] The road not taken in window
systems, an elegant PostScript-based environment that would
almost certainly have won the standards war with X if it hadn't
been proprietary to Sun Microsystems. There is a lesson here
that too many software vendors haven't yet heeded. Many hackers insist
on the two-syllable pronunciations above as a way of distinguishing
NeWS from Usenet news (the netnews software).
Node:newsfroup, Next:newsgroup, Previous:NeWS, Up:=
newsfroup // n.
[Usenet] Silly synonym for newsgroup, originally a typo but now
in regular use on Usenet's talk.bizarre, and other lunatic-fringe
groups. Compare hing, grilf, pr0n and filk.
Node:newsgroup, Next:nick, Previous:newsfroup, Up:=
[Usenet] One of Usenet's huge collection of topic groups or
fora. Usenet groups can be `unmoderated' (anyone can post) or
`moderated' (submissions are automatically directed to a moderator,
who edits or filters and then posts the results). Some newsgroups have
parallel mailing lists for Internet people with no netnews
access, with postings to the group automatically propagated to the
list and vice versa. Some moderated groups (especially those which are
actually gatewayed Internet mailing lists) are distributed as
`digests', with groups of postings periodically collected into a
single large posting with an index.
Among the best-known are comp.lang.c (the C-language forum), comp.arch
(on computer architectures), comp.unix.wizards (for Unix wizards),
rec.arts.sf.written and siblings (for science-fiction fans), and
talk.politics.misc (miscellaneous political discussions and
Node:nick, Next:nickle, Previous:newsgroup, Up:= N =
[IRC; very common] Short for nickname. On IRC, every user must
pick a nick, which is sometimes the same as the user's real name or
login name, but is often more fanciful. Compare handle,
Node:nickle, Next:night mode, Previous:nick, Up:= N
nickle /ni'kl/ n.
[from `nickel', common name for the U.S. 5-cent coin] A nybble +
1; 5 bits. Reported among developers for Mattel's GI 1600 (the
Intellivision games processor), a chip with 16-bit-wide RAM but
10-bit-wide ROM. See also deckle, and nybble for names of
other bit units.
Node:night mode, Next:Nightmare File System,
Previous:nickle, Up:= N =
night mode n.
See phase (of people).
Node:Nightmare File System, Next:NIL, Previous:night mode,
Up:= N =
Nightmare File System n.
Pejorative hackerism for Sun's Network File System (NFS). In any
nontrivial network of Suns where there is a lot of NFS cross-mounting,
when one Sun goes down, the others often freeze up. Some machine tries
to access the down one, and (getting no response) repeats
indefinitely. This causes it to appear dead to some messages (what is
actually happening is that it is locked up in what should have been a
brief excursion to a higher spl level). Then another machine
tries to reach either the down machine or the pseudo-down machine, and
itself becomes pseudo-down. The first machine to discover the down one
is now trying both to access the down one and to respond to the
pseudo-down one, so it is even harder to reach. This situation
snowballs very quickly, and soon the entire network of machines is
frozen -- worst of all, the user can't even abort the file access that
started the problem! Many of NFS's problems are excused by partisans
as being an inevitable result of its statelessness, which is held to
be a great feature (critics, of course, call it a great
misfeature). (ITS partisans are apt to cite this as proof of
Unix's alleged bogosity; ITS had a working NFS-like shared file system
with none of these problems in the early 1970s.) See also
Node:NIL, Next:Ninety-Ninety Rule, Previous:Nightmare File
System, Up:= N =
No. Used in reply to a question, particularly one asked using the `-P'
convention. Most hackers assume this derives simply from LISP
terminology for `false' (see also T), but NIL as a negative
reply was well-established among radio hams decades before the advent
of LISP. The historical connection between early hackerdom and the ham
radio world was strong enough that this may have been an influence.
Node:Ninety-Ninety Rule, Next:nipple mouse, Previous:NIL,
Up:= N =
Ninety-Ninety Rule n.
"The first 90% of the code accounts for the first 90% of the
development time. The remaining 10% of the code accounts for the other
90% of the development time." Attributed to Tom Cargill of Bell Labs,
and popularized by Jon Bentley's September 1985 "Bumper-Sticker
Computer Science" column in "Communications of the ACM". It was there
called the "Rule of Credibility", a name which seems not to have
stuck. Other maxims in the same vein include the law attributed to the
early British computer scientist Douglas Hartree: "The time from now
until the completion of the project tends to become constant."
Node:nipple mouse, Next:NMI, Previous:Ninety-Ninety Rule,
Up:= N =
nipple mouse n.
Var. `clit mouse, clitoris' Common term for the pointing device used
on IBM ThinkPads and a few other laptop computers. The device, which
sits between the `g' and `h' keys on the keyboard, indeed resembles a
rubber nipple intended to be tweaked by a forefinger. Many hackers
consider these superior to the glide pads found on most laptops, which
are harder to control precisely.
Node:NMI, Next:no-op, Previous:nipple mouse, Up:= N
NMI /N-M-I/ n.
Non-Maskable Interrupt. An IRQ 7 on the PDP-11 or 6800; the NMI
line on an 8086. In contrast with a priority interrupt
(which might be ignored, although that is unlikely), an NMI is never
ignored. Except, that is, on clone boxes, where NMI is often
ignored on the motherboard because flaky hardware can generate many
Node:no-op, Next:noddy, Previous:NMI, Up:= N =
no-op /noh'op/ n.,v.
alt. NOP /nop/ [no operation] 1. A machine instruction that does
nothing (sometimes used in assembler-level programming as filler for
data or patch areas, or to overwrite code to be removed in binaries).
2. A person who contributes nothing to a project, or has nothing going
on upstairs, or both. As in "He's a no-op." 3. Any operation or
sequence of operations with no effect, such as circling the block
without finding a parking space, or putting money into a vending
machine and having it fall immediately into the coin-return box, or
asking someone for help and being told to go away. "Oh, well, that was
a no-op." Hot-and-sour soup (see great-wall) that is
insufficiently either is `no-op soup'; so is wonton soup if everybody
else is having hot-and-sour.
Node:noddy, Next:node, Previous:no-op, Up:= N =
noddy /nod'ee/ adj.
[UK: from the children's books] 1. Small and un-useful, but
demonstrating a point. Noddy programs are often written by people
learning a new language or system. The archetypal noddy program is
hello world. Noddy code may be used to demonstrate a feature or
bug of a compiler. May be used of real hardware or software to imply
that it isn't worth using. "This editor's a bit noddy." 2. A program
that is more or less instant to produce. In this use, the term does
not necessarily connote uselessness, but describes a hack
sufficiently trivial that it can be written and debugged while
carrying on (and during the space of) a normal conversation. "I'll
just throw together a noddy awk script to dump all the first
fields." In North America this might be called a mickey mouse
program. See toy program.
Node:node, Next:Nominal Semidestructor, Previous:noddy,
Up:= N =
1. [Internet, UUCP] A host machine on the network. 2. [MS-DOS BBSes] A
dial-in line on a BBS. Thus an MS-DOS sysop might say that his
BBS has 4 nodes even though it has a single machine and no Internet
link, confusing an Internet hacker no end.
Node:Nominal Semidestructor, Next:non-optimal solution,
Previous:node, Up:= N =
Nominal Semidestructor n.
Soundalike slang for `National Semiconductor', found among other
places in the Networking/2 networking sources. During the late 1970s
to mid-1980s this company marketed a series of microprocessors
including the NS16000 and NS32000 and several variants. At one point
early in the great microprocessor race, the specs on these chips made
them look like serious competition for the rising Intel 80x86 and
Motorola 680x0 series. Unfortunately, the actual parts were
notoriously flaky and never implemented the full instruction set
promised in their literature, apparently because the company couldn't
get any of the mask steppings to work as designed. They eventually
sank without trace, joining the Zilog Z8000 and a few even more
obscure also-rans in the graveyard of forgotten microprocessors.
Compare HP-SUX, AIDX, buglix, Macintrash,
Telerat, ScumOS, sun-stools, Slowlaris,
Node:non-optimal solution, Next:nonlinear,
Previous:Nominal Semidestructor, Up:= N =
non-optimal solution n.
(also `sub-optimal solution') An astoundingly stupid way to do
something. This term is generally used in deadpan sarcasm, as its
impact is greatest when the person speaking looks completely serious.
Compare stunning. See also Bad Thing.
Node:nonlinear, Next:nontrivial, Previous:non-optimal
solution, Up:= N =
[scientific computation] 1. Behaving in an erratic and unpredictable
fashion; unstable. When used to describe the behavior of a machine or
program, it suggests that said machine or program is being forced to
run far outside of design specifications. This behavior may be induced
by unreasonable inputs, or may be triggered when a more mundane bug
sends the computation far off from its expected course. 2. When
describing the behavior of a person, suggests a tantrum or a
flame. "When you talk to Bob, don't mention the drug problem or
he'll go nonlinear for hours." In this context, `go nonlinear'
connotes `blow up out of proportion' (proportion connotes linearity).
Node:nontrivial, Next:not ready for prime time,
Previous:nonlinear, Up:= N =
Requiring real thought or significant computing power. Often used as
an understated way of saying that a problem is quite difficult or
impractical, or even entirely unsolvable ("Proving P=NP is
nontrivial"). The preferred emphatic form is `decidedly nontrivial'.
See trivial, uninteresting, interesting.
Node:not ready for prime time, Next:notwork,
Previous:nontrivial, Up:= N =
not ready for prime time adj.
Usable, but only just so; not very robust; for internal use only. Said
of a program or device. Often connotes that the thing will be made
more solid Real Soon Now. This term comes from the ensemble name
of the original cast of "Saturday Night Live", the "Not Ready for
Prime Time Players". It has extra flavor for hackers because of the
special (though now semi-obsolescent) meaning of prime time.
Node:notwork, Next:NP-, Previous:not ready for prime time,
Up:= N =
notwork /not'werk/ n.
A network, when it is acting flaky or is down. Compare
nyetwork. Said at IBM to have originally referred to a