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The New Hacker's Dictionary version 4.2.2 by Various editors

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to [nt]roff). Several versions of a joke have floated around the
internet in which some idiot programmer fixes the Y2K bug by changing
all the Y's in something to K's, as in Januark, Februark, etc.

Node:404, Next:[227]404 compliant, Previous:[228]2, Up:[229]= 0 =

404 // n.

[from the HTTP error "file not found on server"] Extended to humans to
convey that the subject has no idea or no clue - sapience not found.
May be used reflexively; "Uh, I'm 404ing" means "I'm drawing a blank".

Node:404 compliant, Next:[230]4.2, Previous:[231]404, Up:[232]= 0 =

404 compliant adj.

The status of a website which has been completely removed, usually by
the administrators of the hosting site as a result of net abuse by the
website operators. The term is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the
standard "301 compliant" Murkowski Bill disclaimer used by spammers.
See also: [233]spam, [234]spamvertize.

Node:4.2, Next:[235]@-party, Previous:[236]404 compliant, Up:[237]= 0

4.2 /for' poynt too'/ n.

Without a prefix, this almost invariably refers to [238]BSD Unix
release 4.2. Note that it is an indication of cluelessness to say
"version 4.2", and "release 4.2" is rare; the number stands on its
own, or is used in the more explicit forms 4.2BSD or (less commonly)
BSD 4.2. Similar remarks apply to "4.3", "4.4" and to earlier,
less-widespread releases 4.1 and 2.9.

Node:@-party, Next:[239]abbrev, Previous:[240]4.2, Up:[241]= 0 =

@-party /at'par`tee/ n.

[from the @-sign in an Internet address] (alt. `@-sign party' /at'si:n
par`tee/) A semi-closed party thrown for hackers at a science-fiction
convention (esp. the annual World Science Fiction Convention or
"Worldcon"); one must have a [242]network address to get in, or at
least be in company with someone who does. One of the most reliable
opportunities for hackers to meet face to face with people who might
otherwise be represented by mere phosphor dots on their screens.
Compare [243]boink.

The first recorded @-party was held at the Westercon (a U.S. western
regional SF convention) over the July 4th weekend in 1980. It is not
clear exactly when the canonical @-party venue shifted to the Worldcon
but it had certainly become established by Constellation in 1983.
Sadly, the @-party tradition has been in decline since about 1996,
mainly because having an @-address no longer functions as an effective
lodge pin.

Node:= A =, Next:[244]= B =, Previous:[245]= 0 =, Up:[246]The Jargon

= A =

* [247]abbrev:
* [248]ABEND:
* [249]accumulator:
* [250]ACK:
* [251]Acme:
* [252]acolyte:
* [253]ad-hockery:
* [254]Ada:
* [255]address harvester:
* [256]adger:
* [257]admin:
* [258]ADVENT:
* [259]AFAIK:
* [260]AFJ:
* [261]AFK:
* [262]AI:
* [263]AI-complete:
* [264]AI koans:
* [265]AIDS:
* [266]AIDX:
* [267]airplane rule:
* [268]Alderson loop:
* [269]aliasing bug:
* [270]Alice and Bob:
* [271]all-elbows:
* [272]alpha geek:
* [273]alpha particles:
* [274]alt:
* [275]alt bit:
* [276]Aluminum Book:
* [277]ambimouseterous:
* [278]Amiga:
* [279]Amiga Persecution Complex:
* [280]amoeba:
* [281]amp off:
* [282]amper:
* [283]Angband:
* [284]angle brackets:
* [285]angry fruit salad:
* [286]annoybot:
* [287]annoyware:
* [288]ANSI:
* [289]ANSI standard:
* [290]ANSI standard pizza:
* [291]AOL!:
* [292]app:
* [293]arena:
* [294]arg:
* [295]ARMM:
* [296]armor-plated:
* [297]asbestos:
* [298]asbestos cork award:
* [299]asbestos longjohns:
* [300]ASCII:
* [301]ASCII art:
* [302]ASCIIbetical order:
* [303]astroturfing:
* [304]atomic:
* [305]attoparsec:
* [306]AUP:
* [307]autobogotiphobia:
* [308]automagically:
* [309]avatar:
* [310]awk:

Node:abbrev, Next:[311]ABEND, Previous:[312]@-party, Up:[313]= A =

abbrev /*-breev'/, /*-brev'/ n.

Common abbreviation for `abbreviation'.

Node:ABEND, Next:[314]accumulator, Previous:[315]abbrev, Up:[316]= A =

ABEND /a'bend/, /*-bend'/ n.

[ABnormal END] 1. Abnormal termination (of software); [317]crash;
[318]lossage. Derives from an error message on the IBM 360; used
jokingly by hackers but seriously mainly by [319]code grinders.
Usually capitalized, but may appear as `abend'. Hackers will try to
persuade you that ABEND is called `abend' because it is what system
operators do to the machine late on Friday when they want to call it a
day, and hence is from the German `Abend' = `Evening'. 2.
[alt.callahans] Absent By Enforced Net Deprivation - used in the
subject lines of postings warning friends of an imminent loss of
Internet access. (This can be because of computer downtime, loss of
provider, moving or illness.) Variants of this also appear: ABVND =
`Absent By Voluntary Net Deprivation' and ABSEND = `Absent By
Self-Enforced Net Deprivation' have been sighted.

Node:accumulator, Next:[320]ACK, Previous:[321]ABEND, Up:[322]= A =

accumulator n. obs.

1. Archaic term for a register. On-line use of it as a synonym for
`register' is a fairly reliable indication that the user has been
around for quite a while and/or that the architecture under discussion
is quite old. The term in full is almost never used of microprocessor
registers, for example, though symbolic names for arithmetic registers
beginning in `A' derive from historical use of the term `accumulator'
(and not, actually, from `arithmetic'). Confusingly, though, an `A'
register name prefix may also stand for `address', as for example on
the Motorola 680x0 family. 2. A register being used for arithmetic or
logic (as opposed to addressing or a loop index), especially one being
used to accumulate a sum or count of many items. This use is in
context of a particular routine or stretch of code. "The FOOBAZ
routine uses A3 as an accumulator." 3. One's in-basket (esp. among
old-timers who might use sense 1). "You want this reviewed? Sure, just
put it in the accumulator." (See [323]stack.)

Node:ACK, Next:[324]Acme, Previous:[325]accumulator, Up:[326]= A =

ACK /ak/ interj.

1. [common; from the ASCII mnemonic for 0000110] Acknowledge. Used to
register one's presence (compare mainstream Yo!). An appropriate
response to [327]ping or [328]ENQ. 2. [from the comic strip "Bloom
County"] An exclamation of surprised disgust, esp. in "Ack pffft!"
Semi-humorous. Generally this sense is not spelled in caps (ACK) and
is distinguished by a following exclamation point. 3. Used to politely
interrupt someone to tell them you understand their point (see
[329]NAK). Thus, for example, you might cut off an overly long
explanation with "Ack. Ack. Ack. I get it now". 4. An affirmative.
"Think we ought to ditch that damn NT server for a Linux box?" "ACK!"

There is also a usage "ACK?" (from sense 1) meaning "Are you there?",
often used in email when earlier mail has produced no reply, or during
a lull in [330]talk mode to see if the person has gone away (the
standard humorous response is of course [331]NAK (sense 1), i.e., "I'm
not here").

Node:Acme, Next:[332]acolyte, Previous:[333]ACK, Up:[334]= A =

Acme n.

The canonical supplier of bizarre, elaborate, and non-functional
gadgetry - where Rube Goldberg and Heath Robinson (two cartoonists who
specialized in elaborate contraptions) shop. The name has been
humorously expanded as A (or American) Company Making Everything. (In
fact, Acme was a real brand sold from Sears Roebuck catalogs in the
early 1900s.) Describing some X as an "Acme X" either means "This is
[335]insanely great", or, more likely, "This looks [336]insanely great
on paper, but in practice it's really easy to shoot yourself in the
foot with it." Compare [337]pistol.

This term, specially cherished by American hackers and explained here
for the benefit of our overseas brethren, comes from the Warner
Brothers' series of "Roadrunner" cartoons. In these cartoons, the
famished Wile E. Coyote was forever attempting to catch up with, trap,
and eat the Roadrunner. His attempts usually involved one or more
high-technology Rube Goldberg devices - rocket jetpacks, catapults,
magnetic traps, high-powered slingshots, etc. These were usually
delivered in large cardboard boxes, labeled prominently with the Acme
name. These devices invariably malfunctioned in improbable and violent

Node:acolyte, Next:[338]ad-hockery, Previous:[339]Acme, Up:[340]= A =

acolyte n. obs.

[TMRC] An [341]OSU privileged enough to submit data and programs to a
member of the [342]priesthood.

Node:ad-hockery, Next:[343]Ada, Previous:[344]acolyte, Up:[345]= A =

ad-hockery /ad-hok'*r-ee/ n.

[Purdue] 1. Gratuitous assumptions made inside certain programs, esp.
expert systems, which lead to the appearance of semi-intelligent
behavior but are in fact entirely arbitrary. For example,
fuzzy-matching of input tokens that might be typing errors against a
symbol table can make it look as though a program knows how to spell.
2. Special-case code to cope with some awkward input that would
otherwise cause a program to [346]choke, presuming normal inputs are
dealt with in some cleaner and more regular way. Also called
`ad-hackery', `ad-hocity' (/ad-hos'*-tee/), `ad-crockery'. See also
[347]ELIZA effect.

Node:Ada, Next:[348]address harvester, Previous:[349]ad-hockery,
Up:[350]= A =

Ada n.

A [351]Pascal-descended language that was at one time made mandatory
for Department of Defense software projects by the Pentagon. Hackers
are nearly unanimous in observing that, technically, it is precisely
what one might expect given that kind of endorsement by fiat; designed
by committee, crockish, difficult to use, and overall a disastrous,
multi-billion-dollar boondoggle (one common description wss "The PL/I
of the 1980s"). Hackers find Ada's exception-handling and
inter-process communication features particularly hilarious. Ada
Lovelace (the daughter of Lord Byron who became the world's first
programmer while cooperating with Charles Babbage on the design of his
mechanical computing engines in the mid-1800s) would almost certainly
blanch at the use to which her name has latterly been put; the kindest
thing that has been said about it is that there is probably a good
small language screaming to get out from inside its vast,
[352]elephantine bulk.

Node:address harvester, Next:[353]adger, Previous:[354]Ada, Up:[355]=
A =

address harvester n.

A robot that searches web pages and/or filters netnews traffic looking
for valid email addresses. Some address harvesters are benign, used
only for compiling address directories. Most, unfortunately, are run
by miscreants compiling address lists to [356]spam. Address harvesters
can be foiled by a [357]teergrube.

Node:adger, Next:[358]admin, Previous:[359]address harvester,
Up:[360]= A =

adger /aj'r/ vt.

[UCLA mutant of [361]nadger, poss. also from the middle name of an
infamous [362]tenured graduate student] To make a bonehead move with
consequences that could have been foreseen with even slight mental
effort. E.g., "He started removing files and promptly adgered the
whole project". Compare [363]dumbass attack.

Node:admin, Next:[364]ADVENT, Previous:[365]adger, Up:[366]= A =

admin /ad-min'/ n.

Short for `administrator'; very commonly used in speech or on-line to
refer to the systems person in charge on a computer. Common
constructions on this include `sysadmin' and `site admin' (emphasizing
the administrator's role as a site contact for email and news) or
`newsadmin' (focusing specifically on news). Compare [367]postmaster,
[368]sysop, [369]system mangler.

Node:ADVENT, Next:[370]AFAIK, Previous:[371]admin, Up:[372]= A =

ADVENT /ad'vent/ n.

The prototypical computer adventure game, first designed by Will
Crowther on the [373]PDP-10 in the mid-1970s as an attempt at
computer-refereed fantasy gaming, and expanded into a puzzle-oriented
game by Don Woods at Stanford in 1976. (Woods had been one of the
authors of [374]INTERCAL.) Now better known as Adventure or Colossal
Cave Adventure, but the [375]TOPS-10 operating system permitted only
six-letter filenames. See also [376]vadding, [377]Zork, and

This game defined the terse, dryly humorous style since expected in
text adventure games, and popularized several tag lines that have
become fixtures of hacker-speak: "A huge green fierce snake bars the
way!" "I see no X here" (for some noun X). "You are in a maze of
twisty little passages, all alike." "You are in a little maze of
twisty passages, all different." The `magic words' [379]xyzzy and
[380]plugh also derive from this game.

Crowther, by the way, participated in the exploration of the Mammoth &
Flint Ridge cave system; it actually has a `Colossal Cave' and a
`Bedquilt' as in the game, and the `Y2' that also turns up is cavers'
jargon for a map reference to a secondary entrance.

ADVENT sources are available for FTP at
. There is a

Node:AFAIK, Next:[383]AFJ, Previous:[384]ADVENT, Up:[385]= A =

AFAIK // n.

[Usenet] Abbrev. for "As Far As I Know".

Node:AFJ, Next:[386]AFK, Previous:[387]AFAIK, Up:[388]= A =

AFJ // n.

Written-only abbreviation for "April Fool's Joke". Elaborate April
Fool's hoaxes are a long-established tradition on Usenet and Internet;
see [389]kremvax for an example. In fact, April Fool's Day is the only
seasonal holiday consistently marked by customary observances on
Internet and other hacker networks.

Node:AFK, Next:[390]AI, Previous:[391]AFJ, Up:[392]= A =


[MUD] Abbrev. for "Away From Keyboard". Used to notify others that you
will be momentarily unavailable online. eg. "Let's not go kill that
frost giant yet, I need to go AFK to make a phone call". Often MUDs
will have a command to politely inform others of your absence when
they try to talk with you. The term is not restricted to MUDs,
however, and has become common in many chat situations, from IRC to
Unix talk.

Node:AI, Next:[393]AI-complete, Previous:[394]AFK, Up:[395]= A =

AI /A-I/ n.

Abbreviation for `Artificial Intelligence', so common that the full
form is almost never written or spoken among hackers.

Node:AI-complete, Next:[396]AI koans, Previous:[397]AI, Up:[398]= A =

AI-complete /A-I k*m-pleet'/ adj.

[MIT, Stanford: by analogy with `NP-complete' (see [399]NP-)] Used to
describe problems or subproblems in AI, to indicate that the solution
presupposes a solution to the `strong AI problem' (that is, the
synthesis of a human-level intelligence). A problem that is
AI-complete is, in other words, just too hard.

Examples of AI-complete problems are `The Vision Problem' (building a
system that can see as well as a human) and `The Natural Language
Problem' (building a system that can understand and speak a natural
language as well as a human). These may appear to be modular, but all
attempts so far (1999) to solve them have foundered on the amount of
context information and `intelligence' they seem to require. See also

Node:AI koans, Next:[401]AIDS, Previous:[402]AI-complete, Up:[403]= A

AI koans /A-I koh'anz/ pl.n.

A series of pastiches of Zen teaching riddles created by Danny Hillis
at the MIT AI Lab around various major figures of the Lab's culture
(several are included under [404]Some AI Koans in Appendix A). See
also [405]ha ha only serious, [406]mu, and [407]hacker humor.

Node:AIDS, Next:[408]AIDX, Previous:[409]AI koans, Up:[410]= A =

AIDS /aydz/ n.

Short for A* Infected Disk Syndrome (`A*' is a [411]glob pattern that
matches, but is not limited to, Apple or Amiga), this condition is
quite often the result of practicing unsafe [412]SEX. See [413]virus,
[414]worm, [415]Trojan horse, [416]virgin.

Node:AIDX, Next:[417]airplane rule, Previous:[418]AIDS, Up:[419]= A =

AIDX /ayd'k*z/ n.

Derogatory term for IBM's perverted version of Unix, AIX, especially
for the AIX 3.? used in the IBM RS/6000 series (some hackers think it
is funnier just to pronounce "AIX" as "aches"). A victim of the
dreaded "hybridism" disease, this attempt to combine the two main
currents of the Unix stream ([420]BSD and [421]USG Unix) became a
[422]monstrosity to haunt system administrators' dreams. For example,
if new accounts are created while many users are logged on, the load
average jumps quickly over 20 due to silly implementation of the user
databases. For a quite similar disease, compare [423]HP-SUX. Also,
compare [424]Macintrash, [425]Nominal Semidestructor, [426]ScumOS,

Node:airplane rule, Next:[428]Alderson loop, Previous:[429]AIDX,
Up:[430]= A =

airplane rule n.

"Complexity increases the possibility of failure; a twin-engine
airplane has twice as many engine problems as a single-engine
airplane." By analogy, in both software and electronics, the rule that
simplicity increases robustness. It is correspondingly argued that the
right way to build reliable systems is to put all your eggs in one
basket, after making sure that you've built a really good basket. See
also [431]KISS Principle, [432]elegant.

Node:Alderson loop, Next:[433]aliasing bug, Previous:[434]airplane
rule, Up:[435]= A =

Alderson loop n.

[Intel] A special version of an [436]infinite loop where there is an
exit condition available, but inaccessible in the current
implementation of the code. Typically this is created while debugging
user interface code. An example would be when there is a menu stating,
"Select 1-3 or 9 to quit" and 9 is not allowed by the function that
takes the selection from the user.

This term received its name from a programmer who had coded a modal
message box in MSAccess with no Ok or Cancel buttons, thereby
disabling the entire program whenever the box came up. The message box
had the proper code for dismissal and even was set up so that when the
non-existent Ok button was pressed the proper code would be called.

Node:aliasing bug, Next:[437]Alice and Bob, Previous:[438]Alderson
loop, Up:[439]= A =

aliasing bug n.

A class of subtle programming errors that can arise in code that does
dynamic allocation, esp. via malloc(3) or equivalent. If several
pointers address (`aliases for') a given hunk of storage, it may
happen that the storage is freed or reallocated (and thus moved)
through one alias and then referenced through another, which may lead
to subtle (and possibly intermittent) lossage depending on the state
and the allocation history of the malloc [440]arena. Avoidable by use
of allocation strategies that never alias allocated core, or by use of
higher-level languages, such as [441]LISP, which employ a garbage
collector (see [442]GC). Also called a [443]stale pointer bug. See
also [444]precedence lossage, [445]smash the stack, [446]fandango on
core, [447]memory leak, [448]memory smash, [449]overrun screw,

Historical note: Though this term is nowadays associated with C
programming, it was already in use in a very similar sense in the
Algol-60 and FORTRAN communities in the 1960s.

Node:Alice and Bob, Next:[451]all-elbows, Previous:[452]aliasing bug,
Up:[453]= A =

Alice and Bob n.

The archetypal individuals used as examples in discussions of
cryptographic protocols. Originally, theorists would say something
like: "A communicates with someone who claims to be B, So to be sure,
A tests that B knows a secret number K. So A sends to B a random
number X. B then forms Y by encrypting X under key K and sends Y back
to A" Because this sort of thing is is quite hard to follow, theorists
stopped using the unadorned letters A and B to represent the main
players and started calling them Alice and Bob. So now we say "Alice
communicates with someone claiming to be Bob, and to be sure, So Alice
tests that Bob knows a secret number K. Alice sends to Bob a random
number X. Bob then forms Y by encrypting X under key K and sends Y
back to Alice". A whole mythology rapidly grew up around the
metasyntactic names; see

In Bruce Schneier's definitive introductory text "Applied
Cryptography" (2nd ed., 1996, John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 0-471-11709-9)
he introduces a table of dramatis personae headed by Alice and Bob.
Others include Carol (a participant in three- and four-party
protocols), Dave (a participant in four-party protocols), Eve (an
eavesdropper), Mallory (a malicious active attacker), Trent (a trusted
arbitrator), Walter (a warden), Peggy (a prover) and Victor (a
verifier). These names for roles are either already standard or, given
the wide popularity of the book, may be expected to quickly become so.

Node:all-elbows, Next:[455]alpha geek, Previous:[456]Alice and Bob,
Up:[457]= A =

all-elbows adj.

[MS-DOS] Of a TSR (terminate-and-stay-resident) IBM PC program, such
as the N pop-up calendar and calculator utilities that circulate on
[458]BBS systems: unsociable. Used to describe a program that rudely
steals the resources that it needs without considering that other TSRs
may also be resident. One particularly common form of rudeness is
lock-up due to programs fighting over the keyboard interrupt. See
[459]rude, also [460]mess-dos.

Node:alpha geek, Next:[461]alpha particles, Previous:[462]all-elbows,
Up:[463]= A =

alpha geek n.

[from animal ethologists' `alpha male'] The most technically
accomplished or skillful person in some implied context. "Ask Larry,
he's the alpha geek here."

Node:alpha particles, Next:[464]alt, Previous:[465]alpha geek,
Up:[466]= A =

alpha particles n.

See [467]bit rot.

Node:alt, Next:[468]alt bit, Previous:[469]alpha particles, Up:[470]=
A =

alt /awlt/

1. n. The alt shift key on an IBM PC or [471]clone keyboard; see
[472]bucky bits, sense 2 (though typical PC usage does not simply set
the 0200 bit). 2. n. The `option' key on a Macintosh; use of this term
usually reveals that the speaker hacked PCs before coming to the Mac
(see also [473]feature key, which is sometimes incorrectly called
`alt'). 3. n.,obs. [PDP-10; often capitalized to ALT] Alternate name
for the ASCII ESC character (ASCII 0011011), after the keycap labeling
on some older terminals; also `altmode' (/awlt'mohd/). This character
was almost never pronounced `escape' on an ITS system, in [474]TECO,
or under TOPS-10 -- always alt, as in "Type alt alt to end a TECO
command" or "alt-U onto the system" (for "log onto the [ITS] system").
This usage probably arose because alt is more convenient to say than
`escape', especially when followed by another alt or a character (or
another alt and a character, for that matter). 4. The alt hierarchy on
Usenet, the tree of newsgroups created by users without a formal vote
and approval procedure. There is a myth, not entirely implausible,
that alt is acronymic for "anarchists, lunatics, and terrorists"; but
in fact it is simply short for "alternative".

Node:alt bit, Next:[475]Aluminum Book, Previous:[476]alt, Up:[477]= A

alt bit /awlt bit/ [from alternate] adj.

See [478]meta bit.

Node:Aluminum Book, Next:[479]ambimouseterous, Previous:[480]alt bit,
Up:[481]= A =

Aluminum Book n.

[MIT] "Common LISP: The Language", by Guy L. Steele Jr. (Digital
Press, first edition 1984, second edition 1990). Note that due to a
technical screwup some printings of the second edition are actually of
a color the author describes succinctly as "yucky green". See also
[482]book titles.

Node:ambimouseterous, Next:[483]Amiga, Previous:[484]Aluminum Book,
Up:[485]= A =

ambimouseterous /am-b*-mows'ter-us/ or /am-b*-mows'trus/ adj.

[modeled on ambidextrous] Able to use a mouse with either hand.

Node:Amiga, Next:[486]Amiga Persecution Complex,
Previous:[487]ambimouseterous, Up:[488]= A =

Amiga n

A series of personal computer models originally sold by Commodore,
based on 680x0 processors, custom support chips and an operating
system that combined some of the best features of Macintosh and Unix
with compatibility with neither.

The Amiga was released just as the personal computing world
standardized on IBM-PC clones. This prevented it from gaining serious
market share, despite the fact that the first Amigas had a substantial
technological lead on the IBM XTs of the time. Instead, it acquired a
small but zealous population of enthusiastic hackers who dreamt of one
day unseating the clones (see [489]Amiga Persecution Complex). The
traits of this culture are both spoofed and illuminated in [490]The
BLAZE Humor Viewer. The strength of the Amiga platform seeded a small
industry of companies building software and hardware for the platform,
especially in graphics and video applications (see [491]video

Due to spectacular mismanagement, Commodore did hardly any R&D,
allowing the competition to close Amiga's technological lead. After
Commodore went bankrupt in 1994 the technology passed through several
hands, none of whom did much with it. However, the Amiga is still
being produced in Europe under license and has a substantial number of
fans, which will probably extend the platform's life considerably.

Node:Amiga Persecution Complex, Next:[492]amoeba, Previous:[493]Amiga,
Up:[494]= A =

Amiga Persecution Complex n.

The disorder suffered by a particularly egregious variety of
[495]bigot, those who believe that the marginality of their preferred
machine is the result of some kind of industry-wide conspiracy (for
without a conspiracy of some kind, the eminent superiority of their
beloved shining jewel of a platform would obviously win over all,
market pressures be damned!) Those afflicted are prone to engaging in
[496]flame wars and calling for boycotts and mailbombings. Amiga
Persecution Complex is by no means limited to Amiga users; NeXT,
[497]NeWS, [498]OS/2, Macintosh, [499]LISP, and [500]GNU users are
also common victims. [501]Linux users used to display symptoms very
frequently before Linux started winning; some still do. See also
[502]newbie, [503]troll, [504]holy wars, [505]weenie, [506]Get a

Node:amoeba, Next:[507]amp off, Previous:[508]Amiga Persecution
Complex, Up:[509]= A =

amoeba n.

Humorous term for the Commodore Amiga personal computer.

Node:amp off, Next:[510]amper, Previous:[511]amoeba, Up:[512]= A =

amp off vt.

[Purdue] To run in [513]background. From the Unix shell `&' operator.

Node:amper, Next:[514]Angband, Previous:[515]amp off, Up:[516]= A =

amper n.

Common abbreviation for the name of the ampersand (`&', ASCII 0100110)
character. See [517]ASCII for other synonyms.

Node:Angband, Next:[518]angle brackets, Previous:[519]amper, Up:[520]=
A =

Angband n. /ang'band/

Like [521]nethack, [522]moria, and [523]rogue, one of the large freely
distributed Dungeons-and-Dragons-like simulation games, available for
a wide range of machines and operating systems. The name is from
Tolkien's Pits of Angband (compare [524]elder days, [525]elvish). Has
been described as "Moria on steroids"; but, unlike Moria, many aspects
of the game are customizable. This leads many hackers and would-be
hackers into fooling with these instead of doing productive work.
There are many Angband variants, of which the most notorious is
probably the rather whimsical Zangband. In this game, when a key that
does not correspond to a command is pressed, the game will display
"Type ? for help" 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time, random
error messages including "An error has occurred because an error of
type 42 has occurred" and "Windows 95 uninstalled successfully" will
be displayed. Zangband also allows the player to kill Santa Claus (who
has some really good stuff, but also has a lot of friends), "Bull
Gates", and Barney the Dinosaur (but be watchful; Barney has a nasty
case of halitosis). There is an official angband home page at
[526]http://www.phial.com/angband and a zangband one at
[527]http://thangorodrim.angband.org. See also [528]Random Number God.

Node:angle brackets, Next:[529]angry fruit salad,
Previous:[530]Angband, Up:[531]= A =

angle brackets n.

Either of the characters < (ASCII 0111100) and > (ASCII 0111110)
(ASCII less-than or greater-than signs). Typographers in the [532]Real
World use angle brackets which are either taller and slimmer (the ISO
`Bra' and `Ket' characters), or significantly smaller (single or
double guillemets) than the less-than and greater-than signs. See
[533]broket, [534]ASCII.

Node:angry fruit salad, Next:[535]annoybot, Previous:[536]angle
brackets, Up:[537]= A =

angry fruit salad n.

A bad visual-interface design that uses too many colors. (This term
derives, of course, from the bizarre day-glo colors found in canned
fruit salad.) Too often one sees similar effects from interface
designers using color window systems such as [538]X; there is a
tendency to create displays that are flashy and attention-getting but
uncomfortable for long-term use.

Node:annoybot, Next:[539]annoyware, Previous:[540]angry fruit salad,
Up:[541]= A =

annoybot /*-noy-bot/ n.

[IRC] See [542]bot.

Node:annoyware, Next:[543]ANSI, Previous:[544]annoybot, Up:[545]= A =

annoyware n.

A type of [546]shareware that frequently disrupts normal program
operation to display requests for payment to the author in return for
the ability to disable the request messages. (Also called `nagware')
The requests generally require user action to acknowledge the message
before normal operation is resumed and are often tied to the most
frequently used features of the software. See also [547]careware,
[548]charityware, [549]crippleware, [550]freeware, [551]FRS,
[552]guiltware, [553]postcardware, and [554]-ware; compare

Node:ANSI, Next:[556]ANSI standard, Previous:[557]annoyware, Up:[558]=
A =

ANSI /an'see/

1. n. [techspeak] The American National Standards Institute. ANSI,
along with the International Organization for Standards (ISO),
standardized the C programming language (see [559]K&R, [560]Classic
C), and promulgates many other important software standards. 2. n.
[techspeak] A terminal may be said to be `ANSI' if it meets the ANSI
X.364 standard for terminal control. Unfortunately, this standard was
both over-complicated and too permissive. It has been retired and
replaced by the ECMA-48 standard, which shares both flaws. 3. n. [BBS
jargon] The set of screen-painting codes that most MS-DOS and Amiga
computers accept. This comes from the ANSI.SYS device driver that must
be loaded on an MS-DOS computer to view such codes. Unfortunately,
neither DOS ANSI nor the BBS ANSIs derived from it exactly match the
ANSI X.364 terminal standard. For example, the ESC-[1m code turns on
the bold highlight on large machines, but in IBM PC/MS-DOS ANSI, it
turns on `intense' (bright) colors. Also, in BBS-land, the term `ANSI'
is often used to imply that a particular computer uses or can emulate
the IBM high-half character set from MS-DOS. Particular use depends on
context. Occasionally, the vanilla ASCII character set is used with
the color codes, but on BBSs, ANSI and `IBM characters' tend to go

Node:ANSI standard, Next:[561]ANSI standard pizza, Previous:[562]ANSI,
Up:[563]= A =

ANSI standard /an'see stan'd*rd/

The ANSI standard usage of `ANSI standard' refers to any practice
which is typical or broadly done. It's most appropriately applied to
things that everyone does that are not quite regulation. For example:
ANSI standard shaking of a laser printer cartridge to get extra life
from it, or the ANSI standard word tripling in names of usenet alt

Node:ANSI standard pizza, Next:[564]AOL!, Previous:[565]ANSI standard,
Up:[566]= A =

ANSI standard pizza /an'see stan'd*rd peet'z*/

[CMU] Pepperoni and mushroom pizza. Coined allegedly because most
pizzas ordered by CMU hackers during some period leading up to
mid-1990 were of that flavor. See also [567]rotary debugger; compare
[568]ISO standard cup of tea.

Node:AOL!, Next:[569]app, Previous:[570]ANSI standard pizza, Up:[571]=
A =

AOL! n.

[Usenet] Common synonym for "Me, too!" alluding to the legendary
propensity of America Online users to utter contentless "Me, too!"
postings. The number of exclamation points following varies from zero
to five or so. The pseudo-HTML

Me, too!

is also frequently seen. See also [572]September that never ended.

Node:app, Next:[573]arena, Previous:[574]AOL!, Up:[575]= A =

app /ap/ n.

Short for `application program', as opposed to a systems program. Apps
are what systems vendors are forever chasing developers to create for
their environments so they can sell more boxes. Hackers tend not to
think of the things they themselves run as apps; thus, in hacker
parlance the term excludes compilers, program editors, games, and
messaging systems, though a user would consider all those to be apps.
(Broadly, an app is often a self-contained environment for performing
some well-defined task such as `word processing'; hackers tend to
prefer more general-purpose tools.) See [576]killer app; oppose
[577]tool, [578]operating system.

Node:arena, Next:[579]arg, Previous:[580]app, Up:[581]= A =

arena n.

[common; Unix] The area of memory attached to a process by brk(2) and
sbrk(2) and used by malloc(3) as dynamic storage. So named from a
malloc: corrupt arena message emitted when some early versions
detected an impossible value in the free block list. See [582]overrun
screw, [583]aliasing bug, [584]memory leak, [585]memory smash,
[586]smash the stack.

Node:arg, Next:[587]ARMM, Previous:[588]arena, Up:[589]= A =

arg /arg/ n.

Abbreviation for `argument' (to a function), used so often as to have
become a new word (like `piano' from `pianoforte'). "The sine function
takes 1 arg, but the arc-tangent function can take either 1 or 2
args." Compare [590]param, [591]parm, [592]var.

Node:ARMM, Next:[593]armor-plated, Previous:[594]arg, Up:[595]= A =


[acronym, `Automated Retroactive Minimal Moderation'] A Usenet
[596]cancelbot created by Dick Depew of Munroe Falls, Ohio. ARMM was
intended to automatically cancel posts from anonymous-posting sites.
Unfortunately, the robot's recognizer for anonymous postings triggered
on its own automatically-generated control messages! Transformed by
this stroke of programming ineptitude into a monster of
Frankensteinian proportions, it broke loose on the night of March 31,
1993 and proceeded to [597]spam news.admin.policy with a recursive
explosion of over 200 messages.

ARMM's bug produced a recursive [598]cascade of messages each of which
mechanically added text to the ID and Subject and some other headers
of its parent. This produced a flood of messages in which each header
took up several screens and each message ID and subject line got
longer and longer and longer.

Reactions varied from amusement to outrage. The pathological messages
crashed at least one mail system, and upset people paying line charges
for their Usenet feeds. One poster described the ARMM debacle as
"instant Usenet history" (also establishing the term [599]despew), and
it has since been widely cited as a cautionary example of the havoc
the combination of good intentions and incompetence can wreak on a
network. Compare [600]Great Worm; [601]sorcerer's apprentice mode. See
also [602]software laser, [603]network meltdown.

Node:armor-plated, Next:[604]asbestos, Previous:[605]ARMM, Up:[606]= A

armor-plated n.

Syn. for [607]bulletproof.

Node:asbestos, Next:[608]asbestos cork award,
Previous:[609]armor-plated, Up:[610]= A =

asbestos adj.

[common] Used as a modifier to anything intended to protect one from
[611]flames; also in other highly [612]flame-suggestive usages. See,
for example, [613]asbestos longjohns and [614]asbestos cork award.

Node:asbestos cork award, Next:[615]asbestos longjohns,
Previous:[616]asbestos, Up:[617]= A =

asbestos cork award n.

Once, long ago at MIT, there was a [618]flamer so consistently
obnoxious that another hacker designed, had made, and distributed
posters announcing that said flamer had been nominated for the
`asbestos cork award'. (Any reader in doubt as to the intended
application of the cork should consult the etymology under
[619]flame.) Since then, it is agreed that only a select few have
risen to the heights of bombast required to earn this dubious dignity
-- but there is no agreement on which few.

Node:asbestos longjohns, Next:[620]ASCII, Previous:[621]asbestos cork
award, Up:[622]= A =

asbestos longjohns n.

Notional garments donned by [623]Usenet posters just before emitting a
remark they expect will elicit [624]flamage. This is the most common
of the [625]asbestos coinages. Also `asbestos underwear', `asbestos
overcoat', etc.

Node:ASCII, Next:[626]ASCII art, Previous:[627]asbestos longjohns,
Up:[628]= A =

ASCII /as'kee/ n.

[originally an acronym (American Standard Code for Information
Interchange) but now merely conventional] The predominant character
set encoding of present-day computers. The standard version uses 7
bits for each character, whereas most earlier codes (including early
drafts of of ASCII prior to June 1961) used fewer. This change allowed
the inclusion of lowercase letters -- a major [629]win -- but it did
not provide for accented letters or any other letterforms not used in
English (such as the German sharp-S or the ae-ligature which is a
letter in, for example, Norwegian). It could be worse, though. It
could be much worse. See [630]EBCDIC to understand how. A history of
ASCII and its ancestors is at

Computers are much pickier and less flexible about spelling than
humans; thus, hackers need to be very precise when talking about
characters, and have developed a considerable amount of verbal
shorthand for them. Every character has one or more names -- some
formal, some concise, some silly. Common jargon names for ASCII
characters are collected here. See also individual entries for
[632]bang, [633]excl, [634]open, [635]ques, [636]semi, [637]shriek,
[638]splat, [639]twiddle, and [640]Yu-Shiang Whole Fish.

This list derives from revision 2.3 of the Usenet ASCII pronunciation
guide. Single characters are listed in ASCII order; character pairs
are sorted in by first member. For each character, common names are
given in rough order of popularity, followed by names that are
reported but rarely seen; official ANSI/CCITT names are surrounded by
brokets: <>. Square brackets mark the particularly silly names
introduced by [641]INTERCAL. The abbreviations "l/r" and "o/c" stand
for left/right and "open/close" respectively. Ordinary parentheticals
provide some usage information.

Common: [642]bang; pling; excl; shriek; ball-bat; mark>. Rare: factorial; exclam; smash; cuss; boing; yell; wow;
hey; wham; eureka; [spark-spot]; soldier, control.

Common: double quote; quote. Rare: literal mark; double-glitch;
; ; dirk; [rabbit-ears]; double

Common: number sign; pound; pound sign; hash; sharp;
[643]crunch; hex; [mesh]. Rare: grid; crosshatch; octothorpe;
flash; , pig-pen; tictactoe; scratchmark; thud; thump;

Common: dollar; . Rare: currency symbol; buck;
cash; string (from BASIC); escape (when used as the echo of
ASCII ESC); ding; cache; [big money].

Common: percent; ; mod; grapes. Rare:

Common: ; amper; and, and sign. Rare: address (from
C); reference (from C++); andpersand; bitand; background (from
sh(1)); pretzel; amp. [INTERCAL called this `ampersand'; what
could be sillier?]

Common: single quote; quote; . Rare: prime; glitch;
tick; irk; pop; [spark]; ;

( )
Common: l/r paren; l/r parenthesis; left/right; open/close;
paren/thesis; o/c paren; o/c parenthesis; l/r parenthesis; l/r
banana. Rare: so/already; lparen/rparen; parenthesis>; o/c round bracket, l/r round bracket, [wax/wane];
parenthisey/unparenthisey; l/r ear.

Common: star; [[645]splat]; . Rare: wildcard; gear;
dingle; mult; spider; aster; times; twinkle; glob (see
[646]glob); [647]Nathan Hale.

Common: ; add. Rare: cross; [intersection].

Common: . Rare: ; [tail].

Common: dash; ; . Rare: [worm]; option; dak;

Common: dot; point; ; . Rare: radix
point; full stop; [spot].

Common: slash; stroke; ; forward slash. Rare: diagonal;
solidus; over; slak; virgule; [slat].

Common: . Rare: dots; [two-spot].

Common: ; semi. Rare: weenie; [hybrid], pit-thwong.

< >
Common: ; bra/ket; l/r angle; l/r angle
bracket; l/r broket. Rare: from/{into, towards}; read
from/write to; suck/blow; comes-from/gozinta; in/out;
crunch/zap (all from UNIX); tic/tac; [angle/right angle].

Common: ; gets; takes. Rare: quadrathorpe; [half-mesh].

Common: query; ; [648]ques. Rare: whatmark;
[what]; wildchar; huh; hook; buttonhook; hunchback.

Common: at sign; at; strudel. Rare: each; vortex; whorl;
[whirlpool]; cyclone; snail; ape; cat; rose; cabbage;

Rare: [book].

[ ]
Common: l/r square bracket; l/r bracket; bracket>; bracket/unbracket. Rare: square/unsquare; [U turn/U
turn back].

Common: backslash, hack, whack; escape (from C/UNIX); reverse
slash; slosh; backslant; backwhack. Rare: bash; slant>; reversed virgule; [backslat].

Common: hat; control; uparrow; caret; . Rare: xor
sign, chevron; [shark (or shark-fin)]; to the (`to the power
of'); fang; pointer (in Pascal).

Common: ; underscore; underbar; under. Rare: score;
backarrow; skid; [flatworm].

Common: backquote; left quote; left single quote; open quote;
; grave. Rare: backprime; [backspark];
unapostrophe; birk; blugle; back tick; back glitch; push;
; quasiquote.

{ }
Common: o/c brace; l/r brace; l/r squiggly; l/r squiggly
bracket/brace; l/r curly bracket/brace; brace>. Rare: brace/unbrace; curly/uncurly; leftit/rytit; l/r
squirrelly; [embrace/bracelet].

Common: bar; or; or-bar; v-bar; pipe; vertical bar. Rare:
; gozinta; thru; pipesinta (last three from
UNIX); [spike].

Common: ; squiggle; [649]twiddle; not. Rare: approx;
wiggle; swung dash; enyay; [sqiggle (sic)].

The pronunciation of # as `pound' is common in the U.S. but a bad
idea; [650]Commonwealth Hackish has its own, rather more apposite use
of `pound sign' (confusingly, on British keyboards the pound graphic
happens to replace #; thus Britishers sometimes call # on a U.S.-ASCII
keyboard `pound', compounding the American error). The U.S. usage
derives from an old-fashioned commercial practice of using a # suffix
to tag pound weights on bills of lading. The character is usually
pronounced `hash' outside the U.S. There are more culture wars over
the correct pronunciation of this character than any other, which has
led to the [651]ha ha only serious suggestion that it be pronounced
`shibboleth' (see Judges 12:6 in an Old Testament or Tanakh).

The `uparrow' name for circumflex and `leftarrow' name for underline
are historical relics from archaic ASCII (the 1963 version), which had
these graphics in those character positions rather than the modern
punctuation characters.

The `swung dash' or `approximation' sign is not quite the same as
tilde in typeset material but the ASCII tilde serves for both (compare
[652]angle brackets).

Some other common usages cause odd overlaps. The #, $, >, and &
characters, for example, are all pronounced "hex" in different
communities because various assemblers use them as a prefix tag for
hexadecimal constants (in particular, # in many assembler-programming
cultures, $ in the 6502 world, > at Texas Instruments, and & on the
BBC Micro, Sinclair, and some Z80 machines). See also [653]splat.

The inability of ASCII text to correctly represent any of the world's
other major languages makes the designers' choice of 7 bits look more
and more like a serious [654]misfeature as the use of international
networks continues to increase (see [655]software rot). Hardware and
software from the U.S. still tends to embody the assumption that ASCII
is the universal character set and that characters have 7 bits; this
is a major irritant to people who want to use a character set suited
to their own languages. Perversely, though, efforts to solve this
problem by proliferating `national' character sets produce an
evolutionary pressure to use a smaller subset common to all those in

Node:ASCII art, Next:[656]ASCIIbetical order, Previous:[657]ASCII,
Up:[658]= A =

ASCII art n.

The fine art of drawing diagrams using the ASCII character set (mainly
|, -, /, \, and +). Also known as `character graphics' or `ASCII
graphics'; see also [659]boxology. Here is a serious example:
o----)||(--+--|<----+ +---------o + D O
L )||( | | | C U
A I )||( +-->|-+ | +-\/\/-+--o - T
C N )||( | | | | P
E )||( +-->|-+--)---+--|(--+-o U
)||( | | | GND T

A power supply consisting of a full wave rectifier circuit
feeding a capacitor input filter circuit

And here are some very silly examples:
|\/\/\/| ____/| ___ |\_/| ___
| | \ o.O| ACK! / \_ |` '| _/ \
| | =(_)= THPHTH! / \/ \/ \
| (o)(o) U / \
C _) (__) \/\/\/\ _____ /\/\/\/
| ,___| (oo) \/ \/
| / \/-------\ U (__)
/____\ || | \ /---V `v'- oo )
/ \ ||---W|| * * |--| || |`. |_/\

====___\ /.. ..\ /___==== Klingons rule OK!
// ---\__O__/--- \\
\_\ /_/

There is an important subgenre of ASCII art that puns on the standard
character names in the fashion of a rebus.
| ^^^^^^^^^^^^ |
| ^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^ |
| ^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^^^^^ |
| ^^^^^^^ B ^^^^^^^^^ |
| ^^^^^^^^^ ^^^ ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ |
" A Bee in the Carrot Patch "

Within humorous ASCII art, there is for some reason an entire
flourishing subgenre of pictures of silly cows. Four of these are
reproduced in the examples above, here are three more:
(__) (__) (__)
(\/) ($$) (**)
/-------\/ /-------\/ /-------\/
/ | 666 || / |=====|| / | ||
* ||----|| * ||----|| * ||----||
~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~
Satanic cow This cow is a Yuppie Cow in love

Finally, here's a magnificent example of ASCII art depicting an
Edwardian train station in Dunedin, New Zealand:
/ I \
JL/ | \JL
.-. i () | () i .-.
|_| .^. /_\ LJ=======LJ /_\ .^. |_|
._/___\._./___\_._._._._.L_J_/.-. .-.\_L_J._._._._._/___\._./___\._._._
., |-,-| ., L_J |_| [I] |_| L_J ., |-,-| ., .,
JL |-O-| JL L_J%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%L_J JL |-O-| JL JL
_/\_ ||\\_I_//|| _/\_ [_] []_/_L_J_\_[] [_] _/\_ ||\\_I_//|| _/\_ ||\
|__| ||=/_|_\=|| |__|_|_| _L_L_J_J_ |_|_|__| ||=/_|_\=|| |__| ||-
|__| |||__|__||| |__[___]__--__===__--__[___]__| |||__|__||| |__| |||
\_I_/ [_]\_I_/[_] \_I_[_]\II/[]\_\I/_/[]\II/[_]\_I_/ [_]\_I_/[_] \_I_/ [_]
./ \.L_J/ \L_J./ L_JI I[]/ \[]I IL_J \.L_J/ \L_J./ \.L_J
| |L_J| |L_J| L_J| |[]| |[]| |L_J |L_J| |L_J| |L_J
|_____JL_JL___JL_JL____|-|| |[]| |[]| ||-|_____JL_JL___JL_JL_____JL_J

There is a newsgroup, alt.ascii-art, devoted to this genre; however,
see also [660]warlording.

Node:ASCIIbetical order, Next:[661]astroturfing, Previous:[662]ASCII
art, Up:[663]= A =

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

Used to indicate that data is sorted in ASCII collated order rather
than alphabetical order. This lexicon is sorted in something close to
ASCIIbetical order, but with case ignored and entries beginning with
non-alphabetic characters moved to the end. "At my video store, they
used their computer to sort the videos into ASCIIbetical order, so I
couldn't find `"Crocodile" Dundee' until I thought to look before
`2001' and `48 HRS.'!"

Node:astroturfing, Next:[664]atomic, Previous:[665]ASCIIbetical order,
Up:[666]= A =

astroturfing n.

The use of paid shills to create the impression of a popular movement,
through means like letters to newspapers from soi-disant `concerned
citizens', paid opinion pieces, and the formation of grass-roots
lobbying groups that are actually funded by a PR group (astroturf is
fake grass; hence the term). This term became common among hackers
after it came to light in early 1998 that Microsoft had attempted to
use such tactics to forestall the U.S. Department of Justice's
antitrust action against the company.

This backfired horribly, angering a number of state attorneys-general
enough to induce them to go public with plans to join the Federal
suit. It also set anybody defending Microsoft on the net for the
accusation "You're just astroturfing!".

Node:atomic, Next:[667]attoparsec, Previous:[668]astroturfing,
Up:[669]= A =

atomic adj.

[from Gk. `atomos', indivisible] 1. Indivisible; cannot be split up.
For example, an instruction may be said to do several things
`atomically', i.e., all the things are done immediately, and there is
no chance of the instruction being half-completed or of another being
interspersed. Used esp. to convey that an operation cannot be screwed
up by interrupts. "This routine locks the file and increments the
file's semaphore atomically." 2. [primarily techspeak] Guaranteed to
complete successfully or not at all, usu. refers to database
transactions. If an error prevents a partially-performed transaction
from proceeding to completion, it must be "backed out," as the
database must not be left in an inconsistent state.

Computer usage, in either of the above senses, has none of the
connotations that `atomic' has in mainstream English (i.e. of
particles of matter, nuclear explosions etc.).

Node:attoparsec, Next:[670]AUP, Previous:[671]atomic, Up:[672]= A =

attoparsec n.

About an inch. `atto-' is the standard SI prefix for multiplication by
10^(-18). A parsec (parallax-second) is 3.26 light-years; an
attoparsec is thus 3.26 * 10^(-18) light years, or about 3.1 cm (thus,
1 attoparsec/[673]microfortnight equals about 1 inch/sec). This unit
is reported to be in use (though probably not very seriously) among
hackers in the U.K. See [674]micro-.

Node:AUP, Next:[675]autobogotiphobia, Previous:[676]attoparsec,
Up:[677]= A =


Abbreviation, "Acceptable Use Policy". The policy of a given ISP which
sets out what the ISP considers to be (un)acceptable uses of its
Internet resources.

Node:autobogotiphobia, Next:[678]automagically, Previous:[679]AUP,
Up:[680]= A =

autobogotiphobia /aw'toh-boh-got`*-foh'bee-*/

n. See [681]bogotify.

Node:automagically, Next:[682]avatar, Previous:[683]autobogotiphobia,
Up:[684]= A =

automagically /aw-toh-maj'i-klee/ adv.

Automatically, but in a way that, for some reason (typically because
it is too complicated, or too ugly, or perhaps even too trivial), the
speaker doesn't feel like explaining to you. See [685]magic. "The
C-INTERCAL compiler generates C, then automagically invokes cc(1) to
produce an executable."

This term is quite old, going back at least to the mid-70s in jargon
and probably much earlier. The word `automagic' occurred in
advertising (for a shirt-ironing gadget) as far back as the late

Node:avatar, Next:[686]awk, Previous:[687]automagically, Up:[688]= A =

avatar n. Syn.

[in Hindu mythology, the incarnation of a god] 1. Among people working
on virtual reality and [689]cyberspace interfaces, an avatar is an
icon or representation of a user in a shared virtual reality. The term
is sometimes used on [690]MUDs. 2. [CMU, Tektronix] [691]root,
[692]superuser. There are quite a few Unix machines on which the name
of the superuser account is `avatar' rather than `root'. This quirk
was originated by a CMU hacker who found the terms `root' and
`superuser' unimaginative, and thought `avatar' might better impress
people with the responsibility they were accepting.

Node:awk, Next:[693]B5, Previous:[694]avatar, Up:[695]= A =

awk /awk/

1. n. [Unix techspeak] An interpreted language for massaging text data
developed by Alfred Aho, Peter Weinberger, and Brian Kernighan (the
name derives from their initials). It is characterized by C-like
syntax, a declaration-free approach to variable typing and
declarations, associative arrays, and field-oriented text processing.
See also [696]Perl. 2. n. Editing term for an expression awkward to
manipulate through normal [697]regexp facilities (for example, one
containing a [698]newline). 3. vt. To process data using awk(1).

Node:= B =, Next:[699]= C =, Previous:[700]= A =, Up:[701]The Jargon

= B =

* [702]B5:
* [703]back door:
* [704]backbone cabal:
* [705]backbone site:
* [706]backgammon:
* [707]background:
* [708]backreference:
* [709]backronym:
* [710]backspace and overstrike:
* [711]backward combatability:
* [712]BAD:
* [713]Bad and Wrong:
* [714]Bad Thing:
* [715]bag on the side:
* [716]bagbiter:
* [717]bagbiting:
* [718]baggy pantsing:
* [719]balloonian variable:
* [720]bamf:
* [721]banana label:
* [722]banana problem:
* [723]banner ad:
* [724]banner site:
* [725]barn:
* [726]batbelt:
* [727]Befunge:
* [728]BI:
* [729]binary four:
* [730]bandwidth:
* [731]bang:
* [732]bang on:
* [733]bang path:
* [734]banner:
* [735]bar:
* [736]bare metal:
* [737]barf:
* [738]barfmail:
* [739]barfulation:
* [740]barfulous:
* [741]barney:
* [742]baroque:
* [743]BASIC:
* [744]batch:
* [745]bathtub curve:
* [746]baud:
* [747]baud barf:
* [748]baz:
* [749]bazaar:
* [750]bboard:
* [751]BBS:
* [752]BCPL:
* [753]beam:
* [754]beanie key:
* [755]beep:
* [756]beige toaster:
* [757]bells and whistles:
* [758]bells whistles and gongs:
* [759]benchmark:
* [760]Berkeley Quality Software:
* [761]berklix:
* [762]Berzerkeley:
* [763]beta:
* [764]BFI:
* [765]bible:
* [766]BiCapitalization:
* [767]B1FF:
* [768]biff:
* [769]Big Gray Wall:
* [770]big iron:
* [771]Big Red Switch:
* [772]Big Room:
* [773]big win:
* [774]big-endian:
* [775]bignum:
* [776]bigot:
* [777]bit:
* [778]bit bang:
* [779]bit bashing:
* [780]bit bucket:
* [781]bit decay:
* [782]bit rot:
* [783]bit twiddling:
* [784]bit-paired keyboard:
* [785]bitblt:
* [786]BITNET:
* [787]bits:
* [788]bitty box:
* [789]bixen:
* [790]bixie:
* [791]black art:
* [792]black hole:
* [793]black magic:
* [794]Black Screen of Death:
* [795]Black Thursday:
* [796]blammo:
* [797]blargh:
* [798]blast:
* [799]blat:
* [800]bletch:
* [801]bletcherous:
* [802]blink:
* [803]blinkenlights:
* [804]blit:
* [805]blitter:
* [806]blivet:
* [807]bloatware:
* [808]BLOB:
* [809]block:
* [810]block transfer computations:
* [811]Bloggs Family:
* [812]blow an EPROM:
* [813]blow away:
* [814]blow out:
* [815]blow past:
* [816]blow up:
* [817]BLT:
* [818]Blue Book:
* [819]blue box:
* [820]Blue Glue:
* [821]blue goo:
* [822]Blue Screen of Death:
* [823]blue wire:
* [824]blurgle:
* [825]BNF:
* [826]boa:
* [827]board:
* [828]boat anchor:
* [829]bob:
* [830]bodysurf code:
* [831]BOF:
* [832]BOFH:
* [833]bogo-sort:
* [834]bogometer:
* [835]BogoMIPS:
* [836]bogon:
* [837]bogon filter:
* [838]bogon flux:
* [839]bogosity:
* [840]bogotify:
* [841]bogue out:
* [842]bogus:
* [843]Bohr bug:
* [844]boink:
* [845]bomb:
* [846]bondage-and-discipline language:
* [847]bonk/oif:
* [848]book titles:
* [849]boot:
* [850]Borg:
* [851]borken:
* [852]bot:
* [853]bot spot:
* [854]bottom feeder:
* [855]bottom-up implementation:
* [856]bounce:
* [857]bounce message:
* [858]boustrophedon:
* [859]box:
* [860]boxed comments:
* [861]boxen:
* [862]boxology:
* [863]bozotic:
* [864]BQS:
* [865]brain dump:
* [866]brain fart:
* [867]brain-damaged:
* [868]brain-dead:
* [869]braino:
* [870]branch to Fishkill:
* [871]bread crumbs:
* [872]break:
* [873]break-even point:
* [874]breath-of-life packet:
* [875]breedle:
* [876]Breidbart Index:
* [877]bring X to its knees:
* [878]brittle:
* [879]broadcast storm:
* [880]brochureware:
* [881]broken:
* [882]broken arrow:
* [883]BrokenWindows:
* [884]broket:
* [885]Brooks's Law:
* [886]brown-paper-bag bug:
* [887]browser:
* [888]BRS:
* [889]brute force:
* [890]brute force and ignorance:
* [891]BSD:
* [892]BSOD:
* [893]BUAF:
* [894]BUAG:
* [895]bubble sort:
* [896]bucky bits:
* [897]buffer chuck:
* [898]buffer overflow:
* [899]bug:
* [900]bug-compatible:
* [901]bug-for-bug compatible:
* [902]bug-of-the-month club:
* [903]buglix:
* [904]bulletproof:
* [905]bullschildt:
* [906]bum:
* [907]bump:
* [908]burble:
* [909]buried treasure:
* [910]burn-in period:
* [911]burst page:
* [912]busy-wait:
* [913]buzz:
* [914]BWQ:
* [915]by hand:
* [916]byte:
* [917]byte sex:
* [918]bytesexual:
* [919]Bzzzt! Wrong.:

Node:B5, Next:[920]back door, Previous:[921]awk, Up:[922]= B =

B5 //

[common] Abbreviation for "Babylon 5", a science-fiction TV series as
revered among hackers as was the original Star Trek.

Node:back door, Next:[923]backbone cabal, Previous:[924]B5, Up:[925]=
B =

back door n.

[common] A hole in the security of a system deliberately left in place
by designers or maintainers. The motivation for such holes is not
always sinister; some operating systems, for example, come out of the
box with privileged accounts intended for use by field service
technicians or the vendor's maintenance programmers. Syn. [926]trap
door; may also be called a `wormhole'. See also [927]iron box,
[928]cracker, [929]worm, [930]logic bomb.

Historically, back doors have often lurked in systems longer than
anyone expected or planned, and a few have become widely known. Ken
Thompson's 1983 Turing Award lecture to the ACM admitted the existence
of a back door in early Unix versions that may have qualified as the
most fiendishly clever security hack of all time. In this scheme, the
C compiler contained code that would recognize when the `login'
command was being recompiled and insert some code recognizing a
password chosen by Thompson, giving him entry to the system whether or
not an account had been created for him.

Normally such a back door could be removed by removing it from the
source code for the compiler and recompiling the compiler. But to
recompile the compiler, you have to use the compiler -- so Thompson
also arranged that the compiler would recognize when it was compiling
a version of itself, and insert into the recompiled compiler the code
to insert into the recompiled `login' the code to allow Thompson entry
-- and, of course, the code to recognize itself and do the whole thing
again the next time around! And having done this once, he was then
able to recompile the compiler from the original sources; the hack
perpetuated itself invisibly, leaving the back door in place and
active but with no trace in the sources.

The talk that suggested this truly moby hack was published as
"Reflections on Trusting Trust", "Communications of the ACM 27", 8
(August 1984), pp. 761-763 (text available at
[931]http://www.acm.org/classics). Ken Thompson has since confirmed
that this hack was implemented and that the Trojan Horse code did
appear in the login binary of a Unix Support group machine. Ken says
the crocked compiler was never distributed. Your editor has heard two
separate reports that suggest that the crocked login did make it out
of Bell Labs, notably to BBN, and that it enabled at least one
late-night login across the network by someone using the login name

Node:backbone cabal, Next:[932]backbone site, Previous:[933]back door,
Up:[934]= B =

backbone cabal n.

A group of large-site administrators who pushed through the [935]Great
Renaming and reined in the chaos of [936]Usenet during most of the
1980s. During most of its lifetime, the Cabal (as it was sometimes
capitalized) steadfastly denied its own existence; it was almost
obligatory for anyone privy to their secrets to respond "There is no
Cabal" whenever the existence or activities of the group were
speculated on in public.

The result of this policy was an attractive aura of mystery. Even a
decade after the cabal [937]mailing list disbanded in late 1988
following a bitter internal catfight, many people believed (or claimed
to believe) that it had not actually disbanded but only gone deeper
underground with its power intact.

This belief became a model for various paranoid theories about various
Cabals with dark nefarious objectives beginning with taking over the
Usenet or Internet. These paranoias were later satirized in ways that
took on a life of their own. See [938]Eric Conspiracy for one example.

See [939]NANA for the subsequent history of "the Cabal".

Node:backbone site, Next:[940]backgammon, Previous:[941]backbone
cabal, Up:[942]= B =

backbone site n.,obs.

Formerly, a key Usenet and email site, one that processes a large
amount of third-party traffic, especially if it is the home site of
any of the regional coordinators for the Usenet maps. Notable backbone
sites as of early 1993, when this sense of the term was beginning to
pass out of general use due to wide availability of cheap Internet
connections, included uunet and the mail machines at Rutgers
University, UC Berkeley, [943]DEC's Western Research Laboratories,
Ohio State University, and the University of Texas. Compare [944]rib
site, [945]leaf site.

[1996 update: This term is seldom heard any more. The UUCP network
world that gave it meaning has nearly disappeared; everyone is on the
Internet now and network traffic is distributed in very different
patterns. Today one might see references to a `backbone router'
instead --ESR]

Node:backgammon, Next:[946]background, Previous:[947]backbone site,
Up:[948]= B =


See [949]bignum (sense 3), [950]moby (sense 4), and [951]pseudoprime.

Node:background, Next:[952]backreference, Previous:[953]backgammon,
Up:[954]= B =

background n.,adj.,vt.

[common] To do a task `in background' is to do it whenever
[955]foreground matters are not claiming your undivided attention, and
`to background' something means to relegate it to a lower priority.
"For now, we'll just print a list of nodes and links; I'm working on
the graph-printing problem in background." Note that this implies
ongoing activity but at a reduced level or in spare time, in contrast
to mainstream `back burner' (which connotes benign neglect until some
future resumption of activity). Some people prefer to use the term for
processing that they have queued up for their unconscious minds (a
tack that one can often fruitfully take upon encountering an obstacle
in creative work). Compare [956]amp off, [957]slopsucker.

Technically, a task running in background is detached from the
terminal where it was started (and often running at a lower priority);
oppose [958]foreground. Nowadays this term is primarily associated
with [959]Unix, but it appears to have been first used in this sense
on OS/360.

Node:backreference, Next:[960]backronym, Previous:[961]background,
Up:[962]= B =

backreference n.

1. In a regular expression or pattern match, the text which was
matched within grouping parentheses parentheses. 2. The part of the
pattern which refers back to the matched text. 3. By extension,
anything which refers back to something which has been seen or
discussed before. "When you said `she' just now, who were you

Node:backronym, Next:[963]backspace and overstrike,
Previous:[964]backreference, Up:[965]= B =

backronym n.

[portmanteau of back + acronym] A word interpreted as an acronym that
was not originally so intended. This is a special case of what
linguists call `back formation'. Examples are given under [966]BASIC,
[967]recursive acronym (Cygnus), [968]Acme, and [969]mung. Discovering
backronyms is a common form of wordplay among hackers. Compare

Node:backspace and overstrike, Next:[971]backward combatability,
Previous:[972]backronym, Up:[973]= B =

backspace and overstrike interj.

[rare] Whoa! Back up. Used to suggest that someone just said or did
something wrong. Once common among APL programmers; may now be

Node:backward combatability, Next:[974]BAD, Previous:[975]backspace
and overstrike, Up:[976]= B =

backward combatability /bak'w*rd k*m-bat'*-bil'*-tee/ n.

[CMU, Tektronix: from `backward compatibility'] A property of hardware
or software revisions in which previous protocols, formats, layouts,
etc. are irrevocably discarded in favor of `new and improved'
protocols, formats, and layouts, leaving the previous ones not merely
deprecated but actively defeated. (Too often, the old and new versions
cannot definitively be distinguished, such that lingering instances of
the previous ones yield crashes or other infelicitous effects, as
opposed to a simple "version mismatch" message.) A backwards
compatible change, on the other hand, allows old versions to coexist
without crashes or error messages, but too many major changes
incorporating elaborate backwards compatibility processing can lead to
extreme [977]software bloat. See also [978]flag day.

Node:BAD, Next:[979]Bad and Wrong, Previous:[980]backward
combatability, Up:[981]= B =

BAD /B-A-D/ adj.

[IBM: acronym, `Broken As Designed'] Said of a program that is
[982]bogus because of bad design and misfeatures rather than because
of bugginess. See [983]working as designed.

Node:Bad and Wrong, Next:[984]Bad Thing, Previous:[985]BAD, Up:[986]=
B =

Bad and Wrong adj.

[Durham, UK] Said of something that is both badly designed and wrongly
executed. This common term is the prototype of, and is used by
contrast with, three less common terms - Bad and Right (a kludge,
something ugly but functional); Good and Wrong (an overblown GUI or
other attractive nuisance); and (rare praise) Good and Right. These
terms entered common use at Durham c.1994 and may have been imported
from elsewhere; they are also in use at Oxford, and the emphatic form
"Evil, Bad and Wrong" (abbreviated EBW) is reported fromm there. There
are standard abbreviations: they start with B&R, a typo for "Bad and
Wrong". Consequently, B&W is actually "Bad and Right", G&R = "Good and
Wrong", and G&W = "Good and Right". Compare [987]evil and rude,
[988]Good Thing, [989]Bad Thing.

Node:Bad Thing, Next:[990]bag on the side, Previous:[991]Bad and
Wrong, Up:[992]= B =

Bad Thing n.

[very common; from the 1930 Sellar & Yeatman parody "1066 And All
That"] Something that can't possibly result in improvement of the
subject. This term is always capitalized, as in "Replacing all of the
9600-baud modems with bicycle couriers would be a Bad Thing". Oppose
[993]Good Thing. British correspondents confirm that [994]Bad Thing
and [995]Good Thing (and prob. therefore [996]Right Thing and
[997]Wrong Thing) come from the book referenced in the etymology,
which discusses rulers who were Good Kings but Bad Things. This has
apparently created a mainstream idiom on the British side of the pond.
It is very common among American hackers, but not in mainstream usage
here. Compare [998]Bad and Wrong.

Node:bag on the side, Next:[999]bagbiter, Previous:[1000]Bad Thing,
Up:[1001]= B =

bag on the side n.

[prob. originally related to a colostomy bag] An extension to an
established hack that is supposed to add some functionality to the
original. Usually derogatory, implying that the original was being
overextended and should have been thrown away, and the new product is
ugly, inelegant, or bloated. Also v. phrase, `to hang a bag on the
side [of]'. "C++? That's just a bag on the side of C ...." "They want
me to hang a bag on the side of the accounting system."

Node:bagbiter, Next:[1002]bagbiting, Previous:[1003]bag on the side,
Up:[1004]= B =

bagbiter /bag'bi:t-*r/ n.

1. Something, such as a program or a computer, that fails to work, or
works in a remarkably clumsy manner. "This text editor won't let me
make a file with a line longer than 80 characters! What a bagbiter!"
2. A person who has caused you some trouble, inadvertently or
otherwise, typically by failing to program the computer properly.
Synonyms: [1005]loser, [1006]cretin, [1007]chomper. 3. `bite the bag'
vi. To fail in some manner. "The computer keeps crashing every five
minutes." "Yes, the disk controller is really biting the bag."

The original loading of these terms was almost undoubtedly obscene,
possibly referring to a douche bag or the scrotum (we have reports of
"Bite the douche bag!" being used as a taunt at MIT 1970-1976, and we
have another report that "Bite the bag!" was in common use at least as
early as 1965), but in their current usage they have become almost
completely sanitized.

ITS's [1008]lexiphage program was the first and to date only known
example of a program intended to be a bagbiter.

Node:bagbiting, Next:[1009]baggy pantsing, Previous:[1010]bagbiter,
Up:[1011]= B =

bagbiting adj.

Having the quality of a [1012]bagbiter. "This bagbiting system won't
let me compute the factorial of a negative number." Compare
[1013]losing, [1014]cretinous, [1015]bletcherous, `barfucious' (under
[1016]barfulous) and `chomping' (under [1017]chomp).

Node:baggy pantsing, Next:[1018]balloonian variable,
Previous:[1019]bagbiting, Up:[1020]= B =

baggy pantsing v.

[Georgia Tech] A "baggy pantsing" is used to reprimand hackers who
incautiously leave their terminals unlocked. The affected user will
come back to find a post from them on internal newsgroups discussing
exactly how baggy their pants are, an accepted stand-in for
"unattentive user who left their work unprotected in the clusters". A
properly-done baggy pantsing is highly mocking and humorous (see
examples below). It is considered bad form to post a baggy pantsing to
off-campus newsgroups or the more technical, serious groups. A
particularly nice baggy pantsing may be "claimed" by immediately
quoting the message in full, followed by your sig; this has the added
benefit of keeping the embarassed victim from being able to delete the
post. Interesting baggy-pantsings have been done involving adding
commands to login scripts to repost the message every time the unlucky
user logs in; Unix boxes on the residential network, when cracked,
oftentimes have their homepages replaced (after being politely
backedup to another file) with a baggy-pants message; .plan files are
also occasionally targeted. Usage: "Prof. Greenlee fell asleep in the
Solaris cluster again; we baggy-pantsed him to

Node:balloonian variable, Next:[1021]bamf, Previous:[1022]baggy
pantsing, Up:[1023]= B =

balloonian variable n.

[Commodore users; perh. a deliberate phonetic mangling of `boolean
variable'?] Any variable that doesn't actually hold or control state,
but must nevertheless be declared, checked, or set. A typical
balloonian variable started out as a flag attached to some environment
feature that either became obsolete or was planned but never
implemented. Compatibility concerns (or politics attached to same) may
require that such a flag be treated as though it were [1024]live.

Node:bamf, Next:[1025]banana label, Previous:[1026]balloonian
variable, Up:[1027]= B =

bamf /bamf/

1. [from X-Men comics; originally "bampf"] interj. Notional sound made
by a person or object teleporting in or out of the hearer's vicinity.
Often used in [1028]virtual reality (esp. [1029]MUD) electronic
[1030]fora when a character wishes to make a dramatic entrance or
exit. 2. The sound of magical transformation, used in virtual reality
[1031]fora like MUDs. 3. In MUD circles, "bamf" is also used to refer
to the act by which a MUD server sends a special notification to the
MUD client to switch its connection to another server ("I'll set up
the old site to just bamf people over to our new location."). 4. Used
by MUDders on occasion in a more general sense related to sense 3, to
refer to directing someone to another location or resource ("A user
was asking about some technobabble so I bamfed them to

Node:banana label, Next:[1033]banana problem, Previous:[1034]bamf,
Up:[1035]= B =

banana label n.

The labels often used on the sides of [1036]macrotape reels, so called
because they are shaped roughly like blunt-ended bananas. This term,
like macrotapes themselves, is still current but visibly headed for

Node:banana problem, Next:[1037]binary four, Previous:[1038]banana
label, Up:[1039]= B =

banana problem n.

[from the story of the little girl who said "I know how to spell
`banana', but I don't know when to stop"]. Not knowing where or when
to bring a production to a close (compare [1040]fencepost error). One
may say `there is a banana problem' of an algorithm with poorly
defined or incorrect termination conditions, or in discussing the
evolution of a design that may be succumbing to featuritis (see also
[1041]creeping elegance, [1042]creeping featuritis). See item 176
under [1043]HAKMEM, which describes a banana problem in a
[1044]Dissociated Press implementation. Also, see [1045]one-banana
problem for a superficially similar but unrelated usage.

Node:binary four, Next:[1046]bandwidth, Previous:[1047]banana problem,
Up:[1048]= B =

binary four n.

[Usenet] The finger, in the sense of `digitus impudicus'. This comes
from an analogy between binary and the hand, i.e. 1=00001=thumb,
2=00010=index finger, 3=00011=index and thumb, 4=00100. Considered
silly. Prob. from humorous derivative of [1049]finger, sense 4.

Node:bandwidth, Next:[1050]bang, Previous:[1051]binary four,
Up:[1052]= B =

bandwidth n.

1. [common] Used by hackers (in a generalization of its technical
meaning) as the volume of information per unit time that a computer,
person, or transmission medium can handle. "Those are amazing
graphics, but I missed some of the detail -- not enough bandwidth, I
guess." Compare [1053]low-bandwidth. This generalized usage began to
go mainstream after the Internet population explosion of 1993-1994. 2.
Attention span. 3. On [1054]Usenet, a measure of network capacity that
is often wasted by people complaining about how items posted by others
are a waste of bandwidth.

Node:bang, Next:[1055]bang on, Previous:[1056]bandwidth, Up:[1057]= B


1. n. Common spoken name for ! (ASCII 0100001), especially when used
in pronouncing a [1058]bang path in spoken hackish. In [1059]elder

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