the JARGON FILE draft, part 4 of 4

Skip to first unread message

Eric S. Raymond

Jun 13, 1990, 12:35:14 AM6/13/90

= S =

SACRED (say'kr@d) adj. Reserved for the exclusive use of something (a
metaphorical extension of the standard meaning). "Accumulator 7 is
sacred to the UUO handler." Often means that anyone may look at
the sacred object, but clobbering it will screw whatever it is
sacred to.

SADISTICS (s@'dis'tiks) n. University slang for statistics and
probability theory, often used by hackers.

SAGA (saga) [WPI] n. A cuspy but bogus raving story dealing with N
random broken people.

SAIL (sayl) n. Stanford University Artificial Intelligence Lab. An
important site in the early development of LISP (with the MIT AI
LAB, CMU and the UNIX community) one of the major founts of hacker
culture traditions. The SAIL machines were shut down in late May
1990, scant weeks after the MIT AI lab's ITS cluster went down
for the last time.

SALT MINES (sahlt miens) n. Dense quarters housing large numbers of
programmers working long hours on grungy projects, with some hope
of seeing the end of the tunnel in x number of years. Noted for
their absence of sunshine. Compare PLAYPEN.

SANDBENDER (sand'ben-dr) [IBM] n. A person involved with silicon
lithography and the physical design of chips. Compare IRONMONGER,

SCIENCE-FICTION FANDOM (si'@ns fik'shn fan'dm) n. Another voluntary
subculture having a very heavy overlap with hackerdom; almost all
hackers read SF and/or fantasy fiction avidly, and many go to
"cons" (SF conventions) or are involved in fandom-connected
activities like the Society for Creative Anachronism. Some hacker
slang originated in SF fandom; see DEFENESTRATION, GREAT-WALL,
REAL SOON NOW, SNOG. Additionally, the jargon terms CYBERSPACE,
GO FLATLINE, ICE, VIRUS, and WORM originated in SF itself.

SCRATCH (skrach) [from "scratchpad"] adj. A device or recording medium
attached to a machine for testing purposes; one which can be
SCRIBBLED on without loss. Usually in the combining forms SCRATCH

SCRATCH MONKEY (skrach muhn'kee) n. As in, "Before testing or
reconfiguring, always mount a". Used in memory of Mabel, the
Swimming Wonder Monkey who expired when a computer vendor PM'd a
machine which was regulating the gas mixture that the monkey was
breathing at the time. See Appendix A. A mantram used to advise
caution when dealing with irreplacable data or devices. See

SCREW (scroo) [MIT] n. A LOSE, usually in software. Especially used
for user-visible misbehavior caused by a bug or misfeature.

SCREWAGE (scroo'@j) n. Like LOSSAGE (q.v.) but connotes that the
failure is do to a designed-in misfeature rather than a simple
inadequacy or mere bug.

SCROG (skrog) [Bell Labs] v. To damage, trash or corrupt a data
structure. as in "the cblock got scrogged". Also reported as
SKROG, and ascribed to "The Wizard of Id" comix. Equivalent to

SCROZZLE (skro'zl) v. Verb used when a self-modifying code segment
runs incorrectly and corrupts the running program, or vital data.
"The damn compiler scrozzled itself again!"

SCRIBBLE (skri'bl) n. To modify a data structure in a random and
unintentionally destructive way. "Bletch! Somebody's disk-compactor
program went berserk and scribbled on the i-node table." "It was
working fine until one of the allocation routines scribbled on low
core." Synonymous with TRASH; compare MUNG, which conveys a bit
more intention, and MANGLE, which is more violent and final.

SEARCH-AND-DESTROY MODE (serch-@nd-d@s-troy' mohd) n. Hackerism for
the search-and-replace facility in an editor, so called because an
incautiously chosen match pattern can cause INFINITE damage.

SECOND-SYSTEM SYNDROME (sek'@nd sis'tm sin'drohm) n. When designing
the successor to a relatively small, elegant and successful system,
there is a tendency to become grandiose in one's success and
perpetrate an ELEPHANTINE feature-laden monstrosity. The term
`second-system syndrome' was first used for this affliction in
describing how the success of CTSS led to the debacle that was

SEGGIE (seg'ee) [UNIX] n. Reported from Britain as a shorthand for
`segment violation', an attempted access to a protected memory area
usually resulting in a CORE DUMP.

SELF-REFERENCE (self ref'@-rens) n. See SELF-REFERENCE.

SELVAGE (selv'@j) n. See CHAD (sense #1).

SEMI (se'mee) 1. n. Abbreviation for "semicolon", when speaking.
"Commands to GRIND are prefixed by semi-semi-star" means that the
prefix is ";;*", not 1/4 of a star. 2. Prefix with words such as
"immediately", as a qualifier. "When is the system coming up?"

SERVER (ser'vr) n. A kind of DAEMON which performs a service for the
requester, which often runs on a computer other than the one on
which the server runs. A particularly common term on the Internet,
which is rife with "name servers" "domain servers" "news servers"
"finger servers" and the like.

SEX (seks) [Sun User's Group & elsewhere] n. 1. Software EXchange. A
technique invented by the blue-green algae hundereds of millions of
years ago to speed up their evolution, which had been terribly slow
up until then. Today, SEX parties are popular among hackers and
others. 2. The rather Freudian mnemonic often used for Sign Extend,
a machine instruction found in many architectures.

SHAREWARE (sheir'weir) n. FREEWARE for which the author requests some
payment, usually in the accompanying documentation files or in an
announcement made by the software itself. Such payment may or may
not buy additional support or functionality. See GUILTWARE,

SHELFWARE (shelf'weir) n. Software purchased on a whim (by an
individual user) or in accordance with policy (by a corporation or
government) but not actually required for any particular use.
Therefore, it often ends up on some shelf.

SHELL (shel) [from UNIX, now used elsewhere] n. 1. On an operating
system with a well-defined KERNEL (q.v.), the SHELL is the loadable
command interpreter program used to pass commands to the kernel. A
single kernel may support several shells with different interface
styles. 2. More generally, any interface program which mediates
access to a special resource or SERVER for convenience, efficiency
or security reasons; for this meaning, the usage is usually A SHELL
AROUND whatever.

SHIFT LEFT (RIGHT) LOGICAL (shift left (riet) lah'ji-kl) [from any of
various machines' instruction sets] 1. v. To move oneself to the
left (right). To move out of the way. 2. imper. Get out of that
(my) seat! Usage: often used without the "logical", or as "left
shift" instead of "shift left". Sometimes heard as LSH (lish),
from the PDP-10 instruction set.

SHRIEK (shreek) See EXCL. Occasional CMU usage, also in common use
among mathematicians, especially category theorists.

SIG (sig) or SIG BLOCK (sig blahk) [UNIX; often written ".sig" there]
n. Short for "signature", used specifically to refer to the
electronic signature block which most UNIX mail- and news-posting
software will allow you to automatically append to outgoing mail
and news. The composition of one's sig can be quite an art form,
including an ASCII logo or one's choice of witty sayings; but many
consider large sigs a waste of bandwidth, and it has been observed
that the size of one's sig block is usually inversely proportional
to one's longevity and level of prestige on THE NETWORK.

SILICON (sil'i-kon) n. Hardware, esp. ICs or microprocessor-based
computer systems (compare IRON). Contrasted with software.

SILLY WALK (si'lee wahk) [from Monty Python] v. a ridiculous procedure
required to accomplish a task. Like GROVEL, but more RANDOM and
humorous. "I had to silly-walk through half the /usr directories to
find the maps file."

SILO (sie'loh) n. The FIFO input-character buffer in an RS-232 line
card. So called from DEC terminology used on DH and DZ line cards
for the VAX and PDP-11.

SILVER BOOK, THE (sil'vr buk) n. Jensen & Wirth's infamous
_Pascal_User_Manual_ and_Report_, so called because of the silver
cover of the widely-distributed Springer-Verlag second edition of

16-INCH ROTARY DEBUGGER (piz'uh) [Commodore] n. Essential equipment
for those late night or early morning debugging sessions. Mainly
used as sustenance for the hacker. Comes in many decorator colours
such as Sausage, Pepperoni, and Garbage.

SLEEP (sleep) [from the UNIX sleep(3)] On a timesharing system, a
process which relinquishes its claim on the scheduler until some
given event occurs or a specified time delay elapses is said to `go
to sleep'.

SLOP (slop) n. 1. A one-sided fudge factor (q.v.). Often introduced
to avoid the possibility of a fencepost error (q.v.). 2. (used by
compiler freaks) The ratio of code generated by a compiler to
hand-compiled code, minus 1; i.e., the space (or maybe time) you
lose because you didn't do it yourself.

SLOPSUCKER (slop'suhkr) n. a lowest-priority task that must wait
around until everything else has "had its fill" of machine
resources. Only when the machine would otherwise be idle is the
task allowed to "suck up the slop." Also called a HUNGRY PUPPY. One
common variety of slopsucker hunts for large prime numbers. Compare

SLUGGY (sluh'gee) adj. Hackish variant of `sluggish'. Used only of
people, esp. someone just waking up after a long GRONK-OUT.

SLURP (slerp) v. To read a large data file entirely into core before
working on it. "This program slurps in a 1K-by-1K matrix and does
an FFT."

SMART (smart) adj. Said of a program that does the RIGHT THING (q.v.)
in a wide variety of complicated circumstances. There is a
difference between calling a program smart and calling it
intelligent; in particular, there do not exist any intelligent
programs (yet). Compare ROBUST (smart programs can be BRITTLE).

SMASH THE STACK (smash dh@ stak) [C programming] n. On many C
implementations it is possible to corrupt the execution stack by
writing past the end of an array declared auto in a routine. Code
that does this is said to `smash the stack', and can cause return
from the routine to jump to a random text address. This can produce
some of the most insidious data-dependent bugs known to mankind.
Variants include `trash the stack', `SCRIBBLE ON the stack',
`MANGLE the stack'; `*MUNG the stack' is not used as this is never

SMILEY (smie'lee) n. See EMOTICON.

SMOKE TEST (smohk test) n. 1. A rudimentary form of testing applied to
electronic equipment following repair or reconfiguration in which
AC power is applied and during which the tester checks for sparks,
smoke, or other dramatic signs of fundamental failure. 2. By
extension, the first run of a piece of software after construction
or a critical change. See MAGIC SMOKE.

SMOKING CLOVER (smoh'king kloh'vr) n. A DISPLAY HACK originally due
to Bill Gosper. Many convergent lines are drawn on a color monitor
in AOS mode (so that every pixel struck has its color incremented).
The color map is then rotated. The lines all have one endpoint in
the middle of the screen; the other endpoints are spaced one pixel
apart around the perimeter of a large square. This results in a
striking, rainbow-hued, shimmering four-leaf clover. Gosper joked
about keeping it hidden from the FDA lest it be banned.

SMOP (smop) [Simple (or Small) Matter of Programming] n. A piece of
code, not yet written, whose anticipated length is significantly
greater than its complexity. Usage: used to refer to a program
that could obviously be written, but is not worth the trouble.

SNAIL-MAIL (snayl-mayl) n. Paper mail, as opposed to electronic. See

SNARF (snarf) v. 1. To grab, esp. a large document or file for the
purpose of using it either with or without the author's permission.
See BLT. Variant: SNARF (IT) DOWN. (At MIT on ITS, DDT has a
command called :SNARF which grabs a job from another (inferior)
DDT.) 2. [in the UNIX community] to fetch a file or set of files
across a network. See also BLAST.

SNARF & BARF (snarf-n-barf) n. The act of grabbing a region of text
using a WIMP (q.v.) environment (Window, Icon, Mouse, Pointer) and
then "stuffing" the contents of that region into another region or
into the same region, to avoid re-typing a command line.

SNEAKERNET (snee'ker-net) n. Term used (generally with ironic intent)
for transfer of electronic information by physically carrying tape,
disks, or some other media from one machine to another. "Never
underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon filled with magtape,
or a 747 filled with CD-ROMs"

SNIFF (snif) v.,n. Synonym for POLL.

SNOG (snog) [from old-time science-fiction fandom] v.i. Equivalent to
mainstream "make out" describing sexual activity, especially
exploratory. Most often encountered as participle SNOGGING. "Oh,
they're off snogging somewhere."

S.O. (ess-oh) n. Acronym for Significant Other, almost invariably
written abbreviated and pronounced "ess-oh" by hackers. In fact the
form without periods "SO" is most common. Used to refer to one's
primary relationship, esp. a live-in to whom one is not married.

SOFTWARE ROT (soft'weir raht) n. Hypothetical disease the existence
of which has been deduced from the observation that unused programs
or features will stop working after sufficient time has passed,
even if "nothing has changed". Also known as BIT DECAY, BIT ROT.
Occasionally this turns out to be a real problem due to media

SOFTWARILY (soft-weir'i-lee) adv. In a way pertaining to software.
"The system is softwarily unreliable." The adjective "softwary" is

SOME RANDOM X (suhm randm eks) adj. Used to indicate a member of
class X, with the implication that the particular X is
interchangeable with most other Xs in whatever context was being
discussed. "I think some random cracker tripped over the guest
timeout last night"

SORCEROR'S APPRENTICE MODE (sor'ser'ers @-pren'tis mohd) n. A bug in
a protocol where, under some circumstances, the receipt of a
message causes more than one message to be sent, each of which,
when received, triggers the same bug. Used esp. of such behavior
caused by BOUNCE MESSAGE loops in EMAIL software. Compare BROADCAST

SPACEWAR (spays'wohr) n. A space-combat simulation game first
implemented on the PDP-1 at MIT in 1960-61. SPACEWAR aficionados
formed the core of the early hacker culture at MIT. Ten years later
a descendent of the game motivated Ken Thompson to invent UNIX
(q.v.). Ten years after that, SPACEWAR was commercialized as one of
the first video games; descendants are still feeping in video
arcades everywhere.

SPAGHETTI CODE (sp@-get'ee kohd) n. Describes code with a complex and
tangled control structure, esp. one using many GOTOs, exceptions or
other `unstructured' branching constructs. Pejorative.

SPAGHETTI INHERITANCE (sp@-get'ee in-her'i-t@ns) n. [Encountered among
users of object-oriented languages that use inheritance, such as
Smalltalk] A convoluted class-subclass graph, often resulting from
carelessly deriving subclasses from other classes just for the sake
of reusing their code. Coined in a (successful) attempt to
discourage such practice, through guilt by association with

SPIFFY (spi'fee) adj. 1. Said of programs having a pretty, clever or
exceptionally well-designed interface. "Have you seen the spiffy X
version of EMPIRE yet?" 2. Said sarcastically of programs which are
perceived to have little more than a flashy interface going for
them. Which meaning should be drawn depends delicately on tone of
voice and context.

SPIN (spin) v. Equivalent to BUZZ (q.v.). More common among C and UNIX

SPLAT (splat) n. 1. Name used in many places (DEC, IBM, and others)
for the ASCII star ("*") character. 2. [MIT] Name used by some
people for the ASCII pound-sign ("#") character. 3. [Stanford]
Name used by some people for the Stanford/ITS extended ASCII
circle-x character. (This character is also called "circle-x",
"blobby", and "frob", among other names.) 4. [Stanford] Name for
the semi-mythical extended ASCII circle-plus character. 5.
Canonical name for an output routine that outputs whatever the the
local interpretation of splat is. Usage: nobody really agrees what
character "splat" is, but the term is common.

SPOOGE (spooj) 1. n. inexplicable or arcane code, or random and
probably incorrect output from a computer program 2. v. to generate
code or output as in definition 1.

STACK (stak) n. See PDL. The STACK usage is probably more common
outside universities.

STATE (stayt) n. Condition, situation. "What's the state of NEWIO?"
"It's winning away." "What's your state?" "I'm about to gronk
out." As a special case, "What's the state of the world?" (or,
more silly, "State-of-world-P?") means "What's new?" or "What's
going on?"

STIR-FRIED RANDOM (ster-fried ran'dm) alt. STIR-FRIED MUMBLE
(ster-fried mum'bl) n. Term used for frequent best dish of those
hackers who can cook. Conists of random fresh veggies and meat
wokked with random spices. Tasty and economical. See RANDOM,

STOMP ON (stomp on) v. To inadvertently overwrite something
important, usually automatically. Example: "All the work I did
this weekend got stomped on last night by the nightly-server

STOPPAGE (sto'p@j) n. Extreme lossage (see LOSSAGE) resulting in
something (usually vital) becoming completely unusable.

STUNNING (stuhn'ning) adj. Mind-bogglingly stupid. Usually used in
sarcasm. "You want to code *what* in ADA? That's...a stunning

SUBSHELL (suhb'shel) [UNIX, MS-DOS] n. An OS command interpreter (see
SHELL) spawned from within a program, such that exit from the
command interpreter returns one to the parent program in a state
that allows it to continue execution. Oppose CHAIN.

SUIT (soot) n. 1. Ugly and uncomfortable `business clothing' often
worn by non-hackers. Invariably worn with a `tie', a strangulation
device which partially cuts off the blood supply to the brain. It
is thought that this explains much about the behavior of suit-
wearers. 2. A person who habitually wears suits, as distinct from a
techie or hacker. See LOSER, BURBLE and BRAIN-DAMAGED.

SUPERPROGRAMMER (soo`per-pro'gra-mr) n. See WIZARD, HACKER, GURU.
Usage: rare. (Becoming more common among IBM and Yourdon types.)

SUZIE COBOL (soo'zee koh'bol) 1. [IBM, prob. fr. Frank Zappa's
"little Suzy Creamcheese"] n. A coder straight out of training
school who knows everything except the benefits of comments in
plain English. Also (fashionable among personkind wishing to avoid
accusations of sexism) `Sammy Cobol' 2. [generalization proposed by
ESR] Meta-name for any CODE GRINDER, analogous to J. RANDOM HACKER.

SWAB (swob) [From the PDP-11 "byte swap" instruction] 1. v. to solve
the NUXI PROBLEM by swapping bytes in a file. 2. Also, the program
in V7 UNIX used to perform this action. See also BIG-ENDIAN,

SWAPPED (swopt) adj. From the use of secondary storage devices to
implement virtual memory in computer systems. Something which is
SWAPPED IN is available for immediate use in main memory, and
otherwise is SWAPPED OUT. Often used metaphorically to refer to
people's memories ("I read TECO ORDER every few months to keep the
information swapped in.") or to their own availability ("I'll swap
you in as soon as I finish looking at this other problem.").

SWIZZLE (swi'zl) v. To convert external names or references within a
data structure into direct pointers when the data structure is
brought into main memory from external storage; also called POINTER
SWIZZLING; the converse operation is sometimes termed UNSWIZZLING.

SYNC (sink) [from UNIX] n.,v. 1. To force all pending I/O to the disk.
2. More generally, to force a number of competing processes or
agents to a state that would be `safe' if the system were to crash;
thus, to checkpoint. See FLUSH.

SYNTACTIC SUGAR (sin-tak'tik shu'gr) n. Features added to a language
or formalism to make it `sweeter' for humans, that do not affect
the expressiveness of the formalism (compare CHROME). Used esp.
when there is an obvious and trivial translation of the `sugar'
feature into other constructs already present in the notation.
Example: the \n, \t, \r, and \b escapes in C strings, which could
be expressed as octal escapes.

SYSTEM (sis'tem) n. 1. The supervisor program on the computer. 2. Any
large-scale program. 3. Any method or algorithm. 4. The way
things are usually done. Usage: a fairly ambiguous word. "You
can't beat the system." SYSTEM HACKER: one who hacks the system
(in sense 1 only; for sense 2 one mentions the particular program:

= T =

T (tee) 1. [from LISP terminology for "true"] Yes. Usage: used in
reply to a question, particularly one asked using the "-P"
convention). See NIL. 2. See TIME T. 3. In transaction-processing
circles, an abbreviation for the noun "transaction".

TALK MODE n. The state a terminal is in when linked to another via a
bidirectional character pipe to support on-line dialogue between
two or more users. Talk mode has a special set of jargon words,
used to save typing, which are not used orally:

BCNU Be seeing you.
BTW By the way...
BYE? Are you ready to unlink? (This is the standard way to
end a com mode conversation; the other person types
BYE to confirm, or else continues the conversation.)
CUL See you later.
FOO? A greeting, also meaning R U THERE? Often used in the
case of unexpected links, meaning also "Sorry if I
butted in" (linker) or "What's up?" (linkee).
FYI For your information...
GA Go ahead (used when two people have tried to type
simultaneously; this cedes the right to type to
the other).
HELLOP A greeting, also meaning R U THERE? (An instance
of the "-P" convention.)
NIL No (see the main entry for NIL).
OBTW Oh, by the way...
R U THERE? Are you there?
SEC Wait a second (sometimes written SEC...).
T Yes (see the main entry for T).
TNX Thanks.
TNX 1.0E6 Thanks a million (humorous).
WTH What the hell
<double CRLF> When the typing party has finished, he types
two CRLFs to signal that he is done; this leaves a
blank line between individual "speeches" in the
conversation, making it easier to re-read the
preceding text.
<name>: When three or more terminals are linked, each speech
is preceded by the typist's login name and a colon (or
a hyphen) to indicate who is typing. The login name
often is shortened to a unique prefix (possibly a
single letter) during a very long conversation.

Most of the above "sub-jargon" is used at both Stanford and MIT. A
few other abbrevs have been reported from commercial networks such
as GEnie and Compuserve where on-line `live' chat including more
than two people is common and usually involves a more `social'
context, notably

<g> grin
BRB be right back
HHOJ ha ha only joking
LOL laughing out load
ROTF rolling on the floor
AFK away from keyboard
b4 before
CU l8tr see you later
MORF Male or Female?
TTFN ta-ta for now
OIC Oh, I see
rehi hello again

These are not used at universities; conversely, most of the people
who know these are unfamiliar with FOO?, BCNU, HELLOP, NIL, and T.

TANKED (tankt) adj. Same as DOWN, used primarily by UNIX hackers. See
also HOSED. Popularized as a synonym for "drunk" by Steve Dallas in
the late lamented "Bloom County" comix.

TASTE (tayst) n. [primarily MIT-DMS] The quality in programs which
tends to be inversely proportional to the number of features,
hacks, and kluges programmed into it. Also, TASTY, TASTEFUL,
TASTEFULNESS. "This feature comes in N tasty flavors." Although
TASTEFUL and FLAVORFUL are essentially synonyms, TASTE and FLAVOR
are not.

TCB (tee see bee) [IBM] Trouble Came Back. Intermittent or difficult-to
reproduce problem which has failed to respond to neglect. Compare

TELNET (telnet) v. To communicate with another ARPAnet host using the
TELNET program. TOPS-10 people use the word IMPCOM since that is
the program name for them. Sometimes abbreviated to TN. "I
usually TN over to SAIL just to read the AP News."

TENSE (tens) adj. Of programs, very clever and efficient. A tense
piece of code often got that way because it was highly bummed, but
sometimes it was just based on a great idea. A comment in a clever
display routine by Mike Kazar: "This routine is so tense it will
bring tears to your eyes. Much thanks to Craig Everhart and James
Gosling for inspiring this hack attack." A tense programmer is one
who produces tense code.

TERAFLOP CLUB (ter'a-flop kluhb) n. Mythical group of people who
consume outragous amounts of computer time in order to produce a
few simple pictures of glass balls with intricate ray tracing
techniques. Cal Tech professor James Kajiya is said to be the
founding member.

TERMINAK (ter'mi-nak) [Caltech, ca. 1979] n. Any malfunctioning
computer terminal. A common failure mode of Lear-Siegler ADM3a
terminals caused the "L" key to produce the "K" code instead;
complaints about this tended to look like "Terminak #3 has a bad
keyboard. Pkease fix."

TERMINAL ILLNESS (ter'mi-nl il'nes) n. 1. Syn. with RASTER BURN.
2. The `burn-in' condition your CRT tends to get if you don't
have a screen saver.

TERPRI (ter'pree) [from the LISP 1.5 (and later, MacLISP) function to
start a new line of output] v. To output a CRLF (q.v.).

THANKS IN ADVANCE [USENET] Conventional net.politeness ending a posted
request for information or assistance. Sometimes written
"advTHANKSance". See "NET.", NETIQUETTE.

THEOLOGY (thee-o'l@-gee) n. 1. Ironically used to refer to RELIGIOUS
ISSUES. 2. Technical fine points of an abstruse nature, esp. those
where the resolution is of theoretical interest but relatively
MARGINAL with respect to actual use of a design or system. Used
esp. around software issues with a heavy AI or language design
component. Example: the deep- vs. shallow-binding debate in the
design of dynamically-scoped LISPS.

THEORY (theer'ee) n. Used in the general sense of idea, plan, story,
or set of rules. "What's the theory on fixing this TECO loss?"
"What's the theory on dinner tonight?" ("Chinatown, I guess.")
"What's the current theory on letting lusers on during the day?"
"The theory behind this change is to fix the following well-known

THINKO (thin'ko) [by analogy with `typo'] n. A bubble in the stream of
consciousness; a momentary, correctable glitch in mental
processing, especially one involving recall of information learned
by rote. Compare MOUSO.

THRASH (thrash) v. To move wildly or violently, without accomplishing
anything useful. Swapping systems which are overloaded waste most
of their time moving pages into and out of core (rather than
performing useful computation), and are therefore said to thrash.

TICK (tick) n. 1. Interval of time; basic clock time on the computer.
Typically 1/60 second. See JIFFY. 2. In simulations, the discrete
unit of time that passes "between" iterations of the simulation
mechanism. In AI applications, this amount of time is often left
unspecified, since the only constraint of interest is that caused
things happen after their causes. This sort of AI simulation is
often pejoratively referred to as "tick-tick-tick" simulation,
especially when the issue of simultaneity of events with long,
independent chains of causes is handwaved.

TIME T (tiem tee) n. 1. An unspecified but usually well-understood
time, often used in conjunction with a later time T+1. "We'll meet
on campus at time T or at Louie's at time T+1." 2. SINCE (OR AT)
TIME T EQUALS MINUS INFINITY: A long time ago; for as long as
anyone can remember; at the time that some particular frob was
first designed.

TIP OF THE ICE-CUBE (tip uhv dh@ ies-kyoob) [IBM] n. The visible part
of something small and insignificant. Used as an ironic comment
in situations where "tip of the iceberg" might be appropriate if
the subject were actually nontrivial.

TIRED IRON (tierd iern) [IBM] n. Hardware that is perfectly functional
but enough behind the state of the art to have been superseded by
new products, presumably with enough improvement in bang-per-buck
that the old stuff is starting to look a bit like a DINOSAUR.

TLA (tee el ay) [Three-Letter-Acronym] n. 1. Self-describing acronym
for a species with which computing terminology is infested. 2. Any
confusing acronym at all. Examples include MCA, FTP, SNA, CPU,
MMU, SCCS, DMU, FPU, TLA, NNTP. People who like this looser usage
argue that not all TLAs have three letters, just as not all four
letter words have four letters.

TOAST (tohst) 1. n. any completely inoperable system, esp. one that
has just crashed;"I think BUACCA is toast." 2. v. to cause a system
to crash accidentally, especially in a manner that requires manual
rebooting; "Rick just toasted harp again."

TOASTER (tohs'tr) n. 1. The archetypal really stupid application for
an embedded microprocessor controller esp. `toaster oven'; often
used in comments which imply that a scheme is inappropriate
technology. "DWIM for an assembler? That'd be as silly as running
UNIX on your toaster!" 2. A very very dumb computer. "You could
run this program on any dumb toaster". See BITTY BOX, TOASTER, TOY.

TOOL (tool) 1. n. A program primarily used to create other programs,
such as a compiler or editor or cross-referencing program. Oppose
APP, OPERATING SYSTEM. 2. [UNIX] An application program with a
simple, "transparent" (typically text-stream) designed specifically
to be used in programmed combination with other tools (see FILTER).
3. [MIT] v.i. To work; to study. See HACK (def #9).

TOPS-10 (tops-ten) n. DEC's proprietary OS for the fabled PDP-10
machines, long a favorite of hackers but now effectively extinct. A
fountain of hacker folklore; see Appendix B. See also ITS, TOPS-20,

TOPS-20 (tops-twen'tee) n. See TWENEX.

TOURIST (too'rist) [from MIT's ITS system] n. A guest on the system,
especially one who generally logs in over a network from a remote
location for games and other trivial purposes. One step below
LUSER. TOURISTIC is often used as a pejorative, as in "losing
touristic scum".

TOY (toy) n. A computer system; always used with qualifiers. 1. NICE
TOY One which supports the speaker's hacking style adequately. 2.
JUST A TOY A machine that yields insufficient COMPUTRONS for the
speaker's preferred uses (this is not condemnatory as is BITTY BOX,
toys can at least be fun). See also GET A REAL COMPUTER, BITTY BOX.

TOY PROBLEM (toy pro'blm) [AI] n. A deliberately simplified or even
oversimplified case of a challenging problem used to investigate,
prototype, or test algorithms for the real problem. Sometimes used
pejoratively. See also GEDANKEN.

TRAP (trap) 1. n. A program interrupt, usually used specifically to
refer to an interrupt caused by some illegal action taking place in
the user program. In most cases the system monitor performs some
action related to the nature of the illegality, then returns
control to the program. See UUO. 2. v. To cause a trap. "These
instructions trap to the monitor." Also used transitively to
indicate the cause of the trap. "The monitor traps all
input/output instructions."

TRASH (trash) v. To destroy the contents of (said of a data
structure). The most common of the family of near-synonyms
including MUNG, MANGLE and SCRIBBLE.

TRIVIAL (tri'vi-@l) adj. 1. In explanation, too simple to bother
detailing. 2. Not worth the speaker's time. 3. Complex, but
solvable by methods so well-known that anyone not utterly CRETINOUS
would have thought of them already. Hackers' notions of triviality
may be quite at variance with those of non-hackers. See NONTRIVIAL,

TROGLODYTE (trog'lo-diet) [Commodore] n. A hacker who never leaves his
cubicle. The term `Gnoll' is also reported.

TROGLODYTE MODE (trog'lo-diet mohd) [Rice University] n. Programming
with the lights turned off, sunglasses on, and the (character)
terminal inverted (black on white) because you've been up for so
many days straight that your eyes hurt. Loud music blaring from a
stereo stacked in the corner is optional but recommended. See

TROJAN HORSE (troh'jn hors) n. A program designed to break security or
damage a system that is disguised as something else benign, such as
a directory lister or archiver. See VIRUS, WORM.

TRUE-HACKER (troo-hak'r) [analogy with "trufan" from SF fandom] n.
One who exemplifies the primary values of hacker culture, esp.
competence and helpfulness to other hackers. A high complement. "He
spent six hours helping me bring up UUCP and netnews on my FOOBAR
4000 last week -- truly the act of a true-hacker." Compare DEMIGOD,
oppose MUNCHKIN.

TTY (tee-tee-wie [UNIX], titty [ITS]) n. 1. Terminal of the teletype
variety, characterized by a noisy mechanical printer, a very
limited character set, and poor print quality. Usage: antiquated
(like the TTYs themselves). 2. [especially UNIX] Any terminal at
all; sometimes used to refer to the particular terminal controlling
a job.

TUBE (t[y]oob) n. A CRT terminal. Never used in the mainstream sense of
TV; real hackers don't watch TV, except for Loony Toons and
Bullwinkle & Rocky and the occasional cheesy old swashbuckle movie.

TUNE (toon) [from automotive or musical usage] v. to optimize a
program or system for a particular environment. One may `tune for
time' (fastest execution) `tune for space' (least memory
utilization) or `tune for configuration' (most efficient use of
hardware). See BUM, HOT SPOT, HAND-HACK.

TWEAK (tweek) v. To change slightly, usually in reference to a value.
Also used synonymously with TWIDDLE. See FROBNICATE and FUDGE

TWENEX (twe'nex) n. The TOPS-20 operating system by DEC. So named
because TOPS-10 was a typically crufty DEC operating system for the
PDP-10. BBN developed their own system, called TENEX (TEN
EXecutive), and in creating TOPS-20 for the DEC-20 DEC copied TENEX
and adapted it for the 20. Usage: DEC people cringe when they hear
TOPS-20 referred to as "Twenex", but the term seems to be catching
on nevertheless. Release 3 of TOPS-20 is sufficiently different
from release 1 that some (not all) hackers have stopped calling it
TWENEX, though the written abbreviation "20x" is still used.

TWIDDLE (twid'l) n. 1. tilde (ASCII 176, "~"). Also called
"squiggle", "sqiggle" (sic--pronounced "skig'gul"), and "twaddle",
but twiddle is by far the most common term. 2. A small and
insignificant change to a program. Usually fixes one bug and
generates several new ones. 3. v. To change something in a small
way. Bits, for example, are often twiddled. Twiddling a switch or
knob implies much less sense of purpose than toggling or tweaking

TWINK (twink) [UCSC] n. Equivalent to READ-ONLY USER.

TWO-PI (too-pie, should be written with math symbols) q. The number of
years it takes to finish one's thesis. Occurs in stories in the
form: "He started on his thesis; two pi years later...".

= U =

UNINTERESTING (un-in'ter-est-ing) adj. 1. Said of a problem which,
while NONTRIVIAL, can be solved simply by throwing sufficient
resources at it. 2. Also said of problems for which a solution
would neither advance the state of the art nor be fun to design and
code. True hackers regard uninteresting problems as an intolerable
waste of time, to be solved (if at all) by lesser mortals. See

U*IX, UN*X n. Used to refer to the Unix operating system
(trademark and/or copyright AT&T) in writing, but avoiding the need
for the ugly (tm) typography. Also used to refer to any or all
varieties of Unixoid operating systems. Ironically, some lawyers
now claim (1990) that the requirement for superscript-tm has no
legal force, but yje asterisk usage is entrenched anyhow.

UNWIND THE STACK (un-wiend' thuh stack) v. During the execution of a
procedural language one is said to `unwind the stack' from a called
procedure up to a caller when one discards the stack frame and any
number of frames above it, popping back up to the level of the
given caller. In C this is done with longjmp/setjmp; in LISP with
THROW/CATCH. This is sometimes necessary when handling exceptional
conditions. See also SMASH THE STACK.

UNWIND-PROTECT (un-wiend'pr@-tekt) [MIT, from the name of a LISP
operator] n. A task you must remember to perform before you leave a
place or finish a project. "I have an unwind-protect to call my

UNIX (yoo'nix) [In the authors' words, "A weak pun on MULTICS"] n. A
popular interactive time-sharing system originally invented in 1969
by Ken Thompson after Bell Labs left the MULTICS project, mostly so
he could play SPACEWAR on a scavenged PDP7. The turning point in
UNIX's history came when it was reimplemented almost entirely in C
in 1974, making it the first source-portable operating system.
Fifteen years and a lot of changes later UNIX is the most widely
used multiuser general-purpose operating system in the world. This
fact probably represents the single most important victory yet of
hackerdom over industry opposition. See VERSION 7, BSD UNIX, USG

UP (uhp) adj. 1. Working, in order. "The down escalator is up." 2.
BRING UP: v. To create a working version and start it. "They
brought up a down system."

UPLOAD [uhp'lohd] v. 1. To transfer code or data over a digital comm
line from a smaller `client' system to a larger `host' one. Oppose
DOWNLOAD. 2. [speculatively] To move the essential patterns and
algorithms which make up one's mind from one's brain into a
computer. Only those who are convinced that such patterns and
algorithms capture the complete essence of the self view this
prospect with aplomb.

URCHIN (er'chin) n. See MUNCHKIN.

USENET (yooz'net) n. A distributed bulletin board system supported
mainly by UNIX machines, international in scope and probably the
largest non-profit information utility in existence. As of early
1990 it hosts over 300 topic groups and distributes up to 15
megabytes of new technical articles, news, discussion, chatter, and

USER (yoo'zr) n. A programmer who will believe anything you tell him.
One who asks questions. Identified at MIT with "loser" by the
spelling "luser". See REAL USER. [Note by GLS: I don't agree with
RF's definition at all. Basically, there are two classes of people
who work with a program: there are implementors (hackers) and users
(losers). The users are looked down on by hackers to a mild degree
because they don't understand the full ramifications of the system
in all its glory. (A few users who do are known as real winners.)
It is true that users ask questions (of necessity). Very often
they are annoying or downright stupid.]

USER FRIENDLY (yoo'zr fren'dlee) adj. Programmer-hostile. Generally
used by hackers in a hostile tone, to describe systems which hold
the user's hand so obsessively that they make it painful for the
more experienced and knowledgeable to get any work done. See

USG UNIX (yoo-ess-jee yoo'nix) n. Refers to AT&T UNIX versions after
VERSION 7, especially System III and System V releases 1, 2 and 3.
So called because at that time AT&T's support crew was called the
`Unix Support Group' See BSD, UNIX

= V =

VADDING (vad'ing) [permutation of ADV, an abbreviated form of ADVENT
(q.v.)] n. A leisure-time activity of certain hackers involving the
covert exploration of the "secret" parts of large buildings --
basements, roofs, freight elevators, maintenance crawlways, steam
tunnels and the like. A few go so far as to learn locksmithing in
order to synthesize vadding keys. The verb is `to vad'. The most
extreme and dangerous form of vadding is ELEVATOR RODEO, aka
ELEVATOR SURFING, a sport played by using the escape hatches in
elevator cars to move between pairs of them as they conjunct within
the shafts. Kids, don't try this at home!

VANILLA (v@-nil'luh) adj. Ordinary flavor, standard. See FLAVOR.
When used of food, very often does not mean that the food is
flavored with vanilla extract! For example, "vanilla-flavored
wonton soup" (or simply "vanilla wonton soup") means ordinary
wonton soup, as opposed to hot and sour wonton soup.

VAPORWARE (vay-per-weir) n. Products announced far in advance of any
shipment (which may or may not actually take place).

VAR (veir) n. Short for "variable". Compare ARG, PARAM.

VAX n. (vaks) [allegedly from Virtual Extended Architecture] 1. The
most successful minicomputer design in industry history, possibly
excepting its immediate ancestor the PDP-11. Between its release
in 1978 and eclipse by KILLER MICROS after about 1986 the VAX was
probably the favorite hacker machine of them all, esp. after the
1982 release of 4.2BSD UNIX (see BSD UNIX). Esp. noted for its
large, assembler-programmer-friendly instruction set, an asset
which became a liability after the RISC revolution following about
1985. 2. A major brand of vacuum cleaner in Britain. Cited here
because its sales pitch, "Nothing sucks like a VAX!" became a
sort of battle-cry of RISC partisans.

VAXEN (vak'sn) [from "oxen", perhaps influenced by "vixen"] n. pl.
The plural of VAX (a DEC machine). See BOXEN.

VEEBLEFESTER (vee'b@l-fes-tr) [Commodore] n. Any obnoxious person
engaged in the alleged professions of marketing or management.
Antonym of HACKER. Compare SUIT, MARKETROID.

VENUS FLYTRAP (vee'n:s flie'trap) [after the plant] n. See FIREWALL.

VERBIAGE (ver'bee-@j) [IBM] n. Documentation.

VERSION 7 (ver'zh@n se'vn) alt. V7 (vee-se'v@n) n. The 1978
unsupported release of UNIX (q.v.) ancestral to all current
commercial versions. Before the release of the POSIX/SVID standards
V7's features were often treated as a UNIX portability baseline.

VIRGIN (ver'jn) adj. Unused, in reference to an instantiation of a
program. "Let's bring up a virgin system and see if it crashes
again." Also, by extension, unused buffers and the like within a

VIRUS (vie'r@s) [from SF] n. A cracker program that propagates itself
by `infecting' (embedding itself in) other trusted programs,
especially operating systems. See WORM, TROJAN HORSE.

VMS (vee em ess) n. DEC's proprietary operating system for their VAX
minicomputer; one of the seven or so environments that looms
largest in hacker folklore. Many UNIX fans generously concede that
VMS would probably be the hacker's favorite commercial OS if UNIX
didn't exist; though true, this makes VMS fans furious. See also

VIRTUAL (ver'tyoo-uhl) adj. 1. Common alternative to LOGICAL (q.v.),
but never used with compass directions. 2. Performing the
functions of. Virtual memory acts like real memory but isn't.

VIRTUAL REALITY (ver'tyoo-@l) n. A form of network interaction
incorporating aspects of role-playing games, interactive theater,
improvisational comedy and "true confessions" magazines. In a
"virtual reality" forum (such as USENET's alt.callahans newsgroup
or the MUD experiments on Internet) interaction between the
participants is written like a shared novel complete with scenery,
"foreground characters" which may be personae utterly unlike the
people who write them, and common "background characters"
manipulable by all parties. The one iron law is that you may not
write irreversible changes to a character without the consent of
the person who "owns" it. Otherwise anything goes. See BAMF.

VISIONARY (viz-yuhn-eir-ee) n. One who hacks vision (in an AI context,
such as the processing of visual images).

VULCAN NERVE PINCH (vuhl'kn nerv pinch) n. [From the old Star Trek TV
series via Commodore Amiga hackers] The keyboard combination that
forces a soft-boot or jump to ROM monitor (on machines that support
such a feature).

= W =

WABBIT (wabb'it) [almost certainly from Elmer Fudd's immortal line "you
wascal wabbit!"] n. 1. A legendary early hack reported on the
PDP-10s at RPI and elsewhere around 1978. The program would
reproduce itself twice every time it was run, eventually crashing
the system. 2. By extension, any hack that includes infinite
self-replication but is not a VIRUS or WORM. See also COOKIE

WALDO (wahl'doh) [probably taken from the story "Waldo", by Heinlein,
which is where the term was first used to mean a mechanical adjunct
to a human limb] Used at Harvard, particularly by Tom Cheatham and
students, instead of FOOBAR as a meta-syntactic variable and
general nonsense word. See FOO, BAR, FOOBAR, QUUX.

WALKING DRIVES (wahk'ing drievz) An occasional failure mode of
magnetic-disk drives back in the days when they were 14" wide
WASHING MACHINES. Those old DINOSAURS carried terrific angular
momentum; the combination of a misaligned spindle or worn bearings
and stick-slip interactions with the floor could cause them to
"walk" across a room, lurching alternate corners forward a couple
of millimeters at a time. This could also be induced by certain
patterns of drive access (a fast seek across the whole width of the
disk, followed by a slow seek in the other direction). It is known
that some bands of old-time hackers figured out how to induce
disk-accessing patterns that would do this to particular drive
models and held disk-drive races. This is not a joke!

WALL (wahl) [shortened form of HELLO WALL, apparently from the phrase
"up against a blank wall"] [WPI] interj. 1. An indication of
confusion, usually spoken with a quizzical tone. "Wall??" 2. A
request for further explication. Compare OCTAL FORTY.

WALL TIME (wahl tiem) n. 1. `Real world' time (what the clock on the
wall shows) as opposed to the system clock's idea of time. 2. The
real running time of a program, as opposed to the number of CLOCKS
required to execute it (on a timesharing system these will differ,
as no one program gets all the CLOCKS).

WALLPAPER (wahl pay'pr) n. A file containing a listing (e.g.,
assembly listing) or transcript, esp. a file containing a
transcript of all or part of a login session. (The idea was that
the LPT paper for such listings was essentially good only for
wallpaper, as evidenced at SAIL where it was used as such to cover
windows.) Usage: not often used now, esp. since other systems have
developed other terms for it (e.g., PHOTO on TWENEX). The term
possibly originated on ITS, where the commands to begin and end
transcript files were :WALBEG and :WALEND, with default file

WASHING MACHINE (wash'ing m@-sheen') n. Old-style hard disks in
floor-standing cabinets. So called because of the size of the
cabinet and the "top-loading" access to the media packs. See

WEDGED (wejd) [from "head wedged up ass"] adj. 1. To be in a locked
state, incapable of proceeding without help. (See GRONK.) Often
refers to humans suffering misconceptions. "The swapper is
wedged." This term is sometimes used as a synonym for DEADLOCKED
(q.v.). 2. [UNIX] Specifically used to describe the state of a TTY
left in a losing state by abort of a screen-oriented program or one
that has messed with the line discipline in some obscure way.

WEEDS (weeds) n. Refers to development projects or algorithms that
have no possible relevance or practical application. Comes from
"off in the weeds". Used in phrases like "lexical analysis for
microcode is serious weeds..."

WELL BEHAVED (wel-bee-hayvd') adj. Of software: conforming to coding
guidelines and standards. Well behaved software uses the operating
system to do chores such as keyboard input, allocating memory and
drawing graphics. Oppose ILL-BEHAVED.

WETWARE (wet'weir) n. 1. The human brain, as opposed to computer
hardware or software (as in "Wetware has at most 7 registers"). 2.
Human beings (programmers, operators, administrators) attached to a
computer system, as opposed to the system's hardware or software.

WHAT (hwuht) n. The question mark character ("?"). See QUES. Usage:
rare, used particularly in conjunction with WOW.

WHEEL (hweel) [from Twenex, q.v.] n. A privileged user or WIZARD
(sense #2). Now spreading into the UNIX culture. Privilege bits
are sometimes called WHEEL BITS. The state of being in a privileged
logon is sometimes called WHEEL MODE.

WHEEL WARS (hweel worz) [Stanford University] A period in LARVAL
STAGE during which student wheels hack each other by attempting to
log each other out of the system, delete each other's files, or
otherwise wreak havoc, usually at the expense of the lesser users.

WHITE BOOK, THE (hwiet buk) n. Kernighan & Ritchie's
_The_C_Programming_Language_, esp. the classic and influential
first edition. Also called simply "K&R". See SILVER BOOK, PURPLE

WIBNI [Bell Labs, Wouldn't It Be Nice If] n. What most requirements
documents/specifications consist entirely of. Compare IWBNI.

WIMP ENVIRONMENT n. [acronymic from Window, Icon, Mouse, Pointer] A
graphical-user-interface based environmend, as described by a hacker
who prefers command-line interfaces for their superior flexibility and

WIN (win) [from MIT jargon] 1. v. To succeed. A program wins if no
unexpected conditions arise. 2. BIG WIN: n. Serendipity. Emphatic
forms: MOBY WIN, SUPER WIN, HYPER-WIN (often used interjectively as
a reply). For some reason SUITABLE WIN is also common at MIT,
usually in reference to a satisfactory solution to a problem. See

WINNAGE (win'@j) n. The situation when a lossage is corrected, or when
something is winning. Quite rare. Usage: also quite rare.

WINNER (win'r) 1. n. An unexpectedly good situation, program,
programmer or person. 2. REAL WINNER: Often sarcastic, but also
used as high praise.

WINNITUDE (win'i-tood) n. The quality of winning (as opposed to
WINNAGE, which is the result of winning). "That's really great!
Boy, what winnitude!"

WIREHEAD (wier'hed) n. 1. A hardware hacker, especially one who
concentrates on communications hardware. 2. An expert in local
area networks. A wirehead can be a network software wizard too,
but will always have the ability to deal with network hardware,
down to the smallest component. Wireheads are known for their
ability to lash up an Ethernet terminator from spare resistors, for

WIZARD (wiz'rd) n. 1. A person who knows how a complex piece of
software or hardware works; someone who can find and fix his bugs
in an emergency. Rarely used at MIT, where HACKER is the preferred
term. 2. A person who is permitted to do things forbidden to
ordinary people, e.g., a "net wizard" on a TENEX may run programs
which speak low-level host-imp protocol; an ADVENT wizard at SAIL
may play Adventure during the day. 3. A UNIX expert. See GURU.

WIZARD MODE (wiz'rd mohd) [from nethack] n. A special access mode of
a program or system, usually passworded, that permits some users
godlike privileges. Generally not used for operating systems
themselves (ROOT MODE or WHEEL MODE would be used instead).

WOMBAT (wom'bat) [Waste Of Money, Brains and Time] adj. Applied to
problems which are both profoundly UNINTERESTING in themselves and
unlikely to benefit anyone interesting even if solved. Often used
in fanciful constructions such as WRESTLING WITH A WOMBAT. See also

WONKY (won'kee) [from Australian slang] adj. Yet another approximate
synonym for BROKEN. Specifically connotes a malfunction which
produces behavior seen as crazy, humorous, or amusingly perverse.
"That was the day the printer's font logic went wonky and
everybody's listings came out in Elvish". Also in WONKED OUT. See

WORM (werm) [from `tapeworm' in John Brunner's _Shockwave_Rider_, via
XEROX PARC] n. A cracker program that propagates itself over a
network, reproducing itself as it goes. See `VIRUS'. Perhaps the
best known example was RTM's `Internet Worm' in '87, a `benign' one
that got out of control and shut down hundreds of Suns and VAXen
nationwide. See VIRUS, TROJAN HORSE, ICE.

WOW (wow) See EXCL.

WRONG THING, THE (rahng thing, dh@) n. A design, action or decision
which is clearly incorrect or inappropriate. Often capitalized;
always emphasized in speech as if capitalized. Antonym: THE RIGHT
THING (q.v.).

WUGGA WUGGA (wuh'guh wuh'guh) n. Imaginary sound that a computer
program makes as it labors with a tedious or difficult task.

= X =

X (eks) Used in various speech and writing contexts in roughly its
algebraic sense of "unknown within a set defined by context"
(compare `N'). Thus: the abbreviation 680x0 stands for 68000,
68010, 68020, 68030 or 68040, and 80x86 stands for 80186, 80286
80386 or 80486 (note that a UNIX hacker might write these as
680[01234]0 and 80[1234]86 or 680?00 and 80?86 respectively,

XYZZY (exs-wie-zee-zee-wie) [from the ADVENT game] adj. See PLUGH.

= Y =

YOW! (yow) [from Zippy the Pinhead comix] interj. Favored hacker
expression of humorous surprise or emphasis. "Yow! Check out what
happens when you twiddle the foo option on this display hack!"

YOYO MODE (yoh'yoh mohd) n. State in which the system is said to be
when it rapidly alternates several times between being up and being

YU-SHIANG WHOLE FISH (yoo-shyang hohl fish) n. The character gamma
(extended SAIL ASCII 11), which with a loop in its tail looks like
a fish. Usage: used primarily by people on the MIT LISP Machine.
Tends to elicit incredulity from people who hear about it

= Z =

ZEN (zen) v. To figure out something by meditation, or by a sudden
flash of enlightenment. Originally applied to bugs, but
occasionally applied to problems of life in general. "How'd you
figure out the buffer allocation problem?" "Oh, I zenned it".

ZERO (zee'roh) v. 1. To set to zero. Usually said of small pieces of
data, such as bits or words. 2. To erase; to discard all data
from. Said of disks and directories, where "zeroing" need not
involve actually writing zeroes throughout the area being zeroed.

ZIPPERHEAD (zip'r-hed) [IBM] n. A person with a closed mind.

ZOMBIE (zom'bee) [UNIX] n. A process which has been killed but has not
yet relinquished its process table slot. These show up in ps(1)
listings occasionally.

ZORK (zork) n. Second of the great early experiments in computer
fantasy gaming, see ADVENT. Originally written on MIT-DMS during
the late seventies, later distributed with BSD UNIX and
commercialized as "The Zork Trilogy" by Infocom.

==================== MAIN TEXT ENDS HERE ===================================

a cautionary tale

The following, modulo a couple of inserted commas and capitalization
changes for readability, is the exact text of a famous USENET message.
The reader may wish to review the definitions of PM and MOUNT in the main
text before continuing.

Date: Wed 3 Sep 86 16:46:31-EDT
From: "Art Evans" <Ev...@TL-20B.ARPA>
Subject: Always Mount a Scratch Monkey

My friend Bud used to be the intercept man at a computer vendor for
calls when an irate customer called. Seems one day Bud was sitting at
his desk when the phone rang.

Bud: Hello. Voice: YOU KILLED MABEL!!
B: Excuse me? V: YOU KILLED MABEL!!

This went on for a couple of minutes and Bud was getting nowhere, so he
decided to alter his approach to the customer.


Well, to avoid making a long story even longer, I will abbreviate what had
happened. The customer was a Biologist at the University of Blah-de-blah,
and he had one of our computers that controlled gas mixtures that Mabel (the
monkey) breathed. Now, Mabel was not your ordinary monkey. The University
had spent years teaching Mabel to swim, and they were studying the effects
that different gas mixtures had on her physiology. It turns out that the
repair folks had just gotten a new Calibrated Power Supply (used to
calibrate analog equipment), and at their first opportunity decided to
calibrate the D/A converters in that computer. This changed some of the gas
mixtures and poor Mabel was asphyxiated. Well, Bud then called the branch
manager for the repair folks:

Manager: Hello
B: This is Bud, I heard you did a PM at the University of
M: Yes, we really performed a complete PM. What can I do
for you?
B: Can you swim?

The moral is, of course, that you should always mount a scratch monkey.


There are several morals here related to risks in use of computers.
Examples include, "If it ain't broken, don't fix it." However, the
cautious philosophical approach implied by "always mount a scratch
monkey" says a lot that we should keep in mind.

Art Evans
Tartan Labs



The following terms appeared in the main listing of the original
Jargon File, but have been rendered obsolescent by the passage of
time, the march of technology, the death of the DEC PDP-10, and the
May 1990 shutdown of the ITS machines. They are collected here for
possible historical interest.

AOS (aus (East coast) ay-ahs (West coast)) [based on a PDP-10
increment instruction] v. To increase the amount of something.
"Aos the campfire." Usage: considered silly, and now obsolescent.
See SOS. Now largely supplanted by BUMP.

BIG BLT, THE (big belt, th:) n., obs. Shuffling operation on the
PDP-10 under some operating systems that consumes a significant
amount of computer time. See BLT in the main listing.

BIN (bin) [short for BINARY; used as a second file name on ITS] 1. n.
BINARY. 2. BIN FILE: A file containing the BIN for a program.
Usage: used at MIT, which runs on ITS. The equivalent term at
Stanford was DMP (pronounced "dump") FILE. Other names used
include SAV ("save") FILE (DEC and Tenex), SHR ("share") and LOW
FILES (DEC), and COM FILES (CP/M), and EXE ("ex'ee") FILE (DEC,
Twenex, MS-DOS, occasionally UNIX). Also in this category are the
input files to the various flavors of linking loaders (LOADER,
LINK-10, STINK), called REL FILES. See EXE in main text.

COM[M] MODE (kom mohd) [from the ITS feature for linking two or more
terminals together so that text typed on any is echoed on all,
providing a means of conversation among hackers; spelled with one
or two Ms] Syn. for TALK MODE in main text.

DIABLO (dee-ah'blow) [from the Diablo printer] 1. n. Any letter-
quality printing device. 2. v. To produce letter-quality output
from such a device. See LASE in main listing.

DMP (dump) See BIN.

DPB (duh-pib') [from the PDP-10 instruction set] v., obs. To plop
something down in the middle.

ENGLISH (ing'lish) n. The source code for a program, which may be in
any language, as opposed to BINARY. Usage: obsolete, used mostly
by old-time hackers, though recognizable in context. On ITS,
directory SYSENG was where the "English" for system programs is
kept, and SYSBIN, the binaries. SAIL had many such directories,
but the canonical one is [CSP,SYS].

EXCH (ex'chuh, ekstch) [from the PDP-10 instruction set] v., obs. To
exchange two things, each for the other.

IMPCOM (imp'kahm) See TELNET. This term is now nearly obsolete.

IRP (erp) [from the MIDAS pseudo-op which generates a block of code
repeatedly, substituting in various places the car and/or cdr of
the list(s) supplied at the IRP] v. To perform a series of tasks
repeatedly with a minor substitution each time through. "I guess
I'll IRP over these homework papers so I can give them some random
grade for this semester." Usage: rare, now obsolescent.

JFCL (djif'kl or djafik'l) [based on the PDP-10 instruction that acts
as a fast no-op] v., obs. To cancel or annul something. "Why don't
you jfcl that out?"

JRST (jerst) [based on the PDP-10 jump instruction] v., obs. To
suddenly change subjects. Usage: rather rare. "Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick; Jack jrst over the candle stick."

JSYS (jay'sis), pl. JSI (jay'sigh) [Jump to SYStem] v.,obs. See UUO.

LDB (lid'dib) [from the PDP-10 instruction set] v. To extract from the

MOBY (moh'bee) n. This term entered the world of AI with the Fabritek
256K moby memory of MIT-AI. Thus, classically, 256K words, the size
of a PDP-10 moby. (The maximum address space means the maximum
normally addressable space, as opposed to the amount of physical
memory a machine can have. Thus the MIT PDP-10s each have two
mobies, usually referred to as the "low moby" (0-777777) and "high
moby" (1000000-1777777), or as "moby 0" and "moby 1". MIT-AI had
four mobies of address space: moby 2 was the PDP-6 memory, and moby
3 the PDP-11 interface.) In this sense "moby" is often used as a
generic unit of either address space (18. bits' worth) or of memory
(about a megabyte, or 9/8 megabyte (if one accounts for difference
between 32.- and 36.-bit words), or 5/4 megacharacters).

PHANTOM (fan'tm) [Stanford] n. The SAIL equivalent of a DRAGON
(q.v.). Typical phantoms include the accounting program, the
news-wire monitor, and the lpt and xgp spoolers. UNIX and most
other environments call this sort of program a background DEMON or

PPN (pip'in) [DEC terminology, short for Project-Programmer Number] n.
1. A combination `project' (directory name) and programmer name,
used to identify a specific directory belonging to that user. For
instance, "FOO,BAR" would be the FOO directory for user BAR. Since
the name is restricted to three letters, the programmer name is
usually the person's initials, though sometimes it is a nickname or
other special sequence. (Standard DEC setup is to have two octal
numbers instead of characters; hence the original acronym.) 2.
Often used loosely to refer to the programmer name alone. "I want
to send you some mail; what's your ppn?" Usage: not used at MIT,
since ITS does not use ppn's. The equivalent terms would be UNAME
and SNAME, depending on context, but these are not used except in
their technical senses.

REL (rel) See BIN in the main listing. Short for `relocatable', used
on the old TOPS-10 OS.

SAV (sayv) See BIN.

SHR (sheir) See BIN.

SOS 1. (ess-oh-ess) n. A losing editor, SON OF STOPGAP. 2. (sahss) v.
Inverse of AOS, from the PDP-10 instruction set.

STY (pronounced "stie", not spelled out) n. A pseudo-teletype, which
is a two-way pipeline with a job on one end and a fake keyboard-tty
on the other. Also, a standard program which provides a pipeline
from its controlling tty to a pseudo-teletype (and thence to
another tty, thereby providing a "sub-tty"). This is MIT
terminology; the SAIL, DEC and UNIX equivalent is PTY (see main

SUPDUP (soop'doop) v. To communicate with another ARPAnet host using
the SUPDUP program, which is a SUPer-DUPer TELNET talking a special
display protocol used mostly in talking to ITS sites. Sometimes
abbreviated to SD.

TECO (tee'koh) [acronym for Text Editor and COrrector] 1. n. A text
editor developed at MIT, and modified by just about everybody. If
all the dialects are included, TECO might well be the single most
prolific editor in use. Noted for its powerful pseudo-programming
features and its incredibly hairy syntax. 2. v. obs. To edit using
the TECO editor in one of its infinite forms; sometimes used to
mean "to edit" even when not using TECO! Usage: rare at SAIL,
where most people wouldn't touch TECO with a TENEX pole.

[Historical note, c. 1982: DEC grabbed an ancient version of MIT
TECO many years ago when it was still a TTY-oriented editor. By
now, TECO at MIT is highly display-oriented and is actually a
language for writing editors, rather than an editor. Meanwhile,
the outside world's various versions of TECO remain almost the same
as the MIT version of the early 1970s. DEC recently tried to
discourage its use, but an underground movement of sorts kept it
alive. - GLS]

[Since this note was written I found out that DEC tried to force
their hackers by administrative decision to use a hacked up and
generally lobotomized version of SOS instead of TECO, and they
revolted. - MRC]

[1990 update: TECO is now pretty much one with the dust of history,
having been replaced (both functionally and psychologically) almost
everywhere by GNU EMACS -- ESR]

UUO (yoo-yoo-oh) [short for "Un-Used Operation"] n. A PDP-10 system
monitor call. The term "Un-Used Operation" comes from the fact
that, on PDP-10 systems, monitor calls are implemented as invalid
or illegal machine instructions, which cause traps to the monitor
(see TRAP). The SAIL manual describing the available UUOs has a
cover picture showing an unidentified underwater object. See YOYO.
[Note: DEC sales people have since decided that "Un-Used Operation"
sounds bad, so UUO now stands for "Unimplemented User Operation".]
Tenex and Twenex systems use the JSYS machine instruction (q.v.),
which is halfway between a legal machine instruction and a UUO,
since KA-10 Tenices implement it as a hardware instruction which
can be used as an ordinary subroutine call (sort of a "pure JSR").

WORMHOLE (werm'hohl) n. A location in a monitor which contains the
address of a routine, with the specific intent of making it easy to
substitute a different routine. The following quote comes from
"Polymorphic Systems", vol. 2, p. 54:

"Any type of I/O device can be substituted for the standard device
by loading a simple driver routine for that device and installing
its address in one of the monitor's `wormholes.'*
*The term `wormhole' has been used to describe a hypothetical
astronomical situation where a black hole connects to the `other
side' of the universe. When this happens, information can pass
through the wormhole, in only one direction, much as `assumptions'
pass down the monitor's wormholes."

This term is now obsolescent. Modern operating systems use clusters
of wormholes extensively (for modularization of I/O handling in
particular, as in the UNIX device-driver organization) but the
preferred jargon for these clusters is `device tables', `jump
tables' or `capability tables'.

XGP (eks-jee) 1. n. Xerox Graphics Printer. 2. v. To print something
on the XGP. "You shouldn't XGP such a large file."

YOYO (yoh'yoh) n. DEC service engineers' slang for UUO (q.v.). Usage:
rare at Stanford and MIT, has been found at random DEC

======================= END OF THE JARGON FILE ================================
# The following sets edit modes for GNU EMACS
# Local Variables:
# mode:text
# case-fold-search:nil
# fill-prefix:" "
# fill-column:70
# End:

Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages