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The Jargon File v2.5.1 29 JAN 1991, part 11 of 15

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Eric S. Raymond

Jan 29, 1991, 9:54:10 PM1/29/91
Archive-name: jargon/part11

---- Cut Here and feed the following to sh ----
# this is jargon.11 (part 11 of jargon)
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# file jargon.ascii continued
if test ! -r _shar_seq_.tmp; then
echo 'Please unpack part 1 first!'
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(read Scheck
if test "$Scheck" != 11; then
echo Please unpack part "$Scheck" next!
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if test -f _shar_wnt_.tmp; then
sed 's/^X//' << 'SHAR_EOF' >> 'jargon.ascii' &&
X and played back the recording on each returned packet. Result? A
X program that caused the machine to repeat, over and over,
X "" as long as the network was
X up. He turned the volume to maximum, scurried through the building
X with one ear cocked, and found a faulty tee connector in no time.
<Pink-Shirt Book> `The Peter Norton Programmer's Guide to the IBM
X PC'. The original cover featured a picture of Peter Norton with a
X silly smirk on his face, wearing a pink shirt. Perhaps in
X recognition of this usage, the current edition has a different
X picture of Norton wearing a pink shirt.
<PIP> /pip/ [Peripheral Interchange Program] vt.,obs. To copy, from
X the program PIP on CP/M and RSX-11 that was used for file copying
X (and in RSX for just about every other file operation you might
X want to do). Obsolete, but still occasionally heard. It is said
X that when the program was originated during the development of the
X PDP-6 in 1963 it called ATLATL (`Anything, Lord, to Anything,
X Lord').
<pipeline> [UNIX, orig. by Doug McIlroy; now also used under MS-DOS
X and elsewhere] n. A chain of <filter> programs connected
X `head-to-tail', so that the output of one becomes the input of
X the next. Under UNIX, user utilities can often be implemented or
X at least prototyped by a suitable collection of pipelines and
X temp-file grinding encapsulated in a shell script; this is much
X less effort than writing C every time, and the capability is
X considered one of UNIX's major winning features.
<pistol> [IBM] n. A tool that makes it all too easy for you to
X shoot yourself in the foot. "UNIX `rm *' makes such a nice
X pistol!"
<pizza, ANSI standard> /an'see stan'd@rd peet'z@/ [CMU] Pepperoni
X and mushroom pizza. Coined allegedly because most pizzas ordered
X by CMU hackers during some period leading up to mid-1990 were of
X that flavor. See also <rotary debugger>.
<pizza box> [SUN] n. The largish thin box housing the electronics
X in (especially SUN) desktop workstations, so named because of its
X size and shape, and the dimpled pattern that looks like air holes.
<plain-ASCII> Syn. <flat-ASCII>.
<playpen> [IBM] n. A room where programmers work. Compare <salt
X mines>.
<playte> /playt/ 16 bits, by analogy with <nybble> and <byte>. Usage:
X rare and extremely silly. See also <dynner>.
<plingnet> /pling'net/ n. Syn. <UUCPNET>. Also see COMMONWEALTH
<plonk> [USENET] The sound a <newbie> makes as he falls to the bottom
X of a <kill file>. Almost exclusively used in the <newsgroup>
X "talk.bizarre", this term (usually written "*plonk*") is a
X form of public ridicule.
<plugh> /ploogh/ [from the <ADVENT> game] v. See <xyzzy>.
<plumbing> [UNIX] n. Term used for <shell> code, so called
X because of the prevalence of "pipeline"s that feed the output
X of one program to the input of another. Esp. used in the
X construction "hairy plumbing" (see <hairy>. "You can kluge
X together a basic spell-checker out of `sort(1)',
X `comm(1)' and `tr' with a little plumbing."
<PM> /pee em/ 1. [from "preventive maintenance"] v. To bring down a
X machine for inspection or test purposes; see <scratch monkey>. 2.
X n. Abbrev. for `Presentation Manager', an <elephantine> OS/2
X graphical user interface.
<P.O.D.> /pee-oh-dee/ Acronym for "Piece Of Data" (as opposed to a
X code section). Usage: pedantic and rare.
<pod> n. A Diablo 630 (or, latterly, any impact letter quality
X printer). From the DEC-10 PODTYPE program used to feed formatted
X text to same.
<poll> v.,n. 1. The action of checking the status of an input line,
X sensor, or memory location to see if a particular external event
X has been registered. 2. To ask. "I'll poll everyone and see where
X they want to go for lunch."
<polygon pusher> n. A chip designer who spends most of his/her time at
X the physical layout level (which requires drawing *lots* of
X multi-colored polygons). Also "rectangle slinger".
<poke> n.,vt. See <peek>.
<POM> /pee-oh-em/ n. <Phase of the moon>. Usage: usually used in the
X phrase "POM dependent" which means <flaky>.
<pop> /pop/ [based on the stack operation that removes the top of a
X stack, and the fact that procedure return addresses are saved on
X the stack] (also POP, POPJ /pop-jay/) 1. vt. To remove something
X from a <stack> or <pdl>. If a person says he has popped
X something from his stack, he means he has finally finished working
X on it and can now remove it from the list of things hanging over
X his head. 2. To return from a digression (the J-form derives
X specifically from a <PDP-10> assembler instruction). By verb
X doubling, "Popj, popj" means roughly, "Now let's see, where were
X we?" See <RTI>.
<port> 1. v.,n. Describes the act of moving, translating,
X reconfiguring and adapting software from one machine architecture
X and/or operating system (the "source environment") to run on a
X different one (the "target environment"). Until recently and
X except among a relatively small group of modern operating systems
X this process has ranged from extremely painful up to flat-out
X impossible. The ubiquity of the C language and the spread of the
X UNIX operating system have, fortunately, done much to change this.
X 2. [from mainstream `port' for a door or gate] n. Anything one
X might plug a peripheral or communications line into; as in a
X `serial port' or `parallel port'.
<posing> n. On a <MUD>, the use of `:' or an equivalent
X command to announce to other players that one is taking a certain
X physical action, which however has no effect on the game.
<post> v. To send a message to a <mailing list> or <newsgroup>.
X Distinguished in context from "mail"; one might ask, for
X example, "Are you going to post the patch or mail it to known
X users?"
<posting> n. Noun corresp. to v. <post> (but note that the shorter
X word can be nouned). Distinguished from a `letter' or ordinary
X <email> message by the fact that it's broadcast rather than
X point-to-point. It is unclear whether messages sent to a small
X mailing list are postings or <email>; perhaps the best dividing
X line is that if you don't know the names of all the potential
X recipients, it's a posting.
<power cycle> vt. (also, to "cycle power") To power off a
X machine and then power it on immediately, with the intention of
X clearing some kind of <hung> or <gronked> state. Syn <120
X reset>; see also <Big Red Switch>. Compare <vulcan nerve
X pinch>, <bounce>, <boot>.
<PPN> /pip'n/ [from "Project-Programmer Number"] n. A user-ID under
X <TOPS-10> and its various mutant progeny at SAIL, BBN,
X CompuServe and elsewhere. Old-time hackers from the PDP-10 era
X sometimes use this to refer to user IDs on other systems as well.
<precedence lossage> /pre's@-dens los'j/ [C programmers] n. Coding
X error in an expression due to unexpected grouping of arithmetic or
X logical operators by the compiler. Used esp. of certain common
X coding errors in C due to the nonintuitively low precedence levels
X of `&', `|' and `^'. Can always be avoided by suitable use of
X parentheses. See <aliasing bug>, <memory leak>, <smash the stack>,
X <fandango on core>, <overrun screw>.
<prepend> /pree`pend'/ [by analogy with "append"] vt. To prefix.
X Like "append", but unlike "prefix" or "suffix" as a verb, the
X direct object is always the thing being added and not the original
X word (character string, etc). No, this is *not* standard
X English, yet!
<pretty pictures> n. [scientific computation] The next step up from
X <numbers>. Interesting graphical output from a program which may
X not have any real relationship to the reality the program is
X intended to model. Good for showing to <management>.
<prettyprint> v. 1. To generate `pretty' human-readable output from a
X hairy internal representation; esp. used for the process of
X <grind>ing (sense #2) LISP code. 2. To format in some particularly
X slick and nontrivial way. See <grind>.
<prime time> [from TV programming] n. Normal high-usage hours on a
X timesharing system; the day shift. Avoidance of prime time is a
X major reason for <night mode> hacking.
<priority interrupt> [from the hardware term] n. Describes any
X stimulus compelling enough to yank one right out of <hack mode>.
X Classically used to describe being dragged away by an <SO> for
X immediate sex, but may also refer to more mundane interruptions
X such as a fire alarm going off in the near vicinity. Also called
X an NMI (non maskable interrupt) especially in PC-land.
<profile> [UNIX] n. 1. A control file for a program, esp. a text file
X automatically read from each user's home directory and intended to
X be easily modified by the user. Used to avoid <hardcoded> choices.
X 2. A report on the amounts of time spent in each routine of a
X program, used to find and <tune> the <hot spots> in it.
<Programmer's Cheer> "Shift to the left! Shift to the right! Pop
X up, push down! Byte! Byte! Byte!" A joke so old it has hair on
X it...
<program> 1. n. A magic spell cast over a computer allowing it to
X turn one's input into error messages. 2. n. An exercise in
X experimental epistemology. 3. vt. To engage in a pastime similar
X to banging one's head against a wall, but with fewer opportunies
X for reward.
<programming> n. The art of debugging a blank sheet of paper.
<propeller head> n. Used by hackers, this is syn. with <computer
X geek>. Non-hackers sometimes use it to describe all techies.
X Prob. derives from SF fandom's tradition of propeller beanies as
X fannish insignia (though nobody actually wears them except as a
X joke).
<proprietary> adj. 1. In <marketroid>-speak, superior; implies a
X product imbued with exclusive magic by the unmatched brilliance of
X their employer's hardware or software designers. 2. In the
X language of hackers and users, inferior; implies a product not
X conforming to open-systems standards, and thus one which puts the
X customer at the mercy of a vendor able to gouge freely on service
X and upgrade charges after the initial sale has locked the customer
X in.
<protocol> n. As used by hackers, this never refers to niceties
X about the proper form for addressing letters to the Papal Nuncio or
X the order in which one should use the forks in a Russian-style
X place setting; hackers don't care about such things. It is used
X instead to describe any set of rules which allow different machines
X or pieces of software to coordinate with each other without
X ambiguity. It implies that there's some common message format and
X accepted set of primitives or commands that all parties involved
X understand, and that transactions among them follow predictable
X logical sequences. See also <handshaking>, <do protocol>.
<prowler> [UNIX] n. A <demon> that is run periodically (typically once
X a week) to seek out and erase core files (see <core>), truncate
X administrative logfiles, nuke lost+found directories, and otherwise
X clean up the cruft that tends to pile up in the corners of a file
X system. See also <GFR>, <reaper>, <skulker>.
<pseudo> /soo'doh/ [USENET] n. 1. An electronic-mail or <USENET>
X persona adopted by a human for amusement value or as a means of
X avoiding negative repercussions of his/her net.behavior; a `nom de
X USENET', often associated with forged postings designed to conceal
X message origins. Perhaps the best-known and funniest hoax of this
X type is <biff>. 2. Notionally, a <flamage>-generating AI program
X simulating a USENET user. Many flamers have been accused of
X actually being such entities, despite the fact that no AI program
X of the required sophistication exists. However, in 1989 there was
X a famous series of forged postings that used a
X phrase-frequency-based travesty generator to simulate the styles of
X several well-known flamers based on large samples of their back
X postings. A significant number of people were fooled by these, and
X the debate over their authenticity was only settled when the
X perpetrator of the hoax came publicly forward to admit the deed.
<pseudoprime> n. A backgammon prime (six consecutive occupied points)
X with one point missing. This term is an esoteric pun derived from
X a mathematical method which, rather than determining precisely
X whether a number is prime (has no divisors), uses a statistical
X technique to decide whether the number is "probably" prime. A
X number that passes this test is called a pseudoprime. The hacker
X backgammon usage stems from the idea that pseudoprime is almost as
X good as a prime: it does the job of a prime until proven otherwise,
X and that probably won't happen.
<pseudosuit> n. A <suit> wannabee; a hacker who's decided that he
X wants to be in management or administration and begins wearing
X ties, sport coats, and (shudder!) suits voluntarily. His
X funeral...
<psychedelicware> /sie`k@-del'-ik-weir/ [Great Britain] n. Syn.
X <display hack>.
<puff> vt. To decompress data that has been crunched by Huffman
X coding. At least one widely distributed Huffman decoder program
X was actually "named" `PUFF', but these days it isn't usually
X separate from the encoder. Oppose <huff>.
<punched card> 1. n.obs. The signature medium of computing's
X <Stone Age>, now obsolescent outside of IBM shops. The punched
X card actually predated computers considerably, originating as a
X control device for mechanical looms. The version patented by
X Hollerith and used with mechanical tabulating machines in the 1890
X U.S. Census was a piece of cardboard about 90mm by 215mm, designed
X to fit exactly in the currency trays used for that era's larger
X dollar bills.
X IBM (which originated as a tabulating-machine manufacturer) married
X the punched card to computers, encoding binary information as
X patterns of small rectangular holes; one character per column, 80
X columns per card. Later, other coding schemes, sizes of card and
X hole shape were tried.
X The 80-column width of most character terminals is a legacy of the
X punched card; so is the size of the quick reference cards
X distributed with many varieties of computers even today. See
X <chad>, <chad box>, <eighty-column mind>, <green card>,
X <dusty deck>, <lace card>.
<punt> [from the punch line of an old joke referring to American
X football: "Drop back 15 yards and punt"] vt. 1. To give up, typically
X without any intention of retrying. "Let's punt the movie
X tonight." "I was going to hack all night to get this feature in,
X but I decided to punt" may mean that you've decided not to stay up
X all night, and may also mean you're not ever even going to put in
X the feature. 2. More specifically, to give up on figuring out what
X the <Right Thing> is and resort to an inefficient hack.
<Purple Book> n. The `System V Interface Definition'. The covers
X of the first editions were an amazingly nauseating shade of
X off-lavender. See also <Red Book>, <Blue Book>, <Green Book>,
X <Silver Book>, <Orange Book>, <White Book>, <Pink-Shirt Book>,
X <Dragon Book>, <Aluminum Book>.
<push> [based on the stack operation that puts the current
X information on a stack, and the fact that procedure return
X addresses are saved on the stack] Also PUSH or PUSHJ /push-jay/,
X based on the PDP-10 procedure call instruction. 1. To put
X something onto a <stack> or <pdl>. If a person says something
X has been pushed onto his stack, he means yet another thing has been
X added to the list of things hanging over his head for him to do.
X 2. vi. To enter upon a digression, to save the current discussion
X for later. Antonym of <pop>; see also <stack>, <pdl>.
X {= Q =}
<quad> n. 1. Two bits; syn. for <quarter>, <crumb>, <tayste>.
X 2. The rectangle or box glyph used in the APL language for various
X arcane purposes mostly related to I/O. Ex-Ivy-Leaguers and
X Oxbridge types are said to associate it with nostalgic memories of
X dear old University.
<quadruple bucky> n., obs. On a <space-cadet keyboard>, use of all
X four of the shifting keys control, meta, hyper, and super while
X typing a character key. This was very difficult to do! One
X accepted technique was to press the left-control and left-meta keys
X with your left hand, the right-control and right-meta keys with
X your right hand, and the fifth key with your nose. Thus, this
X combination was very seldom used in practice, because when you
X invent a new command you usually assign it to some character that
X is easier to type. If you want to imply that a program has
X ridiculously many commands or features, you can say something like
X "Oh, the command that makes it spin all the tapes while whistling
X Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is quadruple-bucky-cokebottle". See
X <double bucky>, <bucky bits>, <cokebottle>.
<quantum bogodynamics> /kwon'tm boh`goh-die-nam'iks/ n. Theory which
X characterizes the universe in terms of bogon sources (such as
X politicians, used-car salesmen, TV evangelists, and <suit>s in
X general), bogon sinks (such as taxpayers and computers), and
X bogosity potential fields. Bogon absorption, of course, causes
X human beings to behave mindlessly and machines to fail (and may
X cause them to emit secondary bogons as well); however, the precise
X mechanics of the bogon-computron interaction are not yet understood
X and remain to be elucidated. Quantum bogodynamics is most
X frequently invoked to explain the sharp increase in hardware and
X software failures in the presence of suits; the latter emit bogons
X which the former absorb. See <bogon>, <computron>, <suit>.
<quarter> n. Two bits; syn. <tayste>, <crumb>. The term comes
X from the `pieces of eight' famed in pirate movies, Spanish gold
X pieces that could be broken into eight pie-slice-shaped `bits' to
X make change. Early in the U.S.'s history each of these `bits' was
X considered worth about 12.5 cents. Usage: rare. See also
X <nickle>, <nybble>, <byte>.
<ques> /kwess/ 1. n. The question mark character (`?', ASCII
X 0111111). 2. interj. What? Also frequently verb-doubled as
X "Ques ques?" See <wall>.
<quick and dirty> adj. A <crock> put together under time or user
X pressure. Used esp. when you want to convey that you think the
X fast way might lead to trouble further down the road. "I can have
X a quick and dirty fix in place tonight, but I'll have to rewrite
X the whole module to solve the underlying design problem ". See
X also <kluge>.
<qux> /kwuhks/ The fourth of the standard metasyntactic variables,
X after <baz> and before the quuu*x series. See <foo>, <bar>,
X <baz>, <quux>. Note that this appears to a be recent mutation
X from <quux>, and that many versions of the standard series just
X run <foo>, <bar>, <baz>, <quux>, ...
<quux> /kwuhks/ [invented by Steele] Mythically, from the Latin
X semi-deponent verb quuxo, quuxare, quuxandum iri; noun form
X variously `quux' (plural `quuces', anglicized to `quuxes')
X and `quuxu' (genitive plural is `quuxuum', for four u-letters
X out of seven total).] 1. Originally, a meta-word like <foo> and
X <foobar>. Invented by Guy Steele for precisely this purpose when
X he was young and naive and not yet interacting with the real
X computing community. Many people invent such words; this one seems
X simply to have been lucky enough to have spread a little. In an
X eloquent display of poetic justice, it has returned to the
X originator in the form of a nickname, as punishment for inventing
X this bletcherous word in the first place. 2. interj. See <foo>;
X however, denotes very little disgust, and is uttered mostly for the
X sake of the sound of it. 3. Guy Steele in his persona as `The
X Great Quux', which is somewhat infamous for light verse and for
X the `Crunchly' cartoons. 4. quuxy: adj. Of or pertaining to a
X quux.
<QWERTY> /kwer'tee/ [from the keycaps at the upper left] adj.
X Pertaining to a standard English-language typewriter keyboard, as
X opposed to Dvorak or foreign-language layouts or a <space-cadet
X keyboard> or APL keyboard.
X {= R =}
<rain dance> n. 1. Any ceremonial action taken to correct a hardware
X problem, with the expectation that nothing will be accomplished.
X This especially applies to reseating printed circuit boards,
X reconnecting cables, etc. "I can't boot up the machine. We'll
X have to wait for Greg to do his rain dance." 2. Any arcane
X sequence of actions performed with computers or software in order
X to achieve some goal; the term is usually restricted to rituals
X which include both an <incantation> or two and physical activity
X or motion. Compare <magic>, <voodoo programming>, <black
X art>.
<random> adj. 1. Unpredictable (closest to mathematical definition);
X weird. "The system's been behaving pretty randomly." 2.
X Assorted; undistinguished. "Who was at the conference?" "Just
X a bunch of random business types." 3. Frivolous; unproductive;
X undirected (pejorative). "He's just a random loser." 4.
X Incoherent or inelegant; not well organized. "The program has a
X random set of misfeatures." "That's a random name for that
X function." "Well, all the names were chosen pretty randomly."
X 5. Gratuitously wrong, i.e., poorly done and for no good apparent
X reason. For example, a program that handles file name defaulting
X in a particularly useless way, or an assembler routine that could
X easily have been coded using only three registers, but randomly
X uses seven for assorted non-overlapping purposes, so that no one
X else can invoke it without first saving four extra registers. 6.
X In no particular order, though deterministic. "The I/O channels
X are in a pool, and when a file is opened one is chosen randomly."
X n. 7. A random hacker; used particularly of high school students
X who soak up computer time and generally get in the way. 8.
X (occasional MIT usage) One who lives at Random Hall. See also <J.
X Random>, <some random X>.
<random numbers> n. When one wishes to specify a large but random
X number of things, and the context is inappropriate for <N>, certain
X numbers are preferred by hacker tradition (that is, easily
X recognized as placeholders). These include
X 17 Long described at MIT as `the least random number', see 23.
X 23 Sacred number of Eris, Goddess of Discord (along with 17 & 5).
X 42 The Answer to the Question of Life, the Universe and Everything.
X 69 From the sexual act. This one was favored in MIT's ITS culture.
X 105 69 hex = 105 dec, and 69 dec = 105 oct
X 666 The Number of the Beast.
X For further enlightenment, consult the `Principia Discordia',
X `The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy', any porn movie, and the
X Christian Bible's `Book Of Revelations'. See also
X <Discordianism> or consult your pineal gland.
<randomness> n. An unexplainable misfeature; gratuitous inelegance.
X Also, a <hack> or <crock> which depends on a complex combination of
X coincidences (or rather, the combination upon which the crock
X depends for its accidental failure to malfunction). "This hack
X can output characters 40-57 by putting the character in the
X accumulator field of an XCT and then extracting 6 bits --- the low
X two bits of the XCT opcode are the right thing." "What
X randomness!"
<rape> vt. To (metaphorically) screw someone or something, violently;
X in particular, to destroy a program or information irrecoverably
X Usage: often used in describing file-system damage. "So-and-so
X was running a program that did absolute disk I/O and ended up
X raping the master directory."
<rare> [UNIX] adj. CBREAK mode (character-by-character with interrupts
X enabled). Distinguished from "raw" and "cooked"; the phrase
X "half-cooked (rare?)" is used in the V7/BSD manuals to describe
X the mode. Usage: rare.
<raster blaster> n. [Cambridge] Specialized hardware for <bitblt>
X operations. Allegedly inspired by analogy with "Rasta Blasta",
X British slang for the sort of portable stereo/radio/tapedeck
X Americans call a `boom box' or `ghetto blaster'.
<raster burn> n. Eyestrain brought on by too many hours of looking at
X low-res, poorly tuned or glare-ridden monitors, esp. graphics
X monitors. See <terminal illness>.
<rat belt> n. A cable tie, esp. the sawtoothed, self-locking plastic
X kind that you can only remove by cutting (as opposed to a random
X twist of wire or a baggie tie or one of those humongous metal clip
X frobs). Small cable ties are "mouse belts".
<rave> [WPI] vi. 1. To persist in discussing a specific subject. 2. To
X speak authoritatively on a subject about which one knows very
X little. 3. To complain to a person who is not in a position to
X correct the difficulty. 4. To purposely annoy another person
X verbally. 5. To evangelize. See <flame>. Also used to describe a
X less negative form of blather, such as friendly bullshitting.
X <Rave> differs slightly from <flame> in that <rave> implies that it
X is the manner or persistence of speaking that is annoying, while
X <flame> implies somewhat more strongly that the subject matter is
X annoying as well.
<rave on!> imp. Sarcastic invitation to continue a <rave>, often by
X someone who wishes the raver would get a clue but realizes this is
X unlikely.
<ravs> /ravz/, also CHINESE RAVS n. Kuo-teh. A Chinese appetizer,
X known variously in the plural as dumplings, pot stickers (the
X literal translation of kuo-teh) and (around Boston) `Peking
X Ravioli'. The term "rav" is short for "ravioli", which among
X hackers always means the Chinese kind rather than the Italian kind.
X Both consist of a filling in a pasta shell, but the Chinese kind
X uses a thinner pasta and is cooked differently, either by steaming
X or frying. A rav or dumpling can be steamed or fried, but a
X potsticker is always the fried kind (so called because it sticks to
X the frying pot and has to be scraped off). "Let's get
X hot-and-sour soup and three orders of ravs." See also ORIENTAL
<read-only user> n. Describes a <luser> who uses computers almost
X exclusively for reading USENET, bulletin boards and email, as
X opposed to writing code or purveying useful information. See
X <twink>, <terminal junkie>.
<README file> n. By convention, the top-level directory of a UNIX
X source distribution always contains a file named `README' (or
X READ.ME, or (rarely) ReadMe or some other variant) which is a
X hacker's-eye introduction containing a pointer to more detailed
X documentation, credits, miscellaneous revision history notes, etc.
X When asked, hackers invariably relate this to the famous scene in
X Lewis Carroll's `Alice In Wonderland' in which Alice confronts
X magic food with signs posted over it that say `Eat Me' and `Drink
X Me'.
<real estate> n. May be used for any critical resource measured in units
X of area. Most frequently used of `chip real estate', the area
X available for logic on the surface of an integrated circuit (see
X also <nanoacre>). May also be used of floor space in a
X <dinosaur pen> or even space on a crowded desktop (whether
X physical or electronics).
<real operating system> n. Whatever that a given user is accustomed
X to, and subject to wild variation. People from the academic
X community are likely to issue comments like "System V? Why don't
X you use a *real* operating system?", people from the
X commercial/industrial UNIX sector are known to complain, "BSD? Why
X don't you use a *real* operating system?", and people from IBM
X probably think, "UNIX? Why don't you use a *real* operating
X system?" See <holy wars>, <religious issues>, <proprietary>.
<real programmer> [indirectly, from the book `Real Men Don't
X Eat Quiche'] n. A particular sub-variety of hacker, one possessed
X of a flippant attitude towards complexity that is arrogant even
X when justified by experience. The archetypal `real programmer'
X likes to program on the <bare metal>, and is very good at same;
X he remembers the binary opcodes for every machine he's every
X programmed; thinks that HLLs are sissy; and he uses a debugger to
X edit his code because full-screen editors are for wimps. Real
X Programmers aren't satisfied with code that hasn't been <bum>med
X into a state of <tense>ness just short of rupture. Real
X Programmers never use comments or write documentation; "If it was
X hard to write", says the Real Programmer, "it should be hard to
X understand." Real Programmers can make machines do things that
X were never in their spec sheets; in fact, they're seldom really
X happy unless doing so. A Real Programmer's code can awe you with
X its fiendish brilliance even as it appalls by its level of
X crockishness. Real Programmers live on junk food and coffee, hang
X line-printer art on their walls, and terrify the crap out of other
X programmers --- because someday, somebody else might have to try to
X understand their code in order to change it. Their successors
X generally consider it a <Good Thing> that there aren't many Real
X Programmers around any more. For a famous (and somewhat more
X positive) portrait of a Real Programmer, see `The Story of
X Mel' in Appendix A.
<Real Soon Now> [orig. from SF's fanzine community, popularized by
X Jerry Pournelle's BYTE column] adj. 1. Supposed to be available
X (or fixed, or cheap, or whatever) real soon now according to
X somebody, but the speaker is quite skeptical. 2. When the
X gods/fates/other time commitments permit the speaker to get to it.
X Often abbreviated RSN.
<real time> adv. Doing something while people are watching or waiting.
X "I asked her how to find the calling procedure's program counter
X on the stack and she came up with an algorithm in real time."
<real user> n. 1. A commercial user. One who is paying `real' money
X for his computer usage. 2. A non-hacker. Someone using the system
X for an explicit purpose (research project, course, etc.). See
X <user>. Hackers who are also students may also be real users. "I
X need this fixed so I can do a problem set. I'm not complaining out
X of randomness, but as a real user." See also <luser>.
<Real World> n. 1. In programming, those institutions at which
X programming may be used in the same sentence as FORTRAN, COBOL,
X RPG, <IBM>, etc. Places where programs do such commercially
X necessary but intellectually uninspiring things as compute payroll
X checks and invoices. 2. To programmers, the location of
X non-programmers and activities not related to programming. 3. A
X universe in which the standard dress is shirt and tie and in which
X a person's working hours are defined as 9 to 5. 4. The location of
X the status quo. 5. Anywhere outside a university. "Poor fellow,
X he's left MIT and gone into the real world." Used pejoratively by
X those not in residence there. In conversation, talking of someone
X who has entered the real world is not unlike talking about a
X deceased person. See also <fear and loathing>, <mundane>, and
X <uninteresting>.
<reality check> n. 1. The simplest kind of test of software or
X hardware; doing the equivalent of asking it what `2 + 2' and
X seeing if you get 4. The equivalent of q <smoke test> for
X software. 2. The act of letting a <real user> try out prototype
X software. Compare <sanity check>.
<reaper> n. A <prowler> which GFRs files (see <GFR>). A file removed
X in this way is said to have been `reaped'.
<rectangle slinger> n. See <polygon pusher>.
<recursion> n. See <recursion>. See also <tail recursion>.
RECURSIVE ACRONYMS pl.n. A hackish (and especially MIT) tradition is
X to choose acronyms which refer humorously to themselves or to other
X acronyms. The classic examples were two MIT editors called EINE
X ("EINE Is Not EMACS") and ZWEI ("ZWEI Was EINE Initially").
X More recently, <GNU> (q.v., sense #1) is said to stand for "GNU's
X Not UNIX!"
<Red Book> n. 1. Informal name for one of the three standard
X references on PostScript (`PostScript Language Reference
X Manual', Adobe Systems, Addison-Wesley 1985 QA76.73.P67P67, ISBN
X 0-201-10174-2); the others are known as the <Green Book> and <Blue
X Book>. 2. Informal name for one of the three standard references
X on Smalltalk: `Smalltalk-80: The Interactive Programming
X Environment', Adele Goldberg, Addison-Wesley 1984, QA76.8.S635G638,
X ISBN 0-201-11372-4 (this is also associated with blue and green
X books). 3. Any of the 1984 standards issued by the CCITT 8th
X plenary assembly. Until now, these have changed color each review
X cycle (1988 was <Blue Book>, 1992 will be <Green Book>); however,
X it is rumored that this convention is going to be dropped before
X 1992. These include, among other things, the X.400 email spec and
X the Group 1 through 4 fax standards. 4. The new version of the
X <Green Book> (sense #4), "IEEE 1003.1-1990", aka "ISO 9945-1",
X is (because of the color and the fact that it is printed on A4
X paper), known in the USA as "The Ugly Red Book That Won't Fit On
X The Shelf", and in Europe as "The Ugly Red Book That's A Sensible
X Size". See also <Green Book>, <Blue Book>, <Purple Book>, <Silver
X Book>, <Orange Book>, <White Book>, <Pink-Shirt Book>, <Dragon
X Book>, <Aluminum Book>.
<regexp> /reg'eksp/ [UNIX] n. (alt "regex" or "reg-ex") 1.
X Common written and spoken abbreviation for "regular
X expression", one of the wildcard patterns used, e.g., by UNIX
X utilities such as `grep(1)', `sed(1)' and `awk(1)'.
X These use conventions similar to but more elaborate than those
X described under <glob>. For purposes of this File, it is
X sufficient to note that regexps also allow complemented character
X sets using `^' and ranges in character sets using `-';
X thus, one can specify any non-alphabetic character with
X `[^A-Za-z]'. 2. Name of a well-known PD regexp-handling
X package in portable C, written by revered USENETter Henry Spencer
X (
<reincarnation, cycle of> n. Term used to refer to a well-known effect
X whereby function in a computing system family is migrated out to
X special purpose peripheral hardware for speed, then the peripheral
X evolves towards more computing power as it does its job, then
X somebody notices that it's inefficient to support two asymmetrical
X processors in the architecture and folds the function back into the
X main CPU, at which point the cycle begins again. Several
X iterations of this cycle have been observed in graphics processor
X design, and at least one or two in communications and
X floating-point processors. Also known as "the Wheel of Life",
X "the Wheel of Samsara", and other variations of the basic
X Hindu/Buddhist theological idea.
<religious issues> n. Questions which seemingly cannot be raised
X without touching off <holy wars>, such as "What is the best
X operating system (or editor, language, architecture, shell, mail
X reader, news reader)?" and "What about that Heinlein guy, eh?".
X See also <theology>, <bigot>.
X This entry is an example of <ha ha only serious>. People
X actually develop the most amazing and religiously intense attachments
X to their tools, even when the tools are intangible. The most
X constructive thing one can do when one stumbles into the crossfire
X is mumble <Get a life!> and leave --- unless of course one's
X *own* unassailably rational and obviously correct choices are
X being slanged...
<reinvent the wheel> v. To design or implement a tool equivalent to
X an existing one, with the implication that doing so is silly or a
X waste of time. This is frequently a valid criticism; but
X automobiles don't use wooden rollers, either, and some kinds of
X wheel have to be re-invented many times before you get it right.
<replicator> n. Any construct that acts to produce copies of itself;
X this could be a living organism, an idea (see <meme>), a program
X (see <worm>, <wabbit> and <virus>), a pattern in a cellular
X automaton (see <life>, sense #1), or (speculatively) a robot or
X <nanobot>.
<reply> n. See <followup>.
<restriction> n. A <bug> or design error that limits a program's
X capabilities, and which is sufficiently egregious that nobody can
X quite work up enough nerve to describe it as a <feature>. Often
X used (esp. by <marketroid> types) to make it sound as though some
X crippling bogosity had been intended by the designers all along, or
X was forced upon them by arcane considerations no mere user could
X possibly comprehend (these claims are almost invariably false).
<retcon> /ret'kon/ ["retroactive continuity", from USENET's
X rec.arts.comics] 1. n. the common situation in pulp fiction (esp.
X comics, soaps) where a new story `reveals' new things about events
X in previous stories, usually leaving the `facts' the same (thus
X preserving continuity) while completely changing their
X interpretation. E.g., revealing that a whole season's episodes of
X Dallas was a dream was a retcon. 2. vt. To write such a story
X about (a character or fictitious object). Thus, "Byrne has
X retconned Superman's cape so that it is no longer unbreakable".
X 3. vi. Used of something `transformed' in this way ---
X "Marvelman's old adventures were retconned into synthetic
X dreams", "Swamp Thing was retconned from a transformed person
X into a sentient vegetable."
X [This is included because it's a good example of hackish linguistic
X innovation in a field completely unrelated to computers. The word
X `retcon' will probably spread through comics fandom and lose its
X association with hackerdom within a couple of years; for the
X record, it started here. --- ESR]
<retrocomputing> /ret'-roh-k@m-pyoo'ting/ n. Refers to emulations
X of way-behind-the state-of-the-art hardware or software, or
X implementations of never-was-state-of-the-art; esp. if such
X implementations are elaborate practical jokes and/or parodies of
X more `serious' designs. Perhaps the most widely distributed
X retrocomputing utility was the `pnch(6)' or `bcd(6)'
X program on V7 and other early UNIX versions, which would accept up
X to 80 characters of text argument and display the corresponding
X pattern in Hollerith <card> code. Other well-known retrocomputing
X hacks have included the programming language <INTERCAL>, a
X <JCL>-emulating shell for UNIX, the card-punch-emulating editor named
X 029, and various elaborate PDP-11 hardware emulators and RT-11 OS
X emulators written just to keep an old, sourceless <Zork> binary
X running.
<retrofit> v. To graft some pieces from newer technology onto a
X piece of software or hardware representing an older one. This
X often results in a crocky, inelegant compromise between new and
X old. The term implies use of the older stuff in ways the designers
X didn't anticipate. Some of the bizarre things done during the
X nineteen-seventies to old-style batch operating systems like
X <GECOS> and IBM's OS/360 in order to make them crudely
X interactive stand out as examples. More recently, personal
X computer hackers have frequently been known to graft new floppy and
X hard-disk devices onto obsolete hardware in order to preserve
X software written for a particular processor, screen and keyboard
X combination.
<RFC> /ahr ef see/ n. Request For Comment. One of a long-established
X series of numbered Internet standards widely followed by commercial
X and PD software in the Internet and UNIX communities. Perhaps the
X single most influential one has been RFC-822 (the Internet
X mail-format standard). The RFCs are unusual in that they are
X floated by technical experts acting on their own initiative and
X reviewed by the Internet at large, rather than formally promulgated
X through an institution such as ANSI. For this reason they remain
X known as RFCs even once adopted.
<RFE> n. 1. Request For Enhancement. 2. [Bellcore, Sun] Radio Free
X Ethernet, a system (originated by Peter Langston) for broadcasting
X audio among Sun SPARCstations over the ethernet.
<rib site> n. A machine which has an on-demand high-speed link to a
X <backbone site> and serves as a regional distribution point for
X lots of third-party traffic in email and USENET news. Compare
X <leaf site>, <backbone site>.
<rice box> [from ham radio slang] n. Any Asian-made commodity
X computer, esp. an 8086, 80286, 80386 or 80486-based machine built
X to IBM PC-compatible ISA or EISA-bus standards.
<Right Thing, The> n. That which is *obviously* the correct or
X appropriate thing to use, do, say, etc. Often capitalized, always
X emphasized in speech as though capitalized. Use of this term often
X implies that in fact reasonable people may disagree. "Never let
X your conscience keep you from doing the right thing!" "What's
X the right thing for LISP to do when it reads (a mod 0)? Should it
X return a, or give a divide-by-zero error?" Antonym: <Wrong
X Thing>.
<RL> [MUD community] n. Real Life. "Firiss laughs in RL" means
X Firiss's player is laughing.
<roach> [Bell Labs] vt. To destroy, esp. of a data structure. Hardware
X gets <toast>ed, software gets roached.
<robust> adj. Said of a system which has demonstrated an ability to
X recover gracefully from the whole range of exception conditions in
X a given environment. One step below <bulletproof>. Compare
X <smart>, oppose <brittle>.
<rococo> adj. <Baroque> in the extreme. Used to imply that a
X program has become so encrusted with the software equivalent of
X gold leaf and curlicues that they have completely swamped the
X underlying design. Called after the later and more extreme forms
X of Baroque architecture and decoration prevalent during the
X mid-1700s in Europe.
<rogue> [UNIX] n. Dungeons-And-Dragons-like game using character
X graphics written under BSD UNIX and subsequently ported to other
X UNIX systems. The original BSD `curses(3)' screen-handling
X package was hacked together by Ken Arnold to support
X `rogue(6)' and has since become one of UNIX's most important
X and heavily used application libraries. Nethack, Omega, Larn and
X an entire subgenre of computer dungeon games all took off from the
X inspiration provided by `rogue(6)'. See <hack>.
<root> n. [UNIX] 1. The "superuser" account that ignores
X permission bits, user number zero on a UNIX system. This account
X has the user name `root'. 2. The top node of the system directory
X structure (home directory of the root user). 3. By extension, the
X privileged system-maintenance login on any OS. 4. Thus, <root
X mode>: Syn. with <wizard mode> or <wheel mode>. Like these,
X it is often generalized to describe privileged states in systems
X other than OSs. 5. <go root>: to temporarily enter <root mode>
X in order to perform a privileged operation. This use is deprecated
X in Australia, where v. `root' is slang for "to have sex with".
<room-temperature IQ> [IBM] 80 or below. Used in describing the
X expected intelligence range of the <luser>. As in "Well, but
X how's this interface gonna play with the room-temperature IQ
X crowd?" See <drool-proof paper>. This is a much more insulting
X phrase in countries that use Celsius thermometers...
<rot13> /rot ther'teen/ [USENET, from `rotate alphabet 13 places']
X n.,v. The simple Caesar-cypher encryption replaces each English
X letter with the one 13 places forward or back along the alphabet,
X so that "The butler did it!" becomes "Gur ohgyre qvq vg!" Most
X USENET news reading and posting programs include a rot13 feature.
X It is used as if to enclose the text in a sealed wrapper that the
X reader must choose to open, for posting things that might offend
X some readers, answers to puzzles, or discussion of movie plot
X surprises.
<rotary debugger> [Commodore] n. Essential equipment for those late
X night or early morning debugging sessions. Mainly used as
X sustenance for the hacker. Comes in many decorator colors such as
X Sausage, Pepperoni, and Garbage. See <pizza, ANSI standard>.
<RSN> adj. See <Real Soon Now>.
<RTFAQ> /ahr-tee-eff-ay-kyoo/ [USENET, by analogy with <RTFM>]
X imp. Abbrev. for `Read the FAQ!', an exhortation that the person
X being addressed ought to read the newsgroup's <FAQ list> before
X posting questions.
<RTFM> /ahr-tee-ef-em/ [UNIX] imp. Abbrev. for `Read The Fucking Manual'.
X 1. Used by GURUs to brush off questions they consider trivial or
X annoying. Compare <Don't do that, then!>. 2. Used when reporting
X a problem to indicate that you aren't just asking out of
X <randomness>. "No, I can't figure out how to interface UNIX to my
X toaster and yes I have RTFM." Unlike sense #1 this use is
X considered polite. See also <RTFAQ>, <RTM>.
<RTI> /ahr-tee-ie/ interj. The mnemonic for the "return from
X interrupt" instruction on the 6502 and Z80. Equivalent to "Now,
X where was I?" or used to end a conversational digression. See
X <POP>, <POPJ>.
<RTM> /ahr-tee-em/ [USENET, acronym for `Read The Manual'] Politer
X variant of <RTFM>.
<rude> [WPI] adj. 1. (of a program) Badly written. 2. Functionally
X poor, e.g. a program which is very difficult to use because of
X gratuitously poor (random?) design decisions. See <cuspy>.
<runes> pl.n. 1. Anything that requires <heavy wizardry> or <black
X art> to <parse>; core dumps, JCL commands, or even code in a
X language you don't have the faintest idea how to read. Compare
X <casting the runes>. 2. Special display characters (for example,
X the high-half graphics on an IBM PC).
<runic> adj. Syn. <obscure>. VMS fans sometimes refer to UNIX as
X `Runix'; UNIX fans return the compliment by expanding VMS to
X `Vachement Mauvais Systeme' (French, lit. "Cowlike Bad System").
<rusty iron> n. Syn. <tired iron>. It has been claimed that this
X is the inevitable fate of <water MIPS>.
<rusty memory> n. Mass-storage that uses iron-oxide-based magnetic
X media (tape and the pre-Winchester removable disk packs used in
X <washing machines>). Compare <donuts>.
X {= S =}
<s/n ratio> n. (also "s:n ratio"). See <signal-to-noise
X ratio>.
<sacred> adj. Reserved for the exclusive use of something (a
X metaphorical extension of the standard meaning). "Register 7 is
X sacred to the interrupt handler." Often means that anyone may
X look at the sacred object, but clobbering it will screw whatever it
X is sacred to. Example: The comment "Register 7 is sacred to the
X interrupt handler" appearing in a program would be interpreted by
X a hacker to mean that one part of the program, the `interrupt
X handler', uses register 7, and if any other part of the program
X changes the contents of register 7 dire consequences are likely to
X ensue.
<sadistics> /s@-dis'tiks/ n. University slang for statistics and
X probability theory, often used by hackers.
<saga> [WPI] n. A cuspy but bogus raving story dealing with N random
X broken people.
<sagan> [from Carl Sagan's TV series on PBS, think `Billions and
X Billions'] n. A large quantity of anything. "There's a sagan
X different ways to tweak EMACS." "The US Government spends sagans
X on military hardware."
<SAIL> n. Stanford University Artificial Intelligence Lab. An
X important site in the early development of LISP; with the MIT AI
X LAB, CMU and the UNIX community, one of the major founts of hacker
X culture traditions. The SAIL machines were shut down in late May
X 1990, scant weeks after the MIT AI lab's ITS cluster went down for
X the last time.
<salescritter> /sayls'kri`tr/ n. Pejorative hackerism for a computer
X salesperson. Hackers tell the following joke:
X Q. What's the difference between a used car dealer and a computer
X salesman?
X A. The used car dealer knows he's lying.
X This reflects the widespread hacker belief that salescritters are
X self-selected for stupidity (after all, if they had brains and the
X inclination to use them they'd be in programming). The terms
X "salesthing" and "salesdroid" are also common. Compare
X <marketroid>, <suit>.
<salt mines> n. Dense quarters housing large numbers of programmers
X working long hours on grungy projects, with some hope of seeing the
X end of the tunnel in N years. Noted for their absence of sunshine.
X Compare <playpen>, <sandbox>.
<same-day-service> n. Ironic term is used to describe slow response
X time, particularly with respect to <MS-DOS> system calls. Such
X response time is a major incentive for programmers to write
X programs that are not <well-behaved>.
<sandbender> [IBM] n. A person involved with silicon lithography and
X the physical design of chips. Compare <ironmonger>, <polygon
X pusher>.
<sandbox, the> n. Common term for the R&D department at many
X software and computer companies (where hackers in commercial
X environments are likely to be found). Half-derisive, but reflects
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