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THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 2.9.10
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:shell out: [UNIX] n. To spawn an interactive {subshell} from within a program (e.g., a mailer or editor). "Bang foo runs foo in a subshell, while bang alone shells out."

:shift left (or right) logical: [from any of various machines' instruction sets] 1. vi. To move oneself to the left (right). To move out of the way. 2. imper. "Get out of that (my) seat! You can shift to that empty one to the left (right)." Often used without the 'logical', or as 'left shift' instead of 'shift left'. Sometimes heard as LSH /lish/, from the {PDP-10} instruction set. See {Programmer's Cheer}.

:shim: n. A small piece of data inserted in order to achieve a desired memory alignment or other addressing property. For example, the PDP-11 UNIX linker, in split I&D (instructions and data) mode, inserts a two-byte shim at location 0 in data space so that no data object will have an address of 0 (and be confused with the C null pointer). See also {loose bytes}.

:shitogram: /shit'oh-gram/ n. A *really* nasty piece of email. Compare {nastygram}, {flame}.

:short card: n. A half-length IBM PC expansion card or adapter that will fit in one of the two short slots located towards the right rear of a standard chassis (tucked behind the floppy disk drives). See also {tall card}.

:shotgun debugging: n. The software equivalent of {Easter egging}; the making of relatively undirected changes to software in the hope that a bug will be perturbed out of existence. This almost never works, and usually introduces more bugs.

:showstopper: n. A hardware or (especially) software bug that makes an implementation effectively unusable; one that absolutely has to be fixed before development can go on. Opposite in connotation from its original theatrical use, which refers to something stunningly *good*.

:shriek: n. See {excl}. Occasional CMU usage, also in common use among APL fans and mathematicians, especially category theorists.

:Shub-Internet: /shuhb in't*r-net/ [MUD: from H. P. Lovecraft's evil fictional deity 'Shub-Niggurath', the Black Goat with a Thousand Young] n. The harsh personification of the Internet, Beast of a Thousand Processes, Eater of Characters, Avatar of Line Noise, and Imp of Call Waiting; the hideous multi-tendriled entity formed of all the manifold connections of the net. A sect of MUDders worships Shub-Internet, sacrificing objects and praying for good connections. To no avail —- its purpose is malign and evil, and is the cause of all network slowdown. Often heard as in "Freela casts a tac nuke at Shub-Internet for slowing her down." (A forged response often follows along the lines of: "Shub-Internet gulps down the tac nuke and burps happily.") Also cursed by users of {FTP} and {telnet} when the system slows down. The dread name of Shub-Internet is seldom spoken aloud, as it is said that repeating it three times will cause the being to wake, deep within its lair beneath the Pentagon.

:sidecar: n. 1. Syn. {slap on the side}. Esp. used of add-ons for the late and unlamented IBM PCjr. 2. The IBM PC compatibility box that could be bolted onto the side of an Amiga. Designed and produced by Commodore, it broke all of the company's own rules. If it worked with any other peripherals, it was by {magic}.

:SIG: n. The Association for Computing Machinery traditionally sponsors Special Interest Groups in various technical areas; well-known ones include SIGARCH (the Special Interest Group for Computer Architecture) and SIGGRAPH (the Special Interest Group for Computer Graphics). Hackers, not surprisingly, like to overextend this naming convention to less formal associations like SIGBEER (at ACM conferences) and SIGFOOD (at University of Illinois).

:sig block: /sig blok/ [UNIX; often written '.sig' there] n. Short for 'signature', used specifically to refer to the electronic signature block that most UNIX mail- and news-posting software will {automagically} 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 (see {sig quote}, {fool file, the}); 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 net.

:sig quote: /sig kwoht/ [USENET] n. A maxim, quote, proverb, joke, or slogan embedded in one's {sig block} and intended to convey something of one's philosophical stance, pet peeves, or sense of humor. "Calm down, it's only ones and zeroes."

:sig virus: n. A parasitic {meme} embedded in a {sig block}. There was a {meme plague} or fad for these on USENET in late 1991. Most were equivalents of "I am a .sig virus. Please reproduce me in your .sig block.". Of course, the .sig virus's memetic hook is the giggle value of going along with the gag; this, however, was a self-limiting phenomenon as more and more people picked up on the idea. There were creative variants on it; some people stuck 'sig virus antibody' texts in their sigs, and there was at least one instance of a sig virus eater.

:signal-to-noise ratio: [from analog electronics] n. Used by hackers in a generalization of its technical meaning. 'Signal' refers to useful information conveyed by some communications medium, and 'noise' to anything else on that medium. Hence a low ratio implies that it is not worth paying attention to the medium in question. Figures for such metaphorical ratios are never given. The term is most often applied to {USENET} newsgroups during {flame war}s. Compare {bandwidth}. See also {coefficient of X}, {lost in the noise}.

:silicon: n. Hardware, esp. ICs or microprocessor-based computer systems (compare {iron}). Contrasted with software. See also {sandbender}.

:silicon foundry: n. A company that {fab}s chips to the designs of others. As of the late 1980s, the combination of silicon foundries and good computer-aided design software made it much easier for hardware-designing startup companies to come into being. The downside of using a silicon foundry is that the distance from the actual chip-fabrication processes reduces designers' control of detail. This is somewhat analogous to the use of {HLL}s versus coding in assembler.

:silly walk: [from Monty Python's Flying Circus] vi. 1. 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." 2. Syn. {fandango on core}.

:silo: 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, presumably because it was a storage space for fungible stuff that you put in the top and took out the bottom.

:Silver Book: n. Jensen and Wirth's infamous 'Pascal User Manual and Report', so called because of the silver cover of the widely distributed Springer-Verlag second edition of 1978 (ISBN 0-387-90144-2). See {{book titles}}, {Pascal}.

:since time T equals minus infinity: adj. A long time ago; for as long as anyone can remember; at the time that some particular frob was first designed. Usually the word 'time' is omitted. See also {time T}.

:sitename: /si:t'naym/ [UNIX/Internet] n. The unique electronic name of a computer system, used to identify it in UUCP mail, USENET, or other forms of electronic information interchange. The folklore interest of sitenames stems from the creativity and humor they often display. Interpreting a sitename is not unlike interpreting a vanity license plate; one has to mentally unpack it, allowing for mono-case and length restrictions and the lack of whitespace. Hacker tradition deprecates dull, institutional-sounding names in favor of punchy, humorous, and clever coinages (except that it is considered appropriate for the official public gateway machine of an organization to bear the organization's name or acronym). Mythological references, cartoon characters, animal names, and allusions to SF or fantasy literature are probably the most popular sources for sitenames (in roughly descending order). The obligatory comment when discussing these is Harris's Lament: "All the good ones are taken!" See also {network address}.

:skrog: v. Syn. {scrog}.

:skulker: n. Syn. {prowler}.

:slap on the side: n. (also called a {sidecar}, or abbreviated 'SOTS'.) A type of external expansion hardware marketed by computer manufacturers (e.g., Commodore for the Amiga 500/1000 series and IBM for the hideous failure called 'PCjr'). Various SOTS boxes provided necessities such as memory, hard drive controllers, and conventional expansion slots.

:slash: n. Common name for the slant ('/', ASCII 0101111) character. See {ASCII} for other synonyms.

:sleep: vi. 1. [techspeak] On a timesharing system, a process that relinquishes its claim on the scheduler until some given event occurs or a specified time delay elapses is said to 'go to sleep'. 2. In jargon, used very similarly to v. {block}; also in 'sleep on', syn. with 'block on'. Often used to indicate that the speaker has relinquished a demand for resources until some (possibly unspecified) external event: "They can't get the fix I've been asking for into the next release, so I'm going to sleep on it until the release, then start hassling them again."

:slim: n. A small, derivative change (e.g., to code).

:slop: n. 1. A one-sided {fudge factor}, that is, an allowance for error but in only one of two directions. For example, if you need a piece of wire 10 feet long and have to guess when you cut it, you make very sure to cut it too long, by a large amount if necessary, rather than too short by even a little bit, because you can always cut off the slop but you can't paste it back on again. When discrete quantities are involved, slop is often introduced to avoid the possibility of being on the losing side of a {fencepost error}. 2. The percentage of 'extra' code generated by a compiler over the size of equivalent assembler code produced by {hand-hacking}; i.e., the space (or maybe time) you lose because you didn't do it yourself. This number is often used as a measure of the goodness of a compiler; slop below 5% is very good, and 10% is usually acceptable. With modern compiler technology, esp. on RISC machines, the compiler's slop may actually be *negative*; that is, humans may be unable to generate code as good. This is one of the reasons assembler programming is no longer common.

:slopsucker: /slop'suhk-r/ 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' or 'bottom feeder'. One common variety of slopsucker hunts for large prime numbers. Compare {background}.

:slurp: vt. To read a large data file entirely into {core} before working on it. This may be contrasted with the strategy of reading a small piece at a time, processing it, and then reading the next piece. "This program slurps in a 1K-by-1K matrix and does an FFT." See also {sponge}.

:smart: adj. Said of a program that does the {Right Thing} 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 —- see {AI-complete}). Compare {robust} (smart programs can be {brittle}).

:smart terminal: n. 1. A terminal that has enough computing capability to render graphics or to offload some kind of front-end processing from the computer it talks to. The development of workstations and personal computers has made this term and the product it describes semi-obsolescent, but one may still hear variants of the phrase 'act like a smart terminal' used to describe the behavior of workstations or PCs with respect to programs that execute almost entirely out of a remote {server}'s storage, using said devices as displays. Compare {glass tty}. 2. obs. Any terminal with an addressable cursor; the opposite of a {glass tty}. Today, a terminal with merely an addressable cursor, but with none of the more-powerful features mentioned in sense 1, is called a {dumb terminal}.

There is a classic quote from Rob Pike (inventor of the {blit} terminal): "A smart terminal is not a smart*ass* terminal, but rather a terminal you can educate." This illustrates a common design problem: The attempt to make peripherals (or anything else) intelligent sometimes results in finicky, rigid 'special features' that become just so much dead weight if you try to use the device in any way the designer didn't anticipate. Flexibility and programmability, on the other hand, are *really* smart. Compare {hook}.

:smash case: vi. To lose or obliterate the uppercase/lowercase distinction in text input. "MS-DOS will automatically smash case in the names of all the files you create." Compare {fold case}.

:smash the stack: [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 address. This can produce some of the most insidious data-dependent bugs known to mankind. Variants include 'trash' the stack, {scribble} the stack, {mangle} the stack; the term *{mung} the stack is not used, as this is never done intentionally. See {spam}; see also {aliasing bug}, {fandango on core}, {memory leak}, {memory smash}, {precedence lossage}, {overrun screw}.

:smiley: n. See {emoticon}.

:smoke and mirrors: n. Marketing deceptions. The term is mainstream in this general sense. Among hackers it's strongly associated with bogus demos and crocked {benchmark}s (see also {MIPS}, {machoflops}). "They claim their new box cranks 5 MIPS for under $5000, but didn't specify the instruction mix —- sounds like smoke and mirrors to me." The phrase has been said to derive from carnie slang for magic acts and 'freak show' displays that depend on 'trompe l'oeil' effects, but also calls to mind the fierce Aztec god Tezcatlipoca (lit. "Smoking Mirror") to whom mass human sacrifices were regularly made. Upon hearing about a rigged demo or yet another round of fantasy-based marketing promises hackers often feel similarly disheartened.

:smoke test: n. 1. A rudimentary form of testing applied to electronic equipment following repair or reconfiguration, in which power is applied and the tester checks for sparks, smoke, or other dramatic signs of fundamental failure. See {magic smoke}. 2. By extension, the first run of a piece of software after construction or a critical change. See and compare {reality check}.

There is an interesting semi-parallel to this term among typographers and printers: When new typefaces are being punch-cut by hand, a 'smoke test' (hold the letter in candle smoke, then press it onto paper) is used to check out new dies.

:smoking clover: [ITS] 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 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. The color map is then repeatedly rotated. This results in a striking, rainbow-hued, shimmering four-leaf clover. Gosper joked about keeping it hidden from the FDA (the U.S.'s Food and Drug Administration) lest its hallucinogenic properties cause it to be banned.

:SMOP: /S-M-O-P/ [Simple (or Small) Matter of Programming] n. 1. A piece of code, not yet written, whose anticipated length is significantly greater than its complexity. Used to refer to a program that could obviously be written, but is not worth the trouble. Also used ironically to imply that a difficult problem can be easily solved because a program can be written to do it; the irony is that it is very clear that writing such a program will be a great deal of work. "It's easy to enhance a FORTRAN compiler to compile COBOL as well; it's just a SMOP." 2. Often used ironically by the intended victim when a suggestion for a program is made which seems easy to the suggester, but is obviously (to the victim) a lot of work.

:smurf: /smerf/ [from the soc.motss newsgroup on USENET, after some obnoxiously gooey cartoon characters] n. A newsgroup regular with a habitual style that is irreverent, silly, and cute. Like many other hackish terms for people, this one may be praise or insult depending on who uses it. In general, being referred to as a smurf is probably not going to make your day unless you've previously adopted the label yourself in a spirit of irony. Compare {old fart}.

:SNAFU principle: /sna'foo prin'si-pl/ [from WWII Army acronym for 'Situation Normal, All Fucked Up'] n. "True communication is possible only between equals, because inferiors are more consistently rewarded for telling their superiors pleasant lies than for telling the truth." —- a central tenet of {Discordianism}, often invoked by hackers to explain why authoritarian hierarchies screw up so reliably and systematically. The effect of the SNAFU principle is a progressive disconnection of decision-makers from reality. This lightly adapted version of a fable dating back to the early 1960s illustrates the phenomenon perfectly:

In the beginning was the plan, and then the specification; And the plan was without form, and the specification was void.

And darkness was on the faces of the implementors thereof; And they spake unto their leader, saying: "It is a crock of shit, and smells as of a sewer."

And the leader took pity on them, and spoke to the project leader: "It is a crock of excrement, and none may abide the odor thereof."

And the project leader spake unto his section head, saying: "It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong, such that none may abide it."

The section head then hurried to his department manager, and informed him thus: "It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength."

The department manager carried these words to his general manager, and spoke unto him saying: "It containeth that which aideth the growth of plants, and it is very strong."

And so it was that the general manager rejoiced and delivered the good news unto the Vice President. "It promoteth growth, and it is very powerful."

The Vice President rushed to the President's side, and joyously exclaimed: "This powerful new software product will promote the growth of the company!"

And the President looked upon the product, and saw that it was very good.

After the subsequent disaster, the {suit}s protect themselves by saying "I was misinformed!", and the implementors are demoted or fired.

:snail: vt. To {snail-mail} something. "Snail me a copy of those graphics, will you?"

:snail-mail: n. Paper mail, as opposed to electronic. Sometimes written as the single word 'SnailMail'. One's postal address is, correspondingly, a 'snail address'. Derives from earlier coinage 'USnail' (from 'U.S. Mail'), for which there have been parody posters and stamps made. Oppose {email}.

:snap: v. To replace a pointer to a pointer with a direct pointer; to replace an old address with the forwarding address found there. If you telephone the main number for an institution and ask for a particular person by name, the operator may tell you that person's extension before connecting you, in the hopes that you will 'snap your pointer' and dial direct next time. The underlying metaphor may be that of a rubber band stretched through a number of intermediate points; if you remove all the thumbtacks in the middle, it snaps into a straight line from first to last. See {chase pointers}.

Often, the behavior of a {trampoline} is to perform an error check once and then snap the pointer that invoked it so as henceforth to bypass the trampoline (and its one-shot error check). In this context one also speaks of 'snapping links'. For example, in a Lisp implementation, a function interface trampoline might check to make sure that the caller is passing the correct number of arguments; if it is, and if the caller and the callee are both compiled, then snapping the link allows that particular path to use a direct procedure-call instruction with no further overhead.

:snarf: /snarf/ vt. 1. To grab, esp. to grab a large document or file for the purpose of using it with or without the author's permission. See also {BLT}. 2. [in the UNIX community] To fetch a file or set of files across a network. See also {blast}. This term was mainstream in the late 1960s, meaning 'to eat piggishly'. It may still have this connotation in context. "He's in the snarfing phase of hacking —- {FTP}ing megs of stuff a day." 3. To acquire, with little concern for legal forms or politesse (but not quite by stealing). "They were giving away samples, so I snarfed a bunch of them." 4. Syn. for {slurp}. "This program starts by snarfing the entire database into core, then...."

:snarf & barf: /snarf'n-barf'/ n. Under a {WIMP environment}, the act of grabbing a region of text and then stuffing the contents of that region into another region (or the same one) to avoid retyping a command line. In the late 1960s, this was a mainstream expression for an 'eat now, regret it later' cheap-restaurant expedition.

:snarf down: v. To {snarf}, with the connotation of absorbing, processing, or understanding. "I'll snarf down the latest version of the {nethack} user's guide —- It's been a while since I played last and I don't know what's changed recently."

:snark: [Lewis Carroll, via the Michigan Terminal System] n. 1. A system failure. When a user's process bombed, the operator would get the message "Help, Help, Snark in MTS!" 2. More generally, any kind of unexplained or threatening event on a computer (especially if it might be a boojum). Often used to refer to an event or a log file entry that might indicate an attempted security violation. See {snivitz}. 3. UUCP name of snark.thyrsus.com, home site of the Jargon File 2.*.* versions (i.e., this lexicon).

: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." Also called 'Tennis-Net', 'Armpit-Net', 'Floppy-Net' or 'Shoenet'.

:sniff: v.,n. Synonym for {poll}.

:snivitz: /sniv'itz/ n. A hiccup in hardware or software; a small, transient problem of unknown origin (less serious than a {snark}). Compare {glitch}.

:SO: /S-O/ n. 1. (also 'S.O.') Abbrev. for Significant Other, almost invariably written abbreviated and pronounced /S-O/ by hackers. Used to refer to one's primary relationship, esp. a live-in to whom one is not married. See {MOTAS}, {MOTOS}, {MOTSS}. 2. The Shift Out control character in ASCII (Control-N, 0001110).

:social engineering: n. Term used among {cracker}s and {samurai} for cracking techniques that rely on weaknesses in {wetware} rather than software; the aim is to trick people into revealing passwords or other information that compromises a target system's security. Classic scams include phoning up a mark who has the required information and posing as a field service tech or a fellow employee with an urgent access problem. See also the {tiger team} story in the {patch} entry.

:social science number: [IBM] n. A statistic that is {content-free}, or nearly so. A measure derived via methods of questionable validity from data of a dubious and vague nature. Predictively, having a social science number in hand is seldom much better than nothing, and can be considerably worse. {Management} loves them. See also {numbers}, {math-out}, {pretty pictures}.

:soft boot: n. See {boot}.

:softcopy: /soft'ko-pee/ n. [by analogy with 'hardcopy'] A machine-readable form of corresponding hardcopy. See {bits}, {machinable}.

:software bloat: n. The results of {second-system effect} or {creeping featuritis}. Commonly cited examples include 'ls(1)', {X}, {BSD}, {Missed'em-five}, and {OS/2}.

:software rot: n. Term used to describe the tendency of software that has not been used in a while to {lose}; such failure may be semi-humorously ascribed to {bit rot}. More commonly, 'software rot' strikes when a program's assumptions become out of date. If the design was insufficiently {robust}, this may cause it to fail in mysterious ways.

For example, owing to endemic shortsightedness in the design of COBOL programs, most will succumb to software rot when their 2-digit year counters {wrap around} at the beginning of the year 2000. Actually, related lossages often afflict centenarians who have to deal with computer software designed by unimaginative clods. One such incident became the focus of a minor public flap in 1990, when a gentleman born in 1889 applied for a driver's license renewal in Raleigh, North Carolina. The new system refused to issue the card, probably because with 2-digit years the ages 101 and 1 cannot be distinguished.

Historical note: Software rot in an even funnier sense than the mythical one was a real problem on early research computers (e.g., the R1; see {grind crank}). If a program that depended on a peculiar instruction hadn't been run in quite a while, the user might discover that the opcodes no longer did the same things they once did. ("Hey, so-and-so needs an instruction to do such-and-such. We can {snarf} this opcode, right? No one uses it.")

Another classic example of this sprang from the time an MIT hacker found a simple way to double the speed of the unconditional jump instruction on a PDP-6, so he patched the hardware. Unfortunately, this broke some fragile timing software in a music-playing program, throwing its output out of tune. This was fixed by adding a defensive initialization routine to compare the speed of a timing loop with the real-time clock; in other words, it figured out how fast the PDP-6 was that day, and corrected appropriately.

Compare {bit rot}.

:softwarily: /soft-weir'i-lee/ adv. In a way pertaining to software. "The system is softwarily unreliable." The adjective 'softwary' is *not* used. See {hardwarily}.

:softy: [IBM] n. Hardware hackers' term for a software expert who is largely ignorant of the mysteries of hardware.

:some random X: adj. Used to indicate a member of class X, with the implication that Xs are interchangeable. "I think some random cracker tripped over the guest timeout last night." See also {J. Random}.

:sorcerer's apprentice mode: [from Friedrich Schiller's 'Der Zauberlehrling' via the film "Fantasia"] n. A bug in a protocol where, under some circumstances, the receipt of a message causes multiple messages 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 storm}, {network meltdown}.

:SOS: n.,obs. /S-O-S/ 1. An infamously {losing} text editor. Once, back in the 1960s, when a text editor was needed for the PDP-6, a hacker crufted together a {quick-and-dirty} 'stopgap editor' to be used until a better one was written. Unfortunately, the old one was never really discarded when new ones (in particular, {TECO}) came along. SOS is a descendant ('Son of Stopgap') of that editor, and many PDP-10 users gained the dubious pleasure of its acquaintance. Since then other programs similar in style to SOS have been written, notably the early font editor BILOS /bye'lohs/, the Brother-In-Law Of Stopgap (the alternate expansion 'Bastard Issue, Loins of Stopgap' has been proposed). 2. /sos/ n. To decrease; inverse of {AOS}, from the PDP-10 instruction set.

:source of all good bits: n. A person from whom (or a place from which) useful information may be obtained. If you need to know about a program, a {guru} might be the source of all good bits. The title is often applied to a particularly competent secretary.

:space-cadet keyboard: n. A now-legendary device used on MIT LISP machines, which inspired several still-current jargon terms and influenced the design of {EMACS}. It was equipped with no fewer than *seven* shift keys: four keys for {bucky bits} ('control', 'meta', 'hyper', and 'super') and three like regular shift keys, called 'shift', 'top', and 'front'. Many keys had three symbols on them: a letter and a symbol on the top, and a Greek letter on the front. For example, the 'L' key had an 'L' and a two-way arrow on the top, and the Greek letter lambda on the front. By pressing this key with the right hand while playing an appropriate 'chord' with the left hand on the shift keys, you can get the following results:

L lowercase l

shift-L uppercase L

front-L lowercase lambda

front-shift-L uppercase lambda

top-L two-way arrow (front and shift are ignored)

And of course each of these might also be typed with any combination of the control, meta, hyper, and super keys. On this keyboard, you could type over 8000 different characters! This allowed the user to type very complicated mathematical text, and also to have thousands of single-character commands at his disposal. Many hackers were actually willing to memorize the command meanings of that many characters if it reduced typing time (this attitude obviously shaped the interface of EMACS). Other hackers, however, thought having that many bucky bits was overkill, and objected that such a keyboard can require three or four hands to operate. See {bucky bits}, {cokebottle}, {double bucky}, {meta bit}, {quadruple bucky}.

Note: early versions of this entry incorrectly identified the space-cadet keyboard with the 'Knight keyboard'. Though both were designed by Tom Knight, the latter term was properly applied only to a keyboard used for ITS on the PDP-10 and modeled on the Stanford keyboard (as described under {bucky bits}). The true space-cadet keyboard evolved from the Knight keyboard.

:SPACEWAR: n. A space-combat simulation game, inspired by E. E. "Doc" Smith's "Lensman" books, in which two spaceships duel around a central sun, shooting torpedoes at each other and jumping through hyperspace. This game was first implemented on the PDP-1 at MIT in 1960—61. SPACEWAR aficionados formed the core of the early hacker culture at MIT. Nine years later, a descendant of the game motivated Ken Thompson to build, in his spare time on a scavenged PDP-7, the operating system that became {{UNIX}}. Less than nine years after that, SPACEWAR was commercialized as one of the first video games; descendants are still {feep}ing in video arcades everywhere.

:spaghetti code: n. Code with a complex and tangled control structure, esp. one using many GOTOs, exceptions, or other 'unstructured' branching constructs. Pejorative. The synonym 'kangaroo code' has been reported, doubtless because such code has many jumps in it.

:spaghetti inheritance: 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 {spaghetti code}.

:spam: [from the {MUD} community] vt. To crash a program by overrunning a fixed-size buffer with excessively large input data. See also {buffer overflow}, {overrun screw}, {smash the stack}.

:special-case: vt. To write unique code to handle input to or situations arising in program that are somehow distinguished from normal processing. This would be used for processing of mode switches or interrupt characters in an interactive interface (as opposed, say, to text entry or normal commands), or for processing of {hidden flag}s in the input of a batch program or {filter}.

:speedometer: n. A pattern of lights displayed on a linear set of LEDs (today) or nixie tubes (yesterday, on ancient mainframes). The pattern is shifted left every N times the software goes through its main loop. A swiftly moving pattern indicates that the system is mostly idle; the speedometer slows down as the system becomes overloaded. The speedometer on Sun Microsystems hardware bounces back and forth like the eyes on one of the Cylons from the wretched "Battlestar Galactica" TV series.

Historical note: One computer, the Honeywell 6000 (later GE 600) actually had an *analog* speedometer on the front panel, calibrated in instructions executed per second.

:spell: n. Syn. {incantation}.

: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 a program that is perceived to have little more than a flashy interface going for it. Which meaning should be drawn depends delicately on tone of voice and context. This word was common mainstream slang during the 1940s, in a sense close to #1.

:spike: v. To defeat a selection mechanism by introducing a (sometimes temporary) device which forces a specific result. The word is used in several industries; telephone engineers refer to spiking a relay by inserting a pin to hold the relay in either the closed or open state, and railroaders refer to spiking a track switch so that it cannot be moved. In programming environments it normally refers to a temporary change, usually for testing purposes (as opposed to a permanent change which would be called {hardwired}).

:spin: vi. Equivalent to {buzz}. More common among C and UNIX programmers.

:spl: /S-P-L/ [abbrev, from Set Priority Level] The way traditional UNIX kernels implement mutual exclusion by running code at high interrupt levels. Used in jargon to describe the act of tuning in or tuning out ordinary communication. Classically, spl levels run from 1 to 7; "Fred's at spl 6 today." would mean that he is very hard to interrupt. "Wait till I finish this; I'll spl down then." See also {interrupts locked out}.

:splat: n. 1. Name used in many places (DEC, IBM, and others) for the asterisk ('*') character (ASCII 0101010). This may derive from the 'squashed-bug' appearance of the asterisk on many early line printers. 2. [MIT] Name used by some people for the '#' character (ASCII 0100011). 3. [Rochester Institute of Technology] The {feature key} on a Mac (same as {alt}, sense 2). 4. [Stanford] Name used by some people for the Stanford/ITS extended ASCII circle-x character. This character is also called 'blobby' and 'frob', among other names; it is sometimes used by mathematicians as a notation for 'tensor product'. 5. [Stanford] Name for the semi-mythical extended ASCII circle-plus character. 6. Canonical name for an output routine that outputs whatever the local interpretation of 'splat' is.

With ITS and WAITS gone, senses 4—6 are now nearly obsolete. See also {{ASCII}}.

:spod: [Great Britain] n. A lower form of life found on {talker system}s and {MUD}s. The spod has few friends in {RL} and uses talkers instead, finding communication easier and preferable over the net. He has all the negative traits of the {computer geek} without having any interest in computers per se. Lacking any knowledge of or interest in how networks work, and considering his access a God-given right, he is a major irritant to sysadmins, clogging up lines in order to reach new MUDs, following passed-on instructions on how to sneak his way onto Internet ("Wow! It's in America!") and complaining when he is not allowed to use busy routes. A true spod will start any conversation with "Are you male or female?" (and follow it up with "Got any good numbers/IDs/passwords?") and will not talk to someone physically present in the same terminal room until they log onto the same machine that he is using and enter talk mode. Compare {newbie}, {tourist}, {weenie}, {twink}, {terminal junkie}.

:sponge: [UNIX] n. A special case of a {filter} that reads its entire input before writing any output; the canonical example is a sort utility. Unlike most filters, a sponge can conveniently overwrite the input file with the output data stream. If your file system has versioning (as ITS did and VMS does now) the sponge/filter distinction loses its usefulness, because directing filter output would just write a new version. See also {slurp}.

:spooge: /spooj/ 1. n. Inexplicable or arcane code, or random and probably incorrect output from a computer program. 2. vi. To generate spooge (sense 1).

:spool: [from early IBM 'Simultaneous Peripheral Operation On-Line', but this acronym is widely thought to have been contrived for effect] vt. To send files to some device or program (a 'spooler') that queues them up and does something useful with them later. The spooler usually understood is the 'print spooler' controlling output of jobs to a printer, but the term has been used in connection with other peripherals (especially plotters and graphics devices) and occasionally even for input devices. See also {demon}.

:spool file: n. Any file to which data is {spool}ed to await the next stage of processing. Especially used in circumstances where spooling the data copes with a mismatch between speeds in two devices or pieces of software. For example, when you send mail under UNIX, it's typically copied to a spool file to await a transport {demon}'s attentions. This is borderline techspeak.

:square tape: n. Mainframe magnetic tape cartridges for use with IBM 3480 or compatible tape drives. The term comes from the square (actually rectangular) shape of the cartridges; contrast {round tape}.

:stack: n. A person's stack is the set of things he or she has to do in the future. One speaks of the next project to be attacked as having risen to the top of the stack. "I'm afraid I've got real work to do, so this'll have to be pushed way down on my stack." "I haven't done it yet because every time I pop my stack something new gets pushed." If you are interrupted several times in the middle of a conversation, "My stack overflowed" means "I forget what we were talking about." The implication is that more items were pushed onto the stack than could be remembered, so the least recent items were lost. The usual physical example of a stack is to be found in a cafeteria: a pile of plates or trays sitting on a spring in a well, so that when you put one on the top they all sink down, and when you take one off the top the rest spring up a bit. See also {push} and {pop}.

At MIT, {pdl} used to be a more common synonym for {stack} in all these contexts, and this may still be true. Everywhere else {stack} seems to be the preferred term. {Knuth} ('The Art of Computer Programming', second edition, vol. 1, p. 236) says:

Many people who realized the importance of stacks and queues independently have given other names to these structures: stacks have been called push-down lists, reversion storages, cellars, nesting stores, piles, last-in-first-out ("LIFO") lists, and even yo-yo lists!

:stack puke: n. Some processor architectures are said to 'puke their guts onto the stack' to save their internal state during exception processing. The Motorola 68020, for example, regurgitates up to 92 bytes on a bus fault. On a pipelined machine, this can take a while.

:stale pointer bug: n. Synonym for {aliasing bug} used esp. among microcomputer hackers.

:state: n. 1. Condition, situation. "What's the state of your latest hack?" "It's winning away." "The system tried to read and write the disk simultaneously and got into a totally wedged state." The standard question "What's your state?" means "What are you doing?" or "What are you about to do?" Typical answers are "about to gronk out", or "hungry". Another standard question is "What's the state of the world?", meaning "What's new?" or "What's going on?". The more terse and humorous way of asking these questions would be "State-p?". Another way of phrasing the first question under sense 1 would be "state-p latest hack?". 2. Information being maintained in non-permanent memory (electronic or human).

:steam-powered: adj. Old-fashioned or underpowered; archaic. This term does not have a strong negative loading and may even be used semi-affectionately for something that clanks and wheezes a lot but hangs in there doing the job.

:stiffy: [University of Lowell, Massachusetts.] n. 3.5-inch {microfloppies}, so called because their jackets are more firm than those of the 5.25-inch and the 8-inch floppy. Elsewhere this might be called a 'firmy'.

:stir-fried random: alt. 'stir-fried mumble' n. Term used for the best dish of many of those hackers who can cook. Consists of random fresh veggies and meat wokked with random spices. Tasty and economical. See {random}, {great-wall}, {ravs}, {{laser chicken}}, {{oriental food}}; see also {mumble}.

:stomp on: vt. To inadvertently overwrite something important, usually automatically. "All the work I did this weekend got stomped on last night by the nightly server script." Compare {scribble}, {mangle}, {trash}, {scrog}, {roach}.

:Stone Age: n., adj. 1. In computer folklore, an ill-defined period from ENIAC (ca. 1943) to the mid-1950s; the great age of electromechanical {dinosaur}s. Sometimes used for the entire period up to 1960—61 (see {Iron Age}); however, it is funnier and more descriptive to characterize the latter period in terms of a 'Bronze Age' era of transistor-logic, pre-ferrite-{core} machines with drum or CRT mass storage (as opposed to just mercury delay lines and/or relays). See also {Iron Age}. 2. More generally, a pejorative for any crufty, ancient piece of hardware or software technology. Note that this is used even by people who were there for the {Stone Age} (sense 1).

:stone knives and bearskins: [ITS, prob. from the Star Trek Classic episode "The City on the Edge of Forever"] n. A term traditionally used by {ITS} fans to describe (and deprecate) computing environments they regard as less advanced, with the (often correct) implication that said environments were grotesquely primitive in light of what is known about good ways to design things. As in "Don't get too used to the facilities here. Once you leave MIT it's stone knives and bearskins as far as the eye can see". Compare {steam-powered}.

:stoppage: /sto'p*j/ n. Extreme {lossage} that renders something (usually something vital) completely unusable. "The recent system stoppage was caused by a {fried} transformer."

:store: [prob. from techspeak 'main store'] n. Preferred Commonwealth synonym for {core}. Thus, 'bringing a program into store' means not that one is returning shrink-wrapped software but that a program is being {swap}ped in.

:stroke: n. Common name for the slant ('/', ASCII 0101111) character. See {ASCII} for other synonyms.

:strudel: n. Common (spoken) name for the at-sign ('@', ASCII 1000000) character. See {ASCII} for other synonyms.

:stubroutine: /stuhb'roo-teen/ [contraction of 'stub subroutine'] n. Tiny, often vacuous placeholder for a subroutine that is to be written or fleshed out later.

:studlycaps: /stuhd'lee-kaps/ n. A hackish form of silliness similar to {BiCapitalization} for trademarks, but applied randomly and to arbitrary text rather than to trademarks. ThE oRigiN and SigNificaNce of thIs pRacTicE iS oBscuRe.

:stunning: adj. Mind-bogglingly stupid. Usually used in sarcasm. "You want to code *what* in ADA? That's ... a stunning idea!"

:stupid-sort: n. Syn. {bogo-sort}.

:Stupids: n. Term used by {samurai} for the {suit}s who employ them; succinctly expresses an attitude at least as common, though usually better disguised, among other subcultures of hackers. There may be intended reference here to an SF story originally published in 1952 but much anthologized since, Mark Clifton's 'Star, Bright'. In it, a super-genius child classifies humans into a very few 'Brights' like herself, a huge majority of 'Stupids', and a minority of 'Tweens', the merely ordinary geniuses.

: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. Compare {shell out}; oppose {chain}.

:sucking mud: [Applied Data Research] adj. (also 'pumping mud') Crashed or wedged. Usually said of a machine that provides some service to a network, such as a file server. This Dallas regionalism derives from the East Texas oilfield lament, "Shut 'er down, Ma, she's a-suckin' mud". Often used as a query. "We are going to reconfigure the network, are you ready to suck mud?"

:sufficiently small: adj. Syn. {suitably small}.

:suit: n. 1. Ugly and uncomfortable 'business clothing' often worn by non-hackers. Invariably worn with a 'tie', a strangulation device that partially cuts off the blood supply to the brain. It is thought that this explains much about the behavior of suit-wearers. Compare {droid}. 2. A person who habitually wears suits, as distinct from a techie or hacker. See {loser}, {burble}, {management}, {Stupids}, {SNAFU Principle}, and {brain-damaged}. English, by the way, is relatively kind; our Moscow correspondent informs us that the corresponding idiom in Russian hacker jargon is 'sovok', lit. a tool for grabbing garbage.

:suitable win: n. See {win}.

:suitably small: [perverted from mathematical jargon] adj. An expression used ironically to characterize unquantifiable behavior that differs from expected or required behavior. For example, suppose a newly created program came up with a correct full-screen display, and one publicly exclaimed: "It works!" Then, if the program dumps core on the first mouse click, one might add: "Well, for suitably small values of 'works'." Compare the characterization of pi under {{random numbers}}.

:sun lounge: [Great Britain] n. The room where all the Sun workstations live. The humor in this term comes from the fact that it's also in mainstream use to describe a solarium, and all those Sun workstations clustered together give off an amazing amount of heat.

:sun-stools: n. Unflattering hackerism for SunTools, a pre-X windowing environment notorious in its day for size, slowness, and misfeatures. {X}, however, is larger and slower; see {second-system effect}.

:sunspots: n. 1. Notional cause of an odd error. "Why did the program suddenly turn the screen blue?" "Sunspots, I guess." 2. Also the cause of {bit rot} —- from the myth that sunspots will increase {cosmic rays}, which can flip single bits in memory. See {cosmic rays}, {phase of the moon}.

:superprogrammer: n. A prolific programmer; one who can code exceedingly well and quickly. Not all hackers are superprogrammers, but many are. (Productivity can vary from one programmer to another by three orders of magnitude. For example, one programmer might be able to write an average of 3 lines of working code in one day, while another, with the proper tools, might be able to write 3,000. This range is astonishing; it is matched in very few other areas of human endeavor.) The term 'superprogrammer' is more commonly used within such places as IBM than in the hacker community. It tends to stress na"ive measures of productivity and to underweight creativity, ingenuity, and getting the job *done* —- and to sidestep the question of whether the 3,000 lines of code do more or less useful work than three lines that do the {Right Thing}. Hackers tend to prefer the terms {hacker} and {wizard}.

:superuser: [UNIX] n. Syn. {root}, {avatar}. This usage has spread to non-UNIX environments; the superuser is any account with all {wheel} bits on. A more specific term than {wheel}.

:support: n. After-sale handholding; something many software vendors promise but few deliver. To hackers, most support people are useless —- because by the time a hacker calls support he or she will usually know the relevant manuals better than the support people (sadly, this is *not* a joke or exaggeration). A hacker's idea of 'support' is a t^ete-'a-t^ete with the software's designer.

:Suzie COBOL: /soo'zee koh'bol/ 1. [IBM: prob. from Frank Zappa's 'Suzy Creamcheese'] n. A coder straight out of training school who knows everything except the value of comments in plain English. Also (fashionable among personkind wishing to avoid accusations of sexism) 'Sammy Cobol' or (in some non-IBM circles) 'Cobol Charlie'. 2. [proposed] Meta-name for any {code grinder}, analogous to {J. Random Hacker}.

:swab: /swob/ [From the mnemonic for the PDP-11 'SWAp Byte' instruction, as immortalized in the 'dd(1)' option 'conv=swab' (see {dd})] 1. vt. To solve the {NUXI problem} by swapping bytes in a file. 2. n. The program in V7 UNIX used to perform this action, or anything functionally equivalent to it. See also {big-endian}, {little-endian}, {middle-endian}, {bytesexual}.

:swap: vt. 1. [techspeak] To move information from a fast-access memory to a slow-access memory ('swap out'), or vice versa ('swap in'). Often refers specifically to the use of disks as 'virtual memory'. As pieces of data or program are needed, they are swapped into {core} for processing; when they are no longer needed they may be swapped out again. 2. The jargon use of these terms analogizes people's short-term memories with core. Cramming for an exam might be spoken of as swapping in. If you temporarily forget someone's name, but then remember it, your excuse is that it was swapped out. To 'keep something swapped in' means to keep it fresh in your memory: "I reread the TECO manual every few months to keep it swapped in." If someone interrupts you just as you got a good idea, you might say "Wait a moment while I swap this out", implying that the piece of paper is your extra-somatic memory and if you don't swap the info out by writing it down it will get overwritten and lost as you talk. Compare {page in}, {page out}.

:swap space: n. Storage space, especially temporary storage space used during a move or reconfiguration. "I'm just using that corner of the machine room for swap space."

:swapped in: n. See {swap}. See also {page in}.

:swapped out: n. See {swap}. See also {page out}.

:swizzle: v. To convert external names, array indices, or references within a data structure into address pointers when the data structure is brought into main memory from external storage (also called 'pointer swizzling'); this may be done for speed in chasing references or to simplify code (e.g., by turning lots of name lookups into pointer dereferences). The converse operation is sometimes termed 'unswizzling'. See also {snap}.

:sync: /sink/ (var. 'synch') n., vi. 1. To synchronize, to bring into synchronization. 2. [techspeak] To force all pending I/O to the disk; see {flush}, sense 2. 3. 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 (in the database-theory sense).

:syntactic sugar: [coined by Peter Landin] n. Features added to a language or other 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. C's 'a[i]' notation is syntactic sugar for '*(a + i)'. "Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon." —- Alan Perlis.

The variants 'syntactic saccharine' and 'syntactic syrup' are also recorded. These denotes something even more gratuitous, in that syntactic sugar serves a purpose (making something more acceptable to humans) but syntactic saccharine or syrup serves no purpose at all. Compare {candygrammar}.

:sys-frog: /sis'frog/ [the PLATO system] n. Playful variant of 'sysprog', which is in turn short for 'systems programmer'.

:sysadmin: /sis'ad-min/ n. Common contraction of 'system admin'; see {admin}.

:sysape: /sysape/ n. A rather derogatory term for a computer operator; a play on {sysop} common at sites that use the banana hierarchy of problem complexity (see {one-banana problem}).

:sysop: /sis'op/ n. [esp. in the BBS world] The operator (and usually the owner) of a bulletin-board system. A common neophyte mistake on {FidoNet} is to address a message to 'sysop' in an international {echo}, thus sending it to hundreds of sysops around the world.

:system: n. 1. The supervisor program or OS on a computer. 2. The entire computer system, including input/output devices, the supervisor program or OS, and possibly other software. 3. Any large-scale program. 4. Any method or algorithm. 5. 'System hacker': one who hacks the system (in senses 1 and 2 only; for sense 3 one mentions the particular program: e.g., 'LISP hacker')

:systems jock: n. See {jock}, (sense 2).

:system mangler: n. Humorous synonym for 'system manager', poss. from the fact that one major IBM OS had a {root} account called SYSMANGR. Refers specifically to a systems programmer in charge of administration, software maintenance, and updates at some site. Unlike {admin}, this term emphasizes the technical end of the skills involved.

:SysVile: /sis-vi:l'/ n. See {Missed'em-five}.

= T = =====

:T: /T/ 1. [from LISP terminology for 'true'] Yes. Used in reply to a question (particularly one asked using the '-P' convention). In LISP, the constant T means 'true', among other things. Some hackers use 'T' and 'NIL' instead of 'Yes' and 'No' almost reflexively. This sometimes causes misunderstandings. When a waiter or flight attendant asks whether a hacker wants coffee, he may well respond 'T', meaning that he wants coffee; but of course he will be brought a cup of tea instead. As it happens, most hackers (particularly those who frequent Chinese restaurants) like tea at least as well as coffee —- so it is not that big a problem. 2. See {time T} (also {since time T equals minus infinity}). 3. [techspeak] In transaction-processing circles, an abbreviation for the noun 'transaction'. 4. [Purdue] Alternate spelling of {tee}. 5. A dialect of {LISP} developed at Yale.

:tail recursion: n. If you aren't sick of it already, see {tail recursion}.

:talk mode: n. A feature supported by UNIX, ITS, and some other OSes that allows two or more logged-in users to set up a real-time on-line conversation. It combines the immediacy of talking with all the precision (and verbosity) that written language entails. It is difficult to communicate inflection, though conventions have arisen for some of these (see the section on writing style in the Prependices for details).

Talk mode has a special set of jargon words, used to save typing, which are not used orally. Some of these are identical to (and probably derived from) Morse-code jargon used by ham-radio amateurs since the 1920s.

BCNU be seeing you BTW by the way BYE? are you ready to unlink? (this is the standard way to end a talk-mode conversation; the other person types 'BYE' to confirm, or else continues the conversation) CUL see you later ENQ? are you busy? (expects 'ACK' or 'NAK' in return) FOO? are you there? (often used on unexpected links, meaning also "Sorry if I butted in ..." (linker) or "What's up?" (linkee)) FYI for your information FYA for your amusement GA go ahead (used when two people have tried to type simultaneously; this cedes the right to type to the other) GRMBL grumble (expresses disquiet or disagreement) HELLOP hello? (an instance of the '-P' convention) JAM just a minute (equivalent to 'SEC....') MIN same as 'JAM' NIL no (see {NIL}) O over to you OO over and out / another form of "over to you" (from x/y as "x over y") lambda (used in discussing LISPy things) 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) TNXE6 another form of "thanks a million" WRT with regard to, or with respect to. WTF the universal interrogative particle; WTF knows what it means? WTH what the hell? When the typing party has finished, he/she types two newlines to signal that he/she is done; this leaves a blank line between 'speeches' in the conversation, making it easier to reread the preceding text. : When three or more terminals are linked, it is conventional for each typist to {prepend} his/her login name or handle and a colon (or a hyphen) to each line to indicate who is typing (some conferencing facilities do this automatically). The login name is often shortened to a unique prefix (possibly a single letter) during a very long conversation. /// A giggle or chuckle. On a MUD, this usually means 'earthquake fault'.

Most of the above sub-jargon is used at both Stanford and MIT. Several of these expressions are also common in {email}, esp. FYI, FYA, BTW, BCNU, WTF, and CUL. A few other abbreviations 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 the following:

grin grinning, running, and ducking BBL be back later BRB be right back HHOJ ha ha only joking HHOK ha ha only kidding HHOS {ha ha only serious} IMHO in my humble opinion (see {IMHO}) LOL laughing out loud NHOH Never Heard of Him/Her (often used in {initgame}) ROTF rolling on the floor ROTFL rolling on the floor laughing AFK away from keyboard b4 before CU l8tr see you later MORF male or female? TTFN ta-ta for now TTYL talk to you later OIC oh, I see rehi hello again

Most of these are not used at universities or in the UNIX world, though ROTF and TTFN have gained some currency there and IMHO is common; conversely, most of the people who know these are unfamiliar with FOO?, BCNU, HELLOP, {NIL}, and {T}.

The {MUD} community uses a mixture of USENET/Internet emoticons, a few of the more natural of the old-style talk-mode abbrevs, and some of the 'social' list above; specifically, MUD respondents report use of BBL, BRB, LOL, b4, BTW, WTF, TTFN, and WTH. The use of 'rehi' is also common; in fact, mudders are fond of re- compounds and will frequently 'rehug' or 'rebonk' (see {bonk/oif}) people. The word 're' by itself is taken as 'regreet'. In general, though, MUDders express a preference for typing things out in full rather than using abbreviations; this may be due to the relative youth of the MUD cultures, which tend to include many touch typists and to assume high-speed links. The following uses specific to MUDs are reported:

UOK? are you OK? THX thanks (mutant of 'TNX'; clearly this comes in batches of 1138 (the Lucasian K)). CU l8er see you later (mutant of 'CU l8tr') OTT over the top (excessive, uncalled for) FOAD fuck off and die (use of this is often OTT)

Some {BIFF}isms (notably the variant spelling 'd00d') appear to be passing into wider use among some subgroups of MUDders.

One final note on talk mode style: neophytes, when in talk mode, often seem to think they must produce letter-perfect prose because they are typing rather than speaking. This is not the best approach. It can be very frustrating to wait while your partner pauses to think of a word, or repeatedly makes the same spelling error and backs up to fix it. It is usually best just to leave typographical errors behind and plunge forward, unless severe confusion may result; in that case it is often fastest just to type "xxx" and start over from before the mistake.

See also {hakspek}, {emoticon}, {bonk/oif}.

:talker system: n. British hackerism for software that enables real-time chat or {talk mode}.

:tall card: n. A PC/AT-size expansion card (these can be larger than IBM PC or XT cards because the AT case is bigger). See also {short card}. When IBM introduced the PS/2 model 30 (its last gasp at supporting the ISA) they made the case lower and many industry-standard tall cards wouldn't fit; this was felt to be a reincarnation of the {connector conspiracy}, done with less style.

:tanked: 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" comic strip.

:TANSTAAFL: /tan'stah-fl/ [acronym, from Robert Heinlein's classic 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress'.] "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch", often invoked when someone is balking at an ugly design requirement or the prospect of using an unpleasantly {heavyweight} technique. "What? Don't tell me I have to implement a database back end to get my address book program to work!" "Well, TANSTAAFL you know." This phrase owes some of its popularity to the high concentration of science-fiction fans and political libertarians in hackerdom (see Appendix B).

:tar and feather: [from UNIX 'tar(1)'] vt. To create a transportable archive from a group of files by first sticking them together with 'tar(1)' (the Tape ARchiver) and then compressing the result (see {compress}). The latter action is dubbed 'feathering' by analogy to what you do with an airplane propeller to decrease wind resistance, or with an oar to reduce water resistance; smaller files, after all, slip through comm links more easily.

:taste: [primarily MIT] n. 1. The quality in a program that 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. Taste refers to sound judgment on the part of the creator; a program or feature can *exhibit* taste but cannot *have* taste. On the other hand, a feature can have {flavor}. Also, {flavor} has the additional meaning of 'kind' or 'variety' not shared by 'taste'. {Flavor} is a more popular word than 'taste', though both are used. See also {elegant}. 2. Alt. sp. of {tayste}.

:tayste: /tayst/ n. Two bits; also as {taste}. Syn. {crumb}, {quarter}. Compare {{byte}}, {dynner}, {playte}, {nybble}, {quad}.

:TCB: /T-C-B/ [IBM] n. 1. Trouble Came Back. An intermittent or difficult-to-reproduce problem that has failed to respond to neglect. Compare {heisenbug}. Not to be confused with: 2. Trusted Computing Base, an 'official' jargon term from the {Orange Book}.

:tea, ISO standard cup of: [South Africa] n. A cup of tea with milk and one teaspoon of sugar, where the milk is poured into the cup before the tea. Variations are ISO 0, with no sugar; ISO 2, with two spoons of sugar; and so on.

Like many ISO standards, this one has a faintly alien ring in North America, where hackers generally shun the decadent British practice of adulterating perfectly good tea with dairy products and prefer instead to add a wedge of lemon, if anything. If one were feeling extremely silly, one might hypothesize an analogous 'ANSI standard cup of tea' and wind up with a political situation distressingly similar to several that arise in much more serious technical contexts. Milk and lemon don't mix very well.

:TechRef: /tek'ref/ [MS-DOS] n. The original 'IBM PC Technical Reference Manual', including the BIOS listing and complete schematics for the PC. The only PC documentation in the issue package that's considered serious by real hackers.

:TECO: /tee'koh/ obs. 1. vt. Originally, to edit using the TECO editor in one of its infinite variations (see below). 2. vt.,obs. To edit even when TECO is *not* the editor being used! This usage is rare and now primarily historical. 2. [originally an acronym for '[paper] Tape Editor and COrrector'; later, 'Text Editor and COrrector'] n. A text editor developed at MIT and modified by just about everybody. With all the dialects included, TECO might have been the most prolific editor in use before {EMACS}, to which it was directly ancestral. Noted for its powerful programming-language-like features and its unspeakably hairy syntax. It is literally the case that every string of characters is a valid TECO program (though probably not a useful one); one common hacker game used to be mentally working out what the TECO commands corresponding to human names did. As an example of TECO's obscurity, here is a TECO program that takes a list of names such as:

Loser, J. Random Quux, The Great Dick, Moby

sorts them alphabetically according to surname, and then puts the surname last, removing the comma, to produce the following:

Moby Dick J. Random Loser The Great Quux

The program is

[1 J^P$L$$ J <.-Z; .,(S,$ -D .)FX1 @F^B $K :L I $ G1 L>$$

(where ^B means 'Control-B' (ASCII 0000010) and $ is actually an {alt} or escape (ASCII 0011011) character).

In fact, this very program was used to produce the second, sorted list from the first list. The first hack at it had a {bug}: GLS (the author) had accidentally omitted the '@' in front of 'F^B', which as anyone can see is clearly the {Wrong Thing}. It worked fine the second time. There is no space to describe all the features of TECO, but it may be of interest that '^P' means 'sort' and 'J' is an idiomatic series of commands for 'do once for every line'.

In mid-1991, TECO is pretty much one with the dust of history, having been replaced in the affections of hackerdom by {EMACS}. Descendants of an early (and somewhat lobotomized) version adopted by DEC can still be found lurking on VMS and a couple of crufty PDP-11 operating systems, however, and ports of the more advanced MIT versions remain the focus of some antiquarian interest. See also {retrocomputing}, {write-only language}.

:tee: n.,vt. [Purdue] A carbon copy of an electronic transmission. "Oh, you're sending him the {bits} to that? Slap on a tee for me." From the UNIX command 'tee(1)', itself named after a pipe fitting (see {plumbing}). Can also mean 'save one for me', as in "Tee a slice for me!" Also spelled 'T'.

:Telerat: /tel'*-rat/ n. Unflattering hackerism for 'Teleray', a line of extremely losing terminals. Compare {AIDX}, {terminak}, {Macintrash} {Nominal Semidestructor}, {Open DeathTrap}, {ScumOS}, {sun-stools}, {HP-SUX}.

:TELNET: /tel'net/ vt. To communicate with another Internet host using the {TELNET} protocol (usually using a program of the same name). TOPS-10 people used the word IMPCOM, since that was the program name for them. Sometimes abbreviated to TN /T-N/. "I usually TN over to SAIL just to read the AP News."

:ten-finger interface: n. The interface between two networks that cannot be directly connected for security reasons; refers to the practice of placing two terminals side by side and having an operator read from one and type into the other.

:tense: adj. Of programs, very clever and efficient. A tense piece of code often got that way because it was highly {bum}med, but sometimes it was just based on a great idea. A comment in a clever routine by Mike Kazar, once a grad-student hacker at CMU: "This routine is so tense it will bring tears to your eyes." A tense programmer is one who produces tense code.

:tenured graduate student: n. One who has been in graduate school for 10 years (the usual maximum is 5 or 6): a 'ten-yeared' student (get it?). Actually, this term may be used of any grad student beginning in his seventh year. Students don't really get tenure, of course, the way professors do, but a tenth-year graduate student has probably been around the university longer than any untenured professor.

:tera-: /te'r*/ [SI] pref. See {{quantifiers}}.

:teraflop club: /te'r*-flop kluhb/ [FLOP = Floating Point Operation] n. A mythical association of people who consume outrageous amounts of computer time in order to produce a few simple pictures of glass balls with intricate ray-tracing techniques. Caltech professor James Kajiya is said to have been the founder.

:terminak: /ter'mi-nak'/ [Caltech, ca. 1979] n. Any malfunctioning computer terminal. A common failure mode of Lear-Siegler ADM 3a 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." See {AIDX}, {Nominal Semidestructor}, {Open DeathTrap}, {ScumOS}, {sun-stools}, {Telerat}, {HP-SUX}.

:terminal brain death: n. The extreme form of {terminal illness} (sense 1). What someone who has obviously been hacking continuously for far too long is said to be suffering from.

:terminal illness: n. 1. Syn. {raster burn}. 2. The 'burn-in' condition your CRT tends to get if you don't have a screen saver.

:terminal junkie: [UK] n. A {wannabee} or early {larval stage} hacker who spends most of his or her time wandering the directory tree and writing {noddy} programs just to get a fix of computer time. Variants include 'terminal jockey', 'console junkie', and {console jockey}. The term 'console jockey' seems to imply more expertise than the other three (possibly because of the exalted status of the {{console}} relative to an ordinary terminal). See also {twink}, {read-only user}.

:terpri: /ter'pree/ [from LISP 1.5 (and later, MacLISP)] vi. To output a {newline}. Now rare as jargon, though still used as techspeak in Common LISP. It is a contraction of 'TERminate PRInt line', named for the fact that, on some early OSes and hardware, no characters would be printed until a complete line was formed, so this operation terminated the line and emitted the output.

:test: n. 1. Real users bashing on a prototype long enough to get thoroughly acquainted with it, with careful monitoring and followup of the results. 2. Some bored random user trying a couple of the simpler features with a developer looking over his or her shoulder, ready to pounce on mistakes. Judging by the quality of most software, the second definition is far more prevalent. See also {demo}.

:TeX: /tekh/ n. An extremely powerful {macro}-based text formatter written by Donald E. {Knuth}, very popular in the computer-science community (it is good enough to have displaced UNIX 'troff(1)', the other favored formatter, even at many UNIX installations). TeX fans insist on the correct (guttural) pronunciation, and the correct spelling (all caps, squished together, with the E depressed below the baseline; the mixed-case 'TeX' is considered an acceptable kluge on ASCII-only devices). Fans like to proliferate names from the word 'TeX' —- such as TeXnician (TeX user), TeXhacker (TeX programmer), TeXmaster (competent TeX programmer), TeXhax, and TeXnique.

Knuth began TeX because he had become annoyed at the declining quality of the typesetting in volumes I—III of his monumental 'Art of Computer Programming' (see {Knuth}, also {bible}). In a manifestation of the typical hackish urge to solve the problem at hand once and for all, he began to design his own typesetting language. He thought he would finish it on his sabbatical in 1978; he was wrong by only about 8 years. The language was finally frozen around 1985, but volume IV of 'The Art of Computer Programming' has yet to appear as of mid-1991. The impact and influence of TeX's design has been such that nobody minds this very much. Many grand hackish projects have started as a bit of tool-building on the way to something else; Knuth's diversion was simply on a grander scale than most.

TeX{} has also been a noteworthy example of free, shared, but high-quality software. Knuth used to offer monetary awards to people who found and reported bugs in it; as the years wore on and the few remaining bugs were fixed (and new ones even harder to find), the bribe went up. Though well-written, TeX{} is so large (and so full of cutting edge technique) that it is said to have unearthed at least one bug in every Pascal it has been compiled with.

:text: n. 1. [techspeak] Executable code, esp. a 'pure code' portion shared between multiple instances of a program running in a multitasking OS (compare {English}). 2. Textual material in the mainstream sense; data in ordinary {{ASCII}} or {{EBCDIC}} representation (see {flat-ASCII}). "Those are text files; you can review them using the editor." These two contradictory senses confuse hackers, too.

:thanks in advance: [USENET] Conventional net.politeness ending a posted request for information or assistance. Sometimes written 'advTHANKSance' or 'aTdHvAaNnKcSe' or abbreviated 'TIA'. See {net.-}, {netiquette}.

:That's not a bug, that's a feature!: The {canonical} first parry in a debate about a purported bug. The complainant, if unconvinced, is likely to retort that the bug is then at best a {misfeature}. See also {feature}.

:the X that can be Y is not the true X: Yet another instance of hackerdom's peculiar attraction to mystical references —- a common humorous way of making exclusive statements about a class of things. The template is from the 'Tao te Ching': "The Tao which can be spoken of is not the true Tao." The implication is often that the X is a mystery accessible only to the enlightened. See the {trampoline} entry for an example, and compare {has the X nature}.

:theology: n. 1. Ironically or humorously used to refer to {religious issues}. 2. Technical fine points of an abstruse nature, esp. those where the resolution is of theoretical interest but is 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, such as the smart-data vs. smart-programs dispute in AI.

:theory: n. The consensus, idea, plan, story, or set of rules that is currently being used to inform a behavior. This is a generalization and abuse of the technical meaning. "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 screw...."

:thinko: /thing'koh/ [by analogy with 'typo'] n. A momentary, correctable glitch in mental processing, especially one involving recall of information learned by rote; a bubble in the stream of consciousness. Syn. {braino}; see also {brain fart}. Compare {mouso}.

:This can't happen: Less clipped variant of {can't happen}.

:This time, for sure!: excl. Ritual affirmation frequently uttered during protracted debugging sessions involving numerous small obstacles (e.g., attempts to bring up a UUCP connection). For the proper effect, this must be uttered in a fruity imitation of Bullwinkle J. Moose. Also heard: "Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!" The {canonical} response is, of course, "But that trick *never* works!" See {{Humor, Hacker}}.

:thrash: vi. To move wildly or violently, without accomplishing anything useful. Paging or swapping systems that are overloaded waste most of their time moving data into and out of core (rather than performing useful computation) and are therefore said to thrash. Someone who keeps changing his mind (esp. about what to work on next) is said to be thrashing. A person frantically trying to execute too many tasks at once (and not spending enough time on any single task) may also be described as thrashing. Compare {multitask}.

:thread: n. [USENET, GEnie, CompuServe] Common abbreviation of 'topic thread', a more or less continuous chain of postings on a single topic. To 'follow a thread' is to read a series of USENET postings sharing a common subject or (more correctly) which are connected by Reference headers. The better newsreaders present news in thread order.

:three-finger salute: n. Syn. {Vulcan nerve pinch}.

:thud: n. 1. Yet another {metasyntactic variable} (see {foo}). It is reported that at CMU from the mid-1970s the canonical series of these was 'foo', 'bar', 'thud', 'blat'. 2. Rare term for the hash character, '#' (ASCII 0100011). See {ASCII} for other synonyms.

:thumb: n. The slider on a window-system scrollbar. So called because moving it allows you to browse through the contents of a text window in a way analogous to thumbing through a book.

:thunk: /thuhnk/ n. 1. "A piece of coding which provides an address", according to P. Z. Ingerman, who invented thunks in 1961 as a way of binding actual parameters to their formal definitions in Algol-60 procedure calls. If a procedure is called with an expression in the place of a formal parameter, the compiler generates a {thunk} to compute the expression and leave the address of the result in some standard location. 2. Later generalized into: an expression, frozen together with its environment, for later evaluation if and when needed (similar to what in techspeak is called a 'closure'). The process of unfreezing these thunks is called 'forcing'. 3. A {stubroutine}, in an overlay programming environment, that loads and jumps to the correct overlay. Compare {trampoline}. 4. People and activities scheduled in a thunklike manner. "It occurred to me the other day that I am rather accurately modeled by a thunk —- I frequently need to be forced to completion." —- paraphrased from a {plan file}.

Historical note: There are a couple of onomatopoeic myths circulating about the origin of this term. The most common is that it is the sound made by data hitting the stack; another holds that the sound is that of the data hitting an accumulator. Yet another holds that it is the sound of the expression being unfrozen at argument-evaluation time. In fact, according to the inventors, it was coined after they realized (in the wee hours after hours of discussion) that the type of an argument in Algol-60 could be figured out in advance with a little compile-time thought, simplifying the evaluation machinery. In other words, it had 'already been thought of'; thus it was christened a 'thunk', which is "the past tense of 'think' at two in the morning".

:tick: n. 1. A {jiffy} (sense 1). 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 the ordering of events. 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 {handwave}d. 3. In the FORTH language, a single quote character.

:tick-list features: [Acorn Computers] n. Features in software or hardware that customers insist on but never use (calculators in desktop TSRs and that sort of thing). The American equivalent would be 'checklist features', but this jargon sense of the phrase has not been reported.

:tickle a bug: vt. To cause a normally hidden bug to manifest through some known series of inputs or operations. "You can tickle the bug in the Paradise VGA card's highlight handling by trying to set bright yellow reverse video."

:tiger team: [U.S. military jargon] n. 1. Originally, a team whose purpose is to penetrate security, and thus test security measures. These people are paid professionals who do hacker-type tricks, e.g., leave cardboard signs saying "bomb" in critical defense installations, hand-lettered notes saying "Your codebooks have been stolen" (they usually haven't been) inside safes, etc. After a successful penetration, some high-ranking security type shows up the next morning for a 'security review' and finds the sign, note, etc., and all hell breaks loose. Serious successes of tiger teams sometimes lead to early retirement for base commanders and security officers (see the {patch} entry for an example). 2. Recently, and more generally, any official inspection team or special {firefighting} group called in to look at a problem.

A subset of tiger teams are professional {cracker}s, testing the security of military computer installations by attempting remote attacks via networks or supposedly 'secure' comm channels. Some of their escapades, if declassified, would probably rank among the greatest hacks of all times. The term has been adopted in commercial computer-security circles in this more specific sense.

:time sink: [poss. by analogy with 'heat sink' or 'current sink'] n. A project that consumes unbounded amounts of time.

:time T: /ti:m T/ 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" means, in the context of going out for dinner: "We can meet on campus and go to Louie's, or we can meet at Louie's itself a bit later." (Louie's was a Chinese restaurant in Palo Alto that was a favorite with hackers.) Had the number 30 been used instead of the number 1, it would have implied that the travel time from campus to Louie's is 30 minutes; whatever time T is (and that hasn't been decided on yet), you can meet half an hour later at Louie's than you could on campus and end up eating at the same time. See also {since time T equals minus infinity}.

:times-or-divided-by: [by analogy with 'plus-or-minus'] quant. Term occasionally used when describing the uncertainty associated with a scheduling estimate, for either humorous or brutally honest effect. For a software project, the scheduling uncertainty factor is usually at least 2.

:tinycrud: /ti:'nee-kruhd/ n. 1. A pejorative used by habitues of older game-oriented {MUD} versions for TinyMUDs and other user-extensible {MUD} variants; esp. common among users of the rather violent and competitive AberMUD and MIST systems. These people justify the slur on the basis of how (allegedly) inconsistent and lacking in genuine atmosphere the scenarios generated in user extensible MUDs can be. Other common knocks on them are that they feature little overall plot, bad game topology, little competitive interaction, etc. —- not to mention the alleged horrors of the TinyMUD code itself. This dispute is one of the MUD world's hardiest perennial {holy wars}. 2. TinyMud-oriented chat on the USENET group rec.games.mud and elsewhere, especially {newbie} questions and flamage.

:tip of the ice-cube: [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 at all important.

:tired iron: [IBM] n. Hardware that is perfectly functional but far enough behind the state of the art to have been superseded by new products, presumably with sufficient improvement in bang-per-buck that the old stuff is starting to look a bit like a {dinosaur}.

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