HotFreeBooks.com
THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 2.9.10
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

:line noise: n. 1. [techspeak] Spurious characters due to electrical noise in a communications link, especially an RS-232 serial connection. Line noise may be induced by poor connections, interference or crosstalk from other circuits, electrical storms, {cosmic rays}, or (notionally) birds crapping on the phone wires. 2. Any chunk of data in a file or elsewhere that looks like the results of line noise in sense 1. 3. Text that is theoretically a readable text or program source but employs syntax so bizarre that it looks like line noise in senses 1 or 2. Yes, there are languages this ugly. The canonical example is {TECO}; it is often claimed that "TECO's input syntax is indistinguishable from line noise." Other non-{WYSIWYG} editors, such as Multics 'qed' and Unix 'ed', in the hands of a real hacker, also qualify easily, as do deliberately obfuscated languages such as {INTERCAL}.

:line starve: [MIT] 1. vi. To feed paper through a printer the wrong way by one line (most printers can't do this). On a display terminal, to move the cursor up to the previous line of the screen. "To print 'X squared', you just output 'X', line starve, '2', line feed." (The line starve causes the '2' to appear on the line above the 'X', and the line feed gets back to the original line.) 2. n. A character (or character sequence) that causes a terminal to perform this action. ASCII 0011010, also called SUB or control-Z, was one common line-starve character in the days before microcomputers and the X3.64 terminal standard. Unlike 'line feed', 'line starve' is *not* standard {{ASCII}} terminology. Even among hackers it is considered a bit silly. 3. [proposed] A sequence such as c (used in System V echo, as well as nroff/troff) that suppresses a {newline} or other character(s) that would normally be emitted.

:link farm: [UNIX] n. A directory tree that contains many links to files in a master directory tree of files. Link farms save space when (for example) one is maintaining several nearly identical copies of the same source tree, e.g., when the only difference is architecture-dependent object files. "Let's freeze the source and then rebuild the FROBOZZ-3 and FROBOZZ-4 link farms." Link farms may also be used to get around restrictions on the number of '-I' (include-file directory) arguments on older C preprocessors. However, they can also get completely out of hand, becoming the filesystem equivalent of {spaghetti code}.

:link-dead: [MUD] adj. Said of a {MUD} character who has frozen in place because of a dropped Internet connection.

:lint: [from UNIX's 'lint(1)', named for the bits of fluff it picks from programs] 1. vt. To examine a program closely for style, language usage, and portability problems, esp. if in C, esp. if via use of automated analysis tools, most esp. if the UNIX utility 'lint(1)' is used. This term used to be restricted to use of 'lint(1)' itself, but (judging by references on USENET) it has become a shorthand for {desk check} at some non-UNIX shops, even in languages other than C. Also as v. {delint}. 2. n. Excess verbiage in a document, as in "this draft has too much lint".

:lion food: [IBM] n. Middle management or HQ staff (by extension, administrative drones in general). From an old joke about two lions who, escaping from the zoo, split up to increase their chances but agreed to meet after 2 months. When they finally meet, one is skinny and the other overweight. The thin one says: "How did you manage? I ate a human just once and they turned out a small army to chase me —- guns, nets, it was terrible. Since then I've been reduced to eating mice, insects, even grass." The fat one replies: "Well, *I* hid near an IBM office and ate a manager a day. And nobody even noticed!"

:Lions Book: n. 'Source Code and Commentary on UNIX level 6', by John Lions. The two parts of this book contained (1) the entire source listing of the UNIX Version 6 kernel, and (2) a commentary on the source discussing the algorithms. These were circulated internally at the University of New South Wales beginning 1976—77, and were for years after the *only* detailed kernel documentation available to anyone outside Bell Labs. Because Western Electric wished to maintain trade secret status on the kernel, the Lions book was never formally published and was only supposed to be distributed to affiliates of source licensees. In spite of this, it soon spread by samizdat to a good many of the early UNIX hackers.

:LISP: [from 'LISt Processing language', but mythically from 'Lots of Irritating Superfluous Parentheses'] n. The name of AI's mother tongue, a language based on the ideas of (a) variable-length lists and trees as fundamental data types, and (b) the interpretation of code as data and vice-versa. Invented by John McCarthy at MIT in the late 1950s, it is actually older than any other {HLL} still in use except FORTRAN. Accordingly, it has undergone considerable adaptive radiation over the years; modern variants are quite different in detail from the original LISP 1.5. The dominant HLL among hackers until the early 1980s, LISP now shares the throne with {C}. See {languages of choice}.

All LISP functions and programs are expressions that return values; this, together with the high memory utilization of LISPs, gave rise to Alan Perlis's famous quip (itself a take on an Oscar Wilde quote) that "LISP programmers know the value of everything and the cost of nothing".

One significant application for LISP has been as a proof by example that most newer languages, such as {COBOL} and {Ada}, are full of unnecessary {crock}s. When the {Right Thing} has already been done once, there is no justification for {bogosity} in newer languages.

:literature, the: n. Computer-science journals and other publications, vaguely gestured at to answer a question that the speaker believes is {trivial}. Thus, one might answer an annoying question by saying "It's in the literature." Oppose {Knuth}, which has no connotation of triviality.

:little-endian: adj. Describes a computer architecture in which, within a given 16- or 32-bit word, bytes at lower addresses have lower significance (the word is stored 'little-end-first'). The PDP-11 and VAX families of computers and Intel microprocessors and a lot of communications and networking hardware are little-endian. See {big-endian}, {middle-endian}, {NUXI problem}. The term is sometimes used to describe the ordering of units other than bytes; most often these are bits within a byte.

:live data: n. 1. Data that is written to be interpreted and takes over program flow when triggered by some un-obvious operation, such as viewing it. One use of such hacks is to break security. For example, some smart terminals have commands that allow one to download strings to program keys; this can be used to write live data that, when listed to the terminal, infects it with a security-breaking {virus} that is triggered the next time a hapless user strikes that key. For another, there are some well-known bugs in {vi} that allow certain texts to send arbitrary commands back to the machine when they are simply viewed. 2. In C code, data that includes pointers to function {hook}s (executable code). 3. An object, such as a {trampoline}, that is constructed on the fly by a program and intended to be executed as code. 4. Actual real-world data, as opposed to 'test data'. For example, "I think I have the record deletion module finished." "Have you tried it out on live data?" It usually carries the connotation that live data is more fragile and must not be corrupted, else bad things will happen. So a possible alternate response to the above claim might be: "Well, make sure it works perfectly before we throw live data at it." The implication here is that record deletion is something pretty significant, and a haywire record-deletion module running amok on live data would cause great harm and probably require restoring from backups.

:Live Free Or Die!: imp. 1. The state motto of New Hampshire, which appears on that state's automobile license plates. 2. A slogan associated with UNIX in the romantic days when UNIX aficionados saw themselves as a tiny, beleaguered underground tilting against the windmills of industry. The "free" referred specifically to freedom from the {fascist} design philosophies and crufty misfeatures common on commercial operating systems. Armando Stettner, one of the early UNIX developers, used to give out fake license plates bearing this motto under a large UNIX, all in New Hampshire colors of green and white. These are now valued collector's items.

:livelock: /li:v'lok/ n. A situation in which some critical stage of a task is unable to finish because its clients perpetually create more work for it to do after they have been serviced but before it can clear its queue. Differs from {deadlock} in that the process is not blocked or waiting for anything, but has a virtually infinite amount of work to do and can never catch up.

:liveware: /li:v'weir/ n. 1. Synonym for {wetware}. Less common. 2. [Cambridge] Vermin. "Waiter, there's some liveware in my salad..."

:lobotomy: n. 1. What a hacker subjected to formal management training is said to have undergone. At IBM and elsewhere this term is used by both hackers and low-level management; the latter doubtless intend it as a joke. 2. The act of removing the processor from a microcomputer in order to replace or upgrade it. Some very cheap {clone} systems are sold in 'lobotomized' form —- everything but the brain.

:locked and loaded: [from military slang for an M-16 rifle with magazine inserted and prepared for firing] adj. Said of a removable disk volume properly prepared for use —- that is, locked into the drive and with the heads loaded. Ironically, because their heads are 'loaded' whenever the power is up, this description is never used of {{Winchester}} drives (which are named after a rifle).

:locked up: adj. Syn. for {hung}, {wedged}.

:logic bomb: n. Code surreptitiously inserted in an application or OS that causes it to perform some destructive or security-compromising activity whenever specified conditions are met. Compare {back door}.

:logical: [from the technical term 'logical device', wherein a physical device is referred to by an arbitrary 'logical' name] adj. Having the role of. If a person (say, Les Earnest at SAIL) who had long held a certain post left and were replaced, the replacement would for a while be known as the 'logical' Les Earnest. (This does not imply any judgment on the replacement.) Compare {virtual}.

At Stanford, 'logical' compass directions denote a coordinate system in which 'logical north' is toward San Francisco, 'logical west' is toward the ocean, etc., even though logical north varies between physical (true) north near San Francisco and physical west near San Jose. (The best rule of thumb here is that, by definition, El Camino Real always runs logical north-and-south.) In giving directions, one might say: "To get to Rincon Tarasco restaurant, get onto {El Camino Bignum} going logical north." Using the word 'logical' helps to prevent the recipient from worrying about that the fact that the sun is setting almost directly in front of him. The concept is reinforced by North American highways which are almost, but not quite, consistently labeled with logical rather than physical directions. A similar situation exists at MIT: Route 128 (famous for the electronics industry that has grown up along it) is a 3-quarters circle surrounding Boston at a radius of 10 miles, terminating near the coastline at each end. It would be most precise to describe the two directions along this highway as 'clockwise' and 'counterclockwise', but the road signs all say "north" and "south", respectively. A hacker might describe these directions as 'logical north' and 'logical south', to indicate that they are conventional directions not corresponding to the usual denotation for those words. (If you went logical south along the entire length of route 128, you would start out going northwest, curve around to the south, and finish headed due east, including one infamous stretch of pavement which is simultaneously route 128 south and Interstate 93 north, and is signed as such!)

:loop through: vt. To process each element of a list of things. "Hold on, I've got to loop through my paper mail." Derives from the computer-language notion of an iterative loop; compare 'cdr down' (under {cdr}), which is less common among C and UNIX programmers. ITS hackers used to say 'IRP over' after an obscure pseudo-op in the MIDAS PDP-10 assembler.

:loose bytes: n. Commonwealth hackish term for the padding bytes or {shim}s many compilers insert between members of a record or structure to cope with alignment requirements imposed by the machine architecture.

:lord high fixer: [primarily British, from Gilbert & Sullivan's 'lord high executioner'] n. The person in an organization who knows the most about some aspect of a system. See {wizard}.

:lose: [MIT] vi. 1. To fail. A program loses when it encounters an exceptional condition or fails to work in the expected manner. 2. To be exceptionally unesthetic or crocky. 3. Of people, to be obnoxious or unusually stupid (as opposed to ignorant). See also {deserves to lose}. 4. n. Refers to something that is {losing}, especially in the phrases "That's a lose!" and "What a lose!"

:lose lose: interj. A reply to or comment on an undesirable situation. "I accidentally deleted all my files!" "Lose, lose."

:loser: n. An unexpectedly bad situation, program, programmer, or person. Someone who habitually loses. (Even winners can lose occasionally.) Someone who knows not and knows not that he knows not. Emphatic forms are 'real loser', 'total loser', and 'complete loser' (but not *'moby loser', which would be a contradiction in terms). See {luser}.

:losing: adj. Said of anything that is or causes a {lose} or {lossage}.

:loss: n. Something (not a person) that loses; a situation in which something is losing. Emphatic forms include 'moby loss', and 'total loss', 'complete loss'. Common interjections are "What a loss!" and "What a moby loss!" Note that 'moby loss' is OK even though *'moby loser' is not used; applied to an abstract noun, moby is simply a magnifier, whereas when applied to a person it implies substance and has positive connotations. Compare {lossage}.

:lossage: /los'*j/ n. The result of a bug or malfunction. This is a mass or collective noun. "What a loss!" and "What lossage!" are nearly synonymous. The former is slightly more particular to the speaker's present circumstances; the latter implies a continuing {lose} of which the speaker is currently a victim. Thus (for example) a temporary hardware failure is a loss, but bugs in an important tool (like a compiler) are serious lossage.

:lost in the noise: adj. Syn. {lost in the underflow}. This term is from signal processing, where signals of very small amplitude cannot be separated from low-intensity noise in the system. Though popular among hackers, it is not confined to hackerdom; physicists, engineers, astronomers, and statisticians all use it.

:lost in the underflow: adj. Too small to be worth considering; more specifically, small beyond the limits of accuracy or measurement. This is a reference to 'floating underflow', a condition that can occur when a floating-point arithmetic processor tries to handle quantities smaller than its limit of magnitude. It is also a pun on 'undertow' (a kind of fast, cold current that sometimes runs just offshore and can be dangerous to swimmers). "Well, sure, photon pressure from the stadium lights alters the path of a thrown baseball, but that effect gets lost in the underflow." See also {overflow bit}.

:lots of MIPS but no I/O: adj. Used to describe a person who is technically brilliant but can't seem to communicate with human beings effectively. Technically it describes a machine that has lots of processing power but is bottlenecked on input-output (in 1991, the IBM Rios, a.k.a. RS/6000, is a notorious recent example).

:low-bandwidth: [from communication theory] adj. Used to indicate a talk that, although not {content-free}, was not terribly informative. "That was a low-bandwidth talk, but what can you expect for an audience of {suit}s!" Compare {zero-content}, {bandwidth}, {math-out}.

:LPT: /L-P-T/ or /lip'it/ or /lip-it'/ [MIT, via DEC] n. Line printer, of course. Rare under UNIX, commoner in hackers with MS-DOS or CP/M background. The printer device is called 'LPT:' on those systems that, like ITS, were strongly influenced by early DEC conventions.

:lunatic fringe: [IBM] n. Customers who can be relied upon to accept release 1 versions of software.

:lurker: n. One of the 'silent majority' in a electronic forum; one who posts occasionally or not at all but is known to read the group's postings regularly. This term is not pejorative and indeed is casually used reflexively: "Oh, I'm just lurking." Often used in 'the lurkers', the hypothetical audience for the group's {flamage}-emitting regulars.

:luser: /loo'zr/ n. A {user}; esp. one who is also a {loser}. ({luser} and {loser} are pronounced identically.) This word was coined around 1975 at MIT. Under ITS, when you first walked up to a terminal at MIT and typed Control-Z to get the computer's attention, it printed out some status information, including how many people were already using the computer; it might print "14 users", for example. Someone thought it would be a great joke to patch the system to print "14 losers" instead. There ensued a great controversy, as some of the users didn't particularly want to be called losers to their faces every time they used the computer. For a while several hackers struggled covertly, each changing the message behind the back of the others; any time you logged into the computer it was even money whether it would say "users" or "losers". Finally, someone tried the compromise "lusers", and it stuck. Later one of the ITS machines supported 'luser' as a request-for-help command. ITS died the death in mid-1990, except as a museum piece; the usage lives on, however, and the term 'luser' is often seen in program comments.

= M = =====

:M: [SI] pref. (on units) suff. (on numbers) See {{quantifiers}}.

:macdink: /mak'dink/ [from the Apple Macintosh, which is said to encourage such behavior] vt. To make many incremental and unnecessary cosmetic changes to a program or file. Often the subject of the macdinking would be better off without them. "When I left at 11 P.M. last night, he was still macdinking the slides for his presentation." See also {fritterware}.

:machinable: adj. Machine-readable. Having the {softcopy} nature.

:machoflops: /mach'oh-flops/ [pun on 'megaflops', a coinage for 'millions of FLoating-point Operations Per Second'] n. Refers to artificially inflated performance figures often quoted by computer manufacturers. Real applications are lucky to get half the quoted speed. See {Your mileage may vary}, {benchmark}.

:Macintoy: /mak'in-toy/ n. The Apple Macintosh, considered as a {toy}. Less pejorative than {Macintrash}.

:Macintrash: /mak'in-trash'/ n. The Apple Macintosh, as described by a hacker who doesn't appreciate being kept away from the *real computer* by the interface. The term {maggotbox} has been reported in regular use in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. Compare {Macintoy}. See also {beige toaster}, {WIMP environment}, {point-and-drool interface}, {drool-proof paper}, {user-friendly}.

:macro: /mak'roh/ [techspeak] n. A name (possibly followed by a formal {arg} list) that is equated to a text or symbolic expression to which it is to be expanded (possibly with the substitution of actual arguments) by a macro expander. This definition can be found in any technical dictionary; what those won't tell you is how the hackish connotations of the term have changed over time.

The term 'macro' originated in early assemblers, which encouraged the use of macros as a structuring and information-hiding device. During the early 1970s, macro assemblers became ubiquitous, and sometimes quite as powerful and expensive as {HLL}s, only to fall from favor as improving compiler technology marginalized assembler programming (see {languages of choice}). Nowadays the term is most often used in connection with the C preprocessor, LISP, or one of several special-purpose languages built around a macro-expansion facility (such as TeX or UNIX's [nt]roff suite).

Indeed, the meaning has drifted enough that the collective 'macros' is now sometimes used for code in any special-purpose application control language (whether or not the language is actually translated by text expansion), and for macro-like entities such as the 'keyboard macros' supported in some text editors (and PC TSR or Macintosh INIT/CDEV keyboard enhancers).

:macro-: pref. Large. Opposite of {micro-}. In the mainstream and among other technical cultures (for example, medical people) this competes with the prefix {mega-}, but hackers tend to restrict the latter to quantification.

:macrology: /mak-rol'*-jee/ n. 1. Set of usually complex or crufty macros, e.g., as part of a large system written in {LISP}, {TECO}, or (less commonly) assembler. 2. The art and science involved in comprehending a macrology in sense 1. Sometimes studying the macrology of a system is not unlike archeology, ecology, or {theology}, hence the sound-alike construction. See also {boxology}.

:macrotape: /ma'kroh-tayp/ n. An industry-standard reel of tape, as opposed to a {microtape}.

:maggotbox: /mag'*t-boks/ n. See {Macintrash}. This is even more derogatory.

:magic: adj. 1. As yet unexplained, or too complicated to explain; compare {automagically} and (Arthur C.) Clarke's Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." "TTY echoing is controlled by a large number of magic bits." "This routine magically computes the parity of an 8-bit byte in three instructions." 2. Characteristic of something that works although no one really understands why (this is especially called {black magic}). 3. [Stanford] A feature not generally publicized that allows something otherwise impossible, or a feature formerly in that category but now unveiled. Compare {black magic}, {wizardly}, {deep magic}, {heavy wizardry}.

For more about hackish 'magic', see {A Story About 'Magic'} (in {appendix A}).

:magic cookie: [UNIX] n. 1. Something passed between routines or programs that enables the receiver to perform some operation; a capability ticket or opaque identifier. Especially used of small data objects that contain data encoded in a strange or intrinsically machine-dependent way. E.g., on non-UNIX OSes with a non-byte-stream model of files, the result of 'ftell(3)' may be a magic cookie rather than a byte offset; it can be passed to 'fseek(3)', but not operated on in any meaningful way. The phrase 'it hands you a magic cookie' means it returns a result whose contents are not defined but which can be passed back to the same or some other program later. 2. An in-band code for changing graphic rendition (e.g., inverse video or underlining) or performing other control functions. Some older terminals would leave a blank on the screen corresponding to mode-change magic cookies; this was also called a {glitch}. See also {cookie}.

:magic number: [UNIX/C] n. 1. In source code, some non-obvious constant whose value is significant to the operation of a program and that is inserted inconspicuously in-line ({hardcoded}), rather than expanded in by a symbol set by a commented '#define'. Magic numbers in this sense are bad style. 2. A number that encodes critical information used in an algorithm in some opaque way. The classic examples of these are the numbers used in hash or CRC functions, or the coefficients in a linear congruential generator for pseudo-random numbers. This sense actually predates and was ancestral to the more common sense 1. 3. Special data located at the beginning of a binary data file to indicate its type to a utility. Under UNIX, the system and various applications programs (especially the linker) distinguish between types of executable file by looking for a magic number. Once upon a time, these magic numbers were PDP-11 branch instructions that skipped over header data to the start of executable code; the 0407, for example, was octal for 'branch 16 bytes relative'. Nowadays only a {wizard} knows the spells to create magic numbers. How do you choose a fresh magic number of your own? Simple —- you pick one at random. See? It's magic!

:magic smoke: n. A substance trapped inside IC packages that enables them to function (also called 'blue smoke'; this is similar to the archaic 'phlogiston' hypothesis about combustion). Its existence is demonstrated by what happens when a chip burns up —- the magic smoke gets let out, so it doesn't work any more. See {smoke test}, {let the smoke out}.

USENETter Jay Maynard tells the following story: "Once, while hacking on a dedicated Z80 system, I was testing code by blowing EPROMs and plugging them in the system, then seeing what happened. One time, I plugged one in backwards. I only discovered that *after* I realized that Intel didn't put power-on lights under the quartz windows on the tops of their EPROMs —- the die was glowing white-hot. Amazingly, the EPROM worked fine after I erased it, filled it full of zeros, then erased it again. For all I know, it's still in service. Of course, this is because the magic smoke didn't get let out." Compare the original phrasing of {Murphy's Law}.

:mailing list: n. (often shortened in context to 'list') 1. An {email} address that is an alias (or {macro}, though that word is never used in this connection) for many other email addresses. Some mailing lists are simple 'reflectors', redirecting mail sent to them to the list of recipients. Others are filtered by humans or programs of varying degrees of sophistication; lists filtered by humans are said to be 'moderated'. 2. The people who receive your email when you send it to such an address.

Mailing lists are one of the primary forms of hacker interaction, along with {USENET}. They predate USENET, having originated with the first UUCP and ARPANET connections. They are often used for private information-sharing on topics that would be too specialized for or inappropriate to public USENET groups. Though some of these maintain purely technical content (such as the Internet Engineering Task Force mailing list), others (like the 'sf-lovers' list maintained for many years by Saul Jaffe) are recreational, and others are purely social. Perhaps the most infamous of the social lists was the eccentric bandykin distribution; its latter-day progeny, lectroids and tanstaafl, still include a number of the oddest and most interesting people in hackerdom.

Mailing lists are easy to create and (unlike USENET) don't tie up a significant amount of machine resources (until they get very large, at which point they can become interesting torture tests for mail software). Thus, they are often created temporarily by working groups, the members of which can then collaborate on a project without ever needing to meet face-to-face. Much of the material in this lexicon was criticized and polished on just such a mailing list (called 'jargon-friends'), which included all the co-authors of Steele-1983.

:main loop: n. Software tools are often written to perform some actions repeatedly on whatever input is handed to them, terminating when there is no more input or they are explicitly told to go away. In such programs, the loop that gets and processes input is called the 'main loop'. See also {driver}.

:mainframe: n. Term originally referring to the cabinet containing the central processor unit or 'main frame' of a room-filling {Stone Age} batch machine. After the emergence of smaller 'minicomputer' designs in the early 1970s, the traditional {big iron} machines were described as 'mainframe computers' and eventually just as mainframes. The term carries the connotation of a machine designed for batch rather than interactive use, though possibly with an interactive timesharing operating system retrofitted onto it; it is especially used of machines built by IBM, Unisys, and the other great {dinosaur}s surviving from computing's {Stone Age}.

It is common wisdom among hackers that the mainframe architectural tradition is essentially dead (outside of the tiny market for {number-crunching} supercomputers (see {cray})), having been swamped by the recent huge advances in IC technology and low-cost personal computing. As of 1991, corporate America hasn't quite figured this out yet, though the wave of failures, takeovers, and mergers among traditional mainframe makers are certainly straws in the wind (see {dinosaurs mating}).

:management: n. 1. Corporate power elites distinguished primarily by their distance from actual productive work and their chronic failure to manage (see also {suit}). Spoken derisively, as in "*Management* decided that ...". 2. Mythically, a vast bureaucracy responsible for all the world's minor irritations. Hackers' satirical public notices are often signed 'The Mgt'; this derives from the 'Illuminatus' novels (see the Bibliography in {appendix C}).

:mandelbug: /mon'del-buhg/ [from the Mandelbrot set] n. A bug whose underlying causes are so complex and obscure as to make its behavior appear chaotic or even non-deterministic. This term implies that the speaker thinks it is a {Bohr bug}, rather than a {heisenbug}. See also {schroedinbug}.

:manged: /monjd/ [probably from the French 'manger' or Italian 'mangiare', to eat; perhaps influenced by English n. 'mange', 'mangy'] adj. Refers to anything that is mangled or damaged, usually beyond repair. "The disk was manged after the electrical storm." Compare {mung}.

:mangle: vt. Used similarly to {mung} or {scribble}, but more violent in its connotations; something that is mangled has been irreversibly and totally trashed.

:mangler: [DEC] n. A manager. Compare {mango}; see also {management}. Note that {system mangler} is somewhat different in connotation.

:mango: /mang'go/ [orig. in-house jargon at Symbolics] n. A manager. Compare {mangler}. See also {devo} and {doco}.

:manularity: [prob. fr. techspeak 'granularity' + 'manual'] n. A notional measure of the manual labor required for some task, particularly one of the sort that automation is supposed to eliminate. "Composing English on paper has much higher manularity than using a text editor, especially in the revising stage." Hackers tend to consider manularity a symptom of primitive methods; in fact, a true hacker confronted with an apparent requirement to do a computing task {by hand} will usually consider it motivation enough to build another tool.

:marbles: [from mainstream "lost all his/her marbles"] pl.n. The minimum needed to build your way further up some hierarchy of tools or abstractions. After a bad system crash, you need to determine if the machine has enough marbles to come up on its own, or enough marbles to allow a rebuild from backups, or if you need to rebuild from scratch. "This compiler doesn't even have enough marbles to compile {hello, world}."

:marginal: adj. 1. Extremely small. "A marginal increase in {core} can decrease {GC} time drastically." In everyday terms, this means that it is a lot easier to clean off your desk if you have a spare place to put some of the junk while you sort through it. 2. Of extremely small merit. "This proposed new feature seems rather marginal to me." 3. Of extremely small probability of {win}ning. "The power supply was rather marginal anyway; no wonder it fried."

:Marginal Hacks: n. Margaret Jacks Hall, a building into which the Stanford AI Lab was moved near the beginning of the 1980s (from the {D. C. Power Lab}).

:marginally: adv. Slightly. "The ravs here are only marginally better than at Small Eating Place." See {epsilon}.

:marketroid: /mar'k*-troyd/ alt. 'marketing slime', 'marketing droid', 'marketeer' n. A member of a company's marketing department, esp. one who promises users that the next version of a product will have features that are not actually scheduled for inclusion, are extremely difficult to implement, and/or are in violation of the laws of physics; and/or one who describes existing features (and misfeatures) in ebullient, buzzword-laden adspeak. Derogatory. Compare {droid}.

:Mars: n. A legendary tragic failure, the archetypal Hacker Dream Gone Wrong. Mars was the code name for a family of PDP-10 compatible computers built by Systems Concepts (now, The SC Group); the multi-processor SC-30M, the small uniprocessor SC-25M, and the never-built superprocessor SC-40M. These machines were marvels of engineering design; although not much slower than the unique {Foonly} F-1, they were physically smaller and consumed less power than the much slower DEC KS10 or Foonly F-2, F-3, or F-4 machines. They were also completely compatible with the DEC KL10, and ran all KL10 binaries, including the operating system, with no modifications at about 2—3 times faster than a KL10. When DEC cancelled the Jupiter project in 1983, Systems Concepts should have made a bundle selling their machine into shops with a lot of software investment in PDP-10s, and in fact their spring 1984 announcement generated a great deal of excitement in the PDP-10 world. TOPS-10 was running on the Mars by the summer of 1984, and TOPS-20 by early fall. Unfortunately, the hackers running Systems Concepts were much better at designing machines than at mass producing or selling them; the company allowed itself to be sidetracked by a bout of perfectionism into continually improving the design, and lost credibility as delivery dates continued to slip. They also overpriced the product ridiculously; they believed they were competing with the KL10 and VAX 8600 and failed to reckon with the likes of Sun Microsystems and other hungry startups building workstations with power comparable to the KL10 at a fraction of the price. By the time SC shipped the first SC-30M to Stanford in late 1985, most customers had already made the traumatic decision to abandon the PDP-10, usually for VMS or UNIX boxes. Most of the Mars computers built ended up being purchased by CompuServe. This tale and the related saga of {Foonly} hold a lesson for hackers: if you want to play in the {Real World}, you need to learn Real World moves. :martian: n. A packet sent on a TCP/IP network with a source address of the test loopback interface [127.0.0.1]. This means that it will come back at you labeled with a source address that is clearly not of this earth. "The domain server is getting lots of packets from Mars. Does that gateway have a martian filter?"

:massage: vt. Vague term used to describe 'smooth' transformations of a data set into a different form, esp. transformations that do not lose information. Connotes less pain than {munch} or {crunch}. "He wrote a program that massages X bitmap files into GIF format." Compare {slurp}.

:math-out: [poss. from 'white-out' (the blizzard variety)] n. A paper or presentation so encrusted with mathematical or other formal notation as to be incomprehensible. This may be a device for concealing the fact that it is actually {content-free}. See also {numbers}, {social science number}.

:Matrix: [FidoNet] n. 1. What the Opus BBS software and sysops call {FidoNet}. 2. Fanciful term for a {cyberspace} expected to emerge from current networking experiments (see {network, the}). 3. The totality of present-day computer networks.

:maximum Maytag mode: What a {washing machine} or, by extension, any hard disk is in when it's being used so heavily that it's shaking like an old Maytag with an unbalanced load. If prolonged for any length of time, can lead to disks becoming {walking drives}.

:Mbogo, Dr. Fred: /*m-boh'goh, dok'tr fred/ [Stanford] n. The archetypal man you don't want to see about a problem, esp. an incompetent professional; a shyster. "Do you know a good eye doctor?" "Sure, try Mbogo Eye Care and Professional Dry Cleaning." The name comes from synergy between {bogus} and the original Dr. Mbogo, a witch doctor who was Gomez Addams' physician on the old "Addams Family" TV show. See also {fred}.

:meatware: n. Synonym for {wetware}. Less common.

:meeces: /mees'*z/ [TMRC] n. Occasional furry visitors who are not {urchin}s. [That is, mice. This may no longer be in live use; it clearly derives from the refrain of the early-1960s cartoon character Mr. Jinx: "I hate meeces to *pieces*!" —- ESR]

:meg: /meg/ n. See {{quantifiers}}.

:mega-: /me'g*/ [SI] pref. See {{quantifiers}}.

:megapenny: /meg'*-pen'ee/ n. $10,000 (1 cent * 10^6). Used semi-humorously as a unit in comparing computer cost and performance figures.

:MEGO: /me'goh/ or /mee'goh/ ['My Eyes Glaze Over', often 'Mine Eyes Glazeth (sic) Over', attributed to the futurologist Herman Kahn] Also 'MEGO factor'. 1. n. A {handwave} intended to confuse the listener and hopefully induce agreement because the listener does not want to admit to not understanding what is going on. MEGO is usually directed at senior management by engineers and contains a high proportion of {TLA}s. 2. excl. An appropriate response to MEGO tactics. 3. Among non-hackers this term often refers not to behavior that causes the eyes to glaze, but to the eye-glazing reaction itself, which may be triggered by the mere threat of technical detail as effectively as by an actual excess of it.

:meltdown, network: n. See {network meltdown}.

:meme: /meem/ [coined on analogy with 'gene' by Richard Dawkins] n. An idea considered as a {replicator}, esp. with the connotation that memes parasitize people into propagating them much as viruses do. Used esp. in the phrase 'meme complex' denoting a group of mutually supporting memes that form an organized belief system, such as a religion. This lexicon is an (epidemiological) vector of the 'hacker subculture' meme complex; each entry might be considered a meme. However, 'meme' is often misused to mean 'meme complex'. Use of the term connotes acceptance of the idea that in humans (and presumably other tool- and language-using sophonts) cultural evolution by selection of adaptive ideas has superseded biological evolution by selection of hereditary traits. Hackers find this idea congenial for tolerably obvious reasons.

:meme plague: n. The spread of a successful but pernicious {meme}, esp. one that parasitizes the victims into giving their all to propagate it. Astrology, BASIC, and the other guy's religion are often considered to be examples. This usage is given point by the historical fact that 'joiner' ideologies like Naziism or various forms of millennarian Christianity have exhibited plague-like cycles of exponential growth followed by collapses to small reservoir populations.

:memetics: /me-met'iks/ [from {meme}] The study of memes. As of mid-1991, this is still an extremely informal and speculative endeavor, though the first steps towards at least statistical rigor have been made by H. Keith Henson and others. Memetics is a popular topic for speculation among hackers, who like to see themselves as the architects of the new information ecologies in which memes live and replicate.

:memory leak: n. An error in a program's dynamic-store allocation logic that causes it to fail to reclaim discarded memory, leading to eventual collapse due to memory exhaustion. Also (esp. at CMU) called {core leak}. These problems were severe on older machines with small, fixed-size address spaces, and special "leak detection" tools were commonly written to root them out. With the advent of virtual memory, it is unfortunately easier to be sloppy about wasting a bit of memory (although when you run out of memory on a VM machine, it means you've got a *real* leak!). See {aliasing bug}, {fandango on core}, {smash the stack}, {precedence lossage}, {overrun screw}, {leaky heap}, {leak}.

:memory smash: [XEROX PARC] n. Writing through a pointer that doesn't point to what you think it does. This occasionally reduces your machine to a rubble of bits. Note that this is subtly different from (and more general than) related terms such as a {memory leak} or {fandango on core} because it doesn't imply an allocation error or overrun condition.

:menuitis: /men'yoo-i:'tis/ n. Notional disease suffered by software with an obsessively simple-minded menu interface and no escape. Hackers find this intensely irritating and much prefer the flexibility of command-line or language-style interfaces, especially those customizable via macros or a special-purpose language in which one can encode useful hacks. See {user-obsequious}, {drool-proof paper}, {WIMP environment}, {for the rest of us}.

:mess-dos: /mes-dos/ n. Derisory term for MS-DOS. Often followed by the ritual banishing "Just say No!" See {{MS-DOS}}. Most hackers (even many MS-DOS hackers) loathe MS-DOS for its single-tasking nature, its limits on application size, its nasty primitive interface, and its ties to IBMness (see {fear and loathing}). Also 'mess-loss', 'messy-dos', 'mess-dog', 'mess-dross', 'mush-dos', and various combinations thereof. In Ireland and the U.K. it is even sometimes called 'Domestos' after a brand of toilet cleanser.

:meta: /me't*/ or /may't*/ or (Commonwealth) /mee't*/ [from analytic philosophy] adj.,pref. One level of description up. A metasyntactic variable is a variable in notation used to describe syntax, and meta-language is language used to describe language. This is difficult to explain briefly, but much hacker humor turns on deliberate confusion between meta-levels. See {{Humor, Hacker}}.

:meta bit: n. The top bit of an 8-bit character, which is on in character values 128—255. Also called {high bit}, {alt bit}, or {hobbit}. Some terminals and consoles (see {space-cadet keyboard}) have a META shift key. Others (including, *mirabile dictu*, keyboards on IBM PC-class machines) have an ALT key. See also {bucky bits}.

Historical note: although in modern usage shaped by a universe of 8-bit bytes the meta bit is invariably hex 80 (octal 0200), things were different on earlier machines with 36-bit words and 9-bit bytes. The MIT and Stanford keyboards (see {space-cadet keyboard}) generated hex 100 (octal 400) from their meta keys.

:metasyntactic variable: n. A name used in examples and understood to stand for whatever thing is under discussion, or any random member of a class of things under discussion. The word {foo} is the {canonical} example. To avoid confusion, hackers never (well, hardly ever) use 'foo' or other words like it as permanent names for anything. In filenames, a common convention is that any filename beginning with a metasyntactic-variable name is a {scratch} file that may be deleted at any time.

To some extent, the list of one's preferred metasyntactic variables is a cultural signature. They occur both in series (used for related groups of variables or objects) and as singletons. Here are a few common signatures:

{foo}, {bar}, {baz}, {quux}, quuux, quuuux...: MIT/Stanford usage, now found everywhere (thanks largely to early versions of this lexicon!). At MIT, {baz} dropped out of use for a while in the 1970s and '80s. A common recent mutation of this sequence inserts {qux} before {quux}. {foo}, {bar}, thud, grunt: This series was popular at CMU. Other CMU-associated variables include {gorp}. {foo}, {bar}, fum: This series is reported common at XEROX PARC. {fred}, {barney}: See the entry for {fred}. These tend to be Britishisms. {toto}, titi, tata, tutu: Standard series of metasyntactic variables among francophones. {corge}, {grault}, {flarp}: Popular at Rutgers University and among {GOSMACS} hackers. zxc, spqr, {wombat}: Cambridge University (England).

Of all these, only 'foo' and 'bar' are universal (and {baz} nearly so). The compounds {foobar} and 'foobaz' also enjoy very wide currency.

Some jargon terms are also used as metasyntactic names; {barf} and {mumble}, for example. See also {{Commonwealth Hackish}} for discussion of numerous metasyntactic variables found in Great Britain and the Commonwealth.

:MFTL: /M-F-T-L/ [abbreviation: 'My Favorite Toy Language'] 1. adj. Describes a talk on a programming language design that is heavy on the syntax (with lots of BNF), sometimes even talks about semantics (e.g., type systems), but rarely, if ever, has any content (see {content-free}). More broadly applied to talks —- even when the topic is not a programming language —- in which the subject matter is gone into in unnecessary and meticulous detail at the sacrifice of any conceptual content. "Well, it was a typical MFTL talk". 2. n. Describes a language about which the developers are passionate (often to the point of prosyletic zeal) but no one else cares about. Applied to the language by those outside the originating group. "He cornered me about type resolution in his MFTL."

The first great goal in the mind of the designer of an MFTL is usually to write a compiler for it, then bootstrap the design away from contamination by lesser languages by writing a compiler for it in itself. Thus, the standard put-down question at an MFTL talk is "Has it been used for anything besides its own compiler?". On the other hand, a language that *cannot* be used to write its own compiler is beneath contempt. See {break-even point}.

(On a related note, Dennis Ritchie has proposed a test of the generality and utility of a language and the operating system under which it is compiled: "Is the output of a program compiled under the language acceptable as input to the compiler?" In other words, can you write programs which write programs? (see {toolsmith}) Alarming numbers of (language, OS) pairs fail this test, particularly when the language is Fortran; Ritchie is quick to point out that {UNIX} (even using Fortran) passes it handily. That the test could ever be failed is only surprising to those who have had the good fortune only to have worked under modern systems which lack OS-supported and -imposed "file types".)

:mickey: n. The resolution unit of mouse movement. It has been suggested that the 'disney' will become a benchmark unit for animation graphics performance.

:mickey mouse program: n. North American equivalent of a {noddy} (that is, trivial) program. Doesn't necessarily have the belittling connotations of mainstream slang "Oh, that's just mickey mouse stuff!"; sometimes trivial programs can be very useful.

:micro-: pref. 1. Very small; this is the root of its use as a quantifier prefix. 2. A quantifier prefix, calling for multiplication by 10^(-6) (see {{quantifiers}}). Neither of these uses is peculiar to hackers, but hackers tend to fling them both around rather more freely than is countenanced in standard English. It is recorded, for example, that one CS professor used to characterize the standard length of his lectures as a microcentury —- that is, about 52.6 minutes (see also {attoparsec}, {nanoacre}, and especially {microfortnight}). 3. Personal or human-scale —- that is, capable of being maintained or comprehended or manipulated by one human being. This sense is generalized from 'microcomputer', and is esp. used in contrast with 'macro-' (the corresponding Greek prefix meaning 'large'). 4. Local as opposed to global (or {macro-}). Thus a hacker might say that buying a smaller car to reduce pollution only solves a microproblem; the macroproblem of getting to work might be better solved by using mass transit, moving to within walking distance, or (best of all) telecommuting.

:microfloppies: n. 3.5-inch floppies, as opposed to 5.25-inch {vanilla} or mini-floppies and the now-obsolete 8-inch variety. This term may be headed for obsolescence as 5.25-inchers pass out of use, only to be revived if anybody floats a sub-3-inch floppy standard. See {stiffy}, {minifloppies}.

:microfortnight: n. 1/1000000 of the fundamental unit of time in the Furlong/Firkin/Fortnight system of measurement; 1.2096 sec. The VMS operating system has a lot of tuning parameters that you can set with the SYSGEN utility, and one of these is TIMEPROMPTWAIT, the time the system will wait for an operator to set the correct date and time at boot if it realizes that the current value is bogus. This time is specified in microfortnights!

Multiple uses of the millifortnight (about 20 minutes) and {nanofortnight} have also been reported.

:microLenat: /mi:-kroh-len'-*t/ n. See {bogosity}.

:microReid: /mi:'kroh-reed/ n. See {bogosity}.

:Microsloth Windows: /mi:'kroh-sloth' win'dohz/ n. Hackerism for 'Microsoft Windows', a windowing system for the IBM-PC which is so limited by bug-for-bug compatibility with {mess-dos} that it is agonizingly slow on anything less than a fast 386. Compare {X}, {sun-stools}.

:microtape: /mi:'kroh-tayp/ n. Occasionally used to mean a DECtape, as opposed to a {macrotape}. A DECtape is a small reel, about 4 inches in diameter, of magnetic tape about an inch wide. Unlike drivers for today's {macrotape}s, microtape drivers allow random access to the data, and therefore could be used to support file systems and even for swapping (this was generally done purely for {hack value}, as they were far too slow for practical use). In their heyday they were used in pretty much the same ways one would now use a floppy disk: as a small, portable way to save and transport files and programs. Apparently the term 'microtape' was actually the official term used within DEC for these tapes until someone coined the word 'DECtape', which, of course, sounded sexier to the {marketroid}s; another version of the story holds that someone discovered a conflict with another company's 'microtape' trademark.

:middle-endian: adj. Not {big-endian} or {little-endian}. Used of perverse byte orders such as 3-4-1-2 or 2-1-4-3, occasionally found in the packed-decimal formats of minicomputer manufacturers who shall remain nameless. See {NUXI problem}.

:milliLampson: /mil'*-lamp'sn/ n. A unit of talking speed, abbreviated mL. Most people run about 200 milliLampsons. Butler Lampson (a CS theorist and systems implementor highly regarded among hackers) goes at 1000. A few people speak faster. This unit is sometimes used to compare the (sometimes widely disparate) rates at which people can generate ideas and actually emit them in speech. For example, noted computer architect C. Gordon Bell (designer of the PDP-11) is said, with some awe, to think at about 1200 mL but only talk at about 300; he is frequently reduced to fragments of sentences as his mouth tries to keep up with his speeding brain.

:minifloppies: n. 5.25-inch {vanilla} floppy disks, as opposed to 3.5-inch or {microfloppies} and the now-obsolescent 8-inch variety. At one time, this term was a trademark of Shugart Associates for their SA-400 minifloppy drive. Nobody paid any attention. See {stiffy}.

:MIPS: /mips/ [abbreviation] n. 1. A measure of computing speed; formally, 'Million Instructions Per Second' (that's 10^6 per second, not 2^(20)!); often rendered by hackers as 'Meaningless Indication of Processor Speed' or in other unflattering ways. This joke expresses a nearly universal attitude about the value of most {benchmark} claims, said attitude being one of the great cultural divides between hackers and {marketroid}s. The singular is sometimes '1 MIP' even though this is clearly etymologically wrong. See also {KIPS} and {GIPS}. 2. Computers, especially large computers, considered abstractly as sources of {computron}s. "This is just a workstation; the heavy MIPS are hidden in the basement." 3. The corporate name of a particular RISC-chip company; among other things, they designed the processor chips used in DEC's 3100 workstation series. 4. Acronym for 'Meaningless Information per Second' (a joke, prob. from sense 1).

:misbug: /mis-buhg/ [MIT] n. An unintended property of a program that turns out to be useful; something that should have been a {bug} but turns out to be a {feature}. Usage: rare. Compare {green lightning}. See {miswart}.

:misfeature: /mis-fee'chr/ or /mis'fee'chr/ n. A feature that eventually causes lossage, possibly because it is not adequate for a new situation which has evolved. Since it results from a deliberate and properly-implemented feature, a misfeature is not a bug. Nor is it a simple unforeseen side effect; the term implies that the feature in question was carefully planned, but its long-term consequences were not accurately or adequately predicted (which is quite different from not having thought ahead at all). A misfeature can be a particularly stubborn problem to resolve, because fixing it usually involves a substantial philosophical change to the structure of the system involved.

Many misfeatures (especially in user-interface design) arise because the designers/implementors mistake their personal tastes for laws of nature. Often a former feature becomes a misfeature because a tradeoff was made whose parameters subsequently change (possibly only in the judgment of the implementors). "Well, yeah, it is kind of a misfeature that file names are limited to 6 characters, but the original implementors wanted to save directory space and we're stuck with it for now."

:Missed'em-five: n. Pejorative hackerism for AT&T System V UNIX, generally used by {BSD} partisans in a bigoted mood. (The synonym 'SysVile' is also encountered.) See {software bloat}, {Berzerkeley}.

:missile address: n. See {ICBM address}.

:miswart: /mis-wort/ [from {wart} by analogy with {misbug}] n. A {feature} that superficially appears to be a {wart} but has been determined to be the {Right Thing}. For example, in some versions of the {EMACS} text editor, the 'transpose characters' command exchanges the character under the cursor with the one before it on the screen, *except* when the cursor is at the end of a line, in which case the two characters before the cursor are exchanged. While this behavior is perhaps surprising, and certainly inconsistent, it has been found through extensive experimentation to be what most users want. This feature is a miswart.

:moby: /moh'bee/ [MIT: seems to have been in use among model railroad fans years ago. Derived from Melville's 'Moby Dick' (some say from 'Moby Pickle').] 1. adj. Large, immense, complex, impressive. "A Saturn V rocket is a truly moby frob." "Some MIT undergrads pulled off a moby hack at the Harvard-Yale game." (See "{The Meaning of 'Hack'}"). 2. n. obs. The maximum address space of a machine (see below). For a 680[234]0 or VAX or most modern 32-bit architectures, it is 4,294,967,296 8-bit bytes (4 gigabytes). 3. A title of address (never of third-person reference), usually used to show admiration, respect, and/or friendliness to a competent hacker. "Greetings, moby Dave. How's that address-book thing for the Mac going?" 4. adj. In backgammon, doubles on the dice, as in 'moby sixes', 'moby ones', etc. Compare this with {bignum} (sense 2): double sixes are both bignums and moby sixes, but moby ones are not bignums (the use of 'moby' to describe double ones is sarcastic). Standard emphatic forms: 'Moby foo', 'moby win', 'moby loss'. 'Foby moo': a spoonerism due to Richard Greenblatt.

This term entered hackerdom with the Fabritek 256K memory added to the MIT AI PDP-6 machine, which was considered unimaginably huge when it was installed in the 1960s (at a time when a more typical memory size for a timesharing system was 72 kilobytes). Thus, a moby is classically 256K 36-bit words, the size of a PDP-6 or PDP-10 moby. Back when address registers were narrow the term was more generally useful, because when a computer had virtual memory mapping, it might actually have more physical memory attached to it than any one program could access directly. One could then say "This computer has 6 mobies" meaning that the ratio of physical memory to address space is 6, without having to say specifically how much memory there actually is. That in turn implied that the computer could timeshare six 'full-sized' programs without having to swap programs between memory and disk.

Nowadays the low cost of processor logic means that address spaces are usually larger than the most physical memory you can cram onto a machine, so most systems have much *less* than one theoretical 'native' moby of {core}. Also, more modern memory-management techniques (esp. paging) make the 'moby count' less significant. However, there is one series of popular chips for which the term could stand to be revived —- the Intel 8088 and 80286 with their incredibly {brain-damaged} segmented-memory designs. On these, a 'moby' would be the 1-megabyte address span of a segment/offset pair (by coincidence, a PDP-10 moby was exactly 1 megabyte of 9-bit bytes).

:mod: vt.,n. 1. Short for 'modify' or 'modification'. Very commonly used —- in fact the full terms are considered markers that one is being formal. The plural 'mods' is used esp. with reference to bug fixes or minor design changes in hardware or software, most esp. with respect to {patch} sets or a {diff}. 2. Short for {modulo} but used *only* for its techspeak sense.

:mode: n. A general state, usually used with an adjective describing the state. Use of the word 'mode' rather than 'state' implies that the state is extended over time, and probably also that some activity characteristic of that state is being carried out. "No time to hack; I'm in thesis mode." In its jargon sense, 'mode' is most often attributed to people, though it is sometimes applied to programs and inanimate objects. In particular, see {hack mode}, {day mode}, {night mode}, {demo mode}, {fireworks mode}, and {yoyo mode}; also {talk mode}.

One also often hears the verbs 'enable' and 'disable' used in connection with jargon modes. Thus, for example, a sillier way of saying "I'm going to crash" is "I'm going to enable crash mode now". One might also hear a request to "disable flame mode, please".

In a usage much closer to techspeak, a mode is a special state which certain user interfaces must pass into in order to perform certain functions. For example, in order to insert characters into a document in the UNIX editor 'vi', one must type the "i" key, which invokes the "Insert" command. The effect of this command is to put vi into "insert mode", in which typing the "i" key has a quite different effect (to wit, it inserts an "i" into the document). One must then hit another special key, "ESC", in order to leave "insert mode". Nowadays, moded interfaces are generally considered {losing}, but survive in quite a few widely-used tools built in less enlightened times.

:mode bit: n. A {flag}, usually in hardware, that selects between two (usually quite different) modes of operation. The connotations are different from {flag} bit in that mode bits are mainly written during a boot or set-up phase, are seldom explicitly read, and seldom change over the lifetime of an ordinary program. The classic example was the EBCDIC-vs.-ASCII bit (#12) of the Program Status Word of the IBM 360. Another was the bit on a PDP-12 that controlled whether it ran the PDP-8 or the LINC instruction set.

:modulo: /mo'dyu-loh/ prep. Except for. An overgeneralization of mathematical terminology; one can consider saying that 4 = 22 except for the 9s (4 = 22 mod 9). "Well, LISP seems to work okay now, modulo that {GC} bug." "I feel fine today modulo a slight headache."

:molly-guard: /mol'ee-gard/ [University of Illinois] n. A shield to prevent tripping of some {Big Red Switch} by clumsy or ignorant hands. Originally used of some plexiglass covers improvised for the BRS on an IBM 4341 after a programmer's toddler daughter (named Molly) frobbed it twice in one day. Later generalized to covers over stop/reset switches on disk drives and networking equipment.

:Mongolian Hordes technique: n. Development by {gang bang} (poss. from the Sixties counterculture expression 'Mongolian clusterfuck' for a public orgy). Implies that large numbers of inexperienced programmers are being put on a job better performed by a few skilled ones. Also called 'Chinese Army technique'; see also {Brooks's Law}.

:monkey up: vt. To hack together hardware for a particular task, especially a one-shot job. Connotes an extremely {crufty} and consciously temporary solution. Compare {hack up}, {kluge up}, {cruft together}, {cruft together}.

:monkey, scratch: n. See {scratch monkey}.

:monstrosity: 1. n. A ridiculously {elephantine} program or system, esp. one that is buggy or only marginally functional. 2. The quality of being monstrous (see 'Overgeneralization' in the discussion of jargonification). See also {baroque}.

:Moof: /moof/ [MAC users] n. The Moof or 'dogcow' is a semi-legendary creature that lurks in the depths of the Macintosh Technical Notes Hypercard stack V3.1; specifically, the full story of the dogcow is told in technical note #31 (the particular Moof illustrated is properly named 'Clarus'). Option-shift-click will cause it to emit a characteristic 'Moof!' or '!fooM' sound. *Getting* to tech note 31 is the hard part; to discover how to do that, one must needs examine the stack script with a hackerly eye. Clue: {rot13} is involved. A dogcow also appears if you choose 'Page Setup...' with a LaserWriter selected and click on the 'Options' button.

:Moore's Law: /morz law/ prov. The observation that the logic density of silicon integrated circuits has closely followed the curve (bits per square inch) = 2^((n - 1962)); that is, the amount of information storable in one square inch of silicon has roughly doubled yearly every year since the technology was invented. See also {Parkinson's Law of Data}.

:moose call, the: n. See {whalesong}.

:moria: /mor'ee-*/ n. Like {nethack} and {rogue}, one of the large PD Dungeons-and-Dragons-like simulation games, available for a wide range of machines and operating systems. Extremely addictive and a major consumer of time better used for hacking.

:MOTAS: /moh-toz/ [USENET: Member Of The Appropriate Sex, after {MOTOS} and {MOTSS}] n. A potential or (less often) actual sex partner. See also {SO}.

:MOTOS: /moh-tohs/ [acronym from the 1970 U.S. census forms via USENET: Member Of The Opposite Sex] n. A potential or (less often) actual sex partner. See {MOTAS}, {MOTSS}, {SO}. Less common than MOTSS or {MOTAS}, which have largely displaced it.

:MOTSS: /mots/ or /M-O-T-S-S/ [from the 1970 U.S. census forms via USENET, Member Of The Same Sex] n. Esp. one considered as a possible sexual partner. The gay-issues newsgroup on USENET is called soc.motss. See {MOTOS} and {MOTAS}, which derive from it. Also see {SO}.

:mouse ahead: vi. Point-and-click analog of 'type ahead'. To manipulate a computer's pointing device (almost always a mouse in this usage, but not necessarily) and its selection or command buttons before a computer program is ready to accept such input, in anticipation of the program accepting the input. Handling this properly is rare, but it can help make a {WIMP environment} much more usable, assuming the users are familiar with the behavior of the user interface.

:mouse around: vi. To explore public portions of a large system, esp. a network such as Internet via {FTP} or {TELNET}, looking for interesting stuff to {snarf}.

:mouse belt: n. See {rat belt}.

:mouse droppings: [MS-DOS] n. Pixels (usually single) that are not properly restored when the mouse pointer moves away from a particular location on the screen, producing the appearance that the mouse pointer has left droppings behind. The major causes for this problem are programs that write to the screen memory corresponding to the mouse pointer's current location without hiding the mouse pointer first, and mouse drivers that do not quite support the graphics mode in use.

:mouse elbow: n. A tennis-elbow-like fatigue syndrome resulting from excessive use of a {WIMP environment}. Similarly, 'mouse shoulder'; GLS reports that he used to get this a lot before he taught himself to be ambimoustrous.

:mouso: /mow'soh/ n. [by analogy with 'typo'] An error in mouse usage resulting in an inappropriate selection or graphic garbage on the screen. Compare {thinko}, {braino}.

:MS-DOS:: /M-S-dos/ [MicroSoft Disk Operating System] n. A {clone} of {{CP/M}} for the 8088 crufted together in 6 weeks by hacker Tim Paterson, who is said to have regretted it ever since. Numerous features, including vaguely UNIX-like but rather broken support for subdirectories, I/O redirection, and pipelines, were hacked into 2.0 and subsequent versions; as a result, there are two or more incompatible versions of many system calls, and MS-DOS programmers can never agree on basic things like what character to use as an option switch or whether to be case-sensitive. The resulting mess is now the highest-unit-volume OS in history. Often known simply as DOS, which annoys people familiar with other similarly abbreviated operating systems (the name goes back to the mid-1960s, when it was attached to IBM's first disk operating system for the 360). The name further annoys those who know what the term {operating system} does (or ought to) connote; DOS is more properly a set of relatively simple interrupt services. Some people like to pronounce DOS like "dose", as in "I don't work on dose, man!", or to compare it to a dose of brain-damaging drugs (a slogan button in wide circulation among hackers exhorts: "MS-DOS: Just say No!"). See {mess-dos}, {ill-behaved}.

:mu: /moo/ The correct answer to the classic trick question "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?". Assuming that you have no wife or you have never beaten your wife, the answer "yes" is wrong because it implies that you used to beat your wife and then stopped, but "no" is worse because it suggests that you have one and are still beating her. According to various Discordians and Douglas Hofstadter (see the Bibliography in {appendix C}), the correct answer is usually "mu", a Japanese word alleged to mean "Your question cannot be answered because it depends on incorrect assumptions". Hackers tend to be sensitive to logical inadequacies in language, and many have adopted this suggestion with enthusiasm. The word 'mu' is actually from Chinese, meaning 'nothing'; it is used in mainstream Japanese in that sense, but native speakers do not recognize the Discordian question-denying use. It almost certainly derives from overgeneralization of the answer in the following well-known Rinzei Zen teaching riddle:

A monk asked Joshu, "Does a dog have the Buddha nature?" Joshu retorted, "Mu!"

See also {has the X nature}, {AI Koans}, and Douglas Hofstadter's 'G"odel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid' (pointer in the Bibliography in appendix C).

:MUD: /muhd/ [acronym, Multi-User Dungeon; alt. Multi-User Dimension] 1. n. A class of {virtual reality} experiments accessible via the Internet. These are real-time chat forums with structure; they have multiple 'locations' like an adventure game, and may include combat, traps, puzzles, magic, a simple economic system, and the capability for characters to build more structure onto the database that represents the existing world. 2. vi. To play a MUD (see {hack-and-slay}). The acronym MUD is often lowercased and/or verbed; thus, one may speak of 'going mudding', etc.

Historically, MUDs (and their more recent progeny with names of MU- form) derive from a hack by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw on the University of Essex's DEC-10 in the early 1980s; descendants of that game still exist today (see {BartleMUD}). There is a widespread myth (repeated, unfortunately, by earlier versions of this lexicon) that the name MUD was trademarked to the commercial MUD run by Bartle on British Telecom (the motto: "You haven't *lived* 'til you've *died* on MUD!"); however, this is false —- Richard Bartle explicitly placed 'MUD' in PD in 1985. BT was upset at this, as they had already printed trademark claims on some maps and posters, which were released and created the myth.

Students on the European academic networks quickly improved on the MUD concept, spawning several new MUDs (VAXMUD, AberMUD, LPMUD). Many of these had associated bulletin-board systems for social interaction. Because these had an image as 'research' they often survived administrative hostility to BBSs in general. This, together with the fact that USENET feeds have been spotty and difficult to get in the U.K., made the MUDs major foci of hackish social interaction there.

AberMUD and other variants crossed the Atlantic around 1988 and quickly gained popularity in the U.S.; they became nuclei for large hacker communities with only loose ties to traditional hackerdom (some observers see parallels with the growth of USENET in the early 1980s). The second wave of MUDs (TinyMUD and variants) tended to emphasize social interaction, puzzles, and cooperative world-building as opposed to combat and competition. In 1991, over 50% of MUD sites are of a third major variety, LPMUD, which synthesizes the combat/puzzle aspects of AberMUD and older systems with the extensibility of TinyMud. The trend toward greater programmability and flexibility will doubtless continue.

The state of the art in MUD design is still moving very rapidly, with new simulation designs appearing (seemingly) every month. There is now (early 1991) a move afoot to deprecate the term {MUD} itself, as newer designs exhibit an exploding variety of names corresponding to the different simulation styles being explored. See also {BartleMUD}, {berserking}, {bonk/oif}, {brand brand brand}, {FOD}, {hack-and-slay}, {link-dead}, {mudhead}, {posing}, {talk mode}, {tinycrud}.

:muddie: n. Syn. {mudhead}. More common in Great Britain, possibly because system administrators there like to mutter "bloody muddies" when annoyed at the species.

:mudhead: n. Commonly used to refer to a {MUD} player who eats, sleeps, and breathes MUD. Mudheads have been known to fail their degrees, drop out, etc., with the consolation, however, that they made wizard level. When encountered in person, on a MUD, or in a chat system, all a mudhead will talk about is three topics: the tactic, character, or wizard that is supposedly always unfairly stopping him/her from becoming a wizard or beating a favorite MUD; why the specific game he/she has experience with is so much better than any other, and the MUD he or she is writing or going to write because his/her design ideas are so much better than in any existing MUD. See also {wannabee}.

:multician: /muhl-ti'shn/ [coined at Honeywell, ca. 1970] n. Competent user of {{Multics}}. Perhaps oddly, no one has ever promoted the analogous 'Unician'.

:Multics:: /muhl'tiks/ n. [from "MULTiplexed Information and Computing Service"] An early (late 1960s) timesharing operating system co-designed by a consortium including MIT, GE, and Bell Laboratories. Very innovative for its time —- among other things, it introduced the idea of treating all devices uniformly as special files. All the members but GE eventually pulled out after determining that {second-system effect} had bloated Multics to the point of practical unusability (the 'lean' predecessor in question was {CTSS}). Honeywell commercialized Multics after buying out GE's computer group, but it was never very successful (among other things, on some versions one was commonly required to enter a password to log out). One of the developers left in the lurch by the project's breakup was Ken Thompson, a circumstance which led directly to the birth of {{UNIX}}. For this and other reasons, aspects of the Multics design remain a topic of occasional debate among hackers. See also {brain-damaged} and {GCOS}.

:multitask: n. Often used of humans in the same meaning it has for computers, to describe a person doing several things at once (but see {thrash}). The term 'multiplex', from communications technology (meaning to handle more than one channel at the same time), is used similarly.

:mumblage: /muhm'bl*j/ n. The topic of one's mumbling (see {mumble}). "All that mumblage" is used like "all that stuff" when it is not quite clear how the subject of discussion works, or like "all that crap" when 'mumble' is being used as an implicit replacement for pejoratives.

:mumble: interj. 1. Said when the correct response is too complicated to enunciate, or the speaker has not thought it out. Often prefaces a longer answer, or indicates a general reluctance to get into a long discussion. "Don't you think that we could improve LISP performance by using a hybrid reference-count transaction garbage collector, if the cache is big enough and there are some extra cache bits for the microcode to use?" "Well, mumble ... I'll have to think about it." 2. Sometimes used as an expression of disagreement. "I think we should buy a {VAX}." "Mumble!" Common variant: 'mumble frotz' (see {frotz}; interestingly, one does not say 'mumble frobnitz' even though 'frotz' is short for 'frobnitz'). 3. Yet another {metasyntactic variable}, like {foo}. 4. When used as a question ("Mumble?") means "I didn't understand you". 5. Sometimes used in 'public' contexts on-line as a placefiller for things one is barred from giving details about. For example, a poster with pre-released hardware in his machine might say "Yup, my machine now has an extra 16M of memory, thanks to the card I'm testing for Mumbleco." 6. A conversational wild card used to designate something one doesn't want to bother spelling out, but which can be {glark}ed from context. Compare {blurgle}. 7. [XEROX PARC] A colloquialism used to suggest that further discussion would be fruitless.

:munch: [often confused with {mung}, q.v.] vt. To transform information in a serial fashion, often requiring large amounts of computation. To trace down a data structure. Related to {crunch} and nearly synonymous with {grovel}, but connotes less pain.

:munching: n. Exploration of security holes of someone else's computer for thrills, notoriety, or to annoy the system manager. Compare {cracker}. See also {hacked off}.

:munching squares: n. A {display hack} dating back to the PDP-1 (ca. 1962, reportedly discovered by Jackson Wright), which employs a trivial computation (repeatedly plotting the graph Y = X XOR T for successive values of T —- see {HAKMEM} items 146—148) to produce an impressive display of moving and growing squares that devour the screen. The initial value of T is treated as a parameter, which, when well-chosen, can produce amazing effects. Some of these, later (re)discovered on the LISP machine, have been christened 'munching triangles' (try AND for XOR and toggling points instead of plotting them), 'munching w's', and 'munching mazes'. More generally, suppose a graphics program produces an impressive and ever-changing display of some basic form, foo, on a display terminal, and does it using a relatively simple program; then the program (or the resulting display) is likely to be referred to as 'munching foos'. [This is a good example of the use of the word {foo} as a {metasyntactic variable}.]

:munchkin: /muhnch'kin/ [from the squeaky-voiced little people in L. Frank Baum's 'The Wizard of Oz'] n. A teenage-or-younger micro enthusiast hacking BASIC or something else equally constricted. A term of mild derision —- munchkins are annoying but some grow up to be hackers after passing through a {larval stage}. The term {urchin} is also used. See also {wannabee}, {bitty box}.

:mundane: [from SF fandom] n. 1. A person who is not in science fiction fandom. 2. A person who is not in the computer industry. In this sense, most often an adjectival modifier as in "in my mundane life...." See also {Real World}.

:mung: /muhng/ alt. 'munge' /muhnj/ [in 1960 at MIT, 'Mash Until No Good'; sometime after that the derivation from the {{recursive acronym}} 'Mung Until No Good' became standard] vt. 1. To make changes to a file, esp. large-scale and irrevocable changes. See {BLT}. 2. To destroy, usually accidentally, occasionally maliciously. The system only mungs things maliciously; this is a consequence of {Finagle's Law}. See {scribble}, {mangle}, {trash}, {nuke}. Reports from {USENET} suggest that the pronunciation /muhnj/ is now usual in speech, but the spelling 'mung' is still common in program comments (compare the widespread confusion over the proper spelling of {kluge}). 3. The kind of beans of which the sprouts are used in Chinese food. (That's their real name! Mung beans! Really!)

Like many early hacker terms, this one seems to have originated at {TMRC}; it was already in use there in 1958. Peter Samson (compiler of the TMRC lexicon) thinks it may originally have been onomatopoeic for the sound of a relay spring (contact) being twanged.

:Murphy's Law: prov. The correct, *original* Murphy's Law reads: "If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it." This is a principle of defensive design, cited here because it is usually given in mutant forms less descriptive of the challenges of design for lusers. For example, you don't make a two-pin plug symmetrical and then label it 'THIS WAY UP'; if it matters which way it is plugged in, then you make the design asymmetrical (see also the anecdote under {magic smoke}).

Edward A. Murphy, Jr. was one of the engineers on the rocket-sled experiments that were done by the U.S. Air Force in 1949 to test human acceleration tolerances (USAF project MX981). One experiment involved a set of 16 accelerometers mounted to different parts of the subject's body. There were two ways each sensor could be glued to its mount, and somebody methodically installed all 16 the wrong way around. Murphy then made the original form of his pronouncement, which the test subject (Major John Paul Stapp) quoted at a news conference a few days later.

Within months 'Murphy's Law' had spread to various technical cultures connected to aerospace engineering. Before too many years had gone by variants had passed into the popular imagination, changing as they went. Most of these are variants on "Anything that can go wrong, will"; this is sometimes referred to as {Finagle's Law}. The memetic drift apparent in these mutants clearly demonstrates Murphy's Law acting on itself!

:music:: n. A common extracurricular interest of hackers (compare {{science-fiction fandom}}, {{oriental food}}; see also {filk}). Hackish folklore has long claimed that musical and programming abilities are closely related, and there has been at least one large-scale statistical study that supports this. Hackers, as a rule, like music and often develop musical appreciation in unusual and interesting directions. Folk music is very big in hacker circles; so is electronic music, and the sort of elaborate instrumental jazz/rock that used to be called 'progressive' and isn't recorded much any more. The hacker's musical range tends to be wide; many can listen with equal appreciation to (say) Talking Heads, Yes, Gentle Giant, Spirogyra, Scott Joplin, Tangerine Dream, King Sunny Ade, The Pretenders, or Bach's Brandenburg Concerti. It is also apparently true that hackerdom includes a much higher concentration of talented amateur musicians than one would expect from a similar-sized control group of {mundane} types.

:mutter: vt. To quietly enter a command not meant for the ears, eyes, or fingers of ordinary mortals. Often used in 'mutter an {incantation}'. See also {wizard}.

= N = =====

:N: /N/ quant. 1. A large and indeterminate number of objects: "There were N bugs in that crock!" Also used in its original sense of a variable name: "This crock has N bugs, as N goes to infinity." (The true number of bugs is always at least N + 1.) 2. A variable whose value is inherited from the current context. For example, when a meal is being ordered at a restaurant, N may be understood to mean however many people there are at the table. From the remark "We'd like to order N wonton soups and a family dinner for N - 1" you can deduce that one person at the table wants to eat only soup, even though you don't know how many people there are (see {great-wall}). 3. 'Nth': adj. The ordinal counterpart of N, senses 1 and 2. "Now for the Nth and last time..." In the specific context "Nth-year grad student", N is generally assumed to be at least 4, and is usually 5 or more (see {tenured graduate student}). See also {{random numbers}}, {two-to-the-N}.

:nadger: /nad'jr/ [Great Britain] v. Of software or hardware (not people), to twiddle some object in a hidden manner, generally so that it conforms better to some format. For instance, string printing routines on 8-bit processors often take the string text from the instruction stream, thus a print call looks like 'jsr print:"Hello world"'. The print routine has to 'nadger' the return instruction pointer so that the processor doesn't try to execute the text as instructions.

:nailed to the wall: [like a trophy] adj. Said of a bug finally eliminated after protracted, and even heroic, effort.

:nailing jelly: vi. See {like nailing jelly to a tree}.

:na"ive: adj. Untutored in the perversities of some particular program or system; one who still tries to do things in an intuitive way, rather than the right way (in really good designs these coincide, but most designs aren't 'really good' in the appropriate sense). This is completely unrelated to general maturity or competence, or even competence at any other specific program. It is a sad commentary on the primitive state of computing that the natural opposite of this term is often claimed to be 'experienced user' but is really more like 'cynical user'.

:na"ive user: n. A {luser}. Tends to imply someone who is ignorant mainly owing to inexperience. When this is applied to someone who *has* experience, there is a definite implication of stupidity.

:NAK: /nak/ [from the ASCII mnemonic for 0010101] interj. 1. On-line joke answer to {ACK}?: "I'm not here." 2. On-line answer to a request for chat: "I'm not available." 3. Used to politely interrupt someone to tell them you don't understand their point or that they have suddenly stopped making sense. See {ACK}, sense 3. "And then, after we recode the project in COBOL...." "Nak, Nak, Nak! I thought I heard you say COBOL!"

:nano: /nan'oh/ [CMU: from 'nanosecond'] n. A brief period of time. "Be with you in a nano" means you really will be free shortly, i.e., implies what mainstream people mean by "in a jiffy" (whereas the hackish use of 'jiffy' is quite different —- see {jiffy}).

:nano-: [SI: the next quantifier below {micro-}; meaning * 10^(-9)] pref. Smaller than {micro-}, and used in the same rather loose and connotative way. Thus, one has {{nanotechnology}} (coined by hacker K. Eric Drexler) by analogy with 'microtechnology'; and a few machine architectures have a 'nanocode' level below 'microcode'. Tom Duff at Bell Labs has also pointed out that "Pi seconds is a nanocentury". See also {{quantifiers}}, {pico-}, {nanoacre}, {nanobot}, {nanocomputer}, {nanofortnight}.

:nanoacre: /nan'oh-ay'kr/ n. A unit (about 2 mm square) of real estate on a VLSI chip. The term gets its giggle value from the fact that VLSI nanoacres have costs in the same range as real acres once one figures in design and fabrication-setup costs.

:nanobot: /nan'oh-bot/ n. A robot of microscopic proportions, presumably built by means of {{nanotechnology}}. As yet, only used informally (and speculatively!). Also called a 'nanoagent'.

:nanocomputer: /nan'oh-k*m-pyoo'tr/ n. A computer whose switching elements are molecular in size. Designs for mechanical nanocomputers which use single-molecule sliding rods for their logic have been proposed. The controller for a {nanobot} would be a nanocomputer.

:nanofortnight: [Adelaide University] n. 1 fortnight * 10^-9, or about 1.2 msec. This unit was used largely by students doing undergraduate practicals. See {microfortnight}, {attoparsec}, and {micro-}.

:nanotechnology:: /nan'-oh-tek-no'l*-jee/ n. A hypothetical fabrication technology in which objects are designed and built with the individual specification and placement of each separate atom. The first unequivocal nanofabrication experiments are taking place now (1990), for example with the deposition of individual xenon atoms on a nickel substrate to spell the logo of a certain very large computer company. Nanotechnology has been a hot topic in the hacker subculture ever since the term was coined by K. Eric Drexler in his book 'Engines of Creation', where he predicted that nanotechnology could give rise to replicating assemblers, permitting an exponential growth of productivity and personal wealth. See also {blue goo}, {gray goo}, {nanobot}.

:nasal demons: n. During a discussion on the USENET group comp.std.c in early 1992, a regular remarked "When the compiler encounters [a given undefined construct] it is legal for it to make demons fly out of your nose" (the implication is that it may choose any arbitrarily bizarre way to interpret the code without violating the ANSI C standard). Someone else followed up with a reference to "nasal demons", which became recognized shorthand on that group for any unexpected behaviour of a C compiler on encountering an undefined construct.

:nastygram: /nas'tee-gram/ n. 1. A protocol packet or item of email (the latter is also called a {letterbomb}) that takes advantage of misfeatures or security holes on the target system to do untoward things. 2. Disapproving mail, esp. from a {net.god}, pursuant to a violation of {netiquette} or a complaint about failure to correct some mail- or news-transmission problem. Compare {shitogram}. 3. A status report from an unhappy, and probably picky, customer. "What'd Corporate say in today's nastygram?" 4. [deprecated] An error reply by mail from a {daemon}; in particular, a {bounce message}.

:Nathan Hale: n. An asterisk (see also {splat}, {{ASCII}}). Oh, you want an etymology? Notionally, from "I regret that I have only one asterisk for my country!", a misquote of the famous remark uttered by Nathan Hale just before he was hanged. Hale was a (failed) spy for the rebels in the American War of Independence.

:nature: n. See {has the X nature}.

:neat hack: n. 1. A clever technique. 2. A brilliant practical joke, where neatness is correlated with cleverness, harmlessness, and surprise value. Example: the Caltech Rose Bowl card display switch (see "{The Meaning of 'Hack'}", appendix A). See also {hack}.

:neats vs. scruffies: n. The label used to refer to one of the continuing {holy wars} in AI research. This conflict tangles together two separate issues. One is the relationship between human reasoning and AI; 'neats' tend to try to build systems that 'reason' in some way identifiably similar to the way humans report themselves as doing, while 'scruffies' profess not to care whether an algorithm resembles human reasoning in the least as long as it works. More importantly, 'neats' tend to believe that logic is king, while 'scruffies' favor looser, more ad-hoc methods driven by empirical knowledge. To a 'neat', 'scruffy' methods appear promiscuous and successful only by accident; to a 'scruffy', 'neat' methods appear to be hung up on formalism and irrelevant to the hard-to-capture 'common sense' of living intelligences.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12     Next Part
Home - Random Browse