Part 10 out of 11

as silly as running UNIX on your toaster!" 2. A very, very dumb
computer. "You could run this program on any dumb toaster." See
{bitty box}, {Get a real computer!}, {toy}, {beige toaster}.
3. A Macintosh, esp. the Classic Mac. Some hold that this is
implied by sense 2. 4. A peripheral device. "I bought my box
without toasters, but since then I've added two boards and a second
disk drive."

:toeprint: n. A {footprint} of especially small size.

:toggle: vt. To change a {bit} from whatever state it is in to the
other state; to change from 1 to 0 or from 0 to 1. This comes from
`toggle switches', such as standard light switches, though the
word `toggle' actually refers to the mechanism that keeps the
switch in the position to which it is flipped rather than to the
fact that the switch has two positions. There are four things you
can do to a bit: set it (force it to be 1), clear (or zero) it,
leave it alone, or toggle it. (Mathematically, one would say that
there are four distinct boolean-valued functions of one boolean
argument, but saying that is much less fun than talking about
toggling bits.)

:tool: 1. n. A program used primarily to create, manipulate, modify,
or analyze other programs, such as a compiler or an editor or a
cross-referencing program. Oppose {app}, {operating system}.
2. [UNIX] An application program with a simple, `transparent'
(typically text-stream) interface designed specifically to be used
in programmed combination with other tools (see {filter}).
3. [MIT: general to students there] vi. To work; to study (connotes
tedium). The TMRC Dictionary defined this as "to set one's brain
to the grindstone". See {hack}. 4. [MIT] n. A student who
studies too much and hacks too little. (MIT's student humor
magazine rejoices in the name `Tool and Die'.)

:toolsmith: n. The software equivalent of a tool-and-die
specialist; one who specializes in making the {tool}s with which
other programmers create applications. Many hackers consider this
more fun than applications per se; to understand why, see
{uninteresting}. Jon Bentley, in the "Bumper-Sticker Computer
Science" chapter of his book `More Programming Pearls', quotes Dick
Sites from DEC as saying "I'd rather write programs to write programs
than write programs".

:topic drift: n. Term used on GEnie, USENET and other electronic
fora to describe the tendency of a {thread} to drift away from
the original subject of discussion (and thus, from the Subject
header of the originating message), or the results of that
tendency. Often used in gentle reminders that the discussion has
strayed off any useful track. "I think we started with a question
about Niven's last book, but we've ended up discussing the sexual
habits of the common marmoset. Now *that's* topic drift!"

:topic group: n. Syn. {forum}.

:TOPS-10:: /tops-ten/ n. DEC's proprietary OS for the fabled {PDP-10}
machines, long a favorite of hackers but now effectively extinct.
A fountain of hacker folklore; see {appendix A}. See also {{ITS}},
{{TOPS-20}}, {{TWENEX}}, {VMS}, {operating system}. TOPS-10 was
sometimes called BOTS-10 (from `bottoms-ten') as a comment on the
inappropriateness of describing it as the top of anything.

:TOPS-20:: /tops-twen'tee/ n. See {{TWENEX}}.

:toto: /toh'toh/ n. This is reported to be the default scratch
file name among French-speaking programmers --- in other words, a
francophone {foo}. It is reported that the phonetic mutations
"titi", "tata", and "tutu" canonically follow `toto',
analogously to {bar}, {baz} and {quux} in English.

:tourist: [ITS] n. A guest on the system, especially one who
generally logs in over a network from a remote location for {comm
mode}, email, games, and other trivial purposes. One step below
{luser}. Hackers often spell this {turist}, perhaps by
some sort of tenuous analogy with {luser} (this also expresses the
ITS culture's penchant for six-letterisms). Compare {twink},
{read-only user}.

:tourist information: n. Information in an on-line display that is
not immediately useful, but contributes to a viewer's gestalt of
what's going on with the software or hardware behind it. Whether a
given piece of info falls in this category depends partly on what
the user is looking for at any given time. The `bytes free'
information at the bottom of an MS-DOS `dir' display is
tourist information; so (most of the time) is the TIME information
in a UNIX `ps(1)' display.

:touristic: adj. Having the quality of a {tourist}. Often used
as a pejorative, as in `losing touristic scum'. Often spelled
`turistic' or `turistik', so that phrase might be more properly
rendered `lusing turistic scum'.

:toy: n. A computer system; always used with qualifiers.
1. `nice toy': One that supports the speaker's hacking style
adequately. 2. `just a toy': A machine that yields
insufficient {computron}s for the speaker's preferred uses. This
is not condemnatory, as is {bitty box}; toys can at least be fun.
It is also strongly conditioned by one's expectations; Cray XMP
users sometimes consider the Cray-1 a `toy', and certainly all RISC
boxes and mainframes are toys by their standards. See also {Get
a real computer!}.

:toy language: n. A language useful for instructional purposes or
as a proof-of-concept for some aspect of computer-science theory,
but inadequate for general-purpose programming. {Bad Thing}s
can result when a toy language is promoted as a general purpose
solution for programming (see {bondage-and-discipline
language}); the classic example is {{Pascal}}. Several moderately
well-known formalisms for conceptual tasks such as programming Turing
machines also qualify as toy languages in a less negative sense.
See also {MFTL}.

:toy problem: [AI] n. A deliberately oversimplified case of a
challenging problem used to investigate, prototype, or test
algorithms for a real problem. Sometimes used pejoratively. See
also {gedanken}, {toy program}.

:toy program: n. 1. One that can be readily comprehended; hence, a
trivial program (compare {noddy}). 2. One for which the effort
of initial coding dominates the costs through its life cycle.
See also {noddy}.

:trampoline: n. An incredibly {hairy} technique, found in some
{HLL} and program-overlay implementations (e.g., on the
Macintosh), that involves on-the-fly generation of small executable
(and, likely as not, self-modifying) code objects to do indirection
between code sections. These pieces of {live data} are called
`trampolines'. Trampolines are notoriously difficult to understand
in action; in fact, it is said by those who use this term that the
trampoline that doesn't bend your brain is not the true
trampoline. See also {snap}.

:trap: 1. n. A program interrupt, usually an interrupt caused by
some exceptional situation in the user program. In most cases, the
OS performs some action, then returns control to the program.
2. vi. To cause a trap. "These instructions trap to the
monitor." Also used transitively to indicate the cause of the
trap. "The monitor traps all input/output instructions."

This term is associated with assembler programming (`interrupt'
or `exception' is more common among {HLL} programmers) and
appears to be fading into history among programmers as the role of
assembler continues to shrink. However, it is still important to
computer architects and systems hackers (see {system},
sense 1), who use it to distinguish deterministically repeatable
exceptions from timing-dependent ones (such as I/O interrupts).

:trap door: alt. `trapdoor' n. 1. Syn. {back door} --- a
{Bad Thing}. 2. [techspeak] A `trap-door function' is one
which is easy to compute but very difficult to compute the inverse
of. Such functions are {Good Thing}s with important
applications in cryptography, specifically in the construction of
public-key cryptosystems.

:trash: vt. To destroy the contents of (said of a data structure).
The most common of the family of near-synonyms including {mung},
{mangle}, and {scribble}.

:trawl: v. To sift through large volumes of data (e.g. USENET
postings or FTP archives) looking for something of interest.

:tree-killer: [Sun] n. 1. A printer. 2. A person who wastes paper.
This should be interpreted in a broad sense; `wasting paper'
includes the production of {spiffy} but {content-free}
documents. Thus, most {suit}s are tree-killers. The negative
loading of this term may reflect the epithet `tree-killer'
applied by Treebeard the Ent to the Orcs in J.R.R. Tolkien's
`Lord of the Rings' trilogy (see also {elvish}, {elder

:trit: /trit/ [by analogy with `bit'] n. One base-3 digit; the
amount of information conveyed by a selection among one of three
equally likely outcomes (see also {bit}). These arise, for
example, in the context of a {flag} that should actually be able
to assume *three* values --- such as yes, no, or unknown. Trits are
sometimes jokingly called `3-state bits'. A trit may be
semi-seriously referred to as `a bit and a half', although it is
linearly equivalent to 1.5849625 bits (that is,

:trivial: adj. 1. Too simple to bother detailing. 2. Not worth the
speaker's time. 3. Complex, but solvable by methods so well known
that anyone not utterly {cretinous} would have thought of them
already. 4. Any problem one has already solved (some claim that
hackish `trivial' usually evaluates to `I've seen it before').
Hackers' notions of triviality may be quite at variance with those
of non-hackers. See {nontrivial}, {uninteresting}.

:troff: /tee'rof/ or /trof/ [UNIX] n. The gray eminence of UNIX
text processing; a formatting and phototypesetting program, written
originally in PDP-11 assembler and then in barely-structured early
C by the late Joseph Ossana, modeled after the earlier ROFF which
was in turn modeled after Multics' RUNOFF. A companion program,
`nroff', formats output for terminals and line printers.

In 1979, Brian Kernighan modified TROFF so that it could drive
phototypesetters other than the Graphic Systems CAT. His paper
describing that work ("A Typesetter-independent TROFF," AT&T CSTR
#97) explains `troff''s durability. After discussing the
program's "obvious deficiencies --- a rebarbative input syntax,
mysterious and undocumented properties in some areas, and a
voracious appetite for computer resources" and noting the ugliness
and extreme hairiness of the code and internals, Kernighan

None of these remarks should be taken as denigrating
Ossana's accomplishment with TROFF. It has proven a
remarkably robust tool, taking unbelievable abuse from a
variety of preprocessors and being forced into uses that
were never conceived of in the original design, all with
considerable grace under fire.

The success of TeX and desktop publishing systems have reduced
`troff''s relative importance, but this tribute perfectly
captures the strengths that secured `troff' a place in hacker
folklore; indeed, it could be taken more generally as an indication
of those qualities of good programs which, in the long run, hackers
most admire.

:troglodyte: [Commodore] n. 1. A hacker who never leaves his
cubicle. The term `Gnoll' (from Dungeons & Dragons) is also
reported. 2. A curmudgeon attached to an obsolescent computing
environment. The combination `ITS troglodyte' was flung around
some during the USENET and email wringle-wrangle attending the
2.x.x revision of the Jargon File; at least one of the people it
was intended to describe adopted it with pride.

:troglodyte mode: [Rice University] n. Programming with the lights
turned off, sunglasses on, and the terminal inverted (black on
white) because you've been up for so many days straight that your
eyes hurt (see {raster burn}). Loud music blaring from a stereo
stacked in the corner is optional but recommended. See {larval
stage}, {hack mode}.

:Trojan horse: [coined by MIT-hacker-turned-NSA-spook Dan Edwards]
n. A program designed to break security or damage a system that is
disguised as something else benign, such as a directory lister,
archiver, a game, or (in one notorious 1990 case on the Mac) a
program to find and destroy viruses! See {back door}, {virus},

:tron: [NRL, CMU; prob. fr. the movie `Tron'] v. To become
inaccessible except via email or `talk(1)', especially when
one is normally available via telephone or in person. Frequently
used in the past tense, as in: "Ran seems to have tronned on us
this week" or "Gee, Ran, glad you were able to un-tron
yourself". One may also speak of `tron mode'.

:true-hacker: [analogy with `trufan' from SF fandom] n. One who
exemplifies the primary values of hacker culture, esp. competence
and helpfulness to other hackers. A high compliment. "He spent
6 hours helping me bring up UUCP and netnews on my FOOBAR 4000
last week --- manifestly the act of a true-hacker." Compare
{demigod}, oppose {munchkin}.

:tty: /T-T-Y/ [UNIX], /tit'ee/ [ITS, but some UNIX people say it
this way as well; this pronunciation is not considered to have
sexual undertones] n. 1. A terminal of the teletype variety,
characterized by a noisy mechanical printer, a very limited
character set, and poor print quality. Usage: antiquated (like the
TTYs themselves). See also {bit-paired keyboard}.
2. [especially UNIX] Any terminal at all; sometimes used to refer
to the particular terminal controlling a given job. 3. [UNIX] Any
serial port, whether or not the device connected to it is a
terminal; so called because under UNIX such devices have names of
the form tty*. Ambiguity between senses 2 and 3 is common but
seldom bothersome.

:tube: 1. n. A CRT terminal. Never used in the mainstream sense of
TV; real hackers don't watch TV, except for Loony Toons, Rocky &
Bullwinkle, Trek Classic, the Simpsons, and the occasional cheesy
old swashbuckler movie (see {appendix B}). 2. [IBM] To send
a copy of something to someone else's terminal. "Tube me that

:tube time: n. Time spent at a terminal or console. More inclusive
than hacking time; commonly used in discussions of what parts of
one's environment one uses most heavily. "I find I'm spending too
much of my tube time reading mail since I started this revision."

:tunafish: n. In hackish lore, refers to the mutated punchline of
an age-old joke to be found at the bottom of the manual pages of
`tunefs(8)' in the original {BSD} 4.2 distribution. The
joke was removed in later releases once commercial sites started
using 4.2. Tunefs relates to the `tuning' of file-system
parameters for optimum performance, and at the bottom of a few
pages of wizardly inscriptions was a `BUGS' section consisting of
the line "You can tune a file system, but you can't tunafish".
Variants of this can be seen in other BSD versions, though it has
been excised from some versions by humorless management
{droid}s. The [nt]roff source for SunOS 4.1.1 contains a
comment apparently designed to prevent this: "Take this out and a
Unix Demon will dog your steps from now until the `time_t''s
wrap around."

:tune: [from automotive or musical usage] vt. To optimize a program
or system for a particular environment, esp. by adjusting numerical
parameters designed as {hook}s for tuning, e.g., by changing
`#define' lines in C. One may `tune for time' (fastest
execution), `tune for space' (least memory use), or
`tune for configuration' (most efficient use of hardware). See
{bum}, {hot spot}, {hand-hacking}.

:turbo nerd: n. See {computer geek}.

:Turing tar-pit: n. 1. A place where anything is possible but
nothing of interest is practical. Alan Turing helped lay the
foundations of computer science by showing that all machines and
languages capable of expressing a certain very primitive set of
operations are logically equivalent in the kinds of computations
they can carry out, and in principle have capabilities that differ
only in speed from those of the most powerful and
elegantly-designed computers. However, no machine or language
exactly matching Turing's primitive set has ever been built (other
than possibly as a classroom exercise), because it would be
horribly slow and far too painful to use. A `Turing tar-pit' is
any computer language or other tool which shares this property.
That is, it's theoretically universal --- but in practice, the
harder you struggle to get any real work done, the deeper its
inadequacies suck you in. Compare {bondage-and-discipline
language}. 2. The perennial {holy wars} over whether language A
or B is the "most powerful".

:turist: /too'rist/ n. Var. sp. of {tourist}, q.v. Also in
adjectival form, `turistic'. Poss. influenced by {luser} and

:tweak: vt. 1. To change slightly, usually in reference to a value.
Also used synonymously with {twiddle}. If a program is almost
correct, rather than figure out the precise problem you might
just keep tweaking it until it works. See {frobnicate} and
{fudge factor}; also see {shotgun debugging}. 2. To {tune}
or {bum} a program; preferred usage in the U.K.

:tweeter: [University of Waterloo] n. Syn. {perf}, {chad}
(sense 1). This term (like {woofer}) has been in use at
Waterloo since 1972, but is elsewhere unknown. In audio jargon, the word
refers to the treble speaker(s) on a hi-fi.

:TWENEX:: /twe'neks/ n. The TOPS-20 operating system by DEC ---
the second proprietary OS for the PDP-10 --- preferred by most
PDP-10 hackers over TOPS-10 (that is, by those who were not
{{ITS}} or {{WAITS}} partisans). TOPS-20 began in 1969 as Bolt,
Beranek & Newman's TENEX operating system using special paging
hardware. By the early 1970s, almost all of the systems on the
ARPANET ran TENEX. DEC purchased the rights to TENEX from BBN and
began work to make it their own. The first in-house code name for
the operating system was VIROS (VIRtual memory Operating System);
when customers started asking questions, the name was changed to
SNARK so DEC could truthfully deny that there was any project
called VIROS. When the name SNARK became known, the name was
briefly reversed to become KRANS; this was quickly abandoned when
it was discovered that `krans' meant `funeral wreath' in
Swedish. Ultimately DEC picked TOPS-20 as the name of the
operating system, and it was as TOPS-20 that it was marketed. The
hacker community, mindful of its origins, quickly dubbed it
{{TWENEX}} (a contraction of `twenty TENEX'), even though by this
point very little of the original TENEX code remained (analogously
to the differences between AT&T V6 UNIX and BSD). DEC people
cringed when they heard "TWENEX", but the term caught on
nevertheless (the written abbreviation `20x' was also used).
TWENEX was successful and very popular; in fact, there was a period
in the early 1980s when it commanded as fervent a culture of
partisans as UNIX or ITS --- but DEC's decision to scrap all the
internal rivals to the VAX architecture and its relatively stodgy
VMS OS killed the DEC-20 and put a sad end to TWENEX's brief day in
the sun. DEC attempted to convince TOPS-20 hackers to convert to
{VMS}, but instead, by the late 1980s, most of the TOPS-20
hackers had migrated to UNIX.

:twiddle: n. 1. Tilde (ASCII 1111110, `~'). Also
called `squiggle', `sqiggle' (sic --- pronounced /skig'l/),
and `twaddle', but twiddle is the most common term. 2. A small
and insignificant change to a program. Usually fixes one bug and
generates several new ones. 3. vt. To change something in a small
way. Bits, for example, are often twiddled. Twiddling a switch or
knob implies much less sense of purpose than toggling or tweaking
it; see {frobnicate}. To speak of twiddling a bit connotes
aimlessness, and at best doesn't specify what you're doing to the
bit; `toggling a bit' has a more specific meaning (see {bit
twiddling}, {toggle}).

:twilight zone: [IRC] n. Notionally, the area of cyberspace where {IRC}
operators live. An {op} is said to have a "connection to the
twilight zone".

:twink: /twink/ [UCSC] n. Equivalent to {read-only user}.
Also reported on the USENET group soc.motss; may derive from
gay slang for a cute young thing with nothing upstairs (compare
mainstream `chick').

:two pi: quant. The number of years it takes to finish one's
thesis. Occurs in stories in the following form: "He started on
his thesis; 2 pi years later..."

:two-to-the-N: quant. An amount much larger than {N} but smaller
than {infinity}. "I have 2-to-the-N things to do before I can
go out for lunch" means you probably won't show up.

:twonkie: /twon'kee/ n. The software equivalent of a Twinkie (a
variety of sugar-loaded junk food, or (in gay slang) the male
equivalent of `chick'); a useless `feature' added to look sexy
and placate a {marketroid} (compare {Saturday-night
special}). This may also be related to "The Twonky", title menace
of a classic SF short story by Lewis Padgett (Henry Kuttner and
C. L. Moore), first published in the September 1942
`Astounding Science Fiction' and subsequently much

= U =

:UBD: /U-B-D/ [abbreviation for `User Brain Damage'] An
abbreviation used to close out trouble reports obviously due to
utter cluelessness on the user's part. Compare {pilot error};
oppose {PBD}; see also {brain-damaged}.

:UN*X: n. Used to refer to the UNIX operating system (a trademark of
AT&T) in writing, but avoiding the need for the ugly
{(TM)} typography.
Also used to refer to any or all varieties of Unixoid operating
systems. Ironically, lawyers now say (1990) that the requirement
for the TM-postfix has no legal force, but the asterisk usage
is entrenched anyhow. It has been suggested that there may be a
psychological connection to practice in certain religions
(especially Judaism) in which the name of the deity is never
written out in full, e.g., `YHWH' or `G--d' is used. See also

:undefined external reference: excl. [UNIX] A message from UNIX's
linker. Used in speech to flag loose ends or dangling references
in an argument or discussion.

:under the hood: prep. [hot-rodder talk] 1. Used to introduce the
underlying implementation of a product (hardware, software, or
idea). Implies that the implementation is not intuitively obvious
from the appearance, but the speaker is about to enable the
listener to {grok} it. "Let's now look under the hood to see
how ...." 2. Can also imply that the implementation is much
simpler than the appearance would indicate: "Under the hood, we
are just fork/execing the shell." 3. Inside a chassis, as in
"Under the hood, this baby has a 40MHz 68030!"

:undocumented feature: n. See {feature}.

:uninteresting: adj. 1. Said of a problem that, although
{nontrivial}, can be solved simply by throwing sufficient
resources at it. 2. Also said of problems for which a solution
would neither advance the state of the art nor be fun to design and

Hackers regard uninteresting problems as intolerable wastes of
time, to be solved (if at all) by lesser mortals. *Real*
hackers (see {toolsmith}) generalize uninteresting problems
enough to make them interesting and solve them --- thus solving the
original problem as a special case (and, it must be admitted,
occasionally turning a molehill into a mountain, or a mountain into
a tectonic plate). See {WOMBAT}, {SMOP}; compare {toy
problem}, oppose {interesting}.

:UNIX:: /yoo'niks/ [In the authors' words, "A weak pun on
Multics"] n. (also `Unix') An interactive time-sharing system
originally invented in 1969 by Ken Thompson after Bell Labs left
the Multics project, originally so he could play games on his
scavenged PDP-7. Dennis Ritchie, the inventor of C, is considered
a co-author of the system. The turning point in UNIX's history
came when it was reimplemented almost entirely in C during
1972--1974, making it the first source-portable OS. UNIX
subsequently underwent mutations and expansions at the hands of
many different people, resulting in a uniquely flexible and
developer-friendly environment. In 1991, UNIX is the most widely
used multiuser general-purpose operating system in the world. Many
people consider this the most important victory yet of hackerdom
over industry opposition (but see {UNIX weenie} and {UNIX
conspiracy} for an opposing point of view). See {Version 7},

:UNIX brain damage: n. Something that has to be done to break a
network program (typically a mailer) on a non-UNIX system so that
it will interoperate with UNIX systems. The hack may qualify as
`UNIX brain damage' if the program conforms to published standards
and the UNIX program in question does not. UNIX brain damage
happens because it is much easier for other (minority) systems to
change their ways to match non-conforming behavior than it is to
change all the hundreds of thousands of UNIX systems out there.

An example of UNIX brain damage is a {kluge} in a mail server to
recognize bare line feed (the UNIX newline) as an equivalent form
to the Internet standard newline, which is a carriage return
followed by a line feed. Such things can make even a hardened
{jock} weep.

:UNIX conspiracy: [ITS] n. According to a conspiracy theory long
popular among {{ITS}} and {{TOPS-20}} fans, UNIX's growth is the
result of a plot, hatched during the 1970s at Bell Labs, whose
intent was to hobble AT&T's competitors by making them dependent
upon a system whose future evolution was to be under AT&T's
control. This would be accomplished by disseminating an operating
system that is apparently inexpensive and easily portable, but also
relatively unreliable and insecure (so as to require continuing
upgrades from AT&T). This theory was lent a substantial impetus
in 1984 by the paper referenced in the {back door} entry.

In this view, UNIX was designed to be one of the first computer
viruses (see {virus}) --- but a virus spread to computers indirectly
by people and market forces, rather than directly through disks and
networks. Adherents of this `UNIX virus' theory like to cite the
fact that the well-known quotation "UNIX is snake oil" was
uttered by DEC president Kenneth Olsen shortly before DEC began
actively promoting its own family of UNIX workstations. (Olsen now
claims to have been misquoted.)

:UNIX weenie: [ITS] n. 1. A derogatory play on `UNIX wizard', common
among hackers who use UNIX by necessity but would prefer
alternatives. The implication is that although the person in question
may consider mastery of UNIX arcana to be a wizardly skill, the
only real skill involved is the ability to tolerate (and the bad
taste to wallow in) the incoherence and needless complexity that is
alleged to infest many UNIX programs. "This shell script tries to
parse its arguments in 69 bletcherous ways. It must have been
written by a real UNIX weenie." 2. A derogatory term for anyone
who engages in uncritical praise of UNIX. Often appearing in the
context "stupid UNIX weenie". See {Weenix}, {UNIX
conspiracy}. See also {weenie}.

:unixism: n. A piece of code or a coding technique that depends on the
protected multi-tasking environment with relatively low
process-spawn overhead that exists on virtual-memory UNIX systems.
Common {unixism}s include: gratuitous use of `fork(2)'; the
assumption that certain undocumented but well-known features of
UNIX libraries such as `stdio(3)' are supported elsewhere;
reliance on {obscure} side-effects of system calls (use of
`sleep(2)' with a 0 argument to clue the scheduler that
you're willing to give up your time-slice, for example); the
assumption that freshly allocated memory is zeroed; and the assumption
that fragmentation problems won't arise from never `free()'ing
memory. Compare {vaxocentrism}; see also {New Jersey}.

:unleaded: adj. Said of decaffeinated coffee, diet coke, and other
imitation {programming fluid}s. "Do you want regular or
unleaded?". Appears to be widespread among programmers associated
with the oil industry in Texas (and probably elsewhere). Usage:
silly, and probably unintelligable to the next generation of

:unroll: v. To repeat the body of a loop several times in succession.
This optimization technique reduces the number of times the
loop-termination test has to be executed. But it only works if
the number of iterations desired is a multiple of the number of
repetitions of the body. Something has to be done to take care
of any leftover iterations --- such as {Duff's device}.

:unswizzle: v. See {swizzle}.

:unwind the stack: vi. 1. [techspeak] During the execution of a
procedural language, one is said to `unwind the stack' from a
called procedure up to a caller when one discards the stack frame
and any number of frames above it, popping back up to the level of
the given caller. In C this is done with
`longjmp'/`setjmp', in LISP with `throw/catch'.
See also {smash the stack}. 2. People can unwind the stack as
well, by quickly dealing with a bunch of problems: "Oh heck, let's
do lunch. Just a second while I unwind my stack."

:unwind-protect: [MIT: from the name of a LISP operator] n. A task you
must remember to perform before you leave a place or finish a
project. "I have an unwind-protect to call my advisor."

:up: adj. 1. Working, in order. "The down escalator is up."
Oppose {down}. 2. `bring up': vt. To create a working
version and start it. "They brought up a down system."
3. `come up' vi. To become ready for production use.

:upload: /uhp'lohd/ v. 1. [techspeak] To transfer programs or data
over a digital communications link from a smaller or peripheral
`client' system to a larger or central `host' one. A transfer in
the other direction is, of course, called a {download} (but see
the note about ground-to-space comm under that entry).
2. [speculatively] To move the essential patterns and algorithms
that make up one's mind from one's brain into a computer. Only
those who are convinced that such patterns and algorithms capture
the complete essence of the self view this prospect with

:upthread: adv. Earlier in the discussion (see {thread}), i.e.,
`above'. "As Joe pointed out upthread, ..." See also

:urchin: n. See {munchkin}.

:USENET: /yoos'net/ or /yooz'net/ [from `Users' Network'] n.
A distributed {bboard} (bulletin board) system supported mainly
by UNIX machines. Originally implemented in 1979-1980 by Steve
Bellovin, Jim Ellis, Tom Truscott, and Steve Daniel at Duke
University, it has swiftly grown to become international in scope
and is now probably the largest decentralized information utility
in existence. As of early 1991, it hosts well over
700 {newsgroup}s and an average of 16 megabytes (the equivalent
of several thousand paper pages) of new technical articles, news,
discussion, chatter, and {flamage} every day.

:user: n. 1. Someone doing `real work' with the computer, using
it as a means rather than an end. Someone who pays to use a
computer. See {real user}. 2. A programmer who will believe
anything you tell him. One who asks silly questions. [GLS
observes: This is slightly unfair. It is true that users ask
questions (of necessity). Sometimes they are thoughtful or deep.
Very often they are annoying or downright stupid, apparently
because the user failed to think for two seconds or look in the
documentation before bothering the maintainer.] See {luser}.
3. Someone who uses a program from the outside, however skillfully,
without getting into the internals of the program. One who reports
bugs instead of just going ahead and fixing them.

The general theory behind this term is that there are two classes
of people who work with a program: there are implementors (hackers)
and {luser}s. The users are looked down on by hackers to some
extent because they don't understand the full ramifications of the
system in all its glory. (The few users who do are known as
`real winners'.) The term is a relative one: a skilled hacker
may be a user with respect to some program he himself does not
hack. A LISP hacker might be one who maintains LISP or one who
uses LISP (but with the skill of a hacker). A LISP user is one who
uses LISP, whether skillfully or not. Thus there is some overlap
between the two terms; the subtle distinctions must be resolved by

:user-friendly: adj. Programmer-hostile. Generally used by hackers in
a critical tone, to describe systems that hold the user's hand so
obsessively that they make it painful for the more experienced and
knowledgeable to get any work done. See {menuitis}, {drool-proof
paper}, {Macintrash}, {user-obsequious}.

:user-obsequious: adj. Emphatic form of {user-friendly}. Connotes
a system so verbose, inflexible, and determinedly simple-minded
that it is nearly unusable. "Design a system any fool can use and
only a fool will want to use it." See {WIMP environment},

:USG UNIX: /U-S-G yoo'niks/ n. Refers to AT&T UNIX
commercial versions after {Version 7}, especially System III and
System V releases 1, 2, and 3. So called because during most of
the life-span of those versions AT&T's support crew was called the
`UNIX Support Group'. See {BSD}, {{UNIX}}.

:UTSL: // [UNIX] n. On-line acronym for `Use the Source, Luke' (a
pun on Obi-Wan Kenobi's "Use the Force, Luke!" in `Star
Wars') --- analogous to {RTFM} but more polite. This is a
common way of suggesting that someone would be best off reading the
source code that supports whatever feature is causing confusion,
rather than making yet another futile pass through the manuals or
broadcasting questions that haven't attracted {wizard}s to
answer them. In theory, this is appropriately directed only at
associates of some outfit with a UNIX source license; in practice,
bootlegs of UNIX source code (made precisely for reference
purposes) are so ubiquitous that one may utter this at almost
anyone on the network without concern. In the near future
(this written in 1991) source licenses may become even less
important; after the recent release of the Mach 3.0 microkernel,
given the continuing efforts of the {GNU} project, and with the
4.4BSD release on the horizon, complete free source code for
UNIX-clone toolsets and kernels should soon be widely available.

:UUCPNET: n. The store-and-forward network consisting of all the
world's connected UNIX machines (and others running some clone of
the UUCP (UNIX-to-UNIX CoPy) software). Any machine reachable only
via a {bang path} is on UUCPNET. See {network address}.

= V =

:vadding: /vad'ing/ [from VAD, a permutation of ADV (i.e.,
{ADVENT}), used to avoid a particular {admin}'s continual
search-and-destroy sweeps for the game] n. A leisure-time activity
of certain hackers involving the covert exploration of the
`secret' parts of large buildings --- basements, roofs, freight
elevators, maintenance crawlways, steam tunnels, and the like. A
few go so far as to learn locksmithing in order to synthesize
vadding keys. The verb is `to vad' (compare {phreaking}; see
also {hack}, sense 9). This term dates from the late 1970s,
before which such activity was simply called `hacking'; the older
usage is still prevalent at MIT.

The most extreme and dangerous form of vadding is `elevator
rodeo', a.k.a. `elevator surfing', a sport played by wrasslin'
down a thousand-pound elevator car with a 3-foot piece of
string, and then exploiting this mastery in various stimulating
ways (such as elevator hopping, shaft exploration, rat-racing, and
the ever-popular drop experiments). Kids, don't try this at home!
See also {hobbit} (sense 2).

:vanilla: [from the default flavor of ice cream in the U.S.] adj.
Ordinary {flavor}, standard. When used of food, very often does
not mean that the food is flavored with vanilla extract! For
example, `vanilla wonton soup' means ordinary wonton soup, as
opposed to hot-and-sour wonton soup. Applied to hardware and
software, as in "Vanilla Version 7 UNIX can't run on a
vanilla 11/34." Also used to orthogonalize chip nomenclature; for
instance, a 74V00 means what TI calls a 7400, as distinct from
a 74LS00, etc. This word differs from {canonical} in that the
latter means `default', whereas vanilla simply means `ordinary'.
For example, when hackers go on a {great-wall}, hot-and-sour
wonton soup is the {canonical} wonton soup to get (because that
is what most of them usually order) even though it isn't the
vanilla wonton soup.

:vannevar: /van'*-var/ n. A bogus technological prediction or a
foredoomed engineering concept, esp. one that fails by implicitly
assuming that technologies develop linearly, incrementally, and in
isolation from one another when in fact the learning curve tends to
be highly nonlinear, revolutions are common, and competition is the
rule. The prototype was Vannevar Bush's prediction of
`electronic brains' the size of the Empire State Building with a
Niagara-Falls-equivalent cooling system for their tubes and relays,
made at a time when the semiconductor effect had already been
demonstrated. Other famous vannevars have included magnetic-bubble
memory, LISP machines, {videotex}, and a paper from the
late 1970s that computed a purported ultimate limit on areal
density for ICs that was in fact less than the routine densities of
5 years later.

:vaporware: /vay'pr-weir/ n. Products announced far in advance of
any release (which may or may not actually take place).

:var: /veir/ or /var/ n. Short for `variable'. Compare {arg},

:VAX: /vaks/ n. 1. [from Virtual Address eXtension] The most
successful minicomputer design in industry history, possibly
excepting its immediate ancestor, the PDP-11. Between its release
in 1978 and its eclipse by {killer micro}s after about 1986, the
VAX was probably the hacker's favorite machine of them all, esp.
after the 1982 release of 4.2 BSD UNIX (see {BSD}). Esp.
noted for its large, assembler-programmer-friendly instruction set
--- an asset that became a liability after the RISC revolution.
2. A major brand of vacuum cleaner in Britain. Cited here because
its alleged sales pitch, "Nothing sucks like a VAX!" became a
sort of battle-cry of RISC partisans. It is sometimes claimed that
this slogan was *not* actually used by the Vax vacuum-cleaner
people, but was actually that of a rival brand called Electrolux
(as in "Nothing sucks like..."); your editors have not yet
been able to verify either version of the legend. It is also
claimed that DEC actually entered a cross-licensing deal with the
vacuum-Vax people that allowed them to market VAX computers in the
U.K. in return for not challenging the vacuum cleaner trademark in
the U.S.

:VAXectomy: /vak-sek't*-mee/ [by analogy with `vasectomy'] n. A
VAX removal. DEC's Microvaxen, especially, are much slower than
newer RISC-based workstations such as the SPARC. Thus, if one knows
one has a replacement coming, VAX removal can be cause for

:VAXen: /vak'sn/ [from `oxen', perhaps influenced by `vixen'] n.
(alt. `vaxen') The plural canonically used among hackers for the
DEC VAX computers. "Our installation has four PDP-10s and twenty
vaxen." See {boxen}.

:vaxherd: n. /vaks'herd/ [from `oxherd'] A VAX operator.

:vaxism: /vak'sizm/ n. A piece of code that exhibits
{vaxocentrism} in critical areas. Compare {PC-ism},

:vaxocentrism: /vak`soh-sen'trizm/ [analogy with
`ethnocentrism'] n. A notional disease said to afflict
C programmers who persist in coding according to certain
assumptions that are valid (esp. under UNIX) on {VAXen} but
false elsewhere. Among these are:

1. The assumption that dereferencing a null pointer is safe because it
is all bits 0, and location 0 is readable and 0. Problem: this may
instead cause an illegal-address trap on non-VAXen, and even on
VAXen under OSes other than BSD UNIX. Usually this is an implicit
assumption of sloppy code (forgetting to check the pointer before
using it), rather than deliberate exploitation of a misfeature.)

2. The assumption that characters are signed.

3. The assumption that a pointer to any one type can freely be cast
into a pointer to any other type. A stronger form of this is the
assumption that all pointers are the same size and format, which
means you don't have to worry about getting the types correct in
calls. Problem: this fails on word-oriented machines or others
with multiple pointer formats.

4. The assumption that the parameters of a routine are stored in
memory, contiguously, and in strictly ascending or descending
order. Problem: this fails on many RISC architectures.

5. The assumption that pointer and integer types are the same size,
and that pointers can be stuffed into integer variables (and
vice-versa) and drawn back out without being truncated or mangled.
Problem: this fails on segmented architectures or word-oriented
machines with funny pointer formats.

6. The assumption that a data type of any size may begin at any byte
address in memory (for example, that you can freely construct and
dereference a pointer to a word- or greater-sized object at an odd
char address). Problem: this fails on many (esp. RISC)
architectures better optimized for {HLL} execution speed, and can
cause an illegal address fault or bus error.

7. The (related) assumption that there is no padding at the end of
types and that in an array you can thus step right from the last
byte of a previous component to the first byte of the next one.
This is not only machine- but compiler-dependent.

8. The assumption that memory address space is globally flat and that
the array reference `foo[-1]' is necessarily valid. Problem: this
fails at 0, or other places on segment-addressed machines like
Intel chips (yes, segmentation is universally considered a
{brain-damaged} way to design machines (see {moby}), but that is a
separate issue).

9. The assumption that objects can be arbitrarily large with no
special considerations. Problem: this fails on segmented
architectures and under non-virtual-addressing environments.

10. The assumption that the stack can be as large as memory. Problem:
this fails on segmented architectures or almost anything else
without virtual addressing and a paged stack.

11. The assumption that bits and addressable units within an object are
ordered in the same way and that this order is a constant of
nature. Problem: this fails on {big-endian} machines.

12. The assumption that it is meaningful to compare pointers to
different objects not located within the same array, or to objects
of different types. Problem: the former fails on segmented
architectures, the latter on word-oriented machines or others with
multiple pointer formats.

13. The assumption that an `int' is 32 bits, or (nearly equivalently)
the assumption that `sizeof(int) == sizeof(long)'. Problem: this
fails on PDP-11s, 286-based systems and even on 386 and 68000
systems under some compilers.

14. The assumption that `argv[]' is writable. Problem: this fails in
many embedded-systems C environments and even under a few flavors
of UNIX.

Note that a programmer can validly be accused of vaxocentrism
even if he or she has never seen a VAX. Some of these assumptions
(esp. 2--5) were valid on the PDP-11, the original C machine, and
became endemic years before the VAX. The terms `vaxocentricity'
and `all-the-world's-a-VAX syndrome' have been used synonymously.

:vdiff: /vee'dif/ v.,n. Visual diff. The operation of finding
differences between two files by {eyeball search}. The term
`optical diff' has also been reported, and is sometimes more
specifically used for the act of superimposing two nearly identical
printouts on one another and holding them up to a light to spot
differences. Though this method is poor for detecting omissions in
the `rear' file, it can also be used with printouts of graphics, a
claim few if any diff programs can make. See {diff}.

:veeblefester: /vee'b*l-fes`tr/ [from the "Born Loser"
comix via Commodore; prob. originally from `Mad' Magazine's
`Veeblefeetzer' parodies ca. 1960] n. Any obnoxious person engaged
in the (alleged) professions of marketing or management. Antonym
of {hacker}. Compare {suit}, {marketroid}.

:Venus flytrap: [after the insect-eating plant] n. See {firewall

:verbage: /ver'b*j/ n. A deliberate misspelling and mispronunciation of
{verbiage} that assimilates it to the word `garbage'. Compare
{content-free}. More pejorative than `verbiage'.

:verbiage: n. When the context involves a software or hardware
system, this refers to {{documentation}}. This term borrows the
connotations of mainstream `verbiage' to suggest that the
documentation is of marginal utility and that the motives behind
its production have little to do with the ostensible subject.

:Version 7: alt. V7 /vee' se'vn/ n. The 1978 unsupported release of
{{UNIX}} ancestral to all current commercial versions. Before
the release of the POSIX/SVID standards, V7's features were often
treated as a UNIX portability baseline. See {BSD}, {USG UNIX},
{{UNIX}}. Some old-timers impatient with commercialization and
kernel bloat still maintain that V7 was the Last True UNIX.

:vgrep: /vee'grep/ v.,n. Visual grep. The operation of finding
patterns in a file optically rather than digitally (also called an
`optical grep'). See {grep}; compare {vdiff}.

:vi: /V-I/, *not* /vi:/ and *never* /siks/ [from
`Visual Interface'] n. A screen editor crufted together by Bill Joy
for an early {BSD} release. Became the de facto standard
UNIX editor and a nearly undisputed hacker favorite outside of MIT
until the rise of {EMACS} after about 1984. Tends to frustrate
new users no end, as it will neither take commands while expecting
input text nor vice versa, and the default setup provides no
indication of which mode one is in (one correspondent accordingly
reports that he has often heard the editor's name pronounced
/vi:l/). Nevertheless it is still widely used (about half the
respondents in a 1991 USENET poll preferred it), and even EMACS
fans often resort to it as a mail editor and for small editing jobs
(mainly because it starts up faster than the bulkier versions of
EMACS). See {holy wars}.

:videotex: n. obs. An electronic service offering people the
privilege of paying to read the weather on their television screens
instead of having somebody read it to them for free while they
brush their teeth. The idea bombed everywhere it wasn't
government-subsidized, because by the time videotex was practical
the installed base of personal computers could hook up to
timesharing services and do the things for which videotex might
have been worthwhile better and cheaper. Videotex planners badly
overestimated both the appeal of getting information from a
computer and the cost of local intelligence at the user's end.
Like the {gorilla arm} effect, this has been a cautionary tale
to hackers ever since. See also {vannevar}.

:virgin: adj. Unused; pristine; in a known initial state. "Let's
bring up a virgin system and see if it crashes again." (Esp.
useful after contracting a {virus} through {SEX}.) Also, by
extension, buffers and the like within a program that have not yet
been used.

:virtual: [via the technical term `virtual memory', prob. from
the term `virtual image' in optics] adj. 1. Common alternative
to {logical}; often used to refer to the artificial objects
created by a computer system to help the system control access to
shared resources. 2. Simulated; performing the functions of
something that isn't really there. An imaginative child's doll may
be a virtual playmate. Oppose {real}.

:virtual Friday: n. The last day before an extended weekend, if
that day is not a `real' Friday. For example, the U.S. holiday
Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday. The next day is often also a
holiday or taken as an extra day off, in which case Wednesday of
that week is a virtual Friday (and Thursday is a virtual Saturday,
as is Friday). There are also `virtual Mondays' that are
actually Tuesdays, after the three-day weekends associated with
many national holidays in the U.S.

:virtual reality: n. 1. Computer simulations that use 3-D graphics
and devices such as the Dataglove to allow the user to interact
with the simulation. See {cyberspace}. 2. A form of network
interaction incorporating aspects of role-playing games,
interactive theater, improvisational comedy, and `true confessions'
magazines. In a virtual reality forum (such as USENET's
alt.callahans newsgroup or the {MUD} experiments on Internet),
interaction between the participants is written like a shared novel
complete with scenery, `foreground characters' that may be
personae utterly unlike the people who write them, and common
`background characters' manipulable by all parties. The one
iron law is that you may not write irreversible changes to a
character without the consent of the person who `owns' it.
Otherwise anything goes. See {bamf}, {cyberspace}.

:virus: [from the obvious analogy with biological viruses, via SF]
n. A cracker program that searches out other programs and `infects'
them by embedding a copy of itself in them, so that they become
{Trojan Horse}s. When these programs are executed, the embedded
virus is executed too, thus propagating the `infection'. This
normally happens invisibly to the user. Unlike a {worm}, a
virus cannot infect other computers without assistance. It is
propagated by vectors such as humans trading programs with their
friends (see {SEX}). The virus may do nothing but propagate
itself and then allow the program to run normally. Usually,
however, after propagating silently for a while, it starts doing
things like writing cute messages on the terminal or playing
strange tricks with your display (some viruses include nice
{display hack}s). Many nasty viruses, written by particularly
perversely minded {cracker}s, do irreversible damage, like
nuking all the user's files.

In the 1990s, viruses have become a serious problem, especially
among IBM PC and Macintosh users (the lack of security on these
machines enables viruses to spread easily, even infecting the
operating system). The production of special anti-virus software
has become an industry, and a number of exaggerated media reports
have caused outbreaks of near hysteria among users; many
{luser}s tend to blame *everything* that doesn't work as
they had expected on virus attacks. Accordingly, this sense of
`virus' has passed not only into techspeak but into also popular
usage (where it is often incorrectly used to denote a {worm} or
even a {Trojan horse}). Compare {back door}; see also
{UNIX conspiracy}.

:visionary: n. 1. One who hacks vision, in the sense of an
Artificial Intelligence researcher working on the problem of
getting computers to `see' things using TV cameras. (There isn't
any problem in sending information from a TV camera to a computer.
The problem is, how can the computer be programmed to make use of
the camera information? See {SMOP}, {AI-complete}.) 2. [IBM]
One who reads the outside literature. At IBM, apparently, such a
penchant is viewed with awe and wonder.

:VMS: /V-M-S/ n. DEC's proprietary operating system for its VAX
minicomputer; one of the seven or so environments that loom largest
in hacker folklore. Many UNIX fans generously concede that VMS
would probably be the hacker's favorite commercial OS if UNIX
didn't exist; though true, this makes VMS fans furious. One major
hacker gripe with VMS concerns its slowness --- thus the following

There once was a system called VMS
Of cycles by no means abstemious.
It's chock-full of hacks
And runs on a VAX
And makes my poor stomach all squeamious.
--- The Great Quux

See also {VAX}, {{TOPS-10}}, {{TOPS-20}}, {{UNIX}}, {runic}.

:voice: vt. To phone someone, as opposed to emailing them or
connecting in {talk mode}. "I'm busy now; I'll voice you later."

:voice-net: n. Hackish way of referring to the telephone system,
analogizing it to a digital network. USENET {sig block}s not
uncommonly include the sender's phone next to a "Voice:" or
"Voice-Net:" header; common variants of this are "Voicenet" and
"V-Net". Compare {paper-net}, {snail-mail}.

:voodoo programming: [from George Bush's "voodoo economics"] n.
The use by guess or cookbook of an {obscure} or {hairy} system,
feature, or algorithm that one does not truly understand. The
implication is that the technique may not work, and if it doesn't,
one will never know why. Almost synonymous with {black magic},
except that black magic typically isn't documented and
*nobody* understands it. Compare {magic}, {deep magic},
{heavy wizardry}, {rain dance}, {cargo cult programming},
{wave a dead chicken}.

:VR: // [MUD] n. On-line abbrev for {virtual reality}, as
opposed to {RL}.

:Vulcan nerve pinch: n. [from the old "Star Trek" TV series via
Commodore Amiga hackers] The keyboard combination that forces a
soft-boot or jump to ROM monitor (on machines that support such a
feature). On many micros this is Ctrl-Alt-Del; on Suns, L1-A; on
some Macintoshes, it is -! Also called
{three-finger salute}. Compare {quadruple bucky}.

:vulture capitalist: n. Pejorative hackerism for `venture
capitalist', deriving from the common practice of pushing contracts
that deprive inventors of control over their own innovations and
most of the money they ought to have made from them.

= W =

:wabbit: /wab'it/ [almost certainly from Elmer Fudd's immortal
line "You wascawwy wabbit!"] n. 1. A legendary early hack
reported on a System/360 at RPI and elsewhere around 1978; this may
have descended (if only by inspiration) from hack called RABBITS
reported from 1969 on a Burroughs 55000 at the University of
Washington Computer Center. The program would make two copies of
itself every time it was run, eventually crashing the system.
2. By extension, any hack that includes infinite self-replication
but is not a {virus} or {worm}. See {fork bomb}, see also
{cookie monster}.

:WAITS:: /wayts/ n. The mutant cousin of {{TOPS-10}} used on a
handful of systems at {{SAIL}} up to 1990. There was never an
`official' expansion of WAITS (the name itself having been arrived
at by a rather sideways process), but it was frequently glossed as
`West-coast Alternative to ITS'. Though WAITS was less visible
than ITS, there was frequent exchange of people and ideas between
the two communities, and innovations pioneered at WAITS exerted
enormous indirect influence. The early screen modes of {EMACS},
for example, were directly inspired by WAITS's `E' editor --- one
of a family of editors that were the first to do `real-time
editing', in which the editing commands were invisible and where
one typed text at the point of insertion/overwriting. The modern
style of multi-region windowing is said to have originated there,
and WAITS alumni at XEROX PARC and elsewhere played major roles in
the developments that led to the XEROX Star, the Macintosh, and the
Sun workstations. {Bucky bits} were also invented there ---
thus, the ALT key on every IBM PC is a WAITS legacy. One notable
WAITS feature seldom duplicated elsewhere was a news-wire interface
that allowed WAITS hackers to read, store, and filter AP and UPI
dispatches from their terminals; the system also featured a
still-unusual level of support for what is now called `multimedia'
computing, allowing analog audio and video signals to be switched
to programming terminals.

:waldo: /wol'doh/ [From Robert A. Heinlein's story "Waldo"]
1. A mechanical agent, such as a gripper arm, controlled by a human
limb. When these were developed for the nuclear industry in the
mid-1940s they were named after the invention described by Heinlein
in the story, which he wrote in 1942. Now known by the more
generic term `telefactoring', this technology is of intense
interest to NASA for tasks like space station maintenance. 2. At
Harvard (particularly by Tom Cheatham and students), this is used
instead of {foobar} as a metasyntactic variable and general
nonsense word. See {foo}, {bar}, {foobar}, {quux}.

:walk: n.,vt. Traversal of a data structure, especially an array or
linked-list data structure in {core}. See also {codewalker},
{silly walk}, {clobber}.

:walk off the end of: vt. To run past the end of an array, list, or
medium after stepping through it --- a good way to land in trouble.
Often the result of an {off-by-one error}. Compare
{clobber}, {roach}, {smash the stack}.

:walking drives: n. An occasional failure mode of magnetic-disk
drives back in the days when they were huge, clunky {washing
machine}s. Those old {dinosaur} parts carried terrific angular
momentum; the combination of a misaligned spindle or worn bearings
and stick-slip interactions with the floor could cause them to
`walk' across a room, lurching alternate corners forward a couple
of millimeters at a time. There is a legend about a drive that
walked over to the only door to the computer room and jammed it
shut; the staff had to cut a hole in the wall in order to get at
it! Walking could also be induced by certain patterns of drive
access (a fast seek across the whole width of the disk, followed by
a slow seek in the other direction). Some bands of old-time
hackers figured out how to induce disk-accessing patterns that
would do this to particular drive models and held disk-drive races.

:wall: [WPI] interj. 1. An indication of confusion, usually spoken
with a quizzical tone: "Wall??" 2. A request for further
explication. Compare {octal forty}. 3. [UNIX] v. To send a message
to everyone currently logged in, esp. with the wall(8) utility.

It is said that sense 1 came from the idiom `like talking to a
blank wall'. It was originally used in situations where, after you
had carefully answered a question, the questioner stared at you
blankly, clearly having understood nothing that was explained. You
would then throw out a "Hello, wall?" to elicit some sort of
response from the questioner. Later, confused questioners began
voicing "Wall?" themselves.

:wall follower: n. A person or algorithm that compensates for lack
of sophistication or native stupidity by efficiently following some
simple procedure shown to have been effective in the past. Used of
an algorithm, this is not necessarily pejorative; it recalls
`Harvey Wallbanger', the winning robot in an early AI contest
(named, of course, after the cocktail). Harvey successfully solved
mazes by keeping a `finger' on one wall and running till it came
out the other end. This was inelegant, but it was mathematically
guaranteed to work on simply-connected mazes --- and, in fact,
Harvey outperformed more sophisticated robots that tried to
`learn' each maze by building an internal representation of it.
Used of humans, the term *is* pejorative and implies an
uncreative, bureaucratic, by-the-book mentality. See also {code
grinder}, {droid}.

:wall time: n. (also `wall clock time') 1. `Real world' time (what
the clock on the wall shows), as opposed to the system clock's idea
of time. 2. The real running time of a program, as opposed to the
number of {clocks} required to execute it (on a timesharing
system these will differ, as no one program gets all the
{clocks}, and on multiprocessor systems with good thread support
one may get more processor clocks than real-time clocks).

:wallpaper: n. 1. A file containing a listing (e.g., assembly
listing) or a transcript, esp. a file containing a transcript of
all or part of a login session. (The idea was that the paper for
such listings was essentially good only for wallpaper, as evidenced
at Stanford, where it was used to cover windows.) Now rare,
esp. since other systems have developed other terms for it (e.g.,
PHOTO on TWENEX). However, the UNIX world doesn't have an
equivalent term, so perhaps {wallpaper} will take hold there.
The term probably originated on ITS, where the commands to begin
and end transcript files were `:WALBEG' and `:WALEND',
with default file `WALL PAPER' (the space was a path
delimiter). 2. The background pattern used on graphical
workstations (this is techspeak under the `Windows' graphical user
interface to MS-DOS). 3. `wallpaper file' n. The file that
contains the wallpaper information before it is actually printed on
paper. (Even if you don't intend ever to produce a real paper copy
of the file, it is still called a wallpaper file.)

:wango: /wang'goh/ n. Random bit-level {grovel}ling going on in
a system during some unspecified operation. Often used in
combination with {mumble}. For example: "You start with the `.o'
file, run it through this postprocessor that does mumble-wango ---
and it comes out a snazzy object-oriented executable."

:wank: /wangk/ [Columbia University: prob. by mutation from
Commonwealth slang v. `wank', to masturbate] n.,v. Used much as
{hack} is elsewhere, as a noun denoting a clever technique or
person or the result of such cleverness. May describe (negatively)
the act of hacking for hacking's sake ("Quit wanking, let's go get
supper!") or (more positively) a {wizard}. Adj. `wanky'
describes something particularly clever (a person, program, or
algorithm). Conversations can also get wanky when there are too
many wanks involved. This excess wankiness is signalled by an
overload of the `wankometer' (compare {bogometer}). When the
wankometer overloads, the conversation's subject must be changed,
or all non-wanks will leave. Compare `neep-neeping' (under
{neep-neep}). Usage: U.S. only. In Britain and the Commonwealth
this word is *extremely* rude and is best avoided unless one
intends to give offense.

:wannabee: /won'*-bee/ (also, more plausibly, spelled
`wannabe') [from a term recently used to describe Madonna fans
who dress, talk, and act like their idol; prob. originally from
biker slang] n. A would-be {hacker}. The connotations of this
term differ sharply depending on the age and exposure of the
subject. Used of a person who is in or might be entering
{larval stage}, it is semi-approving; such wannabees can be
annoying but most hackers remember that they, too, were once such
creatures. When used of any professional programmer, CS academic,
writer, or {suit}, it is derogatory, implying that said person
is trying to cuddle up to the hacker mystique but doesn't,
fundamentally, have a prayer of understanding what it is all about.
Overuse of terms from this lexicon is often an indication of the
{wannabee} nature. Compare {newbie}.

Historical note: The wannabee phenomenon has a slightly different
flavor now (1991) than it did ten or fifteen years ago. When the
people who are now hackerdom's tribal elders were in {larval
stage}, the process of becoming a hacker was largely unconscious
and unaffected by models known in popular culture --- communities
formed spontaneously around people who, *as individuals*, felt
irresistibly drawn to do hackerly things, and what wannabees
experienced was a fairly pure, skill-focused desire to become
similarly wizardly. Those days of innocence are gone forever;
society's adaptation to the advent of the microcomputer after 1980
included the elevation of the hacker as a new kind of folk hero,
and the result is that some people semi-consciously set out to
*be hackers* and borrow hackish prestige by fitting the
popular image of hackers. Fortunately, to do this really well, one
has to actually become a wizard. Nevertheless, old-time hackers
tend to share a poorly articulated disquiet about the change; among
other things, it gives them mixed feelings about the effects of
public compendia of lore like this one.

:warlording: [from the USENET group] v. The act
of excoriating a bloated, ugly, or derivative {sig block}.
Common grounds for warlording include the presence of a signature
rendered in a {BUAF}, over-used or cliched {sig quote}s, ugly
{ASCII art}, or simply excessive size. The original `Warlord'
was a {BIFF}-like {newbie} c.1991 who featured in his sig a
particularly large and obnoxious ASCII graphic resembling the sword
of Conan the Barbarian in the 1981 John Milius movie; the group
name was sarcasm, and the characteristic mode
of warlording is devastatingly sarcastic praise.

:warm boot: n. See {boot}.

:wart: n. A small, {crock}y {feature} that sticks out of an
otherwise {clean} design. Something conspicuous for localized
ugliness, especially a special-case exception to a general rule.
For example, in some versions of `csh(1)', single quotes
literalize every character inside them except `!'. In ANSI C,
the `??' syntax used obtaining ASCII characters in a foreign
environment is a wart. See also {miswart}.

:washing machine: n. Old-style 14-inch hard disks in floor-standing
cabinets. So called because of the size of the cabinet and the
`top-loading' access to the media packs --- and, of course, they
were always set on `spin cycle'. The washing-machine idiom
transcends language barriers; it is even used in Russian hacker
jargon. See also {walking drives}. The thick channel cables
connecting these were called `bit hoses' (see {hose}).

:water MIPS: n. (see {MIPS}, sense 2) Large, water-cooled
machines of either today's ECL-supercomputer flavor or yesterday's
traditional {mainframe} type.

:wave a dead chicken: v. To perform a ritual in the direction of
crashed software or hardware that one believes to be futile but
is nevertheless necessary so that others are satisfied that an
appropriate degree of effort has been expended. "I'll wave a dead
chicken over the source code, but I really think we've run into an
OS bug." Compare {voodoo programming}, {rain dance}.

:weasel: n. [Cambridge] A na"ive user, one who deliberately or
accidentally does things that are stupid or ill-advised. Roughly
synonymous with {loser}.

:wedged: [from a common description of recto-cranial inversion]
adj. 1. To be stuck, incapable of proceeding without help. This
is different from having crashed. If the system has crashed, then
it has become totally non-functioning. If the system is wedged, it
is trying to do something but cannot make progress; it may be
capable of doing a few things, but not be fully operational. For
example, a process may become wedged if it {deadlock}s with
another (but not all instances of wedging are deadlocks). See also
{gronk}, {locked up}, {hosed}. Describes a
{deadlock}ed condition. 2. Often refers to humans suffering
misconceptions. "He's totally wedged --- he's convinced that he
can levitate through meditation." 3. [UNIX] Specifically used to
describe the state of a TTY left in a losing state by abort of a
screen-oriented program or one that has messed with the line
discipline in some obscure way.

:wedgie: [Fairchild] n. A bug. Prob. related to {wedged}.

:wedgitude: /wedj'i-t[y]ood/ n. The quality or state of being

:weeble: /weeb'l/ [Cambridge] interj. Used to denote frustration,
usually at amazing stupidity. "I stuck the disk in upside down."
"Weeble...." Compare {gurfle}.

:weeds: n. 1. Refers to development projects or algorithms that have
no possible relevance or practical application. Comes from `off in
the weeds'. Used in phrases like "lexical analysis for microcode
is serious weeds...." 2. At CDC/ETA before its demise, the
phrase `go off in the weeds' was equivalent to IBM's {branch to
Fishkill} and mainstream hackerdom's {jump off into never-never

:weenie: n. 1. [on BBSes] Any of a species of luser resembling a
less amusing version of {BIFF} that infests many {BBS}
systems. The typical weenie is a teenage boy with poor social
skills travelling under a grandiose {handle} derived from
fantasy or heavy-metal rock lyrics. Among sysops, `the weenie
problem' refers to the marginally literate and profanity-laden
{flamage} weenies tend to spew all over a newly-discovered BBS.
Compare {spod}, {computer geek}, {terminal junkie}.
2. [Among hackers] When used with a qualifier (for example, as in
{UNIX weenie}, VMS weenie, IBM weenie) this can be either an
insult or a term of praise, depending on context, tone of voice,
and whether or not it is applied by a person who considers him or
herself to be the same sort of weenie. Implies that the weenie has
put a major investment of time, effort, and concentration into the
area indicated; whether this is positive or negative depends on the
hearer's judgment of how the speaker feels about that area. See
also {bigot}. 3. The semicolon character, `;' (ASCII

:Weenix: /wee'niks/ [ITS] n. A derogatory term for {{UNIX}},
derived from {UNIX weenie}. According to one noted ex-ITSer, it
is "the operating system preferred by Unix Weenies: typified by
poor modularity, poor reliability, hard file deletion, no file
version numbers, case sensitivity everywhere, and users who believe
that these are all advantages". Some ITS fans behave as though
they believe UNIX stole a future that rightfully belonged to them.
See {{ITS}}, sense 2.

:well-behaved: adj. 1. [primarily {{MS-DOS}}] Said of software
conforming to system interface guidelines and standards.
Well-behaved software uses the operating system to do chores such
as keyboard input, allocating memory and drawing graphics. Oppose
{ill-behaved}. 2. Software that does its job quietly and
without counterintuitive effects. Esp. said of software having
an interface spec sufficiently simple and well-defined that it can
be used as a {tool} by other software. See {cat}.

:well-connected: adj. Said of a computer installation, this means
that it has reliable email links with the network and/or that
it relays a large fraction of available {USENET} newsgroups.
`Well-known' can be almost synonymous, but also implies that the
site's name is familiar to many (due perhaps to an archive service
or active USENET users).

:wetware: /wet'weir/ [prob. from the novels of Rudy Rucker] n.
1. The human nervous system, as opposed to computer hardware or
software. "Wetware has 7 plus or minus 2 temporary registers."
2. Human beings (programmers, operators, administrators) attached
to a computer system, as opposed to the system's hardware or
software. See {liveware}, {meatware}.

:whack: v. According to arch-hacker James Gosling, to "...modify a
program with no idea whatsoever how it works." (See {whacker}.)
It is actually possible to do this in nontrivial circumstances if
the change is small and well-defined and you are very good at
{glark}ing things from context. As a trivial example, it is
relatively easy to change all `stderr' writes to `stdout'
writes in a piece of C filter code which remains otherwise

:whacker: [University of Maryland: from {hacker}] n. 1. A person,
similar to a {hacker}, who enjoys exploring the details of
programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities.
Whereas a hacker tends to produce great hacks, a whacker only ends
up whacking the system or program in question. Whackers are often
quite egotistical and eager to claim {wizard} status,
regardless of the views of their peers. 2. A person who is good at
programming quickly, though rather poorly and ineptly.

:whales: n. See {like kicking dead whales down the beach}.

:whalesong: n. The peculiar clicking and whooshing sounds made by a
PEP modem such as the Telebit Trailblazer as it tries to
synchronize with another PEP modem for their special high-speed
mode. This sound isn't anything like the normal two-tone handshake
between conventional modems and is instantly recognizable to anyone
who has heard it more than once. It sounds, in fact, very much
like whale songs. This noise is also called "the moose call" or
"moose tones".

:What's a spline?: [XEROX PARC] This phrase expands to: "You have
just used a term that I've heard for a year and a half, and I feel
I should know, but don't. My curiosity has finally overcome my
guilt." The PARC lexicon adds "Moral: don't hesitate to ask
questions, even if they seem obvious."

:wheel: [from slang `big wheel' for a powerful person] n. A
person who has an active {wheel bit}. "We need to find a
wheel to unwedge the hung tape drives." (see {wedged}, sense

:wheel bit: n. A privilege bit that allows the possessor to perform
some restricted operation on a timesharing system, such as read or
write any file on the system regardless of protections, change or
look at any address in the running monitor, crash or reload the
system, and kill or create jobs and user accounts. The term was
invented on the TENEX operating system, and carried over to
TOPS-20, XEROX-IFS, and others. The state of being in a privileged
logon is sometimes called `wheel mode'. This term entered the
UNIX culture from TWENEX in the mid-1980s and has been gaining
popularity there (esp. at university sites). See also {root}.

:wheel wars: [Stanford University] A period in {larval stage}
during which student hackers hassle each other by attempting to log
each other out of the system, delete each other's files, and
otherwise wreak havoc, usually at the expense of the lesser users.

:White Book: n. 1. Syn. {K&R}. 2. Adobe's fourth book in the
PostScript series, describing the previously-secret format of Type
1 fonts; `Adobe Type 1 Font Format, version 1.1',
(Addison-Wesley, 1990, ISBN 0-201-57044-0). See also {Red Book},
{Green Book}, {Blue Book}.

:whizzy: [Sun] adj. (alt. `wizzy') Describes a {cuspy} program;
one that is feature-rich and well presented.

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

:widget: n. 1. A meta-thing. Used to stand for a real object in
didactic examples (especially database tutorials). Legend has it
that the original widgets were holders for buggy whips. "But
suppose the parts list for a widget has 52 entries...."
2. [poss. evoking `window gadget'] A user interface object in
{X} graphical user interfaces.

:wiggles: n. [scientific computation] In solving partial differential
equations by finite difference and similar methods, wiggles are
sawtooth (up-down-up-down) oscillations at the shortest wavelength
representable on the grid. If an algorithm is unstable, this is
often the most unstable waveform, so it grows to dominate the
solution. Alternatively, stable (though inaccurate) wiggles can be
generated near a discontinuity by a Gibbs phenomenon.

:WIMP environment: n. [acronymic from `Window, Icon, Menu, Pointing
device (or Pull-down menu)'] A graphical-user-interface-based
environment such as {X} or the Macintosh interface, as described
by a hacker who prefers command-line interfaces for their superior
flexibility and extensibility. See {menuitis},

:win: [MIT] 1. vi. To succeed. A program wins if no unexpected
conditions arise, or (especially) if it sufficiently {robust} to
take exceptions in stride. 2. n. Success, or a specific instance
thereof. A pleasing outcome. A {feature}. Emphatic forms:
`moby win', `super win', `hyper-win' (often used
interjectively as a reply). For some reason `suitable win' is
also common at MIT, usually in reference to a satisfactory solution
to a problem. Oppose {lose}; see also {big win}, which isn't
quite just an intensification of `win'.

:win big: vi. To experience serendipity. "I went shopping and won
big; there was a 2-for-1 sale." See {big win}.

:win win: interj. Expresses pleasure at a {win}.

:Winchester:: n. Informal generic term for `floating-head'
magnetic-disk drives in which the read-write head planes over the
disk surface on an air cushion. The name arose because the
original 1973 engineering prototype for what later became the
IBM 3340 featured two 30-megabyte volumes; 30--30 became
`Winchester' when somebody noticed the similarity to the common
term for a famous Winchester rifle (in the latter, the first 30
referred to caliber and the second to the grain weight of the

:winged comments: n. Comments set on the same line as code, as
opposed to {boxed comments}. In C, for example:

d = sqrt(x*x + y*y); /* distance from origin */

Generally these refer only to the action(s) taken on that line.

:winkey: n. (alt. `winkey face') See {emoticon}.

:winnage: /win'*j/ n. The situation when a lossage is corrected, or
when something is winning.

:winner: 1. n. An unexpectedly good situation, program, programmer,
or person. "So it turned out I could use a {lexer} generator
instead of hand-coding my own pattern recognizer. What a win!"
2. `real winner': Often sarcastic, but also used as high praise
(see also the note under {user}). "He's a real winner --- never
reports a bug till he can duplicate it and send in an

:winnitude: /win'*-t[y]ood/ n. The quality of winning (as opposed
to {winnage}, which is the result of winning). "Guess what?
They tweaked the microcode and now the LISP interpreter runs twice
as fast as it used to." "That's really great! Boy, what
winnitude!" "Yup. I'll probably get a half-hour's winnage on the
next run of my program." Perhaps curiously, the obvious antonym
`lossitude' is rare.

:wired: n. See {hardwired}.

:wirehead: /wi:r'hed/ n. [prob. from SF slang for an
electrical-brain-stimulation addict] 1. A hardware hacker,
especially one who concentrates on communications hardware. 2. An
expert in local-area networks. A wirehead can be a network
software wizard too, but will always have the ability to deal with
network hardware, down to the smallest component. Wireheads are
known for their ability to lash up an Ethernet terminator from
spare resistors, for example.

:wirewater: n. Syn. {programming fluid}. This melds the
mainstream slang adjective `wired' (stimulated, up, hyperactive)
with `firewater'.

:wish list: n. A list of desired features or bug fixes that probably
won't get done for a long time, usually because the person
responsible for the code is too busy or can't think of a clean way
to do it. "OK, I'll add automatic filename completion to the wish
list for the new interface." Compare {tick-list features}.

:within delta of: adj. See {delta}.

:within epsilon of: adj. See {epsilon}.

:wizard: n. 1. A person who knows how a complex piece of software
or hardware works (that is, who {grok}s it); esp. someone who
can find and fix bugs quickly in an emergency. Someone is a
{hacker} if he or she has general hacking ability, but is a wizard
with respect to something only if he or she has specific detailed
knowledge of that thing. A good hacker could become a wizard for
something given the time to study it. 2. A person who is permitted
to do things forbidden to ordinary people; one who has {wheel}
privileges on a system. 3. A UNIX expert, esp. a UNIX systems
programmer. This usage is well enough established that `UNIX
Wizard' is a recognized job title at some corporations and to most
headhunters. See {guru}, {lord high fixer}. See also
{deep magic}, {heavy wizardry}, {incantation}, {magic},
{mutter}, {rain dance}, {voodoo programming}, {wave a
dead chicken}.

:Wizard Book: n. Hal Abelson and Jerry Sussman's `Structure
and Interpretation of Computer Programs' (MIT Press, 1984; ISBN
0-262-01077-1, an excellent computer science text used in
introductory courses at MIT. So called because of the wizard on
the jacket. One of the {bible}s of the LISP/Scheme
world. Also, less commonly, known as the {Purple Book}.

:wizard mode: [from {rogue}] n. A special access mode of a program or
system, usually passworded, that permits some users godlike
privileges. Generally not used for operating systems themselves
(`root mode' or `wheel mode' would be used instead).

:wizardly: adj. Pertaining to wizards. A wizardly {feature} is one
that only a wizard could understand or use properly.

:womb box: n. 1. [TMRC] Storage space for equipment. 2. [proposed]
A variety of hard-shell equipment case with heavy interior padding
and/or shaped carrier cutouts in a foam-rubber matrix; mundanely
called a `flight case'. Used for delicate test equipment,
electronics, and musical instruments.

:WOMBAT: [Waste Of Money, Brains, And Time] adj. Applied to problems
which are both profoundly {uninteresting} in themselves and
unlikely to benefit anyone interesting even if solved. Often used
in fanciful constructions such as `wrestling with a wombat'. See
also {crawling horror}, {SMOP}. Also note the rather different
usage as a metasyntactic variable in {{Commonwealth Hackish}}.

:wonky: /wong'kee/ [from Australian slang] adj. Yet another
approximate synonym for {broken}. Specifically connotes a
malfunction that produces behavior seen as crazy, humorous, or
amusingly perverse. "That was the day the printer's font logic
went wonky and everybody's listings came out in Tengwar." Also in
`wonked out'. See {funky}, {demented}, {bozotic}.

:woofer: [University of Waterloo] n. Some varieties of wide paper
for printers have a perforation 8.5 inches from the left margin
that allows the excess on the right-hand side to be torn off when
the print format is 80 columns or less wide. The right-hand excess
may be called `woofer'. This term (like {tweeter}, which see)
has been in use at Waterloo since 1972, but is elsewhere unknown.
In audio jargon, the word refers to the bass speaker(s) on a

:workaround: n. A temporary {kluge} inserted in a system under
development or test in order to avoid the effects of a {bug} or
{misfeature} so that work can continue. Theoretically,
workarounds are always replaced by {fix}es; in practice,
customers often find themselves living with workarounds in the
first couple of releases. "The code died on NUL characters in the
input, so I fixed it to interpret them as spaces." "That's not a
fix, that's a workaround!"

:working as designed: [IBM] adj. 1. In conformance to a wrong or
inappropriate specification; useful, but misdesigned.
2. Frequently used as a sardonic comment on a program's utility.
3. Unfortunately also used as a bogus reason for not accepting a
criticism or suggestion. At {IBM}, this sense is used in
official documents! See {BAD}.

:worm: [from `tapeworm' in John Brunner's novel `The
Shockwave Rider', via XEROX PARC] n. A program that propagates
itself over a network, reproducing itself as it goes. Compare
{virus}. Nowadays the term has negative connotations, as it is
assumed that only {cracker}s write worms. Perhaps the
best-known example was Robert T. Morris's `Internet Worm' of 1988,
a `benign' one that got out of control and hogged hundreds of
Suns and VAXen across the U.S. See also {cracker}, {RTM},
{Trojan horse}, {ice}, and {Great Worm, the}.

:wound around the axle: adj. In an infinite loop. Often used by older
computer types.

:wrap around: vi. (also n. `wraparound' and v. shorthand
`wrap') 1. [techspeak] The action of a counter that starts over
at zero or at `minus infinity' (see {infinity}) after its
maximum value has been reached, and continues incrementing, either
because it is programmed to do so or because of an overflow (as
when a car's odometer starts over at 0). 2. To change {phase}
gradually and continuously by maintaining a steady wake-sleep cycle
somewhat longer than 24 hours, e.g., living six long (28-hour) days
in a week (or, equivalently, sleeping at the rate of
10 microhertz). See also {phase-wrapping}.

:write-only code: [a play on `read-only memory'] n. Code so
arcane, complex, or ill-structured that it cannot be modified or
even comprehended by anyone but its author, and possibly not even
by him/her. A {Bad Thing}.

:write-only language: n. A language with syntax (or semantics)
sufficiently dense and bizarre that any routine of significant size
is {write-only code}. A sobriquet applied occasionally to C and
often to APL, though {INTERCAL} and {TECO} certainly deserve it

:write-only memory: n. The obvious antonym to `read-only
memory'. Out of frustration with the long and seemingly useless
chain of approvals required of component specifications, during
which no actual checking seemed to occur, an engineer at Signetics
once created a specification for a write-only memory and included
it with a bunch of other specifications to be approved. This
inclusion came to the attention of Signetics {management} only
when regular customers started calling and asking for pricing
information. Signetics published a corrected edition of the data
book and requested the return of the `erroneous' ones. Later,
around 1974, Signetics bought a double-page spread in `Electronics'
magazine's April issue and used the spec as an April Fools' Day
joke. Instead of the more conventional characteristic curves, the
25120 "fully encoded, 9046 x N, Random Access, write-only-memory"
data sheet included diagrams of "bit capacity vs. Temp.",
"Iff vs. Vff", "Number of pins remaining vs. number of socket
insertions", and "AQL vs. selling price". The 25120 required a
6.3 VAC VFF supply, a +10V VCC, and VDD of 0V, +/- 2%.

:Wrong Thing: n. A design, action, or decision that is clearly
incorrect or inappropriate. Often capitalized; always emphasized
in speech as if capitalized. The opposite of the {Right Thing};
more generally, anything that is not the Right Thing. In cases
where `the good is the enemy of the best', the merely good ---
although good --- is nevertheless the Wrong Thing. "In C, the
default is for module-level declarations to be visible everywhere,
rather than just within the module. This is clearly the Wrong

:wugga wugga: /wuh'g* wuh'g*/ n. Imaginary sound that a computer
program makes as it labors with a tedious or difficult task.
Compare {cruncha cruncha cruncha}, {grind} (sense 4).

:WYSIAYG: /wiz'ee-ayg/ adj. Describes a user interface under
which "What You See Is *All* You Get"; an unhappy variant of
{WYSIWYG}. Visual, `point-and-shoot'-style interfaces tend to
have easy initial learning curves, but also to lack depth; they
often frustrate advanced users who would be better served by a
command-style interface. When this happens, the frustrated user
has a WYSIAYG problem. This term is most often used of editors,
word processors, and document formatting programs. WYSIWYG
`desktop publishing' programs, for example, are a clear win for
creating small documents with lots of fonts and graphics in them,
especially things like newsletters and presentation slides. When
typesetting book-length manuscripts, on the other hand, scale
changes the nature of the task; one quickly runs into WYSIAYG
limitations, and the increased power and flexibility of a
command-driven formatter like TeX or UNIX's `troff(1)' becomes
not just desirable but a necessity.

:WYSIWYG: /wiz'ee-wig/ adj. Describes a user interface under
which "What You See Is What You Get", as opposed to one that uses
more-or-less obscure commands which do not result in immediate
visual feedback. True WYSIWYG in environments supporting multiple
fonts or graphics is a a rarely-attained ideal; there are variants
of this term to express real-world manifestations including
WYSIAWYG (What You See Is *Almost* What You Get) and
WYSIMOLWYG (What You See Is More or Less What You Get). All these
can be mildly derogatory, as they are often used to refer to
dumbed-down {user-friendly} interfaces targeted at
non-programmers; a hacker has no fear of obscure commands (compare
{WYSIAYG}). On the other hand, {EMACS} was one of the very first
WYSIWYG editors, replacing (actually, at first overlaying) the
extremely obscure, command-based {TECO}. See also {WIMP
environment}. [Oddly enough, WYSIWYG has already made it into the
OED, in lower case yet. --- ESR]

= X =

:X: /X/ n. 1. Used in various speech and writing contexts (also
in lowercase) in roughly its algebraic sense of `unknown within a
set defined by context' (compare {N}). Thus, the abbreviation
680x0 stands for 68000, 68010, 68020, 68030, or 68040, and 80x86
stands for 80186, 80286 80386 or 80486 (note that a UNIX hacker
might write these as 680[0-4]0 and 80[1-4]86 or 680?0 and 80?86
respectively; see {glob}). 2. [after the name of an earlier
window system called `W'] An over-sized, over-featured,
over-engineered and incredibly over-complicated window system
developed at MIT and widely used on UNIX systems.

:XEROX PARC: The famed Palo Alto Research Center. For more than a
decade, from the early 1970s into the mid-1980s, PARC yielded an
astonishing volume of groundbreaking hardware and software
innovations. The modern mice, windows, and icons style of software
interface was invented there. So was the laser printer, and the
local-area network; and PARC's series of D machines anticipated the
poweful personal computers of the 1980s by a decade. Sadly, these
prophets were without honor in their own company; so much so that
it became a standard joke to describe PARC as a place characterized
by developing brilliant ideas for everyone else.

:XOFF: /X'of/ n. Syn. {control-S}.

:XON: /X'on/ n. Syn. {control-Q}.

:xor: /X'or/, /kzor/ conj. Exclusive or. `A xor B' means
`A or B, but not both'. "I want to get cherry pie xor a
banana split." This derives from the technical use of the term as
a function on truth-values that is true if exactly one of its two
arguments is true.

:xref: /X'ref/ vt., n. Hackish standard abbreviation for

:XXX: /X-X-X/ n. A marker that attention is needed.
Commonly used in program comments to indicate areas that are kluged
up or need to be. Some hackers liken `XXX' to the notional
heavy-porn movie rating.

:xyzzy: /X-Y-Z-Z-Y/, /X-Y-ziz'ee/, /ziz'ee/, or /ik-ziz'ee/
[from the ADVENT game] adj. The {canonical} `magic word'.
This comes from {ADVENT}, in which the idea is to explore an
underground cave with many rooms and to collect the treasures you
find there. If you type `xyzzy' at the appropriate time, you can
move instantly between two otherwise distant points. If,
therefore, you encounter some bit of {magic}, you might remark
on this quite succinctly by saying simply "Xyzzy!" "Ordinarily
you can't look at someone else's screen if he has protected it, but
if you type quadruple-bucky-clear the system will let you do it
anyway." "Xyzzy!" Xyzzy has actually been implemented as an
undocumented no-op command on several OSes; in Data General's
AOS/VS, for example, it would typically respond "Nothing
happens", just as {ADVENT} did if the magic was invoked at the
wrong spot or before a player had performed the action that enabled
the word. In more recent 32-bit versions, by the way, AOS/VS
responds "Twice as much happens". See also {plugh}.

= Y =

:YA-: [Yet Another] abbrev. In hackish acronyms this almost
invariably expands to {Yet Another}, following the precedent set
by UNIX `yacc(1)' (Yet Another Compiler-Compiler). See

:YABA: /ya'b*/ [Cambridge] n. Yet Another Bloody Acronym.
Whenever some program is being named, someone invariably suggests
that it be given a name that is acronymic. The response from those
with a trace of originality is to remark ironically that the
proposed name would then be `YABA-compatible'. Also used in
response to questions like "What is WYSIWYG?" See also

:YAUN: /yawn/ [Acronym for `Yet Another UNIX Nerd'] n. Reported
from the San Diego Computer Society (predominantly a microcomputer
users' group) as a good-natured punning insult aimed at UNIX

:Yellow Book: [proposed] n. The print version of this Jargon File;
`The New Hacker's Dictionary', MIT Press, 1991 (ISBN
0-262-68069-6). Includes all the material in the 2.9.6 version of
the File, plus a Foreword by Guy L. Steele Jr. and a Preface by
Eric S. Raymond. Most importantly, the book version is nicely
typeset and includes almost all of the infamous Crunchly cartoons
by the Great Quux, each attached to an appropriate entry.

:yellow wire: [IBM] n. Repair wires used when connectors
(especially ribbon connectors) got broken due to some schlemiel
pinching them, or to reconnect cut traces after the FE mistakenly
cut one. Compare {blue wire}, {purple wire}, {red wire}.

:Yet Another: adj. [From UNIX's `yacc(1)', `Yet Another
Compiler-Compiler', a LALR parser generator] 1. Of your own work: A
humorous allusion often used in titles to acknowledge that the
topic is not original, though the content is. As in `Yet Another
AI Group' or `Yet Another Simulated Annealing Algorithm'. 2. Of
others' work: Describes something of which there are already far
too many. See also {YA-}, {YABA}, {YAUN}.

:You are not expected to understand this: cav. [UNIX] The canonical
comment describing something {magic} or too complicated to
bother explaining properly. From an infamous comment in the
context-switching code of the V6 UNIX kernel.

:You know you've been hacking too long when...: The set-up line
for a genre of one-liners told by hackers about themselves. These
include the following:

* not only do you check your email more often than your paper
mail, but you remember your {network address} faster than your
postal one.
* your {SO} kisses you on the neck and the first thing you
think is "Uh, oh, {priority interrupt}."
* you go to balance your checkbook and discover that you're
doing it in octal.
* your computers have a higher street value than your car.
* in your universe, `round numbers' are powers of 2, not 10.
* more than once, you have woken up recalling a dream in
some programming language.
* you realize you have never seen half of your best friends.

[An early version of this entry said "All but one of these
have been reliably reported as hacker traits (some of them quite
often). Even hackers may have trouble spotting the ringer." The
ringer was balancing one's checkbook in octal, which I made up out
of whole cloth. Although more respondents picked that one
out as fiction than any of the others, I also received multiple
independent reports of its actually happening. --- ESR]

:Your mileage may vary: cav. [from the standard disclaimer attached
to EPA mileage ratings by American car manufacturers] 1. A ritual
warning often found in UNIX freeware distributions. Translates
roughly as "Hey, I tried to write this portably, but who
*knows* what'll happen on your system?" 2. A qualifier more
generally attached to advice. "I find that sending flowers works
well, but your mileage may vary."

:Yow!: /yow/ [from "Zippy the Pinhead" comix] interj. A favored hacker
expression of humorous surprise or emphasis. "Yow! Check out what
happens when you twiddle the foo option on this display hack!"
Compare {gurfle}.

:yoyo mode: n. The state in which the system is said to be when it
rapidly alternates several times between being up and being down.
Interestingly (and perhaps not by coincidence), many hardware
vendors give out free yoyos at Usenix exhibits.

Sun Microsystems gave out logoized yoyos at SIGPLAN '88. Tourists
staying at one of Atlanta's most respectable hotels were
subsequently treated to the sight of 200 of the country's top
computer scientists testing yo-yo algorithms in the lobby.

:Yu-Shiang Whole Fish: /yoo-shyang hohl fish/ n. obs. The
character gamma (extended SAIL ASCII 0001001), which with a loop in
its tail looks like a little fish swimming down the page. The term
is actually the name of a Chinese dish in which a fish is cooked
whole (not {parse}d) and covered with Yu-Shiang (or Yu-Hsiang)
sauce. Usage: primarily by people on the MIT LISP Machine, which
could display this character on the screen. Tends to elicit
incredulity from people who hear about it second-hand.

= Z =

:zap: 1. n. Spiciness. 2. vt. To make food spicy. 3. vt. To make
someone `suffer' by making his food spicy. (Most hackers love
spicy food. Hot-and-sour soup is considered wimpy unless it makes
you wipe your nose for the rest of the meal.) See {zapped}.
4. vt. To modify, usually to correct; esp. used when the action
is performed with a debugger or binary patching tool. Also implies
surgical precision. "Zap the debug level to 6 and run it again."
In the IBM mainframe world, binary patches are applied to programs
or to the OS with a program called `superzap', whose file name is
`IMASPZAP' (possibly contrived from I M A SuPerZAP). 5. vt. To
erase or reset. 6. To {fry} a chip with static electricity.
"Uh oh --- I think that lightning strike may have zapped the disk

:zapped: adj. Spicy. This term is used to distinguish between food
that is hot (in temperature) and food that is *spicy*-hot.
For example, the Chinese appetizer Bon Bon Chicken is a kind of
chicken salad that is cold but zapped; by contrast, {vanilla}
wonton soup is hot but not zapped. See also {{oriental food}},
{laser chicken}. See {zap}, senses 1 and 2.

:zen: vt. To figure out something by meditation or by a sudden flash
of enlightenment. Originally applied to bugs, but occasionally
applied to problems of life in general. "How'd you figure out the
buffer allocation problem?" "Oh, I zenned it." Contrast {grok},
which connotes a time-extended version of zenning a system.
Compare {hack mode}. See also {guru}.

:zero: vt. 1. To set to 0. Usually said of small pieces of data,
such as bits or words (esp. in the construction `zero out'). 2. To
erase; to discard all data from. Said of disks and directories,
where `zeroing' need not involve actually writing zeroes throughout
the area being zeroed. One may speak of something being
`logically zeroed' rather than being `physically zeroed'. See

:zero-content: adj. Syn. {content-free}.

:zeroth: /zee'rohth/ adj. First. Among software designers, comes
from C's and LISP's 0-based indexing of arrays. Hardware people
also tend to start counting at 0 instead of 1; this is natural
since, e.g., the 256 states of 8 bits correspond to the binary
numbers 0, 1, ..., 255 and the digital devices known as `counters'
count in this way.

Hackers and computer scientists often like to call the first
chapter of a publication `chapter 0', especially if it is of an
introductory nature (one of the classic instances was in the First
Edition of {K&R}). In recent years this trait has also been
observed among many pure mathematicians (who have an independent
tradition of numbering from 0). Zero-based numbering tends to
reduce {fencepost error}s, though it cannot eliminate them

:zigamorph: /zig'*-morf/ n. Hex FF (11111111) when used as a
delimiter or {fence} character. Usage: primarily at IBM

:zip: [primarily MS-DOS] vt. To create a compressed archive from a
group of files using PKWare's PKZIP or a compatible archiver. Its
use is spreading now that portable implementations of the algorithm
have been written. Commonly used as follows: "I'll zip it up and
send it to you." See {arc}, {tar and feather}.

:zipperhead: [IBM] n. A person with a closed mind.

:zombie: [UNIX] n. A process that has died but has not yet
relinquished its process table slot (because the parent process
hasn't executed a `wait(2)' for it yet). These can be seen in
`ps(1)' listings occasionally. Compare {orphan}.

:zorch: /zorch/ 1. [TMRC] v. To attack with an inverse heat sink.
2. [TMRC] v. To travel, with v approaching c [that
is, with velocity approaching lightspeed --- ESR]. 3. [MIT] v. To
propel something very quickly. "The new comm software is very
fast; it really zorches files through the network." 4. [MIT] n.
Influence. Brownie points. Good karma. The intangible and fuzzy
currency in which favors are measured. "I'd rather not ask him
for that just yet; I think I've used up my quota of zorch with him
for the week." 5. [MIT] n. Energy, drive, or ability. "I think
I'll {punt} that change for now; I've been up for 30 hours
and I've run out of zorch."

:Zork: /zork/ n. The second of the great early experiments in computer
fantasy gaming; see {ADVENT}. Originally written on MIT-DM
during the late 1970s, later distributed with BSD UNIX (as a patched,
sourceless RT-11 Fortran binary; see {retrocomputing}) and
commercialized as `The Zork Trilogy' by Infocom.

:zorkmid: /zork'mid/ n. The canonical unit of currency in
hacker-written games. This originated in {zork} but has spread
to {nethack} and is referred to in several other games.

= [^A-Za-z] (see {regexp}) =

:'Snooze: /snooz/ [FidoNet] n. Fidonews, the weekly official on-line
newsletter of FidoNet. As the editorial policy of Fidonews is
"anything that arrives, we print", there are often large articles
completely unrelated to FidoNet, which in turn tend to elicit
{flamage} in subsequent issues.

:(TM): // [USENET] ASCII rendition of the trademark-superscript symbol
appended to phrases that the author feels should be recorded for
posterity, perhaps in future editions of this lexicon. Sometimes
used ironically as a form of protest against the recent spate of
software and algorithm patents and `look and feel' lawsuits. See
also {UN*X}.

:-oid: [from `android'] suff. 1. This suffix is used as in
mainstream English to indicate a poor imitation, a counterfeit, or
some otherwise slightly bogus resemblance. Hackers will happily
use it with all sorts of non-Greco/Latin stem words that wouldn't
keep company with it in mainstream English. For example, "He's a
nerdoid" means that he superficially resembles a nerd but can't
make the grade; a `modemoid' might be a 300-baud box (Real Modems
run at 9600); a `computeroid' might be any {bitty box}. The
word `keyboid' could be used to describe a {chiclet keyboard},
but would have to be written; spoken, it would confuse the listener
as to the speaker's city of origin. 2. There is a more specific
sense of `oid' as an indicator for `resembling an android'
which in the past has been confined to science-fiction fans and
hackers. It too has recently (in 1991) started to go mainstream
(most notably in the term `trendoid' for victims of terminal
hipness). This is probably traceable to the popularization of the
term {droid} in "Star Wars" and its sequels.

Coinages in both forms have been common in science fiction for at
least fifty years, and hackers (who are often SF fans) have
probably been making `-oid' jargon for almost that long


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