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Of Slang, Jargon, and Techspeak

:Of Slang, Jargon, and Techspeak: Linguists usually refer to informal language as `slang' and reserve the term `jargon' for the technical vocabularies of various occupations. However, the ancestor of this collection was called the `Jargon File', and hackish slang is traditionally `the jargon'. When talking about the jargon there is therefore no convenient way to distinguish it from what a *linguist* would call hackers' jargon --- the formal vocabulary they learn from textbooks, technical papers, and manuals. To make a confused situation worse, the line between hackish slang and the vocabulary of technical programming and computer science is fuzzy, and shifts over time. Further, this vocabulary is shared with a wider technical culture of programmers, many of whom are not hackers and do not speak or recognize hackish slang. Accordingly, this lexicon will try to be as precise as the facts of usage permit about the distinctions among three categories: * `slang': informal language from mainstream English or non-technical subcultures (bikers, rock fans, surfers, etc). * `jargon': without qualifier, denotes informal `slangy' language peculiar to or predominantly found among hackers --- the subject of this lexicon. * `techspeak': the formal technical vocabulary of programming, computer science, electronics, and other fields connected to hacking. This terminology will be consistently used throughout the remainder of this lexicon. The jargon/techspeak distinction is the delicate one. A lot of techspeak originated as jargon, and there is a steady continuing uptake of jargon into techspeak. On the other hand, a lot of jargon arises from overgeneralization of techspeak terms (there is more about this in the "Jargon Construction" section below). In general, we have considered techspeak any term that communicates primarily by a denotation well established in textbooks, technical dictionaries, or standards documents. A few obviously techspeak terms (names of operating systems, languages, or documents) are listed when they are tied to hacker folklore that isn't covered in formal sources, or sometimes to convey critical historical background necessary to understand other entries to which they are cross-referenced. Some other techspeak senses of jargon words are listed in order to make the jargon senses clear; where the text does not specify that a straight technical sense is under discussion, these are marked with `[techspeak]' as an etymology. Some entries have a primary sense marked this way, with subsequent jargon meanings explained in terms of it. We have also tried to indicate (where known) the apparent origins of terms. The results are probably the least reliable information in the lexicon, for several reasons. For one thing, it is well known that many hackish usages have been independently reinvented multiple times, even among the more obscure and intricate neologisms. It often seems that the generative processes underlying hackish jargon formation have an internal logic so powerful as to create substantial parallelism across separate cultures and even in different languages! For another, the networks tend to propagate innovations so quickly that `first use' is often impossible to pin down. And, finally, compendia like this one alter what they observe by implicitly stamping cultural approval on terms and widening their use. Despite these problems, the organized collection of jargon-related oral history for the File's 2.x.x versions has enabled us to put to rest quite a number of folk etymologies, place credit where credit is due, and illuminate the early history of many important hackerisms such as kluge, cruft, and foo. We believe specialist lexicographers will find many of the historical notes more than casually instructive.


:Overgeneralization: -------------------- A very conspicuous feature of jargon is the frequency with which techspeak items such as names of program tools, command language primitives, and even assembler opcodes are applied to contexts outside of computing wherever hackers find amusing analogies to them. Thus (to cite one of the best-known examples) UNIX hackers often grep for things rather than searching for them. Many of the lexicon entries are generalizations of exactly this kind. Hackers enjoy overgeneralization on the grammatical level as well. Many hackers love to take various words and add the wrong endings to them to make nouns and verbs, often by extending a standard rule to nonuniform cases (or vice versa). For example, because porous => porosity generous => generosity hackers happily generalize: mysterious => mysteriosity ferrous => ferrosity obvious => obviosity dubious => dubiosity Another class of common construction uses the suffix `-itude' to abstract a quality from just about any adjective or noun. This usage arises especially in cases where mainstream English would perform the same abstraction through `-iness' or `-ingness'. Thus: win =>winnitude (a common exclamation)loss =>lossitudecruft =>cruftitudelame =>lameitude Some hackers cheerfully reverse this transformation; they argue, for example, that the horizontal degree lines on a globe ought to be called `lats' --- after all, they're measuring latitude! Also, note that all nouns can be verbed. E.g.: "All nouns can be verbed", "I'll mouse it up", "Hang on while I clipboard it over", "I'm grepping the files". English as a whole is already heading in this direction (towards pure-positional grammar like Chinese); hackers are simply a bit ahead of the curve. However, hackers avoid the unimaginative verb-making techniques characteristic of marketroids, bean-counters, and the Pentagon; a hacker would never, for example, `productize', `prioritize', or `securitize' things. Hackers have a strong aversion to bureaucratic bafflegab and regard those who use it with contempt. Similarly, all verbs can be nouned. This is only a slight overgeneralization in modern English; in hackish, however, it is good form to mark them in some standard nonstandard way. Thus: win => winnitude, winnage disgust => disgustitude hack => hackification Further, note the prevalence of certain kinds of nonstandard plural forms. Some of these go back quite a ways; the TMRC Dictionary includes an entry which implies that the plural of `mouse' is meeces, and notes that the defined plural of `caboose' is `cabeese'. This latter has apparently been standard (or at least a standard joke) among railfans (railroad enthusiasts) for many years. On a similarly Anglo-Saxon note, almost anything ending in `x' may form plurals in `-xen' (see VAXen and boxen in the main text). Even words ending in phonetic /k/ alone are sometimes treated this way; e.g., `soxen' for a bunch of socks. Other funny plurals are `frobbotzim' for the plural of `frobbozz' (see frobnitz) and `Unices' and `Twenices' (rather than `Unixes' and `Twenexes'; see UNIX, TWENEX in main text). But note that `Unixen' and `Twenexen' are never used; it has been suggested that this is because `-ix' and `-ex' are Latin singular endings that attract a Latinate plural. Finally, it has been suggested to general approval that the plural of `mongoose' ought to be `polygoose'. The pattern here, as with other hackish grammatical quirks, is generalization of an inflectional rule that in English is either an import or a fossil (such as the Hebrew plural ending `-im', or the Anglo-Saxon plural suffix `-en') to cases where it isn't normally considered to apply. This is not `poor grammar', as hackers are generally quite well aware of what they are doing when they distort the language. It is grammatical creativity, a form of playfulness. It is done not to impress but to amuse, and never at the expense of clarity.

Other Lexicon Conventions

:Other Lexicon Conventions: Entries are sorted in case-blind ASCII collation order (rather than the letter-by-letter order ignoring interword spacing common in mainstream dictionaries), except that all entries beginning with nonalphabetic characters are sorted after Z. The case-blindness is a feature, not a bug. The beginning of each entry is marked by a colon (`:') at the left margin. This convention helps out tools like hypertext browsers that benefit from knowing where entry boundaries are, but aren't as context-sensitive as humans. In pure ASCII renderings of the Jargon File, you will see used to bracket words which themselves have entries in the File. This isn't done all the time for every such word, but it is done everywhere that a reminder seems useful that the term has a jargon meaning and one might wish to refer to its entry. In this all-ASCII version, headwords for topic entries are distinguished from those for ordinary entries by being followed by "::" rather than ":"; similarly, references are surrounded by "" and "" rather than "" and "". Defining instances of terms and phrases appear in `slanted type'. A defining instance is one which occurs near to or as part of an explanation of it. Prefix ** is used as linguists do; to mark examples of incorrect usage. We follow the `logical' quoting convention described in the Writing Style section above. In addition, we reserve double quotes for actual excerpts of text or (sometimes invented) speech. Scare quotes (which mark a word being used in a nonstandard way), and philosopher's quotes (which turn an utterance into the string of letters or words that name it) are both rendered with single quotes. References such as `malloc(3)' and `patch(1)' are to UNIX facilities (some of which, such as `patch(1)', are actually freeware distributed over USENET). The UNIX manuals use `foo(n)' to refer to item foo in section (n) of the manual, where n=1 is utilities, n=2 is system calls, n=3 is C library routines, n=6 is games, and n=8 (where present) is system administration utilities. Sections 4, 5, and 7 of the manuals have changed roles frequently and in any case are not referred to in any of the entries. Various abbreviations used frequently in the lexicon are summarized here: abbrev. abbreviation adj. adjective adv. adverb alt. alternate cav. caveat conj. conjunction esp. especially excl. exclamation imp. imperative interj. interjection n. noun obs. obsolete pl. plural poss. possibly pref. prefix prob. probably prov. proverbial quant. quantifier suff. suffix syn. synonym (or synonymous with) v. verb (may be transitive or intransitive) var. variant vi. intransitive verb vt. transitive verb Where alternate spellings or pronunciations are given, alt. separates two possibilities with nearly equal distribution, while var. prefixes one that is markedly less common than the primary. Where a term can be attributed to a particular subculture or is known to have originated there, we have tried to so indicate. Here is a list of abbreviations used in etymologies: Berkeley University of California at Berkeley Cambridge the university in England (*not* the city in Massachusetts where MIT happens to be located!) BBN Bolt, Beranek & Newman CMU Carnegie-Mellon University Commodore Commodore Business Machines DEC The Digital Equipment Corporation Fairchild The Fairchild Instruments Palo Alto development group Fidonet See the Fidonet entry IBM International Business Machines MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology; esp. the legendary MIT AI Lab culture of roughly 1971 to 1983 and its feeder groups, including the Tech Model Railroad Club NRL Naval Research Laboratories NYU New York University OED The Oxford English Dictionary Purdue Purdue University SAIL Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (at Stanford University) SI From Syst`eme International, the name for the standard conventions of metric nomenclature used in the sciences Stanford Stanford University Sun Sun Microsystems TMRC Some MITisms go back as far as the Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) at MIT c. 1960. Material marked TMRC is from "An Abridged Dictionary of the TMRC Language", originally compiled by Pete Samson in 1959 UCLA University of California at Los Angeles UK the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland) USENET See the USENET entry WPI Worcester Polytechnic Institute, site of a very active community of PDP-10 hackers during the 1970s XEROX PARC XEROX's Palo Alto Research Center, site of much pioneering research in user interface design and networking Yale Yale University Some other etymology abbreviations such as UNIX and PDP-10 refer to technical cultures surrounding specific operating systems, processors, or other environments. The fact that a term is labelled with any one of these abbreviations does not necessarily mean its use is confined to that culture. In particular, many terms labelled `MIT' and `Stanford' are in quite general use. We have tried to give some indication of the distribution of speakers in the usage notes; however, a number of factors mentioned in the introduction conspire to make these indications less definite than might be desirable. A few new definitions attached to entries are marked [proposed]. These are usually generalizations suggested by editors or USENET respondents in the process of commenting on previous definitions of those entries. These are *not* represented as established jargon.


:Ob-: /ob/ pref. Obligatory. A piece of netiquette acknowledging that the author has been straying from the newsgroup's charter topic. For example, if a posting in alt.sex is a response to a part of someone else's posting that has nothing particularly to do with sex, the author may append `ObSex' (or `Obsex') and toss off a question or vignette about some unusual erotic act. It is considered a sign of great winnitude when one's Obs are more interesting than other people's whole postings.

Obfuscated C Contest

:Obfuscated C Contest: (in full, the `International Obfuscated C Code Contest', or IOCCC) n. An annual contest run since 1984 over USENET by Landon Curt Noll and friends. The overall winner is whoever produces the most unreadable, creative, and bizarre (but working) C program; various other prizes are awarded at the judges' whim. C's terse syntax and macro-preprocessor facilities give contestants a lot of maneuvering room. The winning programs often manage to be simultaneously (a) funny, (b) breathtaking works of art, and (c) horrible examples of how *not* to code in C. This relatively short and sweet entry might help convey the flavor of obfuscated C: /* * HELLO WORLD program * by Jack Applin and Robert Heckendorn, 1985 */ main(v,c)char**c;for(v[c++]="Hello, world!\n)";##### Check this ##### (!!c)[*c]&&(v--||--c&&execlp(*c,*c,c[!!c]+!!c,!c)); Here's another good one: /* * Program to compute an approximation of pi * by Brian Westley, 1988 */ #define _ -F<00||--F-OO--; int F=00,OO=00; main()F_OO();printf("%1.3f\n",4.*-F/OO/OO);F_OO() ##### Check this ##### _-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_-_-_ Note that this program works by computing its own area. For more digits, write a bigger program. See also hello, world.

obi-wan error

:obi-wan error: /oh'bee-won` er'*r/ [RPI, from `off-by-one' and the Obi-Wan Kenobi character in "Star Wars"] n. A loop of some sort in which the index is off by 1. Common when the index should have started from 0 but instead started from 1. A kind of off-by-one error. See also zeroth.


:Objectionable-C: n. Hackish take on "Objective-C", the name of an object-oriented dialect of C in competition with the better-known C++ (it is used to write native applications on the NeXT machine). Objectionable-C uses a Smalltalk-like syntax, but lacks the flexibility of Smalltalk method calls, and (like many such efforts) comes frustratingly close to attaining the Right Thing without actually doing so.


:obscure: adj. Used in an exaggeration of its normal meaning, to imply total incomprehensibility. "The reason for that last crash is obscure." "The `find(1)' command's syntax is obscure!" The phrase `moderately obscure' implies that something could be figured out but probably isn't worth the trouble. The construction `obscure in the extreme' is the preferred emphatic form.

octal forty

:octal forty: /ok'tl for'tee/ n. Hackish way of saying "I'm drawing a blank." Octal 40 is the ASCII space character, 0100000; by an odd coincidence, hex 40 (01000000) is the EBCDIC space character. See wall.

off the trolley

:off the trolley: adj. Describes the behavior of a program that malfunctions and goes catatonic, but doesn't actually crash or abort. See glitch, bug, deep space.

off-by-one error

:off-by-one error: n. Exceedingly common error induced in many ways, such as by starting at 0 when you should have started at 1 or vice-versa, or by writing `< N' instead of `<= N' or vice-versa. Also applied to giving something to the person next to the one who should have gotten it. Often confounded with fencepost error, which is properly a particular subtype of it.


:offline: adv. Not now or not here. "Let's take this discussion offline." Specifically used on USENET to suggest that a discussion be moved off a public newsgroup to email.


:ogg: /og/ [CMU] v. 1. In the multi-player space combat game Netrek, to execute kamikaze attacks against enemy ships which are carrying armies or occupying strategic positions. Named during a game in which one of the players repeatedly used the tactic while playing Orion ship G, showing up in the player list as "Og". This trick has been roundly denounced by those who would return to the good old days when the tactic of dogfighting was dominant, but as Sun Tzu wrote, "What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy." However, the traditional answer to the newbie question "What does ogg mean?" is just "Pick up some armies and I'll show you." 2. In other games, to forcefully attack an opponent with the expectation that the resources expended will be renewed faster than the opponent will be able to regain his previous advantage. Taken more seriously as a tactic since it has gained a simple name. 3. To do anything forcefully, possibly without consideration of the drain on future resources. "I guess I'd better go ogg the problem set that's due tomorrow." "Whoops! I looked down at the map for a sec and almost ogged that oncoming car."

old fart

:old fart: n. Tribal elder. A title self-assumed with remarkable frequency by (esp.) USENETters who have been programming for more than about 25 years; often appears in sig blocks attached to Jargon File contributions of great archeological significance. This is a term of insult in the second or third person but one of pride in first person.

Old Testament

:Old Testament: [C programmers] n. The first edition of K&R, the sacred text describing Classic C.

one-banana problem

:one-banana problem: n. At mainframe shops, where the computers have operators for routine administrivia, the programmers and hardware people tend to look down on the operators and claim that a trained monkey could do their job. It is frequently observed that the incentives that would be offered said monkeys can be used as a scale to describe the difficulty of a task. A one-banana problem is simple; hence, "It's only a one-banana job at the most; what's taking them so long?" At IBM, folklore divides the world into one-, two-, and three-banana problems. Other cultures have different hierarchies and may divide them more finely; at ICL, for example, five grapes (a bunch) equals a banana. Their upper limit for the in-house sysapes is said to be two bananas and three grapes (another source claims it's three bananas and one grape, but observes "However, this is subject to local variations, cosmic rays and ISO"). At a complication level any higher than that, one asks the manufacturers to send someone around to check things. See also Infinite-Monkey Theorem.

one-line fix

:one-line fix: n. Used (often sarcastically) of a change to a program that is thought to be trivial or insignificant right up to the moment it crashes the system. Usually `cured' by another one-line fix. See also I didn't change anything!

one-liner wars

:one-liner wars: n. A game popular among hackers who code in the language APL (see write-only language and line noise). The objective is to see who can code the most interesting and/or useful routine in one line of operators chosen from APL's exceedingly hairy primitive set. A similar amusement was practiced among TECO hackers and is now popular among Perl aficionados. Ken Iverson, the inventor of APL, has been credited with a one-liner that, given a number N, produces a list of the prime numbers from 1 to N inclusive. It looks like this: (2 = 0 +.= T o.| T) / T <- iN where `o' is the APL null character, the assignment arrow is a single character, and `i' represents the APL iota.


:ooblick: /oo'blik/ [from the Dr. Seuss title "Bartholomew and the Oobleck"] n. A bizarre semi-liquid sludge made from cornstarch and water. Enjoyed among hackers who make batches during playtime at parties for its amusing and extremely non-Newtonian behavior; it pours and splatters, but resists rapid motion like a solid and will even crack when hit by a hammer. Often found near lasers. Here is a field-tested ooblick recipe contributed by GLS: 1 cup cornstarch 1 cup baking soda 3/4 cup water N drops of food coloring This recipe isn't quite as non-Newtonian as a pure cornstarch ooblick, but has an appropriately slimy feel. Some, however, insist that the notion of an ooblick *recipe* is far too mechanical, and that it is best to add the water in small increments so that the various mixed states the cornstarch goes through as it *becomes* ooblick can be grokked in fullness by many hands. For optional ingredients of this experience, see the "Ceremonial Chemicals" section of Appendix B.


:op: /op/ n. 1. In England and Ireland, common verbal abbreviation for `operator', as in system operator. Less common in the U.S., where sysop seems to be preferred. 2. [IRC] Someone who is endowed with privileges on IRC, not limited to a particular channel. These are generally people who are in charge of the IRC server at their particular site. Sometimes used interchangeably with CHOP. Compare sysop.


:open: n. Abbreviation for `open (or left) parenthesis' --- used when necessary to eliminate oral ambiguity. To read aloud the LISP form (DEFUN FOO (X) (PLUS X 1)) one might say: "Open defun foo, open eks close, open, plus eks one, close close."

Open DeathTrap

:Open DeathTrap: n. Abusive hackerism for the Santa Cruz Operation's `Open DeskTop' product, a Motif-based graphical interface over their UNIX. The funniest part is that this was coined by SCO's own developers.... Compare AIDX, Macintrash Nominal Semidestructor, ScumOS, sun-stools, HP-SUX.

open switch

:open switch: [IBM: prob. from railroading] n. An unresolved question, issue, or problem.

operating system

:operating system:: [techspeak] n. (Often abbreviated `OS') The foundation software of a machine, of course; that which schedules tasks, allocates storage, and presents a default interface to the user between applications. The facilities an operating system provides and its general design philosophy exert an extremely strong influence on programming style and on the technical cultures that grow up around its host machines. Hacker folklore has been shaped primarily by the UNIX, ITS, TOPS-10, TOPS-20/TWENEX, WAITS, CP/M, MS-DOS, and Multics operating systems (most importantly by ITS and UNIX).

optical diff

:optical diff: n. See vdiff.

optical grep

:optical grep: n. See vgrep.


:optimism: n. What a programmer is full of after fixing the last bug and just before actually discovering the *next* last bug. Fred Brooks's book "The Mythical Man-Month" (See "Brooks's Law") contains the following paragraph that describes this extremely well: All programmers are optimists. Perhaps this modern sorcery especially attracts those who believe in happy endings and fairy god-mothers. Perhaps the hundreds of nitty frustrations drive away all but those who habitually focus on the end goal. Perhaps it is merely that computers are young, programmers are younger, and the young are always optimists. But however the selection process works, the result is indisputable: "This time it will surely run," or "I just found the last bug.". See also Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic Entomology.

Orange Book

:Orange Book: n. The U.S. Government's standards document "Trusted Computer System Evaluation Criteria, DOD standard 5200.28-STD, December, 1985" which characterize secure computing architectures and defines levels A1 (most secure) through D (least). Stock UNIXes are roughly C1, and can be upgraded to about C2 without excessive pain. See also crayola books, book titles.

oriental food

:oriental food:: n. Hackers display an intense tropism towards oriental cuisine, especially Chinese, and especially of the spicier varieties such as Szechuan and Hunan. This phenomenon (which has also been observed in subcultures that overlap heavily with hackerdom, most notably science-fiction fandom) has never been satisfactorily explained, but is sufficiently intense that one can assume the target of a hackish dinner expedition to be the best local Chinese place and be right at least three times out of four. See also ravs, great-wall, stir-fried random, laser chicken, Yu-Shiang Whole Fish. Thai, Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese cuisines are also quite popular.


:orphan: [UNIX] n. A process whose parent has died; one inherited by `init(1)'. Compare zombie.

orphaned i-node

:orphaned i-node: /or'f*nd i:'nohd/ [UNIX] n. 1. [techspeak] A file that retains storage but no longer appears in the directories of a filesystem. 2. By extension, a pejorative for any person no longer serving a useful function within some organization, esp. lion food without subordinates.


:orthogonal: [from mathematics] adj. Mutually independent; well separated; sometimes, irrelevant to. Used in a generalization of its mathematical meaning to describe sets of primitives or capabilities that, like a vector basis in geometry, span the entire `capability space' of the system and are in some sense non-overlapping or mutually independent. For example, in architectures such as the PDP-11 or VAX where all or nearly all registers can be used interchangeably in any role with respect to any instruction, the register set is said to be orthogonal. Or, in logic, the set of operators `not' and `or' is orthogonal, but the set `nand', `or', and `not' is not (because any one of these can be expressed in terms of the others). Also used in comments on human discourse: "This may be orthogonal to the discussion, but...."


:OS: /O-S/ 1. [Operating System] n. An abbreviation heavily used in email, occasionally in speech. 2. n.,obs. On ITS, an output spy. See "OS and JEDGAR" (in Appendix A ).


:OS/2: /O S too/ n. The anointed successor to MS-DOS for Intel 286- and 386-based micros; proof that IBM/Microsoft couldn't get it right the second time, either. Often called `Half-an-OS'. Mentioning it is usually good for a cheap laugh among hackers --- the design was so baroque, and the implementation of 1.x so bad, that 3 years after introduction you could still count the major apps shipping for it on the fingers of two hands --- in unary. The 2.x versions are said to have improved somewhat, and informed hackers now rate them superior to Microsoft Windows (an endorsement which, however, could easily be construed as damning with faint praise). See monstrosity, cretinous, second-system effect.


:out-of-band: [from telecommunications and network theory] adj. 1. In software, describes values of a function which are not in its `natural' range of return values, but are rather signals that some kind of exception has occurred. Many C functions, for example, return a nonnegative integral value, but indicate failure with an out-of-band return value of -1. Compare hidden flag , green bytes, fence. 2. Also sometimes used to describe what communications people call `shift characters', such as the ESC that leads control sequences for many terminals, or the level shift indicators in the old 5-bit Baudot codes. 3. In personal communication, using methods other than email, such as telephones or snail-mail.

overflow bit

:overflow bit: n. 1. [techspeak] A flag on some processors indicating an attempt to calculate a result too large for a register to hold. 2. More generally, an indication of any kind of capacity overload condition. "Well, the Ada description was baroque all right, but I could hack it OK until they got to the exception handling ... that set my overflow bit." 3. The hypothetical bit that will be set if a hacker doesn't get to make a trip to the Room of Porcelain Fixtures: "I'd better process an internal interrupt before the overflow bit gets set".

overflow pdl

:overflow pdl: [MIT] n. The place where you put things when your pdl is full. If you don't have one and too many things get pushed, you forget something. The overflow pdl for a person's memory might be a memo pad. This usage inspired the following doggerel: Hey, diddle, diddle The overflow pdl To get a little more stack; If that's not enough Then you lose it all, And have to pop all the way back. --The Great Quux The term pdl seems to be primarily an MITism; outside MIT this term is replaced by `overflow stack'.


:overrun: n. 1. [techspeak] Term for a frequent consequence of data arriving faster than it can be consumed, esp. in serial line communications. For example, at 9600 baud there is almost exactly one character per millisecond, so if a silo can hold only two characters and the machine takes longer than 2 msec to get to service the interrupt, at least one character will be lost. 2. Also applied to non-serial-I/O communications. "I forgot to pay my electric bill due to mail overrun." "Sorry, I got four phone calls in 3 minutes last night and lost your message to overrun." When thrashing at tasks, the next person to make a request might be told "Overrun!" Compare firehose syndrome . 3. More loosely, may refer to a buffer overflow not necessarily related to processing time (as in overrun screw ).

overrun screw

:overrun screw: [C programming] n. A variety of fandango on core produced by scribbling past the end of an array (C implementations typically have no checks for this error). This is relatively benign and easy to spot if the array is static; if it is auto, the result may be to smash the stack --- often resulting in heisenbugs of the most diabolical subtlety. The term `overrun screw' is used esp. of scribbles beyond the end of arrays allocated with `malloc(3)'; this typically trashes the allocation header for the next block in the arena, producing massive lossage within malloc and often a core dump on the next operation to use `stdio(3)' or `malloc(3)' itself. See spam, overrun; see also memory leak, memory smash , aliasing bug, precedence lossage, fandango on core , secondary damage. = P =


:OS and JEDGAR: This story says a lot about the ITS ethos. On the ITS system there was a program that allowed you to see what was being printed on someone else's terminal. It spied on the other guy's output by examining the insides of the monitor system. The output spy program was called OS. Throughout the rest of the computer science (and at IBM too) OS means `operating system', but among old-time ITS hackers it almost always meant `output spy'. OS could work because ITS purposely had very little in the way of `protection' that prevented one user from trespassing on another's areas. Fair is fair, however. There was another program that would automatically notify you if anyone started to spy on your output. It worked in exactly the same way, by looking at the insides of the operating system to see if anyone else was looking at the insides that had to do with your output. This `counterspy' program was called JEDGAR (a six-letterism pronounced as two syllables: /jed'gr/), in honor of the former head of the FBI. But there's more. JEDGAR would ask the user for `license to kill'. If the user said yes, then JEDGAR would actually gun the job of the luser who was spying. Unfortunately, people found that this made life too violent, especially when tourists learned about it. One of the systems hackers solved the problem by replacing JEDGAR with another program that only pretended to do its job. It took a long time to do this, because every copy of JEDGAR had to be patched. To this day no one knows how many people never figured out that JEDGAR had been defanged.

Other Interests

:Other Interests: Some hobbies are widely shared and recognized as going with the culture: science fiction, music, medievalism (in the active form practiced by the Society for Creative Anachronism and similar organizations), chess, go, backgammon, wargames, and intellectual games of all kinds. (Role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons used to be extremely popular among hackers but they lost a bit of their luster as they moved into the mainstream and became heavily commercialized.) Logic puzzles. Ham radio. Other interests that seem to correlate less strongly but positively with hackerdom include linguistics and theater teching.

Dictionary Index

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