perm filename AIWORD.RF[UP,DOC]11 blob sn#291345
filedate 1977-07-04 generic text, type T, neo UTF8
Notes on updating this file:
This glossary file is being maintained at two main locations. It is
AIWORD.RF[UP,DOC] at SAIL, and GLS;JARGON > at MIT. If you make any
changes, be sure to FTP the new file to the other location.
Try to conform to the format already being used--70 character lines,
3-character indentations, pronunciations in parentheses, etymologies
in brackets, single-space after def'n numbers and word classes, etc.
Stick to the standard ASCII character set.
If you'd rather not mung the file yourself, send your definitions to
DON @ SAIL and/or GLS @ MIT-AI.
Compiled by Guy L. Steele Jr., Raphael Finkel, and
Donald R. Woods, with assistance from the MIT and
Stanford AI communities. Some contributions were
submitted via the ARPAnet from miscellaneous sites.
Verb doubling: a standard construction is to double a verb and use it
as a comment on what the implied subject does. Often used to
terminate a conversation. Typical examples involve WIN, LOSE,
HACK, FLAME, BARF, CHOMP:
"The disk heads just crashed." "Lose, lose."
"Mostly he just talked about his --- crock. Flame, flame."
"Boy, what a bagbiter! Chomp, chomp!"
Soundalike slang: similar to Cockney rhyming slang. Often made up on
the spur of the moment. Standard examples:
Boston Globe => Boston Glob
Herald American => Horrid (Harried) American
New York Times => New York Slime
Dime Time => Slime Time
government property - do not duplicate (seen on keys)
=> government duplicity - do not propagate
Often the substitution will be made in such a way as to slip in
a standard jargon word:
Dr. Dobb's Journal => Dr. Frob's Journal
The -P convention: turning a word into a question by appending the
syllable "P"; from the LISP convention of appending the letter "P"
to denote a predicate (a Boolean-values function). The question
should expect a yes/no answer, though it needn't. (See T and NIL.)
At dinnertime: "Foodp?" "Yeah, I'm pretty hungry." or "T!"
"State-of-the-world-P?" (Straight) "I'm about to go home."
(Humorous) "Yes, the world has a state."
Peculiar nouns: MIT AI 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. Examples:
porous => porosity
generous => generosity
Ergo: mysterious => mysteriosity
ferrous => ferocity
Other examples: winnitude, disgustitude, hackification.
AOS (aus (East coast) ay-ahs (West coast)) [based on a PDP-10
increment instruction] v. To increase the amount of something.
"Aos the campfire." Usage: considered silly. See SOS.
ANGLE BRACKETS (primarily MIT) n. Either of the characters "<" and
">". See BROKET.
ARG n. Abbreviation for "argument" (to a function), used so often as
to have become a new word.
AUTOMAGICALLY adv. Automatically, but in a way which, for some reason
(typically because it is too complicated, or too ugly, or perhaps
even too trivial), I don't feel like explaining to you. See MAGIC.
Example: Some programs which produce XGP output files spool them
BAGBITER 1. n. Equipment or program that fails, usually
intermittently. 2. BAGBITING: adj. Failing hardware or software.
"This bagbiting system won't let me get out of spacewar." Usage:
verges on obscenity. Grammatically separable; one may speak of
"biting the bag". Synonyms: LOSER, LOSING, CRETINOUS, BLETCHEROUS,
BARFUCIOUS, CHOMPER, CHOMPING.
BAR 1. The second metasyntactic variable, after FOO. "Suppose we have
two functions FOO and BAR. FOO calls BAR..." 2. Often appended to
FOO to produce FOOBAR.
BARF 1. interj. Term of disgust. See BLETCH. 2. v. choke, as on
input. May mean to give an error message. "The function `='
compares two fixnums or two flonums, and barfs on anything else."
3. BARFULOUS, BARFUCIOUS: adj. said of something which would make
anyone barf, if only for aesthetic reasons.
BIN [short for BINARY; used as a second file name on ITS] 1. n.
BINARY. 2. BIN FILE: a file containing the BIN for a program.
Usage: used at MIT, which runs on ITS. The equivalent term at
Stanford is DMP (pronounced "dump") FILE.
BINARY n. The object code for a program.
BLETCH [from German "brechen", to vomit (?)] 1. interj. Term of
disgust. 2. BLETCHEROUS: adj. Disgusting in design or function.
"This keyboard is bletcherous!" Usage: slightly comic.
BLT (blit, very rarely belt) [based on the PDP-10 block transfer
instruction; confusing to users of the PDP-11] 1. v. To transfer a
large contiguous package of information from one place to another.
2. THE BIG BLT: n. Shuffling operation on the PDP-10 under some
operating systems that consumes a significant amount of computer
time. 3. (usually pronounced B-L-T) n. Sandwich containing bacon,
lettuce, and tomato.
BROKET [by analogy with "bracket": a "broken bracket"] (primarily
Stanford) n. Either of the characters "<" and ">". (At MIT these
are usually called ANGLE BRACKETS.)
BUCKY BITS (primarily Stanford) n. The bits produced by the CTRL and
META shift keys on a Stanford (or Knight) keyboard.
DOUBLE BUCKY: adj. Using both the CTRL and META keys. "The command
to burn all LEDs is double bucky F."
BUG [from telephone terminology, "bugs in a telephone cable", blamed
for noisy lines] n. An unwanted and unintended property of a
program. See FEATURE.
BUM 1. v. To make highly efficient, either in time or space, often at
the expense of clarity. "I managed to bum three more
instructions." 2. n. A small change to an algorithm to make it
more efficient. Usage: somewhat rare.
CANONICAL adj. The usual or standard state or manner of something.
A true story: One Bob Sjoberg, new at the MIT AI Lab, expressed
some annoyance at the use of jargon. Over his loud objections, we
made a point of using jargon as much as possible in his presence,
and eventually it began to sink in. Finally, in one conversation,
he used the word "canonical" in jargon-like fashion without
Steele: "Aha! We've finally got you talking jargon too!"
Stallman: "What did he say?"
Steele: "He just used `canonical' in the canonical way."
[Note by MRC: Does "canonical" have any relationship to the term
as used by Sherlock Holmes fans for generations? I'm not sure,
though I'm both a Sherlock Holmes fan and a hacker.]
CATATONIA (kat-uh'-toe-nee-uh) n. A condition of suspended animation
in which the system is in a wedged (CATATONIC) state.
CDR (ku'der) [from LISP] v. With "down", to trace down a list of
elements. "Shall we cdr down the agenda?" Usage: silly.
CHOMP v. To lose; to chew on something of which more was bitten off
than one can. Probably related to gnashing of teeth. See
BAGBITER. A hand gesture commonly accompanies this, consisting of
the four fingers held together as if in a mitten or hand puppet,
and the fingers and thumb open and close rapidly to illustrate a
biting action. The gesture alone means CHOMP CHOMP (see Verb
CLOSE n. Abbreviation for "close (or right) parenthesis", used when
necessary to eliminate oral ambiguity. See OPEN.
COM MODE (variant: COMM MODE) [from the ITS feature for linking two or
more terminals together so that text typed on any is echoed on all,
providing a means of conversation among hackers] n. The state a
terminal is in when linked to another in this way. Com mode has a
special set of jargon words, used to save typing, which are not
BCNU Be seeing you.
BYE? Are you ready to unlink? (This is the standard way to
end a com mode conversation; the other person types
BYE to confirm, or else continues the conversation.)
CUL See you later.
GA Go ahead (used when two people have tried to type
simultaneously; this cedes the right to type to
HELLOP A greeting, also meaning R U THERE? (An instance
of the "-P" convention.)
NIL No (see the main entry for NIL).
R U THERE? Are you there?
SEC Wait a second (sometimes written SEC...).
T Yes (see the main entry for T).
<double CRLF> When the typing party has finished, he types
two CRLF's to signal that he is done; this leaves a
blank line between individual "speeches" in the
conversation, making it easier to re-read the
<name>: When three or more terminals are linked, each speech
is preceded by the typist's login name and a colon (or
a hyphen) to indicate who is typing. The login name
often is shortened to a unique prefix (possibly a
single letter) during a very long conversation.
At Stanford, where the link feature is implemented by "talk loops",
the term TALK MODE is used in place of COM MODE. Most of the above
"sub-jargon" is used at both Stanford and MIT.
CONS [from LISP] 1. v. To add a new element to a list. 2. CONS UP:
v. To synthesize from smaller pieces: "to cons up an example".
CRASH 1. n. A sudden, usually drastic failure. Most often said of the
system (q.v., definition #1), sometimes of magnetic disk drives.
"Three lusers lost their files in last night's disk crash." A disk
crash which entails the read/write heads dropping onto the surface
of the disks and scraping off the oxide may also be referred to as
a "head crash". 2. v. To fail suddenly. "Has the system just
crashed?" Also used transitively to indicate the cause of the
crash (usually a person or a program, or both). "Those idiots
playing spacewar crashed the system." Sometimes said of people.
See GRONK OUT.
CRETIN 1. n. Congenital loser (q.v.). 2. CRETINOUS: adj. See
BLETCHEROUS and BAGBITING. Usage: somewhat ad hominem.
CRLF (cur'lif, sometimes crul'lif) n. A carriage return (CR) followed
by a line feed (LF). See TERPRI.
CROCK n. An awkward feature or programming technique that ought to be
made cleaner. Example: Using small integers to represent error
codes without the program interpreting them to the user is a crock.
Also, a technique that works acceptably but which is quite prone to
failure if disturbed in the least, for example depending on the
machine opcodes having particular bit patterns so that you can use
instructions as data words too; a tightly woven, almost completely
CRUFTY [from "cruddy"] adj. 1. Poorly built, possibly overly complex.
"This is standard old crufty DEC software". Hence CRUFT, n. shoddy
construction. 2. Unpleasant, especially to the touch, often with
encrusted junk. Like spilled coffee smeared with peanut butter and
ketchup. Hence CRUFT, n. disgusting mess. 3. Generally unpleasant.
CRUFTY or CRUFTIE n. A small crufty object (see FROB); often one
which doesn't fit well into the scheme of things. "A LISP property
list is a good place to store crufties (or, random cruft)."
[Note: Does CRUFT have anything to do with the Cruft Lab at Harvard?
I don't know, though I was a Harvard student. - GLS]
CRUNCH v. To process, usually in a time-consuming or complicated way.
Connotes an essentially trivial operation which is nonetheless
painful to perform. The pain may be due to the triviality being
imbedded in a loop from 1 to 1000000000. "FORTRAN programs do
mostly number crunching."
CTY (city) n. Any console terminal on a computer.
DIKE [from "diagonal cutters"] v. To remove a module or disable it.
"When in doubt, dike it out."
DMP (dump) See BIN.
DOWN 1. adj. Not working. "The up escalator is down." 2. TAKE DOWN,
BRING DOWN: v. To deactivate, usually for repair work. See UP.
DPB (duh-pib') [from the PDP-10 instruction set] v. To plop something
down in the middle.
ENGLISH n. The source code for a program, which may be in any
language, as opposed to BINARY. Usage: slightly obsolete, used
mostly by old-time hackers, though recognizable in context. At
MIT, directory SYSENG is where the "English" for system programs is
kept, and SYSBIN, the binaries.
EPSILON [from standard mathematical notation for a small quantity] 1.
n. A small quantity of anything. "The cost is epsilon." 2. adj.
Very small, negligible; less than marginal. "We can get this
feature for epsilon cost."
EXCH (ex'chuh, ekstch) [from the PDP-10 instruction set] v. To
exchange two things, each for the other.
EXCL (eks'cul) n. Abbreviation for "exclamation point". See SEMI,
FAULTY n. Same denotation as "bagbiting", "bletcherous", "losing",
q.v., but the connotation is much milder.
FEATURE n. 1. A surprising property of a program. Occasionally docu-
mented. To call a property a feature sometimes means the author of
the program did not consider the particular case, and the program
makes an unexpected, although not strictly speaking an incorrect
response. See BUG. "That's not a bug, that's a feature!" A bug
can be changed to a feature by documenting it. 2. A well-known and
beloved property; a facility. Sometimes features are planned, but
are called crocks by others. An approximately correct spectrum:
(These terms are all used to describe programs or portions thereof,
except for the first two, which are included for completeness.)
CRASH STOPPAGE BUG SCREW LOSS MISFEATURE
CROCK KLUGE HACK WIN FEATURE PERFECTION
(The last is never actually attained.)
FEEP 1. n. The soft bell of a display terminal (except for a VT-52!);
a beep. 2. v. To cause the display to make a feep sound. TTY's do
not have feeps. Alternate forms: BEEP, BLEEP, or just about
anything suitably onomatopoeic. The term BREEDLE is sometimes
heard at SAIL, where the terminal bleepers are not particularly
"soft" (they sound more like the musical equivalent of sticking out
one's tongue). The "feeper" on a VT-52 has been compared to the
sound of a '52 Chevy stripping its gears.
FENCEPOST ERROR n. The discrete equivalent of a boundary condition.
Often exhibited in programs by iterative loops. From the following
problem: "If you build a fence 100 feet long with posts ten feet
apart, how many posts do you need?" (Either 9 or 11 is a better
answer than the obvious 10.)
FLAG DAY [from a bit of Multics history involving a change in the
ASCII character set originally scheduled for June 14, 1966]
n. A software change which is neither forward nor backward
compatible, and which is costly to make and costly to revert.
"Can we install that without causing a flag day for all users?"
FLAKEY adj. Subject to frequent lossages. See LOSSAGE.
FLAME v. To speak incessantly and/or rabidly on some relatively
uninteresting subject or with a patently ridiculous attitude.
FLAME ON: v. To continue to flame.
FLAP v. To unload a DECtape (so it goes flap, flap, flap...).
FLAVOR n. 1. Variety, type, kind. "DDT commands come in two flavors."
2. The attribute of causing something to be FLAVORFUL. "This
convention yields additional flavor by allowing one to..."
FLAVORFUL adj. Aesthetically pleasing. See RANDOM and LOSING for
FLUSH v. 1. To delete something, usually superfluous. "All that
nonsense has been flushed." Standard ITS terminology for aborting
an output operation. 2. To leave at the end of a day's work (as
opposed to leaving for a meal). "I'm going to flush now." "Time
FOO 1. [from Yiddish "feh" or the Anglo-Saxon "fooey!"] interj. Term
of disgust. 2. [from FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition),
from WWII, often seen as FOOBAR] Name used for temporary programs,
or samples of three-letter names. Other similar words are BAR, BAZ
(Stanford corruption of BAR), and rarely RAG. These have been used
in Pogo as well. 3. Used very generally as a sample name for
absolutely anything. The old `Smokey Stover' comic strips often
included the word FOO, in particular on license plates of cars.
MOBY FOO: See MOBY.
FROB 1. n. (MIT) The official Tech Model Railroad Club definition is
"FROB = protruding arm or trunnion", and by metaphoric extension
any somewhat small thing. See FROBNITZ. 2. v. abbreviated form of
FROBNICATE v. To manipulate or adjust, to tweak. Derived from
FROBNITZ (q.v.). Usually abbreviated to FROB. Thus one has the
saying "to frob a frob".
FROBNITZ, pl. FROBNITZEM (frob'nitsm) n. An unspecified physical
object, a widget. Also refers to electronic black boxes. This
rare form is usually abbreviated to FROTZ, or more commonly to
FROG (variant: PHROG) 1. interj. Term of disgust (we seem to have a
lot of them). 2. Used as a name for just about anything. See FOO.
3. n. Of things, a crock. Of people, somewhere inbetween a turkey
and a toad. 4. FROGGY: adj. Similar to BAGBITING (q.v.), but
milder. "This froggy program is taking forever to run!"
FROTZ 1. n. See FROBNITZ. 2. MUMBLE FROTZ: An interjection of very
FTP (spelled out, NOT pronounced "fittip") 1. n. The File Transfer
Protocol for transmitting files between systems on the ARPAnet. 2.
v. To transfer a file using the File Transfer Program. "Lemme get
this copy of Wuthering Heights FTP'd from SAIL."
FUDGE 1. v. To perform in an incomplete but marginally acceptable way,
particularly with respect to the writing of a program. "I didn't
feel like going through that pain and suffering, so I fudged it."
2. n. The resulting code.
FUDGE FACTOR n. A value or parameter that is varied in an ad hoc way
to produce the desired result. The terms "tolerance" and "slop"
are also used, though these usually indicate a one-sided leeway,
such as a buffer which is made larger than necessary because one
isn't sure exactly how large it needs to be, and it is better to
waste a little space than to lose completely for not having enough.
A fudge factor, on the other hand, can often be tweaked in more
than one direction. An example might be the coefficients of an
equation, where the coefficients are varied in an attempt to make
the equation fit certain criteria.
GARBAGE COLLECT v., GARBAGE COLLECTION n. See GC.
GC [from LISP terminology] 1. v. To clean up and throw away useless
things. "I think I'll GC the top of my desk today." 2. v. To
recycle, reclaim, or put to another use. 3. n. An instantiation of
the GC process.
GLASS TTY n. A terminal which has a display screen but which, because
of hardware or software limitations, behaves like a teletype or
other printing terminal. An example is the ADM-3 (without cursor
control). A glass tty can't do neat display hacks, and you can't
save the output either.
GLITCH [from the Yiddish "glitshen", to slide] 1. n. A sudden
interruption in electric service, sanity, or program function.
Sometimes recoverable. 2. v. To commit a glitch.
GLORK 1. interj. Term of mild surprise, usually tinged with outrage,
as when one attempts to save the results of two hours of editing
and finds that the system has just crashed. 2. Used as a name for
just about anything. See FOO. 3. v. Similar to GLITCH (q.v.), but
usually used reflexively. "My program just glorked itself."
GOBBLE v. To consume or to obtain. GOBBLE UP tends to imply
"consume", while GOBBLE DOWN tends to imply "obtain". "The output
spy gobbles characters out of a TTY output buffer." "I guess I'll
gobble down a copy of the documentation tomorrow." See SNARF.
GRIND v. 1. (primarily MIT) To format code, especially LISP code, by
indenting lines so that it looks pretty. Hence, PRETTY PRINT, the
generic term for such operations. 2. To run seemingly
interminably, performing some tedious and inherently useless task.
Similar to CRUNCH.
GRITCH See GLITCH.
GROK [from the novel "Stranger in a Strange Land", by Robert Heinlein,
where it is a Martian word meaning roughly "to be one with"] v. To
understand, usually in a global sense.
GRONK [popularized by the cartoon strip "B.C." by Johnny Hart, but the
word apparently predates that] v. 1. To clear the state of a wedged
device and restart it. More severe than "to frob" (q.v.). 2. To
break. "The teletype scanner was gronked, so we took the system
down." 3. GRONK OUT: v. To cease functioning. Of people, to go
home and go to sleep. "I guess I'll gronk out now; see you all
GROVEL v. To work interminably and without apparent progress. Often
used with "over". "The compiler grovelled over my code." Compare
GRIND and CRUNCH. Emphatic form: GROVEL OBSCENELY.
GRUNGY adj. Incredibly dirty or grubby. Anything which has been
washed within the last year is not really grungy. Also used
metaphorically; hence some programs (especially crocks) can be
described as grungy.
HACK n. 1. Originally a quick job that produces what is needed, but
not well. 2. The result of that job. 3. NEAT HACK: a clever
technique. Also, a brilliant practical joke, where neatness is
correlated with cleverness, harmlessness, and surprise value.
Example: the Caltech Rose Bowl card display switch circa 1961.
4. REAL HACK: a crock (occasionally affectionate).
v. 5. With "together", to throw something together so it will work.
6. To bear emotionally or physically. "I can't hack this heat!" 7.
To work on something (typically a program). In specific sense:
"What are you doing?" "I'm hacking TECO." In general sense: "What
do you do around here?" "I hack TECO." (The former is
time-immediate, the latter time-extended.) More generally, "I hack
x" is roughly equivalent to "x is my bag". "I hack solid-state
physics." 8. HACK UP (ON): to hack, but generally implies that the
result is meanings 1-2. 9. HACK VALUE: term used as the reason or
motivation for expending effort toward a seemingly useless goal,
the point being that the accomplished goal is a hack. For example,
MacLISP has code to read and print roman numerals, which was
installed purely for hack value.
HAPPY HACKING: a farewell. HOW'S HACKING?: a friendly greeting
among hackers. HACK HACK: a somewhat pointless but friendly
comment, often used as a temporary farewell.
HACKER [originally, someone who makes furniture with an axe] n. 1. A
person who is good at programming quickly. Not everything a hacker
produces is a hack. 2. An expert at a particular program, example:
"A SAIL hacker". 3. A malicious or inquisitive meddler who tries
to discover information by poking around. Hence "keyword hacker",
HACKISH adj. Being or involving a hack. HACKISHNESS n.
HAIR n. The complications which make something hairy. "Decoding TECO
commands requires a certain amount of hair." Often seen in the
phrase INFINITE HAIR, which connotes extreme complexity.
HAIRY adj. 1. Overly complicated. "DWIM is incredibly hairy." 2.
Incomprehensible. "DWIM is incredibly hairy." 3. Of people,
high-powered, authoritative, rare, expert, and/or incomprehensible.
Hard to explain except in context: "He knows this hairy lawyer who
says there's nothing to worry about."
HAKMEM n. MIT AI Memo 239 (February 1972). A collection of neat
mathematical and programming hacks contributed by many people
at MIT and elsewhere.
HANDWAVE 1. v. To gloss over a complex point; to distract a listener;
to support a (possibly actually valid) point with blatantly faulty
logic. 2. n. The act of handwaving. "Boy, what a handwave!" The
use of this word is often accompanied by gestures: both hands up,
palms forward, swinging the hands in a vertical plane pivoting at
the elbows and/or shoulders (depending on the magnitude of the
handwave); alternatively, holding the forearms still while rotating
the hands at the wrist to make them flutter. In context, the
gestures alone can suffice as a remark.
HARDWARILY adv. In a way pertaining to hardware. "The system is
hardwarily unreliable." The adjective "hardwary" is NOT used. See
HIRSUTE Occasionally used humorously as a synonym for HAIRY.
HUMONGOUS, HUMUNGOUS See HUNGUS.
HUNGUS (hung'-ghis) [perhaps related to current slang "humongous";
which one came first (if either) is unclear] adj. Large, unwieldy,
usually unmanageable. "TCP is a hungus piece of code." "This is a
hungus set of modifications."
IMPCOM See TELNET.
INFINITE adj. Consisting of a large number of objects; extreme. Used
very loosely as in: "This program produces infinite garbage."
JFCL (djif'kl or djafik'l) [based on the PDP-10 instruction that acts
as a fast no-op] v. To cancel or annul something. "Why don't you
jfcl that out?"
[Notes: Once at the Museum of Science parking lot I saw a Vermont
license plate JFCL. I wonder who owns it? - GLS. California JFCL
plate is on Geoff Goodfellow's grey-beige 450SL Mercedes. - RF]
JIFFY n. 1. Interval of CPU time, commonly 1/60 second or 1
millisecond. 2. Indeterminate time from a few seconds to forever.
"I'll do it in a jiffy" means certainly not now and possibly never.
JOCK n. Programmer who is characterized by large and somewhat brute
force programs. The term is particularly well-suited for systems
JRST (jerst) [based on the PDP-10 jump instruction] v. To suddenly
change subjects. Usage: rather rare. "Jack be nimble, Jack be
quick; Jack jrst over the candle stick."
KLUGE (kloodj) alt. KLUDGE [from the German "kluge", clever] n. 1. A
Rube Goldberg device in hardware or software. 2. A clever
programming trick intended to solve a particular nasty case in an
efficient, if not clear, manner. Often used to repair bugs. Often
verges on being a crock. 3. Something that works for the wrong
reason. 4. v. To insert a kluge into a program. "I've kluged this
routine to get around that weird bug, but there's probably a better
LDB (lid'dib) [from the PDP-10 instruction set] v. To extract from the
LIFE n. A cellular-automata game invented by John Horton Conway, and
first introduced publicly by Martin Gardner (Scientific American,
LINE STARVE (MIT) Inverse of LINE FEED.
LOSE [from MIT jargon] v. 1. To fail. A program loses when it
encounters an exceptional condition. 2. To be exceptionally
unaesthetic. 3. Of people, to be obnoxious or unusually stupid (as
opposed to ignorant). 4. DESERVE TO LOSE: v. Said of someone who
willfully does the wrong thing; humorously, if one uses a feature
known to be marginal. What is meant is that one deserves the
consequences of one's losing actions. "Boy, anyone who tries to
use MULTICS deserves to lose!"
LOSE LOSE - a reply or comment on a situation.
LOSER n. An unexpectedly bad situation, program, programmer, or
person. Especially "real loser".
LOSS n. Something which loses. WHAT A (MOBY) LOSS!: interjection.
LOSSAGE n. The result of a bug or malfunction.
LPT (lip'-it) n. Line printer, of course.
MACROTAPE n. An industry standard reel of tape, as opposed to a
MAGIC adj. As yet unexplained, or too complicated to explain. (Arthur
C. Clarke once said that magic was as-yet-not-understood science.)
"TTY echoing is controlled by a large number of magic bits." "This
routine magically computes the parity of an eight-bit byte in three
MARGINAL adj. 1. Extremely small. 2. Of extremely small merit. 3.
Of extremely small probability of winning. "A marginal increase in
core can decrease GC time drastically." "This proposed new feature
seems rather marginal to me." "The power supply was rather
marginal anyway; no wonder it crapped out." 4. MARGINALLY: adv.
Slightly. "The ravs here are only marginally better than at Small
MICROTAPE n. Occasionally used to mean a DECtape, as opposed to a
MISFEATURE n. A feature which eventually screws someone, possibly
because it is not adequate for a new situation which has evolved.
It is not the same as a bug because fixing it involve a gross
philosophical change to the structure of the system involved.
Often a former feature becomes a misfeature because a tradeoff was
made whose parameters subsequently changed (possibly only in the
judgement of the implementors). "Well, yeah, it's kind of a
misfeature that file names are limited to six characters, but we're
stuck with it for now."
MOBY [Seems to have been in use among model railroad fans years ago.
Entered the world of AI with the Fabritek 256K moby memory of
MIT-AI. Derived from Melville's "Moby Dick" (some say from "Moby
Pickle").] 1. adj. Large, immense, or complex. "A moby frob." 2.
n. The maximum address space of a machine, hence 3. n. 256K words,
the size of a PDP-10 moby. (The maximum address space means the
maximum normally addressable space, as opposed to the amount of
physical memory a machine can have. Thus the MIT PDP-10s each have
two mobies, usually referred to as the "low moby" (0-777777) and
"high moby" (1000000-1777777), or as "moby 0" and "moby 1". MIT-AI
has four mobies of address space: moby 2 is the PDP-6 memory, and
moby 3 the PDP-11 interface.) In this sense "moby" is often used
as a generic unit of either address space (18. bits' worth) or of
memory (about a megabyte, or 9/8 megabyte (if one accounts for
difference between 32.- and 36.-bit words), or 5/4 megacharacters).
4. A title of address (never of third-person reference), usually
used to show admiration, respect, and/or friendliness to a
competent hacker. "So, moby Knight, how's the CONS machine doing?"
MOBY FOO, MOBY WIN, MOBY LOSS: standard emphatic forms.
FOBY MOO: a spoonerism due to Greenblatt.
MODULO prep. Except for. From mathematical terminology: one can
consider saying that 4=22 "except for the 9's" (4=22 mod 9).
"Well, LISP seems to work okay now, modulo that GC bug."
MUMBLE interj. 1. Said when the correct response is either too
complicated to enunciate or the speaker has not thought it out.
Often prefaces a longer answer, or indicates a general reluctance
to get into a big long discussion. "Well, mumble." 2. Sometimes
used as an expression of disagreement. "I think we should buy it."
"Mumble!" Common variant: MUMBLE FROTZ.
MUNCH (often confused with "mung", q.v.) v. To transform information
in a serial fashion, often requiring large amounts of computation.
To trace down a data structure. Related to CRUNCH (q.v.), but
connotes less pain.
MUNCHING SQUARES n. A display hack dating back to the PDP-1, which
employs a trivial computation (involving XOR'ing of x-y display
coordinates - see HAKMEM items 146-148) to produce an impressive
display of moving, growing, and shrinking squares. The hack
usually has a parameter (usually taken from toggle switches) which
when well-chosen can produce amazing effects. Some of these,
discovered recently on the LISP machine, have been christened
MUNCHING TRIANGLES, MUNCHING W'S, and MUNCHING MAZES.
MUNG (variant: MUNGE) [recursive acronym for Mung Until No Good] v. 1.
To make changes to a file, often large-scale, usually irrevocable.
Occasionally accidental. See BLT. 2. To destroy, usually
accidentally, occasionally maliciously. The system only mungs
N adj. 1. Some large and indeterminate number of objects; "There were
N bugs in that crock!"; also used in its original sense of a
variable name. 2. An arbitrarily large (and perhaps infinite)
number. 3. A variable whose value is specified by the current
context. "We'd like to order N wonton soups and a family dinner
for N-1." NTH adj. The ordinal counterpart of N. "Now for the Nth
and last time..." In the specific context "Nth-year grad student",
N is generally assumed to be at least 4, and is usually 5 or more.
NIGHT MODE See PHASE (of people).
NIL [from LISP terminology for "false"] No. Usage: used in reply to a
question, particularly one asked using the "-P" convention. See T.
OBSCURE adj. Used in an exaggeration of its normal meaning, to imply a
total lack of comprehensibility. "The reason for that last crash is
obscure." "FIND's command syntax is obscure." MODERATELY OBSCURE
implies that it could be figured out but probably isn't worth the
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 def-fun foo, open
eks close, open, plus ekx one, close close." See CLOSE.
PARSE [from linguistic terminology] v. 1. To determine the syntactic
structure of a sentence or other utterance (close to the standard
English meaning). Example: "That was the one I saw you." "I can't
parse that." 2. More generally, to understand or comprehend.
"It's very simple; you just kretch the glims and then aos the
zotz." "I can't parse that." 3. Of fish, to have to remove the
bones yourself (usually at a Chinese restaurant). "I object to
parsing fish" means "I don't want to get a whole fish, but a sliced
one is okay." A "parsed fish" has been deboned. There is some
controversy over whether "unparsed" should mean "bony", or also
PATCH 1. n. A temporary addition to a piece of code, usually as a
quick-and-dirty remedy to an existing bug or misfeature. A patch
may or may not work, and may or may not eventually be incorporated
permanently into the program. 2. v. To insert a patch into a piece
PDL (piddle or puddle) [acronym for Push Down List] n. 1. A LIFO queue
(stack); more loosely, any priority queue; even more loosely, any
queue. A person's pdl is the set of things he has to do in the
future. One speaks of the next project to be attacked as having
risen to the top of the pdl. "I'm afraid I've got real work to do,
so this'll have to be pushed way down on my pdl." See PUSH and
POP. 2. Dave Lebling (PDL@DM).
PHASE (of people) n. The phase of one's waking-sleeping schedule with
respect to the standard 24-hour cycle. This is a useful concept
among people who often work at night according to no fixed
schedule. It is not uncommon to change one's phase by as much as
six hours/day on a regular basis. "What's your phase?" "I've been
getting in about 8 PM lately, but I'm going to work around to the
day schedule by Friday." A person who is roughly 12 hours out of
phase is sometimes said to be in "night mode". (The term "day
mode" is also used, but less frequently.)
PHASE OF THE MOON n. Used humorously as a random parameter on which
something is said to depend. Sometimes implies unreliability of
whatever is dependent. "This feature depends on having the channel
open in mumble mode, having the foo switch set, and on the phase of
POP [based on the stack operation that removes the top of a stack, and
the fact that procedure return addresses are saved on the stack]
dialect: POPJ (pop-jay), based on the PDP-10 procedure return
instruction. v. To return from a digression.
PTY (pity) n. Pseudo TTY, a simulated TTY used to run a job under the
supervision of another job.
PTYJOB (pity-job) n. The job being run on the PTY. Also a common
general-purpose program for creating and using PTYs.
This is DEC and SAIL terminology; the MIT equivalent is STY.
PUNT [from the punch line of an old joke: "Drop back 15 yards and
punt"] v. To give up, typically without any intention of retrying.
PUSH [based on the stack operation that puts the current information
on a stack, and the fact that procedure call addresses are saved on
the stack] dialect: PUSHJ (push-jay), based on the PDP-10 procedure
call instruction. v. To enter upon a digression, to save the
current discussion for later.
QUUX [Invented by Steele. Mythically, from the Latin semi-deponent
verb QUUXO, QUUXARE, QUUXANDUM IRI; noun form variously QUUX
(plural QUUCES, Anglicized to QUUXES) and QUUXU (genitive plural is
QUUXUUM, four U's in seven letters).] 1. Originally, a meta-word
like FOO and FOOBAR. Invented by Steele for precisely this
purpose. 2. interj. See FOO; however, denotes very little disgust,
and is uttered mostly for the sake of the sound of it. 3. n.
Refers to one of three people who went to Boston Latin School and
eventually to MIT:
THE GREAT QUUX: Guy L. Steele Jr.
THE LESSER QUUX: David J. Littleboy
THE MEDIOCRE QUUX: Alan P. Swide
(This taxonomy is said to be similarly applied to three Frankston
brothers at MIT.) QUUX, QUUX, without qualification, usually
refers to The Great Quux, who is somewhat infamous for light verse
and for the "Crunchly" cartoons. 4. QUUXY: adj. Of or pertaining
to a QUUX.
RANDOM adj. 1. Unpredictable (closest to mathematical definition);
weird. "The system's been behaving pretty randomly." 2. Assorted;
undistinguished. "Who was at the conference?" "Just a bunch of
random business types." 3. Frivolous; unproductive; undirected
(pejorative). "He's just a random loser." 4. Incoherent or
inelegant; not well organized. "The program has a random set of
misfeatures." "That's a random name for that function." "Well,
all the names were chosen pretty randomly." 5. In no particular
order, though deterministic. "The I/O channels are in a pool, and
when a file is opened one is chosen randomly." n. 6. A random
hacker; used particularly of high school students who soak up
computer time and generally get in the way. 7. (Occasional MIT
usage) One who lives at Random Hall.
RANDOMNESS n. An unexplainable misfeature; gratuitous inelegance.
Also, a hack or crock which depends on a complex combination
of coincidences (or rather, the combination upon which the
crock depends). "This hack can output characters 40-57 by
putting the character in the accumulator field of an XCT and
then extracting 6 bits -- the low two bits of the XCT opcode
are the right thing." "What randomness!"
REAL WORLD, THE n. 1. In programming, those institutions at which
programming may be used in the same sentence as FORTRAN, COBOL,
RPG, IBM, etc. 2. To programmers, the location of non-programmers
and activities not related to programming. 3. A universe in which
the standard dress is shirt and tie and in which a person's working
hours are defined as 9 to 5. 4. The location of the status quo.
"Poor fellow, he's left MIT and gone into the real world." Used
pejoratively by those not in residence there. In conversation,
talking of someone who has entered the real world is not unlike
talking about a deceased person.
SACRED adj. Reserved for the exclusive use of something (a
metaphorical extension of the standard meaning). "Accumulator 7 is
sacred to the UUO handler." Often means that anyone may look at
the sacred object, but clobbering it will screw whatever it is
SEMI 1. n. Abbreviation for "semicolon", when speaking. "Commands to
GRIND are prefixed by semi-semi-star" means that the prefix is
";;*", not 1/4 of a star. 2. Prefix with words such as
"immediately", as a qualifier. "When is the system coming up?"
69 adj. Large quantity. Usage: Exclusive to MIT-AI. "Go away, I have
69 things to do to DDT before worrying about fixing the bug in the
phase of the moon output routine..."
[Note: Actually, any number less than 100 but large enough to have
no obvious magic properties will be recognized as a "large number".
There is no denying that "69" is the local favorite. I don't know
whether its origins are related to the obscene interpretation, but
I do know that 69 decimal = 105 octal, and 69 hexadecimal = 105
decimal, which is a nice property. - GLS]
SLOP n. 1. A one-sided fudge factor (q.v.). Often introduced to avoid
the possibility of a fencepost error (q.v.). 2. (Used by compiler
freaks) The ratio of code generated by a compiler to hand-compiled
code, minus 1; i.e. the space (or maybe time) you lose because you
didn't do it yourself.
SLURP v. To read a large data file entirely into core before working
on it. "This program slurps in a 1K-by-1K matrix and does an FFT."
SNARF v. To grab, esp. a large document or file for the purpose of
using it either with or without the author's permission. See BLT.
Variant: SNARF (IT) DOWN. (At MIT on ITS, DDT has a command called
:SNARF which grabs a job from another (inferior) DDT.)
SOFTWARE ROT n. Hypothetical disease the existence of which has been
deduced from the observation that unused programs or features will
stop working after sufficient time has passed, even if "nothing has
changed". Also known as "bit decay".
SOFTWARILY adv. In a way pertaining to software. "The system is
softwarily unreliable." The adjective "softwary" is NOT used. See
SOS 1. n. A losing editor, SON OF STOPGAP. 2. v. Inverse of AOS, from
the PDP-10 instruction set.
SPAZZ 1. v. To behave spastically or erratically; more often, to
commit a single gross error. "Boy, is he spazzing!" 2. n. One who
spazzes. "Boy, what a spazz!" 3. n. The result of spazzing.
"Boy, what a spazz!"
STATE n. Condition, situation. "What's the state of NEWIO?" "It's
winning away." "What's your state?" "I'm about to gronk out." As
a special case, "What's the state of the world?" (or, more silly,
"State-of-world-P?") means "What's new?" or "What's going on?"
STOPPAGE n. Extreme lossage (see LOSSAGE) resulting in something
(usually vital) becoming completely unusable.
STY (pronounced "sty", not spelled out) n. A pseudo-teletype, which is
a two-way pipeline with a job on one end and a fake keyboard-tty
on the other. Also, a standard program which provides a pipeline
from its controlling tty to a pseudo-teletype (and thence to another
tty, thereby providing a "sub-tty").
This is MIT terminology; the SAIL and DEC equivalent is PTY.
SUPERPROGRAMMER n. See "wizard", "hacker". Usage: rare. (Becoming
more common among IBM and Yourdon types.)
SWAPPED v. From the use of secondary storage devices to implement
virtual memory in computer systems. Something which is SWAPPED IN
is available for immediate use in main memory, and otherwise is
SWAPPED OUT. Often used metaphorically to refer to people's
memories: "I read TECO ORDER every few months to keep the
information swapped in."
SYSTEM n. 1. The supervisor program on the computer. 2. Any
large-scale program. 3. Any method or algorithm. 4. The way
things are usually done. Usage: a fairly ambiguous word. "You
can't beat the system."
SYSTEM HACKER: one who hacks the system (in sense 1 only; for sense
2 one mentions the particular program: e.g., LISP HACKER)
T [from LISP terminology for "true"] Yes. Usage: used in reply to a
question, particularly one asked using the "-P" convention). See
TALK MODE See COM MODE.
TECO (tee'koe) [acronym for Text Editor and COrrector] 1. n. A text
editor developed at MIT, and modified by just about everybody. If
all the dialects are included, TECO might well be the single most
prolific editor in use. Noted for its powerful pseudo-programming
features and its incredibly hairy syntax. 2. v. To edit using the
TECO editor in one of its infinite forms; sometimes used to mean
"to edit" even when not using TECO! Usage: rare at SAIL, where
most people wouldn't touch TECO with a TENEX pole.
[Historical note: DEC grabbed an ancient version of MIT TECO many
years ago when it was still a TTY-oriented editor. By now, TECO at
MIT is highly display-oriented and is actually a language for
writing editors, rather than an editor. Meanwhile, the outside
world's various versions of TECO remain almost the same as the MIT
version of ten years ago. DEC recently tried to discourage its
use, but an underground movement of sorts kept it alive.]
TELNET v. To communicate with another ARPAnet host using the TELNET
program. TOPS-10 people use the word IMPCOM since that is the
program name for them. Sometimes abbreviated to TN. "I usually TN
over to SAIL just to read the AP News."
TERPRI (tur'pree) [from the LISP 1.5 (and later, MacLISP) function to
start a new line of output] To output a CRLF (q.v.).
THEORY n. Used in the general sense of idea, plan, story, or set of
rules. "What's the theory on fixing this TECO loss?" "What's the
theory on dinner tonight?" ("Chinatown, I guess.") "What's the
current theory on letting losers on during the day?" "The theory
behind this change is to fix the following well-known screw..."
THRASH v. To move wildly or violently. Swapping systems which are
overloaded spend much of their time moving pages into and out of
core, and are therefore said to thrash.
TICK n. Interval of time; basic clock time on the computer. Typically
1/60 second. See JIFFY.
TRAP 1. n. A program interrupt, usually used specifically to refer to
an interrupt caused by some illegal action taking place in the user
program. In most cases the system monitor performs some action
related to the nature of the illegality, then returns control to
the program. See UUO. 2. v. 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."
TTY (titty) n. Terminal of the teletype variety, characterized by a
noisy mechanical printer, a very limited character set, and poor
print quality. Usage: antiquated (like the TTY's themselves).
Sometimes used to refer to any terminal at all; sometimes used
to refer to the particular terminal controlling a job.
TWEAK v. To change slightly, usually in reference to a value. Also
used synonymously with TWIDDLE. See FUDGE FACTOR.
TWENEX n. The TOPS-20 operating system by DEC. So named because
TOPS-10 was a typically crufty DEC operating system for the PDP-10.
BBN developed their own system, called TENEX (TEN EXecutive), and
in creating TOPS-20 for the DEC-20 DEC copied TENEX and adapted it
for the 20. Usage: DEC people cringe when they hear TOPS-20
referred to as "Twenex", but the term seems to catching on
TWIDDLE 1. n. A small and insignificant change to a program. Usually
fixes one bug and generates several new ones. 2. v. To change
something in a small way. Bits, for example, are often twiddled.
Twiddling a switch implies much less sense of purpose than toggling
it; see FROB (v.).
UP adj. 1. Working, in order. "The down escalator is up." 2. BRING
UP: v. To create a working version and start it. "They brought up
a down system."
USER n. A programmer who will believe anything you tell him. One who
asks questions. Identified at MIT with "loser" by the spelling
[Note by GLS @ MIT: I don't agree with RF's definition at all.
Basically, there are two classes of people who work with a program:
there are implementors (hackers) and users (losers). The users are
looked down on by hackers to a mild degree because they don't
understand the full ramifications of the system in all its glory.
(A few users who do are known as real winners.) It is true that
users ask questions (of necessity). Very often they are annoying
or downright stupid.]
UUO (you-you-oh) [short for "Un-Used Operation"] n. A DEC-10 system
monitor call. The term "Un-Used Operation" comes from the fact
that, on DEC-10 systems, monitor calls are implemented as invalid
or illegal machine instructions, which cause traps to the monitor
(see TRAP). The SAIL manual describing the available UUO's has a
cover picture showing an unidentified underwater object. See YOYO.
[Note: DEC sales people have since decided that "Un-Used Operation"
sounds bad, so UUO now stands for "Unimplemented User Operation".]
VANILLA adj. Ordinary flavor, standard. See FLAVOR.
VIRGIN adj. Unused, in reference to an instantiation of a program.
"Let's bring up a virgin system and see if it crashes again."
Also, by extension, unused buffers and the like within a program.
WALDO [probably taken from the story "Waldo", by Heinlein, which is
where the term was first used to mean a mechanical adjunct to a
human limb] Used at Harvard, particularly by Tom Cheatham and
students, instead of FOOBAR as a meta-syntactic variable and
general nonsense word. See FOO, BAR, FOOBAR, QUUX.
WEDGED [from "head wedged up ass"] adj. To be in a locked state,
incapable of proceeding without help. (See GRONK.) Often refers
to humans suffering misconceptions. "The swapper is wedged."
WIN [from MIT jargon] 1. v. To succeed. A program wins if no
unexpected conditions arise. 2. BIG WIN: n. Serendipity.
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. See LOSE.
WINNAGE n. The situation when a lossage is corrected, or when
something is winning. Quite rare. Usage: also quite rare.
WINNER 1. n. An unexpectedly good situation, program, programmer or
person. 2. REAL WINNER: often sarcastic, but also used as high
WINNITUDE n. The quality of winning (as opposed to WINNAGE, which is
the result of winning). "That's really great! Boy, what
WIZARD n. A person who knows how a complex piece of software or
hardware works; someone who can find and fix his bugs in an
emergency. Rarely used at MIT, where HACKER is the preferred term.
WORMHOLE n. A location in a monitor which contains the address of a
routine, with the specific intent of making it easy to substitute a
different routine. The following quote comes from "Polymorphic
Systems", vol. 2, p. 54:
"Any type of I/O device can be substituted for the standard device
by loading a simple driver routine for that device and installing
its address in one of the monitor's `wormholes.'*
*The term `wormhole' has been used to describe a hypothetical
astronomical situation where a black hole connects to the `other
side' of the universe. When this happens, information can pass
through the wormhole, in only one direction, much as `assumptions'
pass down the monitor's wormholes."
XGP 1. n. Xerox Graphics Printer. 2. v. To print something on the
XGP. "You shouldn't XGP such a large file."
YOYO n. DEC service engineers' slang for UUO (q.v.). Usage: rare at
SAIL and MIT, has been found at random DEC installations.
YOYO MODE n. State in which the system is said to be when it rapidly
alternates several times between being up and being down.