Jargon file v2.1.5 28 NOV 1990 -- part 4 of 6

Jargon file v2.1.5 28 NOV 1990 -- part 4 of 6

Post by Eric S. Raymo » Fri, 30 Nov 1990 02:58:58

                        = L =

LACE CARD n. obs. A Hollerith card with all holes punched (also called
   a WHOOPEE CARD). Some cardpunches actually jammed on the amount of
   CHAD generated by one of these.

LANGUAGE LAWYER n. A person, usually an experienced or senior software
   engineer, who is intimately familiar with many or most of the
   numerous syntactic and semantic restrictions (both useful and
   esoteric) applicable to one or more computer programming languages.

LANGUAGES OF CHOICE n. C or LISP. Essentially all hackers know one of
   these and most good ones are fluent in both. Smalltalk and Prolog
   are popular in small but influential communities. Assembler used to
   be a language of choice, but is generally no longer considered
   interesting or appropriate for anything but compiler code
   generation and a few time-critical uses in systems programs.

LARVAL STAGE n. Describes a period of monomaniacal concentration on
   coding apparently passed through by all fledgling hackers. Common
   symptoms include: the perpetration of more than one 36-hour HACKING
   RUN in a given week, neglect of all other activities including
   usual basics like food and sex, and a chronic case of advanced
   bleary-eye. Can last from six months to two years, with the
   apparent median being around eighteen months. A few so afflicted
   never resume a more `normal' life, but the ordeal seems to be
   necessary to produce really wizardly (as opposed to merely
   competent) programmers. A less protracted and intense version of
   larval stage (typically lasting about a month) may recur when
   learning a new OS or programming language.

LASE (layz) vt. To print a given document via a laser printer. ``OK,
   let's lase that sucker and see if all those graphics-macro calls
   did the right things.'' Compare DIABLO in Appendix B.

LEAK n. With qualifier, one of a class of resource-management bugs
   that occur when resources are not freed properly after operations
   on them are finished, leading to eventual exhaustion as new
   allocation requests come in. MEMORY LEAK and FD LEAK have their own
   entries; one might also refer, say, to a ``window handle leak'' in
   a window system.

LERP (lerp) v.,n. Quasi-acronym for Linear Interpolation, used as a
   verb or noun for the operation. Ex. Bresenham's algorithm lerps
   incrementally between the two endpoints of the line.

LEXER (lek'sr) n. Common hacker shorthand for ``lexical analyzer'', the
   input-tokenizing stage in the parser for a language. ``Some C lexers
   get confused by the old-style compound ops like =-''.

LIFE n. 1. A cellular-automata game invented by John Horton Conway,
   and first introduced publicly by Martin Gardner (Scientific
   American, October 1970). Many hackers pass through a stage of
   fascination with it. 2. The opposite of USENET. As in ``Get a

   process.  First popularized by a famous quote about the difficulty
   of getting work done under one of IBM's mainframe OSs. ``Well, you
   *could* write a C compiler in COBOL, but it would be like kicking
   dead whales down the beach.''

LINE EATER, THE [USENET] n. A bug in some now-obsolete versions of the
   netnews software used to cause the first lines of articles to be
   discarded under some circumstances.  This bug was quickly
   personified as a mythical creature called ``the line eater'', and
   postings often included a dummy line of ``line eater food''. The
   practice of ``sacrificing to the line eater'' continued for some
   time after the bug had been nailed to the wall, and is still
   humorously referred to. The bug itself is still (in mid-1990)
   occasionally reported to be lurking in some mail-to-netnews

LINE STARVE [MIT] Inverse of `line feed'; a character or character
   sequence which causes a printer to back up one line depth.

LINK FARM [UNIX] n. A directory tree that contains many links to files
   in another, master directory tree of files.  Link farms save space
   when maintaining several nearly identical copies of the same source
   tree, e.g. when the only difference is architecture-dependent
   object files.  Example use: `Let's freeze the source and then
   rebuild the FROBOZZ-3 and FROBOZZ-4 link farms.' Link farms may
   also be used to get around restrictions on the number of -I
   arguments on older C preprocessors.

LINT [from UNIX's lint(1)] v. To examine a program closely for style,
   language usage, and portability problems, esp. if in C, esp.  if
   via use of automated analysis tools, most esp. if the UNIX utility
   lint(1) is used. This term used to be restricted to use of lint(1)
   itself but (judging by references on the USENET) has become a
   shorthand for `desk-check' at some non-UNIX shops, even in some
   languages other than C.

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

LISP n. The name of AI's mother tongue, a language based on the ideas
   of 1) variable-length lists and trees as fundamental data types,
   and 2) the interpretation of code as data and vice-versa.  Invented
   by John McCarthy at Stanford in the late 1950s, it is actually
   older than any other HLL still in use except FORTRAN. Accordingly,
   it has undergone considerable adaptive radiation over the years;
   modern variants (of which Scheme is perhaps the most successful)
   are quite different in detail from the original LISP 1.5 at
   Stanford. The hands-down favorite of hackers until the early 1980s,
   LISP now shares the throne with C (q.v.). See LANGUAGES OF CHOICE.

LITTLE-ENDIAN adj. Describes a computer architecture in which, within
   a given 16- or 32-bit word, lower byte addresses have lower
   significance (the word is stored `little-end-first').  The PDP-11
   and VAX families of computers and Intel microprocessors and a lot
   of communications and networking hardware are little-endian. See

LIVELOCK n.  A situation in which some critical stage of a task is
   unable to finish because its clients perpetually create more work
   for it to do after they've been serviced but before it can clear.
   Differs from DEADLOCK in that the process is not blocked or waiting
   for anything, but has a virtually infinite amount of work to do and
   accomplishes nothing.

LIVEWARE n. Synonym for WETWARE (q.v.) Less common.

LOGIC BOMB n. Code surreptitiously inserted in an application or OS
   which causes it to perform some destructive or
   security-compromising activity whenever specified conditions are
   met.  Compare BACK DOOR.

LOGICAL [from the technical term ``logical device'', wherein a
   physical device is referred to by an arbitrary name] adj.
   Understood to have a meaning not necessarily corresponding to
   reality.  E.g., if a person who has long held a certain post (e.g.,
   Les Earnest at SAIL) left and was replaced, the replacement would
   for a while be known as the ``logical Les Earnest''.  The word
   VIRTUAL is also used.  At SAIL, ``logical'' compass directions
   denoted a coordinate system in which ``logical north'' is toward
   San Francisco, ``logical west'' is toward the ocean, etc., even
   though logical north varies between physical (true) north near San
   Franscisco and physical west near San Jose.  (The best rule of
   thumb here is that El Camino Real by definition always runs logical
   north-and-south.) The concept is perpetuated by bay area highways
   which are almost, but not quite, consistently labelled with logical
   rather than physical directions.

LORD HIGH FIXER [primarily British] n. The person in an organisation
   who knows the most about some aspect of a system. See WIZARD.

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!'' See also SCREW, CHOMP, BAGBITER.
   LOSE LOSE -- a reply or comment on a situation. 5. LOSE as a noun
   refers to something which is losing, especially in the phrases
   ``That's a lose!'' or ``What a lose!''.

LOSER n. An unexpectedly bad situation, program, programmer, or
   person.  Especially ``real loser''.

LOSS n. Something which loses.  WHAT A (MOBY) LOSS!: interjection.

LOSSAGE (los'@j) n. The result of a bug or malfunction.

LPT (lip'it) [ITS] n. Line printer, of course. Rare under UNIX,
   commoner in hackers with MS-DOS or CP/M background (the printer
   device is called LPT: on those systems, which like ITS were
   strongly influenced by early DEC conventions).

LURKER n. One of the `silent majority' in a USENET or BBS newsgroup;
   one who posts occasionally or not at all but is known to read the
   group regularly. Often in `THE LURKERS', the hypothetical audience
   for the group's FLAMING regulars.

LUNATIC FRINGE [IBM] n. Customers who can be relied upon to accept
   release 1 versions of software.

LUSER (loo'zr)  See USER.

                        = M =

MACDINK (mak'dink) [from the Apple Macintosh, which is said to
   encourage such behavior] v.  To make many incremental and
   unnecessary cosmetic changes to a program or file.  Frequently the
   subject of the macdinking would be better off without them.  Ex:
   ``When I left at 11pm last night, he was still macdinking the
   slides for his presentation.''

MACINTRASH (mak'in-trash) The Apple Macintosh, by someone who doesn't
   appreciate being kept away from the _real_computer_ by the

MACRO (mak'ro) n. A name (possibly followed by a formal ARG list)
   which is equated to a text expression to which it is to be expanded
   (possibly with substitution of actual arguments) by a language
   translator. This definition can be found in any technical
   dictionary; what those won't tell you is how the hackish
   connotations of the term have changed over time. The term `macro'
   originated in early assemblers, which encouraged use of macros as a
   structuring and information-hiding device. During the early 70s
   macro assemblers became ubiquitous and sometimes quite as powerful
   and expensive as HLLs, only to fall from favor as improving
   compiler technology marginalized assembler programming (see
   LANGUAGES OF CHOICE). Nowadays the term is most often used in
   connection with the C preprocessor, LISP, or one of several
   special-purpose languages built around a macro-expansion facility
   (such as TEX or UNIX's nroff, troff and pic suite). Indeed, the
   meaning has drifted enough that the collective `macros' is now
   sometimes used for code in any special-purpose application-control
   language, whether or not the language is actually translated by
   text expansion.

MACROLOGY (mak-ro'l@-jee) n. Set of usually complex or crufty macros,
   e.g. as part of a large system written in LISP, TECO or (less
   commonly) assembler.  Sometimes studying the macrology of a system
   is not unlike archaeology, hence the sound-alike construction.
   Prob. influenced by THEOLOGY (q.v.).

MACROTAPE (ma'kro-tayp) n. An industry standard reel of tape, as
   opposed to a MICROTAPE.

MAGIC adj. 1. As yet unexplained, or too complicated to explain
   (compare Clarke's Second Law: ``Any sufficiently advanced
   technology is indistinguishable from magic'').  ``TTY echoing is
   controlled by a large number of magic bits.''  ``This routine
   magically computes the parity of an eight-bit byte in three
   instructions.''  2. [Stanford] A feature not generally publicized
   which allows something otherwise impossible, or a feature formerly
   in that category but now unveiled. Example: The keyboard commands
   which override the screen-hiding features.

MAGIC COOKIE [UNIX] n. 1. Something passed between routines or
   programs that enables the receiver to perform some OBSCURE
   operationl; a capability ticket.  Especially used of small data
   objects which contain data encoded in a strange or intrinsically
   machine-dependent way. For example, on non-UNIX OSs with a
   non-byte-stream model of files, the result of ftell(3) may be a
   `magic cookie' rather than a byte offset; it can be passed to
   fseek(3) but not operated on in any meaningful way.  2. A blank
   left on the screen when your terminal changes modes. Some older
   terminals would print a blank when you entered and exited special
   modes, such as underline or flash. This was also called a GLITCH.

MAGIC NUMBER [UNIX/C] n. 1. Special data located at the beginning of a
   binary data file to indicate its type to a utility. Under UNIX the
   system and various applications programs (especially the linker)
   distinguish between types of executable by looking for a magic
   number. 2. In source code, some non-obvious constant whose value is
   significant to the operation of a program and is inserted
   inconspicuously in line, rather than expanded in by a symbol set by
   a commented #define. Magic numbers in this sense are bad style.

MAGIC SMOKE n. A notional substance trapped inside IC packages that
   enables them to function. Its existence is demonstrated by what
   happens when a chip burns up -- the magic smoke gets let out, so it
   doesn't work any more. See SMOKE TEST.

MANGLE v. Used similarly to MUNG or SCRIBBLE, but more violent in its
   connotations; something that is mangled has been irreversibly and
   totally trashed.

MANGO [orig. in-house slang at Symbolics] n.  A manager.  See also
   DEVO and DOCO.

MARGINAL adj. 1. Extremely small.  ``A marginal increase in core can
   decrease GC time drastically.''  2. Of extremely small merit.
   ``This proposed new feature seems rather marginal to me.''  3. Of
   extremely small probability of winning.  ``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 Eating Place.''

   Member of a company's marketing department, esp.  one who promises
   users that the next version of a product will have features which
   are unplanned, extremely difficult to implement, and/or violate the
   laws of physics. Derogatory. Used by techies.

MARTIAN n. A packet sent on a TCP/IP network with a source address of
   the test loopback interface (  As in ``The domain server
   is getting lots of packets from Mars.  Does that gateway have a
   Martian filter?''

MASSAGE v. Vague term used to describe `smooth' transformations of a
   data set into a more useful form, esp.  transformations which do
   not lose information. Connotes less pain and more ELEGANCE than
   MUNCH or CRUNCH (q.v.). ``He wrote a program that massages X bitmap
   files into GIF format.'' Compare SLURP.

MEATWARE n. Synonym for WETWARE (q.v.). Less common.

MEGAPENNY (meg'a-pen'ee) n. $10,000 (1 cent * 10e6). Used
   semi-humorously as a unit in comparing computer cost/performance

MEGO (mego, meego) [My Eyes Glaze Over, often Mine Eyes Glazeth Over,
   attributed to the futurologist Herman Kahn] Also MEGO FACTOR.  1.
   Handwaving intended to confuse the listener and hopefully induce
   agreement because the listener does not want to admit to not
   understanding what is going on.  MEGO is usually directed at senior
   management by engineers and contains a high proportion of TLAs
   (q.v.). 2. excl. An appropriate response to MEGO tactics.


MEME (meem) [coined on analogy with `gene' by Richard Dawkins] n. An
   idea considered as a REPLICATOR. Used esp. in the prase `meme
   complex' denoting a group of mutually supporting memes which form
   an organized belief system, such as a religion.  This dictionary is
   a vector of the ``hacker subculture'' meme complex; each entry
   might be considered a meme.  However, ``meme'' is often misused to
   mean ``meme complex''. Use of the term connotes acceptance of the
   idea that in humans (and presumably other tool-and language-using
   sophonts) cultural evolution by selection of adaptive ideas has
   superseded biological evolution by selection of hereditary traits.

MEMETICS (mee-me-tiks) [from MEME] The study of memes. As of 1990,
   this is still an extremely informal and speculative endeavor,
   though the first steps towards at least statistical rigor have been
   made by H. Keith Henson and others. Memetics is a popular topic
   among hackers, who like to see themselves as the architects of the
   new information ecologies in which memes live and replicate.

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

MEMORY LEAK [C/UNIX programmers] n. An error in a program's
   dynamic-store allocation logic that causes it to fail to reclaim
   discarded memory, leading to attempted hogging of main store and
   eventual collapse due to memory exhaustion. Also (esp. at CMU)

MENUITIS (men`yoo-i'tis) n. Notional disease suffered by software with
   an obsessively simple-minded menu interface and no escape.  Hackers
   find this intensely irritating and much prefer the flexibility of
   command-line or language-style interfaces, especially those
   customizable via macros or a special-purpose language in which one
   can encode useful hacks. See USER-OBSEQUIOUS, DROOL-PROOF PAPER,

MESS-DOS (mes-dos) [UNIX hackers] n. Derisory term for MS-DOS. Often
   followed by the ritual expurgation ``Just Say No!''. See MS-DOS.
   Most hackers (even many MS-DOS hackers) loathe MS-DOS for its
   single-tasking nature, its limits on application size, its nasty
   primitive interface, and its ties to IBMness (see FEAR AND
   LOATHING). Also ``mess-loss'', ``messy-dos'', ``mess-dog'' and
   various combinations thereof.

META (mayt'@) [from analytic philosophy] adj. One level of description
   up.  Thus, a meta-syntactic variable is a variable in notation used
   to describe syntax and meta-language is language used to describe
   language. This is difficult to explain out of context, but much
   hacker humor turns on deliberate confusion between meta-levels.

META BIT (mayt'@) n. Bit 8 of an 8-bit character, on in values
   128-255. Also called HIGH BIT or ALT BIT. Some terminals and
   consoles (especially those designed for LISP traditions) have a
   META-shift key. Others (including, mirabile dictu, keyboards on IBM
   PC-class machines) have an ALT key. See also BUCKY BITS.

MICROFLOPPIES n. 3-1/2 inch floppies, as opposed to 5-1/4 VANILLA or
   mini-floppies and the now-obsolescent 8-inch variety. This term may
   be headed for obsolescence as 5-1/4 inchers pass out of use, only
   to be revived if anybody floats a sub-3-inch floppy standard.

MICROTAPE n. Occasionally used to mean a DECtape, as opposed to a

   orders like 3-4-1-2 occasionally found in the packed-decimal
   formats from minicomputer manufacturers who shall remain nameless.

MILLILAMPSON (mil'i-lamp-sn) n.  How fast people can talk.  Most
   people run about 200 millilampsons.  Butler Lampson (a CS theorist
   highly regarded among hackers) goes at 1000.  A few people speak

MIPS (mips) [acronym] Formally, ``Millions of Instructions Per
   Second''; often rendered by hackers as ``Meaningless Indication of
   Processor Speed''. This joke expresses a nearly universal attitude
   about the value of BENCHMARK (q.v.) claims, said attitude being one
   of the great cultural divides between hackers and MARKETROIDS.

MISFEATURE (mis-fee'chr) 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 involves 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
   judgment 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.
   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 (see Appendix B).  3.
   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?''  4.
   adj. In backgammon, doubles on the dice, as in ``moby sixes'',
   ``moby ones'', etc.  MOBY FOO, MOBY WIN, MOBY LOSS: standard
   emphatic forms.  FOBY MOO: a spoonerism due to Greenblatt.  The
   MOBY constructions are now relatively rare outside MIT.

MODE n. A general state, usually used with an adjective describing the
   state.  ``No time to hack; I'm in thesis mode.''  Usage: in its
   jargon sense, MODE is most often said of people, though it is
   sometimes applied to programs and inanimate objects.  ``If you're
   on a TTY, E will switch to non-display mode.''  In particular, see

MODULO (mod'yuh-low) 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.''

MONKEY UP v. To hack together hardware for a particular task,
   especially a one-shot job. Connotes an extremely CRUFTY and
   consciously temporary solution.

MONSTROSITY 1. n. A ridiculously ELEPHANTINE program or system, esp.
   one which is buggy or only marginally functional.  2.  The quality
   of being monstrous (see `Peculiar nouns' in the discussion of

MOORE'S LAW (morz law) [folklore] The observation that the logic
   density of silicon integrated circuits has closely followed the
   curve (bits per inch ** 2) = 2 ** (n - 1962); that is, the amount
   of information storable in one square inch of silicon has roughly
   doubled yearly every year since the technology was invented.

MOTAS (moh-tahs) [USENET, Member Of The Appropriate Sex] n. A
   potential or (less often) actual sex partner. See MOTOS, MOTSS,

MOTOS (moh-tohs) [USENET, Member Of The Other Sex] n. A potential or
   (less often) actual sex partner. See MOTAS, MOTSS, S.O. Less common
   than MOTSS or MOTAS, which has largely displaced it.

MOTSS (mots) [USENET, Member Of The Same Sex] n. Esp. one considered
   as a possible sexual partner, e.g. by a gay or lesbian.  The
   gay-issues board on USENET is called soc.motss. See MOTOS and
   MOTAS, which derive from it. Also see S.O.

MOUNT v. 1. To attach a removable storage volume to a machine.  In
   elder days and on mainframes this verb was used almost exclusively
   of tapes; nowadays (especially under UNIX) it is more likely to
   refer to a disk volume. 2. By extension, to attach any removable
   device such as a sensor, robot arm, or MEATWARE subsystem (see
   Appendix A).

MOUSE AROUND v. To explore public portions of a large system, esp. a
   network such as Internet via FTP or TELNET, looking for interesting
   stuff to SNARF.

MOUSO (mow'so) n. [by analogy with `typo'] An error in mouse usage
   resulting in an inappropriate selection or graphic garbage on the

MS-DOS (em-es-das) n. A clone of CP/M (q.v.) for the 8088 crufted
   together in six weeks by hacker Tim Patterson, who is said to have
   regretted it ever since.  Now the highest-unit-volume OS in
   history. See MESS-DOS.

MULTICS (muhl'tiks) n. [from Multi-Tasking Computer System] An early
   (late 1960s) timesharing operating system co-designed by a
   consortium including Honeywell and Bell Laboratories. All the
   members but Honeywell eventually pulled out after determining that
   SECOND-SYSTEM SYNDROME had bloated Multics to the point of
   practical unusability (though Honeywell did later comercialize it,
   it was never very successful).  One of the developers left in the
   lurch by the project's breakup was Ken Thompson, a circumstance
   which led directly to the birth of UNIX (q.v.). For this and other
   reasons aspects of the Multics design remain a topic of occasional
   debate among hackers. See also BRAIN DAMAGE.

MUMBLAGE (mum'bl@j) n. The topic of one's mumbling (see MUMBLE).
   ``All that mumblage'' is used like ``all that stuff'' when it is
   not quite clear what it is or how it works, or like ``all that
   crap'' when ``mumble'' is being used as an implicit replacement for

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,
   (re)discovered recently on the LISP machine, have been christened

MUNCHKIN (muhnch'kin) n. A teenage-or-younger micro enthusiast bashing
   BASIC or something else equally constricted. A term of mild
   derision -- munchkins are annoying but some grow up to be hackers
   after passing through a LARVAL STAGE. The term URCHIN is also used.
   See also BITTY BOX.

MUNDANE [from SF fandom] n.  1.  A person who is not in science
   fiction fandom. 2.  A person who is not in the computer industry.
   In this sense, most often an adjectival modifier as in ``in my
   mundane life...''

MUNG alt. MUNGE (muhnj) [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 things maliciously. See SCRIBBLE, MANGLE, TRASH. Reports from
   USENET suggest that the pronunciation `munj' is now usual in
   speech, but the spelling `mung' is still common in program

MUSIC n. A common extracurricular interest of hackers (compare
   widely believed among hackers that there is a substantial
   correlation between whatever mysterious traits underlie hacking
   ability (on the one hand) and musical talent and sensitivity (on
   the other). It is certainly the case that hackers, as a rule, like
   music and often develop musical appreciation in unusual and
   interesting directions.  Folk music is very big in hacker circles;
   so is the sort of elaborate instrumental jazz/rock that used to be
   called `progressive' and isn't recorded much any more. Also, the
   hacker's musical range tends to be wide; many can listen with equal
   appreciation to (say) Talking Heads, Yes, Spirogyra, Scott Joplin,
   King Sunny Ade, The Pretenders, or one of Bach's Brandenburg
   Concerti. It is also apparently true that hackerdom includes a much
   higher concentration of talented amateur musicians than one would
   expect from a similar-sized control group of MUNDANES.

MUTTER v. To quietly enter a command not meant for the ears of
   ordinary mortals. Frequently in ``mutter an INCANTATION''.

                        = N =

N (en) 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.''  4. 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.  See also RANDOM NUMBERS, TWO-TO-THE-N.

NAILED TO THE WALL [like a trophy] adj. Said of a bug finally
   eliminated after protracted and even heroic effort.

NANOACRE (nan'o-ay-kr) n. An area of space, or real-estate on a VLSI
   chip.  The term derives its amusement value from the fact that VLSI
   nanoacres have costs in the same range as real acres once one
   figures in design and fabrication-setup costs.

NANOBOT (nan'oh-bot) n. A robot of microscopic proportions, presumably
   built by means of NANOTECHNOLOGY (q.v.).  As yet, only used
   informally (and speculatively!). Also sometimes called a

NANOCOMPUTER (nan'oh-k:m-pyoo-tr) a computer whose switching elements
   are molecular in size.  Designs for mechanical nanocomputers which
   use single-molecule sliding rods for their logic have been
   proposed.  The controller for a NANOBOT would be a nanocomputer.

NANOTECHNOLOGY (nan'-oh-tek-naw`l:-ji) n. A hypothetical fabrication
   technology in which objects are designed and built with the
   individual specification and placement of each separate atom. The
   first unequivocal nano-fabrication experiments are taking place now
   (1990), for example with the deposition of individual Xenon atoms
   on a nickel substrate to spell the logo of a certain very large
   computer company by two of its physicists. Nanotechnology has been
   a hot topic in the hacker subculture ever since the term was coined
   by K. Eric Drexler in his book ``Engines of Creation'', where he
   predicted that nanotechnology could give rise to replicating
   ASSEMBLERs, permitting an exponential growth of productivity and
   personal wealth.

NASTYGRAM n. 1. A protocol packet or item of email (the latter is also
   called a `letterbomb') that takes advantage of misfeatures or
   security holes on the target system to do untoward things. 2.
   Disapproving mail, esp. from a net.god, pursuant to a violation of

NEOPHILIA (nee-oh-fil'-ee-uh) n. The trait of being excited and
   pleased by novelty. Common trait of most hackers, SF fans, and
   members of several other connected ``leading-edge'' subcultures
   including the pro-technology ``Whole-Earth'' wing of the ecology
   movement, space activists, theater people, the membership of MENSA,
   and the Discordian/neo-pagan underground. All these groups overlap
   heavily and (where evidence is available) seem to share
   characteristic hacker tropisms for SF, MUSIC and ORIENTAL FOOD.

NET POLICE n.  Those USENET readers who feel it is their
   responsibility to pounce on and FLAME any posting which they regard
   as offensive, or in violation of their understanding of NETIQUETTE.
   Generally used sarcastically or pejoratively. Also spelled
   `net.police'. See also CODE POLICE.

NETHACK (net'hak) n. See HACK, sense #12.

NETIQUETTE (net'ee-ket, net'i-ket) n. Conventions of politeness
   recognized on USENET, such as: avoidance of cross-posting to
   inappropriate groups, or refraining from commercial pluggery on the

NEEP-NEEP (neep neep) [onomatopoic, from New York SF fandom] n. One
   who is fascinated by computers. More general than HACKER, as it
   need not imply more skill than is required to boot games on a PC.
   The gerund NEEP-NEEPING applies specifically to the long
   conversations about computers that tend to develop in the corners
   at most SF-convention parties. Fandom has a related proverb to the
   effect that ``Hacking is a conversational black hole!'' [which, by
   coincidence, has been attributed to my SO -- ESR]

NET. (net dot) [USENET] Prefix used to describe people and events
   related to USENET.  From the pre-GREAT-RENAMING newsgroup names,
   e.g. net.singles.  Includes net.god(s) (q.v.), net.goddesses
   (various charismatic women with circles of on-line admirers),
   net.lurkers, (see LURKER), net.parties (a synonym for BOINK sense
   #2 (q.v.)) and many similar constructs.

NET.GOD (net god) n. Used to refer to anyone who satisfies some
   combination of the following conditions: has been visible on USENET
   for more than five years, ran one of the original backbone sites,
   moderated an important newsgroup, wrote news software, or knows
   Gene, Mark, Rick, Henry, Chuq, and Greg personally. See DEMIGOD.

NETWORK ADDRESS n. As used by hackers, means an address on THE NETWORK
   (almost always a BANG PATH or INTERNET ADDRESS). An essential to be
   taken seriously by hackers; in particular, persons or organizations
   claiming to understand, work with, sell to, or recruit from among
   hackers that *don't* display net addresses are quietly presumed to
   be clueless poseurs and mentally FLUSHED (sense #3). Hackers often
   put their net addresses on their business cards and wear them
   prominently in contexts where they expect to meet other hackers
   face-to-face (see also SCIENCE-FICTION FANDOM) This is mostly
   functional, but is also a connotative signal that one identifies
   with hackerdom (like lodge pins among Masons or tie-died T-shirts
   among Grateful Dead fans).  Net addresses are often used in email
   text as a more concise substitute for personal names; indeed,
   hackers may come to know each other quite well by network names
   without ever learning each others' `legal' monikers.

NETWORK, THE n. 1. The union of all the major academic and
   noncommercial/hacker-oriented networks such as Internet, the old
   ARPANET, NSFNet, BITNET and the virtual UUCP and USENET
   ``networks'', plus the corporate in-house networks that gate to
   them.  A site is generally considered `on the network' if it can be
   reached through some combination of Internet-style (@-sign) and
   UUCP (bang-path) addresses. See BANG PATH, INTERNET ADDRESS,
   NETWORK ADDRESS. 2. A fictional conspiracy of libertarian
   hacker-subversives and anti-authoritarian monkeywrenchers described
   in Robert Anton Wilson's novel _Schrodinger's_Cat_, to which many
   hackers have subsequently decided they belong (this is an example

NEWGRP WARS (n[y]oo'grp wohrz) [USENET] n. Salvos of dueling `newgrp'
   and `rmgroup' messages sometimes exchanged by persons on opposite
   sides of a dispute over whether a NEWSGROUP should be created
   netwide. These usually settle out within a week or two as it
   becomes clear whether the group has a natural constituency
   (usually, it doesn't). At times, especially in the completely
   anarchic `alt' hierarchy, the names of newsgroups themselves become
   a form of comment or humor; cf. the spinoff of
   alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork from alt.tv.muppets in early 1990,
   or any number of specialized abuse groups named after particularly
   notorious flamers.

NEWSFROUP (n[y]oos'froop) [USENET] n. Silly written-only synonym for
   NEWSGROUP, originated as a typo but now in regular use on USENET'S
   talk.bizarre and other not-real-tightly-wrapped groups.

NEWSGROUP [USENET] n. One of USENET's large collection of topic
   groups. Among the best-known are comp.lang.c (the C-language
   forum), comp.unix.wizards (for UNIX wizards), rec.arts.sf-lovers
   (for science-fiction fans) and talk.politics.misc (miscellaneous
   political discussions and flamage).

NIGHT MODE n. 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.

NON-OPTIMAL SOLUTION n. An astoundingly stupid way to do something.
   This term is generally used in deadpan sarcasm, as its impact is
   greatest when the person speaking looks completely serious.
   Compare STUNNING. See also BAD THING.

NONTRIVIAL adj. Requiring real thought or significant computing power.
   Often used as an understated way of saying that a problem is quite

NO-OP (noh-op) alt. NOP (nop) [no operation] n. 1. A machine
   instruction that does nothing (sometimes used in assembler-level
   programming as filler for data areas). 2. A person who contributes
   nothing to a project, or has nothing going on upstairs, or both. As
   in ``he's a no-op.''. 3. Any operation or sequence of operations
   with no effect, such as circling the block without finding a
   parking space, or putting money into a vending machine and having
   it fall immediately into the coin-return box, or asking someone for
   help and being told to go away.  ``Oh well, that was a no-op.''

NP- (en pee) pref.  Extremely.  Used to modify adjectives describing a
   level or quality of difficulty.  ``Getting this algorithm to
   perform correctly in every case is NP-annoying.''  This is
   generalized from the computer science terms ``NP-hard'' and
   ``NP-easy''.  NP is the set of Nondeterministic-Polynomial
   algorithms, those which can be completed by a nondeterministic
   finite state machine in an amount of time that is a polynomial
   function of the size of the input.

NUKE v. 1. To intentionally delete the entire contents of a given
   directory or storage volume. ``On UNIX, rm -r /usr will nuke
   everything in the usr filesystem.'' Never used for accidental
   deletion. Oppose BLOW AWAY. 2. Syn. for DYKE, applied to smaller
   things such as features or code sections. 3. Used of processes as
   well as files; frequently an alias for ``kill -9'' on UNIX.

NUXI PROBLEM, THE (nuk'see pro'blm, dh@) n. This refers to the problem
   of transferring data between machines with differing byte-order.
   The string ``UNIX'' might look like ``NUXI'' on a machine with a
   different ``byte sex'' (i.e. when transferring data from a
   little-endian to a big endian or vice-versa). See also, BIG-ENDIAN,

                        = O =

OB (ob) pref. Obligatory.  A piece of NETIQUETTE that acknowledges the
   author has been straying from the group's charter.  For example, if
   a posting in alt.sex has nothing particularly to do with sex, the
   author may append ``ObSex'' (or ``Obsex'') and tell a dirty joke.

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 trouble. OBSCURE IN THE EXTREME is a preferred emphatic

OBFUSCATED C CONTEST n. Annual contest run since 1984 over THE NETWORK
   by Landon Curt Noll & friends. The overall winner is he who
   produces the most unreadable, creative and bizarre working C
   program; various other prizes are awarded at the judges' whim.
   Given C's terse syntax and macro-preprocessor facilities, this
   gives 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.

OCTAL FORTY (ok'tl for'tee) n. Hackish way of saying ``I'm drawing a
   blank'' (octal 40 is the ASCII space charater). See WALL.

OFF-BY-ONE ERROR n. Exceedingly common error induced in many ways,
   usually by starting at 0 when you should have started at 1 or vice
   versa. Also applied to giving an object to the person next to the
   one who should have gotten it. Often confused with FENCEPOST ERROR,
   which is properly a particular subtype of it.

OFF THE TROLLEY adj.  Describes the behavior of a program which
   malfunctions but doesn't actually CRASH or get halted by the
   operating system. See GLITCH, BUG, DEEP SPACE.

OFFLINE adv.  Not now or not here.  Example: ``Let's take this
   discussion offline.''

ONE BELL SYSTEM (IT WORKS) This was the output from the old Unix V6
   ``1'' command.  The ``1'' command also contained a random number
   generator which gave it a one in ten chance of recursively
   executing itself.

ONE-LINER WARS n. Popular game among hackers who code in the language
   APL. 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. [This is not *quite* as silly as
   it sounds; I myself have coded one-line LIFE programs and once
   uttered a one-liner that performed lexical analysis of its input
   string followed by a dictionary lookup for good measure -- ESR]

OOBLICK (oo'blik) [allegedly from one of the Dr. Seuss books] n. A
   bizarre semi-liquid sludge made from cornstarch and water. Enjoyed
   among hackers who make batches for 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.

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.

OPEN SWITCH [IBM] n. An unresolved issue.

OPERATING SYSTEM 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 the operating system provides and its
   general design philosophy exert an extremely strong influence on
   programming style and the technical culture that grows up around a
   machine. Hacker folklore has been shaped primarily by the UNIX,
   operating systems (most importantly by ITS and UNIX). Each of these
   has its own entry, which see.

ORANGE BOOK, THE n. The U.S. Government's standards document (Trusted
   Computer System Evaluation Criteria, DOD standard 5200.28-STD,
   December, 1985) characterizing secure computing architectures,
   defining levels A1 (most secure) through C3 (least).  Stock UNIXes

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 which 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 3 times out of 4. See

ORTHOGONAL [from mathematics] adj. Mutually independent;
   well-separated; sometimes, irrelevant to. Used to describe sets of
   primitives or capabilities which, 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 MC68000 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 `and', `or' and `not' is not (because any one of these can be
   expressed in terms of the other two via De Morgan's Laws). Also
   used in comment on human discourse; ``This may be orthogonal to the
   discussion, but...''.

OS (oh ess) 1. [Operating System] n. Acronym heavily used in email,
   occasionally in speech. 2. obs. n. On ITS, an output spy.

OS/2 (oh ess too) n. The anointed successor to MS-DOS for Intel-286
   and (allegedly) 386-based micros; proof that IBM/Microsoft couldn't
   get it right the second time, either. Cited here because mentioning
   it is always good for a cheap laugh among hackers -- the design was
   so bad that three years after introduction you could still count
   the major APPs shipping for it on the fingers of two hands. See

OVERRUN SCREW [C programming] n. A variety of FANDANGO ON CORE
   produced by scribbling past the end of an array (C has no checks
   for this).  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. 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 (frequently) a core dump on the
   next operation to use stdio or malloc(3) itself. See also MEMORY