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Jargon used in computing

= B =

back door: n. A hole in the security of a system deliberately left in place by designers or
   maintainers.  The motivation for this is not always sinister; some operating systems, for
   example, come out of the box with privileged accounts intended for use by field service
   technicians or the vendor's maintenance programmers.
   Historically, back doors have often lurked in systems longer than anyone expected or
   planned, and a few have become widely known. The infamous {RTM} worm of late 1988, for
   example, used a back door in the {BSD} UNIX `sendmail(8)' utility.

   Ken Thompson's 1983 Turing Award lecture to the ACM revealed the existence of a back door
   in early UNIX versions that may have qualified as the most fiendishly clever security hack
   of all time. The C compiler contained code that would recognize when the `login' command
   was being recompiled and insert some code recognizing a password chosen by Thompson, giving
   him entry to the system whether or not an account had been created for him.

   Normally such a back door could be removed by removing it from the source code for the
   compiler and recompiling the compiler.  But to recompile the compiler, you have to *use*
   the compiler --- so Thompson also arranged that the compiler would *recognize when it was
   compiling a version of itself*, and insert into the recompiled compiler the code to insert
   into the recompiled `login' the code to allow Thompson entry --- and, of course, the code
   to recognize itself and do the whole thing again the next time around! And having done this
   once, he was then able to recompile the compiler from the original sources, leaving his
   back door in place and active but with no trace in the sources.

   The talk that revealed this truly moby hack was published as "Reflections on Trusting
   Trust", `Communications of the ACM 27', 8 (August 1984), pp. 761--763.

   Syn. {trap door}; may also be called a `wormhole'.  See also {iron box}, {cracker}, {worm},
   {logic bomb}.

backbone cabal: n. A group of large-site administrators who pushed through the {Great
   Renaming} and reined in the chaos of {USENET} during most of the 1980s.  The cabal
   {mailing list} disbanded in late 1988 after a bitter internal catfight, but the net
   hardly noticed.

backbone site: n. A key USENET and email site; one that processes a large amount of
   third-party traffic, especially if it is the home site of any of the regional coordinators
   for the USENET maps. Notable backbone sites as of early 1991 include uunet and the mail
   machines at Rutgers University, UC Berkeley, DEC's Western Research Laboratories, Ohio
   State University, and the University of Texas.  Compare {rib site}, {leaf site}.

backgammon:: See {bignum}, {moby}, and {pseudoprime}.

background: n.,adj.,vt.  To do a task `in background' is to do it whenever {foreground}
   matters are not claiming your undivided attention, and `to background' something means to
   relegate it to a lower priority.  "For now, we'll just print a list of nodes and links;
   I'm working on the graph-printing problem in background." Note that this implies ongoing
   activity but at a reduced level or in spare time, in contrast to mainstream `back burner'
   (which connotes benign neglect until some future resumption of activity). Some people
   prefer to use the term for processing that they have queued up for their unconscious minds
   (a tack that one can often fruitfully take upon encountering an obstacle in creative work).
   Compare {amp off}, {slopsucker}.
   Technically, a task running in background is detached from the terminal where it was
   started (and often running at a lower priority); oppose {foreground}.  Nowadays this term
   is primarily associated with {{UNIX}}, but it appears to have been first used in this sense
   on OS/360.

backspace and overstrike: interj. Whoa!  Back up.  Used to suggest that someone just said or
   did something wrong.  Common among APL programmers.

backward combatability: /bak'w*rd k*m-bat'*-bil'*-tee/ [from `backward compatibility'] n. A
   property of hardware or software revisions in which previous protocols, formats, and
   layouts are discarded in favour of `new and improved' protocols, formats, and layouts.
   Occurs usually when making the transition between major releases.  When the change is so
   drastic that the old formats are not retained in the new version, it is said to be
   `backward combatable'.  See {flag day}.

BAD: /B-A-D/ [IBM: acronym, `Broken As Designed'] adj.  Said of a program that is {bogus}
   because of bad design and misfeatures rather than because of bugginess.  See {working as

Bad Thing: [from the 1930 Sellar & Yeatman parody `1066 And All That'] n. Something that can't
   possibly result in improvement of the subject.  This term is always capitalized, as in
   "Replacing all of the 9600-baud modems with bicycle couriers would be a Bad Thing". Oppose
   {Good Thing}. British correspondents confirm that {Bad Thing} and {Good Thing} (and prob.
   therefore {Right Thing} and {Wrong Thing}) come from the book referenced in the etymology,
   which discusses rulers who were Good Kings but Bad Things. This has apparently created a
   mainstream idiom on the British side of the pond.

bag on the side: n. An extension to an established hack that is supposed to add some
   functionality to the original.  Usually derogatory, implying that the original was being
   overextended and should have been thrown away, and the new product is ugly, inelegant, or
   bloated.  Also v. phrase, `to hang a bag on the side [of]'.  "C++?  That's just a bag on
   the side of C ...." "They want me to hang a bag on the side of the accounting system."

bagbiter: /bag'bi:t-*r/ n. 1. Something, such as a program or a computer, that fails to work,
   or works in a remarkably clumsy manner.  "This text editor won't let me make a file with a
   line longer than 80 characters!  What a bagbiter!"  2. A person who has caused you some
   trouble, inadvertently or otherwise, typically by failing to program the computer properly.
   Synonyms: {loser}, {cretin}, {chomper}.  3. adj. `bagbiting' Having the quality of a
   bagbiter.  "This bagbiting system won't let me compute the factorial of a negative number."
   Compare {losing}, {cretinous}, {bletcherous}, `barfucious' (under {barfulous}) and
   `chomping' (under {chomp}).  4. `bite the bag' vi. To fail in some manner.  "The computer
   keeps crashing every 5 minutes."  "Yes, the disk controller is really biting the bag."
   The original loading of these terms was almost undoubtedly obscene, possibly referring to
   the scrotum, but in their current usage they have become almost completely sanitized.

   A program called Lexiphage on the old MIT AI PDP-10 would draw on a selected victim's
   bitmapped terminal the words "THE BAG" in ornate letters, and then a pair of jaws biting
   pieces of it off. This is the first and to date only known example of a program *intended*
   to be a bagbiter.

bamf: /bamf/ 1. [from old X-Men comics] interj. Notional sound made by a person or object
   teleporting in or out of the hearer's vicinity.  Often used in {virtual reality} (esp.
  {MUD}) electronic {fora} when a character wishes to make a dramatic entrance or exit.
   2. The sound of magical transformation, used in virtual reality {fora} like sense 1.
   3. [from `Don Washington's Survival Guide'] n. Acronym for `Bad-Ass Mother F**ker', used
   to refer to one of the handful of nastiest monsters on an LPMUD or other similar MUD.

banana label: n. The labels often used on the sides of {macrotape} reels, so called because
   they are shaped roughly like blunt-ended bananas.  This term, like macrotapes themselves,
   is still current but visibly headed for obsolescence.

banana problem: n. [from the story of the little girl who said "I know how to spell `banana',
   but I don't know when to stop"].  Not knowing where or when to bring a production to a
   close (compare {fencepost error}).  One may say `there is a banana problem' of an algorithm
   with poorly defined or incorrect termination conditions, or in discussing the evolution of
   a design that may be succumbing to featuritis (see also {creeping elegance}, {creeping
   featuritis}).  See item 176 under {HAKMEM}, which describes a banana problem in a
   {Dissociated Press} implementation.

bandwidth: n. 1. Used by hackers in a generalization of its technical meaning as the volume
   of information per unit time that a computer, person, or transmission medium can handle.
   "Those are amazing graphics, but I missed some of the detail --- not enough bandwidth, I
   guess."  Compare {low-bandwidth}.  2. Attention span.  3. On {USENET}, a measure of network
   capacity that is often wasted by people complaining about how items posted by others are a
   waste of bandwidth.

bang: 1. n. Common spoken name for `!' (ASCII 0100001), especially when used in pronouncing a
   {bang path} in spoken hackish.  In {elder days} this was considered a CMUish usage, with
   MIT and Stanford hackers preferring {excl} or {shriek}; but the spread of UNIX has carried
   `bang' with it (esp. via the term {bang path}) and it is now certainly the most common
   spoken name for `!'.  Note that it is used exclusively for non-emphatic written `!'; one
   would not say "Congratulations bang" (except possibly for humorous purposes), but if one
   wanted to specify the exact characters `foo!' one would speak "Eff oh oh bang".  See
   {shriek}, {{ASCII}}.  2. interj. An exclamation signifying roughly "I have achieved
   enlightenment!", or "The dynamite has cleared out my brain!"  Often used to acknowledge
   that one has perpetrated a {thinko} immediately after one has been called on it.

bang on: vt. To stress-test a piece of hardware or software: "I banged on the new version of
   the simulator all day yesterday and it didn't crash once.  I guess it is ready to release."
   The term {pound on} is synonymous.

bang path: n. An old-style UUCP electronic-mail address specifying hops to get from some
   assumed-reachable location to the addressee, so called because each {hop} is signified by a
   {bang} sign.
   Thus, for example, the path ...!bigsite!foovax!barbox!me directs people to route their mail
   to machine bigsite (presumably a well-known location accessible to everybody) and from
   there through the machine foovax to the account of user me on barbox.
   In the bad old days of not so long ago, before autorouting mailers became commonplace,
   people often published compound bang addresses using the { } convention (see {glob}) to
   give paths from *several* big machines, in the hopes that one's correspondent might be able
   to get mail to one of them reliably (example: ...!{seismo, ut-sally,
   ihnp4}!rice!beta!gamma!me).  Bang paths of 8 to 10 hops were not uncommon in 1981.
   Late-night dial-up UUCP links would cause week-long transmission times.  Bang paths were
   often selected by both transmission time and reliability, as messages would often get lost.
   See {{Internet address}}, {network, the}, and {sitename}.

banner: n. 1. The title page added to printouts by most print spoolers (see {spool}).
   Typically includes user or account ID information in very large character-graphics capitals.
   Also called a `burst page', because it indicates where to burst (tear apart) fanfold paper
   to separate one user's printout from the next. 2. A similar printout generated (typically
   on multiple pages of fan-fold paper) from user-specified text, e.g., by a program such as
   UNIX's `banner({1,6})'.  3. On interactive software, a first screen containing a logo
   and/or author credits and/or a copyright notice.

bar: /bar/ n. 1. The second metasyntactic variable, after {foo} and before {baz}. "Suppose we
   have two functions: FOO and BAR. FOO calls BAR...."  2. Often appended to {foo} to produce

bare metal: n. 1. New computer hardware, unadorned with such snares and delusions as an
   {operating system}, an {HLL}, or even assembler.  Commonly used in the phrase `programming
   on the bare metal', which refers to the arduous work of {bit bashing} needed to create
   these basic tools for a new machine.  Real bare-metal programming involves things like
   building boot proms and BIOS chips, implementing basic monitors used to test device drivers,
   and writing the assemblers that will be used to write the compiler back ends that will give
   the new machine a real development environment.  2. `Programming on the bare metal' is also
   used to describe a style of {hand-hacking} that relies on bit-level peculiarities of a
   particular hardware design, esp. tricks for speed and space optimization that rely on
   crocks such as overlapping instructions (or, as in the famous case described in appendix A,
   interleaving of opcodes on a magnetic drum to minimize fetch delays due to the device's
   rotational latency).  This sort of thing has become less common as the relative costs of
   programming time and machine resources have changed, but is still found in heavily
   constrained environments such as industrial embedded systems. See {real programmer}.
   In the world of personal computing, bare metal programming (especially in sense 1 but
   sometimes also in sense 2) is often considered a {Good Thing}, or at least a necessary
   thing (because these machines have often been sufficiently slow and poorly designed to make
   it necessary; see {ill-behaved}).  There, the term usually refers to bypassing the BIOS or
   OS interface and writing the application to directly access device registers and machine
   addresses.  "To get 19.2 kilobaud on the serial port, you need to get down to the bare
   metal."  People who can do this sort of thing are held in high regard.

barf: /barf/ [from mainstream slang meaning `vomit'] 1. interj. Term of disgust. This is the
   closest hackish equivalent of the Val\-speak "gag me with a spoon". (Like, euwww!)
   See {bletch}.  2. vi. To say "Barf!" or emit some similar expression of disgust.
   "I showed him my latest hack and he barfed" means only that he complained about it, not
   that he literally vomited.  3. vi. To fail to work because of unacceptable input. May mean
   to give an error message.  Examples: "The division operation barfs if you try to divide by
   0."  (That is, the division operation checks for an attempt to divide by zero, and if one
   is encountered it causes the operation to fail in some unspecified, but generally obvious,
   manner.) "The text editor barfs if you try to read in a new file before writing out the old
   one."  See {choke}, {gag}.  In Commonwealth hackish, `barf' is generally replaced by `puke'
   or `vom'.  {barf} is sometimes also used as a metasyntactic variable, like {foo} or {bar}.

barfulation: /bar`fyoo-lay'sh*n/ interj. Variation of {barf} used around the Stanford area.
   An exclamation, expressing disgust. On seeing some particularly bad code one might exclaim,
   "Barfulation!  Who wrote this, Quux?"

barfulous: /bar'fyoo-l*s/ adj. (alt. `barfucious', /bar-fyoo-sh*s/) Said of something that
   would make anyone barf, if only for esthetic reasons.

baroque: adj. Feature-encrusted; complex; gaudy; verging on excessive.  Said of hardware or
   (esp.) software designs, this has many of the connotations of {elephantine} or {monstrosity}
   but is less extreme and not pejorative in itself.  "Metafont even has features to introduce
   random variations to its letterform output. Now *that* is baroque!"  See also {rococo}.

BartleMUD: /bar'tl-muhd/ n. Any of the MUDs derived from the original MUD game by Richard
   Bartle (see {MUD}).  BartleMUDs are noted for their (usually slightly offbeat) humor, dry
   but friendly syntax, and lack of adjectives in object descriptions, so a player is likely
   to come across `brand172', for instance (see {brand brand brand}).  Some MUDders intensely
   dislike Bartle and this term, and prefer to speak of `MUD-1'.

BASIC: n. A programming language, originally designed for Dartmouth's experimental timesharing
   system in the early 1960s, which has since become the leading cause of brain-damage in
   proto-hackers.  This is another case (like {Pascal}) of the bad things that happen when a
   language deliberately designed as an educational toy gets taken too seriously.  A novice
   can write short BASIC programs (on the order of 10--20 lines) very easily; writing anything
   longer is (a) very painful, and (b) encourages bad habits that will bite him/her later if
   he/she tries to hack in a real language.  This wouldn't be so bad if historical accidents
   hadn't made BASIC so common on low-end micros.  As it is, it ruins thousands of potential
   wizards a year.

batch: adj. 1. Non-interactive.  Hackers use this somewhat more loosely than the traditional
   technical definitions justify; in particular, switches on a normally interactive program
   that prepare it to receive non-interactive command input are often referred to as `batch
   mode' switches.  A `batch file' is a series of instructions written to be handed to an
   interactive program running in batch mode.  2. Performance of dreary tasks all at one
   sitting. "I finally sat down in batch mode and wrote out checks for all those bills; I
   guess they'll turn the electricity back on next week..." 3. Accumulation of a number of
   small tasks that can be lumped together for greater efficiency.  "I'm batching up those
   letters to send sometime" "I'm batching up bottles to take to the recycling center."

bathtub curve: n. Common term for the curve (resembling an end-to-end section of one of those
   claw-footed antique bathtubs) that describes the expected failure rate of electronics with
   time: initially high, dropping to near 0 for most of the system's lifetime, then rising
   again as it `tires out'.  See also {burn-in period}, {infant mortality}.

baud: /bawd/ [simplified from its technical meaning] n. Bits per second.  Hence kilobaud or
   Kbaud, thousands of bits per second. The technical meaning is `level transitions per
   second'; this coincides with bps only for two-level modulation with no framing or stop bits.
   Most hackers are aware of these nuances but blithely ignore them.

baud barf: /bawd barf/ n. The garbage one gets on the monitor when using a modem connection
   with some protocol setting (esp. line speed) incorrect, or when someone picks up a voice
   extension on the same line, or when really bad line noise disrupts the connection. Baud
   barf is not completely {random}, by the way; hackers with a lot of serial-line experience
   can usually tell whether the device at the other end is expecting a higher or lower speed
   than the terminal is set to.  *Really* experienced ones can identify particular speeds.

baz: /baz/ [Stanford: corruption of {bar}] n. 1. The third metasyntactic variable, after {foo}
   and {bar} and before {quux} (or, occasionally, `qux'; or local idiosyncracies like `rag',
   `zowie', etc.).  "Suppose we have three functions: FOO, BAR, and BAZ.  FOO calls BAR, which
   calls BAZ...." 2. interj. A term of mild annoyance.  In this usage the term is often drawn
   out for 2 or 3 seconds, producing an effect not unlike the bleating of a sheep; /baaaaaaz/.
   3. Occasionally appended to {foo} to produce `foobaz'.

bboard: /bee'bord/ [contraction of `bulletin board'] n. 1. Any electronic bulletin board; esp.
   used of {BBS} systems running on personal micros, less frequently of a USENET {newsgroup}
   (in fact, use of the term for a newsgroup generally marks one either as a {newbie} fresh in
   from the BBS world or as a real old-timer predating USENET).  2. At CMU and other colleges
   with similar facilities, refers to campus-wide electronic bulletin boards.  3. The term
   `physical bboard' is sometimes used to refer to a old-fashioned, non-electronic cork memo
   board.  At CMU, it refers to a particular one outside the CS Lounge.
   In either of senses 1 or 2, the term is usually prefixed by the name of the intended board
   (`the Moonlight Casino bboard' or `market bboard'); however, if the context is clear, the
   better-read bboards may be referred to by name alone, as in (at CMU) "Don't post for-sale
   ads on general".

BBS: /B-B-S/ [acronym, `Bulletin Board System'] n. An electronic bulletin board system; that
   is, a message database where people can log in and leave broadcast messages for others
   grouped (typically) into {topic group}s.  Thousands of local BBS systems are in operation
   throughout the U.S., typically run by amateurs for fun out of their homes on MS-DOS boxes
   with a single modem line each. Fans of USENET and Internet or the big commercial timesharing
   bboards such as CompuServe and GEnie tend to consider local BBSes the low-rent district of
   the hacker culture, but they serve a valuable function by knitting together lots of hackers
   and users in the personal-micro world who would otherwise be unable to exchange code at all.

beam: [from Star Trek Classic's "Beam me up, Scotty!"] vt. To transfer {softcopy} of a file
   electronically; most often in combining forms such as `beam me a copy' or `beam that over
   to his site'.  Compare {blast}, {snarf}, {BLT}.

beanie key: [Mac users] n. See {command key}.

beep: n.,v. Syn. {feep}.  This term seems to be preferred among micro hobbyists.

beige toaster: n. A Macintosh. See {toaster}; compare {Macintrash}, {maggotbox}.

bells and whistles: [by analogy with the toyboxes on theatre organs] n. Features added to a
   program or system to make it more {flavourful} from a hacker's point of view, without
   necessarily adding to its utility for its primary function.  Distinguished from {chrome},
   which is intended to attract users.  "Now that we've got the basic program working, let's
   go back and add some bells and whistles."  No one seems to know what distinguishes a bell
   from a whistle.

bells, whistles, and gongs: n. A standard elaborated form of {bells and whistles}; typically
   said with a pronounced and ironic accent on the `gongs'.

benchmark: [techspeak] n. An inaccurate measure of computer performance.  "In the computer
   industry, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and benchmarks."  Well-known ones
   include Whetstone, Dhrystone, Rhealstone (see {h}), the Gabriel LISP benchmarks (see
   {gabriel}), the SPECmark suite, and LINPACK.  See also {machoflops}, {MIPS}.

Berkeley Quality Software: adj. (often abbreviated `BQS') Term used in a pejorative sense to
   refer to software that was apparently created by rather spaced-out hackers late at night to
   solve some unique problem.  It usually has nonexistent, incomplete, or incorrect
   documentation, has been tested on at least two examples, and core dumps when anyone else
   attempts to use it.  This term was frequently applied to early versions of the `dbx(1)'
   debugger. See also {Berzerkeley}.

berklix: /berk'liks/ n.,adj. [contraction of `Berkeley UNIX'] See {BSD}.  Not used at Berkeley
   itself.  May be more common among {suit}s attempting to sound like cognoscenti than among
   hackers, who usually just say `BSD'.

berserking: vi. A {MUD} term meaning to gain points *only* by killing other players and
   mobiles (non-player characters). Hence, a Berserker-Wizard is a player character that has
   achieved enough points to become a wizard, but only by killing other characters.
   Berserking is sometimes frowned upon because of its inherently antisocial nature, but some
   MUDs have a `berserker mode' in which a player becomes *permanently* berserk, can never
   flee from a fight, cannot use magic, gets no score for treasure, but does get double kill
   points.  "Berserker wizards can seriously damage your elf!"

Berzerkeley: /b*r-zer'klee/ [from `berserk', via the name of a now-deceased record label] n.
   Humourous distortion of `Berkeley' used esp. to refer to the practices or products of the
   {BSD} UNIX hackers.  See {software bloat}, {Missed'em-five}, {Berkeley Quality Software}.
   Mainstream use of this term in reference to the cultural and political peculiarities of UC
   Berkeley as a whole has been reported from as far back as the 1960s.

beta: /bay't*/, /be't*/ or (Commonwealth) /bee't*/ n. 1. In the {Real World}, software often
   goes through two stages of testing: Alpha (in-house) and Beta (out-house?).  Software is
   said to be `in beta'.  2. Anything that is new and experimental is in beta. "His girlfriend
   is in beta" means that he is still testing for compatibility and reserving judgment.
   3. Beta software is notoriously buggy, so `in beta' connotes flakiness.
   Historical note: More formally, to beta-test is to test a pre-release (potentially
   unreliable) version of a piece of software by making it available to selected customers and
   users.  This term derives from early 1960s terminology for product cycle checkpoints, first
   used at IBM but later standard throughout the industry. `Alpha Test' was the unit, module,
   or component test phase; `Beta Test' was initial system test.  These themselves came from
   earlier A- and B-tests for hardware.  The A-test was a feasibility and manufacturability
   evaluation done before any commitment to design and development.  The B-test was a
   demonstration that the engineering model functioned as specified.  The C-test
   (corresponding to today's beta) was the B-test performed on early samples of the production

BFI: /B-F-I/ n. See {brute force and ignorance}.  Also encountered in the variant `BFMI',
   `brute force and *massive* ignorance'.

bible: n. 1. One of a small number of fundamental source books such as {Knuth} and {K&R}.
   2. The most detailed and authoritative reference for a particular language, operating
   system, or other complex software system.

BiCapitalization: n. The act said to have been performed on trademarks (such as NeXT, {NeWS},
   VisiCalc, FrameMaker,  TK!solver, EasyWriter) that have been raised above the ruck of
   common coinage by nonstandard capitalization.  Too many {marketroid} types think this sort
   of thing is really cute, even the 2,317th time they do it.  Compare {studlycaps}.

BIFF: /bif/ [USENET] n. The most famous {pseudo}, and the prototypical {newbie}.  Articles
   from BIFF are characterized by all uppercase letters sprinkled liberally with bangs, typos,
   AWESUM THINGZ IN CAPITULL LETTRS LIKE THIS!!!), use (and often misuse) of fragments of
   {talk mode} abbreviations, a long {sig block} (sometimes even a {doubled sig}), and
   unbounded na"ivet'e.  BIFF posts articles using his elder brother's VIC-20.  BIFF's
   location is a mystery, as his articles appear to come from a variety of sites.  However,
   {BITNET} seems to be the most frequent origin.  The theory that BIFF is a denizen of BITNET
   is supported by BIFF's (unfortunately invalid) electronic mail address: BIFF@BIT.NET.

biff: /bif/ vt. To notify someone of incoming mail.  From the BSD utility `biff(1)', which was
   in turn named after the implementor's dog (it barked whenever the mailman came).  No
   relation to {BIFF}.

Big Gray Wall: n. What faces a {VMS} user searching for documentation.  A full VMS kit comes
   on a pallet, the documentation taking up around 15 feet of shelf space before the addition
   of layered products such as compilers, databases, multivendor networking, and programming
   tools.  Recent (since VMS version 5) DEC documentation comes with gray binders; under VMS
   version 4 the binders were orange (`big orange wall'), and under version 3 they were blue.
   See {VMS}.

big iron: n. Large, expensive, ultra-fast computers.  Used generally of {number-crunching}
   supercomputers such as Crays, but can include more conventional big commercial IBMish
   mainframes.  Term of approval; compare {heavy metal}, oppose {dinosaur}.

Big Red Switch: [IBM] n. The power switch on a computer, esp. the `Emergency Pull' switch on
   an IBM {mainframe} or the power switch on an IBM PC where it really is large and red.
   "This !@%$% {bitty box} is hung again; time to hit the Big Red Switch."
   Sources at IBM report that, in tune with the company's passion for {TLA}s, this is often
   acronymized as `BRS' (this has also become established on FidoNet and in the PC {clone}
   world).  It is alleged that the emergency pull switch on an IBM 360/91 actually fired a
   non-conducting bolt into the main power feed; the BRSes on more recent machines physically
   drop a block into place so that they can't be pushed back in.  People get fired for pulling
   them, especially inappropriately (see also {molly-guard}). Compare {power cycle},
   {three-finger salute}, {120 reset}.

Big Room, the: n. The extremely large room with the blue ceiling and intensely bright light
   (during the day) or black ceiling with lots of tiny night-lights (during the night) found
   outside all computer installations.  "He can't come to the phone right now, he's somewhere
   out in the Big Room."

big win: n. Serendipity.  "Yes, those two physicists discovered high-temperature
   superconductivity in a batch of ceramic that had been prepared incorrectly according to
   their experimental schedule. Small mistake; big win!" See {win big}.

big-endian: [From Swift's `Gulliver's Travels' via the famous paper `On Holy Wars and a Plea
   for Peace' by Danny Cohen, USC/ISI IEN 137, dated April 1, 1980] adj. 1. Describes a
   computer architecture in which, within a given multi-byte numeric representation, the most
   significant byte has the lowest address (the word is stored `big-end-first').  Most
   processors, including the IBM 370 family, the {PDP-10}, the Motorola microprocessor
   families, and most of the various RISC designs current in mid-1991, are big-endian.
   See {little-endian}, {middle-endian}, {NUXI problem}.  2. An {{Internet address}} the wrong
   way round.  Most of the world follows the Internet standard and writes email addresses
   starting with the name of the computer and ending up with the name of the country.  In the
   U.K. the Joint Networking Team had decided to do it the other way round before the Internet
   domain standard was established; e.g.,  Most gateway sites have
   {ad-hockery} in their mailers to handle this, but can still be confused. In particular, the
   address above could be in the U.K. (domain uk) or Czechoslovakia (domain cs).

bignum: /big'nuhm/ [orig. from MIT MacLISP] n. 1. [techspeak] A multiple-precision computer
   representation for very large integers. More generally, any very large number. "Have you
   ever looked at the United States Budget?  There's bignums for you!" 2. [Stanford] In
   backgammon, large numbers on the dice are called `bignums', especially a roll of double
   fives or double sixes (compare {moby}, sense 4).  See also {El Camino Bignum}.

   Sense 1 may require some explanation. Most computer languages provide a kind of data called
   `integer', but such computer integers are usually very limited in size; usually they must be
   smaller than than 2^{31} (2,147,483,648) or (on a losing {bitty box}) 2^{15} (32,768).
   If you want to work with numbers larger than that, you have to use floating-point numbers,
   which are usually accurate to only six or seven decimal places. Computer languages that
   provide bignums can perform exact calculations on very large numbers, such as 1000! (the
   factorial of 1000, which is 1000 times 999 times 998 times ... times 2 times 1). For
   example, this value for 1000! was computed by the MacLISP system using bignums:


bigot: n. A person who is religiously attached to a particular computer, language, operating
   system, editor, or other tool (see {religious issues}).  Usually found with a specifier;
   thus, `cray bigot', {ITS bigot}, `APL bigot', `VMS bigot', {Berkeley bigot}. True bigots
   can be distinguished from mere partisans or zealots by the fact that they refuse to learn
   alternatives even when the march of time and/or technology is threatening to obsolete the
   favoured tool.  It is said "You can tell a bigot, but you can't tell him much."  Compare

bit: [from the mainstream meaning and `Binary digIT'] n. 1. [techspeak] The unit of
   information; the amount of information obtained by asking a yes-or-no question for which
   the two outcomes are equally probable.  2. [techspeak] A computational quantity that can
   take on one of two values, such as true and false or 0 and 1. 3. A mental flag: a reminder
   that something should be done eventually.  "I have a bit set for you."  (I haven't seen you
   for a while, and I'm supposed to tell or ask you something.) 4. More generally, a (possibly
   incorrect) mental state of belief.  "I have a bit set that says that you were the last guy
   to hack on EMACS." (Meaning "I think you were the last guy to hack on EMACS, and what I am
   about to say is predicated on this, so please stop me if this isn't true.")
   "I just need one bit from you" is a polite way of indicating that you intend only a short
   interruption for a question that can presumably be answered yes or no.
   A bit is said to be `set' if its value is true or 1, and `reset' or `clear' if its value is
   false or 0. One speaks of setting and clearing bits. To {toggle} or `invert' a bit is to
   change it, either from 0 to 1 or from 1 to 0.  See also {flag}, {trit}, {mode bit}.

bit bang: n. Transmission of data on a serial line, when accomplished by rapidly tweaking a
   single output bit at the appropriate times. The technique is a simple loop with eight OUT
   and SHIFT instruction pairs for each byte. Input is more interesting.  And full duplex
  (doing input and output at the same time) is one way to separate the real hackers from the
   Bit bang was used on certain early models of Prime computers, presumably when UARTs were
   too expensive, and on archaic Z80 micros with a Zilog PIO but no SIO.  In an interesting
   instance of the {cycle of reincarnation}, this technique is now (1991) coming back into use
   on some RISC architectures because it consumes such an infinitesimal part of the processor
   that it actually makes sense not to have a UART.

bit bashing: n. (alt. `bit diddling' or {bit twiddling}) Term used to describe any of several
   kinds of low-level programming characterized by manipulation of {bit}, {flag}, {nybble},
   and other smaller-than-character-sized pieces of data; these include low-level device
   control, encryption algorithms, checksum and error-correcting codes, hash functions, some
   flavours of graphics programming (see {bitblt}), and assembler/compiler code generation.
   May connote either tedium or a real technical challenge (more usually the former).  "The
   command decoding for the new tape driver looks pretty solid but the bit-bashing for the
   control registers still has bugs."  See also {bit bang}, {mode bit}.

bit bucket: n. 1. The universal data sink (originally, the mythical receptacle used to catch
   bits when they fall off the end of a register during a shift instruction).  Discarded, lost,
   or destroyed data is said to have `gone to the bit bucket'.  On {{UNIX}}, often used for
   {/dev/null}.  Sometimes amplified as `the Great Bit Bucket in the Sky'. 2. The place where
   all lost mail and news messages eventually go.  The selection is performed according to
   {Finagle's Law}; important mail is much more likely to end up in the bit bucket than junk
   mail, which has an almost 100% probability of getting delivered.  Routing to the bit bucket
   is automatically performed by mail-transfer agents, news systems, and the lower layers of
   the network.  3. The ideal location for all unwanted mail responses: "Flames about this
   article to the bit bucket." Such a request is guaranteed to overflow one's mailbox with
   flames. 4. Excuse for all mail that has not been sent.  "I mailed you those figures last
   week; they must have ended in the bit bucket." Compare {black hole}.
   This term is used purely in jest.  It is based on the fanciful notion that bits are objects
   that are not destroyed but only misplaced.  This appears to have been a mutation of an
   earlier term `bit box', about which the same legend was current; old-time hackers also
   report that trainees used to be told that when the CPU stored bits into memory it was
   actually pulling them `out of the bit box'.  See also {chad box}.
   Another variant of this legend has it that, as a consequence of the `parity preservation
   law', the number of 1 bits that go to the bit bucket must equal the number of 0 bits. Any
   imbalance results in bits filling up the bit bucket.  A qualified computer technician can
   empty a full bit bucket as part of scheduled maintenance.

bit decay: n. See {bit rot}.  People with a physics background tend to prefer this one for the
   analogy with particle decay.  See also {computron}, {quantum bogodynamics}.

bit rot: n. Also {bit decay}.  Hypothetical disease the existence of which has been deduced
   from the observation that unused programs or features will often stop working after
   sufficient time has passed, even if `nothing has changed'.  The theory explains that bits
   decay as if they were radioactive.  As time passes, the contents of a file or the code in a
   program will become increasingly garbled.
   There actually are physical processes that produce such effects (alpha particles generated
   by trace radionuclides in ceramic chip packages, for example, can change the contents of a
   computer memory unpredictably, and various kinds of subtle media failures can corrupt files
   in mass storage), but they are quite rare (and computers are built with error-detecting
   circuitry to compensate for them).  The notion long favored among hackers that cosmic rays
   are among the causes of such events turns out to be a myth; see the {cosmic rays} entry for
   The term {software rot} is almost synonymous.  Software rot is the effect, bit rot the
   notional cause.

bit twiddling: n. 1. (pejorative) An exercise in {tuning} in which incredible amounts of time
   and effort go to produce little noticeable improvement, often with the result that the code
   has become incomprehensible.  2. Aimless small modification to a program, esp. for some
   pointless goal.  3. Approx. syn. for {bit bashing}; esp. used for the act of frobbing the
   device control register of a peripheral in an attempt to get it back to a known state.

bit-paired keyboard: n. obs. (alt. `bit-shift keyboard') A non-standard keyboard layout that
   seems to have originated with the Teletype ASR-33 and remained common for several years on
   early computer equipment.  The ASR-33 was a mechanical device (see {EOU}), so the only way
   to generate the character codes from keystrokes was by some physical linkage.  The design
   of the ASR-33 assigned each character key a basic pattern that could be modified by
   flipping bits if the SHIFT or the CTRL key was pressed.  In order to avoid making the thing
   more of a Rube Goldberg kluge than it already was, the design had to group characters that
   shared the same basic bit pattern on one key.

   Looking at the ASCII chart, we find:

     high  low bits
     bits  0000 0001 0010 0011 0100 0101 0110 0111 1000 1001
      010        !    "    #    $    %    &    '    (    )
      011   0    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9

   This is why the characters !"#$%&'() appear where they do on a Teletype (thankfully, they
   didn't use shift-0 for space).  This was *not* the weirdest variant of the {QWERTY} layout
   widely seen, by the way; that prize should probably go to one of several (differing)
   arrangements on IBM's even clunkier 026 and 029 card punches.
   When electronic terminals became popular, in the early 1970s, there was no agreement in the
   industry over how the keyboards should be laid out.  Some vendors opted to emulate the
   Teletype keyboard, while others used the flexibility of electronic circuitry to make their
   product look like an office typewriter.  These alternatives became known as `bit-paired'
   and `typewriter-paired' keyboards.  To a hacker, the bit-paired keyboard seemed far more
   logical --- and because most hackers in those days had never learned to touch-type, there
   was little pressure from the pioneering users to adapt keyboards to the typewriter standard.
   The doom of the bit-paired keyboard was the large-scale introduction of the computer
   terminal into the normal office environment, where out-and-out technophobes were expected
   to use the equipment.  The `typewriter-paired' standard became universal, `bit-paired'
   hardware was quickly junked or relegated to dusty corners, and both terms passed into disuse.

bitblt: /bit'blit/ n. [from {BLT}, q.v.] 1. Any of a family of closely related algorithms for
   moving and copying rectangles of bits between main and display memory on a bit-mapped
   device, or between two areas of either main or display memory (the requirement to do the
   {Right Thing} in the case of overlapping source and destination rectangles is what makes
   BitBlt tricky).  2. Synonym for {blit} or {BLT}.  Both uses are borderline techspeak.

BITNET: /bit'net/ [acronym: Because It's Time NETwork] n. Everybody's least favourite piece of
   the network (see {network, the}).  The BITNET hosts are a collection of IBM dinosaurs and
   VAXen (the latter with lobotomized comm hardware) that communicate using 80-character
   {{EBCDIC}} card images (see {eighty-column mind}); thus, they tend to mangle the headers
   and text of third-party traffic from the rest of the ASCII/RFC-822 world with annoying
   regularity.  BITNET is also notorious as the apparent home of {BIFF}.

bits: 1. Information.  Examples: "I need some bits about file formats."  ("I need to
   know about file formats.")  Compare {core dump}, sense 4.  2. Machine-readable
   representation of a document, specifically as contrasted with paper:  "I have only a
   photocopy of the Jargon File; does anyone know where I can get the bits?".
   See {softcopy}, {source of all good bits} See also {bit}.

bitty box: /bit'ee boks/ n. 1. A computer sufficiently small, primitive, or incapable as to
   cause a hacker acute claustrophobia at the thought of developing software for it.
   Especially used of small, obsolescent, single-tasking-only personal machines such as the
   Atari 800, Osborne, Sinclair, VIC-20, TRS-80, or IBM PC. 2. [Pejorative] More generally,
   the opposite of `real computer' (see {Get a real computer!}).  See also {mess-dos},
   {toaster}, and {toy}.

bixie: /bik'see/ n. Variant {emoticon}s used on BIX (the Byte Information eXchange). The
   {smiley} bixie is <@_@>, apparently intending to represent two cartoon eyes and a mouth.
   A few others have been reported.

black art: n. A collection of arcane, unpublished, and (by implication) mostly ad-hoc
   techniques developed for a particular application or systems area (compare {black magic}).
   VLSI design and compiler code optimization were (in their beginnings) considered classic
   examples of black art; as theory developed they became {deep magic}, and once standard
   textbooks had been written, became merely {heavy wizardry}.  The huge proliferation of
   formal and informal channels for spreading around new computer-related technologies during
   the last twenty years has made both the term `black art' and what it describes less common
   than formerly.  See also {voodoo programming}.

black hole: n. When a piece of email or netnews disappears mysteriously between its origin and
   destination sites (that is, without returning a {bounce message}) it is commonly said to
   have `fallen into a black hole'.  "I think there's a black hole at foovax!" conveys
   suspicion that site foovax has been dropping a lot of stuff on the floor lately (see {drop
   on the floor}). The implied metaphor of email as interstellar travel is interesting in
   itself.  Compare {bit bucket}.

black magic: n. A technique that works, though nobody really understands why. More obscure
   than {voodoo programming}, which may be done by cookbook.  Compare also {black art}, {deep
   magic}, and {magic number} (sense 2).

blast: 1. vt.,n. Synonym for {BLT}, used esp. for large data sends over a network or comm line.
   Opposite of {snarf}. Usage: uncommon. The variant `blat' has been reported. 2. vt.
   [HP/Apollo] Synonymous with {nuke} (sense 3). Sometimes the message `Unable to kill all
   processes.  Blast them (y/n)?' would appear in the command window upon logout.

blat: n. 1. Syn. {blast}, sense 1.  2. See {thud}.

bletch: /blech/ [from Yiddish/German `brechen', to vomit, poss. via comic-strip exclamation
   `blech'] interj.  Term of disgust. Often used in "Ugh, bletch".  Compare {barf}.

bletcherous: /blech'*-r*s/ adj. Disgusting in design or function; esthetically unappealing.
   This word is seldom used of people. "This keyboard is bletcherous!" (Perhaps the keys don't
   work very well, or are misplaced.) See {losing}, {cretinous}, {bagbiter}, {bogus}, and
   {random}.  The term {bletcherous} applies to the esthetics of the thing so described;
   similarly for {cretinous}.  By contrast, something that is `losing' or `bagbiting' may be
   failing to meet objective criteria.  See also {bogus} and {random}, which have richer and
   wider shades of meaning than any of the above.

blinkenlights: /blink'*n-li:tz/ n. Front-panel diagnostic lights on a computer, esp. a
   {dinosaur}.  Derives from the last word of the famous blackletter-Gothic sign in mangled
   pseudo-German that once graced about half the computer rooms in the English-speaking world.
   One version ran in its entirety as follows:

        Das computermachine ist nicht fuer gefingerpoken und mittengrabben.
        Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und poppencorken
        mit spitzensparken.  Ist nicht fuer gewerken bei das dumpkopfen.
        Das rubbernecken sichtseeren keepen das cotten-pickenen hans in das
        pockets muss; relaxen und watchen das blinkenlichten.

   This silliness dates back at least as far as 1959 at Stanford University and had already
   gone international by the early 1960s, when it was reported at London University's ATLAS
   computing site. There are several variants of it in circulation, some of which actually do
   end with the word `blinkenlights'.
   In an amusing example of turnabout-is-fair-play, German hackers have developed their own
   versions of the blinkenlights poster in fractured English, one of which is reproduced here:

        This room is fullfilled mit special electronische equippment.
        Fingergrabbing and pressing the cnoeppkes from the computers is
        allowed for die experts only!  So all the "lefthanders" stay away
        and do not disturben the brainstorming von here working
        intelligencies.  Otherwise you will be out thrown and kicked
        anderswhere!  Also: please keep still and only watchen astaunished
        the blinkenlights.

   See also {geef}.

blit: /blit/ vt. 1. To copy a large array of bits from one part of a computer's memory to
   another part, particularly when the memory is being used to determine what is shown on a
   display screen.  "The storage allocator picks through the table and copies the good parts
   up into high memory, and then blits it all back down again."  See {bitblt}, {BLT}, {dd},
   {cat}, {blast}, {snarf}.  More generally, to perform some operation (such as toggling) on a
   large array of bits while moving them. 2. All-capitalized as `BLIT': an early experimental
   bit-mapped terminal designed by Rob Pike at Bell Labs, later commercialized as the AT&T
   5620.  (The folk etymology from `Bell Labs Intelligent Terminal' is incorrect.)

blitter: /blit'r/ n. A special-purpose chip or hardware system built to perform {blit}
   operations, esp. used for fast implementation of bit-mapped graphics. The Commodore Amiga
   and a few other micros have these, but in 1991 the trend is away from them (however, see
   {cycle of reincarnation}).  Syn. {raster blaster}.

blivet: /bliv'*t/ [allegedly from a World War II military term meaning "ten pounds of manure
   in a five-pound bag"] n. 1. An intractable problem. 2. A crucial piece of hardware that
   can't be fixed or replaced if it breaks. 3. A tool that has been hacked over by so many
   incompetent programmers that it has become an unmaintainable tissue of hacks.  4. An
   out-of-control but unkillable development effort.  5. An embarrassing bug that pops up
   during a customer demo.
   This term has other meanings in other technical cultures; among experimental physicists and
   hardware engineers of various kinds it seems to mean any random object of unknown purpose
   (similar to hackish use of {frob}).  It has also been used to describe an amusing
   trick-the-eye drawing resembling a three-pronged fork that appears to depict a three-
   dimensional object until one realizes that the parts fit together in an impossible way.

block: [from process scheduling terminology in OS theory] 1. vi. To delay or sit idle while
   waiting for something.  "We're blocking until everyone gets here."  Compare {busy-wait}.
   2. `block on' vt. To block, waiting for (something).  "Lunch is blocked on Phil's arrival."

block transfer computations: n. From the television series "Dr. Who", in which it referred to
   computations so fiendishly subtle and complex that they could not be performed by machines.
   Used to refer to any task that should be expressible as an algorithm in theory, but isn't.

blow an EPROM: /bloh *n ee'prom/ v. (alt. `blast an EPROM', `burn an EPROM') To program a
   read-only memory, e.g. for use with an embedded system.  This term arises because the
   programming process for the Programmable Read-Only Memories (PROMs) that preceded
   present-day Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memories (EPROMs) involved intentionally
   blowing tiny electrical fuses on the chip.  Thus, one was said to `blow' (or `blast') a
   PROM, and the terminology carried over even though the write process on EPROMs is

blow away: vt. To remove (files and directories) from permanent storage, generally by accident.
   "He reformatted the wrong partition and blew away last night's netnews."  Oppose {nuke}.

blow out: vi. Of software, to fail spectacularly; almost as serious as {crash and burn}.
   See {blow past}, {blow up}.

blow past: vt. To {blow out} despite a safeguard. "The server blew past the 5K reserve buffer."

blow up: vi. 1. [scientific computation] To become unstable. Suggests that the computation is
   diverging so rapidly that it will soon overflow or at least go {nonlinear}. 2. Syn. {blow

BLT: /B-L-T/, /bl*t/ or (rarely) /belt/ n.,vt. Synonym for {blit}. This is the original form
   of {blit} and the ancestor of {bitblt}.  It referred to any large bit-field copy or move
   operation (one resource-intensive memory-shuffling operation done on pre-paged versions of
   ITS, WAITS, and TOPS-10 was sardonically referred to as `The Big BLT'). The jargon usage
   has outlasted the {PDP-10} BLock Transfer instruction from which {BLT} derives; nowadays,
   the assembler mnemonic {BLT} almost always means `Branch if Less Than zero'.

Blue Book: n. 1. Informal name for one of the three standard references on the page-layout and
   graphics-control language PostScript (`PostScript Language Tutorial and Cookbook', Adobe
   Systems, Addison-Wesley 1985, QA76.73.P67P68, ISBN 0-201-10179-3); the other two official
   guides are known as the {Green Book} and {Red Book}.  2. Informal name for one of the three
   standard references on Smalltalk: `Smalltalk-80: The Language and its Implementation',
   David Robson, Addison-Wesley 1983, QA76.8.S635G64, ISBN 0-201-11371-63 (this is also
   associated with green and red books).  3. Any of the 1988 standards issued by the CCITT's
   ninth plenary assembly.  Until now, they have changed colour each review cycle (1984 was
   {Red Book}, 1992 would be {Green Book}); however, it is rumoured that this convention is
   going to be dropped before 1992. These include, among other things, the X.400 email spec
   and the Group 1 through 4 fax standards.  See also {{book titles}}.

Blue Glue: [IBM] n. IBM's SNA (Systems Network Architecture), an incredibly {losing} and
   {bletcherous} communications protocol widely favoured at commercial shops that don't know
   any better. The official IBM definition is "that which binds blue boxes together."  See
   {fear and loathing}.  It may not be irrelevant that {Blue Glue} is the trade name of a 3M
   product that is commonly used to hold down the carpet squares to the removable panel floors
   common in {dinosaur pens}.  A correspondent at U. Minn. reports that the CS department there
   has about 80 bottles of the stuff hanging about, so they often refer to any messy work to be
   done as `using the blue glue'.

blue goo: n. Term for `police' {nanobot}s intended to prevent {gray goo}, denature hazardous
   waste, destroy pollution, put ozone back into the stratosphere, prevent halitosis, and
   promote truth, justice, and the American way, etc.  See {{nanotechnology}}.

BNF: /B-N-F/ n. 1. [techspeak] Acronym for `Backus-Naur Form', a metasyntactic notation used
   to specify the syntax of programming languages, command sets, and the like.  Widely used
   for language descriptions but seldom documented anywhere, so that it must usually be
   learned by osmosis from other hackers.  Consider this BNF for a U.S. postal address:

      <postal-address> ::= <name-part> <street-address> <zip-part>

      <personal-part> ::= <name> | <initial> "."

      <name-part> ::= <personal-part> <last-name> [<jr-part>] <EOL>
                    | <personal-part> <name-part>

      <street-address> ::= [<apt>] <house-num> <street-name> <EOL>

      <zip-part> ::= <town-name> "," <state-code> <ZIP-code> <EOL>

   This translates into English as: "A postal-address consists of a name-part, followed by a
   street-address part, followed by a zip-code part.  A personal-part consists of either a
   first name or an initial followed by a dot.  A name-part consists of either: a personal-part
   followed by a last name followed by an optional `jr-part' (Jr., Sr., or dynastic number) and
   end-of-line, or a personal part followed by a name part (this rule illustrates the use of
   recursion in BNFs, covering the case of people who use multiple first and middle names
   and/or initials).  A street address consists of an optional apartment specifier, followed
   by a street number, followed by a street name.  A zip-part consists of a town-name,
   followed by a comma, followed by a state code, followed by a ZIP-code followed by an
   end-of-line."  Note that many things (such as the format of a personal-part, apartment
   specifier, or ZIP-code) are left unspecified.  These are presumed to be obvious from
   context or detailed somewhere nearby.  See also {parse}. 2. The term is also used loosely
   for any number of variants and extensions, possibly containing some or all of the {regexp}
   wildcards such as `*' or `+'.  In fact the example above isn't the pure form invented for
   the Algol-60 report; it uses `[]', which was introduced a few years later in IBM's PL/I
   definition but is now universally recognized.  3. In {{science-fiction fandom}}, BNF means
   `Big-Name Fan' (someone famous or notorious).  Years ago a fan started handing out
   black-on-green BNF buttons at SF conventions; this confused the hacker contingent terribly.

boa: [IBM] n. Any one of the fat cables that lurk under the floor in a {dinosaur pen}.
   Possibly so called because they display a ferocious life of their own when you try to lay
   them straight and flat after they have been coiled for some time.  It is rumoured within
   IBM that channel cables for the 370 are limited to 200 feet because beyond that length the
   boas get dangerous --- and it is worth noting that one of the major cable makers uses the
   trademark `Anaconda'.

board: n. 1. In-context synonym for {bboard}; sometimes used even for USENET newsgroups.
   2. An electronic circuit board (compare {card}).

boat anchor: n. 1. Like {doorstop} but more severe; implies that the offending hardware is
   irreversibly dead or useless.  "That was a working motherboard once.  One lightning strike
   later, instant boat anchor!"  2. A person who just takes up space.

bogo-sort: /boh`goh-sort'/ n. (var. `stupid-sort') The archetypical perversely awful algorithm
   (as opposed to {bubble sort}, which is merely the generic *bad* algorithm). Bogo-sort is
   equivalent to repeatedly throwing a deck of cards in the air, picking them up at random,
   and then testing whether they are in order.  It serves as a sort of canonical example of
   awfulness.  Looking at a program and seeing a dumb algorithm, one might say "Oh, I see,
   this program uses bogo-sort."  Compare {bogus}, {brute force}.

bogometer: /boh-gom'-*t-er/ n. See {bogosity}.  Compare the `wankometer' described in the
   {wank} entry; see also {bogus}.

bogon: /boh'gon/ [by analogy with proton/electron/neutron, but doubtless reinforced after 1980
   by the similarity to Douglas Adams's `Vogons'; see the Bibliography] n. 1. The elementary
   particle of bogosity (see {quantum bogodynamics}).  For instance, "the Ethernet is emitting
   bogons again" means that it is broken or acting in an erratic or bogus fashion.  2. A query
   packet sent from a TCP/IP domain resolver to a root server, having the reply bit set instead
   of the query bit.  3. Any bogus or incorrectly formed packet sent on a network. 4. By
   synecdoche, used to refer to any bogus thing, as in "I'd like to go to lunch with you but
   I've got to go to the weekly staff bogon". 5. A person who is bogus or who says bogus
   things.  This was historically the original usage, but has been overtaken by its derivative
   senses 1--4.  See also {bogosity}, {bogus}; compare {psyton}.

bogon filter: /boh'gon fil'tr/ n. Any device, software or hardware, that limits or suppresses
   the flow and/or emission of bogons. "Engineering hacked a bogon filter between the Cray and
   the VAXen, and now we're getting fewer dropped packets."  See also {bogosity}, {bogus}.

bogon flux: /boh'gon fluhks/ n. A measure of a supposed field of {bogosity} emitted by a
   speaker, measured by a {bogometer}; as a speaker starts to wander into increasing bogosity
   a listener might say "Warning, warning, bogon flux is rising".  See {quantum bogodynamics}.

bogosity: /boh-go's*-tee/ n. 1. The degree to which something is {bogus}. At CMU, bogosity is
   measured with a {bogometer}; in a seminar, when a speaker says something bogus, a listener
   might raise his hand and say "My bogometer just triggered".  More extremely, "You just
   pinned my bogometer"  means you just said or did something so outrageously bogus that it is
   off the scale, pinning the bogometer needle at the highest possible reading (one might also
   say "You just redlined my bogometer"). The agreed-upon unit of bogosity is the microLenat
   /mi:k`roh-len'*t/ (uL). The consensus is that this is the largest unit practical for
   everyday use.  2. The potential field generated by a {bogon flux}; see {quantum
   bogodynamics}.  See also {bogon flux}, {bogon filter}, {bogus}.
   Historical note: The microLenat was invented as a attack against noted computer scientist
   Doug Lenat by a {tenured graduate student}. Doug had failed the student on an important
   exam for giving only "AI is bogus" as his answer to the questions. The slur is generally
   considered unmerited, but it has become a running gag nevertheless. Some of Doug's friends
   argue that *of course* a microLenat is bogus, since it is only one millionth of a Lenat.
   Others have suggested that the unit should be redesignated after the grad student, as the

bogotify: /boh-go't*-fi:/ vt. To make or become bogus. A program that has been changed so many
   times as to become completely disorganized has become bogotified.  If you tighten a nut too
   hard and strip the threads on the bolt, the bolt has become bogotified and you had better
   not use it any more. This coinage led to the notional `autobogotiphobia' defined as `the
   fear of becoming bogotified'; but is not clear that the latter has ever been `live' jargon
   rather than a self-conscious joke in jargon about jargon.  See also {bogosity}, {bogus}.

bogue out: /bohg owt/ vi. To become bogus, suddenly and unexpectedly. "His talk was relatively
   sane until somebody asked him a trick question; then he bogued out and did nothing but
   {flame} afterwards."  See also {bogosity}, {bogus}.

bogus: adj. 1. Non-functional.  "Your patches are bogus." 2. Useless. "OPCON is a bogus
   program." 3. False. "Your arguments are bogus." 4. Incorrect. "That algorithm is bogus."
   5. Unbelievable.  "You claim to have solved the halting problem for Turing Machines?
   That's totally bogus." 6. Silly. "Stop writing those bogus sagas."
   Astrology is bogus.  So is a bolt that is obviously about to break. So is someone who makes
   blatantly false claims to have solved a scientific problem. (This word seems to have some,
   but not all, of the connotations of {random} --- mostly the negative ones.)
   It is claimed that `bogus' was originally used in the hackish sense at Princeton in the
   late 1960s.  It was spread to CMU and Yale by Michael Shamos, a migratory Princeton alumnus.
   A glossary of bogus words was compiled at Yale when the word was first popularized (see
   {autobogotiphobia} under {bogotify}). The word spread into hackerdom from CMU and MIT. By
   the early 1980s it was also current in something like the hackish sense in West Coast teen
   slang, and it had gone mainstream by 1985. A correspondent from Cambridge reports, by
   contrast, that these uses of `bogus' grate on British nerves; in Britain the word means,
   rather specifically, `counterfeit', as in "a bogus 10-pound note".

Bohr bug: /bohr buhg/ [from quantum physics] n. A repeatable {bug}; one that manifests
   reliably under a possibly unknown but well-defined set of conditions.  Antonym of
  {heisenbug}; see also {mandelbug}.

boink: /boynk/ [USENET: ascribed there to the TV series "Cheers" and "Moonlighting"] 1. To
   have sex with; compare {bounce}, sense 3. (This is mainstream slang.) In Commonwealth
   hackish the variant `bonk' is more common. 2. After the original Peter Korn `Boinkon'
   {USENET} parties, used for almost any net social gathering, e.g., Miniboink, a small boink
   held by Nancy Gillett in 1988; Minniboink, a Boinkcon in Minnesota in 1989; Humpdayboinks,
   Wednesday get-togethers held in the San Francisco Bay Area. Compare {@-party}. 3. Var of
   `bonk'; see {bonk/oif}.

bomb: 1. v. General synonym for {crash} (sense 1) except that it is not used as a noun; esp.
   used of software or OS failures. "Don't run Empire with less than 32K stack, it'll bomb."
   2. n.,v. Atari ST and Macintosh equivalents of a UNIX `panic' or Amiga {guru} (sense 2),
   where icons of little black-powder bombs or mushroom clouds are displayed, indicating that
   the system has died. On the Mac, this may be accompanied by a decimal (or occasionally
   hexadecimal) number indicating what went wrong, similar to the Amiga GURU MEDITATION number
   (see {guru}).  {{MS-DOS}} machines tend to get {locked up} in this situation.

bondage-and-discipline language: A language (such as Pascal, Ada, APL, or Prolog) that, though
   ostensibly general-purpose, is designed so as to enforce an author's theory of `right
   programming' even though said theory is demonstrably inadequate for systems hacking or even
   vanilla general-purpose programming.  Often abbreviated `B&D'; thus, one may speak of things
   "having the B&D nature". See {{Pascal}}; oppose {languages of choice}.

bonk/oif: /bonk/, /oyf/ interj. In the {MUD} community, it has become traditional to express
   pique or censure by `bonking' the offending person.  There is a convention that one should
   acknowledge a bonk by saying `oif!' and a myth to the effect that failing to do so upsets
   the cosmic bonk/oif balance, causing much trouble in the universe.  Some MUDs have
   implemented special commands for bonking and oifing.  See also {talk mode}, {posing}.

book titles:: There is a tradition in hackerdom of informally tagging important textbooks and
   standards documents with the dominant colour of their covers or with some other conspicuous
   feature of the cover.  Many of these are described in this lexicon under their own entries.
   See {Aluminum Book}, {Blue Book}, {Cinderella Book}, {Devil Book}, {Dragon Book}, {Green
   Book}, {Orange Book}, {Pink-Shirt Book}, {Purple Book}, {Red Book}, {Silver Book}, {White
   Book}, {Wizard Book}, {Yellow Book}, and {bible}.

boot: [techspeak; from `by one's bootstraps'] v.,n. To load and initialize the operating
   system on a machine. This usage is no longer jargon (having passed into techspeak) but has
   given rise to some derivatives that are still jargon.
   The derivative `reboot' implies that the machine hasn't been down for long, or that the
   boot is a {bounce} intended to clear some state of {wedgitude}.  This is sometimes used of
   human thought processes, as in the following exchange: "You've lost me." "OK, reboot.
   Here's the theory...."
   This term is also found in the variants `cold boot' (from power-off condition) and
   `warm boot' (with the CPU and all devices already powered up, as after a hardware reset or
   software crash).
   Another variant: `soft boot', reinitialization of only part of a system, under control of
   other software still running: "If you're running the {mess-dos} emulator, control-alt-insert
   will cause a soft-boot of the emulator, while leaving the rest of the system running."
   Opposed to this there is `hard boot', which connotes hostility towards or frustration with
   the machine being booted:  "I'll have to hard-boot this losing Sun." "I recommend booting
   it hard."
   Historical note: this term derives from `bootstrap loader', a short program that was read
   in from cards or paper tape, or toggled in from the front panel switches.  This program was
   always very short (great efforts were expended on making it short in order to minimize the
   labour and chance of error involved in toggling it in), but was just smart enough to read
   in a slightly more complex program (usually from a card or paper tape reader), to which it
   handed control; this program in turn was smart enough to read the application or operating
   system from a magnetic tape drive or disk drive.  Thus, in successive steps, the computer
   `pulled itself up by its bootstraps' to a useful operating state. Nowadays the bootstrap is
   usually found in ROM or EPROM, and reads the first stage in from a fixed location on the
   disk, called the `boot block'.  When this program gains control, it is powerful enough to
   load the actual OS and hand control over to it.

bottom-up implementation: n. Hackish opposite of the techspeak term `top-down design'. It is
   now received wisdom in most programming cultures that it is best to design from higher
   levels of abstraction down to lower, specifying sequences of action in increasing detail
   until you get to actual code.  Hackers often find (especially in exploratory designs that
   cannot be closely specified in advance) that it works best to *build* things in the opposite
   order, by writing and testing a clean set of primitive operations and then knitting them

bounce: v. 1. [perhaps from the image of a thrown ball bouncing off a wall] An electronic mail
   message that is undeliverable and returns an error notification to the sender is said to
   `bounce'. See also {bounce message}. 2. [Stanford] To play volleyball. At the now-demolished
   {D. C. Power Lab} building used by the Stanford AI Lab in the 1970s, there was a volleyball
   court on the front lawn.  From 5 P.M. to 7 P.M. was the scheduled maintenance time for the
   computer, so every afternoon at 5 the computer would become unavailable, and over the
   intercom a voice would cry, "Now hear this: bounce, bounce!" followed by Brian McCune
   loudly bouncing a volleyball on the floor outside the offices of known volleyballers.
   3. To engage in sexual intercourse; prob. from the expression `bouncing the mattress', but
   influenced by Piglet's psychosexually loaded "Bounce on me too, Tigger!" from the "Winnie-
   the-Pooh" books. Compare {boink}.  4. To casually reboot a system in order to clear up a
   transient problem. Reported primarily among {VMS} users. 5. [IBM] To {power cycle} a
   peripheral in order to reset it.

bounce message: [UNIX] n. Notification message returned to sender by a site unable to relay
   {email} to the intended {{Internet address}} recipient or the next link in a {bang path}
   (see {bounce}). Reasons might include a nonexistent or misspelled username or a {down}
   relay site. Bounce messages can themselves fail, with occasionally ugly results; see
   {sorcerer's apprentice mode}. The term `bounce mail' is also common.

box: n. 1. A computer; esp. in the construction `foo box' where foo is some functional
   qualifier, like `graphics', or the name of an OS (thus, `UNIX box', `MS-DOS box', etc.)
   "We preprocess the data on UNIX boxes before handing it up to the mainframe." 2. [within
   IBM] Without qualification but within an SNA-using site, this refers specifically to an IBM
   front-end processor or FEP /F-E-P/.  An FEP is a small computer necessary to enable an IBM
   {mainframe} to communicate beyond the limits of the {dinosaur pen}.  Typically used in
   expressions like the cry that goes up when an SNA network goes down: "Looks like the {box}
   has fallen over." (See {fall over}.) See also {IBM}, {fear and loathing}, {fepped out},
   {Blue Glue}.

boxed comments: n. Comments (explanatory notes attached to program instructions) that occupy
   several lines by themselves; so called because in assembler and C code they are often
   surrounded by a box in a style something like this:

      * This is a boxed comment in C style

   Common variants of this style omit the asterisks in column 2 or add a matching row of
   asterisks closing the right side of the box.  The sparest variant omits all but the comment
   delimiters themselves; the `box' is implied. Oppose {winged comments}.

boxen: /bok'sn/ [by analogy with {VAXen}] pl.n. Fanciful plural of {box} often encountered in
   the phrase `UNIX boxen', used to describe commodity {{UNIX}} hardware.  The connotation is
   that any two UNIX boxen are interchangeable.

boxology: /bok-sol'*-jee/ n. Syn. {ASCII art}. This term implies a more restricted domain, that
   of box-and-arrow drawings. "His report has a lot of boxology in it." Compare {macrology}.

bozotic: /boh-zoh'tik/ or /boh-zo'tik/ [from the name of a TV clown even more losing than
   Ronald McDonald] adj. Resembling or having the quality of a bozo; that is, clownish,
   ludicrously wrong, unintentionally humorous.  Compare {wonky}, {demented}. Note that the
   noun `bozo' occurs in slang, but the mainstream adjectival form would be `bozo-like' or (in
   New England) `bozoish'.

BQS: /B-Q-S/ adj. Syn. {Berkeley Quality Software}.

brain dump: n. The act of telling someone everything one knows about a particular topic or
   project. Typically used when someone is going to let a new party maintain a piece of code.
   Conceptually analogous to an operating system {core dump} in that it saves a lot of useful
   {state} before an exit. "You'll have to give me a brain dump on FOOBAR before you start your
   new job at HackerCorp." See {core dump} (sense 4). At Sun, this is also known as `TOI'
  (transfer of information).

brain-damaged: 1. [generalization of `Honeywell Brain Damage' (HBD), a theoretical disease
   invented to explain certain utter cretinisms in Honeywell {{Multics}}] adj. Obviously
   wrong; {cretinous}; {demented}.  There is an implication that the person responsible must
   have suffered brain damage, because he should have known better.  Calling something
   brain-damaged is really bad; it also implies it is unusable, and that its failure to work
   is due to poor design rather than some accident. "Only six monocase characters per file
   name?  Now *that's* brain-damaged!" 2. [esp. in the Mac world] May refer to free
   demonstration software that has been deliberately crippled in some way so as not to compete
   with the commercial product it is intended to sell.  Syn.  {crippleware}.

brain-dead: adj. Brain-damaged in the extreme.  It tends to imply terminal design failure
   rather than malfunction or simple stupidity.  "This comm program doesn't know how to send a
   break --- how brain-dead!"

braino: /bray'no/ n. Syn. for {thinko}.

branch to Fishkill: [IBM: from the location of one of the corporation's facilities] n. Any
   unexpected jump in a program that produces catastrophic or just plain weird results. See
   {jump off into never-never land}, {hyperspace}.

brand brand brand: n. Humourous catch-phrase from {BartleMUD}s, in which players were
   described carrying a list of objects, the most common of which would usually be a brand.
   Often used as a joke in {talk mode} as in "Fred the wizard is here, carrying brand ruby
   brand brand brand kettle broadsword flamethrower". A brand is a torch, of course; one burns
   up a lot of those exploring dungeons. Prob. influenced by the famous Monty Python "Spam"

break: 1. vt. To cause to be broken (in any sense). "Your latest patch to the editor broke the
   paragraph commands." 2. v. (of a program) To stop temporarily, so that it may debugged.
   The place where it stops is a `breakpoint'. 3. [techspeak] vi. To send an RS-232 break (125
   msec of line high) over a serial comm line. 4. [UNIX] vi. To strike whatever key currently
   causes the tty driver to send SIGINT to the current process. Normally, break (sense 3) or
   delete does this. 5. `break break' may be said to interrupt a conversation (this is an
   example of verb doubling).

breath-of-life packet: [XEROX PARC] n. An Ethernet packet that contained bootstrap (see
   {boot}) code, periodically sent out from a working computer to infuse the `breath of life'
   into any computer on the network that had happened to crash. The machines had hardware or
   firmware that would wait for such a packet after a catastrophic error.

breedle: n. See {feep}.

bring X to its knees: v. To present a machine, operating system, piece of software, or
   algorithm with a load so extreme or {pathological} that it grinds to a halt. "To bring a
   MicroVAX to its knees, try twenty users running {vi} --- or four running {EMACS}."
   Compare {hog}.

brittle: adj. Said of software that is functional but easily broken by changes in operating
   environment or configuration, or by any minor tweak to the software itself. Also, any
   system that responds inappropriately and disastrously to expected external stimuli; e.g.,
   a file system that is usually totally scrambled by a power failure is said to be brittle.
   This term is often used to describe the results of a research effort that were never
   intended to be robust, but it can be applied to commercially developed software, which
   displays the quality far more often than it ought to.  Oppose {robust}.

broadcast storm: n. An incorrect packet broadcast on a network that causes most hosts to
   respond all at once, typically with wrong answers that start the process over again.
   See {network meltdown}.

broken: adj. 1. Not working properly (of programs). 2. Behaving strangely; especially (when
   used of people) exhibiting extreme depression.

broken arrow: [IBM] n. The error code displayed on line 25 of a 3270 terminal (or a PC
   emulating a 3270) for various kinds of protocol violations and "unexpected" error
   conditions (including connection to a {down} computer). On a PC, simulated with `->/_',
   with the two centre characters overstruck. In true {luser} fashion, the original
   documentation of these codes (visible on every 3270 terminal, and necessary for debugging
   network problems) was confined to an IBM customer engineering manual.
   Note: to appreciate this term fully, it helps to know that `broken arrow' is also military
   jargon for an accident involving nuclear weapons....

broket: /broh'k*t/ or /broh'ket`/ [by analogy with `bracket': a `broken bracket'] n. Either of
   the characters `<' and `>', when used as paired enclosing delimiters. This word originated
   as a contraction of the phrase `broken bracket', that is, a bracket that is bent in the
   middle. (At MIT, and apparently in the {Real World} as well, these are usually called
   {angle brackets}.)

Brooks's Law: prov. "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later" --- a result
   of the fact that the advantage from splitting work among N programmers is O(N) (that is,
   proportional to N), but the complexity and communications cost associated with coordinating
   and then merging their work is O(N^2) (that is, proportional to the square of N). The quote
   is from Fred Brooks, a manager of IBM's OS/360 project and author of `The Mythical
   Man-Month' (Addison-Wesley, 1975, ISBN 0-201-00650-2), an excellent early book on software
   engineering.  The myth in question has been most tersely expressed as "Programmer time is
   fungible" and Brooks established conclusively that it is not. Hackers have never forgotten
   his advice; too often, {management} does.  See also {creationism}, {second-system effect}.

BRS: /B-R-S/ n. Syn. {Big Red Switch}.  This abbreviation is fairly common on-line.

brute force: adj. Describes a primitive programming style, one in which the programmer relies
   on the computer's processing power instead of using his or her own intelligence to simplify
   the problem, often ignoring problems of scale and applying na"ive methods suited to small
   problems directly to large ones.
   The {canonical} example of a brute-force algorithm is associated with the `traveling
   salesman problem' (TSP), a classical NP-hard problem: Suppose a person is in, say, Boston,
   and wishes to drive to N other cities. In what order should he or she visit them in order to
   minimize the distance travelled? The brute-force method is to simply generate all possible
   routes and compare the distances; while guaranteed to work and simple to implement, this
   algorithm is clearly very stupid in that it considers even obviously absurd routes (like
   going from Boston to Houston via San Francisco and New York, in that order). For very small
   N it works well, but it rapidly becomes absurdly inefficient when N increases (for N = 15,
   there are already 1,307,674,368,000 possible routes to consider, and for N = 1000 --- well,
   see {bignum}).  See also {NP-}.
   A more simple-minded example of brute-force programming is finding the smallest number in a
   large list by first using an existing program to sort the list in ascending order, and then
   picking the first number off the front.
   Whether brute-force programming should be considered stupid or not depends on the context;
   if the problem isn't too big, the extra CPU time spent on a brute-force solution may cost
   less than the programmer time it would take to develop a more `intelligent' algorithm.
   Alternatively, a more intelligent algorithm may imply more long-term complexity cost and
   bug-chasing than are justified by the speed improvement.
   Ken Thompson, co-inventor of UNIX, is reported to have uttered the epigram "When in doubt,
   use brute force". He probably intended this as a {ha ha only serious}, but the original
   UNIX kernel's preference for simple, robust, and portable algorithms over {brittle} `smart'
   ones does seem to have been a significant factor in the success of that OS. Like so many
   other tradeoffs in software design, the choice between brute force and complex, finely-tuned
   cleverness is often a difficult one that requires both engineering savvy and delicate
   esthetic judgment.

brute force and ignorance: n. A popular design technique at many software houses --- {brute
   force} coding unrelieved by any knowledge of how problems have been previously solved in
   elegant ways.  Dogmatic adherence to design methodologies tends to encourage it.
   Characteristic of early {larval stage} programming; unfortunately, many never outgrow it.
   Often abbreviated BFI: "Gak, they used a bubble sort!  That's strictly from BFI."  Compare

BSD: /B-S-D/ n. [acronym for `Berkeley System Distribution'] a family of {{UNIX}} versions for
   the DEC {VAX} and PDP-11 developed by Bill Joy and others at {Berzerkeley} starting around
   1980, incorporating paged virtual memory, TCP/IP networking enhancements, and many other
   features.  The BSD versions (4.1, 4.2, and 4.3) and the commercial versions derived from
   them (SunOS, ULTRIX, and Mt. Xinu) held the technical lead in the UNIX world until AT&T's
   successful standardization efforts after about 1986, and are still widely popular.
   See {{UNIX}}, {USG UNIX}.

bubble sort: n. Techspeak for a particular sorting technique in which pairs of adjacent values
   in the list to be sorted are compared and interchanged if they are out of order; thus, list
   entries `bubble upward' in the list until they bump into one with a lower sort value.
   Because it is not very good relative to other methods and is the one typically stumbled on
   by {na"ive} and untutored programmers, hackers consider it the {canonical} example of a
   na"ive algorithm.  The canonical example of a really *bad* algorithm is {bogo-sort}.
   A bubble sort might be used out of ignorance, but any use of bogo-sort could issue only
   from brain damage or willful perversity.

bucky bits: /buh'kee bits/ n. 1. obs. The bits produced by the CONTROL and META shift keys on
   a SAIL keyboard, resulting in a 9-bit keyboard character set.  The MIT AI TV (Knight)
   keyboards extended this with TOP and separate left and right CONTROL and META keys,
   resulting in a 12-bit character set; later, LISP Machines added such keys as SUPER, HYPER,
   and GREEK (see {space-cadet keyboard}).  2. By extension, bits associated with `extra'
   shift keys on any keyboard, e.g., the ALT on an IBM PC or command and option keys on a
   It is rumoured that `bucky bits' were named for Buckminster Fuller during a period when he
   was consulting at Stanford.  Actually, `Bucky' was Niklaus Wirth's nickname when *he* was
   at Stanford; he first suggested the idea of an EDIT key to set the 8th bit of an otherwise
   7-bit ASCII character.  This was used in a number of editors written at Stanford or in its
   environs (TV-EDIT and NLS being the best-known).  The term spread to MIT and CMU early and
   is now in general use.  See {double bucky}, {quadruple bucky}.

buffer overflow: n. What happens when you try to stuff more data into a buffer (holding area)
   than it can handle. This may be due to a mismatch in the processing rates of the producing
   and consuming processes (see {overrun}), or because the buffer is simply too small to hold
   all the data that must accumulate before a piece of it can be processed. For example, in a
   text-processing tool that {crunch}es a line at a time, a short line buffer can result in
   {lossage} as input from a long line overflows the buffer and trashes data beyond it. Good
   defensive programming would check for overflow on each character and stop accepting data
   when the buffer is full up. The term is used of and by humans in a metaphorical sense.
   "What time did I agree to meet you? My buffer must have overflowed." Or "If I answer that
   phone my buffer is going to overflow."  See also {spam}, {overrun screw}.

bug: n. An unwanted and unintended property of a program or hardware, esp. one that causes it
   to malfunction.  Antonym of {feature}. Examples: "There's a bug in the editor: it writes
   things out backwards." "The system crashed because of a hardware bug." "Fred is a winner,
   but he has a few bugs" (i.e., Fred is a good guy, but he has a few personality problems).
   Historical note: Some have said this term came from telephone company usage, in which "bugs
   in a telephone cable" were blamed for noisy lines, but this appears to be an incorrect folk
   etymology.  Admiral Grace Hopper (an early computing pioneer better known for inventing
   {COBOL}) liked to tell a story in which a technician solved a persistent {glitch} in the
   Harvard Mark II machine by pulling an actual insect out from between the contacts of one of
   its relays, and she subsequently promulgated {bug} in its hackish sense as a joke about the
   incident (though, as she was careful to admit, she was not there when it happened). For
   many years the logbook associated with the incident and the actual bug in question (a moth)
   sat in a display case at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.  The entire story, with a
   picture of the logbook and the moth taped into it, is recorded in the `Annals of the
   History of Computing', Vol. 3, No. 3 (July 1981), pp. 285--286.
   The text of the log entry (from September 9, 1945), reads "1545 Relay #70 Panel F (moth) in
   relay. First actual case of bug being found". This wording seems to establish that the term
   was already in use at the time in its current specific sense. Indeed, the use of `bug' to
   mean an industrial defect was already established in Thomas Edison's time, and `bug' in the
   sense of an disruptive event goes back to Shakespeare! In the first edition of Samuel
   Johnson's dictionary one meaning of `bug' is "A frightful object; a walking spectre"; this
   is traced to `bugbear', a Welsh term for a variety of mythological monster which (to
   complete the circle) has recently been reintroduced into the popular lexicon through
   fantasy role-playing games.
   In any case, in jargon the word almost never refers to insects. Here is a plausible
   conversation that never actually happened:

   "There is a bug in this ant farm!"
   "What do you mean?  I don't see any ants in it."
   "That's the bug."

   [There has been a widespread myth that the original bug was moved to the Smithsonian, and
   an earlier version of this entry so asserted. A correspondent who thought to check
   discovered that the bug was not there.  While investigating this, your editor discovered
   that the NSWC still had the bug, but had unsuccessfully tried to get the Smithsonian to
   accept it --- and that the present curator of the History of American Technology Museum
   didn't know this and agreed that it would make a worthwhile exhibit. Thus, the process of
   investigating the original-computer-bug bug may have fixed it in an entirely unexpected
   way, by making the myth true!  --- ESR]

bug-compatible: adj. Said of a design or revision that has been badly compromised by a
   requirement to be compatible with {fossil}s or {misfeature}s in other programs or (esp.)
   previous releases of itself. "MS-DOS 2.0 used \ as a path separator to be bug-compatible
   with some cretin's choice of / as an option character in 1.0."

bug-for-bug compatible: n. Same as {bug-compatible}, with the additional implication that much
   tedious effort went into ensuring that each (known) bug was replicated.

buglix: /buhg'liks/ n. Pejorative term referring to DEC's ULTRIX operating system in its
   earlier *severely* buggy versions. Still used to describe ULTRIX, but without venom.
   Compare {HP-SUX}.

bulletproof: adj. Used of an algorithm or implementation considered extremely {robust};
   lossage-resistant; capable of correctly recovering from any imaginable exception condition.
   This is a rare and valued quality.  Syn. {armour-plated}.

bum: 1. vt. To make highly efficient, either in time or space, often at the expense of clarity.
   "I managed to bum three more instructions out of that code." "I spent half the night bumming
   the interrupt code."  2. To squeeze out excess; to remove something in order to improve
   whatever it was removed from (without changing function; this distinguishes the process
   from a {featurectomy}). 3. n. A small change to an algorithm, program, or hardware device
   to make it more efficient. "This hardware bum makes the jump instruction faster." Usage:
   now uncommon, largely superseded by v. {tune} (and n. {tweak}, {hack}), though none of
   these exactly capture sense 2. All these uses are rare in Commonwealth hackish, because in
   the parent dialects of English `bum' is a rude synonym for `buttocks'.

bump: vt. Synonym for increment. Has the same meaning as C's ++ operator. Used esp. of counter
   variables, pointers, and index dummies in `for', `while', and `do-while' loops.

burble: [from Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky"] v. Like {flame}, but connotes that the source is
   truly clueless and ineffectual (mere flamers can be competent).  A term of deep contempt.
   "There's some guy on the phone burbling about how he got a DISK FULL error and it's all our
   comm software's fault."

buried treasure: n. A surprising piece of code found in some program. While usually not wrong,
   it tends to vary from {crufty} to {bletcherous}, and has lain undiscovered only because it
   was functionally correct, however horrible it is. Used sarcastically, because what is found
   is anything *but* treasure. Buried treasure almost always needs to be dug up and removed.
   "I just found that the scheduler sorts its queue using {bubble sort}!  Buried treasure!"

burn-in period: n. 1. A factory test designed to catch systems with {marginal} components
   before they get out the door; the theory is that burn-in will protect customers by
   outwaiting the steepest part of the {bathtub curve} (see {infant mortality}). 2. A period
   of indeterminate length in which a person using a computer is so intensely involved in his
   project that he forgets basic needs such as food, drink, sleep, etc. Warning: Excessive
   burn-in can lead to burn-out.  See {hack mode}, {larval stage}.

burst page: n. Syn. {banner}, sense 1.

busy-wait: vi. Used of human behavior, conveys that the subject is busy waiting for someone or
   something, intends to move instantly as soon as it shows up, and thus cannot do anything
   else at the moment.  "Can't talk now, I'm busy-waiting till Bill gets off the phone."
   Technically, `busy-wait' means to wait on an event by {spin}ning through a tight or timed-
   delay loop that polls for the event on each pass, as opposed to setting up an interrupt
   handler and continuing execution on another part of the task. This is a wasteful technique,
   best avoided on time-sharing systems where a busy-waiting program may {hog} the processor.

buzz: vi. 1. Of a program, to run with no indication of progress and perhaps without guarantee
   of ever finishing; esp. said of programs thought to be executing tight loops of code. A
   program that is buzzing appears to be {catatonic}, but you never get out of catatonia,
   while a buzzing loop may eventually end of its own accord. "The program buzzes for about 10
   seconds trying to sort all the names into order."  See {spin}; see also {grovel}. 2. [ETA
   Systems] To test a wire or printed circuit trace for continuity by applying an AC rather
   than DC signal. Some wire faults will pass DC tests but fail a buzz test. 3. To process an
   array or list in sequence, doing the same thing to each element. "This loop buzzes through
   the tz array looking for a terminator type."

BWQ: /B-W-Q/ [IBM: acronym, `Buzz Word Quotient'] The percentage of buzzwords in a speech or
   documents.  Usually roughly proportional to {bogosity}.  See {TLA}.

by hand: adv. Said of an operation (especially a repetitive, trivial, and/or tedious one) that
   ought to be performed automatically by the computer, but which a hacker instead has to step
   tediously through. "My mailer doesn't have a command to include the text of the message I'm
   replying to, so I have to do it by hand." This does not necessarily mean the speaker has to
   retype a copy of the message; it might refer to, say, dropping into a {subshell} from the
   mailer, making a copy of one's mailbox file, reading that into an editor, locating the top
   and bottom of the message in question, deleting the rest of the file, inserting `>'
   characters on each line, writing the file, leaving the editor, returning to the mailer,
   reading the file in, and later remembering to delete the file.  Compare {eyeball search}.

byte:: /bi:t/ [techspeak] n. A unit of memory or data equal to the amount used to represent
   one character; on modern architectures this is usually 8 bits, but may be 9 on 36-bit
   machines. Some older architectures used `byte' for quantities of 6 or 7 bits, and the
   PDP-10 supported `bytes' that were actually bitfields of 1 to 36 bits! These usages are now
   obsolete, and even 9-bit bytes have become rare in the general trend toward power-of-2 word
   Historical note: The term originated in 1956 during the early design phase for the IBM
   Stretch computer; originally it was described as 1 to 6 bits (typical I/O equipment of the
   period used 6-bit chunks of information). The move to an 8-bit byte happened in late 1956,
   and this size was later adopted and promulgated as a standard by the System/360. The term
   `byte' was coined by mutating the word `bite' so it would not be accidentally misspelled as
   {bit}.  See also {nybble}.

bytesexual: /bi:t`sek'shu-*l/ adj. Said of hardware, denotes willingness to compute or pass
   data in either {big-endian} or {little-endian} format (depending, presumably, on a {mode
   bit} somewhere).  See also {NUXI problem}.

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