Search billions of records on Ancestry.com
   
Website logo - Click to go to Home page



Jargon used in computing

= C =
=====

C: n. 1. The third letter of the English alphabet. 2. ASCII 1000011. 3. The name of a
   programming language designed by Dennis Ritchie during the early 1970s and immediately used
   to reimplement {{UNIX}}. So called because many features derived from an earlier compiler
   named `B' in commemoration of *its* parent, BCPL; before Bjarne Stroustrup settled the
   question by designing C++, there was a humourous debate over whether C's successor should
   be named `D' or `P'. C became immensely popular outside Bell Labs after about 1980 and is
   now the dominant language in systems and microcomputer applications programming. See also
   {languages of choice}, {indent style}.
   C is often described, with a mixture of fondness and disdain varying according to the
   speaker, as "a language that combines all the elegance and power of assembly language with
   all the readability and maintainability of assembly language".

calculator: [Cambridge] n. Syn. for {bitty box}.

can: vt. To abort a job on a time-sharing system. Used esp. when the person doing the deed is
   an operator, as in "canned from the {{console}}".  Frequently used in an imperative sense,
   as in "Can that print job, the LPT just popped a sprocket!"  Synonymous with {gun}. It is
   said that the ASCII character with mnemonic CAN (0011000) was used as a kill-job character
   on some early OSes.

canonical: [historically, `according to religious law'] adj. The usual or standard state or
   manner of something. This word has a somewhat more technical meaning in mathematics. Two
   formulas such as 9 + x and x + 9 are said to be equivalent because they mean the same thing,
   but the second one is in `canonical form' because it is written in the usual way, with the
   highest power of x first.  Usually there are fixed rules you can use to decide whether
   something is in canonical form.  The jargon meaning, a relaxation of the technical meaning,
   acquired its present loading in computer-science culture largely through its prominence in
   Alonzo Church's work in computation theory and mathematical logic (see {Knights of the
   Lambda Calculus}). Compare {vanilla}.
   This word has an interesting history.  Non-technical academics do not use the adjective
   `canonical' in any of the senses defined above with any regularity; they do however use the
   nouns `canon' and `canonicity' (not *canonicalness or *canonicality). The `canon' of a
   given author is the complete body of authentic works by that author (this usage is familiar
   to Sherlock Holmes fans as well as to literary scholars). `*The* canon' is the body of
   works in a given field (e.g., works of literature, or of art, or of music) deemed
   worthwhile for students to study and for scholars to investigate.
   These non-techspeak academic usages derive ultimately from the historical meaning,
   specifically the classification of the books of the Bible into two groups by Christian
   theologians.  The `canonical' books were the ones widely accepted as Holy Scripture and
   held to be of primary authority. The `deuterocanonical' books (literally `secondarily
   canonical'; also known as the `Apochrypha') were held to be of lesser authority --- indeed
   they have been held in such low esteem that to this day they are omitted from most
   Protestant bibles.
   Hackers invest this term with a playfulness that makes an ironic contrast with its
   historical meaning. A true story: One Bob Sjoberg, new at the MIT AI Lab, expressed some
   annoyance at the use of jargon. Over his loud objections, GLS and RMS made a point of using
   it as much as possible in his presence, and eventually it began to sink in. Finally, in one
   conversation, he used the word `canonical' in jargon-like fashion without thinking.
   Steele: "Aha!  We've finally got you talking jargon too!"  Stallman: "What did he say?"
   Steele: "Bob just used `canonical' in the canonical way."
   Of course, canonicality depends on context, but it is implicitly defined as the way
   *hackers* normally expect things to be. Thus, a hacker may claim with a straight face that
   `according to religious law' is *not* the canonical meaning of `canonical'.

card: n. 1. An electronic printed-circuit board (see also {tall card}, {short card}. 2. obs.
   Syn. {{punched card}}.

card walloper: n. An EDP programmer who grinds out batch programs that do stupid things like
   print people's paychecks.  Compare {code grinder}.  See also {{punched card}}, {eighty-
   column mind}.

careware: /keir'weir/ n. {Shareware} for which either the author suggests that some payment be
   made to a nominated charity or a levy directed to charity is included on top of the
   distribution charge.  Syn. {charityware}; compare {crippleware}, sense 2.

cargo cult programming: n. A style of (incompetent) programming dominated by ritual inclusion
   of code or program structures that serve no real purpose.  A cargo cult programmer will
   usually explain the extra code as a way of working around some bug encountered in the past,
   but usually neither the bug nor the reason the code apparently avoided the bug was ever
   fully understood (compare {shotgun debugging}, {voodoo programming}).
   The term `cargo cult' is a reference to aboriginal religions that grew up in the South
   Pacific after World War II.  The practices of these cults center on building elaborate
   mockups of airplanes and military style landing strips in the hope of bringing the return
   of the god-like airplanes that brought such marvelous cargo during the war. Hackish usage
   probably derives from Richard Feynman's characterization of certain practices as "cargo
   cult science" in his book `Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman' (W. W. Norton & Co, New York
   1985, ISBN 0-393-01921-7).

case and paste: [from `cut and paste'] n. 1. The addition of a new {feature} to an existing
   system by selecting the code from an existing feature and pasting it in with minor changes.
   Common in telephony circles because most operations in a telephone switch are selected
   using `case' statements.  Leads to {software bloat}. In some circles of EMACS users this is
   called `programming by Meta-W', because Meta-W is the EMACS command for copying a block of
   text to a kill buffer in preparation to pasting it in elsewhere. The term is condescending,
   implying that the programmer is acting mindlessly rather than thinking carefully about what
   is required to integrate the code for two similar cases.

casters-up mode: [IBM] n. Yet another synonym for `broken' or `down'.

casting the runes: n. What a {guru} does when you ask him or her to run a particular program
   and type at it because it never works for anyone else; esp. used when nobody can ever see
   what the guru is doing different from what J. Random Luser does. Compare {incantation},
   {runes}, {examining the entrails}; also see the AI koan about Tom Knight in appendix A.

cat: [from `catenate' via {{UNIX}} `cat(1)'] vt. 1. [techspeak] To spew an entire file to the
   screen or some other output sink without pause. 2. By extension, to dump large amounts of
   data at an unprepared target or with no intention of browsing it carefully. Usage:
   considered silly.  Rare outside UNIX sites.  See also {dd}, {BLT}.
   Among UNIX fans, `cat(1)' is considered an excellent example of user-interface design,
   because it outputs the file contents without such verbosity as spacing or headers between
   the files, and because it does not require the files to consist of lines of text, but works
   with any sort of data.
   Among UNIX-haters, `cat(1)' is considered the {canonical} example of *bad* user-interface
   design. This because it is more often used to {blast} a file to standard output than to
   concatenate two files. The name `cat' for the former operation is just as unintuitive as,
   say, LISP's {cdr}.
   Of such oppositions are {holy wars} made....

catatonic: adj. Describes a condition of suspended animation in which something is so {wedged}
   or {hung} that it makes no response.  If you are typing on a terminal and suddenly the
   computer doesn't even echo the letters back to the screen as you type, let alone do what
   you're asking it to do, then the computer is suffering from catatonia (possibly because it
   has crashed). "There I was in the middle of a winning game of {nethack} and it went
   catatonic on me!  Aaargh!" Compare {buzz}.

cdr: /ku'dr/ or /kuh'dr/ [from LISP] vt. To skip past the first item from a list of things
   (generalized from the LISP operation on binary tree structures, which returns a list
   consisting of all but the first element of its argument). In the form `cdr down', to trace
   down a list of elements: "Shall we cdr down the agenda?" Usage: silly. See also {loop
   through}.
   Historical note: The instruction format of the IBM 7090 that hosted the original LISP
   implementation featured two 15-bit fields called the `address' and `decrement' parts.
   The term `cdr' was originally `Contents of Decrement part of Register'. Similarly, `car'
   stood for `Contents of Address part of Register'.
   The cdr and car operations have since become bases for formation of compound metaphors in
   non-LISP contexts. GLS recalls, for example, a programming project in which strings were
   represented as linked lists; the get-character and skip-character operations were of course
   called CHAR and CHDR.

chad: /chad/ n. 1. The perforated edge strips on printer paper, after they have been separated
   from the printed portion. Also called {selvage} and {perf}. 2. obs. The confetti-like paper
   bits punched out of cards or paper tape; this was also called `chaff', `computer confetti',
   and `keypunch droppings'.
   Historical note: One correspondent believes `chad' (sense 2) derives from the Chadless
   keypunch (named for its inventor), which cut little u-shaped tabs in the card to make a
   hole when the tab folded back, rather than punching out a circle/rectangle; it was clear
   that if the Chadless keypunch didn't make them, then the stuff that other keypunches made
   had to be `chad'.

chad box: n. {Iron Age} card punches contained boxes inside them, about the size of a lunchbox
   (or in some models a large wastebasket), that held the {chad} (sense 2). You had to open
   the covers of the card punch periodically and empty the chad box. The {bit bucket} was
   notionally the equivalent device in the CPU enclosure, which was typically across the room
   in another great gray-and-blue box.

chain: [orig. from BASIC's `CHAIN' statement] vi. To hand off execution to a child or
   successor without going through the {OS} command interpreter that invoked it. The state of
   the parent program is lost and there is no returning to it. Though this facility used to be
   common on memory-limited micros and is still widely supported for backward compatibility,
   the jargon usage is semi-obsolescent; in particular, most UNIX programmers will think of
   this as an {exec}. Oppose the more modern {subshell}.

char: /keir/ or /char/; rarely, /kar/ n. Shorthand for `character'. Esp. used by C programmers,
   as `char' is C's typename for character data.

charityware: /char'it-ee-weir`/ n. Syn. {careware}.

chase pointers: 1. vi. To go through multiple levels of indirection, as in traversing a linked
   list or graph structure. Used esp. by programmers in C, where explicit pointers are a very
   common data type.  This is techspeak, but it remains jargon when used of human networks.
   "I'm chasing pointers. Bob said you could tell me who to talk to about...." See {dangling
   pointer} and {snap}. 2. [Cambridge] `pointer chase' or `pointer hunt': The process of going
   through a dump (interactively or on a large piece of paper printed with hex {runes})
   following dynamic data-structures. Used only in a debugging context.

chemist: [Cambridge] n. Someone who wastes computer time on {number-crunching} when you'd far
   rather the machine were doing something more productive, such as working out anagrams of
   your name or printing Snoopy calendars or running {life} patterns. May or may not refer to
   someone who actually studies chemistry.

Chernobyl chicken: n. See {laser chicken}.

Chernobyl packet: /cher-noh'b*l pak'*t/ n. A network packet that induces {network meltdown}
   (the result of a {broadcast storm}), in memory of the 1987 nuclear accident at Chernobyl in
   the Ukraine. The typical case of this is an IP Ethernet datagram that passes through a
   gateway with both source and destination Ether and IP address set as the respective
   broadcast addresses for the subnetworks being gated between. Compare {Christmas tree packet}.

chicken head: [Commodore] n. The Commodore Business Machines logo, which strongly resembles a
   poultry part. Rendered in ASCII as `C='.  With the arguable exception of the Amiga (see
   {amoeba}), Commodore's machines are notoriously crocky little {bitty box}es (see also
   {PETSCII}). Thus, this usage may owe something to Philip K. Dick's novel `Do Androids Dream
   of Electric Sheep?' (the basis for the movie `Blade Runner'), in which a `chickenhead' is a
   mutant with below-average intelligence.

chiclet keyboard: n. A keyboard with small rectangular or lozenge-shaped rubber or plastic
   keys that look like pieces of chewing gum. (Chiclets is the brand name of a variety of
   chewing gum that does in fact resemble the keys of chiclet keyboards.) Used esp. to
   describe the original IBM PCjr keyboard. Vendors unanimously liked these because they were
   cheap, and a lot of early portable and laptop products got launched using them. Customers
   rejected the idea with almost equal unanimity, and chiclets are not often seen on anything
   larger than a digital watch any more.

chine nual: /sheen'yu-*l/ [MIT] n.,obs. The Lisp Machine Manual, so called because the title
   was wrapped around the cover so only those letters showed on the front.

Chinese Army technique: n. Syn. {Mongolian Hordes technique}.

choke: v. To reject input, often ungracefully. "Nuls make System V's `lpr(1)' choke." "I tried
   building an {EMACS} binary to use {X}, but `cpp(1)' choked on all those `#define's." See
   {barf}, {gag}, {vi}.

chomp: vi. To {lose}; specifically, to chew on something of which more was bitten off than one
   can. Probably related to gnashing of teeth. See {bagbiter}. A hand gesture commonly
   accompanies this. To perform it, hold the four fingers together and place the thumb against
   their tips.  Now open and close your hand rapidly to suggest a biting action (much like
   what Pac-Man does in the classic video game, though this pantomime seems to predate that).
   The gesture alone means `chomp chomp' (see Verb Doubling in the "Jargon Construction"
   section of the Prependices). The hand may be pointed at the object of complaint, and for
   real emphasis you can use both hands at once. Doing this to a person is equivalent to
   saying "You chomper!" If you point the gesture at yourself, it is a humble but humourous
   admission of some failure. You might do this if someone told you that a program you had
   written had failed in some surprising way and you felt dumb for not having anticipated it.

chomper: n. Someone or something that is chomping; a loser.  See {loser}, {bagbiter}, {chomp}.

Christmas tree: n. A kind of RS-232 line tester or breakout box featuring rows of blinking red
   and green LEDs suggestive of Christmas lights.

Christmas tree packet: n. A packet with every single option set for whatever protocol is in
   use. See {kamikaze packet}, {Chernobyl packet}. (The term doubtless derives from a fanciful
   image of each little option bit being represented by a different-colored light bulb, all
   turned on.)

chrome: [from automotive slang via wargaming] n. Showy features added to attract users but
   contributing little or nothing to the power of a system. "The 3D icons in Motif are just
   chrome, but they certainly are *pretty* chrome!" Distinguished from {bells and whistles} by
   the fact that the latter are usually added to gratify developers' own desires for
   featurefulness. Often used as a term of contempt.

chug: vi. To run slowly; to {grind} or {grovel}.  "The disk is chugging like crazy."

Church of the SubGenius: n. A mutant offshoot of {Discordianism} launched in 1981 as a spoof
   of fundamentalist Christianity by the `Reverend' Ivan Stang, a brilliant satirist with a
   gift for promotion. Popular among hackers as a rich source of bizarre imagery and
   references such as "Bob" the divine drilling-equipment salesman, the Benevolent Space
   Xists, and the Stark Fist of Removal. Much SubGenius theory is concerned with the
   acquisition of the mystical substance or quality of `slack'.

Cinderella Book: [CMU] n. `Introduction to Automata Theory, Languages, and Computation', by
   John Hopcroft and Jeffrey Ullman, (Addison-Wesley, 1979).  So called because the cover
   depicts a girl (putatively Cinderella) sitting in front of a Rube Goldberg device and
   holding a rope coming out of it. The back cover depicts the girl with the device in
   shambles after she has pulled on the rope. See also {{book titles}}.

CI$: // n. Hackerism for `CIS', CompuServe Information Service. The dollar sign refers to
   CompuServe's rather steep line charges. Often used in {sig block}s just before a CompuServe
   address. Syn. {Compu$erve}.

Classic C: /klas'ik C/ [a play on `Coke Classic'] n. The C programming language as defined in
   the first edition of {K&R}, with some small additions. It is also known as `K&R C'. The
   name came into use while C was being standardized by the ANSI X3J11 committee. Also `C
   Classic'.  This is sometimes applied elsewhere: thus, `X Classic', where X = Star Trek
   (referring to the original TV series) or X = PC (referring to IBM's ISA-bus machines as
   opposed to the PS/2 series). This construction is especially used of product series in
   which the newer versions are considered serious losers relative to the older ones.

clean: 1. adj. Used of hardware or software designs, implies `elegance in the small', that is,
   a design or implementation that may not hold any surprises but does things in a way that is
   reasonably intuitive and relatively easy to comprehend from the outside. The antonym is
   `grungy' or {crufty}.  2. v. To remove unneeded or undesired files in a effort to reduce
   clutter: "I'm cleaning up my account." "I cleaned up the garbage and now have 100 Meg free
   on that partition."

CLM: /C-L-M/ [Sun: `Career Limiting Move'] 1. n. An action endangering one's future prospects
   of getting plum projects and raises, and possibly one's job:  "His Halloween costume was a
   parody of his manager. He won the prize for `best CLM'." 2. adj. Denotes extreme severity
   of a bug, discovered by a customer and obviously missed earlier because of poor testing:
   "That's a CLM bug!"

clobber: vt. To overwrite, usually unintentionally: "I walked off the end of the array and
   clobbered the stack." Compare {mung}, {scribble}, {trash}, and {smash the stack}.

clocks: n. Processor logic cycles, so called because each generally corresponds to one clock
   pulse in the processor's timing. The relative execution times of instructions on a machine
   are usually discussed in clocks rather than absolute fractions of a second; one good reason
   for this is that clock speeds for various models of the machine may increase as technology
   improves, and it is usually the relative times one is interested in when discussing the
   instruction set.  Compare {cycle}.

clone: n. 1. An exact duplicate: "Our product is a clone of their product." Implies a legal
   reimplementation from documentation or by reverse-engineering.  Also connotes lower price.
   2. A shoddy, spurious copy: "Their product is a clone of our product." 3. A blatant ripoff,
   most likely violating copyright, patent, or trade secret protections: "Your product is a
   clone of my product." This use implies legal action is pending. 4. A `PC clone'; a
   PC-BUS/ISA or EISA-compatible 80x86-based microcomputer (this use is sometimes spelled
   `klone' or `PClone'). These invariably have much more bang for the buck than the IBM
   archetypes they resemble. 5. In the construction `UNIX clone': An OS designed to deliver a
   UNIX-lookalike environment without UNIX license fees, or with additional `mission-critical'
   features such as support for real-time programming. 6. v. To make an exact copy of
   something. "Let me clone that" might mean "I want to borrow that paper so I can make a
   photocopy" or "Let me get a copy of that file before you {mung} it".

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

clustergeeking: /kluh'st*r-gee`king/ [CMU] n. Spending more time at a computer cluster doing
   CS homework than most people spend breathing.

COBOL: /koh'bol/ [COmmon Business-Oriented Language] n. (Synonymous with {evil}.) A weak,
   verbose, and flabby language used by {card walloper}s to do boring mindless things on
   {dinosaur} mainframes. Hackers believe all COBOL programmers are {suit}s or {code grinder}s,
   and no self-respecting hacker will ever admit to having learned the language. Its very name
   is seldom uttered without ritual expressions of disgust or horror. See also {fear and
   loathing}, {software rot}.

COBOL fingers: /koh'bol fing'grz/ n. Reported from Sweden, a (hypothetical) disease one might
   get from coding in COBOL. The language requires code verbose beyond all reason; thus it is
   alleged that programming too much in COBOL causes one's fingers to wear down to stubs by
   the endless typing. "I refuse to type in all that source code again; it would give me COBOL
   fingers!"

code grinder: n. 1. A {suit}-wearing minion of the sort hired in legion strength by banks and
   insurance companies to implement payroll packages in RPG and other such unspeakable horrors.
   In his native habitat, the code grinder often removes the suit jacket to reveal an
   underplumage consisting of button-down shirt (starch optional) and a tie. In times of dire
   stress, the sleeves (if long) may be rolled up and the tie loosened about half an inch.
   It seldom helps. The {code grinder}'s milieu is about as far from hackerdom as you can get
   and still touch a computer; the term connotes pity. See {Real World}, {suit}. 2. Used of or
   to a hacker, a really serious slur on the person's creative ability; connotes a design
   style characterized by primitive technique, rule-boundedness, {brute force}, and utter lack
   of imagination. Compare {card walloper}; contrast {hacker}, {real programmer}.

code police: [by analogy with George Orwell's `thought police'] n. A mythical team of Gestapo-
   like storm troopers that might burst into one's office and arrest one for violating
   programming style rules. May be used either seriously, to underline a claim that a
   particular style violation is dangerous, or ironically, to suggest that the practice under
   discussion is condemned mainly by anal-retentive {weenie}s. "Dike out that goto or the code
   police will get you!"  The ironic usage is perhaps more common.

codewalker: n. A program component that traverses other programs for a living. Compilers have
   codewalkers in their front ends; so do cross-reference generators and some database front
   ends.  Other utility programs that try to do too much with source code may turn into
   codewalkers.  As in "This new `vgrind' feature would require a codewalker to implement."

coefficient of X: n. Hackish speech makes rather heavy use of pseudo-mathematical metaphors.
   Four particularly important ones involve the terms `coefficient', `factor', `index', and
   `quotient'. They are often loosely applied to things you cannot really be quantitative
   about, but there are subtle distinctions among them that convey information about the way
   the speaker mentally models whatever he or she is describing.
   `Foo factor' and `foo quotient' tend to describe something for which the issue is one of
   presence or absence.  The canonical example is {fudge factor}. It's not important how much
   you're fudging; the term simply acknowledges that some fudging is needed. You might talk of
   liking a movie for its silliness factor. Quotient tends to imply that the property is a
   ratio of two opposing factors: "I would have won except for my luck quotient." This could
   also be "I would have won except for the luck factor", but using *quotient* emphasizes that
   it was bad luck overpowering good luck (or someone else's good luck overpowering your own).
   `Foo index' and `coefficient of foo' both tend to imply that foo is, if not strictly
   measurable, at least something that can be larger or smaller.  Thus, you might refer to a
   paper or person as having a `high bogosity index', whereas you would be less likely to
   speak of a `high bogosity factor'. `Foo index' suggests that foo is a condensation of many
   quantities, as in the mundane cost-of-living index; `coefficient of foo' suggests that foo
   is a fundamental quantity, as in a coefficient of friction. The choice between these terms
   is often one of personal preference; e.g., some people might feel that bogosity is a
   fundamental attribute and thus say `coefficient of bogosity', whereas others might feel it
   is a combination of factors and thus say `bogosity index'.

cokebottle: /kohk'bot-l/ n. Any very unusual character, particularly one you can't type
   because it it isn't on your keyboard. MIT people used to complain about the
   `control-meta-cokebottle' commands at SAIL, and SAIL people complained right back about the
   `altmode-altmode-cokebottle' commands at MIT. After the demise of the {space-cadet
   keyboard}, `cokebottle' faded away as serious usage, but was often invoked humourously to
   describe an (unspecified) weird or non-intuitive keystroke command. It may be due for a
   second inning, however. The OSF/Motif window manager, `mwm(1)', has a reserved keystroke
   for switching to the default set of keybindings and behavior. This keystroke is (believe it
   or not) `control-meta-bang' (see {bang}). Since the exclamation point looks a lot like an
   upside down Coke bottle, Motif hackers have begun referring to this keystroke as
   `cokebottle'.  See also {quadruple bucky}.

cold boot: n. See {boot}.

COME FROM: n. A semi-mythical language construct dual to the `go to'; `COME FROM' <label>
   would cause the referenced label to act as a sort of trapdoor, so that if the program ever
   reached it control would quietly and {automagically} be transferred to the statement
   following the `COME FROM'. `COME FROM' was first proposed in a {Datamation} article of
   December 1973 (reprinted in the April 1984 issue of `Communications of the ACM') that
   parodied the then-raging `structured programming' {holy wars} (see {considered harmful}).
   Mythically, some variants are the `assigned COME FROM' and the `computed COME FROM'
   (parodying some nasty control constructs in FORTRAN and some extended BASICs). Of course,
   multi-tasking (or non-determinism) could be implemented by having more than one `COME FROM'
   statement coming from the same label.
   In some ways the FORTRAN `DO' looks like a `COME FROM' statement. After the terminating
   statement number/`CONTINUE' is reached, control continues at the statement following the DO.
   Some generous FORTRANs would allow arbitrary statements (other than `CONTINUE') for the
   statement, leading to examples like:

           DO 10 I=1,LIMIT
     C imagine many lines of code here, leaving the
     C original DO statement lost in the spaghetti...
           WRITE(6,10) I,FROB(I)
      10   FORMAT(1X,I5,G10.4)

   in which the trapdoor is just after the statement labeled 10. (This is particularly
   surprising because the label doesn't appear to have anything to do with the flow of control
   at all!)
   While sufficiently astonishing to the unsuspecting reader, this form of `COME FROM'
   statement isn't completely general. After all, control will eventually pass to the
   following statement. The implementation of the general form was left to Univac FORTRAN, ca.
   1975. The statement `AT 100' would perform a `COME FROM 100'. It was intended strictly as a
   debugging aid, with dire consequences promised to anyone so deranged as to use it in
   production code. More horrible things had already been perpetrated in production languages,
   however; doubters need only contemplate the `ALTER' verb in {COBOL}.
   `COME FROM' was supported under its own name for the first time 15 years later, in
   C-INTERCAL (see {INTERCAL}, {retrocomputing}); knowledgeable observers are still reeling
   from the shock.

comm mode: /kom mohd/ [ITS: from the feature supporting on-line chat; the term may spelled
   with one or two m's] Syn. for {talk mode}.

command key: [Mac users] n. The Macintosh key with the cloverleaf graphic on its keytop;
   sometimes referred to as `flower', `pretzel', `clover', `propeller', `beanie' (an apparent
   reference to the major feature of a propeller beanie), or {splat}. The Mac's equivalent of
   an {ALT} key. The proliferation of terms for this creature may illustrate one subtle peril
   of iconic interfaces.

comment out: vt. To surround a section of code with comment delimiters or to prefix every line
   in the section with a comment marker; this prevents it from being compiled or interpreted.
   Often done when the code is redundant or obsolete, but you want to leave it in the source
   to make the intent of the active code clearer; also when the code in that section is broken
   and you want to bypass it in order to debug some other part of the code. Compare {condition
   out}, usually the preferred technique in languages (such as {C}) that make it possible.

Commonwealth Hackish:: n. Hacker jargon as spoken outside the U.S., esp. in the British
   Commonwealth. It is reported that Commonwealth speakers are more likely to pronounce
   truncations like `char' and `soc', etc., as spelled (/char/, /sok/), as opposed to American
   /keir/ and /sohsh/. Dots in {newsgroup} names tend to be pronounced more often (so
   soc.wibble is /sok dot wib'l/ rather than /sohsh wib'l/). The prefix {meta} may be
   pronounced /mee't*/; similarly, Greek letter beta is often /bee't*/, zeta is often /zee't*/,
   and so forth.  Preferred metasyntactic variables include `eek', `ook', `frodo', and `bilbo';
   `wibble', `wobble', and in emergencies `wubble'; `banana', `wombat', `frog', {fish}, and so
   on and on (see {foo}, sense 4).
   Alternatives to verb doubling include suffixes `-o-rama', `frenzy' (as in feeding frenzy),
   and `city' (examples: "barf city!" "hack-o-rama!" "core dump frenzy!"). Finally, note that
   the American terms `parens', `brackets', and `braces' for (), [], and {} are uncommon;
   Commonwealth hackish prefers `brackets', `square brackets', and `curly brackets'. Also, the
   use of `pling' for {bang} is common outside the United States.
   See also {attoparsec}, {calculator}, {chemist}, {console jockey}, {fish}, {go-faster
   stripes}, {grunge}, {hakspek}, {heavy metal}, {leaky heap}, {lord high fixer}, {noddy},
   {psychedelicware}, {plingnet}, {raster blaster}, {seggie}, {terminal junkie}, {tick-list
   features}, {weeble}, {weasel}, {YABA}, and notes or definitions under {Bad Thing}, {barf},
   {bogus}, {bum}, {chase pointers}, {cosmic rays}, {crippleware}, {crunch}, {dodgy}, {gonk},
   {hamster}, {hardwarily}, {mess-dos}, {nybble}, {proglet}, {root}, {SEX}, {tweak}, and
   {xyzzy}.

compact: adj. Of a design, describes the valuable property that it can all be apprehended at
   once in one's head.  This generally means the thing created from the design can be used
   with greater facility and fewer errors than an equivalent tool that is not compact.
   Compactness does not imply triviality or lack of power; for example, C is compact and
   FORTRAN is not, but C is more powerful than FORTRAN.  Designs become non-compact through
   accreting {feature}s and {cruft} that don't merge cleanly into the overall design scheme
   (thus, some fans of {Classic C} maintain that ANSI C is no longer compact).

compiler jock: n. See {jock} (sense 2).

compress: [UNIX] vt. When used without a qualifier, generally refers to {crunch}ing of a file
   using a particular C implementation of Lempel-Ziv compression by James A. Woods et al. and
   widely circulated via {USENET}. Use of {crunch} itself in this sense is rare among UNIX
   hackers.

Compu$erve: n. See {CI$}.

computer confetti: n. Syn. {chad}. Though this term is common, this use of the punched-card
   chad is not a good idea, as the pieces are stiff and have sharp corners that could injure
   the eyes. GLS reports that he once attended a wedding at MIT during which he and a few
   other guests enthusiastically threw chad instead of rice. The groom later grumbled that he
   and his bride had spent most of the evening trying to get the stuff out of their hair.

computer geek: n. One who eats (computer) bugs for a living. One who fulfills all the
   dreariest negative stereotypes about hackers: an asocial, malodorous, pasty-faced
   monomaniac with all the personality of a cheese grater. Cannot be used by outsiders without
   implied insult to all hackers; compare black-on-black usage of `nigger'. A computer geek
   may be either a fundamentally clueless individual or a proto-hacker in {larval stage}. Also
   called `turbo nerd', `turbo geek'. See also {clustergeeking}, {geek out}, {wannabee},
   {terminal junkie}.

computron: /kom'pyoo-tron`/ n. 1. A notional unit of computing power combining instruction
   speed and storage capacity, dimensioned roughly in instructions-per-second times
   megabytes-of-main-store times megabytes-of-mass-storage. "That machine can't run GNU EMACS,
   it doesn't have enough computrons!" This usage is usually found in metaphors that treat
   computing power as a fungible commodity good, like a crop yield or diesel horsepower.
   See {bitty box}, {Get a real computer!}, {toy}, {crank}. 2. A mythical subatomic particle
   that bears the unit quantity of computation or information, in much the same way that an
   electron bears one unit of electric charge (see also {bogon}). An elaborate pseudo-
   scientific theory of computrons has been developed based on the physical fact that the
   molecules in a solid object move more rapidly as it is heated. It is argued that an object
   melts because the molecules have lost their information about where they are supposed to be
   (that is, they have emitted computrons). This explains why computers get so hot and require
   air conditioning; they use up computrons. Conversely, it should be possible to cool down an
   object by placing it in the path of a computron beam. It is believed that this may also
   explain why machines that work at the factory fail in the computer room: the computrons
   there have been all used up by the other hardware. (This theory probably owes something to
   the "Warlock" stories by Larry Niven, the best known being "What Good is a Glass Dagger?",
   in which magic is fueled by an exhaustible natural resource called `mana'.)

condition out: vt. To prevent a section of code from being compiled by surrounding it with a
   conditional-compilation directive whose condition is always false. The {canonical} examples
   are `#if 0' (or `#ifdef notdef', though some find this {bletcherous}) and `#endif' in C.
   Compare {comment out}.

condom: n. 1. The protective plastic bag that accompanies 3.5-inch microfloppy diskettes.
   Rarely, also used of (paper) disk envelopes. Unlike the write protect tab, the condom (when
   left on) not only impedes the practice of {SEX} but has also been shown to have a high
   failure rate as drive mechanisms attempt to access the disk --- and can even fatally
   frustrate insertion. 2. The protective cladding on a {light pipe}.

connector conspiracy: [probably came into prominence with the appearance of the KL-10 (one
   model of the {PDP-10}), none of whose connectors matched anything else] n. The tendency of
   manufacturers (or, by extension, programmers or purveyors of anything) to come up with new
   products that don't fit together with the old stuff, thereby making you buy either all new
   stuff or expensive interface devices.  The KL-10 Massbus connector was actually *patented*
   by DEC, which reputedly refused to license the design and thus effectively locked third
   parties out of competition for the lucrative Massbus peripherals market.  This is a source
   of never-ending frustration for the diehards who maintain older PDP-10 or VAX systems.
   Their CPUs work fine, but they are stuck with dying, obsolescent disk and tape drives with
   low capacity and high power requirements.
   In these latter days of open-systems computing this term has fallen somewhat into disuse,
   to be replaced by the observation that "Standards are great! There are so *many* of them to
   choose from!"  Compare {backward combatability}.

cons: /konz/ or /kons/ [from LISP] 1. vt. To add a new element to a specified list, esp. at
   the top. "OK, cons picking a replacement for the console TTY onto the agenda."
   2. `cons up': vt. To synthesize from smaller pieces: "to cons up an example".
   In LISP itself, `cons' is the most fundamental operation for building structures. It takes
   any two objects and returns a `dot-pair' or two-branched tree with one object hanging from
   each branch.  Because the result of a cons is an object, it can be used to build binary
   trees of any shape and complexity. Hackers think of it as a sort of universal constructor,
   and that is where the jargon meanings spring from.

considered harmful: adj. Edsger W. Dijkstra's note in the March 1968 `Communications of the
   ACM', "Goto Statement Considered Harmful", fired the first salvo in the structured
   programming wars.  Amusingly, the ACM considered the resulting acrimony sufficiently
   harmful that it will (by policy) no longer print an article taking so assertive a position
   against a coding practice. In the ensuing decades, a large number of both serious papers
   and parodies have borne titles of the form "X considered Y".  The structured-programming
   wars eventually blew over with the realization that both sides were wrong, but use of such
   titles has remained as a persistent minor in-joke (the `considered silly' found at various
   places in this lexicon is related).

console:: n. 1. The operator's station of a {mainframe}. In times past, this was a privileged
   location that conveyed godlike powers to anyone with fingers on its keys.  Under UNIX and
   other modern timesharing OSes, such privileges are guarded by passwords instead, and the
   console is just the {tty} the system was booted from. Some of the mystique remains, however,
   and it is traditional for sysadmins to post urgent messages to all users from the console
   (on UNIX, /dev/console).  2. On microcomputer UNIX boxes, the main screen and keyboard (as
   opposed to character-only terminals talking to a serial port).  Typically only the console
   can do real graphics or run {X}.  See also {CTY}.

console jockey: n. See {terminal junkie}.

content-free: [by analogy with techspeak `context-free'] adj. Used of a message that adds
   nothing to the recipient's knowledge. Though this adjective is sometimes applied to
   {flamage}, it more usually connotes derision for communication styles that exalt form over
   substance or are centered on concerns irrelevant to the subject ostensibly at hand. Perhaps
   most used with reference to speeches by company presidents and other professional
   manipulators. "Content-free?  Uh...that's anything printed on glossy paper."  See also
   {four-color glossies}.  "He gave a talk on the implications of electronic networks for
   postmodernism and the fin-de-siecle aesthetic.  It was content-free."

control-C: vi. 1. "Stop whatever you are doing."  From the interrupt character used on many
   operating systems to abort a running program. Considered silly. 2. interj. Among BSD UNIX
   hackers, the canonical humorous response to "Give me a break!"

control-O: vi. "Stop talking."  From the character used on some operating systems to abort
   output but allow the program to keep on running. Generally means that you are not
   interested in hearing anything more from that person, at least on that topic; a standard
   response to someone who is flaming. Considered silly.

control-Q: vi. "Resume."  From the ASCII XON character used to undo a previous control-S (in
   fact it is also pronounced XON /X-on/).

control-S: vi. "Stop talking for a second."  From the ASCII XOFF character (this is also
   pronounced XOFF /X-of/). Control-S differs from {control-O} in that the person is asked to
   stop talking (perhaps because you are on the phone) but will be allowed to continue when
   you're ready to listen to him --- as opposed to control-O, which has more of the meaning
   of "Shut up."  Considered silly.

Conway's Law: prov. The rule that the organization of the software and the organization of the
   software team will be congruent; originally stated as "If you have four groups working on a
   compiler, you'll get a 4-pass compiler".
   This was originally promulgated by Melvin Conway, an early proto-hacker who wrote an
   assembler for the Burroughs 220 called SAVE. The name `SAVE' didn't stand for anything; it
   was just that you lost fewer card decks and listings because they all had SAVE written on
   them.

cookbook: [from amateur electronics and radio] n. A book of small code segments that the
   reader can use to do various {magic} things in programs. One current example is the
   `PostScript Language Tutorial and Cookbook' by Adobe Systems, Inc (Addison-Wesley,
   ISBN 0-201-10179-3) which has recipes for things like wrapping text around arbitrary curves
   and making 3D fonts. Cookbooks, slavishly followed, can lead one into {voodoo programming},
   but are useful for hackers trying to {monkey up} small programs in unknown languages. This
   is analogous to the role of phrasebooks in human languages.

cookie: n. A handle, transaction ID, or other token of agreement between cooperating programs.
   "I give him a packet, he gives me back a cookie." The claim check you get from a dry-
   cleaning shop is a perfect mundane example of a cookie; the only thing it's useful for is
   to relate a later transaction to this one (so you get the same clothes back). Compare
   {magic cookie}; see also {fortune cookie}.

cookie bear: n. Syn. {cookie monster}.

cookie file: n. A collection of {fortune cookie}s in a format that facilitates retrieval by a
   fortune program. There are several different ones in public distribution, and site admins
   often assemble their own from various sources including this lexicon.

cookie monster: [from "Sesame Street"] n. Any of a family of early (1970s) hacks reported on
   {{TOPS-10}}, {{ITS}}, {{Multics}}, and elsewhere that would lock up either the victim's
   terminal (on a time-sharing machine) or the {{console}} (on a batch {mainframe}),
   repeatedly demanding "I WANT A COOKIE". The required responses ranged in complexity from
   "COOKIE" through "HAVE A COOKIE" and upward.  See also {wabbit}.

copper: n. Conventional electron-carrying network cable with a core conductor of copper --- or
   aluminum! Opposed to {light pipe} or, say, a short-range microwave link.

copy protection: n. A class of clever methods for preventing incompetent pirates from stealing
   software and legitimate customers from using it.  Considered silly.

copybroke: /ko'pee-brohk/ adj. [play on `copyright'] Used to describe an instance of a
   copy-protected program that has been `broken'; that is, a copy with the copy-protection
   scheme disabled. Syn.  {copywronged}.

copyleft: /kop'ee-left/ [play on `copyright'] n. 1. The copyright notice (`General Public
   License') carried by {GNU} {EMACS} and other Free Software Foundation software, granting
   reuse and reproduction rights to all comers (but see also {General Public Virus}). 2. By
   extension, any copyright notice intended to achieve similar aims.

copywronged: /ko'pee-rongd/ [play on `copyright'] adj. Syn. for {copybroke}.

core: n. Main storage or RAM.  Dates from the days of ferrite-core memory; now archaic as
   techspeak most places outside IBM, but also still used in the UNIX community and by
   old-time hackers or those who would sound like them. Some derived idioms are quite current;
   `in core', for example, means `in memory' (as opposed to `on disk'), and both {core dump}
   and the `core image' or `core file' produced by one are terms in favor. Commonwealth
   hackish prefers {store}.

core dump: n. [common {Iron Age} jargon, preserved by UNIX] 1. [techspeak] A copy of the
   contents of {core}, produced when a process is aborted by certain kinds of internal error.
   2. By extension, used for humans passing out, vomiting, or registering extreme shock. "He
   dumped core. All over the floor. What a mess." "He heard about X and dumped core."
   3. Occasionally used for a human rambling on pointlessly at great length; esp. in apology:
   "Sorry, I dumped core on you". 4. A recapitulation of knowledge (compare {bits}, sense 1).
   Hence, spewing all one knows about a topic, esp. in a lecture or answer to an exam question.
   "Short, concise answers are better than core dumps" (from the instructions to an exam at
   Columbia; syn. {brain dump}). See {core}.

core leak: n. Syn. {memory leak}.

Core Wars: n. A game between `assembler' programs in a simulated machine, where the objective
   is to kill your opponent's program by overwriting it. Popularized by A. K. Dewdney's column
   in `Scientific American' magazine, this was actually devised by Victor Vyssotsky, Robert
   Morris, and Dennis Ritchie in the early 1960s (their original game was called `Darwin' and
   ran on a PDP-1 at Bell Labs).  See {core}.

corge: /korj/ [originally, the name of a cat] n. Yet another meta-syntactic variable, invented
   by Mike Gallaher and propagated by the {GOSMACS} documentation.  See {grault}.

cosmic rays: n. Notionally, the cause of {bit rot}.  However, this is a semi-independent usage
   that may be invoked as a humorous way to {handwave} away any minor {randomness} that doesn't
   seem worth the bother of investigating.  "Hey, Eric --- I just got a burst of garbage on my
   {tube}, where did that come from?"  "Cosmic rays, I guess."  Compare {sunspots}, {phase of
   the moon}. The British seem to prefer the usage `cosmic showers'; `alpha particles' is also
   heard, because stray alpha particles passing through a memory chip can cause single-bit
   errors (this becomes increasingly more likely as memory sizes and densities increase).
   Factual note: Alpha particles cause bit rot, cosmic rays do not (except occasionally in
   spaceborne computers). Intel could not explain random bit drops in their early chips, and
   one hypothesis was cosmic rays.  So they created the World's Largest Lead Safe, using 25
   tons of the stuff, and used two identical boards for testing. One was placed in the safe,
   one outside. The hypothesis was that if cosmic rays were causing the bit drops, they should
   see a statistically significant difference between the error rates on the two boards. They
   did not observe such a difference. Further investigation demonstrated conclusively that the
   bit drops were due to alpha particle emissions from thorium (and to a much lesser degree
   uranium) in the encapsulation material. Since it is impossible to eliminate these
   radioactives (they are uniformly distributed through the earth's crust, with the
   statistically insignificant exception of uranium lodes) it became obvious that you have to
   design memories to withstand these hits.

cough and die: v. Syn. {barf}. Connotes that the program is throwing its hands up by design
   rather than because of a bug or oversight. "The parser saw a control-A in its input where
   it was looking for a printable, so it coughed and died."

cowboy: [Sun, from William Gibson's {cyberpunk} SF] n. Synonym for {hacker}. It is reported
   that at Sun this word is often said with reverence.

CP/M:: /C-P-M/ n. [Control Program for Microcomputers] An early microcomputer {OS} written by
   hacker Gary Kildall for 8080- and Z80-based machines, very popular in the late 1970s but
   virtually wiped out by MS-DOS after the release of the IBM PC in 1981. Legend has it that
   Kildall's company blew its chance to write the OS for the IBM PC because Kildall decided to
   spend a day IBM's reps wanted to meet with him enjoying the perfect flying weather in his
   private plane. Many of CP/M's features and conventions strongly resemble those of early DEC
   operating systems such as {{TOPS-10}}, OS/8, RSTS, and RSX-11. See {{MS-DOS}}, {operating
   system}.

CPU Wars: /C-P-U worz/ n. A 1979 large-format comic by Chas Andres chronicling the attempts of
   the brainwashed androids of IPM (Impossible to Program Machines) to conquer and destroy the
   peaceful denizens of HEC (Human Engineered Computers). This rather transparent allegory
   featured many references to {ADVENT} and the immortal line "Eat flaming death, minicomputer
   mongrels!" (uttered, of course, by an IPM stormtrooper). It is alleged that the author
   subsequently received a letter of appreciation on IBM company stationery from the head of
   IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Laboratories (then, as now, one of the few islands of true
   hackerdom in the IBM archipelago). The lower loop of the B in the IBM logo, it is said, had
   been carefully whited out.  See {eat flaming death}.

cracker: n. One who breaks security on a system. Coined ca. 1985 by hackers in defense against
   journalistic misuse of {hacker} (q.v., sense 8). An earlier attempt to establish `worm' in
   this sense around 1981--82 on USENET was largely a failure.

crank: [from automotive slang] vt. Verb used to describe the performance of a machine,
   especially sustained performance. "This box cranks (or, cranks at) about 6 {megaflops},
   with a burst mode of twice that on vectorized operations."

crash: 1. n. A sudden, usually drastic failure. Most often said of the {system} (q.v., sense
   1), sometimes of magnetic disk drives. "Three {luser}s lost their files in last night's
   disk crash."  A disk crash that involves the read/write heads dropping onto the surface of
   the disks and scraping off the oxide may also be referred to as a `head crash', whereas the
   term `system crash' usually, though not always, implies that the operating system or other
   software was at fault.  2. v. To fail suddenly. "Has the system just crashed?"  "Something
   crashed the OS!" See {down}.  Also used transitively to indicate the cause of the crash
   (usually a person or a program, or both). "Those idiots playing {SPACEWAR} crashed the
   system." 3. vi. Sometimes said of people hitting the sack after a long {hacking run}; see
   {gronk out}.

crash and burn: vi.,n. A spectacular crash, in the mode of the conclusion of the car-chase
   scene in the movie "Bullitt" and many subsequent imitators.  Sun-3 monitors losing the
   flyback transformer and lightning strikes on VAX-11/780 backplanes are notable crash and
   burn generators. The construction `crash-and-burn machine' is reported for a computer used
   exclusively for alpha or {beta} testing, or reproducing bugs (i.e., not for development).
   The implication is that it wouldn't be such a disaster if that machine crashed, since only
   the testers would be inconvenienced.

crawling horror: n. Ancient crufty hardware or software that is kept obstinately alive by
   forces beyond the control of the hackers at a site.  Like {dusty deck} or {gonkulator}, but
   connotes that the thing described is not just an irritation but an active menace to health
   and sanity. "Mostly we code new stuff in C, but they pay us to maintain one big FORTRAN II
   application from nineteen-sixty-X that's a real crawling horror...."  Compare {WOMBAT}.

cray: /kray/ n. 1. (properly, capitalized) One of the line of supercomputers designed by Cray
   Research.  2. Any supercomputer at all.  3. The {canonical} {number-crunching} machine.
   The term is actually the lowercased last name of Seymour Cray, a noted computer architect
   and co-founder of the company. Numerous vivid legends surround him, some true and some
   admittedly invented by Cray Research brass to shape their corporate culture and image.

cray instability: n. A shortcoming of a program or algorithm that manifests itself only when a
   large problem is being run on a powerful machine (see {cray}). Generally more subtle than
   bugs that can be detected in smaller problems running on a workstation or mini.

crayola: /kray-oh'l*/ n. A super-mini or -micro computer that provides some reasonable
   percentage of supercomputer performance for an unreasonably low price. Might also be a
   {killer micro}.

crayon: n. 1. Someone who works on Cray supercomputers. More specifically, it implies a
   programmer, probably of the CDC ilk, probably male, and almost certainly wearing a tie
   (irrespective of gender). Systems types who have a UNIX background tend not to be described
   as crayons. 2. A {computron} (sense 2) that participates only in {number-crunching}.
   3. A unit of computational power equal to that of a single Cray-1. There is a standard joke
   about this that derives from an old Crayola crayon promotional gimmick: When you buy 64
   crayons you get a free sharpener.

creationism: n. The (false) belief that large, innovative designs can be completely specified
   in advance and then painlessly magicked out of the void by the normal efforts of a team of
   normally talented programmers. In fact, experience has shown repeatedly that good designs
   arise only from evolutionary, exploratory interaction between one (or at most a small
   handful of) exceptionally able designer(s) and an active user population --- and that the
   first try at a big new idea is always wrong. Unfortunately, because these truths don't fit
   the planning models beloved of {management}, they are generally ignored.

creeping elegance: n. Describes a tendency for parts of a design to become {elegant} past the
   point of diminishing return. This often happens at the expense of the less interesting
   parts of the design, the schedule, and other things deemed important in the {Real World}.
   See also {creeping featurism}, {second-system effect}, {tense}.

creeping featurism: /kree'ping fee'chr-izm/ n. 1. Describes a systematic tendency to load more
   {chrome} and {feature}s onto systems at the expense of whatever elegance they may have
   possessed when originally designed. See also {feeping creaturism}. "You know, the main
   problem with {BSD} UNIX has always been creeping featurism." 2. More generally, the
   tendency for anything complicated to become even more complicated because people keep
   saying "Gee, it would be even better if it had this feature too". (See {feature}.) The
   result is usually a patchwork because it grew one ad-hoc step at a time, rather than being
   planned.  Planning is a lot of work, but it's easy to add just one extra little feature to
   help someone ... and then another ... and another....  When creeping featurism gets out of
   hand, it's like a cancer.  Usually this term is used to describe computer programs, but it
   could also be said of the federal government, the IRS 1040 form, and new cars. A similar
   phenomenon sometimes afflicts conscious redesigns; see {second-system effect}. See also
   {creeping elegance}.

creeping featuritis: /kree'ping fee'-chr-i:`t*s/ n. Variant of {creeping featurism}, with its
   own spoonerization: `feeping creaturitis'.  Some people like to reserve this form for the
   disease as it actually manifests in software or hardware, as opposed to the lurking general
   tendency in designers' minds. (After all, -ism means `condition' or `pursuit of', whereas
   -itis usually means `inflammation of'.)

cretin: /kret'n/ or /kree'tn/ n. Congenital {loser}; an obnoxious person; someone who can't do
   anything right.  It has been observed that many American hackers tend to favor the British
   pronunciation /kre'tn/ over standard American /kree'tn/; it is thought this may be due to
   the insidious phonetic influence of Monty Python's Flying Circus.

cretinous: /kret'n-*s/ or /kreet'n-*s/ adj. Wrong; stupid; non-functional; very poorly
   designed. Also used pejoratively of people.  See {dread high-bit disease} for an example.
   Approximate synonyms: {bletcherous}, `bagbiting' (see {bagbiter}), {losing}, {brain-damaged}.

crippleware: n. 1. Software that has some important functionality deliberately removed, so as
   to entice potential users to pay for a working version. 2. [Cambridge] {Guiltware} that
   exhorts you to donate to some charity (compare {careware}). 3. Hardware deliberately
   crippled, which can be upgraded to a more expensive model by a trivial change (e.g.,
   cutting a jumper).

critical mass: n. In physics, the minimum amount of fissionable material required to sustain a
   chain reaction. Of a software product, describes a condition of the software such that
   fixing one bug introduces one plus {epsilon} bugs. When software achieves critical mass, it
   can only be discarded and rewritten.

crlf: /ker'l*f/, sometimes /kru'l*f/ or /C-R-L-F/ n. (often capitalized as `CRLF') A carriage
   return (CR) followed by a line feed (LF). More loosely, whatever it takes to get you from
   the end of one line of text to the beginning of the next line.  See {newline}, {terpri}.
   Under {{UNIX}} influence this usage has become less common (UNIX uses a bare line feed as
   its `CRLF').

crock: [from the obvious mainstream scatologism] n. 1. An awkward feature or programming
   technique that ought to be made cleaner. Using small integers to represent error codes
   without the program interpreting them to the user (as in, for example, UNIX `make(1)',
   which returns code 139 for a process that dies due to {segfault}). 2. A technique that
   works acceptably, but which is quite prone to failure if disturbed in the least, for
   example depending on the machine opcodes having particular bit patterns so that you can use
   instructions as data words too; a tightly woven, almost completely unmodifiable structure.
   See {kluge}, {brittle}. Also in the adjectives `crockish' and `crocky', and the nouns
   `crockishness' and `crockitude'.

cross-post: [USENET] vi. To post a single article simultaneously to several newsgroups.
   Distinguished from posting the article repeatedly, once to each newsgroup, which causes
   people to see it multiple times (this is very bad form). Gratuitous cross-posting without a
   Followup-To line directing responses to a single followup group is frowned upon, as it
   tends to cause {followup} articles to go to inappropriate newsgroups when people respond to
   only one part of the original posting.

crudware: /kruhd'weir/ n. Pejorative term for the hundreds of megabytes of low-quality
   {freeware} circulated by user's groups and BBS systems in the micro-hobbyist world. "Yet
   *another* set of disk catalog utilities for {{MS-DOS}}? What crudware!"

cruft: /kruhft/ [back-formation from {crufty}] 1. n. An unpleasant substance. The dust that
   gathers under your bed is cruft; the TMRC Dictionary correctly noted that attacking it with
   a broom only produces more. 2. n. The results of shoddy construction. 3. vt. [from `hand
   cruft', pun on `hand craft'] To write assembler code for something normally (and better)
   done by a compiler (see {hand-hacking}). 4. n. Excess; superfluous junk. Esp. used of
   redundant or superseded code.

cruft together: vt. (also `cruft up') To throw together something ugly but temporarily
   workable. Like vt. {kluge up}, but more pejorative. "There isn't any program now to reverse
   all the lines of a file, but I can probably cruft one together in about 10 minutes."  See
   {hack together}, {hack up}, {kluge up}, {crufty}.

cruftsmanship: /kruhfts'm*n-ship / n. [from {cruft}] The antithesis of craftsmanship.

crufty: /kruhf'tee/ [origin unknown; poss. from `crusty' or `cruddy'] adj. 1. Poorly built,
   possibly over-complex. The {canonical} example is "This is standard old crufty DEC
   software".  In fact, one fanciful theory of the origin of `crufty' holds that was
   originally a mutation of `crusty' applied to DEC software so old that the `s' characters
   were tall and skinny, looking more like `f' characters. 2. Unpleasant, especially to the
   touch, often with encrusted junk.  Like spilled coffee smeared with peanut butter and
   catsup. 3. Generally unpleasant. 4. (sometimes spelled `cruftie') n. A small crufty object
   (see {frob}); often one that doesn't fit well into the scheme of things. "A LISP property
   list is a good place to store crufties (or, collectively, {random} cruft)."

crumb: n. Two binary digits; a {quad}. Larger than a {bit}, smaller than a {nybble}.
   Considered silly.  Syn. {tayste}.

crunch: 1. vi. To process, usually in a time-consuming or complicated way. Connotes an
   essentially trivial operation that is nonetheless painful to perform. The pain may be due
   to the triviality's being embedded in a loop from 1 to 1,000,000,000. "FORTRAN programs do
   mostly {number-crunching}." 2. vt. To reduce the size of a file by a complicated scheme
   that produces bit configurations completely unrelated to the original data, such as by a
   Huffman code. (The file ends up looking like a paper document would if somebody crunched
   the paper into a wad.) Since such compression usually takes more computations than simpler
   methods such as run-length encoding, the term is doubly appropriate. (This meaning is
   usually used in the construction `file crunch(ing)' to distinguish it from
   {number-crunching}.) See {compress}. 3. n. The character `#'. Used at XEROX and CMU, among
   other places. See {{ASCII}}. 4. vt. To squeeze program source into a minimum-size
   representation that will still compile or execute. The term came into being specifically
   for a famous program on the BBC micro that crunched BASIC source in order to make it run
   more quickly (it was a wholly interpretive BASIC, so the number of characters mattered).
   {Obfuscated C Contest} entries are often crunched; see the first example under that entry.

cruncha cruncha cruncha: /kruhn'ch* kruhn'ch* kruhn'ch*/ interj. An encouragement sometimes
   muttered to a machine bogged down in a serious {grovel}. Also describes a notional sound
   made by groveling hardware. See {wugga wugga}, {grind} (sense 3).

cryppie: /krip'ee/ n. A cryptographer.  One who hacks or implements cryptographic software or
   hardware.

CTSS: /C-T-S-S/ n. Compatible Time-Sharing System. An early (1963) experiment in the design of
   interactive time-sharing operating systems, ancestral to {{Multics}}, {{UNIX}}, and {{ITS}}.
   The name {{ITS}} (Incompatible Time-sharing System) was a hack on CTSS, meant both as a joke
   and to express some basic differences in philosophy about the way I/O services should be
   presented to user programs.

CTY: /sit'ee/ or /C-T-Y/ n. [MIT] The terminal physically associated with a computer's system
   {{console}}. The term is a contraction of `Console {tty}', that is, `Console TeleTYpe'.
   This {{ITS}}- and {{TOPS-10}}-associated term has become less common, as most UNIX hackers
   simply refer to the CTY as `the console'.

cube: n. 1. [short for `cubicle'] A module in the open-plan offices used at many programming
   shops. "I've got the manuals in my cube." 2. A NeXT machine (which resembles a matte-black
   cube).

cubing: [parallel with `tubing'] vi. 1. Hacking on an IPSC (Intel Personal SuperComputer)
   hypercube.  "Louella's gone cubing *again*!!" 2. Hacking Rubik's Cube or related puzzles,
   either physically or mathematically. 3. An indescribable form of self-torture (see sense 1
   or #2).

cursor dipped in X: n. There are a couple of metaphors in English of the form `pen dipped in
   X' (perhaps the most common values of X are `acid', `bile', and `vitriol'). These map over
   neatly to this hackish usage (the cursor being what moves, leaving letters behind, when one
   is composing on-line). "Talk about a {nastygram}!  He must've had his cursor dipped in acid
   when he wrote that one!"

cuspy: /kuhs'pee/ [WPI: from the DEC acronym CUSP, for `Commonly Used System Program', i.e., a
   utility program used by many people] adj. 1. (of a program) Well-written. 2. Functionally
   excellent. A program that performs well and interfaces well to users is cuspy. See {rude}.
   3. [NYU] Said of an attractive woman, especially one regarded as available. Implies a
   certain curvaceousness.

cut a tape: [poss. fr. mainstream `cut a check' or from the recording industry's `cut a
   record'] vi. To write a software or document distribution on magnetic tape for shipment.
   Has nothing to do with physically cutting the medium! Though this usage is quite widespread,
   one never speaks of analogously `cutting a disk' or anything else in this sense.

cybercrud: /si:'ber-kruhd/ [coined by Ted Nelson] n. Obfuscatory tech-talk. Verbiage with a
   high {MEGO} factor. The computer equivalent of bureaucratese.

cyberpunk: /si:'ber-puhnk/ [orig. by SF writer Bruce Bethke and/or editor Gardner Dozois]
   n.,adj. A subgenre of SF launched in 1982 by William Gibson's epoch-making novel
   `Neuromancer' (though its roots go back through Vernor Vinge's `True Names' (see the
   Bibliography) to John Brunner's 1975 novel `The Shockwave Rider').  Gibson's near-total
   ignorance of computers and the present-day hacker culture enabled him to speculate about
   the role of computers and hackers in the future in ways hackers have since found both
   irritatingly na"ive and tremendously stimulating. Gibson's work was widely imitated, in
   particular by the short-lived but innovative "Max Headroom" TV series. See {cyberspace},
   {ice}, {go flatline}.

cyberspace: /si:'ber-spays/ n. 1. Notional `information-space' loaded with visual cues and
   navigable with brain-computer interfaces called `cyberspace decks'; a characteristic prop
   of {cyberpunk} SF.  At the time of this writing (mid-1991), serious efforts to construct
   {virtual reality} interfaces modeled explicitly on Gibsonian cyberspace are already under
   way, using more conventional devices such as glove sensors and binocular TV headsets. Few
   hackers are prepared to deny outright the possibility of a cyberspace someday evolving out
   of the network (see {network, the}).  2. Occasionally, the metaphoric location of the mind
   of a person in {hack mode}. Some hackers report experiencing strong eidetic imagery when in
   hack mode; interestingly, independent reports from multiple sources suggest that there are
   common features to the experience. In particular, the dominant colors of this subjective
   `cyberspace' are often gray and silver, and the imagery often involves constellations of
   marching dots, elaborate shifting patterns of lines and angles, or moire patterns.

cycle: 1. n. The basic unit of computation. What every hacker wants more of (noted hacker Bill
   Gosper describes himself as a "cycle junkie"). One can describe an instruction as taking so
   many `clock cycles'. Often the computer can access its memory once on every clock cycle,
   and so one speaks also of `memory cycles'.  These are technical meanings of {cycle}. The
   jargon meaning comes from the observation that there are only so many cycles per second,
   and when you are sharing a computer the cycles get divided up among the users. The more
   cycles the computer spends working on your program rather than someone else's, the faster
   your program will run. That's why every hacker wants more cycles: so he can spend less time
   waiting for the computer to respond.  2. By extension, a notional unit of *human* thought
   power, emphasizing that lots of things compete for the typical hacker's think time. "I
   refused to get involved with the Rubik's Cube back when it was big. Knew I'd burn too many
   cycles on it if I let myself."  3. vt. Syn. {bounce}, {120 reset}; from the phrase `cycle
   power'. "Cycle the machine again, that serial port's still hung."

cycle crunch: n. A situation where the number of people trying to use the computer
   simultaneously has reached the point where no one can get enough cycles because they are
   spread too thin and the system has probably begun to {thrash}. This is an inevitable result
   of Parkinson's Law applied to timesharing. Usually the only solution is to buy more
   computer. Happily, this has rapidly become easier in recent years, so much so that the very
   term `cycle crunch' now has a faintly archaic flavor; most hackers now use workstations or
   personal computers as opposed to traditional timesharing systems.

cycle drought: n. A scarcity of cycles. It may be due to a {cycle crunch}, but it could also
   occur because part of the computer is temporarily not working, leaving fewer cycles to go
   around. "The {high moby} is {down}, so we're running with only half the usual amount of
   memory.  There will be a cycle drought until it's fixed."

cycle of reincarnation: [coined by Ivan Sutherland ca. 1970] n. Term used to refer to a
   well-known effect whereby function in a computing system family is migrated out to
   special-purpose peripheral hardware for speed, then the peripheral evolves toward more
   computing power as it does its job, then somebody notices that it is inefficient to support
   two asymmetrical processors in the architecture and folds the function back into the main
   CPU, at which point the cycle begins again.  Several iterations of this cycle have been
   observed in graphics-processor design, and at least one or two in communications and
   floating-point processors.  Also known as `the Wheel of Life', `the Wheel of Samsara', and
   other variations of the basic Hindu/Buddhist theological idea.

cycle server: n. A powerful machine that exists primarily for running large {batch} jobs.
   Implies that interactive tasks such as editing are done on other machines on the network,
   such as workstations.


JGC Logo Valid HTML5 Logo HTML5 Logo Valid CSS3 Logo JGC Logo
Copyright logo
This page (jargonc.html) was last modified on Sunday 27/01/2013