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Jargon used in computing

= E =

earthquake: [IBM] n. The ultimate real-world shock test for computer hardware. Hackish sources
   at IBM deny the rumour that the Bay Area quake of 1989 was initiated by the company to test
   quality-assurance procedures at its California plants.

Easter egg: n. 1. A message hidden in the object code of a program as a joke, intended to be
   found by persons disassembling or browsing the code. 2. A message, graphic, or sound effect
   emitted by a program (or, on a PC, the BIOS ROM) in response to some undocumented set of
   commands or keystrokes, intended as a joke or to display program credits. One well-known
   early Easter egg found in a couple of OSes caused them to respond to the command `make love'
   with `not war?'. Many personal computers have much more elaborate eggs hidden in ROM,
   including lists of the developers' names, political exhortations, snatches of music, and
   (in one case) graphics images of the entire development team.

Easter egging: [IBM] n. The act of replacing unrelated parts more or less at random in hopes
   that a malfunction will go away. Hackers consider this the normal operating mode of {field
   circus} techs and do not love them for it.  Compare {shotgun debugging}.

eat flaming death: imp. A construction popularized among hackers by the infamous {CPU Wars}
   comic; supposed to derive from a famously turgid line in a WWII-era anti-Nazi propaganda
   comic that ran "Eat flaming death, non-Aryan mongrels!" or something of the sort (however,
   it is also reported that the Firesign Theater's 1975 album "In The Next World, You're On
   Your Own" included the phrase "Eat flaming death, fascist media pigs"; this may have been
   an influence). Used in humourously overblown expressions of hostility. "Eat flaming death,
   {{EBCDIC}} users!"

EBCDIC:: /eb's*-dik/, /eb'see`dik/, or /eb'k*-dik/ [acronym, Extended Binary Coded Decimal
   Interchange Code] n. An alleged character set used on IBM {dinosaur}s. It exists in at
   least six mutually incompatible versions, all featuring such delights as non-contiguous
   letter sequences and the absence of several ASCII punctuation characters fairly important
   for modern computer languages (exactly which characters are absent varies according to which
   version of EBCDIC you're looking at). IBM adapted EBCDIC from {{punched card}} code in the
   early 1960s and promulgated it as a customer-control tactic (see {connector conspiracy}),
   spurning the already established ASCII standard. Today, IBM claims to be an open-systems
   company, but IBM's own description of the EBCDIC variants and how to convert between them
   is still internally classified top-secret, burn-before-reading.  Hackers blanch at the very
   *name* of EBCDIC and consider it a manifestation of purest {evil}.  See also {fear and

echo: [FidoNet] n. A {topic group} on {FidoNet}'s echomail system.  Compare {newsgroup}.

eighty-column mind: [IBM] n. The sort said to be possessed by persons for whom the transition
   from {punched card} to tape was traumatic (nobody has dared tell them about disks yet). It
   is said that these people, including (according to an old joke) the founder of IBM, will be
   buried `face down, 9-edge first' (the 9-edge being the bottom of the card). This directive
   is inscribed on IBM's 1422 and 1602 card readers and is referenced in a famous bit of
   doggerel called "The Last Bug", the climactic lines of which are as follows:

        He died at the console
        Of hunger and thirst.
        Next day he was buried,
        Face down, 9-edge first.

   The eighty-column mind is thought by most hackers to dominate IBM's customer base and its
   thinking.  See {IBM}, {fear and loathing}, {card walloper}.

El Camino Bignum: /el' k*-mee'noh big'nuhm/ n. The road mundanely called El Camino Real, a
   road through the San Francisco peninsula that originally extended all the way down to
   Mexico City and many portions of which are still intact.  Navigation on the San Francisco
   peninsula is usually done relative to El Camino Real, which defines {logical} north and
   south even though it isn't really north-south many places. El Camino Real runs right past
   Stanford University and so is familiar to hackers.
   The Spanish word `real' (which has two syllables: /ray-ahl'/) means `royal'; El Camino Real
   is `the royal road'. In the FORTRAN language, a `real' quantity is a number typically
   precise to 7 significant digits, and a `double precision' quantity is a larger floating-
   point number, precise to perhaps fourteen significant digits (other languages have similar
   `real' types).
   When a hacker from MIT visited Stanford in 1976, he remarked what a long road El Camino
   Real was. Making a pun on `real', he started calling it `El Camino Double Precision' ---
   but when the hacker was told that the road was hundreds of miles long, he renamed it `El
   Camino Bignum', and that name has stuck.  (See {bignum}.)

elder days: n. The heroic age of hackerdom (roughly, pre-1980); the era of the {PDP-10},
   {TECO}, {{ITS}}, and the ARPANET. This term has been rather consciously adopted from J. R.
   R. Tolkien's fantasy epic `The Lord of the Rings'.  Compare {Iron Age}; see also {elvish}.

elegant: [from mathematical usage] adj. Combining simplicity, power, and a certain ineffable
   grace of design.  Higher praise than `clever', `winning', or even {cuspy}.

elephantine: adj. Used of programs or systems that are both conspicuous {hog}s (owing perhaps
   to poor design founded on {brute force and ignorance}) and exceedingly {hairy} in source
   form.  An elephantine program may be functional and even friendly, but (as in the old joke
   about being in bed with an elephant) it's tough to have around all the same (and, like a
   pachyderm, difficult to maintain). In extreme cases, hackers have been known to make
   trumpeting sounds or perform expressive proboscatory mime at the mention of the offending
   program.  Usage: semi-humorous.  Compare `has the elephant nature' and the somewhat more
   pejorative {monstrosity}.  See also {second-system effect} and {baroque}.

elevator controller: n. Another archetypal dumb embedded-systems application, like {toaster}
   (which superseded it). During one period (1983--84) in the deliberations of ANSI X3J11
   (the C standardization committee) this was the canonical example of a really stupid,
   memory-limited computation environment. "You can't require `printf(3)' to be part of the
   default runtime library --- what if you're targeting an elevator controller?"  Elevator
   controllers became important rhetorical weapons on both sides of several {holy wars}.

ELIZA effect: /*-li:'z* *-fekt'/ [AI community] n. The tendency of humans to attach
   associations to terms from prior experience. For example, there is nothing magic about the
   symbol `+' that makes it well-suited to indicate addition; it's just that people associate
   it with addition. Using `+' or `plus' to mean addition in a computer language is taking
   advantage of the ELIZA effect.
   This term comes from the famous ELIZA program, which simulated a Rogerian psychoanalyst by
   rephrasing many of the patient's statements as questions and posing them to the patient. It
   worked by simple pattern recognition and substitution of key words into canned phrases. It
   was so convincing, however, that there are many anecdotes about people becoming very
   emotionally caught up in dealing with ELIZA. All this was due to people's tendency to
   attach to words meanings which the computer never put there. The ELIZA effect is a {Good
   Thing} when writing a programming language, but it can blind you to serious shortcomings
   when analyzing an Artificial Intelligence system. Compare {ad-hockery}; see also

elvish: n. 1. The Tengwar of Feanor, a table of letterforms resembling the beautiful Celtic
   half-uncial hand of the `Book of Kells'. Invented and described by J. R. R. Tolkien in `The
   Lord of The Rings' as an orthography for his fictional `elvish' languages, this system
   (which is both visually and phonetically elegant) has long fascinated hackers (who tend to
   be interested by artificial languages in general). It is traditional for graphics printers,
   plotters, window systems, and the like to support a Feanorian typeface as one of their demo
   items. See also {elder days}.  2. By extension, any odd or unreadable typeface produced by
   a graphics device. 3. The typeface mundanely called `B"ocklin', an art-decoish display font.

EMACS: /ee'maks/ [from Editing MACroS] n. The ne plus ultra of hacker editors, a program
   editor with an entire LISP system inside it. It was originally written by Richard Stallman
   in {TECO} under {{ITS}} at the MIT AI lab, but the most widely used versions now run under
   UNIX.  It includes facilities to run compilation subprocesses and send and receive mail;
   many hackers spend up to 80% of their {tube time} inside it.
   Some versions running under window managers iconify as an overflowing kitchen sink, perhaps
   to suggest the one feature the editor does not (yet) include.  Indeed, some hackers find
   EMACS too heavyweight and {baroque} for their taste, and expand the name as `Escape Meta
   Alt Control Shift' to spoof its heavy reliance on keystrokes decorated with {bucky bits}.
   Other spoof expansions include `Eight Megabytes And Constantly Swapping', `Eventually
   `malloc()'s All Computer Storage', and `EMACS Makes A Computer Slow' (see {{recursive
   acronym}}).  See also {vi}.

email: /ee'mayl/ 1. n. Electronic mail automatically passed through computer networks and/or
   via modems over common-carrier lines. Contrast {snail-mail}, {paper-net}, {voice-net}. See
   {network address}.  2. vt. To send electronic mail.
   Oddly enough, the word `emailed' is actually listed in the OED; it means "embossed (with a
   raised pattern) or arranged in a net work". A use from 1480 is given. The word is derived
   from French `emmailleure', network.

emoticon: /ee-moh'ti-kon/ n. An ASCII glyph used to indicate an emotional state in email or
   news. Hundreds have been proposed, but only a few are in common use.  These include:

          `smiley face' (for humor, laughter, friendliness, occasionally sarcasm)

          `frowney face' (for sadness, anger, or upset)

          `half-smiley' ({ha ha only serious}); also known as `semi-smiley' or `winkey face'.

          `wry face'

   (These may become more comprehensible if you tilt your head sideways, to the left.)
   The first 2 listed are by far the most frequently encountered. Hyphenless forms of them are
   common on CompuServe, GEnie, and BIX; see also {bixie}. On {USENET}, `smiley' is often used
   as a generic term synonymous with {emoticon}, as well as specifically for the happy-face
   It appears that the emoticon was invented by one Scott Fahlman on the CMU {bboard} systems
   around 1980. He later wrote: "I wish I had saved the original post, or at least recorded
   the date for posterity, but I had no idea that I was starting something that would soon
   pollute all the world's communication channels."
   Note for the {newbie}: Overuse of the smiley is a mark of loserhood! More than one per
   paragraph is a fairly sure sign that you've gone over the line.

empire: n. Any of a family of military simulations derived from a game written by Peter
   Langston many years ago. There are five or six multi-player variants of varying degrees of
   sophistication, and one single-player version implemented for both UNIX and VMS; the latter
   is even available as MS-DOS freeware.  All are notoriously addictive.

engine: n. 1. A piece of hardware that encapsulates some function but can't be used without
   some kind of {front end}. Today we have, especially, `print engine': the guts of a laser
   printer. 2. An analogous piece of software; notionally, one that does a lot of noisy
   crunching, such as a `database engine'.
   The hackish senses of `engine' are actually close to its original, pre-Industrial-Revolution
   sense of a skill, clever device, or instrument (the word is cognate to `ingenuity'). This
   sense had not been completely eclipsed by the modern connotation of power-transducing
   machinery in Charles Babbage's time, which explains why he named the stored-program
   computer that he designed in 1844 the `Analytical Engine'.

English: 1. n.,obs. The source code for a program, which may be in any language, as opposed to
   the linkable or executable binary produced from it by a compiler. The idea behind the term
   is that to a real hacker, a program written in his favourite programming language is at
   least as readable as English. Usage: used mostly by old-time hackers, though recognizable
   in context. 2. The official name of the database language used by the Pick Operating System,
   actually a sort of crufty interpreted BASIC with delusions of grandeur. The name permits
   {marketroid}s to say "Yes, and you can program our computers in English!" to ignorant
   {suit}s without quite running afoul of the truth-in-advertising laws.

enhancement: n. {Marketroid}-speak for a bug {fix}. This abuse of language is a popular and
   time-tested way to turn incompetence into increased revenue. A hacker being ironic would
   instead call the fix a {feature} --- or perhaps save some effort by declaring the bug
   itself to be a feature.

ENQ: /enkw/ or /enk/ [from the ASCII mnemonic ENQuire for 0000101] An on-line convention for
   querying someone's availability. After opening a {talk mode} connection to someone
   apparently in heavy hack mode, one might type `SYN SYN ENQ?' (the SYNs representing
   notional synchronization bytes), and expect a return of {ACK} or {NAK} depending on whether
   or not the person felt interruptible.  Compare {ping}, {finger}, and the usage of `FOO?'
   listed under {talk mode}.

EOF: /E-O-F/ [acronym, `End Of File'] n. 1. [techspeak] Refers esp. to whatever {out-of-band}
   value is returned by C's sequential character-input functions (and their equivalents in
   other environments) when end of file has been reached. This value is -1 under C libraries
   postdating V6 UNIX, but was originally 0. 2. Used by extension in non-computer contexts
   when a human is doing something that can be modeled as a sequential read and can't go
   further. "Yeah, I looked for a list of 360 mnemonics to post as a joke, but I hit EOF
   pretty fast; all the library had was a {JCL} manual."  See also {EOL}.

EOL: /E-O-L/ [End Of Line] n. Syn. for {newline}, derived perhaps from the original CDC6600
   Pascal. Now rare, but widely recognized and occasionally used for brevity. Used in the
   example entry under {BNF}.  See also {EOF}.

EOU: /E-O-U/ n. The mnemonic of a mythical ASCII control character (End Of User) that could
   make an ASR-33 Teletype explode on receipt.  This parodied the numerous obscure delimiter
   and control characters left in ASCII from the days when it was associated more with
   wire-service teletypes than computers (e.g., FS, GS, RS, US, EM, SUB, ETX, and esp. EOT).
   It is worth remembering that ASR-33s were big, noisy mechanical beasts with a lot of
   clattering parts; the notion that one might explode was nowhere near as ridiculous as it
   might seem to someone sitting in front of a {tube} or flatscreen today.

epoch: [UNIX: prob. from astronomical timekeeping] n. The time and date corresponding to 0 in
   an operating system's clock and timestamp values.  Under most UNIX versions the epoch is
   00:00:00 GMT, January 1, 1970. System time is measured in seconds or {tick}s past the epoch.
   Weird problems may ensue when the clock wraps around (see {wrap around}), which is not
   necessarily a rare event; on systems counting 10 ticks per second, a signed 32-bit count of
   ticks is good only for 6.8 years. The 1-tick-per-second clock of UNIX is good only until
   January 18, 2038, assuming word lengths don't increase by then.  See also {wall time}.

epsilon: [see {delta}] 1. n. A small quantity of anything. "The cost is epsilon." 2. adj. Very
   small, negligible; less than {marginal}. "We can get this feature for epsilon cost."
   3. `within epsilon of': close enough to be indistinguishable for all practical purposes.
   This is even closer than being `within delta of'.  "That's not what I asked for, but it's
   within epsilon of what I wanted."  Alternatively, it may mean not close enough, but very
   little is required to get it there: "My program is within epsilon of working."

epsilon squared: n. A quantity even smaller than {epsilon}, as small in comparison to epsilon
   as epsilon is to something normal; completely negligible.  If you buy a supercomputer for a
   million dollars, the cost of the thousand-dollar terminal to go with it is {epsilon}, and
   the cost of the ten-dollar cable to connect them is epsilon squared. Compare {lost in the
   underflow}, {lost in the noise}.

era, the: Syn. {epoch}.  Webster's Unabridged makes these words almost synonymous, but `era'
   usually connotes a span of time rather than a point in time. The {epoch} usage is

Eric Conspiracy: n. A shadowy group of mustachioed hackers named Eric first pinpointed as a
   sinister conspiracy by an infamous talk.bizarre posting ca. 1986; this was doubtless
   influenced by the numerous `Eric' jokes in the Monty Python oeuvre. There do indeed seem to
   be considerably more mustachioed Erics in hackerdom than the frequency of these three
   traits can account for unless they are correlated in some arcane way.  Well-known examples
   include Eric Allman (he of the `Allman style' described under {indent style}) and Erik Fair
   (co-author of NNTP); your editor has heard from about fourteen others by email, and the
   organization line `Eric Conspiracy Secret Laboratories' now emanates regularly from more
   than one site.

Eris: /e'ris/ n. The Greek goddess of Chaos, Discord, Confusion, and Things You Know Not Of;
   her name was latinized to Discordia and she was worshiped by that name in Rome. Not a very
   friendly deity in the Classical original, she was reinvented as a more benign
   personification of creative anarchy starting in 1959 by the adherents of {Discordianism}
   and has since been a semi-serious subject of veneration in several `fringe' cultures,
   including hackerdom.  See {Discordianism}, {Church of the SubGenius}.

erotics: /ee-ro'tiks/ n. [Helsinki University of Technology, Finland] n. English-language
   university slang for electronics. Often used by hackers in Helsinki, maybe because good
   electronics excites them and makes them warm.

essentials: n. Things necessary to maintain a productive and secure hacking environment. "A
   jug of wine, a loaf of bread, a 20-megahertz 80386 box with 8 meg of core and a 300-megabyte
   disk supporting full UNIX with source and X windows and EMACS and UUCP via a 'blazer to a
   friendly Internet site, and thou."

evil: adj. As used by hackers, implies that some system, program, person, or institution is
   sufficiently maldesigned as to be not worth the bother of dealing with. Unlike the
   adjectives in the {cretinous}/{losing}/{brain-damaged} series, `evil' does not imply
   incompetence or bad design, but rather a set of goals or design criteria fatally
   incompatible with the speaker's. This is more an esthetic and engineering judgment than a
   moral one in the mainstream sense.  "We thought about adding a {Blue Glue} interface but
   decided it was too evil to deal with." "{TECO} is neat, but it can be pretty evil if you're
   prone to typos." Often pronounced with the first syllable lengthened, as /eeee'vil/.

exa-: /ek's*/ [SI] pref. See {{quantifiers}}.

examining the entrails: n. The process of {grovel}ling through a core dump or hex image in the
   attempt to discover the bug that brought a program or system down.  Compare {runes},
   {incantation}, {black art}, {desk check}.

EXCH: /eks'ch*/ or /eksch/ vt. To exchange two things, each for the other; to swap places. If
   you point to two people sitting down and say "Exch!", you are asking them to trade places.
   EXCH, meaning EXCHange, was originally the name of a PDP-10 instruction that exchanged the
   contents of a register and a memory location. Many newer hackers tend to be thinking
   instead of the PostScript exchange operator (which is usually written in lowercase).

excl: /eks'kl/ n. Abbreviation for `exclamation point'.  See {bang}, {shriek}, {{ASCII}}.

EXE: /eks'ee/ or /eek'see/ or /E-X-E/ n. An executable binary file. Some operating systems
   (notably MS-DOS, VMS, and TWENEX) use the extension .EXE to mark such files. This usage is
   also occasionally found among UNIX programmers even though UNIX executables don't have any
   required suffix.

exec: /eg-zek'/ vt.,n. 1. [UNIX: from `execute'] Synonym for {chain}, derives from the
   `exec(2)' call. 2. [from `executive'] obs. The command interpreter for an {OS} (see
   {shell}); term esp. used around mainframes, and prob. derived from UNIVAC's archaic EXEC 2
   and EXEC 8 operating systems. 3. At IBM, the equivalent of a shell command file (among
   VM/CMS users).
   The mainstream `exec' as an abbreviation for (human) executive is *not* used. To a hacker,
   an `exec' is a always a program, never a person.

exercise, left as an: [from technical books] Used to complete a proof when one doesn't mind a
   {handwave}, or to avoid one entirely.  The complete phrase is: "The proof (or the rest) is
   left as an exercise for the reader."  This comment *has* occasionally been attached to
   unsolved research problems by authors possessed of either an evil sense of humor or a vast
   faith in the capabilities of their audiences.

eyeball search: n. To look for something in a mass of code or data with one's own native
   optical sensors, as opposed to using some sort of pattern matching software like {grep} or
   any other automated search tool.  Also called a {vgrep}; compare {vdiff}, {desk check}.

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