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Jargon used in computing

= F =

fab: /fab/ [from `fabricate'] v. 1. To produce chips from a design that may have been created
   by someone at another company. Fabbing chips based on the designs of others is the activity
   of a {silicon foundry}.  To a hacker, `fab' is practically never short for `fabulous'.
   2. `fab line': the production system (lithography, diffusion, etching, etc.) for chips at a
   chip manufacturer.  Different `fab lines' are run with different process parameters, die
   sizes, or technologies, or simply to provide more manufacturing volume.

face time: n. Time spent interacting with somebody face-to-face (as opposed to via electronic
   links).  "Oh, yeah, I spent some face time with him at the last Usenix."

factor: n. See {coefficient}.

fall over: [IBM] vi. Yet another synonym for {crash} or {lose}. `Fall over hard' equates to
   {crash and burn}.

fall through: v. (n. `fallthrough', var. `fall-through') 1. To exit a loop by exhaustion,
   i.e., by having fulfilled its exit condition rather than via a break or exception condition
   that exits from the middle of it. This usage appears to be *really* old, dating from the
   1940s and 1950s. 2. To fail a test that would have passed control to a subroutine or some
   other distant portion of code. 3. In C, `fall-through' occurs when the flow of execution in
   a switch statement reaches a `case' label other than by jumping there from the switch
   header, passing a point where one would normally expect to find a `break'. A trivial

     switch (color)
     case GREEN:
     case PINK:
        /* FALL THROUGH */
     case RED:

   The variant spelling `/* FALL THRU */' is also common.

   The effect of this code is to `do_green()' when color is `GREEN', `do_red()' when color is
   `RED', `do_blue()' on any other color other than `PINK', and (and this is the important
   part) `do_pink()' *and then* `do_red()' when color is `PINK'.  Fall-through is {considered
   harmful} by some, though there are contexts (such as the coding of state machines) in which
   it is natural; it is generally considered good practice to include a comment highlighting
   the fall-through where one would normally expect a break.

fandango on core: [UNIX/C hackers, from the Mexican dance] n. In C, a wild pointer that runs
   out of bounds, causing a {core dump}, or corrupts the `malloc(3)' {arena} in such a way as
   to cause mysterious failures later on, is sometimes said to have `done a fandango on core'.
   On low-end personal machines without an MMU, this can corrupt the OS itself, causing massive
   lossage. Other frenetic dances such as the rhumba, cha-cha, or watusi, may be substituted.
   See {aliasing bug}, {precedence lossage}, {smash the stack}, {memory leak}, {overrun screw},

FAQ list: /F-A-Q list/ [USENET] n. A compendium of accumulated lore, posted periodically to
   high-volume newsgroups in an attempt to forestall Frequently Asked Questions. This lexicon
   itself serves as a good example of a collection of one kind of lore, although it is far too
   big for a regular posting. Examples: "What is the proper type of NULL?"  and "What's that
   funny name for the `#' character?" are both Frequently Asked Questions. Several extant FAQ
   lists do (or should) make reference to the Jargon File (the on-line version of this

FAQL: /fa'kl/ n. Syn. {FAQ list}.

farming: [Adelaide University, Australia] n. What the heads of a disk drive are said to do
   when they plow little furrows in the magnetic media.  Associated with a {crash}. Typically
   used as follows: "Oh no, the machine has just crashed; I hope the hard drive hasn't gone
   {farming} again."

fascist: adj. 1. Said of a computer system with excessive or annoying security barriers, usage
   limits, or access policies. The implication is that said policies are preventing hackers
   from getting interesting work done. The variant `fascistic' seems to have been preferred at
   MIT, poss. by analogy with `touristic' (see {tourist}). 2. In the design of languages and
   other software tools, `the fascist alternative' is the most restrictive and structured way
   of capturing a particular function; the implication is that this may be desirable in order
   to simplify the implementation or provide tighter error checking.
   Compare {bondage-and-discipline language}, but that term is global rather than local.

faulty: adj. Non-functional; buggy.  Same denotation as {bletcherous}, {losing}, q.v., but the
   connotation is much milder.

fd leak: /ef dee leek/ n. A kind of programming bug analogous to a {core leak}, in which a
   program fails to close file descriptors (`fd's) after file operations are completed, and
   thus eventually runs out of them.  See {leak}.

fear and loathing: [from Hunter Thompson] n. A state inspired by the prospect of dealing with
   certain real-world systems and standards that are totally {brain-damaged} but ubiquitous
   --- Intel 8086s, or {COBOL}, or {{EBCDIC}}, or any {IBM} machine except the Rios (a.k.a.
   the RS/6000). "Ack! They want PCs to be able to talk to the AI machine. Fear and loathing

feature: n. 1. A good property or behavior (as of a program). Whether it was intended or not
   is immaterial. 2. An intended property or behavior (as of a program). Whether it is good or
   not is immaterial (but if bad, it is also a {misfeature}). 3. A surprising property or
   behavior; in particular, one that is purposely inconsistent because it works better that
   way --- such an inconsistency is therefore a {feature} and not a {bug}. This kind of feature
   is sometimes called a {miswart}; see that entry for a classic example. 4. A property or
   behavior that is gratuitous or unnecessary, though perhaps also impressive or cute. For
   example, one feature of Common LISP's `format' function is the ability to print numbers in
   two different Roman-numeral formats (see {bells, whistles, and gongs}). 5. A property or
   behavior that was put in to help someone else but that happens to be in your way. 6. A bug
   that has been documented. To call something a feature sometimes means the author of the
   program did not consider the particular case, and that the program responded in a way that
   was unexpected but not strictly incorrect. A standard joke is that a bug can be turned into
   a {feature} simply by documenting it (then theoretically no one can complain about it
   because it's in the manual), or even by simply declaring it to be good. "That's not a bug,
   that's a feature!" is a common catchphrase. See also {feetch feetch}, {creeping featurism},
   {wart}, {green lightning}.
   The relationship among bugs, features, misfeatures, warts, and miswarts might be clarified
   by the following hypothetical exchange between two hackers on an airliner:

   A: "This seat doesn't recline."

   B: "That's not a bug, that's a feature.  There is an emergency exit door built around the
   window behind you, and the route has to be kept clear."

   A: "Oh.  Then it's a misfeature; they should have increased the spacing between rows here."

   B: "Yes. But if they'd increased spacing in only one section it would have been a wart ---
   they would've had to make nonstandard-length ceiling panels to fit over the displaced seats."

   A: "A miswart, actually. If they increased spacing throughout they'd lose several rows and
   a chunk out of the profit margin.  So unequal spacing would actually be the Right Thing."

   B: "Indeed."

   {Undocumented feature} is a common, allegedly humorous euphemism for a {bug}.

feature creature: [poss. fr. slang `creature feature' for a horror movie] n. One who loves to
   add features to designs or programs, perhaps at the expense of coherence, concision, or
   {taste}.  See also {feeping creaturism}, {creeping featurism}.

feature shock: [from Alvin Toffler's book title `Future Shock'] n.  A user's (or programmer's!)
   confusion when confronted with a package that has too many features and poor introductory

featurectomy: /fee`ch*r-ek't*-mee/ n. The act of removing a feature from a program.
   Featurectomies come in two flavors, the `righteous' and the `reluctant'. Righteous
   featurectomies are performed because the remover believes the program would be more elegant
   without the feature, or there is already an equivalent and better way to achieve the same
   end. (This is not quite the same thing as removing a {misfeature}.) Reluctant featurectomies
   are performed to satisfy some external constraint such as code size or execution speed.

feep: /feep/ 1. n. The soft electronic `bell' sound of a display terminal (except for a VT-52);
   a beep (in fact, the microcomputer world seems to prefer {beep}). 2. vi. To cause the
   display to make a feep sound. ASR-33s (the original TTYs) do not feep; they have mechanical
   bells that ring. Alternate forms: {beep}, `bleep', or just about anything suitably
   onomatopoeic. (Jeff MacNelly, in his comic strip "Shoe", uses the word `eep' for sounds
   made by computer terminals and video games; this is perhaps the closest written
   approximation yet.) The term `breedle' was sometimes heard at SAIL, where the terminal
   bleepers are not particularly soft (they sound more like the musical equivalent of a
   raspberry or Bronx cheer; for a close approximation, imagine the sound of a Star Trek
   communicator's beep lasting for 5 seconds). The `feeper' on a VT-52 has been compared to
   the sound of a '52 Chevy stripping its gears. See also {ding}.

feeper: /fee'pr/ n. The device in a terminal or workstation (usually a loudspeaker of some
   kind) that makes the {feep} sound.

feeping creature: [from {feeping creaturism}] n. An unnecessary feature; a bit of {chrome}
   that, in the speaker's judgment, is the camel's nose for a whole horde of new features.

feeping creaturism: /fee'ping kree`ch*r-izm/ n. A deliberate spoonerism for {creeping
   featurism}, meant to imply that the system or program in question has become a misshapen
   creature of hacks.  This term isn't really well defined, but it sounds so neat that most
   hackers have said or heard it. It is probably reinforced by an image of terminals prowling
   about in the dark making their customary noises.

feetch feetch: /feech feech/ interj. If someone tells you about some new improvement to a
   program, you might respond: "Feetch, feetch!"  The meaning of this depends critically on
   vocal inflection. With enthusiasm, it means something like "Boy, that's great! What a great
   hack!" Grudgingly or with obvious doubt, it means "I don't know; it sounds like just one
   more unnecessary and complicated thing". With a tone of resignation, it means, "Well, I'd
   rather keep it simple, but I suppose it has to be done".

fence: n. 1. A sequence of one or more distinguished ({out-of-band}) characters (or other data
   items), used to delimit a piece of data intended to be treated as a unit (the computer-
   science literature calls this a `sentinel'). The NUL (ASCII 0000000) character that
   terminates strings in C is a fence. Hex FF is probably the most common fence character
   after NUL. See {zigamorph}. 2. [among users of optimizing compilers] Any technique, usually
   exploiting knowledge about the compiler, that blocks certain optimizations. Used when
   explicit mechanisms are not available or are overkill.  Typically a hack: "I call a dummy
   procedure there to force a flush of the optimizer's register-coloring info" can be
   expressed by the shorter "That's a fence procedure".

fencepost error: n. 1. A problem with the discrete equivalent of a boundary condition. Often
   exhibited in programs by iterative loops. From the following problem: "If you build a fence
   100 feet long with posts 10 feet apart, how many posts do you need?" Either 9 or 11 is a
   better answer than the obvious 10. For example, suppose you have a long list or array of
   items, and want to process items m through n; how many items are there? The obvious answer
   is n - m, but that is off by one; the right answer is n - m + 1.  A program that used the
   `obvious' formula would have a fencepost error in it.  See also {zeroth} and {off-by-one
   error}, and note that not all off-by-one errors are fencepost errors.  The game of Musical
   Chairs involves a catastrophic off-by-one error where N people try to sit in N - 1 chairs,
   but it's not a fencepost error. Fencepost errors come from counting things rather than the
   spaces between them, or vice versa, or by neglecting to consider whether one should count
   one or both ends of a row. 2. Occasionally, an error induced by unexpectedly regular
   spacing of inputs, which can (for instance) screw up your hash table.

fepped out: /fept owt/ adj. The Symbolics 3600 Lisp Machine has a Front-End Processor called a
   `FEP' (compare sense 2 of {box}). When the main processor gets {wedged}, the FEP takes
   control of the keyboard and screen.  Such a machine is said to have `fepped out'.

FidoNet: n. A worldwide hobbyist network of personal computers which exchange mail, discussion
   groups, and files. Founded in 1984 and originally consisting only of IBM PCs and
   compatibles, FidoNet now includes such diverse machines as Apple ][s, Ataris, Amigas, and
   UNIX systems. Though it is much younger than {USENET}, FidoNet is already (in early 1991) a
   significant fraction of USENET's size at some 8000 systems.

field circus: [a derogatory pun on `field service'] n. The field service organization of any
   hardware manufacturer, but especially DEC.  There is an entire genre of jokes about DEC
   field circus engineers:
     Q: How can you recognize a DEC field circus engineer with a flat tire?
     A: He's changing each tire to see which one is flat.

     Q: How can you recognize a DEC field circus engineer who is out of gas?
     A: He's changing each tire to see which one is flat.

   There is also the `Field Circus Cheer' (from the {plan file} for DEC on MIT-AI):

     Maynard! Maynard!
     Don't mess with us!
     We're mean and we're tough!
     If you get us confused
     We'll screw up your stuff.

   (DEC's service HQ is located in Maynard, Massachusetts.)

field servoid: [play on `android'] /fee'ld ser'voyd/ n. Representative of a field service
   organization (see {field circus}).  This has many of the implications of {droid}.

Fight-o-net: [FidoNet] n. Deliberate distortion of {FidoNet}, often applied after a flurry of
   {flamage} in a particular {echo}, especially the SYSOP echo or Fidonews (see {'Snooze}).

File Attach: [FidoNet] 1. n. A file sent along with a mail message from one BBS to another.
   2. vt. Sending someone a file by using the File Attach option in a BBS mailer.

File Request: [FidoNet] 1. n. The {FidoNet} equivalent of {FTP}, in which one BBS system
   automatically dials another and {snarf}s one or more files.  Files are often announced as
   being "available for {FReq}" in the same way that files are announced as being "available
   for/by anonymous FTP" on the Internet. 2. vt. The act of getting a copy of a file by using
   the File Request option of the BBS mailer.

filk: /filk/ [from SF fandom, where a typo for `folk' was adopted as a new word] n.,v. A
   `filk' is a popular or folk song with lyrics revised or completely new lyrics, intended for
   humourous effect when read and/or to be sung late at night at SF conventions. There is a
   flourishing subgenre of these called `computer filks', written by hackers and often
   containing rather sophisticated technical humor.  See {double bucky} for an example.

film at 11: [MIT: in parody of TV newscasters] Used in conversation to announce ordinary
   events, with a sarcastic implication that these events are earth-shattering. "{{ITS}}
   crashes; film at 11." "Bug found in scheduler; film at 11."

filter: [orig. {{UNIX}}, now also in {{MS-DOS}}] n. A program that processes an input data
   stream into an output data stream in some well-defined way, and does no I/O to anywhere
   else except possibly on error conditions; one designed to be used as a stage in a `pipeline'
   (see {plumbing}).

Finagle's Law: n. The generalized or `folk' version of {Murphy's Law}, fully named "Finagle's
   Law of Dynamic Negatives" and usually rendered "Anything that can go wrong, will". One
   variant favoured among hackers is "The perversity of the Universe tends towards a maximum"
   (but see also {Hanlon's Razor}).  The label `Finagle's Law' was popularized by SF author
   Larry Niven in several stories depicting a frontier culture of asteroid miners; this
   `Belter' culture professed a religion and/or running joke involving the worship of the
   dread god Finagle and his mad prophet Murphy.

fine: [WPI] adj. Good, but not good enough to be {cuspy}.  The word `fine' is used elsewhere,
   of course, but without the implicit comparison to the higher level implied by {cuspy}.

finger: [WAITS, via BSD UNIX] 1. n. A program that displays a particular user or all users
   logged on the system or a remote system.  Typically shows full name, last login time, idle
   time, terminal line, and terminal location (where applicable). May also display a {plan
   file} left by the user. 2. vt. To apply finger to a username. 3. vt. By extension, to check
   a human's current state by any means. "Foodp?" "T!"  "OK, finger Lisa and see if she's
   idle." 4. Any picture (composed of ASCII characters) depicting `the finger'. Originally a
   humourous component of one's plan file to deter the curious fingerer (sense 2), it has
   entered the arsenal of some {flamer}s.

finger-pointing syndrome: n. All-too-frequent result of bugs, esp. in new or experimental
   configurations.  The hardware vendor points a finger at the software.  The software vendor
   points a finger at the hardware.  All the poor users get is the finger.

firebottle: n. A large, primitive, power-hungry active electrical device, similar in function
   to a FET but constructed out of glass, metal, and vacuum.  Characterized by high cost, low
   density, low reliability, high-temperature operation, and high power dissipation. Sometimes
   mistakenly called a `tube' in the U.S. or a `valve' in England; another hackish term is

firefighting: n. 1. What sysadmins have to do to correct sudden operational problems. An
   opposite of hacking. "Been hacking your new newsreader?"  "No, a power glitch hosed the
   network and I spent the whole afternoon fighting fires."  2. The act of throwing lots of
   manpower and late nights at a project, esp. to get it out before deadline. See also {gang
   bang}, {Mongolian Hordes technique}; however, the term `firefighting' connotes that the
   effort is going into chasing bugs rather than adding features.

firewall code: n. The code you put in a system (say, a telephone switch) to make sure that the
   users can't do any damage. Since users always want to be able to do everything but never
   want to suffer for any mistakes, the construction of a firewall is a question not only of
   defensive coding but also of interface presentation, so that users don't even get curious
   about those corners of a system where they can burn themselves.

firewall machine: n. A dedicated gateway machine with special security precautions on it, used
   to service outside network connections and dial-in lines.  The idea is to protect a cluster
   of more loosely administered machines hidden behind it from {cracker}s. The typical firewall
   is an inexpensive micro-based UNIX box kept clean of critical data, with a bunch of modems
   and public network ports on it but just one carefully watched connection back to the rest
   of the cluster.  The special precautions may include threat monitoring, callback, and even
   a complete {iron box} keyable to particular incoming IDs or activity patterns. Syn.
   {flytrap}, {Venus flytrap}.

fireworks mode: n. The mode a machine is sometimes said to be in when it is performing a
   {crash and burn} operation.

firmy: /fer'mee/ Syn. {stiffy} (a 3.5-inch floppy disk).

fish: [Adelaide University, Australia] n. 1. Another metasyntactic variable. See {foo}. Derived
   originally from the Monty Python skit in the middle of "The Meaning of Life" entitled "Find
   the Fish". 2. A pun for `microfiche'. A microfiche file cabinet may be referred to as a
   `fish tank'.

FISH queue: [acronym, by analogy with FIFO (First In, First Out)] n. `First In, Still Here'.
   A joking way of pointing out that processing of a particular sequence of events or requests
   has stopped dead. Also `FISH mode' and `FISHnet'; the latter may be applied to any network
   that is running really slowly or exhibiting extreme flakiness.

fix: n.,v. What one does when a problem has been reported too many times to be ignored.

flag: n. A variable or quantity that can take on one of two values; a bit, particularly one
   that is used to indicate one of two outcomes or is used to control which of two things is
   to be done. "This flag controls whether to clear the screen before printing the message."
   "The program status word contains several flag bits."  Used of humans analogously to {bit}.
   See also {hidden flag}, {mode bit}.

flag day: n. A software change that is neither forward- nor backward-compatible, and which is
   costly to make and costly to reverse. "Can we install that without causing a flag day for
   all users?" This term has nothing to do with the use of the word {flag} to mean a variable
   that has two values. It came into use when a massive change was made to the {{Multics}}
   timesharing system to convert from the old ASCII code to the new one; this was scheduled
   for Flag Day (a U.S. holiday), June 14, 1966. See also {backward combatability}.

flaky: adj. (var sp. `flakey') Subject to frequent {lossage}. This use is of course related to
   the common slang use of the word to describe a person as eccentric, crazy, or just
   unreliable. A system that is flaky is working, sort of --- enough that you are tempted to
   try to use it --- but fails frequently enough that the odds in favour of finishing what you
   start are low. Commonwealth hackish prefers {dodgy} or {wonky}.

flamage: /flay'm*j/ n. Flaming verbiage, esp. high-noise, low-signal postings to {USENET} or
   other electronic {fora}. Often in the phrase `the usual flamage'. `Flaming' is the act
   itself; `flamage' the content; a `flame' is a single flaming message.  See {flame}.

flame: 1. vi. To post an email message intended to insult and provoke. 2. vi. To speak
   incessantly and/or rabidly on some relatively uninteresting subject or with a patently
   ridiculous attitude. 3. vt. Either of senses 1 or 2, directed with hostility at a particular
   person or people. 4. n. An instance of flaming. When a discussion degenerates into useless
   controversy, one might tell the participants "Now you're just flaming" or "Stop all that
   flamage!" to try to get them to cool down (so to speak).
   USENETter Marc Ramsey, who was at WPI from 1972 to 1976, adds: "I am 99% certain that the
   use of `flame' originated at WPI.  Those who made a nuisance of themselves insisting that
   they needed to use a TTY for `real work' came to be known as `flaming asshole lusers'.
   Other particularly annoying people became `flaming asshole ravers', which shortened to
   `flaming ravers', and ultimately `flamers'. I remember someone picking up on the Human
   Torch pun, but I don't think `flame on/off' was ever much used at WPI." See also {asbestos}.
   The term may have been independently invented at several different places; it is also
   reported that `flaming' was in use to mean something like `interminably drawn-out semi-
   serious discussions' (late-night bull sessions) at Carleton College during 1968--1971.

flame bait: n. A posting intended to trigger a {flame war}, or one that invites flames in reply.

flame on: vi.,interj. 1. To begin to {flame}. The punning reference to Marvel Comics's Human
   Torch is no longer widely recognized.  2. To continue to flame.  See {rave}, {burble}.

flame war: n. (var. `flamewar') An acrimonious dispute, especially when conducted on a public
   electronic forum such as {USENET}.

flamer: n. One who habitually {flame}s. Said esp. of obnoxious {USENET} personalities.

flap: vt. 1. To unload a DECtape (so it goes flap, flap, flap...). Old-time hackers at MIT
   tell of the days when the disk was device 0 and {microtape}s were 1, 2,... and attempting
   to flap device 0 would instead start a motor banging inside a cabinet near the disk.
   2. By extension, to unload any magnetic tape. See also {macrotape}. Modern cartridge tapes
   no longer actually flap, but the usage has remained.

flarp: /flarp/ [Rutgers University] n. Yet another metasyntactic variable (see {foo}). Among
   those who use it, it is associated with a legend that any program not containing the word
   `flarp' somewhere will not work. The legend is discreetly silent on the reliability of
   programs which *do* contain the magic word.

flat: adj. 1. Lacking any complex internal structure. "That {bitty box} has only a flat
   filesystem, not a hierarchical one." The verb form is {flatten}. 2. Said of a memory
   architecture (like that of the VAX or 680x0) that is one big linear address space (typically
   with each possible value of a processor register corresponding to a unique core address),
   as opposed to a `segmented' architecture (like that of the 80x86) in which addresses are
   composed from a base-register/offset pair (segmented designs are generally considered

flat-ASCII: adj. Said of a text file that contains only 7-bit ASCII characters and uses only
   ASCII-standard control characters (that is, has no embedded codes specific to a particular
   text formatter or markup language, and no {meta}-characters).  Syn. {plain-ASCII}. Compare

flat-file: adj. A {flatten}ed representation of some database or tree or network structure as
   a single file from which the structure could implicitly be rebuilt, esp. one in {flat-ASCII}

flatten: vt. To remove structural information, esp. to filter something with an implicit tree
   structure into a simple sequence of leaves; also tends to imply mapping to {flat-ASCII}.
   "This code flattens an expression with parentheses into an equivalent {canonical} form."

flavour: n. 1. Variety, type, kind.  "DDT commands come in two flavours." "These lights come in
   two flavours, big red ones and small green ones."  See {vanilla}.  2. The attribute that
   causes something to be {flavourful}. Usually used in the phrase "yields additional flavour".
   "This convention yields additional flavour by allowing one to print text either right-side-
   up or upside-down." See {vanilla}. This usage was certainly reinforced by the terminology
   of quantum chromodynamics, in which quarks (the constituents of, e.g., protons) come in six
   flavours (up, down, strange, charm, top, bottom) and three colours (red, blue, green) ---
   however, hackish use of `flavour' at MIT predated QCD. 3. The term for `class' (in the
   object-oriented sense) in the LISP Machine Flavours system. Though the Flavours design has
   been superseded (notably by the Common LISP CLOS facility), the term `flavour' is still
   used as a general synonym for `class' by some LISP hackers.

flavourful: adj. Full of {flavour}; esthetically pleasing. See {random} and {losing} for
   antonyms.  See also the entries for {taste} and {elegant}.

flippy: /flip'ee/ n. A single-sided floppy disk altered for double-sided use by addition of a
   second write-notch, so called because it must be flipped over for the second side to be
   accessible.  No longer common.

flowchart:: [techspeak] n. An archaic form of visual control-flow specification employing
   arrows and `speech balloons' of various shapes.  Hackers never use flowcharts, consider
   them extremely silly, and associate them with {COBOL} programmers, {card walloper}s, and
   other lower forms of life. This is because (from a hacker's point of view) they are no
   easier to read than code, are less precise, and tend to fall out of sync with the code (so
   that they either obfuscate it rather than explaining it or require extra maintenance effort
   that doesn't improve the code). See also {pdl}, sense 3.

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

flush: v. 1. To delete something, usually superfluous, or to abort an operation. "All that
   nonsense has been flushed." 2. [UNIX/C] To force buffered I/O to disk, as with an
   `fflush(3)' call. This is *not* an abort or deletion as in sense 1, but a demand for early
   completion!  3. To leave at the end of a day's work (as opposed to leaving for a meal).
   "I'm going to flush now." "Time to flush." 4. To exclude someone from an activity, or to
   ignore a person.
   `Flush' was standard ITS terminology for aborting an output operation; one spoke of the
   text that would have been printed, but was not, as having been flushed. It is speculated
   that this term arose from a vivid image of flushing unwanted characters by hosing down the
   internal output buffer, washing the characters away before they can be printed. The UNIX/C
   usage, on the other hand, was propagated by the `fflush(3)' call in C's standard I/O
   library (though it is reported to have been in use among BLISS programmers at DEC and on
   Honeywell and IBM machines as far back as 1965).
   UNIX/C hackers find the ITS usage confusing, and vice versa.

Flyspeck 3: n. Standard name for any font that is so tiny as to be unreadable (by analogy with
   such names as `Helvetica 10' for 10-point Helvetica).  Legal boilerplate is usually printed
   in Flyspeck 3.

flytrap: n. See {firewall machine}.

FOAF: // [USENET] n. Acronym for `Friend Of A Friend'. The source of an unverified, possibly
   untrue story. This was not originated by hackers (it is used in Jan Brunvand's books on
   urban folklore), but is much better recognized on USENET and elsewhere than in mainstream

FOD: /fod/ v. [Abbreviation for `Finger of Death', originally a spell-name from fantasy gaming]
   To terminate with extreme prejudice and with no regard for other people. From {MUD}s where
   the wizard command `FOD <player>' results in the immediate and total death of <player>,
   usually as punishment for obnoxious behavior. This migrated to other circumstances, such as
   "I'm going to fod the process that is burning all the cycles."  Compare {gun}.
   In aviation, FOD means Foreign Object Damage, e.g., what happens when a jet engine sucks up
   a rock on the runway or a bird in flight. Finger of Death is a distressingly apt description
   of what this does to the engine.

fold case: v. See {smash case}. This term tends to be used more by people who don't mind that
   their tools smash case. It also connotes that case is ignored but case distinctions in data
   processed by the tool in question aren't destroyed.

followup: n. On USENET, a {posting} generated in response to another posting (as opposed to a
   {reply}, which goes by email rather than being broadcast).  Followups include the ID of the
   {parent message} in their headers; smart news-readers can use this information to present
   USENET news in `conversation' sequence rather than order-of-arrival.  See {thread}.

foo: /foo/ 1. interj. Term of disgust. 2. Used very generally as a sample name for absolutely
   anything, esp. programs and files (esp. scratch files).  3. First on the standard list of
   metasyntactic variables used in syntax examples. See also {bar}, {baz}, {qux}, {quux},
   {corge}, {grault}, {garply}, {waldo}, {fred}, {plugh}, {xyzzy}, {thud}.
   {foo} is the {canonical} example of a `metasyntactic variable' --- a name used in examples
   and understood to stand for whatever thing is under discussion, or any random member of a
   class of things under discussion. To avoid confusion, hackers never use `foo' or other
   words like it as permanent names for anything. In filenames, a common convention is that
   any filename beginning `foo' is a scratch file that may be deleted at any time.
   The etymology of hackish `foo' is obscure. When used in connection with `bar' it is
   generally traced to the WWII-era Army slang acronym FUBAR (`Fouled Up Beyond All
   Recognition'), later bowdlerized to {foobar}.  (See also {FUBAR}).
   However, the use of the word `foo' itself has more complicated antecedents, including a
   long history in comic strips and cartoons. The old "Smokey Stover" comic strips by Bill
   Holman often included the word `FOO', in particular on license plates of cars; allegedly,
   `FOO' and `BAR' also occurred in Walt Kelly's "Pogo" strips. In the 1938 cartoon "Daffy
   Doc", a very early version of Daffy Duck holds up a sign saying "SILENCE IS FOO!"; oddly,
   this seems to refer to some approving or positive affirmative use of foo. It is even
   possible that hacker usage actually springs from `FOO, Lampoons and Parody', the title of
   a comic book first issued in September 1958; the byline read `C. Crumb' but this may well
   have been a sort-of pseudonym for noted weird-comix artist Robert Crumb.  The title FOO was
   featured in large letters on the front cover.
   An old-time member reports that in the 1959 `Dictionary of the TMRC Language', compiled at
   {TMRC} there was an entry that went something like this:

        FOO: The first syllable of the sacred chant phrase "FOO MANE PADME
        HUM."  Our first obligation is to keep the foo counters turning.

   For more about the legendary foo counters, see {TMRC}. Almost the entire AI staff was
   involved with TMRC, so it is not clear which group introduced the other to the word FOO.
   Very probably, hackish `foo' had no single origin and derives through all these channels
   from Yiddish `feh' and/or English `fooey'.

foobar: n. Another common metasyntactic variable; see {foo}. Hackers do *not* generally use
   this to mean {FUBAR} in either the slang or jargon sense.

fool: n. As used by hackers, specifically describes a person who habitually reasons from
   obviously or demonstrably incorrect premises and cannot be persuaded by evidence to do
   otherwise; it is not generally used in its other senses, i.e., to describe a person with a
   native incapacity to reason correctly, or a clown. Indeed, in hackish experience many fools
   are capable of reasoning all too effectively in executing their errors.  See also {cretin},
   {loser}, {fool file, the}.

fool file, the: [USENET] n. A notional repository of all the most dramatically and abysmally
   stupid utterances ever.  There is a subgenre of {sig block}s that consists of the header
   "From the fool file:" followed by some quote the poster wishes to represent as an immortal
   gem of dimwittery; for this to be really effective, the quote has to be so obviously wrong
   as to be laughable. More than one USENETter has achieved an unwanted notoriety by being
   quoted in this way.

Foonly: n. 1. The {PDP-10} successor that was to have been built by the Super Foonly project
   at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory along with a new operating system. The
   intention was to leapfrog from the old DEC timesharing system SAIL was running to a new
   generation, bypassing TENEX which at that time was the ARPANET standard. ARPA funding for
   both the Super Foonly and the new operating system was cut in 1974. Most of the design team
   went to DEC and contributed greatly to the design of the PDP-10 model KL10. 2. The name of
   the company formed by Dave Poole, one of the principal Super Foonly designers, and one of
   hackerdom's more colourful personalities. Many people remember the parrot which sat on
   Poole's shoulder and was a regular companion. 3. Any of the machines built by Poole's
   company. The first was the F-1 (a.k.a. Super Foonly), which was the computational engine
   used to create the graphics in the movie "TRON". The F-1 was the fastest PDP-10 ever built,
   but only one was ever made. The effort drained Foonly of its financial resources, and they
   turned towards building smaller, slower, and much less expensive machines.  Unfortunately,
   these ran not the popular {TOPS-20} but a TENEX varient called Foonex; this seriously
   limited their market. Also, the machines shipped were actually wire-wrapped engineering
   prototypes requiring individual attention from more than usually competent site personnel,
   and thus had significant reliability problems. Poole's legendary temper and unwillingness
   to suffer fools gladly did not help matters. By the time of the Jupiter project cancellation
   in 1983 Foonly's proposal to build another F-1 was eclipsed by the {Mars}, and the company
   never quite recovered.  See the {Mars} entry for the continuation and moral of this story.

footprint: n. 1. The floor or desk area taken up by a piece of hardware. 2. [IBM] The audit
   trail (if any) left by a crashed program (often in plural, `footprints').  See also

for free: adj. Said of a capability of a programming language or hardware equipment that is
   available by its design without needing cleverness to implement: "In APL, we get the matrix
   operations for free."  "And owing to the way revisions are stored in this system, you get
   revision trees for free."  Usually it refers to a serendipitous feature of doing things a
   certain way (compare {big win}), but it may refer to an intentional but secondary feature.

for the rest of us: [from the Mac slogan "The computer for the rest of us"] adj. 1. Used to
   describe a {spiffy} product whose affordability shames other comparable products, or (more
   often) used sarcastically to describe {spiffy} but very overpriced products.  2. Describes
   a program with a limited interface, deliberately limited capabilities, non-orthogonality,
   inability to compose primitives, or any other limitation designed to not `confuse' a na"ive
   user.  This places an upper bound on how far that user can go before the program begins to
   get in the way of the task instead of helping accomplish it. Used in reference to Macintosh
   software which doesn't provide obvious capabilities because it is thought that the poor
   lusers might not be able to handle them. Becomes `the rest of *them*' when used in
   third-party reference; thus, "Yes, it is an attractive program, but it's designed for The
   Rest Of Them" means a program that superficially looks neat but has no depth beyond the
   surface flash. See also {WIMP environment}, {Macintrash}, {user-friendly}.

fora: pl.n. Plural of {forum}.

foreground: [UNIX] vt. To foreground a task is to bring it to the top of one's {stack} for
   immediate processing, and hackers often use it in this sense for non-computer tasks. "If
   your presentation is due next week, I guess I'd better foreground writing up the design
   Technically, on a time-sharing system, a task executing in foreground is one able to accept
   input from and return output to the user; oppose {background}.  Nowadays this term is
   primarily associated with {{UNIX}}, but it appears first to have been used in this sense on
   OS/360.  Normally, there is only one foreground task per terminal (or terminal window);
   having multiple processes simultaneously reading the keyboard is a good way to {lose}.

forked: [UNIX; prob. influenced by a mainstream expletive] adj. Terminally slow, or dead.
   Originated when one system slowed to incredibly bad speeds because of a process recursively
   spawning copies of itself (using the UNIX system call `fork(2)') and taking up all the
   process table entries.

Fortrash: /for'trash/ n. Hackerism for the FORTRAN language, referring to its primitive design,
   gross and irregular syntax, limited control constructs, and slippery, exception-filled

fortune cookie: [UNIX] n. A random quote, item of trivia, joke, or maxim printed to the user's
   tty at login time or (less commonly) at logout time.  Items from this lexicon have often
   been used as fortune cookies.  See {cookie file}.

forum: n. [USENET, GEnie CI$; pl. `fora' or `forums'] Any discussion group accessible through
   a dial-in {BBS}, a {mailing list}, or a {newsgroup} (see {network, the}). A forum functions
   much like a bulletin board; users submit {posting}s for all to read and discussion ensues.
   Contrast real-time chat via {talk mode} or point-to-point personal {email}.

fossil: n. 1. In software, a misfeature that becomes understandable only in historical context,
   as a remnant of times past retained so as not to break compatibility. Example: the retention
   of octal as default base for string escapes in {C}, in spite of the better match of
   hexadecimal to ASCII and modern byte-addressable architectures.  See {dusty deck}. 2. More
   restrictively, a feature with past but no present utility.  Example: the force-all-caps
   (LCASE) bits in the V7 and {BSD} UNIX tty driver, designed for use with monocase terminals.
   In a perversion of the usual backward-compatibility goal, this functionality has actually
   been expanded and renamed in some later {USG UNIX} releases as the IUCLC and OLCUC bits.
   3. The FOSSIL (Fido/Opus/Seadog Standard Interface Level) driver specification for serial-
   port access to replace the {brain-dead} routines in the IBM PC ROMs. Fossils are used by
   most MS-DOS {BBS} software in lieu of programming the {bare metal} of the serial ports, as
   the ROM routines do not support interrupt-driven operation or setting speeds above 9600.
   Since the FOSSIL specification allows additional functionality to be hooked in, drivers
   that use the {hook} but do not provide serial-port access themselves are named with a
   modifier, as in `video fossil'.

four-colour glossies: 1. Literature created by {marketroid}s that allegedly containing
   technical specs but which is in fact as superficial as possible without being totally
   {content-free}. "Forget the four-colour glossies, give me the tech ref manuals." Often
   applied as an indication of superficiality even when the material is printed on ordinary
   paper in black and white. Four-colour-glossy manuals are *never* useful for finding a
   problem.  2. [rare] Applied by extension to manual pages that don't contain enough
   information to diagnose why the program doesn't produce the expected or desired output.

fragile: adj. Syn {brittle}.

fred: n. 1. The personal name most frequently used as a metasyntactic variable (see {foo}).
   Allegedly popular because it's easy for a non-touch-typist to type on a standard QWERTY
   keyboard. Unlike {J. Random Hacker} or `J. Random Loser', this name has no positive or
   negative loading (but see {Mbogo, Dr. Fred}).  2. An acronym for `Flipping Ridiculous
   Electronic Device'; other F-verbs may be substituted for `flipping'.

frednet: /fred'net/ n. Used to refer to some {random} and uncommon protocol encountered on a
   network.  "We're implementing bridging in our router to solve the frednet problem."

freeware: n. Free software, often written by enthusiasts and distributed by users' groups, or
   via electronic mail, local bulletin boards, {USENET}, or other electronic media. At one
   time, `freeware' was a trademark of Andrew Fluegelman, the author of the well-known MS-DOS
   comm program PC-TALK III. It wasn't enforced after his mysterious disappearance and presumed
   death in 1984.  See {shareware}.

freeze: v. To lock an evolving software distribution or document against changes so it can be
   released with some hope of stability. Carries the strong implication that the item in
   question will `unfreeze' at some future date.  "OK, fix that bug and we'll freeze for
   There are more specific constructions on this.  A `feature freeze', for example, locks out
   modifications intended to introduce new features; a `code freeze' connotes no more changes
   at all. At Sun Microsystems and elsewhere, one may also hear references to `code slush' ---
   that is, an almost-but-not-quite frozen state.

fried: adj. 1. Non-working due to hardware failure; burnt out. Especially used of hardware
   brought down by a `power glitch' (see {glitch}), {drop-outs}, a short, or some other
   electrical event. (Sometimes this literally happens to electronic circuits! In particular,
   resistors can burn out and transformers can melt down, emitting noxious smoke.  However,
   this term is also used metaphorically.) Compare {frotzed}. 2. Of people, exhausted. Said
   particularly of those who continue to work in such a state. Often used as an explanation or
   excuse. "Yeah, I know that fix destroyed the file system, but I was fried when I put it in."
   Esp. common in conjunction with `brain': "My brain is fried today, I'm very short on sleep."

friode: /fri:'ohd/ [TMRC] n. A reversible (that is, fused or blown) diode.  Compare {fried}.

fritterware: n. An excess of capability that serves no productive end. The canonical example
   is font-diddling software on the Mac (see {macdink}); the term describes anything that eats
   huge amounts of time for quite marginal gains in function but seduces people into using it

frob: /frob/ 1. n. [MIT] The {TMRC} definition was "FROB = a protruding arm or trunnion"; by
   metaphoric extension, a `frob' is any random small thing; an object that you can comfortably
   hold in one hand; something you can frob.  See {frobnitz}.  2. vt. Abbreviated form of
   {frobnicate}. 3. [from the {MUD} world] A command on some MUDs that changes a player's
   experience level (this can be used to make wizards); also, to request {wizard} privileges
   on the `professional courtesy' grounds that one is a wizard elsewhere.

frobnicate: /frob'ni-kayt/ vt. [Poss. derived from {frobnitz}, and usually abbreviated to
   {frob}, but `frobnicate' is recognized as the official full form.] To manipulate or adjust,
   to tweak. One frequently frobs bits or other 2-state devices. Thus: "Please frob the light
   switch" (that is, flip it), but also "Stop frobbing that clasp; you'll break it". One also
   sees the construction `to frob a frob'.  See {tweak} and {twiddle}. Usage: frob, twiddle,
   and tweak sometimes connote points along a continuum. `Frob' connotes aimless manipulation;
   `twiddle' connotes gross manipulation, often a coarse search for a proper setting; `tweak'
   connotes fine-tuning. If someone is turning a knob on an oscilloscope, then if he's
   carefully adjusting it, he is probably tweaking it; if he is just turning it but looking at
   the screen, he is probably twiddling it; but if he's just doing it because turning a knob
   is fun, he's frobbing it. The variant `frobnosticate' has been recently reported.

frobnitz: /frob'nits/, pl. `frobnitzem' /frob'nit-zm/ or `frobni' /frob'ni:/ n. An unspecified
   physical object, a widget. Also refers to electronic black boxes. This rare form is usually
   abbreviated to `frotz', or more commonly to {frob}. Also used are `frobnule'
   (/frob'n[y]ool/) and `frobule' (/frob'yool/).  Starting perhaps in 1979, `frobozz'
   /fruh-boz'/ (plural: `frobbotzim' /fruh-bot'zm/) has also become very popular, largely
   through its exposure as a name via {Zork}.  These can also be applied to nonphysical
   objects, such as data structures.

frog: alt. `phrog' 1. interj. Term of disgust (we seem to have a lot of them). 2. Used as a
   name for just about anything. See {foo}. 3. n. Of things, a crock. 4. n. Of people,
   somewhere in between a turkey and a toad. 5. `froggy': adj. Similar to `bagbiting' (see
   {bagbiter}), but milder.  "This froggy program is taking forever to run!"

front end: n. 1. An intermediary computer that does set-up and filtering for another (usually
   more powerful but less friendly) machine (a `back end'). 2. What you're talking to when you
   have a conversation with someone who is making replies without paying attention. "Look at
   the dancing elephants!" "Uh-huh." "Do you know what I just said?" "Sorry, you were talking
   to the front end." See also {fepped out}. 3. Software that provides an interface to another
   program `behind' it, which may not be as user-friendly. Probably from analogy with hardware
   front-ends (see sense 1) that interfaced with mainframes.

frotz: /frots/ 1. n. See {frobnitz}.  2. `mumble frotz': An interjection of very mild disgust.

frotzed: /frotst/ adj. {down} because of hardware problems. Compare {fried}. A machine that is
   merely frotzed may be fixable without replacing parts, but a fried machine is more seriously

frowney: n. (alt. `frowney face')  See {emoticon}.

fry: 1. vi. To fail. Said especially of smoke-producing hardware failures. More generally, to
   become non-working. Usage: never said of software, only of hardware and humans. See {fried},
   {magic smoke}.  2. vt. To cause to fail; to {roach}, {toast}, or {hose} a piece of hardware.
   Never used of software or humans, but compare {fried}.

FTP: /F-T-P/, *not* /fit'ip/ 1. [techspeak] n. The File Transfer Protocol for transmitting
   files between systems on the Internet.  2. vt. To {beam} a file using the File Transfer
   Protocol.  3. Sometimes used as a generic even for file transfers not using {FTP}. "Lemme
   get a copy of `Wuthering Heights' ftp'd from uunet."

FUBAR: n. The Failed UniBus Address Register in a VAX. A good example of how jargon can
   occasionally be snuck past the {suit}s; see {foobar}.

FUD: /fuhd/ n. Defined by Gene Amdahl after he left IBM to found his own company: "FUD is the
   fear, uncertainty, and doubt that IBM sales people instill in the minds of potential
   customers who might be considering [Amdahl] products." The idea, of course, was to persuade
   them to go with safe IBM gear rather than with competitors' equipment. This was
   traditionally done by promising that Good Things would happen to people who stuck with IBM,
   but Dark Shadows loomed over the future of competitors' equipment or software.  See {IBM}.

FUD wars: /fuhd worz/ n. [from {FUD}] Political posturing engaged in by hardware and software
   vendors ostensibly committed to standardization but actually willing to fragment the market
   to protect their own shares. The UNIX International vs. OSF conflict is but one outstanding

fudge: 1. vt. To perform in an incomplete but marginally acceptable way, particularly with
   respect to the writing of a program.  "I didn't feel like going through that pain and
   suffering, so I fudged it --- I'll fix it later."  2. n. The resulting code.

fudge factor: n. A value or parameter that is varied in an ad hoc way to produce the desired
   result.  The terms `tolerance' and {slop} are also used, though these usually indicate a
   one-sided leeway, such as a buffer that is made larger than necessary because one isn't
   sure exactly how large it needs to be, and it is better to waste a little space than to
   lose completely for not having enough.  A fudge factor, on the other hand, can often be
   tweaked in more than one direction.  A good example is the `fuzz' typically allowed in
   floating-point calculations: two numbers being compared for equality must be allowed to
   differ by a small amount; if that amount is too small, a computation may never terminate,
   while if it is too large, results will be needlessly inaccurate. Fudge factors are
   frequently adjusted incorrectly by programmers who don't fully understand their import.
   See also {coefficient of X}.

fuel up: vi. To eat or drink hurriedly in order to get back to hacking. "Food-p?" "Yeah, let's
   fuel up."  "Time for a {great-wall}!"  See also {{oriental food}}.

fuggly: /fuhg'lee/ adj. Emphatic form of {funky}; funky + ugly). Unusually for hacker jargon,
   this may actually derive from black street-jive.  To say it properly, the first syllable
   should be growled rather than spoken. Usage: humorous. "Man, the {{ASCII}}-to-{{EBCDIC}}
   code in that printer driver is *fuggly*."  See also {wonky}.

funky: adj. Said of something that functions, but in a slightly strange, klugey way. It does
   the job and would be difficult to change, so its obvious non-optimality is left alone.
   Often used to describe interfaces.  The more bugs something has that nobody has bothered to
   fix because workarounds are easier, the funkier it is. {TECO} and UUCP are funky. The Intel
   i860's exception handling is extraordinarily funky.  Most standards acquire funkiness as
   they age.  "The new mailer is installed, but is still somewhat funky; if it bounces your
   mail for no reason, try resubmitting it." "This UART is pretty funky.  The data ready line
   is active-high in interrupt mode and active-low in DMA mode."  See {fuggly}.

funny money: n. 1. Notional `dollar' units of computing time and/or storage handed to students
   at the beginning of a computer course; also called `play money' or `purple money' (in
   implicit opposition to real or `green' money).  When your funny money ran out, your account
   froze and you needed to go to a professor to get more.  Fortunately, the plunging cost of
   timesharing cycles has made this less common.  The amounts allocated were almost invariably
   too small, even for the non-hackers who wanted to slide by with minimum work.  In extreme
   cases, the practice led to small-scale black markets in bootlegged computer accounts.
   2. By extension, phantom money or quantity tickets of any kind used as a resource-allocation
   hack within a system.  Antonym: `real money'.

fuzzball: [TCP/IP hackers] n. A DEC LSI-11 running a particular suite of homebrewed software
   written by Dave Mills and assorted co-conspirators, used in the early 1980s for Internet
   protocol testbedding and experimentation.  These were used as NSFnet backbone sites in its
   early 56KB-line days; a few are still active on the Internet as of early 1991, doing odd
   jobs such as network time service.

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