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Jargon used in computing

= P =

P.O.D.: /P-O-D/ Acronym for `Piece Of Data' (as opposed to a code section). Usage: pedantic
   and rare.  See also {pod}.

padded cell: n. Where you put {luser}s so they can't hurt anything.  A program that limits a
   luser to a carefully restricted subset of the capabilities of the host system (for example,
   the `rsh(1)' utility on USG UNIX).  Note that this is different from an {iron box} because
   it is overt and not aimed at enforcing security so much as protecting others (and the luser)
   from the consequences of the luser's boundless na"ivet'e (see {na"ive}).  Also `padded cell

page in: [MIT] vi. 1. To become aware of one's surroundings again after having paged out (see
   {page out}).  Usually confined to the sarcastic comment: "Eric pages in.  Film at 11." See
   {film at 11}. 2. Syn. `swap in'; see {swap}.

page out: [MIT] vi. 1. To become unaware of one's surroundings temporarily, due to daydreaming
   or preoccupation.  "Can you repeat that?  I paged out for a minute."  See {page in}.
   Compare {glitch}, {thinko}.  2. Syn. `swap out'; see {swap}.

pain in the net: n. A {flamer}.

paper-net: n. Hackish way of referring to the postal service, analogizing it to a very slow,
   low-reliability network.  USENET {sig block}s not uncommonly include a "Paper-Net:" header
   just before the sender's postal address; common variants of this are "Papernet" and "P-Net".
   Compare {voice-net}, {snail-mail}.

param: /p*-ram'/ n. Shorthand for `parameter'.  See also {parm}; Compare {arg}, {var}.

parent message: n. See {followup}.

parity errors: pl.n. Little lapses of attention or (in more severe cases) consciousness,
   usually brought on by having spent all night and most of the next day hacking. "I need to
   go home and crash; I'm starting to get a lot of parity errors."  Derives from a relatively
   common but nearly always correctable transient error in RAM hardware.

Parkinson's Law of Data: prov. "Data expands to fill the space available for storage"; buying
   more memory encourages the use of more memory-intensive techniques.  It has been observed
   over the last 10 years that the memory usage of evolving systems tends to double roughly
   once every 18 months.  Fortunately, memory density available for constant dollars tends to
   double about once every 12 months (see {Moore's Law}); unfortunately, the laws of physics
   guarantee that the latter cannot continue indefinitely.

parm: /parm/ n. Further-compressed form of {param}. This term is an IBMism, and written use is
   almost unknown outside IBM shops; spoken /parm/ is more widely distributed, but the synonym
   {arg} is favoured among hackers.  Compare {arg}, {var}.

parse: [from linguistic terminology] vt. 1. To determine the syntactic structure of a sentence
   or other utterance (close to the standard English meaning).  "That was the one I saw you."
   "I can't parse that."  2. More generally, to understand or comprehend.  "It's very simple;
   you just kretch the glims and then aos the zotz."  "I can't parse that."  3. Of fish, to
   have to remove the bones yourself.  "I object to parsing fish", means "I don't want to get
   a whole fish, but a sliced one is okay".  A `parsed fish' has been deboned.  There is some
   controversy over whether `unparsed' should mean `bony', or also mean `deboned'.

Pascal:: n. An Algol-descended language designed by Niklaus Wirth on the CDC 6600 around
   1967--68 as an instructional tool for elementary programming.  This language, designed
   primarily to keep students from shooting themselves in the foot and thus extremely
   restrictive from a general-purpose-programming point of view, was later promoted as a
   general-purpose tool and, in fact, became the ancestor of a large family of languages
   including Modula-2 and {{Ada}} (see also {bondage-and-discipline language}). The hackish
   point of view on Pascal was probably best summed up by a devastating (and, in its deadpan
   way, screamingly funny) 1981 paper by Brian Kernighan (of {K&R} fame) entitled "Why Pascal
   is Not My Favourite Programming Language", which was never formally published but has
   circulated widely via photocopies. Part of his discussion is worth repeating here, because
   its criticisms are still apposite to Pascal itself after ten years of improvement and could
   also stand as an indictment of many other bondage-and-discipline languages. At the end of a
   summary of the case against Pascal, Kernighan wrote:

     9. There is no escape

     This last point is perhaps the most important.  The language is inadequate but
     circumscribed, because there is no way to escape its limitations. There are no
     casts to disable the type-checking when necessary. There is no way to replace
     the defective run-time environment with a sensible one, unless one controls the
     compiler that defines the "standard procedures".  The language is closed.

     People who use Pascal for serious programming fall into a fatal trap. Because
     the language is impotent, it must be extended. But each group extends Pascal in
     its own direction, to make it look like whatever language they really want.
     Extensions for separate compilation, FORTRAN-like COMMON, string data types,
     internal static variables, initialization, octal numbers, bit operators, etc.,
     all add to the utility of the language for one group but destroy its portability
     to others.

     I feel that it is a mistake to use Pascal for anything much beyond its original
     target. In its pure form, Pascal is a toy language, suitable for teaching but not
     for real programming.

   Pascal has since been almost entirely displaced (by {C}) from the niches it had acquired in
   serious applications and systems programming, but retains some popularity as a hobbyist
   language in the MS-DOS and Macintosh worlds.

patch: 1. n. A temporary addition to a piece of code, usually as a {quick-and-dirty} remedy to
   an existing bug or misfeature. A patch may or may not work, and may or may not eventually be
   incorporated permanently into the program. Distinguished from a {diff} or {mod} by the fact
   that a patch is generated by more primitive means than the rest of the program; the
   classical examples are instructions modified by using the front panel switches, and changes
   made directly to the binary executable of a program originally written in an {HLL}. Compare
   {one-line fix}. 2. vt. To insert a patch into a piece of code. 3. [in the UNIX world] n. A
   {diff} (sense 2). 4. A set of modifications to binaries to be applied by a patching program.
   IBM operating systems often receive updates to the operating system in the form of absolute
   hexadecimal patches. If you have modified your OS, you have to disassemble these back to the
   source. The patches might later be corrected by other patches on top of them (patches were
   said to "grow scar tissue"). The result was often a convoluted {patch space} and headaches
   There is a classic story of a {tiger team} penetrating a secure military computer that
   illustrates the danger inherent in binary patches (or, indeed, any that you can't --- or
   don't --- inspect and examine before installing). They couldn't find any {trap door}s or
   any way to penetrate security of IBM's OS, so they made a site visit to an IBM office
   (remember, these were official military types who were purportedly on official business),
   swiped some IBM stationery, and created a fake patch. The patch was actually the trapdoor
   they needed. The patch was distributed at about the right time for an IBM patch, had
   official stationery and all accompanying documentation, and was dutifully installed. The
   installation manager very shortly thereafter learned something about proper procedures.

patch space: n. An unused block of bits left in a binary so that it can later be modified by
   insertion of machine-language instructions there (typically, the patch space is modified to
   contain new code, and the superseded code is patched to contain a jump or call to the patch
   space). The widening use of HLLs has made this term rare; it is now primarily historical
   outside IBM shops.  See {patch} (sense 4), {zap} (sense 4), {hook}.

path: n. 1. A {bang path} or explicitly routed {{Internet address}}; a node-by-node
   specification of a link between two machines.  2. [UNIX] A filename, fully specified
   relative to the root directory (as opposed to relative to the current directory; the latter
   is sometimes called a `relative path'). This is also called a `pathname'. 3. [UNIX and
   MS-DOS] The `search path', an environment variable specifying the directories in which the
   {shell} (COMMAND.COM, under MS-DOS) should look for commands. Other, similar constructs
   abound under UNIX (for example, the C preprocessor has a `search path' it uses in looking
   for `#include' files).

pathological: adj. 1. [scientific computation] Used of a data set that is grossly atypical of
   normal expected input, esp. one that exposes a weakness or bug in whatever algorithm one is
   using.  An algorithm that can be broken by pathological inputs may still be useful if such
   inputs are very unlikely to occur in practice. 2. When used of test input, implies that it
   was purposefully engineered as a worst case.  The implication in both senses is that the
   data is spectacularly ill-conditioned or that someone had to explicitly set out to break
   the algorithm in order to come up with such a crazy example.  3. Also said of an unlikely
   collection of circumstances.  "If the network is down and comes up halfway through the
   execution of that command by root, the system may just crash."  "Yes, but that's a
   pathological case."  Often used to dismiss the case from discussion, with the implication
   that the consequences are acceptable since that they will happen so infrequently (if at all)
   that there is no justification for going to extra trouble to handle that case (see sense 1).

payware: /pay'weir/ n. Commercial software.  Oppose {shareware} or {freeware}.

PBD: /P-B-D/ [abbrev. of `Programmer Brain Damage'] n. Applied to bug reports revealing places
   where the program was obviously broken by an incompetent or short-sighted programmer.
   Compare {UBD}; see also {brain-damaged}.

PC-ism: /P-C-izm/ n. A piece of code or coding technique that takes advantage of the
   unprotected single-tasking environment in IBM PCs and the like, e.g., by busy-waiting on a
   hardware register, direct diddling of screen memory, or using hard timing loops. Compare
   {ill-behaved}, {vaxism}, {unixism}.  Also, `PC-ware' n., a program full of PC-isms on a
   machine with a more capable operating system.  Pejorative.

PD: /P-D/ adj. Common abbreviation for `public domain', applied to software distributed over
   {USENET} and from Internet archive sites. Much of this software is not in fact public domain
   in the legal sense but travels under various copyrights granting reproduction and use rights
   to anyone who can {snarf} a copy. See {copyleft}.

pdl: /pid'l/ or /puhd'l/ [acronym for `Push Down List'] 1. In ITS days, the preferred MITism
   for {stack}. 2. Dave Lebling, one of the co-authors of {Zork}. 3. `Program Design Language'.
   Any of a large class of formal and profoundly useless pseudo-languages in which {management}
   forces one to design programs. {Management} often expects it to be maintained in parallel
   with the code. See also {{flowchart}}. 4. To design using a program design language. "I've
   been pdling so long my eyes won't focus beyond 2 feet."

PDP-10: [Programmed Data Processor model 10] n. The machine that made timesharing real. It
   looms large in hacker folklore because of its adoption in the mid-1970s by many university
   computing facilities and research labs, including the MIT AI Lab, Stanford, and CMU. Some
   aspects of the instruction set (most notably the bit-field instructions) are still
   considered unsurpassed.  The 10 was eventually eclipsed by the VAX machines (descendants of
   the PDP-11) when DEC recognized that the 10 and VAX product lines were competing with each
   other and decided to concentrate its software development effort on the more profitable VAX.
   The machine was finally dropped from DEC's line in 1983, following the failure of the
   Jupiter Project at DEC to build a viable new model. (Some attempts by other companies to
   market clones came to nothing; see {Foonly}) This event spelled the doom of {{ITS}} and the
   technical cultures that had spawned the original Jargon File, but by mid-1991 it had become
   something of a badge of honorable old-timerhood among hackers to have cut one's teeth on a
   PDP-10. See {{TOPS-10}}, {{ITS}}, {AOS}, {BLT}, {DDT}, {DPB}, {EXCH}, {HAKMEM}, {JFCL},
   {LDB}, {pop}, {push}, appendix A.

PDP-20: n. The most famous computer that never was. {PDP-10} computers running the {{TOPS-10}}
   operating system were labeled `DECsystem-10' as a way of differentiating them from the
   PDP-11. Later on, those systems running {TOPS-20} were labeled `DECSYSTEM-20' (the block
   capitals being the result of a lawsuit brought against DEC by Singer, which once made a
   computer called `system-10'), but contrary to popular lore there was never a `PDP-20'; the
   only difference between a 10 and a 20 was the operating system and the colour of the paint.
   Most (but not all) machines sold to run TOPS-10 were painted `Basil Blue', whereas most
   TOPS-20 machines were painted `Chinese Red' (often mistakenly called orange).

peek: n.,vt. (and {poke}) The commands in most microcomputer BASICs for directly accessing
   memory contents at an absolute address; often extended to mean the corresponding constructs
   in any {HLL} (peek reads memory, poke modifies it).  Much hacking on small, non-MMU micros
   consists of {peek}ing around memory, more or less at random, to find the location where the
   system keeps interesting stuff.  Long (and variably accurate) lists of such addresses for
   various computers circulate (see {{interrupt list, the}}).  The results of {poke}s at these
   addresses may be highly useful, mildly amusing, useless but neat, or (most likely) total
   {lossage} (see {killer poke}).

pencil and paper: n. An archaic information storage and transmission device that works by
   depositing smears of graphite on bleached wood pulp. More recent developments in paper-based
   technology include improved `write-once' update devices which use tiny rolling heads similar
   to mouse balls to deposit coloured pigment. All these devices require an operator skilled at
   so-called `handwriting' technique. These technologies are ubiquitous outside hackerdom, but
   nearly forgotten inside it. Most hackers had terrible handwriting to begin with, and years
   of keyboarding tend to have encouraged it to degrade further. Perhaps for this reason,
   hackers deprecate pencil-and-paper technology and often resist using it in any but the most
   trivial contexts.  See also appendix B.

peon: n. A person with no special ({root} or {wheel}) privileges on a computer system. "I
   can't create an account on *foovax* for you; I'm only a peon there."

percent-S: /per-sent' es'/ [From the code in C's `printf(3)' library function used to insert
   an arbitrary string argument] n. An unspecified person or object.  "I was just talking to
   some percent-s in administration."  Compare {random}.

perf: /perf/ n. See {chad} (sense 1).  The term `perfory' /per'f*-ree/ is also heard.

perfect programmer syndrome: n. Arrogance; the egotistical conviction that one is above normal
   human error.  Most frequently found among programmers of some native ability but relatively
   little experience (especially new graduates; their perceptions may be distorted by a history
   of excellent performance at solving {toy problem}s).  "Of course my program is correct,
   there is no need to test it."  "Yes, I can see there may be a problem here, but *I'll* never
   type `rm -r /' while in {root}."

Perl: /perl/ [Practical Extraction and Report Language, a.k.a Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish
   Lister] n. An interpreted language developed by Larry Wall (author of `patch(1)' and
   `rn(1)') and distributed over USENET. Superficially resembles `awk(1)', but is much hairier
   (see {awk}).  UNIX sysadmins, who are almost always incorrigible hackers, increasingly
   consider it one of the {languages of choice}.  Perl has been described, in a parody of a
   famous remark about `lex(1)', as the "Swiss-Army chainsaw" of UNIX programming.

pessimal: /pes'im-l/ [Latin-based antonym for `optimal'] adj. Maximally bad. "This is a
   pessimal situation."  Also `pessimize' vt. To make as bad as possible. These words are the
   obvious Latin-based antonyms for `optimal' and `optimize', but for some reason they do not
   appear in most English dictionaries, although `pessimize' is listed in the OED.

pessimizing compiler: /pes'*-mi:z`ing k*m-pi:l'r/ [antonym of `optimizing compiler'] n. A
   compiler that produces object code that is worse than the straightforward or obvious hand
   translation. The implication is that the compiler is actually trying to optimize the
   program, but through excessive cleverness is doing the opposite. A few pessimizing
   compilers have been written on purpose, however, as pranks or burlesques.

peta-: /pe't*/ [SI] pref. See {{quantifiers}}.

PETSCII: /pet'skee/ [abbreviation of PET ASCII] n. The variation (many would say perversion)
   of the {{ASCII}} character set used by the Commodore Business Machines PET series of
   personal computers and the later Commodore C64, C16, and C128 machines. The PETSCII set
   used left-arrow and up-arrow (as in old-style ASCII) instead of underscore and caret,
   placed the unshifted alphabet at positions 65--90, put the shifted alphabet at positions
   193--218, and added graphics characters.

phase: 1. n. The phase of one's waking-sleeping schedule with respect to the standard 24-hour
   cycle. This is a useful concept among people who often work at night and/or according to no
   fixed schedule. It is not uncommon to change one's phase by as much as 6 hours per day on a
   regular basis. "What's your phase?" "I've been getting in about 8 P.M. lately, but I'm
   going to {wrap around} to the day schedule by Friday." A person who is roughly 12 hours out
   of phase is sometimes said to be in `night mode'. (The term `day mode' is also (but less
   frequently) used, meaning you're working 9 to 5 (or, more likely, 10 to 6).)  The act of
   altering one's cycle is called `changing phase'; `phase shifting' has also been recently
   reported from Caltech. 2. `change phase the hard way': To stay awake for a very long time
   in order to get into a different phase. 3. `change phase the easy way': To stay asleep, etc.
   However, some claim that either staying awake longer or sleeping longer is easy, and that it
   is *shortening* your day or night that's hard (see {wrap around}).  The `jet lag' that
   afflicts travelers who cross many time-zone boundaries may be attributed to two distinct
   causes: the strain of travel per se, and the strain of changing phase. Hackers who suddenly
   find that they must change phase drastically in a short period of time, particularly the
   hard way, experience something very like jet lag without traveling.

phase of the moon: n. Used humorously as a random parameter on which something is said to
   depend. Sometimes implies unreliability of whatever is dependent, or that reliability seems
   to be dependent on conditions nobody has been able to determine.  "This feature depends on
   having the channel open in mumble mode, having the foo switch set, and on the phase of the
   True story: Once upon a time there was a bug that really did depend on the phase of the
   moon. There is a little subroutine that had traditionally been used in various programs at
   MIT to calculate an approximation to the moon's true phase. GLS incorporated this routine
   into a LISP program that, when it wrote out a file, would print a timestamp line almost 80
   characters long. Very occasionally the first line of the message would be too long and
   would overflow onto the next line, and when the file was later read back in the program
   would {barf}. The length of the first line depended on both the precise date and time and
   the length of the phase specification when the timestamp was printed, and so the bug
   literally depended on the phase of the moon!
   The first paper edition of the Jargon File (Steele-1983) included an example of one of the
   timestamp lines that exhibited this bug, but the typesetter `corrected' it. This has since
   been described as the phase-of-the-moon-bug bug.

phreaking: [from `phone phreak'] n. 1. The art and science of cracking the phone network (so
   as, for example, to make free long-distance calls).  2. By extension, security-cracking in
   any other context (especially, but not exclusively, on communications networks).
   At one time phreaking was a semi-respectable activity among hackers; there was a gentleman's
   agreement that phreaking as an  intellectual game and a form of exploration was OK, but
   serious theft of services was taboo.  There was significant crossover between the hacker
   community and the hard-core phone phreaks who ran semi-underground networks of their own
   through such media as the legendary `TAP Newsletter'. This ethos began to break down in the
   mid-1980s as wider dissemination of the techniques put them in the hands of less responsible
   phreaks. Around the same time, changes in the phone network made old-style technical
   ingenuity less effective as a way of hacking it, so phreaking came to depend more on overtly
   criminal acts such as stealing phone-card numbers. The crimes and punishments of gangs like
   the `414 group' turned that game very ugly. A few old-time hackers still phreak casually
   just to keep their hand in, but most these days have hardly even heard of `blue boxes' or
   any of the other paraphernalia of the great phreaks of yore.

pico-: [SI: a quantifier  meaning * 10^-12] pref. Smaller than {nano-}; used in the same rather
   loose connotative way as {nano-} and {micro-}. This usage is not yet common in the way
   {nano-} and {micro-} are, but should be instantly recognizable to any hacker.  See also
   {{quantifiers}}, {micro-}.

pig, run like a: v. To run very slowly on given hardware, said of software. Distinct from {hog}

pilot error: [Sun: from aviation] n. A user's misconfiguration or misuse of a piece of
   software, producing apparently buglike results (compare {UBD}).  "Joe Luser reported a bug
   in sendmail that causes it to generate bogus headers."  "That's not a bug, that's pilot
   error.  His `' is hosed."

ping: [from the TCP/IP acronym `Packet INternet Groper', prob. originally contrived to match
   the submariners' term for a sonar pulse] 1. n. Slang term for a small network message (ICMP
   ECHO) sent by a computer to check for the presence and aliveness of another. Occasionally
   used as a phone greeting. See {ACK}, also {ENQ}. 2. vt. To verify the presence of. 3. vt.
   To get the attention of. From the UNIX command `ping(1)' that sends an ICMP ECHO packet to
   another host.  4. vt. To send a message to all members of a {mailing list} requesting an
   {ACK} (in order to verify that everybody's addresses are reachable). "We haven't heard much
   of anything from Geoff, but he did respond with an ACK both times I pinged jargon-friends."
   The funniest use of `ping' to date was described in January 1991 by Steve Hayman on the
   USENET group  He was trying to isolate a faulty cable segment on a TCP/IP
   Ethernet hooked up to a NeXT machine, and got tired of having to run back to his console
   after each cabling tweak to see if the ping packets were getting through.  So he used the
   sound-recording feature on the NeXT, then wrote a script that repeatedly invoked `ping(8)',
   listened for an echo, and played back the recording on each returned packet. Result? A
   program that caused the machine to repeat, over and over, "Ping ... ping ... ping ..." as
   long as the network was up.  He turned the volume to maximum, ferreted through the building
   with one ear cocked, and found a faulty tee connector in no time.

Pink-Shirt Book: `The Peter Norton Programmer's Guide to the IBM PC'. The original cover
   featured a picture of Peter Norton with a silly smirk on his face, wearing a pink shirt.
   Perhaps in recognition of this usage, the current edition has a different picture of Norton
   wearing a pink shirt.  See also {{book titles}}.

PIP: /pip/ [Peripheral Interchange Program] vt.,obs. To copy; from the program PIP on CP/M,
   RSX-11, RSTS/E, and OS/8 (derived from a utility on the PDP-6) that was used for file
   copying (and in OS/8 and RT-11 for just about every other file operation you might want to
   do).  It is said that when the program was originated, during the development of the PDP-6
   in 1963, it was called ATLATL (`Anything, Lord, to Anything, Lord').

pistol: [IBM] n. A tool that makes it all too easy for you to shoot yourself in the foot.
   "UNIX `rm *' makes such a nice pistol!"

pizza box: [Sun] n. The largish thin box housing the electronics in (especially Sun) desktop
   workstations, so named because of its size and shape and the dimpled pattern that looks
   like air holes.
   Two meg single-platter removable disk packs used to be called pizzas, and the huge drive
   they were stuck into was referred to as a pizza oven. It's an index of progress that in the
   old days just the disk was pizza-sized, while now the entire computer is.

pizza, ANSI standard: /an'see stan'd*rd peet'z*/ [CMU] Pepperoni and mushroom pizza. Coined
   allegedly because most pizzas ordered by CMU hackers during some period leading up to mid-
  1990 were of that flavour. See also {rotary debugger}; compare {tea, ISO standard cup of}.

plain-ASCII: /playn-as'kee/ Syn. {flat-ASCII}.

plan file: [UNIX] n. On systems that support {finger}, the `.plan' file in a user's home
   directory is displayed when the user is fingered.  This feature was originally intended to
   be used to keep potential fingerers apprised of one's location and near-future plans, but
   has been turned almost universally to humorous and self-expressive purposes (like a {sig
   block}).  See {Hacking X for Y}.

platinum-iridium: adj. Standard, against which all others of the same category are measured.
   Usage: silly. The notion is that one of whatever it is has actually been cast in platinum-
   iridium alloy and placed in the vault beside the Standard Kilogram at the International
   Bureau of Weights and Measures near Paris. (From 1889 to 1960, the meter was defined to be
   the distance between two scratches in a platinum-iridium bar kept in that vault --- this
   replaced an earlier definition as 10^7 times the distance between the North Pole and the
   Equator along a meridian through Paris; unfortunately, this had been based on an inexact
   value of the circumference of the Earth. From 1960 to 1984 it was defined to be 1650763.73
   wavelengths of the orange-red line of krypton-86 propagating in a vacuum. It is now defined
   as the length of the path traveled by light in a vacuum in the time interval of
   1/299,792,458 of a second. The kilogram is now the only unit of measure officially defined
   in terms of a unique artifact.) "This garbage-collection algorithm has been tested against
   the platinum-iridium cons cell in Paris."  Compare {golden}.

playpen: [IBM] n. A room where programmers work.  Compare {salt mines}.

playte: /playt/ 16 bits, by analogy with {nybble} and {{byte}}. Usage: rare and extremely
   silly.  See also {dynner} and {crumb}.

plingnet: /pling'net/ n. Syn. {UUCPNET}. Also see {{Commonwealth Hackish}}, which uses `pling'
   for {bang} (as in {bang path}).

plokta: /plok't*/ [Acronym for `Press Lots Of Keys To Abort'] v. To press random keys in an
   attempt to get some response from the system. One might plokta when the abort procedure for
   a program is not known, or when trying to figure out if the system is just sluggish or
   really hung. Plokta can also be used while trying to figure out any unknown key sequence
   for a particular operation. Someone going into `plokta mode' usually places both hands flat
   on the keyboard and presses down, hoping for some useful response.

plonk: [USENET: possibly influenced by British slang `plonk' for cheap booze]. The sound a
   {newbie} makes as he falls to the bottom of a {kill file}. Used almost exclusively in the
   {newsgroup} talk.bizarre, this term usually written "*plonk*" is a form of public ridicule.

plugh: /ploogh/ [from the {ADVENT} game] v. See {xyzzy}.

plumbing: [UNIX] n. Term used for {shell} code, so called because of the prevalence of
   `pipelines' that feed the output of one program to the input of another.  Under UNIX, user
   utilities can often be implemented or at least prototyped by a suitable collection of
   pipelines and temp-file grinding encapsulated in a shell script; this is much less effort
   than writing C every time, and the capability is considered one of UNIX's major winning
   features. Esp. used in the construction `hairy plumbing' (see {hairy}).  "You can kluge
   together a basic spell-checker out of `sort(1)', `comm(1)', and `tr(1)' with a little
   plumbing." See also {tee}.

PM: /P-M/ 1. v. (from `preventive maintenance') To bring down a machine for inspection or test
   purposes; see {scratch monkey}.  2. n. Abbrev. for `Presentation Manager', an {elephantine}
   OS/2 graphical user interface.  See also {provocative maintenance}.

pnambic: /p*-nam'bik/ [Acronym from the scene in the film version of `The Wizard of Oz' in
   which true nature of the wizard is first discovered: "Pay no attention to the man behind
   the curtain."] 1. A stage of development of a process or function that, owing to incomplete
   implementation or to the complexity of the system, requires human interaction to simulate
   or replace some or all of the actions, inputs, or outputs of the process or function. 2. Of
   or pertaining to a process or function whose apparent operations are wholly or partially
   falsified. 3. Requiring {prestidigitization}.
   The ultimate pnambic product was "Dan Bricklin's Demo", a program which supported flashy
   user-interface design prototyping. There is a related maxim among hackers: "Any sufficiently
   advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo." See {magic}, sense 1, for
   illumination of this point.

pod: [allegedly from acronym POD for `Prince Of Darkness'] n. A Diablo 630 (or, latterly, any
   letter-quality impact printer). From the DEC-10 PODTYPE program used to feed formatted text
   to it. See also {P.O.D.}

poke: n.,vt. See {peek}.

poll: v.,n. 1. [techspeak] The action of checking the status of an input line, sensor, or
   memory location to see if a particular external event has been registered. 2. To repeatedly
   call or check with someone: "I keep polling him, but he's not answering his phone; he must
   be swapped out."  3. To ask.  "Lunch?  I poll for a takeout order daily."

polygon pusher: n. A chip designer who spends most of his or her time at the physical layout
   level (which requires drawing *lots* of multi-coloured polygons). Also `rectangle slinger'.

POM: /P-O-M/ n. Common acronym for {phase of the moon}. Usage: usually in the phrase
   `POM-dependent', which means {flaky}.

pop: [from the operation that removes the top of a stack, and the fact that procedure return
   addresses are saved on the stack] (also capitalized `POP' /pop/) 1. vt. To remove something
   from a {stack} or {pdl}. If a person says he/she has popped something from his stack, that
   means he/she has finally finished working on it and can now remove it from the list of
   things hanging overhead. 2. When a discussion gets to too deep a level of detail so that
   the main point of the discussion is being lost, someone will shout "Pop!", meaning "Get
   back up to a higher level!" The shout is frequently accompanied by an upthrust arm with a
   finger pointing to the ceiling.

POPJ: /pop'J/ [from a {PDP-10} return-from-subroutine instruction] n.,v. To return from a
   digression. By verb doubling, "Popj, popj" means roughly "Now let's see, where were we?"
   See {RTI}.

posing: n. On a {MUD}, the use of `:' or an equivalent command to announce to other players
   that one is taking a certain physical action that has no effect on the game (it may,
   however, serve as a social signal or propaganda device that induces other people to take
   game actions). For example, if one's character name is Firechild, one might type `: looks
   delighted at the idea and begins hacking on the nearest terminal' to broadcast a message
   that says "Firechild looks delighted at the idea and begins hacking on the nearest
   terminal".  See {RL}.

post: v. To send a message to a {mailing list} or {newsgroup}. Distinguished in context from
   `mail'; one might ask, for example: "Are you going to post the patch or mail it to known

posting: n. Noun corresp. to v. {post} (but note that {post} can be nouned). Distinguished
   from a `letter' or ordinary {email} message by the fact that it is broadcast rather than
   point-to-point.  It is not clear whether messages sent to a small mailing list are postings
   or email; perhaps the best dividing line is that if you don't know the names of all the
   potential recipients, it is a posting.

postmaster: n. The email contact and maintenance person at a site connected to the Internet or
   UUCPNET.  Often, but not always, the same as the {admin}.  It is conventional for each
   machine to have a `postmaster' address that is aliased to this person.

pound on: vt.  Syn. {bang on}.

power cycle: vt. (also, `cycle power' or just `cycle') To power off a machine and then power
   it on immediately, with the intention of clearing some kind of {hung} or {gronk}ed state.
   Syn. {120 reset}; see also {Big Red Switch}.  Compare {Vulcan nerve pinch}, {bounce}, and
   {boot}, and see the AI Koan in appendix A about Tom Knight and the novice.

PPN: /P-P-N/, /pip'n/ [from `Project-Programmer Number'] n. A user-ID under {{TOPS-10}} and
   its various mutant progeny at SAIL, BBN, CompuServe, and elsewhere.  Old-time hackers from
   the PDP-10 era sometimes use this to refer to user IDs on other systems as well.

precedence lossage: /pre's*-dens los'*j/ [C programmers] n. Coding error in an expression due
   to unexpected grouping of arithmetic or logical operators by the compiler.  Used esp. of
   certain common coding errors in C due to the nonintuitively low precedence levels of `&',
   `|', `^', `<<', and `>>' (for this reason, experienced C programmers deliberately forget
   the language's {baroque} precedence hierarchy and parenthesize defensively).  Can always be
   avoided by suitable use of parentheses.  {LISP} fans enjoy pointing out that this can't
   happen in *their* favourite language, which eschews precedence entirely, requiring one to
   use explicit parentheses everywhere. See {aliasing bug}, {memory leak}, {smash the stack},
   {fandango on core}, {overrun screw}.

prepend: /pree`pend'/ [by analogy with `append'] vt. To prefix. As with `append' (but not
   `prefix' or `suffix' as a verb), the direct object is always the thing being added and not
   the original word (or character string, or whatever).  "If you prepend a semicolon to the
   line, the translation routine will pass it through unaltered."

prestidigitization: /pres`t*-di`j*-ti:-zay'sh*n/ n. 1. The act of putting something into
   digital notation via sleight of hand. 2. Data entry through legerdemain.

pretty pictures: n. [scientific computation] The next step up from {numbers}. Interesting
   graphical output from a program that may not have any sensible relationship to the system
   the program is intended to model.  Good for showing to {management}.

prettyprint: /prit'ee-print/ (alt. `pretty-print') v. 1. To generate `pretty' human-readable
   output from a {hairy} internal representation; esp. used for the process of {grind}ing
   (sense 2) LISP code.  2. To format in some particularly slick and nontrivial way.

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

prime time: [from TV programming] n. Normal high-usage hours on a timesharing system; the day
   shift.  Avoidance of prime time is a major reason for {night mode} hacking.

priority interrupt: [from the hardware term] n. Describes any stimulus compelling enough to
   yank one right out of {hack mode}. Classically used to describe being dragged away by an
   {SO} for immediate sex, but may also refer to more mundane interruptions such as a fire
   alarm going off in the near vicinity.  Also called an {NMI} (non-maskable interrupt),
   especially in PC-land.

profile: n. 1. A control file for a program, esp. a text file automatically read from each
   user's home directory and intended to be easily modified by the user in order to customize
   the program's behavior.  Used to avoid {hardcoded} choices.  2. [techspeak] A report on the
   amounts of time spent in each routine of a program, used to find and {tune} away the {hot
   spot}s in it.  This sense is often verbed.  Some profiling modes report units other than
   time (such as call counts) and/or report at granularities other than per-routine, but the
   idea is similar.

proglet: /prog'let/ [UK] n. A short extempore program written to meet an immediate, transient
   need.  Often written in BASIC, rarely more than a dozen lines long, and contains no
   subroutines. The largest amount of code that can be written off the top of one's head, that
   does not need any editing, and that runs correctly the first time (this amount varies
   significantly according to the language one is using).  Compare {toy program}, {noddy},
   {one-liner wars}.

program: n. 1. A magic spell cast over a computer allowing it to turn one's input into error
   messages. 2. An exercise in experimental epistemology.  3. A form of art, ostensibly
   intended for the instruction of computers, which is nevertheless almost inevitably a
   failure if other programmers can't understand it.

Programmer's Cheer: "Shift to the left! Shift to the right! Pop up, push down! Byte! Byte!
   Byte!"  A joke so old it has hair on it.

programming: n. 1. The art of debugging a blank sheet of paper (or, in these days of on-line
   editing, the art of debugging an empty file). 2. n. A pastime similar to banging one's head
   against a wall, but with fewer opportunities for reward.  3. n. The most fun you can have
   with your clothes on (although clothes are not mandatory).

propeller head: n. Used by hackers, this is syn. with {computer geek}. Non-hackers sometimes
   use it to describe all techies. Prob. derives from SF fandom's tradition (originally
   invented by old-time fan Ray Faraday Nelson) of propeller beanies as fannish insignia
   (though nobody actually wears them except as a joke).

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

proprietary: adj. 1. In {marketroid}-speak, superior; implies a product imbued with exclusive
   magic by the unmatched brilliance of the company's hardware or software designers. 2. In the
   language of hackers and users, inferior; implies a product not conforming to open-systems
   standards, and thus one that puts the customer at the mercy of a vendor able to gouge freely
   on service and upgrade charges after the initial sale has locked the customer in (that's
   assuming it wasn't too expensive in the first place).

protocol: n. As used by hackers, this never refers to niceties about the proper form for
   addressing letters to the Papal Nuncio or the order in which one should use the forks in a
   Russian-style place setting; hackers don't care about such things.  It is used instead to
   describe any set of rules that allow different machines or pieces of software to coordinate
   with each other without ambiguity.  So, for example, it does include niceties about the
   proper form for addressing packets on a network or the order in which one should use the
   forks in the Dining Philosophers Problem. It implies that there is some common message
   format and an accepted set of primitives or commands that all parties involved understand,
   and that transactions among them follow predictable logical sequences. See also
   {handshaking}, {do protocol}.

provocative maintenance: [common ironic mutation of `preventive maintenance'] n. Actions
   performed upon a machine at regularly scheduled intervals to ensure that the system remains
   in a usable state. So called because it is all too often performed by a {field servoid} who
   doesn't know what he is doing; this results in the machine's remaining in an *un*usable
   state for an indeterminate amount of time.  See also {scratch monkey}.

prowler: [UNIX] n. A {daemon} that is run periodically (typically once a week) to seek out and
   erase {core} files, truncate administrative logfiles, nuke `lost+found' directories, and
   otherwise clean up the {cruft} that tends to pile up in the corners of a file system. See
   also {GFR}, {reaper}, {skulker}.

pseudo: /soo'doh/ [USENET: truncation of `pseudonym'] n. 1. An electronic-mail or {USENET}
   persona adopted by a human for amusement value or as a means of avoiding negative
   repercussions of one's net.behavior; a `nom de USENET', often associated with forged
   postings designed to conceal message origins. Perhaps the best-known and funniest hoax of
   this type is {BIFF}. 2. Notionally, a {flamage}-generating AI program simulating a USENET
   user. Many flamers have been accused of actually being such entities, despite the fact that
   no AI program of the required sophistication yet exists. However, in 1989 there was a famous
   series of forged postings that used a phrase-frequency-based travesty generator to simulate
   the styles of several well-known flamers; it was based on large samples of their back
   postings (compare {Dissociated Press}).  A significant number of people were fooled by the
   forgeries, and the debate over their authenticity was settled only when the perpetrator
   came forward to publicly admit the hoax.

pseudoprime: n. A backgammon prime (six consecutive occupied points) with one point missing.
   This term is an esoteric pun derived from a mathematical method that, rather than
   determining precisely whether a number is prime (has no divisors), uses a statistical
   technique to decide whether the number is `probably' prime.  A number that passes this test
   is called a pseudoprime. The hacker backgammon usage stems from the idea that a pseudoprime
   is almost as good as a prime: it does the job of a prime until proven otherwise, and that
   probably won't happen.

pseudosuit: /soo'doh-s[y]oot`/ n. A {suit} wannabee; a hacker who has decided that he wants to
   be in management or administration and begins wearing ties, sport coats, and (shudder!)
   suits voluntarily.  It's his funeral.  See also {lobotomy}.

psychedelicware: /si:`k*-del'-ik-weir/ [UK] n. Syn. {display hack}. See also {smoking clover}.

psyton: /si:'ton/ [TMRC] n. The elementary particle carrying the sinister force. The
   probability of a process losing is proportional to the number of psytons falling on it.
   Psytons are generated by observers, which is why demos are more likely to fail when lots of
   people are watching. [This term appears to have been largely superseded by {bogon}; see
   also {quantum bogodynamics}. --- ESR]

pubic directory: [NYU] (also `pube directory' /pyoob' d*-rek't*-ree/) n. The `pub' (public)
   directory on a machine that allows {FTP} access.  So called because it is the default
   location for {SEX} (sense 1).  "I'll have the source in the pube directory by Friday."

puff: vt. To decompress data that has been crunched by Huffman coding. At least one widely
   distributed Huffman decoder program was actually *named* `PUFF', but these days it is
   usually packaged with the encoder.  Oppose {huff}.

punched card:: alt. `punch card' [techspeak] n.obs. The signature medium of computing's {Stone
   Age}, now obsolescent outside of some IBM shops.  The punched card actually predated
   computers considerably, originating in 1801 as a control device for mechanical looms. The
   version patented by Hollerith and used with mechanical tabulating machines in the 1890 U.S.
   Census was a piece of cardboard about 90 mm by 215 mm, designed to fit exactly in the
   currency trays used for that era's larger dollar bills.
   IBM (which originated as a tabulating-machine manufacturer) married the punched card to
   computers, encoding binary information as patterns of small rectangular holes; one character
   per column, 80 columns per card. Other coding schemes, sizes of card, and hole shapes were
   tried at various times.
   The 80-column width of most character terminals is a legacy of the IBM punched card; so is
   the size of the quick-reference cards distributed with many varieties of computers even
   today. See {chad}, {chad box}, {eighty-column mind}, {green card}, {dusty deck}, {lace
   card}, {card walloper}.

punt: [from the punch line of an old joke referring to American football: "Drop back 15 yards
   and punt!"] v. 1. To give up, typically without any intention of retrying.  "Let's punt the
   movie tonight."  "I was going to hack all night to get this feature in, but I decided to
   punt" may mean that you've decided not to stay up all night, and may also mean you're not
   ever even going to put in the feature. 2. More specifically, to give up on figuring out
   what the {Right Thing} is and resort to an inefficient hack. 3. A design decision to defer
   solving a problem, typically because one cannot define what is desirable sufficiently well
   to frame an algorithmic solution. "No way to know what the right form to dump the graph in
   is --- we'll punt that for now." 4. To hand a tricky implementation problem off to some
   other section of the design. "It's too hard to get the compiler to do that; let's punt to
   the runtime system."

Purple Book: n. The `System V Interface Definition'. The covers of the first editions were an
   amazingly nauseating shade of off-lavender.  See also {{book titles}}.

push: [from the operation that puts the current information on a stack, and the fact that
   procedure return addresses are saved on a stack] Also PUSH /push/ or PUSHJ /push'J/ (the
   latter based on the PDP-10 procedure call instruction). 1. To put something onto a {stack}
   or {pdl}. If one says that something has been pushed onto one's stack, it means that the
   Damoclean list of things hanging over ones's head has grown longer and heavier yet. This may
   also imply that one will deal with it *before* other pending items; otherwise one might say
   that the thing was `added to my queue'. 2. vi. To enter upon a digression, to save the
   current discussion for later.  Antonym of {pop}; see also {stack}, {pdl}.

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