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Jargon used in computing

= S =

S/N ratio: // n. (also `s/n ratio', `s:n ratio').  Syn. {signal-to-noise ratio}. Often
   abbreviated `SNR'.

sacred: adj. Reserved for the exclusive use of something (an extension of the standard
   meaning).  Often means that anyone may look at the sacred object, but clobbering it will
   screw whatever it is sacred to.  The comment "Register 7 is sacred to the interrupt handler"
   appearing in a program would be interpreted by a hacker to mean that if any *other* part of
   the program changes the contents of register 7, dire consequences are likely to ensue.

saga: [WPI] n. A cuspy but bogus raving story about N random broken people.

   Here is a classic example of the saga form, as told by Guy L. Steele:

        Jon L. White (login name JONL) and I (GLS) were office mates at MIT for many years.
        One April, we both flew from Boston to California for a week on research business,
        to consult face-to-face with some people at Stanford, particularly our mutual
        friend Richard P. Gabriel (RPG; see {Gabriel}).

        RPG picked us up at the San Francisco airport and drove us back to Palo Alto (going
        {logical} south on route 101, parallel to {El Camino Bignum}). Palo Alto is adjacent
        to Stanford University and about 40 miles south of San Francisco. We ate at The Good
        Earth, a `health food' restaurant, very popular, the sort whose milkshakes all
        contain honey and protein powder.  JONL ordered such a shake --- the waitress claimed
        the flavour of the day was "lalaberry".  I still have no idea what that might be,
        but it became a running joke. It was the color of raspberry, and JONL said it tasted
        rather bitter. I ate a better tostada there than I have ever had in a Mexican

        After this we went to the local Uncle Gaylord's Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor.
        They make ice cream fresh daily, in a variety of intriguing flavours. It's a
        chain, and they have a slogan: "If you don't live near an Uncle Gaylord's ---
        MOVE!" Also, Uncle Gaylord (a real person) wages a constant battle to force
        big-name ice cream makers to print their ingredients on the package (like air
        and plastic and other non-natural garbage). JONL and I had first discovered
        Uncle Gaylord's the previous August, when we had flown to a computer-science
        conference in Berkeley, California, the first time either of us had been on the
        West Coast.  When not in the conference sessions, we had spent our time
        wandering the length of Telegraph Street, which (like Harvard Square in
        Cambridge) was lined with picturesque street vendors and interesting little
        shops. On that street we discovered Uncle Gaylord's Berkeley store. The ice
        cream there was very good.  During that August visit JONL went absolutely
        bananas (so to speak) over one particular flavour, ginger honey.

        Therefore, after eating at The Good Earth --- indeed, after every lunch and
        dinner and before bed during our April visit --- a trip to Uncle Gaylord's
        (the one in Palo Alto) was mandatory.  We had arrived on a Wednesday, and by
        Thursday evening we had been there at least four times.  Each time, JONL would
        get ginger honey ice cream, and proclaim to all bystanders that "Ginger was the
        spice that drove the Europeans mad!  That's why they sought a route to the East!
        They used it to preserve their otherwise off-taste meat."  After the third or
        fourth repetition RPG and I were getting a little tired of this spiel, and began
        to paraphrase him: "Wow!  Ginger!  The spice that makes rotten meat taste good!"
        "Say!  Why don't we find some dog that's been run over and sat in the sun for a
        week and put some *ginger* on it for dinner?!" "Right!  With a lalaberry shake!"
        And so on.  This failed to faze JONL; he took it in good humour, as long as we
        kept returning to Uncle Gaylord's.  He loves ginger honey ice cream.

        Now RPG and his then-wife KBT (Kathy Tracy) were putting us up (putting up with
        us?) in their home for our visit, so to thank them JONL and I took them out to
        a nice French restaurant of their choosing.  I unadventurously chose the filet
        mignon, and KBT had je ne sais quoi du jour, but RPG and JONL had lapin (rabbit).
        (Waitress: "Oui, we have fresh rabbit, fresh today."  RPG: "Well, JONL, I guess
        we won't need any *ginger*!")

        We finished the meal late, about 11 P.M., which is 2 A.M Boston time, so JONL and
        I were rather droopy.  But it wasn't yet midnight.  Off to Uncle Gaylord's!

        Now the French restaurant was in Redwood City, north of Palo Alto. In leaving
        Redwood City, we somehow got onto route 101 going north instead of south. JONL and
        I wouldn't have known the difference had RPG not mentioned it.  We still knew very
        little of the local geography.  I did figure out, however, that we were headed in
        the direction of Berkeley, and half-jokingly suggested that we continue north and
        go to Uncle Gaylord's in Berkeley.

        RPG said "Fine!" and we drove on for a while and talked. I was drowsy, and JONL
        actually dropped off to sleep for 5 minutes. When he awoke, RPG said, "Gee, JONL,
        you must have slept all the way over the bridge!", referring to the one spanning
        San Francisco Bay. Just then we came to a sign that said "University Avenue". I
        mumbled something about working our way over to Telegraph Street; RPG said
        "Right!" and maneuvered some more.  Eventually we pulled up in front of an Uncle

        Now, I hadn't really been paying attention because I was so sleepy, and I didn't
        really understand what was happening until RPG let me in on it a few moments
        later, but I was just alert enough to notice that we had somehow come to the Palo
        Alto Uncle Gaylord's after all.

        JONL noticed the resemblance to the Palo Alto store, but hadn't caught on. (The
        place is lit with red and yellow lights at night, and looks much different from
        the way it does in daylight.) He said, "This isn't the Uncle Gaylord's I went to
        in Berkeley! It looked like a barn!  But this place looks *just like* the one
        back in Palo Alto!"

        RPG deadpanned, "Well, this is the one *I* always come to when I'm in Berkeley.
        They've got two in San Francisco, too. Remember, they're a chain."

        JONL accepted this bit of wisdom.  And he was not totally ignorant --- he knew
        perfectly well that University Avenue was in Berkeley, not far from Telegraph
        Street. What he didn't know was that there is a completely different University
        Avenue in Palo Alto.

        JONL went up to the counter and asked for ginger honey. The guy at the counter
        asked whether JONL would like to taste it first, evidently their standard
        procedure with that flavour, as not too many people like it.

        JONL said, "I'm sure I like it. Just give me a cone." The guy behind the counter
        insisted that JONL try just a taste first. "Some people think it tastes like
        soap."  JONL insisted, "Look, I *love* ginger. I eat Chinese food. I eat raw
        ginger roots. I already went through this hassle with the guy back in Palo Alto.
        I *know* I like that flavour!"

        At the words "back in Palo Alto" the guy behind the counter got a very strange
        look on his face, but said nothing. KBT caught his eye and winked.  Through my
        stupor I still hadn't quite grasped what was going on, and thought RPG was
        rolling on the floor laughing and clutching his stomach just because JONL had
        launched into his spiel ("makes rotten meat a dish for princes") for the
        forty-third time.  At this point, RPG clued me in fully.

        RPG, KBT, and I retreated to a table, trying to stifle our chuckles. JONL
        remained at the counter, talking about ice cream with the guy b.t.c., comparing
        Uncle Gaylord's to other ice cream shops and generally having a good old time.

        At length the g.b.t.c. said, "How's the ginger honey?"  JONL said, "Fine! I
        wonder what exactly is in it?"  Now Uncle Gaylord publishes all his recipes and
        even teaches classes on how to make his ice cream at home. So the g.b.t.c. got
        out the recipe, and he and JONL pored over it for a while. But the g.b.t.c.
        could contain his curiosity no longer, and asked again, "You really like that
        stuff, huh?" JONL said, "Yeah, I've been eating it constantly back in Palo Alto
        for the past two days. In fact, I think this batch is about as good as the cones
        I got back in Palo Alto!"

        G.b.t.c. looked him straight in the eye and said, "You're *in* Palo Alto!"

        JONL turned slowly around, and saw the three of us collapse in a fit of giggles.
        He clapped a hand to his forehead and exclaimed, "I've been hacked!"

sagan: /say'gn/ [from Carl Sagan's TV series "Cosmos"; think "billions and billions"] n. A
   large quantity of anything. "There's a sagan different ways to tweak EMACS."  "The U.S.
   Government spends sagans on bombs and welfare --- hard to say which is more destructive."

SAIL:: /sayl/, not /S-A-I-L/ n. 1. Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab. An important site in
   the early development of LISP; with the MIT AI Lab, BBN, CMU, and the UNIX community, one
   of the major wellsprings of technical innovation and hacker-culture traditions (see the
   {{WAITS}} entry for details). The SAIL machines were officially shut down in late May 1990,
   scant weeks after the MIT AI Lab's ITS cluster was officially decommissioned. 2. The
   Stanford Artificial Intelligence Language used at SAIL (sense 1).  It was an Algol-60
   derivative with a coroutining facility and some new data types intended for building search
   trees and association lists.

salescritter: /sayls'kri`tr/ n. Pejorative hackerism for a computer salesperson. Hackers tell
   the following joke:

     Q. What's the difference between a used-car dealer and a computer salesman?
     A. The used-car dealer knows he's lying.

   This reflects the widespread hacker belief that salescritters are self-selected for
   stupidity (after all, if they had brains and the inclination to use them, they'd be in
   programming). The terms `salesthing' and `salesdroid' are also common. Compare {marketroid},
   {suit}, {droid}.

salsman: /salz'm*n/ v. To flood a mailing list or newsgroup with huge amounts of useless,
   trivial or redundant information. From the name of a hacker who has frequently done this on
   some widely distributed mailing lists.

salt mines: n. Dense quarters housing large numbers of programmers working long hours on
   grungy projects, with some hope of seeing the end of the tunnel in N years. Noted for their
   absence of sunshine. Compare {playpen}, {sandbox}.

salt substrate: [MIT] n. Collective noun used to refer to potato chips, pretzels, saltines, or
   any other form of snack food designed primarily as a carrier for sodium chloride. From the
   technical term `chip substrate', used to refer to the silicon on the top of which the
   active parts of integrated circuits are deposited.

same-day service: n. Ironic term used to describe long response time, particularly with
   respect to {{MS-DOS}} system calls (which ought to require only a tiny fraction of a second
   to execute). Such response time is a major incentive for programmers to write programs that
   are not {well-behaved}.  See also {PC-ism}.

sandbender: [IBM] n. A person involved with silicon lithography and the physical design of
   chips.  Compare {ironmonger}, {polygon pusher}.

sandbox: n. (or `sandbox, the') Common term for the R&D department at many software and
   computer companies (where hackers in commercial environments are likely to be found).
   Half-derisive, but reflects the truth that research is a form of creative play. Compare

sanity check: n. 1. The act of checking a piece of code (or anything else, e.g., a USENET
   posting) for completely stupid mistakes. Implies that the check is to make sure the author
   was sane when it was written; e.g., if a piece of scientific software relied on a particular
   formula and was giving unexpected results, one might first look at the nesting of
   parentheses or the coding of the formula, as a {sanity check}, before looking at the more
   complex I/O or data structure manipulation routines, much less the algorithm itself. Compare
   {reality check}.  2. A run-time test, either validating input or ensuring that the program
   hasn't screwed up internally (producing an inconsistent value or state).

Saturday night special: [from police slang for a cheap handgun] n. A program or feature kluged
   together during off hours, under a deadline, and in response to pressure from a
   {salescritter}. Such hacks are dangerously unreliable, but all too often sneak into a
   production release after insufficient review.

say: vt. 1. To type to a terminal. "To list a directory verbosely, you have to say `ls -l'."
   Tends to imply a {newline}-terminated command (a `sentence'). 2. A computer may also be
   said to `say' things to you, even if it doesn't have a speech synthesizer, by displaying
   them on a terminal in response to your commands.  Hackers find it odd that this usage
   confuses {mundane}s.

science-fiction fandom:: n. Another voluntary subculture having a very heavy overlap with
   hackerdom; most hackers read SF and/or fantasy fiction avidly, and many go to `cons' (SF
   conventions) or are involved in fandom-connected activities such as the Society for Creative
   Anachronism. Some hacker jargon originated in SF fandom; see {defenestration}, {great-wall},
   {cyberpunk}, {h}, {ha ha only serious}, {IMHO}, {mundane}, {neep-neep}, {Real Soon Now}.
   Additionally, the jargon terms {cowboy}, {cyberspace}, {de-rezz}, {go flatline}, {ice},
   {virus}, {wetware}, {wirehead}, and {worm} originated in SF stories.

scram switch: [from the nuclear power industry] n. An emergency-power-off switch (see {Big Red
   Switch}), esp. one positioned to be easily hit by evacuating personnel. In general, this is
   *not* something you {frob} lightly; these often initiate expensive events (such as Halon
   dumps) and are installed in a {dinosaur pen} for use in case of electrical fire or in case
   some luckless {field servoid} should put 120 volts across himself while {Easter egging}.

scratch: 1. [from `scratchpad'] adj. Describes a data structure or recording medium attached
   to a machine for testing or temporary-use purposes; one that can be {scribble}d on without
   loss.  Usually in the combining forms `scratch memory', `scratch register', `scratch disk',
   `scratch tape', `scratch volume'. See {scratch monkey}. 2. [primarily IBM] vt. To delete
   (as in a file).

scratch monkey: n. As in "Before testing or reconfiguring, always mount a {scratch monkey}", a
   proverb used to advise caution when dealing with irreplaceable data or devices. Used to
   refer to any scratch volume hooked to a computer during any risky operation as a replacement
   for some precious resource or data that might otherwise get trashed.
   This term preserves the memory of Mabel, the Swimming Wonder Monkey, star of a biological
   research program at the University of Toronto ca. 1986.  Mabel was not (so the legend goes)
   your ordinary monkey; the university had spent years teaching her how to swim, breathing
   through a regulator, in order to study the effects of different gas mixtures on her
   physiology. Mabel suffered an untimely demise one day when DEC {PM}ed the PDP-11 controlling
   her regulator (see also {provocative maintainance}).
   It is recorded that, after calming down an understandably irate customer sufficiently to
   ascertain the facts of the matter, a DEC troubleshooter called up the {field circus} manager
   responsible and asked him sweetly, "Can you swim?"
   Not all the consequences to humans were so amusing; the sysop of the machine in question
   was nearly thrown in jail at the behest of certain clueless droids at the local `humane'
   society.  The moral is clear: When in doubt, always mount a scratch monkey.

screw: [MIT] n. A {lose}, usually in software.  Especially used for user-visible misbehavior
   caused by a bug or misfeature.  This use has become quite widespread outside MIT.

screwage: /skroo'*j/ n. Like {lossage} but connotes that the failure is due to a designed-in
   misfeature rather than a simple inadequacy or a mere bug.

scribble: n. To modify a data structure in a random and unintentionally destructive way.
   "Bletch! Somebody's disk-compactor program went berserk and scribbled on the i-node table."
   "It was working fine until one of the allocation routines scribbled on low core."
   Synonymous with {trash}; compare {mung}, which conveys a bit more intention, and {mangle},
   which is more violent and final.

scrog: /skrog/ [Bell Labs] vt. To damage, trash, or corrupt a data structure. "The list header
   got scrogged." Also reported  as `skrog', and ascribed to the comic strip "The Wizard of
   Id".  Equivalent to {scribble} or {mangle}.

scrool: /skrool/ [from the pioneering Roundtable chat system in Houston ca. 1984; prob.
   originated as a typo for `scroll'] n. The log of old messages, available for later perusal
   or to help one get back in synch with the conversation. It was originally called the `scrool
   monster', because an early version of the roundtable software had a bug where it would dump
   all 8K of scrool on a user's terminal.

scrozzle: /skroz'l/ vt. Used when a self-modifying code segment runs incorrectly and corrupts
   the running program or vital data.  "The damn compiler scrozzled itself again!"

SCSI: [Small Computer System Interface] n. A bus-independent standard for system-level
   interfacing between a computer and intelligent devices.  Typically annotated in literature
   with `sexy' (/sek'see/), `sissy' (/sis'ee/), and `scuzzy' (/skuh'zee/) as pronunciation
   guides --- the last being the overwhelmingly predominant form, much to the dismay of the
   designers and their marketing people.  One can usually assume that a person who pronounces
   it /S-C-S-I/ is clueless.

search-and-destroy mode: n. Hackerism for the search-and-replace facility in an editor, so
   called because an incautiously chosen match pattern can cause {infinite} damage.

second-system effect: n. (sometimes, more euphoniously, `second-system syndrome') When one is
   designing the successor to a relatively small, elegant, and successful system, there is a
   tendency to become grandiose in one's success and design an {elephantine} feature-laden
   monstrosity. The term was first used by Fred Brooks in his classic `The Mythical Man-Month:
   Essays on Software Engineering' (Addison-Wesley, 1975; ISBN 0-201-00650-2). It described the
   jump from a set of nice, simple operating systems on the IBM 70xx series to OS/360 on the
   360 series.  A similar effect can also happen in an evolving system; see {Brooks's Law},
   {creeping elegance}, {creeping featurism}.  See also {{Multics}}, {OS/2}, {X}, {software
   This version of the jargon lexicon has been described (with altogether too much truth for
   comfort) as an example of second-system effect run amok on jargon-1....

secondary damage: n. When a fatal error occurs (esp. a {segfault}) the immediate cause may be
   that a pointer has been trashed due to a previous {fandango on core}. However, this fandango
   may have been due to an *earlier* fandango, so no amount of analysis will reveal (directly)
   how the damage occurred. "The data structure was clobbered, but it was secondary damage."
   By extension, the corruption resulting from N cascaded fandangoes on core is `Nth-level
   damage'.  There is at least one case on record in which 17 hours of {grovel}ling with `adb'
   actually dug up the underlying bug behind an instance of seventh-level damage!  The hacker
   who accomplished this near-superhuman feat was presented with an award by his fellows.

security through obscurity: n. A name applied by hackers to most OS vendors' favourite way of
   coping with security holes --- namely, ignoring them and not documenting them and trusting
   that nobody will find out about them and that people who do find out about them won't
   exploit them. This never works for long and occasionally sets the world up for debacles like
   the {RTM} worm of 1988, but once the brief moments of panic created by such events subside
   most vendors are all too willing to turn over and go back to sleep. After all, actually
   fixing the bugs would siphon off the resources needed to implement the next user-interface
   frill on marketing's wish list --- and besides, if they started fixing security bugs
   customers might begin to *expect* it and imagine that their warranties of merchantability
   gave them some sort of *right* to a system with fewer holes in it than a shotgunned Swiss
   cheese,  and then where would we be?
   Historical note: It is claimed (with dissent from {{ITS}} fans who say they used to use
   `security through obscurity' in a positive sense) that this term was first used in the
   USENET newsgroup in comp.sys.apollo during a campaign to get HP/Apollo to fix security
   problems in its UNIX-{clone} Aegis/DomainOS.  They didn't change a thing.

SED: [TMRC, from `Light-Emitting Diode'] /S-E-D/ n. Smoke-emitting diode. A {friode} that lost
   the war. See {LER}.

segfault: n.,vi. Syn. {segment}, {seggie}.

seggie: /seg'ee/ [UNIX] n. Shorthand for {segmentation fault} reported from Britain.

segment: /seg'ment/ vi. To experience a {segmentation fault}. Confusingly, this is often
   pronounced more like the noun `segment' than like mainstream v. segment; this is because it
   is actually a noun shorthand that has been verbed.

segmentation fault: n. [UNIX] 1. An error in which a running program attempts to access memory
   not allocated to it and {core dump}s with a segmentation violation error. 2. To lose a train
   of thought or a line of reasoning. Also uttered as an exclamation at the point of

segv: /seg'vee/ n.,vi. Yet another synonym for {segmentation fault} (actually, in this case,
   `segmentation violation').

self-reference: n. See {self-reference}.

selvage: /sel'v*j/ [from sewing] n. See {chad} (sense 1).

semi: /se'mee/ or /se'mi:/ 1. n. Abbreviation for `semicolon', when speaking. "Commands to
   {grind} are prefixed by semi-semi-star" means that the prefix is `;;*', not 1/4 of a star.
   2. A prefix used with words such as `immediately' as a qualifier. "When is the system coming
   up?" "Semi-immediately." (That is, maybe not for an hour.) "We did consider that possibility
   semi-seriously."  See also {infinite}.

semi-infinite: n. See {infinite}.

senior bit: [IBM] n. Syn. {meta bit}.

server: n. A kind of {daemon} that performs a service for the requester and which often runs
   on a computer other than the one on which the server runs.  A particularly common term on
   the Internet, which is rife with `name servers', `domain servers', `news servers', `finger
   servers', and the like.

SEX: /seks/ [Sun Users' Group & elsewhere] n. 1. Software EXchange.  A technique invented by
   the blue-green algae hundreds of millions of years ago to speed up their evolution, which
   had been terribly slow up until then.  Today, SEX parties are popular among hackers and
   others (of course, these are no longer limited to exchanges of genetic software). In
   general, SEX parties are a {Good Thing}, but unprotected SEX can propagate a {virus}. See
   also {pubic directory}.  2. The rather Freudian mnemonic often used for Sign EXtend, a
   machine instruction found in the PDP-11 and many other architectures.
   DEC's engineers nearly got a PDP-11 assembler that used the `SEX' mnemonic out the door at
   one time, but (for once) marketing wasn't asleep and forced a change. That wasn't the last
   time this happened, either.  The author of `The Intel 8086 Primer', who was one of the
   original designers of the 8086, noted that there was originally a `SEX' instruction on that
   processor, too.  He says that Intel management got cold feet and decreed that it be changed,
   and thus the instruction was renamed `CBW' and `CWD' (depending on what was being extended).
   Amusingly, the Intel 8048 (the microcontroller used in IBM PC keyboards) is also missing
   straight `SEX' but has logical-or and logical-and instructions `ORL' and `ANL'.
   The Motorola 6809, used in the U.K.'s `Dragon 32' personal computer, actually had an
   official `SEX' instruction; the 6502 in the Apple II it competed with did not. British
   hackers thought this made perfect mythic sense; after all, it was commonly observed, you
   could have sex with a dragon, but you can't have sex with an apple.

sex changer: n. Syn. {gender mender}.

shareware: /sheir'weir/ n. {Freeware} (sense 1) for which the author requests some payment,
   usually in the accompanying documentation files or in an announcement made by the software
   itself.  Such payment may or may not buy additional support or functionality. See
   {guiltware}, {crippleware}.

shelfware: /shelfweir/ n. Software purchased on a whim (by an individual user) or in
   accordance with policy (by a corporation or government agency), but not actually required
   for any particular use. Therefore, it often ends up on some shelf.

shell: [orig. {{Multics}} techspeak, widely propagated via UNIX] n. 1. [techspeak] The command
   interpreter used to pass commands to an operating system; so called because it is the part
   of the operating system that interfaces with the outside world.  2. More generally, any
   interface program that mediates access to a special resource or {server} for convenience,
   efficiency, or security reasons; for this meaning, the usage is usually `a shell around'
   whatever. This sort of program is also called a `wrapper'.

shell out: [UNIX] n. To spawn an interactive {subshell} from within a program (e.g., a mailer
   or editor).  "Bang foo runs foo in a subshell, while bang alone shells out."

shift left (or right) logical: [from any of various machines' instruction sets] 1. vi. To move
   oneself to the left (right). To move out of the way.  2. imper. "Get out of that (my) seat!
   You can shift to that empty one to the left (right)."  Often used without the `logical', or
   as `left shift' instead of `shift left'.  Sometimes heard as LSH /lish/, from the {PDP-10}
   instruction set.  See {Programmer's Cheer}.

shitogram: /shit'oh-gram/ n. A *really* nasty piece of email. Compare {nastygram}, {flame}.

short card: n. A half-length IBM PC expansion card or adapter that will fit in one of the two
   short slots located towards the right rear of a standard chassis (tucked behind the floppy
   disk drives). See also {tall card}.

shotgun debugging: n. The software equivalent of {Easter egging}; the making of relatively
   undirected changes to software in the hope that a bug will be perturbed out of existence.
   This almost never works, and usually introduces more bugs.

showstopper: n. A hardware or (especially) software bug that makes an implementation
   effectively unusable; one that absolutely has to be fixed before development can go on.
   Opposite in connotation from its original theatrical use, which refers to something
   stunningly *good*.

shriek: n. See {excl}.  Occasional CMU usage, also in common use among APL fans and
   mathematicians, especially category theorists.

Shub-Internet: /shuhb in't*r-net/ [MUD: from H. P. Lovecraft's evil fictional deity
   `Shub-Niggurath', the Black Goat with a Thousand Young] n. The harsh personification of the
   Internet, Beast of a Thousand Processes, Eater of Characters, Avatar of Line Noise, and Imp
   of Call Waiting; the hideous multi-tendriled entity formed of all the manifold connections
   of the net. A sect of MUDders worships Shub-Internet, sacrificing objects and praying for
   good connections. To no avail --- its purpose is malign and evil, and is the cause of all
   network slowdown. Often heard as in "Freela casts a tac nuke at Shub-Internet for slowing
   her down." (A forged response often follows along the lines of: "Shub-Internet gulps down
   the tac nuke and burps happily.") Also cursed by users of {FTP} and {telnet} when the
   system slows down. The dread name of Shub-Internet is seldom spoken aloud, as it is said
   that repeating it three times will cause the being to wake, deep within its lair beneath
   the Pentagon.

sidecar: n. 1. Syn. {slap on the side}. Esp. used of add-ons for the late and unlamented IBM
   PCjr.  2. The IBM PC compatibility box that could be bolted onto the side of an Amiga.
   Designed and produced by Commodore, it broke all of the company's own rules. If it worked
   with any other peripherals, it was by {magic}.

sig block: /sig blok/ [UNIX: often written `.sig' there] n. Short for `signature', used
   specifically to refer to the electronic signature block that most UNIX mail- and
   news-posting software will {automagically} append to outgoing mail and news. The composition
   of one's sig can be quite an art form, including an ASCII logo or one's choice of witty
   sayings (see {sig quote}, {fool file}); but many consider large sigs a waste of {bandwidth},
   and it has been observed that the size of one's sig block is usually inversely proportional
   to one's longevity and level of prestige on the net.

sig quote: /sig kwoht/ [USENET] n. A maxim, quote, proverb, joke, or slogan embedded in one's
   {sig block} and intended to convey something of one's philosophical stance, pet peeves, or
   sense of humour. "Calm down, it's only ones and zeroes."

signal-to-noise ratio: [from analog electronics] n. Used by hackers in a generalization of its
   technical meaning.  `Signal' refers to useful information conveyed by some communications
   medium, and `noise' to anything else on that medium.  Hence a low ratio implies that it is
   not worth paying attention to the medium in question. Figures for such metaphorical ratios
   are never given. The term is most often applied to {USENET} newsgroups during {flame war}s.
   Compare {bandwidth}.  See also {coefficient of X}, {lost in the noise}.

silicon: n. Hardware, esp. ICs or microprocessor-based computer systems (compare {iron}).
   Contrasted with software.  See also {sandbender}.

silicon foundry: n. A company that {fab}s chips to the designs of others. As of the late 1980s,
   the combination of silicon foundries and good computer-aided design software made it much
   easier for hardware-designing startup companies to come into being. The downside of using a
   silicon foundry is that the distance from the actual chip-fabrication processes reduces
   designers' control of detail. This is somewhat analogous to the use of {HLL}s versus coding
   in assembler.

silly walk: [from Monty Python's Flying Circus] vi. 1. A ridiculous procedure required to
   accomplish a task.  Like {grovel}, but more {random} and humorous.  "I had to silly-walk
   through half the /usr directories to find the maps file."  2. Syn. {fandango on core}.

silo: n. The FIFO input-character buffer in an RS-232 line card. So called from DEC terminology
   used on DH and DZ line cards for the VAX and PDP-11, presumably because it was a storage
   space for fungible stuff that you put in the top and took out the bottom.

Silver Book: n. Jensen and Wirth's infamous `Pascal User Manual and Report', so called because
   of the silver cover of the widely distributed Springer-Verlag second edition of 1978 (ISBN
   0-387-90144-2).  See {{book titles}}, {Pascal}.

since time T equals minus infinity: adj. A long time ago; for as long as anyone can remember;
   at the time that some particular frob was first designed.  Usually the word `time' is
  omitted.  See also {time T}.

sitename: /si:t'naym/ [UNIX/Internet] n. The unique electronic name of a computer system, used
   to identify it in UUCP mail, USENET, or other forms of electronic information interchange.
   The folklore interest of sitenames stems from the creativity and humour they often display.
   Interpreting a sitename is not unlike interpreting a vanity license plate; one has to
   mentally unpack it, allowing for mono-case and length restrictions and the lack of
   whitespace.  Hacker tradition deprecates dull, institutional-sounding names in favour of
   punchy, humourous, and clever coinages (except that it is considered appropriate for the
   official public gateway machine of an organization to bear the organization's name or
   acronym). Mythological references, cartoon characters, animal names, and allusions to SF or
   fantasy literature are probably the most popular sources for sitenames (in roughly
   descending order).  The obligatory comment when discussing these is Harris's Lament: "All
   the good ones are taken!"  See also {network address}.

skrog: v. Syn. {scrog}.

skulker: n. Syn. {prowler}.

slap on the side: n. (also called a {sidecar}, or abbreviated `SOTS'.)  A type of external
   expansion hardware marketed by computer manufacturers (e.g., Commodore for the Amiga
   500/1000 series and IBM for the hideous failure called `PCjr'). Various SOTS boxes provided
   necessities such as memory, hard drive controllers, and conventional expansion slots.

slash: n. Common name for the slant (`/', ASCII 0101111) character. See {ASCII} for other

sleep: vi. 1. [techspeak] On a timesharing system, a process that relinquishes its claim on
   the scheduler until some given event occurs or a specified time delay elapses is said to
   `go to sleep'.  2. In jargon, used very similarly to v. {block}; also in `sleep on', syn.
   with `block on'.  Often used to indicate that the speaker has relinquished a demand for
   resources until some (possibly unspecified) external event: "They can't get the fix I've
   been asking for into the next release, so I'm going to sleep on it until the release, then
   start hassling them again."

slim: n. A small, derivative change (e.g., to code).

slop: n. 1. A one-sided {fudge factor}, that is, an allowance for error but in only one of two
   directions.  For example, if you need a piece of wire 10 feet long and have to guess when
   you cut it, you make very sure to cut it too long, by a large amount if necessary, rather
   than too short by even a little bit, because you can always cut off the slop but you can't
   paste it back on again. When discrete quantities are involved, slop is often introduced to
   avoid the possibility of being on the losing side of a {fencepost error}. 2. The percentage
   of `extra' code generated by a compiler over the size of equivalent assembler code produced
   by {hand-hacking}; i.e., the space (or maybe time) you lose because you didn't do it
   yourself.  This number is often used as a measure of the goodness of a compiler; slop below
   5% is very good, and 10% is usually acceptable.  With modern compiler technology, esp. on
   RISC machines, the compiler's slop may actually be *negative*; that is, humans may be unable
   to generate code as good.  This is one of the reasons assembler programming is no longer

slopsucker: /slop'suhk-r/ n. A lowest-priority task that must wait around until everything else
   has `had its fill' of machine resources. Only when the machine would otherwise be idle is
   the task allowed to `suck up the slop'. Also called a {hungry puppy}. One common variety of
   slopsucker hunts for large prime numbers.  Compare {background}.

slurp: vt. To read a large data file entirely into {core} before working on it. This may be
   contrasted with the strategy of reading a small piece at a time, processing it, and then
   reading the next piece. "This program slurps in a 1K-by-1K matrix and does an FFT." See
   also {sponge}.

smart: adj. Said of a program that does the {Right Thing} in a wide variety of complicated
   circumstances.  There is a difference between calling a program smart and calling it
   intelligent; in particular, there do not exist any intelligent programs (yet --- see
   {AI-complete}).  Compare {robust} (smart programs can be {brittle}).

smart terminal: n. A terminal that has enough computing capability to render graphics or to
   offload some kind of front-end processing from the computer it talks to. The development of
   workstations and personal computers has made this term and the product it describes
   semi-obsolescent, but one may still hear variants of the phrase `act like a smart terminal'
   used to describe the behavior of workstations or PCs with respect to programs that execute
   almost entirely out of a remote {server}'s storage, using said devices as displays.
   Compare {glass tty}.
   There is a classic quote from Rob Pike (inventor of the {blit} terminal): "A smart terminal
   is not a smart*ass* terminal, but rather a terminal you can educate."  This illustrates a
   common design problem: The attempt to make peripherals (or anything else) intelligent
   sometimes results in finicky, rigid `special features' that become just so much dead weight
   if you try to use the device in any way the designer didn't anticipate.  Flexibility and
   programmability, on the other hand, are *really* smart. Compare {hook}.

smash case: vi. To lose or obliterate the uppercase/lowercase distinction in text input.
   "MS-DOS will automatically smash case in the names of all the files you create."
   Compare {fold case}.

smash the stack: [C programming] n. On many C implementations it is possible to corrupt the
   execution stack by writing past the end of an array declared `auto' in a routine. Code that
   does this is said to `smash the stack', and can cause return from the routine to jump to a
   random address. This can produce some of the most insidious data-dependent bugs known to
   mankind.  Variants include `trash' the stack, {scribble} the stack, {mangle} the stack; the
   term *{mung} the stack is not used, as this is never done intentionally.  See {spam}; see
   also {aliasing bug}, {fandango on core}, {memory leak}, {precedence lossage}, {overrun

smiley: n. See {emoticon}.

smoke test: n. 1. A rudimentary form of testing applied to electronic equipment following
   repair or reconfiguration, in which power is applied and the tester checks for sparks,
   smoke, or other dramatic signs of fundamental failure.  See {magic smoke}. 2. By extension,
   the first run of a piece of software after construction or a critical change.  See and
   compare {reality check}.
   There is an interesting semi-parallel to this term among typographers and printers: When
   new typefaces are being punch-cut by hand, a `smoke test' (hold the letter in candle smoke,
   then press it onto paper) is used to check out new dies.

smoking clover: [ITS] n. A {display hack} originally due to Bill Gosper. Many convergent lines
   are drawn on a color monitor in {AOS} mode (so that every pixel struck has its colour
   incremented). The lines all have one endpoint in the middle of the screen; the other
   endpoints are spaced one pixel apart around the perimeter of a large square. The colour map
   is then repeatedly rotated. This results in a striking, rainbow-hued, shimmering four-leaf
   clover. Gosper joked about keeping it hidden from the FDA (the U.S.'s Food and Drug
   Administration) lest its hallucinogenic properties cause it to be banned.

SMOP: /S-M-O-P/ [Simple (or Small) Matter of Programming] n. 1. A piece of code, not yet
   written, whose anticipated length is significantly greater than its complexity. Used to
   refer to a program that could obviously be written, but is not worth the trouble. Also used
   ironically to imply that a difficult problem can be easily solved because a program can be
   written to do it; the irony is that it is very clear that writing such a program will be a
   great deal of work. "It's easy to enhance a FORTRAN compiler to compile COBOL as well; it's
   just a SMOP."  2. Often used ironically by the intended victim when a suggestion for a
   program is made which seems easy to the suggester, but is obviously (to the victim) a lot
   of work.

SNAFU principle: /sna'foo prin'si-pl/ [from WWII Army acronym for `Situation Normal, All Fouled
   Up'] n. "True communication is possible only between equals, because inferiors are more
   consistently rewarded for telling their superiors pleasant lies than for telling the truth."
   --- a central tenet of {Discordianism}, often invoked by hackers to explain why
   authoritarian hierarchies screw up so reliably and systematically. The effect of the SNAFU
   principle is a progressive disconnection of decision-makers from reality.  This lightly
   adapted version of a fable dating back to the early 1960s illustrates the phenomenon

     In the beginning was the plan,
            and then the specification;
     And the plan was without form,
            and the specification was void.

     And darkness
            was on the faces of the implementors thereof;
     And they spake unto their leader,
     "It is a crock of shit,
            and smells as of a sewer."

     And the leader took pity on them,
            and spoke to the project leader:
     "It is a crock of excrement,
            and none may abide the odour thereof."

     And the project leader
            spake unto his section head, saying:
     "It is a container of excrement,
            and it is very strong, such that none may abide it."

     The section head then hurried to his department manager,
            and informed him thus:
     "It is a vessel of fertilizer,
            and none may abide its strength."

     The department manager carried these words
           to his general manager,
     and spoke unto him saying:
     "It containeth that which aideth the growth of plants,
           and it is very strong."

     And so it was that the general manager rejoiced
           and delivered the good news unto the Vice President.
     "It promoteth growth,
           and it is very powerful."

     The Vice President rushed to the President's side,
           and joyously exclaimed:
     "This powerful new software product
           will promote the growth of the company!"

     And the President looked upon the product,
           and saw that it was very good.

   After the subsequent disaster, the {suit}s protect themselves by saying "I was
   misinformed!", and the implementors are demoted or fired.

snail: vt. To {snail-mail} something. "Snail me a copy of those graphics, will you?"

snail-mail: n. Paper mail, as opposed to electronic. Sometimes written as the single word
   `SnailMail'. One's postal address is, correspondingly, a `snail address'. Derives from
   earlier coinage `USnail' (from `U.S. Mail'), for which there have been parody posters and
   stamps made.  Oppose {email}.

snap: v. To replace a pointer to a pointer with a direct pointer; to replace an old address
   with the forwarding address found there. If you telephone the main number for an institution
   and ask for a particular person by name, the operator may tell you that person's extension
   before connecting you, in the hopes that you will `snap your pointer' and dial direct next
   time. The underlying metaphor may be that of a rubber band stretched through a number of
   intermediate points; if you remove all the thumbtacks in the middle, it snaps into a
   straight line from first to last. See {chase pointers}.
   Often, the behavior of a {trampoline} is to perform an error check once and then snap the
   pointer that invoked it so as henceforth to bypass the trampoline (and its one-shot error
   check). In this context one also speaks of `snapping links'. For example, in a Lisp
   implementation, a function interface trampoline might check to make sure that the caller is
   passing the correct number of arguments; if it is, and if the caller and the callee are both
   compiled, then snapping the link allows that particular path to use a direct procedure-call
   instruction with no further overhead.

snarf: /snarf/ vt. 1. To grab, esp. to grab a large document or file for the purpose of using
   it with or without the author's permission.  See also {BLT}.  2. [in the UNIX community] To
   fetch a file or set of files across a network. See also {blast}. This term was mainstream
   in the late 1960s, meaning `to eat piggishly'. It may still have this connotation in
   context. "He's in the snarfing phase of hacking --- {FTP}ing megs of stuff a day." 3. To
   acquire, with little concern for legal forms or politesse (but not quite by stealing).
   "They were giving away samples, so I snarfed a bunch of them."  4. Syn. for {slurp}. "This
   program starts by snarfing the entire database into core, then...."

snarf & barf: /snarf'n-barf`/ n. Under a {WIMP environment}, the act of grabbing a region of
   text and then stuffing the contents of that region into another region (or the same one) to
   avoid retyping a command line.  In the late 1960s, this was a mainstream expression for an
   `eat now, regret it later' cheap-restaurant expedition.

snarf down: v. To {snarf}, with the connotation of absorbing, processing, or understanding.
   "I'll snarf down the latest version of the {nethack} user's guide --- It's been a while
   since I played last and I don't know what's changed recently."

snark: [Lewis Carroll, via the Michigan Terminal System] n. 1. A system failure. When a user's
   process bombed, the operator would get the message "Help, Help, Snark in MTS!"  2. More
   generally, any kind of unexplained or threatening event on a computer (especially if it
   might be a boojum). Often used to refer to an event or a log file entry that might indicate
   an attempted security violation.  See {snivitz}.  3. UUCP name of, home
   site of the Jargon File 2.*.* versions (i.e., this lexicon).

sneakernet: /snee'ker-net/ n. Term used (generally with ironic intent) for transfer of
   electronic information by physically carrying tape, disks, or some other media from one
   machine to another. "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon filled with
   magtape, or a 747 filled with CD-ROMs." Also called `Tennis-Net', `Armpit-Net',

sniff: v.,n. Synonym for {poll}.

snivitz: /sniv'itz/ n. A hiccup in hardware or software; a small, transient problem of unknown
   origin (less serious than a {snark}).  Compare {glitch}.

SO: /S-O/ n. 1. (also `S.O.') Abbrev. for Significant Other, almost invariably written
   abbreviated and pronounced /S-O/ by hackers. Used to refer to one's primary relationship,
   esp. a live-in to whom one is not married. See {MOTAS}, {MOTOS}, {MOTSS}.  2. The Shift Out
   control character in ASCII (Control-N, 0001110).

social science number: [IBM] n. A statistic that is {content-free}, or nearly so. A measure
   derived via methods of questionable validity from data of a dubious and vague nature.
   Predictively, having a social science number in hand is seldom much better than nothing,
   and can be considerably worse. {Management} loves them.  See also {numbers}, {math-out},
   {pretty pictures}.

soft boot: n. See {boot}.

softcopy: /soft'ko-pee/ n. [by analogy with `hardcopy'] A machine-readable form of
   corresponding hardcopy.  See {bits}, {machinable}.

software bloat: n. The results of {second-system effect} or {creeping featuritis}. Commonly
   cited examples include `ls(1)', {X}, {BSD}, {Missed'em-five}, and {OS/2}.

software rot: n. Term used to describe the tendency of software that has not been used in a
   while to {lose}; such failure may be semi-humorously ascribed to {bit rot}. More commonly,
   `software rot' strikes when a program's assumptions become out of date.  If the design was
   insufficiently {robust}, this may cause it to fail in mysterious ways.
   For example, owing to endemic shortsightedness in the design of COBOL programs, most will
   succumb to software rot when their 2-digit year counters {wrap around} at the beginning of
   the year 2000.  Actually, related lossages often afflict centenarians who have to deal with
   computer software designed by unimaginative clods.  One such incident became the focus of a
   minor public flap in 1990, when a gentleman born in 1889 applied for a driver's license
   renewal in Raleigh, North Carolina. The new system refused to issue the card, probably
   because with 2-digit years the ages 101 and 1 cannot be distinguished.
   Historical note: Software rot in an even funnier sense than the mythical one was a real
   problem on early research computers (e.g., the R1; see {grind crank}).  If a program that
   depended on a peculiar instruction hadn't been run in quite a while, the user might discover
   that the opcodes no longer did the same things they once did. ("Hey, so-and-so needs an
   instruction to do such-and-such. We can {snarf} this opcode, right?  No one uses it.")
   Another classic example of this sprang from the time an MIT hacker found a simple way to
   double the speed of the unconditional jump instruction on a PDP-6, so he patched the
   hardware. Unfortunately, this broke some fragile timing software in a music-playing program,
   throwing its output out of tune. This was fixed by adding a defensive initialization routine
   to compare the speed of a timing loop with the real-time clock; in other words, it figured
   out how fast the PDP-6 was that day, and corrected appropriately. Compare {bit rot}.

softwarily: /soft-weir'i-lee/ adv. In a way pertaining to software. "The system is softwarily
   unreliable."  The adjective `softwary' is *not* used.  See {hardwarily}.

softy: [IBM] n. Hardware hackers' term for a software expert who is largely ignorant of the
   mysteries of hardware.

some random X: adj. Used to indicate a member of class X, with the implication that Xs are
   interchangeable.  "I think some random cracker tripped over the guest timeout last night."
   See also {J. Random}.

sorcerer's apprentice mode: [from the film "Fantasia"] n. A bug in a protocol where, under
   some circumstances, the receipt of a message causes multiple messages to be sent, each of
   which, when received, triggers the same bug.  Used esp. of such behavior caused by {bounce
   message} loops in {email} software.  Compare {broadcast storm}, {network meltdown}.

SOS: n.,obs. /S-O-S/ 1. An infamously {losing} text editor. Once, back in the 1960s, when a
   text editor was needed for the PDP-6, a hacker crufted together a {quick-and-dirty} `stopgap
   editor' to be used until a better one was written.  Unfortunately, the old one was never
   really discarded when new ones (in particular, {TECO}) came along.  SOS is a descendant
   (`Son of Stopgap') of that editor, and many PDP-10 users gained the dubious pleasure of its
   acquaintance.  Since then other programs similar in style to SOS have been written, notably
   the early font editor BILOS /bye'lohs/, the Brother-In-Law Of Stopgap (the alternate
   expansion `Bastard Issue, Loins of Stopgap' has been proposed).  2. /sos/ n. To decrease;
   inverse of {AOS}, from the PDP-10 instruction set.

source of all good bits: n. A person from whom (or a place from which) useful information may
   be obtained.  If you need to know about a program, a {guru} might be the source of all good
   bits. The title is often applied to a particularly competent secretary.

space-cadet keyboard: n. The Knight keyboard, a now-legendary device used on MIT LISP machines,
   which inspired several still-current jargon terms and influenced the design of {EMACS}. It
   was inspired by the Stanford keyboard and equipped with no fewer than *seven* shift keys:
   four keys for {bucky bits} (`control', `meta', `hyper', and `super') and three like regular
   shift keys, called `shift', `top', and `front'.  Many keys had three symbols on them: a
   letter and a symbol on the top, and a Greek letter on the front.  For example, the `L' key
   had an `L' and a two-way arrow on the top, and the Greek letter lambda on the front. If you
   press this key with the right hand while playing an appropriate `chord' with the left hand
   on the shift keys, you can get the following results:


          lowercase l


          uppercase L


          lowercase lambda


          uppercase lambda


          two-way arrow (front and shift are ignored)

   And of course each of these might also be typed with any combination of the control, meta,
   hyper, and super keys.  On this keyboard, you could type over 8000 different characters!
   This allowed the user to type very complicated mathematical text, and also to have thousands
   of single-character commands at his disposal. Many hackers were actually willing to memorize
   the command meanings of that many characters if it reduced typing time (this attitude
   obviously shaped the interface of EMACS). Other hackers, however, thought having that many
   bucky bits was overkill, and objected that such a keyboard can require three or four hands
   to operate.  See {bucky bits}, {cokebottle}, {double bucky}, {meta bit}, {quadruple bucky}.

SPACEWAR: n. A space-combat simulation game, inspired by E. E. "Doc" Smith's "Lensman" books,
   in which two spaceships duel around a central sun, shooting torpedoes at each other and
   jumping through hyperspace.  This game was first implemented on the PDP-1 at MIT in
   1960--61.  SPACEWAR aficionados formed the core of the early hacker culture at MIT. Nine
   years later, a descendant of the game motivated Ken Thompson to build, in his spare time on
   a scavenged PDP-7, the operating system that became {{UNIX}}.  Less than 9 years after that,
   SPACEWAR was commercialized as one of the first video games; descendants are still {feep}ing
  in video arcades everywhere.

spaghetti code: n. Code with a complex and tangled control structure, esp. one using many
   GOTOs, exceptions, or other `unstructured' branching constructs.  Pejorative.  The synonym
   `kangaroo code' has been reported, doubtless because such code has many jumps in it.

spaghetti inheritance: n. [encountered among users of object-oriented languages that use
   inheritance, such as Smalltalk] A convoluted class-subclass graph, often resulting from
   carelessly deriving subclasses from other classes just for the sake of reusing their code.
   Coined in a (successful) attempt to discourage such practice, through guilt-by-association
   with {spaghetti code}.

spam: [from the {MUD} community] vt. To crash a program by overrunning a fixed-size buffer with
   excessively large input data. See also {buffer overflow}, {overrun screw}, {smash the stack}

special-case: vt. To write unique code to handle input to or situations arising in program that
   are somehow distinguished from normal processing.  This would be used for processing of mode
   switches or interrupt characters in an interactive interface (as opposed, say, to text entry
   or normal commands), or for processing of {hidden flag}s in the input of a batch program or

speedometer: n. A pattern of lights displayed on a linear set of LEDs (today) or nixie tubes
   (yesterday, on ancient mainframes). The pattern is shifted left every N times the software
   goes through its main loop.  A swiftly moving pattern indicates that the system is mostly
   idle; the speedometer slows down as the system becomes overloaded.  The speedometer on Sun
   Microsystems hardware bounces back and forth like the eyes on one of the Cylons from the
   wretched "Battlestar Galactica" TV series.
   Historical note: One computer, the Honeywell 6000 (later GE 600) actually had an *analog*
   speedometer on the front panel, calibrated in instructions executed per second.

spell: n. Syn. {incantation}.

spiffy: /spi'fee/ adj. 1. Said of programs having a pretty, clever, or exceptionally
   well-designed interface. "Have you seen the spiffy {X} version of {empire} yet?"
   2. Said sarcastically of a program that is perceived to have little more than a flashy
   interface going for it.  Which meaning should be drawn depends delicately on tone of voice
   and context. This word was common mainstream slang during the 1940s, in a sense close to #1.

spin: vi. Equivalent to {buzz}.  More common among C and UNIX programmers.

spl: /S-P-L/ [abbrev, from Set Priority Level] The way traditional UNIX kernels implement
   mutual exclusion by running code at high interrupt levels.  Used in jargon to describe the
   act of tuning in or tuning out ordinary communication.  Classically, spl levels run from 1
   to 7; "Fred's at spl 6 today." would mean that he is very hard to interrupt.  "Wait till I
   finish this; I'll spl down then."  See also {interrupts locked out}.

splat: n. 1. Name used in many places (DEC, IBM, and others) for the asterisk (`*') character
   (ASCII 0101010). This may derive from the `squashed-bug' appearance of the asterisk on many
   early line printers. 2. [MIT] Name used by some people for the `#' character
   (ASCII 0100011).  3. [Rochester Institute of Technology] The {command key} on a Mac (same
   as {ALT}, sense 2).  4. [Stanford] Name used by some people for the Stanford/ITS extended
   ASCII circle-x character.  This character is also called `blobby' and `frob', among other
   names; it is sometimes used by mathematicians as a notation for `tensor product'.  5.
   [Stanford] Name for the semi-mythical extended ASCII circle-plus character.  6. Canonical
   name for an output routine that outputs whatever the local interpretation of `splat' is.
   With ITS and WAITS gone, senses 4--6 are now nearly obsolete.  See also {{ASCII}}.

sponge: [UNIX] n. A special case of a {filter} that reads its entire input before writing any
   output; the canonical example is a sort utility.  Unlike most filters, a sponge can
   conveniently overwrite the input file with the output data stream.  If your file system has
   versioning (as ITS did and VMS does now) the sponge/filter distinction loses its usefulness,
   because directing filter output would just write a new version.  See also {slurp}.

spooge: /spooj/ 1. n. Inexplicable or arcane code, or random and probably incorrect output
   from a computer program.  2. vi. To generate spooge (sense 1).

spool: [from early IBM `Simultaneous Peripheral Operation Off-Line', but this acronym is
   widely thought to have been contrived for effect] vt. To send files to some device or
   program (a `spooler') that queues them up and does something useful with them later. The
   spooler usually understood is the `print spooler' controlling output of jobs to a printer,
   but the term has been used in connection with other peripherals (especially plotters and
   graphics devices).  See also {demon}.

stack: n. A person's stack is the set of things he or she has to do in the future. One speaks
   of the next project to be attacked as having risen to the top of the stack. "I'm afraid I've
   got real work to do, so this'll have to be pushed way down on my stack." "I haven't done it
   yet because every time I pop my stack something new gets pushed."  If you are interrupted
   several times in the middle of a conversation, "My stack overflowed" means "I forget what we
   were talking about."  The implication is that more items were pushed onto the stack than
   could be remembered, so the least recent items were lost.  The usual physical example of a
   stack is to be found in a cafeteria: a pile of plates or trays sitting on a spring in a
   well, so that when you put one on the top they all sink down, and when you take one off the
   top the rest spring up a bit.  See also {push} and {pop}.
   At MIT, {pdl} used to be a more common synonym for {stack} in all these contexts, and this
   may still be true. Everywhere else {stack} seems to be the preferred term. {Knuth} (`The Art
   of Computer Programming', second edition, vol. 1, p. 236) says:

        Many people who realized the importance of stacks and queues independently have
        given other names to these structures: stacks have been called push-down lists,
        reversion storages, cellars, nesting stores, piles, last-in-first-out ("LIFO")
        lists, and even yo-yo lists!

stack puke: n. Some processor architectures are said to `puke their guts onto the stack' to
   save their internal state during exception processing.  The Motorola 68020, for example,
   regurgitates up to 92 bytes on a bus fault.  On a pipelined machine, this can take a while.

stale pointer bug: n. Synonym for {aliasing bug} used esp. among microcomputer hackers.

state: n. 1. Condition, situation. "What's the state of your latest hack?" "It's winning away."
   "The system tried to read and write the disk simultaneously and got into a totally wedged
   state."  The standard question "What's your state?"  means "What are you doing?" or "What
   are you about to do?"  Typical answers are "about to gronk out", or "hungry". Another
   standard question is "What's the state of the world?", meaning "What's new?" or "What's
   going on?".  The more terse and humourous way of asking these questions would be "State-p?".
   Another way of phrasing the first question under sense 1 would be "state-p latest hack?".
   2. Information being maintained in non-permanent memory (electronic or human).

steam-powered: adj. Old-fashioned or underpowered; archaic. This term does not have a strong
   negative loading and may even be used semi-affectionately for something that clanks and
   wheezes a lot but hangs in there doing the job.

stiffy: [University of Lowell,  Massachusetts.] n. 3.5-inch {microfloppies}, so called because
   their jackets are more firm than those of the 5.25-inch and the 8-inch floppy. Elsewhere
   this might be called a `firmy'.

stir-fried random: alt. `stir-fried mumble' n. Term used for the  best dish of many of those
   hackers who can cook.  Consists of random fresh veggies and meat wokked with random spices.
   Tasty and economical.  See {random}, {great-wall}, {ravs}, {{laser chicken}}, {{oriental
   food}}; see also {mumble}.

stomp on: vt. To inadvertently overwrite something important, usually automatically. "All the
   work I did this weekend got stomped on last night by the nightly server script."  Compare
   {scribble}, {mangle}, {trash}, {scrog}, {roach}.

Stone Age: n., adj. 1. In computer folklore, an ill-defined period from ENIAC (ca. 1943) to
   the mid-1950s; the great age of electromechanical {dinosaur}s. Sometimes used for the entire
   period up to 1960--61 (see {Iron Age}); however, it is funnier and more descriptive to
   characterize the latter period in terms of a `Bronze Age' era of transistor-logic,
   pre-ferrite-{core} machines with drum or CRT mass storage (as opposed to just mercury delay
   lines and/or relays). See also {Iron Age}. 2. More generally, a pejorative for any crufty,
   ancient piece of hardware or software technology.  Note that this is used even by people
   who were there for the {Stone Age} (sense 1).

stoppage: /sto'p*j/ n. Extreme {lossage} that renders something (usually something vital)
   completely unusable.  "The recent system stoppage was caused by a {fried} transformer."

store: [prob. from techspeak `main store'] n. Preferred Commonwealth synonym for {core}. Thus,
   `bringing a program into store' means not that one is returning shrink-wrapped software but
   that a program is being {swap}ped in.

stroke: n. Common name for the slant (`/', ASCII 0101111) character. See {ASCII} for other

strudel: n. Common (spoken) name for the circumflex (`', ASCII 1000000) character. See {ASCII}
   for other synonyms.

stubroutine: /stuhb'roo-teen/ [contraction of `stub routine'] n. Tiny, often vacuous
   placeholder for a subroutine that is to be written or fleshed out later.

studlycaps: /stuhd'lee-kaps/ n. A hackish form of silliness similar to {BiCapitalization} for
   trademarks, but applied randomly and to arbitrary text rather than to trademarks. ThE oRigiN
   and SigNificaNce of thIs pRacTicE iS oBscuRe.

stunning: adj. Mind-bogglingly stupid.  Usually used in sarcasm. "You want to code *what* in
   ADA?  That's ... a stunning idea!"

stupid-sort: n. Syn. {bogo-sort}.

subshell: /suhb'shel/ [UNIX, MS-DOS] n. An OS command interpreter (see {shell}) spawned from
   within a program, such that exit from the command interpreter returns one to the parent
   program in a state that allows it to continue execution. Compare {shell out}; oppose {chain}

sucking mud: [Applied Data Research] adj. (also `pumping mud') Crashed or wedged. Usually said
   of a machine that provides some service to a network, such as a file server.  This Dallas
   regionalism derives from the East Texas oilfield lament, "Shut 'er down, Ma, she's a-suckin'
   mud". Often used as a query. "We are going to reconfigure the network, are you ready to suck

sufficiently small: adj. Syn. {suitably small}.

suit: n. 1. Ugly and uncomfortable `business clothing' often worn by non-hackers. Invariably
   worn with a `tie', a strangulation device that partially cuts off the blood supply to the
   brain. It is thought that this explains much about the behavior of suit-wearers.  Compare
   {droid}.  2. A person who habitually wears suits, as distinct from a techie or hacker. See
   {loser}, {burble}, {management}, and {brain-damaged}.  English, by the way, is relatively
   kind; our Soviet correspondent informs us that the corresponding idiom in Russian hacker
   jargon is `sovok', lit. a tool for grabbing garbage.

suitable win: n. See {win}.

suitably small: [perverted from mathematical jargon] adj. An expression used ironically to
   characterize unquantifiable behavior that differs from expected or required behavior. For
   example, suppose a newly created program came up with a correct full-screen display, and
   one publicly exclaimed: "It works!" Then, if the program dumps core on the first mouse
   click, one might add: "Well, for suitably small values of `works'." Compare the
   characterization of pi under {{random numbers}}.

sun-stools: n. Unflattering hackerism for SunTools, a pre-X windowing environment notorious in
   its day for size, slowness, and misfeatures.  {X}, however, is larger and slower; see
   {second-system effect}.

sunspots: n. 1. Notional cause of an odd error.  "Why did the program suddenly turn the screen
   blue?" "Sunspots, I guess."  2. Also the cause of {bit rot} --- from the myth that sunspots
   will increase {cosmic rays}, which can flip single bits in memory.  See {cosmic rays},
   {phase of the moon}.

superprogrammer: n. A prolific programmer; one who can code exceedingly well and quickly. Not
   all hackers are superprogrammers, but many are. (Productivity can vary from one programmer
   to another by three orders of magnitude. For example, one programmer might be able to write
   an average of 3 lines of working code in one day, while another, with the proper tools,
   might be able to write 3,000. This range is astonishing; it is matched in very few other
   areas of human endeavor.) The term `superprogrammer' is more commonly used within such
   places as IBM than in the hacker community.  It tends to stress na"ive measures of
   productivity and to underweight creativity, ingenuity, and getting the job *done* --- and
   to sidestep the question of whether the 3,000 lines of code do more or less useful work
   than three lines that do the {Right Thing}.  Hackers tend to prefer the terms {hacker} and

superuser: [UNIX] n. Syn. {root}, {avatar}.  This usage has spread to non-UNIX environments;
   the superuser is any account with all {wheel} bits on.  A more specific term than {wheel}.

support: n. After-sale handholding; something many software vendors promise but few deliver.
   To hackers, most support people are useless --- because by the time a hacker calls support
   he or she will usually know the relevant manuals better than the support people (sadly, this
   is *not* a joke or exaggeration). A hacker's idea of `support' is a t^ete-`a-t^ete with the
   software's designer.

Suzie COBOL: /soo'zee koh'bol/ 1. [IBM: prob. from Frank Zappa's `Suzy Creamcheese'] n. A coder
   straight out of training school who knows everything except the value of comments in plain
   English. Also (fashionable among personkind wishing to avoid accusations of sexism) `Sammy
   Cobol' or (in some non-IBM circles) `Cobol Charlie'. 2. [proposed] Meta-name for any {code
   grinder}, analogous to {J. Random Hacker}.

swab: /swob/ [From the mnemonic for the PDP-11 `SWAp Byte' instruction, as immortalized in the
   `dd(1)' option `conv=swab' (see {dd})] 1. vt. To solve the {NUXI problem} by swapping bytes
   in a file.  2. n. The program in V7 UNIX used to perform this action, or anything
   functionally equivalent to it.  See also {big-endian}, {little-endian}, {middle-endian},

swap: vt. 1. [techspeak] To move information from a fast-access memory to a slow-access memory
   (`swap out'), or vice versa (`swap in').  Often refers specifically to the use of disks as
   `virtual memory'.  As pieces of data or program are needed, they are swapped into {core} for
   processing; when they are no longer needed they may be swapped out again. 2. The jargon use
   of these terms analogizes people's short-term memories with core. Cramming for an exam might
   be spoken of as swapping in. If you temporarily forget someone's name, but then remember it,
   your excuse is that it was swapped out.  To `keep something swapped in' means to keep it
   fresh in your memory: "I reread the TECO manual every few months to keep it swapped in."
   If someone interrupts you just as you got a good idea, you might say "Wait a moment while I
   swap this out", implying that the piece of paper is your extra-somatic memory and if you
   don't swap the info out by writing it down it will get overwritten and lost as you talk.
   Compare {page in}, {page out}.

swap space: n. Storage space, especially temporary storage space used during a move or
   reconfiguration.  "I'm just using that corner of the machine room for swap space."

swapped in: n. See {swap}.  See also {page in}.

swapped out: n. See {swap}.  See also {page out}.

swizzle: v. To convert external names, array indices, or references within a data structure
   into address pointers when the data structure is brought into main memory from external
   storage (also called `pointer swizzling'); this may be done for speed in chasing references
   or to simplify code (e.g., by turning lots of name lookups into pointer dereferences). The
   converse operation is sometimes termed `unswizzling'.  See also {snap}.

sync: /sink/ (var. `synch') n., vi. 1. To synchronize, to bring into synchronization. 2.
   [techspeak] To force all pending I/O to the disk; see {flush}, sense 2. 3. More generally,
   to force a number of competing processes or agents to a state that would be `safe' if the
   system were to crash; thus, to checkpoint (in the database-theory sense).

syntactic sugar: [coined by Peter Landin] n. Features added to a language or other formalism
   to make it `sweeter' for humans, that do not affect the expressiveness of the formalism
   (compare {chrome}).  Used esp. when there is an obvious and trivial translation of the
   `sugar' feature into other constructs already present in the notation.  C's `a[i]' notation
   is syntactic sugar for `*(a + i)'.  "Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon."  ---
   Alan Perlis
   The variant `syntactic saccharine' is also recorded. This denotes something even more
   gratuitous, in that syntactic sugar serves a purpose (making something more acceptable to
   humans) but syntactic saccharine serves no purpose at all.

sys-frog: /sis'frog/ [the PLATO system] n. Playful variant of `sysprog', which is in turn
   short for `systems programmer'.

sysadmin: /sis'ad-min/ n. Common contraction of `system admin'; see {admin}.

sysop: /sis'op/ n. [esp. in the BBS world] The operator (and usually the owner) of a
   bulletin-board system.  A common neophyte mistake on {FidoNet} is to address a message to
   `sysop' in an international {echo}, thus sending it to hundreds of sysops around the world.

system: n. 1. The supervisor program or OS on a computer.  2. The entire computer system,
   including input/output devices, the supervisor program or OS, and possibly other software.
   3. Any large-scale program.  4. Any method or algorithm.  5. `System hacker': one who hacks
   the system (in senses 1 and 2 only; for sense 3 one mentions the particular program: e.g.,
   `LISP hacker')

systems jock: n. See {jock}, (sense 2).

SysVile: /sis-vi:l'/ n. See {Missed'em-five}.

system mangler: n. Humourous synonym for `system manager', poss. from the fact that one major
   IBM OS had a {root} account called SYSMANGR.  Refers specifically to a systems programmer
   in charge of administration, software maintenance, and updates at some site. Unlike
   {admin}, this term emphasizes the technical end of the skills involved.

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