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Jargon used in computing

= T =

T: /T/ 1. [from LISP terminology for `true'] Yes. Used in reply to a question (particularly one
   asked using the `-P' convention). In LISP, the constant T means `true', among other things.
   Some hackers use `T' and `NIL' instead of `Yes' and `No' almost reflexively. This sometimes
   causes misunderstandings. When a waiter or flight attendant asks whether a hacker wants
   coffee, he may well respond `T', meaning that he wants coffee; but of course he will be
   brought a cup of tea instead. As it happens, most hackers (particularly those who frequent
   Chinese restaurants) like tea at least as well as coffee --- so it is not that big a
   problem. 2. See {time T} (also {since time T equals minus infinity}). 3. [techspeak] In
   transaction-processing circles, an abbreviation for the noun `transaction'.  4. [Purdue]
   Alternate spelling of  {tee}.

tail recursion: n. If you aren't sick of it already, see {tail recursion}.

talk mode: n. A feature supported by UNIX, ITS, and some other OSes that allows two or more
   logged-in users to set up a real-time on-line conversation. It combines the immediacy of
   talking with all the precision (and verbosity) that written language entails. It is
   difficult to communicate inflection, though conventions have arisen for some of these (see
   the section on writing style in the Prependices for details).
   Talk mode has a special set of jargon words, used to save typing, which are not used orally.
   Some of these are identical to (and probably derived from) Morse-code jargon used by
   ham-radio amateurs since the 1920s.

     `BCNU' -- be seeing you
     `BTW' -- by the way
          are you ready to unlink? (this is the standard way to end a talk-mode conversation;
          the other person types `BYE' to confirm, or else continues the conversation)
     `CUL' -- see you later
     `ENQ?' -- are you busy?  (expects `ACK' or `NAK' in return)
          are you there? (often used on unexpected links, meaning also "Sorry if I butted
          in ..." (linker) or "What's up?" (linkee))
     `FYI' -- for your information
     `FYA' -- for your amusement
          go ahead (used when two people have tried to type simultaneously; this cedes the
          right to type to the other)
     `GRMBL' -- grumble (expresses disquiet or disagreement)
     `HELLOP' -- hello? (an instance of the `-P' convention)
     `JAM' -- just a minute (equivalent to `SEC....')
     `MIN' -- same as `JAM'
     `NIL' -- no (see {NIL})
     `O' -- over to you
     `OO' -- over and out
     `/' -- another form of "over to you" (from x/y as "x over y")
     `\' -- lambda (used in discussing LISPy things)
     `OBTW' -- oh, by the way
     `R U THERE?' -- are you there?
     `SEC' -- wait a second (sometimes written `SEC...')
     `T' -- yes (see the main entry for {T})
     `TNX' -- thanks
     `TNX 1.0E6' -- thanks a million (humorous)
     `TNXE6' -- another for of "thanks a million"
     `WRT' -- with regard to, or with respect to.
     `WTF' -- the universal interrogative particle; WTF knows what it means?
     `WTH' -- what the hell?
     `<double newline>'
          When the typing party has finished, he/she types two newlines to signal that he/she
          is done; this leaves a blank line between `speeches' in the conversation, making it
          easier to reread the preceding text.
          When three or more terminals are linked, it is conventional for each typist to
          {prepend} his/her login name or handle and a colon (or a hyphen) to each line to
          indicate who is typing (some conferencing facilities do this automatically). The
          login name is often shortened to a unique prefix (possibly a single letter) during
          a very long conversation.
          A giggle or chuckle.  On a MUD, this usually means `earthquake fault'.

   Most of the above sub-jargon is used at both Stanford and MIT. Several of these expressions
   are also common in {email}, esp. FYI, FYA, BTW, BCNU, WTF, and CUL. A few other
   abbreviations have been reported from commercial networks, such as GEnie and CompuServe,
   where on-line `live' chat including more than two people is common and usually involves a
   more `social' context, notably the following:

     `<g>' -- grin
     `lt;gr&d>' -- grinning, running, and ducking
     `B4N' -- Bye for now.
     `BBL' -- be back later
     `BRB' -- be right back
     `HHOJ' -- ha ha only joking
     `HHOK' -- ha ha only kidding
     `HHOS' -- {ha ha only serious}
     `IMHO' -- in my humble opinion (see {IMHO})
     `LOL' -- laughing out loud
     `ROTF' -- rolling on the floor
     `ROTFL' -- rolling on the floor laughing
     `AFK' -- away from keyboard
     `b4' -- before
     `CU l8tr' -- see you later
     `MORF' -- male or female?
     `TTFN' -- ta-ta for now
     `OIC' -- oh, I see
     `rehi' -- hello again

   Most of these are not used at universities or in the UNIX world, though ROTF and TTFN have
   gained some currency there and IMHO is common; conversely, most of the people who know
   these are unfamiliar with FOO?, BCNU, HELLOP, {NIL}, and {T}.

   The {MUD} community uses a mixture of USENET/Internet emoticons, a few of the more natural
   of the old-style talk-mode abbrevs, and some of the `social' list above; specifically, MUD
   respondents report use of BBL, BRB, LOL, b4, BTW, WTF, TTFN, and WTH. The use of `rehi' is
   also common; in fact, mudders are fond of re- compounds and will frequently `rehug' or
   `rebonk' (see {bonk/oif}) people.  The word `re' by itself is taken as `regreet'. In
   general, though, MUDders express a preference for typing things out in full rather than
   using abbreviations; this may be due to the relative youth of the MUD cultures, which tend
   to include many touch typists and to assume high-speed links. The following uses specific
   to MUDs are reported:

     `UOK?' -- are you OK?
          thanks (mutant of `TNX'; clearly this comes in batches of 1138 (the Lucasian K)).
     `CU l8er' -- see you later (mutant of `CU l8tr')
     `OTT' -- over the top (excessive, uncalled for)

   Some {BIFF}isms (notably the variant spelling `d00d') appear to be passing into wider use
   among some subgroups of MUDders.

   One final note on talk mode style: neophytes, when in talk mode, often seem to think they
   must produce letter-perfect prose because they are typing rather than speaking. This is not
   the best approach. It can be very frustrating to wait while your partner pauses to think of
   a word, or repeatedly makes the same spelling error and backs up to fix it. It is usually
   best just to leave typographical errors behind and plunge forward, unless severe confusion
   may result; in that case it is often fastest just to type "xxx" and start over from before
   the mistake.

   See also {hakspek}, {emoticon}, {bonk/oif}.

talker system: n. British hackerism for software that enables real-time chat or {talk mode}.

tall card: n. A PC/AT-size expansion card (these can be larger than IBM PC or XT cards because
   the AT case is bigger). See also {short card}.  When IBM introduced the PS/2 model 30 (its
   last gasp at supporting the ISA) they made the case lower and many industry-standard tall
   cards wouldn't fit; this was felt to be a reincarnation of the {connector conspiracy}, done
   with less style.

tanked: adj. Same as {down}, used primarily by UNIX hackers. See also {hosed}. Popularized as
   a synonym for `drunk' by Steve Dallas in the late lamented "Bloom County" comic strip.

tar and feather: [from UNIX `tar(1)'] vt. To create a transportable archive from a group of
   files by first sticking them together with `tar(1)' (the Tape ARchiver) and then compressing
   the result (see {compress}). The latter action is dubbed `feathering' by analogy to what you
   do with an airplane propeller to decrease wind resistance, or with an oar to reduce water
   resistance; smaller files, after all, slip through comm links more easily.

taste: [primarily MIT] n. 1. The quality in a program that tends to be inversely proportional
   to the number of features, hacks, and kluges programmed into it. Also `tasty', `tasteful',
   `tastefulness'. "This feature comes in N tasty flavours." Although `tasteful' and
   `flavourful' are essentially synonyms, `taste' and {flavour} are not. Taste refers to sound
   judgment on the part of the creator; a program or feature can *exhibit* taste but cannot
   {have} taste. On the other hand, a feature can have {flavour}. Also, {flavour} has the
   additional meaning of `kind' or `variety' not shared by `taste'. {Flavour} is a more
   popular word than `taste', though both are used. See also {elegant}. 2. Alt. sp. of {tayste}

tayste: /tayst/ n. Two bits; also as {taste}. Syn. {crumb}, {quarter}. Compare {{byte}},
   {dynner}, {playte}, {nybble}, {quad}.

TCB: /T-C-B/ [IBM] n. 1. Trouble Came Back. An intermittent or difficult-to-reproduce problem
   that has failed to respond to neglect. Compare {heisenbug}. Not to be confused with: 2.
   Trusted Computing Base, an `official' jargon term from the {Orange Book}.

tea, ISO standard cup of: [South Africa] n. A cup of tea with milk and one teaspoon of sugar,
   where the milk is poured into the cup before the tea. Variations are ISO 0, with no sugar;
   ISO 2, with two spoons of sugar; and so on.
   Like many ISO standards, this one has a faintly alien ring in North America, where hackers
   generally shun the decadent British practice of adulterating perfectly good tea with dairy
   products and prefer instead to add a wedge of lemon, if anything. If one were feeling
   extremely silly, one might hypothesize an analogous `ANSI standard cup of tea' and wind up
   with a political situation distressingly similar to several that arise in much more serious
   technical contexts.  Milk and lemon don't mix very well.

TechRef: /tek'ref/ [MS-DOS] n. The original `IBM PC Technical Reference Manual', including the
   BIOS listing and complete schematics for the PC.  The only PC documentation in the issue
   package that's considered serious by real hackers.

TECO: /tee'koh/ obs. 1. vt. Originally, to edit using the TECO editor in one of its infinite
   variations (see below).  2. vt.,obs. To edit even when TECO is *not* the editor being used!
   This usage is rare and now primarily historical.  2. [originally an acronym for `[paper]
   Tape Editor and COrrector'; later, `Text Editor and COrrector'] n. A text editor developed
   at MIT and modified by just about everybody.  With all the dialects included, TECO might
   have been the most prolific editor in use before {EMACS}, to which it was directly
   ancestral. Noted for its powerful programming-language-like features and its unspeakably
   hairy syntax. It is literally the case that every string of characters is a valid TECO
   program (though probably not a useful one); one common hacker game used to be mentally
   working out what the TECO commands corresponding to human names did. As an example of TECO's
   obscurity, here is a TECO program that takes a list of names such as:

     Loser, J. Random
     Quux, The Great
     Dick, Moby

   sorts them alphabetically according to surname, and then puts the surname last, removing
   the comma, to produce the following:

     Moby Dick
     J. Random Loser
     The Great Quux

   The program is

     [1 J^P$L$$
     J <.-Z; .,(S,$ -D .)FX1 @F^B $K :L I $ G1 L>$$

   (where ^B means `Control-B' (ASCII 0000010) and $ is actually an {ALT} or escape (ASCII
   0011011) character).

   In fact, this very program was used to produce the second, sorted list from the first list.
   The first hack at it had a {bug}: GLS (the author) had accidentally omitted the `@' in front
   of `F^B', which as anyone can see is clearly the {Wrong Thing}. It worked fine the second
   time. There is no space to describe all the features of TECO, but it may be of interest that
   `^P' means `sort' and `J<.-Z; ... L>' is an idiomatic series of commands for `do once for
   every line'.
   In mid-1991, TECO is pretty much one with the dust of history, having been replaced in the
   affections of hackerdom by {EMACS}. Descendants of an early (and somewhat lobotomized)
   version adopted by DEC can still be found lurking on VMS and a couple of crufty PDP-11
   operating systems, however, and ports of the more advanced MIT versions remain the focus of
   some antiquarian interest.  See also {retrocomputing}, {write-only language}.

tee: n.,vt. [Purdue] A carbon copy of an electronic transmission. "Oh, you're sending him the
   {bits} to that?  Slap on a tee for me."  From the UNIX command `tee(1)', itself named after
   a pipe fitting (see {plumbing}).  Can also mean `save one for me', as in "Tee a slice for
   me!"  Also spelled `T'.

Telerat: /tel'*-rat/ n. Unflattering hackerism for `Teleray', a line of extremely losing
   terminals.  See also {terminak}, {sun-stools}, {HP-SUX}.

TELNET: /tel'net/ vt. To communicate with another Internet host using the {TELNET} program.
    TOPS-10 people used the word IMPCOM, since that was the program name for them. Sometimes
   abbreviated to TN /T-N/.  "I usually TN over to SAIL just to read the AP News."

ten-finger interface: n. The interface between two networks that cannot be directly connected
   for security reasons; refers to the practice of placing two terminals side by side and
   having an operator read from one and type into the other.

tense: adj. Of programs, very clever and efficient.  A tense piece of code often got that way
   because it was highly {bum}med, but sometimes it was just based on a great idea.  A comment
   in a clever routine by Mike Kazar, once a grad-student hacker at CMU: "This routine is so
   tense it will bring tears to your eyes."  A tense programmer is one who produces tense code.

tenured graduate student: n. One who has been in graduate school for 10 years (the usual
   maximum is 5 or 6): a `ten-yeared' student (get it?).  Actually, this term may be used of
   any grad student beginning in his seventh year. Students don't really get tenure, of course,
   the way professors do, but a tenth-year graduate student has probably been around the
   university longer than any untenured professor.

tera-: /te'r*/ [SI] pref. See {{quantifiers}}.

teraflop club: /te'r*-flop kluhb/ [FLOP = Floating Point Operation] n. A mythical association
   of people who consume outrageous amounts of computer time in order to produce a few simple
   pictures of glass balls with intricate ray-tracing techniques. Caltech professor James
   Kajiya is said to have been the founder.

terminak: /ter'mi-nak`/ [Caltech, ca. 1979] n. Any malfunctioning computer terminal. A common
   failure mode of Lear-Siegler ADM 3a terminals caused the `L' key to produce the `K' code
   instead; complaints about this tended to look like "Terminak #3 has a bad keyboard. Pkease
   fix."  See {sun-stools}, {Telerat}, {HP-SUX}.

terminal brain death: n. The extreme form of {terminal illness} (sense 1). What someone who
   has obviously been hacking continuously for far too long is said to be suffering from.

terminal illness: n. 1. Syn. {raster burn}.  2. The `burn-in' condition your CRT tends to get
   if you don't have a screen saver.

terminal junkie: [UK] n. A {wannabee} or early {larval stage} hacker who spends most of his or
   her time wandering the directory tree and writing {noddy} programs just to get a fix of
   computer time.  Variants include `terminal jockey', `console junkie', and {console jockey}.
   The term `console jockey' seems to imply more expertise than the other three (possibly
   because of the exalted status of the {{console}} relative to an ordinary terminal). See
   also {twink}, {read-only user}.

terpri: /ter'pree/ [from LISP 1.5 (and later, MacLISP)] vi. To output a {newline}. Now rare as
   jargon, though still used as techspeak in Common LISP.  It is a contraction of `TERminate
   PRInt line', named for the fact that, on early OSes, no characters would be printed until a
   complete line was formed, so this operation terminated the line and emitted the output.

test: n. 1. Real users bashing on a prototype long enough to get thoroughly acquainted with it,
   with careful monitoring and followup of the results.  2. Some bored random user trying a
   couple of the simpler features with a developer looking over his or her shoulder, ready to
   pounce on mistakes.  Judging by the quality of most software, the second definition is far
   more prevalent.  See also {demo}.

TeX: /tekh/ n. An extremely powerful {macro}-based text formatter written by Donald E. Knuth,
   very popular in the computer-science community (it is good enough to have displaced UNIX
   `troff(1)', the other favoured formatter, even at many UNIX installations).  TeX fans
   insist on the correct (guttural) pronunciation, and the correct spelling (all caps,
   squished together, with the E depressed below the baseline; the mixed-case `TeX' is
   considered an acceptable kluge on ASCII-only devices).  Fans like to proliferate names from
   the word `TeX' --- such as TeXnician (TeX user), TeXhacker (TeX programmer), TeXmaster
   (competent TeX programmer), TeXhax, and TeXnique.
   Knuth began TeX because he had become annoyed at the declining quality of the typesetting
   in volumes I--III of his monumental `Art of Computer Programming' (see {bible}).  In a
   manifestation of the typical hackish urge to solve the problem at hand once and for all, he
   began to design his own typesetting language.  He thought he would finish it on his
   sabbatical in 1978; he was wrong by only about 8 years.  The language was finally frozen
   around 1985, but volume IV of `The Art of Computer Programming' has yet to appear as of
   mid-1991. The impact and influence of TeX's design has been such that nobody minds this very
   much.  Many grand hackish projects have started as a bit of tool-building on the way to
   something else; Knuth's diversion was simply on a grander scale than most.

text: n. 1. [techspeak] Executable code, esp. a `pure code' portion shared between multiple
   instances of a program running in a multitasking OS (compare {English}). 2. Textual material
   in the mainstream sense; data in ordinary {{ASCII}} or {{EBCDIC}} representation (see
   {flat-ASCII}).  "Those are text files; you can review them using the editor."  These two
   contradictory senses confuse hackers, too.

thanks in advance: [USENET] Conventional net.politeness ending a posted request for information
   or assistance.  Sometimes written `advTHANKSance' or `aTdHvAaNnKcSe' or abbreviated `TIA'.
   See {net.-}, {netiquette}.

the X that can be Y is not the true X: Yet another instance of hackerdom's peculiar attraction
   to mystical references --- a common humourous way of making exclusive statements about a
   class of things. The template is from the `Tao te Ching': "The Tao which can be spoken of
   is not the true Tao."  The implication is often that the X is a mystery accessible only to
   the enlightened.  See the {trampoline} entry for an example, and compare {has the X nature}.

theology: n. 1. Ironically or humourously used to refer to {religious issues}.  2. Technical
   fine points of an abstruse nature, esp. those where the resolution is of theoretical
   interest but is relatively {marginal} with respect to actual use of a design or system.
   Used esp. around software issues with a heavy AI or language-design component, such as the
   smart-data vs. smart-programs dispute in AI.

theory: n. The consensus, idea, plan, story, or set of rules that is currently being used to
   inform a behavior.  This is a generalization and abuse of the technical meaning.  "What's
   the theory on fixing this TECO loss?"  "What's the theory on dinner tonight?"  ("Chinatown,
   I guess.")  "What's the current theory on letting lusers on during the day?"  "The theory
   behind this change is to fix the following well-known screw...."

thinko: /thing'koh/ [by analogy with `typo'] n. A momentary, correctable glitch in mental
   processing, especially one involving recall of information learned by rote; a bubble in the
   stream of consciousness.  Syn. {braino}.  Compare {mouso}.

This time, for sure!: excl. Ritual affirmation frequently uttered during protracted debugging
   sessions involving numerous small obstacles (e.g., attempts to bring up a UUCP connection).
   For the proper effect, this must be uttered in a fruity imitation of Bullwinkle J. Moose.
   Also heard: "Hey, Rocky!  Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!"  The {canonical} response
   is, of course, "But that trick *never* works!"  See {{Humor, Hacker}}.

thrash: vi. To move wildly or violently, without accomplishing anything useful. Paging or
   swapping systems that are overloaded waste most of their time moving data into and out of
   core (rather than performing useful computation) and are therefore said to thrash. Someone
   who keeps changing his mind (esp. about what to work on next) is said to be thrashing. A
   person frantically trying to execute too many tasks at once (and not spending enough time
   on any single task) may also be described as thrashing.  Compare {multitask}.

thread: n. [USENET, GEnie, CompuServe] Common abbreviation of `topic thread', a more or less
   continuous chain of postings on a single topic.

three-finger salute: n. Syn. {Vulcan nerve pinch}.

thud: n. 1. Yet another meta-syntactic variable (see {foo}). It is reported that at CMU from
   the mid-1970s the canonical series of these was `foo', `bar', `thud', `blat'.  2. Rare term
   for the hash character, `#' (ASCII 0100011).  See {ASCII} for other synonyms.

thunk: /thuhnk/ n. 1. "A piece of coding which provides an address", according to P. Z.
   Ingerman, who invented thunks in 1961 as a way of binding actual parameters to their formal
   definitions in Algol-60 procedure calls. If a procedure is called with an expression in the
   place of a formal parameter, the compiler generates a {thunk} to compute the expression and
   leave the address of the result in some standard location.  2. Later generalized into: an
   expression, frozen together with its environment, for later evaluation if and when needed
   (similar to what in techspeak is called a `closure'). The process of unfreezing these thunks
   is called `forcing'.  3. A {stubroutine}, in an overlay programming environment, that loads
   and jumps to the correct overlay.  Compare {trampoline}. 4. People and activities scheduled
   in a thunklike manner.  "It occurred to me the other day that I am rather accurately modeled
   by a thunk --- I frequently need to be forced to completion." --- paraphrased from a {plan
   Historical note: There are a couple of onomatopoeic myths circulating about the origin of
   this term.  The most common is that it is the sound made by data hitting the stack; another
   holds that the sound is that of the data hitting an accumulator.  Yet another holds that it
   is the sound of the expression being unfrozen at argument-evaluation time.  In fact,
   according to the inventors, it was coined after they realized (in the wee hours after hours
   of discussion) that the type of an argument in Algol-60 could be figured out in advance with
   a little compile-time thought, simplifying the evaluation machinery.  In other words, it had
   `already been thought of'; thus it was christened a `thunk', which is "the past tense of
   `think' at two in the morning".

tick: n. 1. A {jiffy} (sense 1).  2. In simulations, the discrete unit of time that passes
   between iterations of the simulation mechanism. In AI applications, this amount of time is
   often left unspecified, since the only constraint of interest is the ordering of events.
   This sort of AI simulation is often pejoratively referred to as `tick-tick-tick' simulation,
   especially when the issue of simultaneity of events with long, independent chains of causes
   is {handwave}d. 3. In the FORTH language, a single quote character.

tick-list features: [Acorn Computers] n. Features in software or hardware that customers insist
   on but never use (calculators in desktop TSRs and that sort of thing).  The American
   equivalent would be `checklist features', but this jargon sense of the phrase has not been

tickle a bug: vt. To cause a normally hidden bug to manifest through some known series of
   inputs or operations.  "You can tickle the bug in the Paradise VGA card's highlight handling
   by trying to set bright yellow reverse video."

tiger team: [U.S. military jargon] n. A team whose purpose is to penetrate security, and thus
   test security measures.  These people are paid professionals who do hacker-type tricks,
   e.g., leave cardboard signs saying "bomb" in critical defense installations, hand-lettered
   notes saying "Your codebooks have been stolen" (they usually haven't been) inside safes,
   etc.  After a successful penetration, some high-ranking security type shows up the next
   morning for a `security review' and finds the sign, note, etc., and all hell breaks loose.
   Serious successes of tiger teams sometimes lead to early retirement for base commanders and
   security officers (see the {patch} entry for an example).
   A subset of tiger teams are professional {cracker}s, testing the security of military
   computer installations by attempting remote attacks via networks or supposedly `secure'
   comm channels.  Some of their escapades, if declassified, would probably rank among the
   greatest hacks of all times.  The term has been adopted in commercial computer-security
   circles in this more specific sense.

time sink: [poss. by analogy with `heat sink' or `current sink'] n. A project that consumes
   unbounded amounts of time.

time T: /ti:m T/ n. 1. An unspecified but usually well-understood time, often used in
   conjunction with a later time T+1. "We'll meet on campus at time T or at Louie's at time
   T+1" means, in the context of going out for dinner: "We can meet on campus and go to
   Louie's, or we can meet at Louie's itself a bit later."  (Louie's is a Chinese restaurant
   in Palo Alto that is a favourite with hackers.) Had the number 30 been used instead of the
   number 1, it would have implied that the travel time from campus to Louie's is 30 minutes;
   whatever time T is (and that hasn't been decided on yet), you can meet half an hour later
   at Louie's than you could on campus and end up eating at the same time. See also {since
   time T equals minus infinity}.

times-or-divided-by: [by analogy with `plus-or-minus'] quant. Term occasionally used when
   describing the uncertainty associated with a scheduling estimate, for either humorous or
   brutally honest effect. For a software project, the factor is usually at least 2.

tinycrud: /ti:'nee-kruhd/ n. A pejorative used by habitues of older game-oriented {MUD}
   versions for TinyMUDs and other user-extensible {MUD} variants; esp. common among users of
   the rather violent and competitive AberMUD and MIST systems.  These people justify the slur
   on the basis of how (allegedly) inconsistent and lacking in genuine atmosphere the scenarios
   generated in user extensible MUDs can be. Other common knocks on them are that they feature
   little overall plot, bad game topology, little competitive interaction, etc. --- not to
   mention the alleged horrors of the TinyMUD code itself.  This dispute is one of the MUD
   world's hardiest perennial {holy wars}.

tip of the ice-cube: [IBM] n. The visible part of something small and insignificant. Used as
   an ironic comment in situations where `tip of the iceberg' might be appropriate if the
   subject were actually nontrivial.

tired iron: [IBM] n. Hardware that is perfectly functional but far enough behind the state of
   the art to have been superseded by new products, presumably with sufficient improvement in
   bang-per-buck that the old stuff is starting to look a bit like a {dinosaur}.

tits on a keyboard: n. Small bumps on certain keycaps to keep touch-typists registered
   (usually on the `5' of a numeric keypad, and on the `F' and `J' of a QWERTY keyboard).

TLA: /T-L-A/ [Three-Letter Acronym] n. 1. Self-describing acronym for a species with which
   computing terminology is infested. 2. Any confusing acronym.  Examples include MCA, FTP,
   SNA, CPU, MMU, SCCS, DMU, FPU, NNTP, TLA.  People who like this looser usage argue that not
   all TLAs have three letters, just as not all four-letter words have four letters. One also
   hears of `ETLA' (Extended Three-Letter Acronym, pronounced /ee tee el ay/) being used to
   describe four-letter acronyms.  The term `SFLA' (Stupid Four-Letter Acronym) has also been
   reported.  See also {YABA}.
   The self-effacing phrase "TDM TLA" (Too Damn Many...) is often used to bemoan the plethora
   of TLAs in use.  In 1989, a random of the journalistic persuasion asked hacker Paul Boutin
   "What do you think will be the biggest problem in computing in the 90s?" Paul's
   straight-faced response: "There are only 17,000 three-letter acronyms." (To be exact, there
   are 26^3 = 17,576.)

TMRC: /tmerk'/ n. The Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT, one of the wellsprings of hacker
   culture.  The 1959 `Dictionary of the TMRC Language' compiled by Peter Samson included
   several terms which became basics of the hackish vocabulary (see esp. {foo} and {frob}).
   By 1962, TMRC's legendary layout was already a marvel of complexity.  The control system
   alone featured about 1200 relays. There were {scram switch}es located at numerous places
   around the room that could be pressed if something undesirable was about to occur, such as
   a train going full-bore at an obstruction. Another feature of the system was a digital clock
   on the dispatch board.  Normally it ran at some multiple of real time, but if someone hit a
   scram switch the clock stopped and the display was replaced with the word `FOO'.
   Steven Levy, in his book `Hackers' (see the Bibliography), gives a stimulating account of
   those early years. TMRC's Power and Signals group included most of the early PDP-1 hackers
   and the people who later bacame the core of the MIT AI Lab staff.  Thirty years later that
   connection is still very much alive, and this lexicon accordingly includes a number of
   entries from a recent revision of the TMRC Dictionary.

to a first approximation: 1. [techspeak] When one is doing certain numerical computations, an
   approximate solution may be computed by any of several heuristic methods, then refined to a
   final value. By using the starting point of a first approximation of the answer, one can
   write an algorithm that converges more quickly to the correct result.  2. In jargon, a
   preface to any comment that indicates that the comment is only approximately true. The
   remark "To a first approximation, I feel good" might indicate that deeper questioning would
   reveal that not all is perfect (e.g., a nagging cough still remains after an illness).

to a zeroth approximation: [from `to a first approximation'] A *really* sloppy approximation;
   a wild guess.  Compare {social science number}.

toast: 1. n. Any completely inoperable system or component, esp. one that has just crashed and
   burned: "Uh, oh ... I think the serial board is toast."  2. vt. To cause a system to crash
   accidentally, especially in a manner that requires manual rebooting.  "Rick just toasted
   the {firewall machine} again."

toaster: n. 1. The archetypal really stupid application for an embedded microprocessor
   controller; often used in comments that imply that a scheme is inappropriate technology
   (but see {elevator controller}).  "{DWIM} for an assembler?  That'd be as silly as running
   UNIX on your toaster!"  2. A very, very dumb computer. "You could run this program on any
   dumb toaster."  See {bitty box}, {Get a real computer!}, {toy}, {beige toaster}. 3. A
   Macintosh, esp. the Classic Mac. Some hold that this is implied by sense 2. 4. A peripheral
   device.  "I bought my box without toasters, but since then I've added two boards and a
  second disk drive."

toeprint: n. A {footprint} of especially small size.

toggle: vt. To change a {bit} from whatever state it is in to the other state; to change from 1
   to 0 or from 0 to 1. This comes from `toggle switches', such as standard light switches,
   though the word `toggle' actually refers to the mechanism that keeps the switch in the
   position to which it is flipped rather than to the fact that the switch has two positions.
   There are four things you can do to a bit: set it (force it to be 1), clear (or zero) it,
   leave it alone, or toggle it.  (Mathematically, one would say that there are four distinct
   boolean-valued functions of one boolean argument, but saying that is much less fun than
   talking about toggling bits.)

tool: 1. n. A program used primarily to create, manipulate, modify, or analyze other programs,
   such as a compiler or an editor or a cross-referencing program.  Oppose {app}, {operating
   system}. 2. [UNIX] An application program with a simple, `transparent' (typically
   text-stream) interface designed specifically to be used in programmed combination with
   other tools (see {filter}). 3. [MIT: general to students there] vi. To work; to study
   (connotes tedium). The TMRC Dictionary defined this as "to set one's brain to the
   grindstone".  See {hack}.  4. [MIT] n. A student who studies too much and hacks too little.
   (MIT's student humour magazine rejoices in the name `Tool and Die'.)

toolsmith: n. The software equivalent of a tool-and-die specialist; one who specializes in
   making the {tool}s with which other programmers create applications. See also

topic drift: n. Term used on GEnie, USENET and other electronic fora to describe the tendency
   of a {thread} to drift away from the original subject of discussion (and thus, from the
   Subject header of the originating message), or the results of that tendency.  Often used in
   gentle reminders that the discussion has strayed off any useful track.  "I think we started
   with a question about Niven's last book, but we've ended up discussing the sexual habits of
   the common marmoset.  Now *that's* topic drift!"

topic group: n. Syn. {forum}.

TOPS-10:: /tops-ten/ n. DEC's proprietary OS for the fabled {PDP-10} machines, long a favourite
   of hackers but now effectively extinct. A fountain of hacker folklore; see appendix A. See
   also {{ITS}}, {{TOPS-20}}, {{TWENEX}}, {VMS}, {operating system}.  TOPS-10 was sometimes
   called BOTS-10 (from `bottoms-ten') as a comment on the inappropriateness of describing it
   as the top of anything.

TOPS-20:: /tops-twen'tee/ n. See {{TWENEX}}.

toto: /toh'toh/ n. This is reported to be the default scratch file name among French-speaking
   programmers --- in other words, a francophone {foo}.

tourist: [ITS] n. A guest on the system, especially one who generally logs in over a network
   from a remote location for {comm mode}, email, games, and other trivial purposes.  One step
   below {luser}.  Hackers often spell this {turist}, perhaps by some sort of tenuous analogy
   with {luser} (this also expresses the ITS culture's penchant for six-letterisms).  Compare
   {twink}, {read-only user}.

tourist information: n. Information in an on-line display that is not immediately useful, but
   contributes to a viewer's gestalt of what's going on with the software or hardware behind
   it. Whether a given piece of info falls in this category depends partly on what the user is
   looking for at any given time. The `bytes free' information at the bottom of an MS-DOS `dir'
   display is tourist information; so (most of the time) is the TIME information in a UNIX
   `ps(1)' display.

touristic: adj. Having the quality of a {tourist}. Often used as a pejorative, as in `losing
   touristic scum'. Often spelled `turistic' or `turistik', so that phrase might be more
   properly rendered `lusing turistic scum'.

toy: n. A computer system; always used with qualifiers. 1. `nice toy': One that supports the
   speaker's hacking style adequately.  2. `just a toy': A machine that yields insufficient
   {computron}s for the speaker's preferred uses.  This is not condemnatory, as is {bitty box};
   toys can at least be fun. It is also strongly conditioned by one's expectations; Cray XMP
   users sometimes consider the Cray-1 a `toy', and certainly all RISC boxes and mainframes are
   toys by their standards.  See also {Get a real computer!}.

toy language: n. A language useful for instructional purposes or as a proof-of-concept for some
   aspect of computer-science theory, but inadequate for general-purpose programming. {Bad
   Thing}s can result when a toy language is promoted as a general purpose solution for
   programming (see {bondage-and-discipline language}); the classic example is {{Pascal}}.
   Several moderately well-known formalisms for conceptual tasks such as programming Turing
   machines also qualify as toy languages in a less negative sense. See also {MFTL}.

toy problem: [AI] n. A deliberately oversimplified case of a challenging problem used to
   investigate, prototype, or test algorithms for a real problem. Sometimes used pejoratively.
   See also {gedanken}, {toy program}.

toy program: n. 1. One that can be readily comprehended; hence, a trivial program (compare
   {noddy}).  2. One for which the effort of initial coding dominates the costs through its
   life cycle. See also {noddy}.

trampoline: n. An incredibly {hairy} technique, found in some {HLL} and program-overlay
   implementations (e.g., on the Macintosh), that involves on-the-fly generation of small
   executable (and, likely as not, self-modifying) code objects to do indirection between code
   sections. These pieces of {live data} are called `trampolines'. Trampolines are notoriously
   difficult to understand in action; in fact, it is said by those who use this term that the
   trampoline that doesn't bend your brain is not the true trampoline.  See also {snap}.

trap: 1. n. A program interrupt, usually an interrupt caused by some exceptional situation in
   the user program.  In most cases, the OS performs some action, then returns control to the
   program. 2. vi. To cause a trap.  "These instructions trap to the monitor."  Also used
   transitively to indicate the cause of the trap.  "The monitor traps all input/output
   This term is associated with assembler programming (`interrupt' or `exception' is more
   common among {HLL} programmers) and appears to be fading into history among programmers as
   the role of assembler continues to shrink.  However, it is still important to computer
   architects and systems hackers (see {system}, sense 1), who use it to distinguish
   deterministically repeatable exceptions from timing-dependent ones (such as I/O interrupts).

trap door: alt. `trapdoor' n. 1. Syn. {back door}. 2. [techspeak] A `trap-door function' is
   one which is easy to compute but very difficult to compute the inverse of. Such functions
   have important applications in cryptography, specifically in the construction of public-key

trash: vt. To destroy the contents of (said of a data structure). The most common of the
   family of near-synonyms including {mung}, {mangle}, and {scribble}.

tree-killer: [Sun] n. 1. A printer.  2. A person who wastes paper. This should be interpreted
   in a broad sense; `wasting paper' includes the production of {spiffy} but {content-free}
   documents. Thus, most {suit}s are tree-killers.

trit: /trit/ [by analogy with `bit'] n. One base-3 digit; the amount of information conveyed
   by a selection among one of three equally likely outcomes (see also {bit}).  These arise,
   for example, in the context of a {flag} that should actually be able to assume *three*
   values --- such as yes, no, or unknown.  Trits are sometimes jokingly called `3-state bits'.
   A trit may be semi-seriously referred to as `a bit and a half', although it is linearly
   equivalent to 1.5849625 bits (that is, log2(3) bits).

trivial: adj. 1. Too simple to bother detailing.  2. Not worth the speaker's time. 3. Complex,
   but solvable by methods so well known that anyone not utterly {cretinous} would have thought
   of them already. 4. Any problem one has already solved (some claim that hackish `trivial'
   usually evaluates to `I've seen it before'). Hackers' notions of triviality may be quite at
   variance with those of non-hackers.  See {nontrivial}, {uninteresting}.

troglodyte: [Commodore] n. 1. A hacker who never leaves his cubicle. The term `Gnoll' (from
   Dungeons & Dragons) is also reported.  2. A curmudgeon attached to an obsolescent computing
   environment.  The combination `ITS troglodyte' was flung around some during the USENET and
   email wringle-wrangle attending the 2.x.x revision of the Jargon File; at least one of the
   people it was intended to describe adopted it with pride.

troglodyte mode: [Rice University] n. Programming with the lights turned off, sunglasses on,
   and the terminal inverted (black on white) because you've been up for so many days straight
   that your eyes hurt (see {raster burn}).  Loud music blaring from a stereo stacked in the
   corner is optional but recommended.  See {larval stage}, {hack mode}.

Trojan horse: [coined by MIT-hacker-turned-NSA-spook Dan Edwards] n. A program designed to
   break security or damage a system that is disguised as something else benign, such as a
   directory lister, archiver, a game, or (in one notorious 1990 case on the Mac) a program to
   find and destroy viruses!  See {back door}, {virus}, {worm}.

true-hacker: [analogy with `trufan' from SF fandom] n. One who exemplifies the primary values
   of hacker culture, esp. competence and helpfulness to other hackers.  A high compliment.
   "He spent  6 hours helping me bring up UUCP and netnews on my FOOBAR 4000 last week ---
   manifestly the act of a true-hacker."  Compare {demigod}, oppose {munchkin}.

tty: /T-T-Y/ [UNIX], /tit'ee/ [ITS, but some UNIX people say it this way as well; this
   pronunciation is not considered to have sexual undertones] n. 1. A terminal of the teletype
   variety, characterized by a noisy mechanical printer, a very limited character set, and poor
   print quality. Usage: antiquated (like the TTYs themselves). See also {bit-paired keyboard}.
   2. [especially UNIX] Any terminal at all; sometimes used to refer to the particular terminal
   controlling a given job.

tube: 1. n. A CRT terminal.  Never used in the mainstream sense of TV; real hackers don't
   watch TV, except for Loony Toons, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Trek Classic, the Simpsons, and the
   occasional cheesy old swashbuckler movie (see appendix B).  2. [IBM] To send a copy of
   something to someone else's terminal.  "Tube me that note?"

tube time: n. Time spent at a terminal or console.  More inclusive than hacking time; commonly
   used in discussions of what parts of one's environment one uses most heavily.  "I find I'm
   spending too much of my tube time reading mail since I started this revision."

tunafish: n. In hackish lore, refers to the mutated punchline of an age-old joke to be found
   at the bottom of the manual pages of `tunefs(8)' in the original {BSD} 4.2 distribution.
   The joke was removed in later releases once commercial sites started developing in 4.2.
   Tunefs relates to the `tuning' of file-system parameters for optimum performance, and at
   the bottom of a few pages of wizardly inscriptions was a `BUGS' section consisting of the
   line "You can tune a file system, but you can't tunafish".  Variants of this can be seen in
   other BSD versions, though it has been excised from some versions by humourless management
   {droid}s.  The [nt]roff source for SunOS 4.1.1 contains a comment apparently designed to
   prevent this: "Take this out and a Unix Demon will dog your steps from now until the
   `time_t''s wrap around."

tune: [from automotive or musical usage] vt. To optimize a program or system for a particular
   environment, esp. by adjusting numerical parameters designed as {hook}s for tuning, e.g.,
   by changing `#define' lines in C.  One may `tune for time' (fastest execution), `tune for
   space' (least memory use), or `tune for configuration' (most efficient use of hardware).
   See {bum}, {hot spot}, {hand-hacking}.

turbo nerd: n. See {computer geek}.

turist: /too'rist/ n. Var. sp. of {tourist}, q.v.  Also in adjectival form, `turistic'. Poss.
   influenced by {luser} and `Turing'.

tweak: vt. 1. To change slightly, usually in reference to a value. Also used synonymously with
   {twiddle}.  If a program is almost correct, rather than figure out the precise problem you
   might just keep tweaking it until it works.  See {frobnicate} and {fudge factor}; also see
   {shotgun debugging}.  2. To {tune} or {bum} a program; preferred usage in the U.K.

TWENEX:: /twe'neks/ n. The TOPS-20 operating system by DEC --- the second proprietary OS for
   the PDP-10 --- preferred by most PDP-10 hackers over TOPS-10 (that is, by those who were
   not {{ITS}} or {{WAITS}} partisans).  TOPS-20 began in 1969 as Bolt, Beranek & Newman's
   TENEX operating system using special paging hardware.  By the early 1970s, almost all of
   the systems on the ARPANET ran TENEX.  DEC purchased the rights to TENEX from BBN and began
   work to make it their own.  The first in-house code name for the operating system was VIROS
   (VIRtual memory Operating System); when customers started asking questions, the name was
   changed to SNARK so DEC could truthfully deny that there was any project called VIROS. When
   the name SNARK became known, the name was briefly reversed to become KRANS; this was quickly
   abandoned when it was discovered that `krans' meant `funeral shroud' in Swedish. Ultimately
   DEC picked TOPS-20 as the name of the operating system, and it was as TOPS-20 that it was
   marketed. The hacker community, mindful of its origins, quickly dubbed it {{TWENEX}} (a
   contraction of `twenty TENEX'), even though by this point very little of the original TENEX
   code remained (analogously to the differences between AT&T V6 UNIX and BSD). DEC people
   cringed when they heard "TWENEX", but the term caught on nevertheless (the written
   abbreviation `20x' was also used). TWENEX was successful and very popular; in fact, there
   was a period in the early 1980s when it commanded as fervent a culture of partisans as UNIX
   or ITS --- but DEC's decision to scrap all the internal rivals to the VAX architecture and
   its relatively stodgy VMS OS killed the DEC-20 and put a sad end to TWENEX's brief day in
   the sun.  DEC attempted to convince TOPS-20 hackers to convert to {VMS}, but instead, by the
   late 1980s, most of the TOPS-20 hackers had migrated to UNIX.

twiddle: n. 1. Tilde (ASCII 1111110, `~'). Also called `squiggle', `sqiggle' (sic ---
   pronounced /skig'l/), and `twaddle', but twiddle is the most common term. 2. A small and
   insignificant change to a program. Usually fixes one bug and generates several new ones.
   3. vt. To change something in a small way. Bits, for example, are often twiddled. Twiddling
   a switch or knob implies much less sense of purpose than toggling or tweaking it; see
   {frobnicate}. To speak of twiddling a bit connotes aimlessness, and at best doesn't specify
   what you're doing to the bit; `toggling a bit' has a more specific meaning (see {bit
   twiddling}, {toggle}).

twink: /twink/ [UCSC] n. Equivalent to {read-only user}. Also reported on the USENET group
   soc.motss; may derive from gay slang for a cute young thing with nothing upstairs.

two pi: quant. The number of years it takes to finish one's thesis. Occurs in stories in the
   following form: "He started on his thesis; 2 pi years later..."

two-to-the-N: quant. An amount much larger than {N} but smaller than {infinity}. "I have
   2-to-the-N things to do before I can go out for lunch" means you probably won't show up.

twonkie: /twon'kee/ n. The software equivalent of a Twinkie (a variety of sugar-loaded junk
   food, or (in gay slang) the male equivalent of `chick'); a useless `feature' added to look
   sexy and placate a {marketroid} (compare {Saturday-night special}). This may also be
   related to "The Twonky", title menace of a classic SF short story by Lewis Padgett (Henry
   Kuttner and C. L. Moore), first published in the September 1942 `Astounding Science Fiction'
   and subsequently much anthologized.

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