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Jargon used in computing

= V =

vadding: /vad'ing/ [from VAD, a permutation of ADV (i.e., {ADVENT}), used to avoid a particular
   {admin}'s continual search-and-destroy sweeps for the game] n. A leisure-time activity of
   certain hackers involving the covert exploration of the `secret' parts of large buildings
   --- basements, roofs, freight elevators, maintenance crawlways, steam tunnels, and the like.
   A few go so far as to learn locksmithing in order to synthesize vadding keys. The verb is
   `to vad' (compare {phreaking}).
   The most extreme and dangerous form of vadding is `elevator rodeo', a.k.a. `elevator
   surfing', a sport played by wrasslin' down a thousand-pound elevator car with a 3-foot
   piece of string, and then exploiting this mastery in various stimulating ways (such as
   elevator hopping, shaft exploration, rat-racing, and the ever-popular drop experiments).
   Kids, don't try this at home!  See also {hobbit} (sense 2).

vanilla: [from the default flavour of ice cream] adj. Ordinary {flavour}, standard. When used
   of food, very often does not mean that the food is flavoured with vanilla extract!  For
   example, `vanilla wonton soup' means ordinary wonton soup, as opposed to hot-and-sour
   wonton soup.  Applied to hardware and software, as in "Vanilla Version 7 UNIX can't run on
   a vanilla 11/34."  Also used to orthogonalize chip nomenclature; for instance, a 74V00
   means what TI calls a 7400, as distinct from a 74LS00, etc.  This word differs from
   {canonical} in that the latter means `default', whereas vanilla simply means `ordinary'.
   For example, when hackers go on a {great-wall}, hot-and-sour wonton soup is the {canonical}
   wonton soup to get (because that is what most of them usually order) even though it isn't
   the vanilla wonton soup.

vannevar: /van'*-var/ n. A bogus technological prediction or a foredoomed engineering concept,
   esp. one that fails by implicitly assuming that technologies develop linearly,
   incrementally, and in isolation from one another when in fact the learning curve tends to
   be highly nonlinear, revolutions are common, and competition is the rule.  The prototype
   was Vannevar Bush's prediction of `electronic brains' the size of the Empire State Building
   with a Niagara-Falls-equivalent cooling system for their tubes and relays, made at a time
   when the semiconductor effect had already been demonstrated.  Other famous vannevars have
   included magnetic-bubble memory, LISP machines, {videotex}, and a paper from the late 1970s
   that computed a purported ultimate limit on areal density for ICs that was in fact less
   than the routine densities of 5 years later.

vaporware: /vay'pr-weir/ n. Products announced far in advance of any release (which may or may
   not actually take place).

var: /veir/ or /var/ n. Short for `variable'.  Compare {arg}, {param}.

VAX: /vaks/ n. 1. [from Virtual Address eXtension] The most successful minicomputer design in
   industry history, possibly excepting its immediate ancestor, the PDP-11.  Between its
   release in 1978 and its eclipse by {killer micro}s after about 1986, the VAX was probably
   the hacker's favorite machine of them all, esp. after the 1982 release of 4.2 BSD UNIX (see
   {BSD}).  Esp. noted for its large, assembler-programmer-friendly instruction set --- an
   asset that became a liability after the RISC revolution. 2. A major brand of vacuum cleaner
   in Britain.  Cited here because its alleged sales pitch, "Nothing sucks like a VAX!" became
   a sort of battle-cry of RISC partisans. Ironically, the slogan was *not* actually used by
   the Vax vacuum-cleaner people, but was actually that of a rival brand called Electrolux (as
   in "Nothing sucks like an...").  It is claimed, however, that DEC actually entered a
   cross-licensing deal with the vacuum-Vax people that allowed them to market VAX computers
   in the U.K. in return for not challenging the vacuum cleaner trademark in the U.S.

VAXectomy: /vak-sek't*-mee/ [by analogy with `vasectomy'] n. A VAX removal. DEC's Microvaxen,
   especially, are much slower than newer RISC-based workstations such as the SPARC.  Thus, if
   one knows one has a replacement coming, VAX removal can be cause for celebration.

VAXen: /vak'sn/ [from `oxen', perhaps influenced by `vixen'] n. (alt. `vaxen') The plural
   canonically used among hackers for the DEC VAX computers.  "Our installation has four
   PDP-10s and twenty vaxen."  See {boxen}.

vaxherd: n. /vaks'herd/ [from `oxherd'] A VAX operator.

vaxism: /vak'sizm/ n. A piece of code that exhibits {vaxocentrism} in critical areas.
   Compare {PC-ism}, {unixism}.

vaxocentrism: /vak`soh-sen'trizm/ [analogy with `ethnocentrism'] n. A notional disease said to
   afflict C programmers who persist in coding according to certain assumptions that are valid
   (esp. under UNIX) on {VAXen} but false elsewhere. Among these are:
  1.    The assumption that dereferencing a null pointer is safe because it is all bits 0, and
        location 0 is readable and 0.  Problem: this may instead cause an illegal-address trap
        on non-VAXen, and even on VAXen under OSes other than BSD UNIX.  Usually this is an
        implicit assumption of sloppy code (forgetting to check the pointer before using it),
        rather than deliberate exploitation of a misfeature.)

  2.    The assumption that characters are signed.

  3.    The assumption that a pointer to any one type can freely be cast into a pointer to any
        other type.  A stronger form of this is the assumption that all pointers are the same
        size and format, which means you don't have to worry about getting the types correct
        in calls.  Problem: this fails on word-oriented machines or others with multiple
        pointer formats.

  4.    The assumption that the parameters of a routine are stored in memory, contiguously,
        and in strictly ascending or descending order. Problem: this fails on many RISC

  5.    The assumption that pointer and integer types are the same size, and that pointers
        can be stuffed into integer variables (and vice-versa) and drawn back out without
        being truncated or mangled. Problem: this fails on segmented architectures or
        word-oriented machines with funny pointer formats.

  6.    The assumption that a data type of any size may begin at any byte address in memory
        (for example, that you can freely construct and dereference a pointer to a word- or
        greater-sized object at an odd char address). Problem: this fails on many (esp. RISC)
        architectures better optimized for {HLL} execution speed, and can cause an illegal
        address fault or bus error.

  7.    The (related) assumption that there is no padding at the end of types and that in an
        array you can thus step right from the last byte of a previous component to the first
        byte of the next one. This is not only machine- but compiler-dependent.

  8.    The assumption that memory address space is globally flat and that the array reference
        `foo[-1]' is necessarily valid. Problem: this fails at 0, or other places on
        segment-addressed machines like Intel chips (yes, segmentation is universally
        considered a {brain-damaged} way to design machines (see {moby}), but that is a
        separate issue).

  9.    The assumption that objects can be arbitrarily large with no special considerations.
        Problem: this fails on segmented architectures and under non-virtual-addressing

 10.    The assumption that the stack can be as large as memory. Problem: this fails on
        segmented architectures or almost anything else without virtual addressing and a
        paged stack.

 11.    The assumption that bits and addressable units within an object are ordered in the
        same way and that this order is a constant of nature. Problem: this fails on
        {big-endian} machines.

 12.    The assumption that it is meaningful to compare pointers to different objects not
        located within the same array, or to objects of different types. Problem: the former
        fails on segmented architectures, the latter on word-oriented machines or others with
        multiple pointer formats.

 13.    The assumption that an `int' is 32 bits, or (nearly equivalently) the assumption that
        `sizeof(int) == sizeof(long)'.  Problem: this fails on 286-based systems and even on
        386 and 68000 systems under some compilers.

 14.    The assumption that `argv[]' is writable. Problem: this fails in some embedded-systems
        C environments.

   Note that a programmer can validly be accused of vaxocentrism even if he or she has never
   seen a VAX.  Some of these assumptions (esp. 2--5) were valid on the PDP-11, the original
   C machine, and became endemic years before the VAX.  The terms `vaxocentricity' and
   `all-the-world's-a-VAX syndrome' have been used synonymously.

vdiff: /vee'dif/ v.,n. Visual diff.  The operation of finding differences between two files by
    {eyeball search}.  The term `optical diff' has also been reported.  See {diff}.

veeblefester: /vee'b*l-fes`tr/ [from the "Born Loser" comix via Commodore; prob. originally
   from `Mad' Magazine's `Veeblefeetzer' parodies ca. 1960] n. Any obnoxious person engaged
   in the (alleged) professions of marketing or management.  Antonym of {hacker}. Compare
   {suit}, {marketroid}.

Venus flytrap: [after the insect-eating plant] n. See {firewall machine}.

verbage: /ver'b*j/ n. A deliberate misspelling and mispronunciation of {verbiage} that
   assimilates it to the word `garbage'. Compare {content-free}. More pejorative than

verbiage: n. When the context involves a software or hardware system, this refers to
   {{documentation}}.  This term borrows the connotations of mainstream `verbiage' to suggest
   that the documentation is of marginal utility and that the motives behind its production
   have little to do with the ostensible subject.

Version 7: alt. V7 /vee' se'vn/ n. The 1978 unsupported release of {{UNIX}} ancestral to all
   current commercial versions.  Before the release of the POSIX/SVID standards, V7's features
   were often treated as a UNIX portability baseline.  See {BSD}, {USG UNIX}, {{UNIX}}.  Some
   old-timers impatient with commercialization and kernel bloat still maintain that V7 was the
   Last True UNIX.

vgrep: /vee'grep/ v.,n. Visual grep.  The operation of finding patterns in a file optically
   rather than digitally.  See {grep}; compare {vdiff}.

vi: /V-I/, *not* /vi:/ and *never* /siks/ [from `Visual Interface'] n. A screen editor crufted
   together by Bill Joy for an early {BSD} version.  Became the de facto standard UNIX editor
   and a nearly undisputed hacker favorite until the rise of {EMACS} after about 1984.  Tends
   to frustrate new users no end, as it will neither take commands while expecting input text
   nor vice versa, and the default setup provides no indication of which mode one is in (one
   correspondent accordingly reports that he has often heard the editor's name pronounced
   /vi:l/).  Nevertheless it is still widely used (about half the respondents in a 1991 USENET
   poll preferred it), and even EMACS fans often resort to it as a mail editor and for small
   editing jobs (mainly because it starts up faster than bulky EMACS).  See {holy wars}.

videotex: n. obs. An electronic service offering people the privilege of paying to read the
   weather on their television screens instead of having somebody read it to them for free
   while they brush their teeth.  The idea bombed everywhere it wasn't government-subsidized,
   because by the time videotex was practical the installed base of personal computers could
   hook up to timesharing services and do the things for which videotex might have been
   worthwhile better and cheaper.  Videotex planners badly overestimated both the appeal of
   getting information from a computer and the cost of local intelligence at the user's end.
   Like the {gorilla arm} effect, this has been a cautionary tale to hackers ever since. See
   also {vannevar}.

virgin: adj. Unused; pristine; in a known initial state.  "Let's bring up a virgin system and
   see if it crashes again."  (Esp. useful after contracting a {virus} through {SEX}.)  Also,
   by extension, buffers and the like within a program that have not yet been used.

virtual: [via the technical term `virtual memory', prob. from the term `virtual image' in
   optics] adj. 1. Common alternative to {logical}.  2. Simulated; performing the functions of
   something that isn't really there.  An imaginative child's doll may be a virtual playmate.

virtual Friday: n. The last day before an extended weekend, if that day is not a `real' Friday.
   For example, the U.S. holiday Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday.  The next day is often
   also a holiday or taken as an extra day off, in which case Wednesday of that week is a
   virtual Friday (and Thursday is a virtual Saturday, as is Friday).  There are also `virtual
   Mondays' that are actually Tuesdays, after the three-day weekends associated with many
   national holidays in the U.S.

virtual reality: n. 1. Computer simulations that use 3-D graphics and devices such as the
   Dataglove to allow the user to interact with the simulation. See {cyberspace}. 2. A form of
   network interaction incorporating aspects of role-playing games, interactive theater,
   improvisational comedy, and `true confessions' magazines.  In a virtual reality forum (such
   as USENET's alt.callahans newsgroup or the {MUD} experiments on Internet), interaction
   between the participants is written like a shared novel complete with scenery, `foreground
   characters' that may be personae utterly unlike the people who write them, and common
   `background characters' manipulable by all parties.  The one iron law is that you may not
   write irreversible changes to a character without the consent of the person who `owns' it.
   Otherwise anything goes.  See {bamf}, {cyberspace}.

virus: [from the obvious analogy with biological viruses, via SF] n. A cracker program that
   searches out other programs and `infects' them by embedding a copy of itself in them, so
   that they become {Trojan Horse}s.  When these programs are executed, the embedded virus is
   executed too, thus propagating the `infection'.  This normally happens invisibly to the
   user.  Unlike a {worm}, a virus cannot infect other computers without assistance.  It is
   propagated by vectors such as humans trading programs with their friends (see {SEX}). The
   virus may do nothing but propagate itself and then allow the program to run normally.
   Usually, however, after propagating silently for a while, it starts doing things like
   writing cute messages on the terminal or playing strange tricks with your display (some
   viruses include nice {display hack}s).  Many nasty viruses, written by particularly
   perversely minded {cracker}s, do irreversible damage, like nuking all the user's files.
   In the 1990s, viruses have become a serious problem, especially among IBM PC and Macintosh
   users (the lack of security on these machines enables viruses to spread easily, even
   infecting the operating system).  The production of special anti-virus software has become
   an industry, and a number of exaggerated media reports have caused outbreaks of near
   hysteria among users; many {luser}s tend to blame *everything* that doesn't work as they
   had expected on virus attacks.  Accordingly, this sense of `virus' has passed not only into
   techspeak but into also popular usage (where it is often incorrectly used to denote a {worm}
   or even a {Trojan horse}).  Compare {back door}; see also {UNIX conspiracy}.

visionary: n. 1. One who hacks vision, in the sense of an Artificial Intelligence researcher
   working on the problem of getting computers to `see' things using TV cameras. (There isn't
   any problem in sending information from a TV camera to a computer. The problem is, how can
   the computer be programmed to make use of the camera information? See {SMOP},
   {AI-complete}.)  2. [IBM] One who reads the outside literature.  At IBM, apparently, such
   a penchant is viewed with awe and wonder.

VMS: /V-M-S/ n. DEC's proprietary operating system for its VAX minicomputer; one of the seven
   or so environments that loom largest in hacker folklore.  Many UNIX fans generously concede
   that VMS would probably be the hacker's favourite commercial OS if UNIX didn't exist; though
   true, this makes VMS fans furious. One major hacker gripe with VMS concerns its slowness ---
   thus the following limerick:

        There once was a system called VMS
        Of cycles by no means abstemious.
             It's chock-full of hacks
             And runs on a VAX
        And makes my poor stomach all squeamious.
                                         --- The Great Quux

   See also {VAX}, {{TOPS-10}}, {{TOPS-20}}, {{UNIX}}, {runic}.

voice: vt. To phone someone, as opposed to emailing them or connecting in talk mode. "I'm busy
   now; I'll voice you later."

voice-net: n. Hackish way of referring to the telephone system, analogizing it to a digital
   network.  USENET {sig block}s not uncommonly include the sender's phone next to a "Voice:"
   or "Voice-Net:" header; common variants of this are "Voicenet" and "V-Net".  Compare
   {paper-net}, {snail-mail}.

voodoo programming: [from George Bush's "voodoo economics"] n. The use by guess or cookbook of
   an {obscure} or {hairy} system, feature, or algorithm that one does not truly understand.
   The implication is that the technique may not work, and if it doesn't, one will never know
   why. Almost synonymous with {black magic}, except that black magic typically isn't
   documented and *nobody* understands it.  Compare {magic}, {deep magic}, {heavy wizardry},
   {rain dance}, {cargo cult programming}, {wave a dead chicken}.

VR: // [MUD] n. On-line abbrev for {virtual reality}, as opposed to {RL}.

Vulcan nerve pinch: n. [from the old "Star Trek" TV series via Commodore Amiga hackers] The
   keyboard combination that forces a soft-boot or jump to ROM monitor (on machines that
   support such a feature).  On many micros this is Ctrl-Alt-Del; on Suns, L1-A; on some
   Macintoshes, it is <Cmd>-<Power switch>!  Also called {three-finger salute}. Compare
   {quadruple bucky}.

vulture capitalist: n. Pejorative hackerism for `venture capitalist', deriving from the common
   practice of pushing contracts that deprive inventors of control over their own innovations
   and most of the money they ought to have made from them.

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This page (jargonv.html) was last modified on Sunday 27/01/2013