Go to the previous, next section.

= F =

face time /n./

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

factor /n./

See coefficient of X.

fall over /vi./

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

fall through /v./

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

switch (color)
case GREEN:
case PINK:
case RED:

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

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

fan /n./

Without qualification, indicates a fan of science fiction, especially one who goes to cons and tends to hang out with other fans. Many hackers are fans, so this term has been imported from fannish slang; however, unlike much fannish slang it is recognized by most non-fannish hackers. Among SF fans the plural is correctly `fen', but this usage is not automatic to hackers. "Laura reads the stuff occasionally but isn't really a fan."

fandango on core /n./

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

FAQ /F-A-Q/ or /fak/ /n./

[Usenet] 1. A Frequently Asked Question. 2. A compendium of accumulated lore, posted periodically to high-volume newsgroups in an attempt to forestall such questions. Some people prefer the term `FAQ list' or `FAQL' /fa'kl/, reserving `FAQ' for sense 1.

This lexicon itself serves as a good example of a collection of one kind of lore, although it is far too big for a regular FAQ posting. Examples: "What is the proper type of NULL?" and "What's that funny name for the `#' character?" are both Frequently Asked Questions. Several FAQs refer readers to the Jargon File (the on-line version of this lexicon).

FAQ list /F-A-Q list/ or /fak list/ /n./

[Usenet] Syn FAQ, sense 2.

FAQL /fa'kl/ /n./

Syn. FAQ list.

faradize /far'*-di:z/ /v./

[US Geological Survey] To start any hyper-addictive process or trend, or to continue adding current to such a trend. Telling one user about a new octo-tetris game you compiled would be a faradizing act -- in two weeks you might find your entire department playing the faradic game.

farkled /far'kld/ /adj./

[DeVry Institute of Technology, Atlanta] Syn. hosed. Poss. owes something to Yiddish `farblondjet' and/or the `Farkle Family' skits on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In", a popular comedy show of the late 1960s.

farming /n./

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

fascist /adj./

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

fat electrons /n./

Old-time hacker David Cargill's theory on the causation of computer glitches. Your typical electric utility draws its line current out of the big generators with a pair of coil taps located near the top of the dynamo. When the normal tap brushes get dirty, they take them off line to clean them up, and use special auxiliary taps on the bottom of the coil. Now, this is a problem, because when they do that they get not ordinary or `thin' electrons, but the fat'n'sloppy electrons that are heavier and so settle to the bottom of the generator. These flow down ordinary wires just fine, but when they have to turn a sharp corner (as in an integrated-circuit via), they're apt to get stuck. This is what causes computer glitches. [Fascinating. Obviously, fat electrons must gain mass by bogon absorption --ESR] Compare bogon, magic smoke.

faulty /adj./

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

fd leak /F-D leek/ /n./

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

fear and loathing /n./

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

feature /n./

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

The relationship among bugs, features, misfeatures, warts, and miswarts might be clarified by the following hypothetical exchange between two hackers on an airliner:

A: "This seat doesn't recline."

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

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

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

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

B: "Indeed."

`Undocumented feature' is a common, allegedly humorous euphemism for a bug. There's a related joke that is sometimes referred to as the "one-question geek test". You say to someone "I saw a Volkswagen Beetle today with a vanity license plate that read FEATURE". If he/she laughs, he/she is a geek (see computer geek, sense #2).

feature creature /n./

[poss. fr. slang `creature feature' for a horror movie] 1. One who loves to add features to designs or programs, perhaps at the expense of coherence, concision, or taste. 2. Alternately, a mythical being that induces otherwise rational programmers to perpetrate such crocks. See also feeping creaturism, creeping featurism.

feature key /n./

The Macintosh key with the cloverleaf graphic on its keytop; sometimes referred to as `flower', `pretzel', `clover', `propeller', `beanie' (an apparent reference to the major feature of a propeller beanie), splat, or the `command key'. The Mac's equivalent of an alt key. The proliferation of terms for this creature may illustrate one subtle peril of iconic interfaces.

Many people have been mystified by the cloverleaf-like symbol that appears on the feature key. Its oldest name is `cross of St. Hannes', but it occurs in pre-Christian Viking art as a decorative motif. Throughout Scandinavia today the road agencies use it to mark sites of historical interest. Apple picked up the symbol from an early Mac developer who happened to be Swedish. Apple documentation gives the translation "interesting feature"!

There is some dispute as to the proper (Swedish) name of this symbol. It technically stands for the word `sevärdhet' (interesting feature); many of these are old churches. Some Swedes report as an idiom for it the word `kyrka', cognate to English `church' and Scots-dialect `kirk' but pronounced /shir'k*/ in modern Swedish. Others say this is nonsense. Another idiom reported for the sign is `runsten' /roon'stn/, derived from the fact that many of the interesting features are Viking rune-stones.

feature shock /n./

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

featurectomy /fee`ch*r-ek't*-mee/ /n./

The act of removing a feature from a program. Featurectomies come in two flavors, the `righteous' and the `reluctant'. Righteous featurectomies are performed because the remover believes the program would be more elegant without the feature, or there is already an equivalent and better way to achieve the same end. (Doing so is not quite the same thing as removing a misfeature.) Reluctant featurectomies are performed to satisfy some external constraint such as code size or execution speed.

feep /feep/

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

feeper /fee'pr/ /n./

The device in a terminal or workstation (usually a loudspeaker of some kind) that makes the feep sound.

feeping creature /n./

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

feeping creaturism /fee'ping kree`ch*r-izm/ /n./

A deliberate spoonerism for creeping featurism, meant to imply that the system or program in question has become a misshapen creature of hacks. This term isn't really well defined, but it sounds so neat that most hackers have said or heard it. It is probably reinforced by an image of terminals prowling about in the dark making their customary noises.

feetch feetch /feech feech/ /interj./

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

fence /n./ 1.

A sequence of one or more distinguished ( out-of-band) characters (or other data items), used to delimit a piece of data intended to be treated as a unit (the computer-science literature calls this a `sentinel'). The NUL (ASCII 0000000) character that terminates strings in C is a fence. Hex FF is also (though slightly less frequently) used this way. See zigamorph. 2. An extra data value inserted in an array or other data structure in order to allow some normal test on the array's contents also to function as a termination test. For example, a highly optimized routine for finding a value in an array might artificially place a copy of the value to be searched for after the last slot of the array, thus allowing the main search loop to search for the value without having to check at each pass whether the end of the array had been reached. 3. [among users of optimizing compilers] Any technique, usually exploiting knowledge about the compiler, that blocks certain optimizations. Used when explicit mechanisms are not available or are overkill. Typically a hack: "I call a dummy procedure there to force a flush of the optimizer's register-coloring info" can be expressed by the shorter "That's a fence procedure".

fencepost error /n./

1. A problem with the discrete equivalent of a boundary condition, often exhibited in programs by iterative loops. From the following problem: "If you build a fence 100 feet long with posts 10 feet apart, how many posts do you need?" (Either 9 or 11 is a better answer than the obvious 10.) For example, suppose you have a long list or array of items, and want to process items @Math{m} through @Math{n}; how many items are there? The obvious answer is @Math{n - m}, but that is off by one; the right answer is @Math{n - m + 1}. A program that used the `obvious' formula would have a fencepost error in it. See also zeroth and off-by-one error, and note that not all off-by-one errors are fencepost errors. The game of Musical Chairs involves a catastrophic off-by-one error where @Math{N} people try to sit in @Math{N - 1} chairs, but it's not a fencepost error. Fencepost errors come from counting things rather than the spaces between them, or vice versa, or by neglecting to consider whether one should count one or both ends of a row. 2. [rare] An error induced by unexpected regularities in input values, which can (for instance) completely thwart a theoretically efficient binary tree or hash table implementation. (The error here involves the difference between expected and worst case behaviors of an algorithm.)

fepped out /fept owt/ /adj./

The Symbolics 3600 LISP Machine has a Front-End Processor called a `FEP' (compare sense 2 of box). When the main processor gets wedged, the FEP takes control of the keyboard and screen. Such a machine is said to have `fepped out' or `dropped into the fep'.

FidoNet /n./

A worldwide hobbyist network of personal computers which exchanges mail, discussion groups, and files. Founded in 1984 and originally consisting only of IBM PCs and compatibles, FidoNet now includes such diverse machines as Apple ][s, Ataris, Amigas, and Unix systems. FidoNet has grown rapidly and in early 1996 has approximately 38000 nodes.

field circus /n./

[a derogatory pun on `field service'] The field service organization of any hardware manufacturer, but especially DEC. There is an entire genre of jokes about DEC field circus engineers:

Q: How can you recognize a DEC field circus engineer
   with a flat tire?
A: He's changing one tire at a time to see which one is flat.

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

[See Easter egging for additional insight on these jokes.] There is also the `Field Circus Cheer' (from the plan file for DEC on MIT-AI):

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

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

field servoid [play on `android'] /fee'ld ser'voyd/ /n./

Representative of a field service organization (see field circus). This has many of the implications of droid.

Fight-o-net /n./

[FidoNet] Deliberate distortion of FidoNet, often applied after a flurry of flamage in a particular echo, especially the SYSOP echo or Fidonews (see 'Snooze).

File Attach [FidoNet]

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

File Request [FidoNet]

1. /n./ The FidoNet equivalent of FTP, in which one BBS system automatically dials another and snarfs one or more files. Often abbreviated `FReq'; files are often announced as being "available for FReq" in the same way that files are announced as being "available for/by anonymous FTP" on the Internet. 2. /vt./ The act of getting a copy of a file by using the File Request option of the BBS mailer.

file signature /n./

A magic number, sense 3.

filk /filk/ /n.,v./

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

film at 11

[MIT: in parody of TV newscasters] 1. Used in conversation to announce ordinary events, with a sarcastic implication that these events are earth-shattering. " ITS crashes; film at 11." "Bug found in scheduler; film at 11." 2. Also widely used outside MIT to indicate that additional information will be available at some future time, without the implication of anything particularly ordinary about the referenced event. For example, "The mail file server died this morning; we found garbage all over the root directory. Film at 11." would indicate that a major failure had occurred but that the people working on it have no additional information about it as yet; use of the phrase in this way suggests gently that the problem is liable to be fixed more quickly if the people doing the fixing can spend time doing the fixing rather than responding to questions, the answers to which will appear on the normal "11:00 news", if people will just be patient.

filter /n./

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

Finagle's Law /n./

The generalized or `folk' version of Murphy's Law, fully named "Finagle's Law of Dynamic Negatives" and usually rendered "Anything that can go wrong, will". One variant favored among hackers is "The perversity of the Universe tends towards a maximum" (but see also Hanlon's Razor). The label `Finagle's Law' was popularized by SF author Larry Niven in several stories depicting a frontier culture of asteroid miners; this `Belter' culture professed a religion and/or running joke involving the worship of the dread god Finagle and his mad prophet Murphy. Some technical and scientific cultures (e.g., paleontologists) know it under the name `Sod's Law'; this usage may be more common in Great Britain.

fine /adj./

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


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

finger trouble /n./

Mistyping, typos, or generalized keyboard incompetence (this is surprisingly common among hackers, given the amount of time they spend at keyboards). "I keep putting colons at the end of statements instead of semicolons", "Finger trouble again, eh?".

finger-pointing syndrome /n./

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

finn /v./

[IRC] To pull rank on somebody based on the amount of time one has spent on IRC. The term derives from the fact that IRC was originally written in Finland in 1987. There may be some influence from the `Finn' character in William Gibson's seminal cyberpunk novel "Count Zero", who at one point says to another (much younger) character "I have a pair of shoes older than you are, so shut up!"

firebottle /n./

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

firefighting /n./

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

firehose syndrome /n./

In mainstream folklore it is observed that trying to drink from a firehose can be a good way to rip your lips off. On computer networks, the absence or failure of flow control mechanisms can lead to situations in which the sending system sprays a massive flood of packets at an unfortunate receiving system, more than it can handle. Compare overrun, buffer overflow.

firewall code /n./

1. The code you put in a system (say, a telephone switch) to make sure that the users can't do any damage. Since users always want to be able to do everything but never want to suffer for any mistakes, the construction of a firewall is a question not only of defensive coding but also of interface presentation, so that users don't even get curious about those corners of a system where they can burn themselves. 2. Any sanity check inserted to catch a can't happen error. Wise programmers often change code to fix a bug twice: once to fix the bug, and once to insert a firewall which would have arrested the bug before it did quite as much damage.

firewall machine /n./

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

[When first coined in the mid-1980s this term was pure jargon. Now (1996) it is borderline techspeak, and may have to be dropped from this lexicon before very long --ESR]

fireworks mode /n./

The mode a machine is sometimes said to be in when it is performing a crash and burn operation.

firmy /fer'mee/ /n./

Syn. stiffy (a 3.5-inch floppy disk).

fish /n./

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

FISH queue /n./

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

FITNR // /adj./

[Thinking Machines, Inc.] Fixed In The Often Next Release. A written-only notation attached to bug reports. wishful thinking.

fix /n.,v./

What one does when a problem has been reported too many times to be ignored.

FIXME /imp./

A standard tag often put in C comments near a piece of code that needs work. The point of doing so is that a grep or a similar pattern-matching tool can find all such places quickly.

/* FIXME: note this is common in  GNU code. */

Compare XXX.

flag /n./

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

flag day /n./

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

flaky /adj./

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

flamage /flay'm*j/ /n./

Flaming verbiage, esp. high-noise, low-signal postings to Usenet or other electronic fora. Often in the phrase `the usual flamage'. `Flaming' is the act itself; `flamage' the content; a `flame' is a single flaming message. See flame, also dahmum.


1. /vi./ To post an email message intended to insult and provoke. 2. /vi./ To speak incessantly and/or rabidly on some relatively uninteresting subject or with a patently ridiculous attitude. 3. /vt./ Either of senses 1 or 2, directed with hostility at a particular person or people. 4. /n./ An instance of flaming. When a discussion degenerates into useless controversy, one might tell the participants "Now you're just flaming" or "Stop all that flamage!" to try to get them to cool down (so to speak).

The term may have been independently invented at several different places. It has been reported from MIT, Carleton College and RPI (among many other places) from as far back as 1969.

It is possible that the hackish sense of `flame' is much older than that. The poet Chaucer was also what passed for a wizard hacker in his time; he wrote a treatise on the astrolabe, the most advanced computing device of the day. In Chaucer's "Troilus and Cressida", Cressida laments her inability to grasp the proof of a particular mathematical theorem; her uncle Pandarus then observes that it's called "the fleminge of wrecches." This phrase seems to have been intended in context as "that which puts the wretches to flight" but was probably just as ambiguous in Middle English as "the flaming of wretches" would be today. One suspects that Chaucer would feel right at home on Usenet.

flame bait /n./

A posting intended to trigger a flame war, or one that invites flames in reply. See also troll.

flame on vi.,/interj./

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

flame war /n./

(var. `flamewar') An acrimonious dispute, especially when conducted on a public electronic forum such as Usenet.

flamer /n./

One who habitually flames. Said esp. of obnoxious Usenet personalities.

flap /vt./

1. To unload a DECtape (so it goes flap, flap, flap...). Old-time hackers at MIT tell of the days when the disk was device 0 and microtapes were 1, 2,... and attempting to flap device 0 would instead start a motor banging inside a cabinet near the disk. 2. By extension, to unload any magnetic tape. See also macrotape. Modern cartridge tapes no longer actually flap, but the usage has remained. (The term could well be re-applied to DEC's TK50 cartridge tape drive, a spectacularly misengineered contraption which makes a loud flapping sound, almost like an old reel-type lawnmower, in one of its many tape-eating failure modes.)

flarp /flarp/ /n./

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

flat /adj./

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

flat-ASCII /adj./

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

flat-file /adj./

A flattened representation of some database or tree or network structure as a single file from which the structure could implicitly be rebuilt, esp. one in flat-ASCII form. See also sharchive.

flatten /vt./

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

flavor /n./

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

flavorful /adj./

Full of flavor (sense 2); esthetically pleasing. See random and losing for antonyms. See also the entries for taste and elegant.

flippy /flip'ee/ /n./

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

flood /v./

[IRC] To dump large amounts of text onto an IRC channel. This is especially rude when the text is uninteresting and the other users are trying to carry on a serious conversation.

flowchart /n./

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

flower key /n./

[Mac users] See feature key.

flush /v./

1. To delete something, usually superfluous, or to abort an operation. "All that nonsense has been flushed." 2. [Unix/C] To force buffered I/O to disk, as with an fflush(3) call. This is not an abort or deletion as in sense 1, but a demand for early completion! 3. To leave at the end of a day's work (as opposed to leaving for a meal). "I'm going to flush now." "Time to flush." 4. To exclude someone from an activity, or to ignore a person.

`Flush' was standard ITS terminology for aborting an output operation; one spoke of the text that would have been printed, but was not, as having been flushed. It is speculated that this term arose from a vivid image of flushing unwanted characters by hosing down the internal output buffer, washing the characters away before they could be printed. The Unix/C usage, on the other hand, was propagated by the fflush(3) call in C's standard I/O library (though it is reported to have been in use among BLISS programmers at DEC and on Honeywell and IBM machines as far back as 1965). Unix/C hackers find the ITS usage confusing, and vice versa.

flypage /fli:'payj/ /n./

(alt. `fly page') A banner, sense 1.

Flyspeck 3 /n./

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

flytrap /n./

See firewall machine.

FM /F-M/ /n./

1. Not `Frequency Modulation' but rather an abbreviation for `Fucking Manual', the back-formation from RTFM. Used to refer to the manual itself in the RTFM. "Have you seen the Networking FM lately?" 2. Abbreviation for "Fucking Magic", used in the sense of black magic.

fnord /n./

[from the "Illuminatus Trilogy"] 1. A word used in email and news postings to tag utterances as surrealist mind-play or humor, esp. in connection with Discordianism and elaborate conspiracy theories. "I heard that David Koresh is sharing an apartment in Argentina with Hitler. (Fnord.)" "Where can I fnord get the Principia Discordia from?" 2. A metasyntactic variable, commonly used by hackers with ties to Discordianism or the Church of the SubGenius.

FOAF // /n./

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

FOD /fod/ /v./

[Abbreviation for `Finger of Death', originally a spell-name from fantasy gaming] To terminate with extreme prejudice and with no regard for other people. From MUDs where the wizard command `FOD <player>' results in the immediate and total death of <player>, usually as punishment for obnoxious behavior. This usage migrated to other circumstances, such as "I'm going to fod the process that is burning all the cycles." Compare gun.

In aviation, FOD means Foreign Object Damage, e.g., what happens when a jet engine sucks up a rock on the runway or a bird in flight. Finger of Death is a distressingly apt description of what this generally does to the engine.

fold case /v./

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

followup /n./

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

fontology /n./

[XEROX PARC] The body of knowledge dealing with the construction and use of new fonts (e.g., for window systems and typesetting software). It has been said that fontology recapitulates file-ogeny.

[Unfortunately, this reference to the embryological dictum that "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" is not merely a joke. On the Macintosh, for example, System 7 has to go through contortions to compensate for an earlier design error that created a whole different set of abstractions for fonts parallel to `files' and `folders' --ESR]

foo /foo/

1. /interj./ Term of disgust. 2. Used very generally as a sample name for absolutely anything, esp. programs and files (esp. scratch files). 3. First on the standard list of metasyntactic variables used in syntax examples. See also bar, baz, qux, quux, corge, grault, garply, waldo, fred, plugh, xyzzy, thud.

The etymology of hackish `foo' is obscure. When used in connection with `bar' it is generally traced to the WWII-era Army slang acronym FUBAR (`Fucked Up Beyond All Repair'), later bowdlerized to foobar. (See also FUBAR.)

However, the use of the word `foo' itself has more complicated antecedents, including a long history in comic strips and cartoons. The old "Smokey Stover" comic strips by Bill Holman often included the word `FOO', in particular on license plates of cars; allegedly, `FOO' and `BAR' also occurred in Walt Kelly's "Pogo" strips. In the 1938 cartoon "The Daffy Doc", a very early version of Daffy Duck holds up a sign saying "SILENCE IS FOO!"; oddly, this seems to refer to some approving or positive affirmative use of foo. It has been suggested that this might be related to the Chinese word `fu' (sometimes transliterated `foo'), which can mean "happiness" when spoken with the proper tone (the lion-dog guardians flanking the steps of many Chinese restaurants are properly called "fu dogs").

Paul Dickson's excellent book "Words" (Dell, 1982, ISBN 0-440-52260-7) traces "Foo" to an unspecified British naval magazine in 1946, quoting as follows: "Mr. Foo is a mysterious Second World War product, gifted with bitter omniscience and sarcasm."

Other sources confirm that `FOO' was a semi-legendary subject of WWII British-army graffiti more-or-less equivalent to the American Kilroy. Where British troops went, the graffito "FOO was here" or something similar showed up. Several slang dictionaries aver that FOO probably came from Forward Observation Officer. In this connection, the later American military slang `foo fighters' is interesting; at least as far back as the 1950s, radar operators used it for the kind of mysterious or spurious trace that would later be called a UFO (the older term resurfaced in popular American usage in 1995 via the name of one of the better grunge-rock bands).

Earlier versions of this entry suggested the possibility that hacker usage actually sprang from "FOO, Lampoons and Parody", the title of a comic book first issued in September 1958, a joint project of Charles and Robert Crumb. Though Robert Crumb (then in his mid-teens) later became one of the most important and influential artists in underground comics, this venture was hardly a success; indeed, the brothers later burned most of the existing copies in disgust. The title FOO was featured in large letters on the front cover. However, very few copies of this comic actually circulated, and students of Crumb's `oeuvre' have established that this title was a reference to the earlier Smokey Stover comics.

An old-time member reports that in the 1959 "Dictionary of the TMRC Language", compiled at TMRC, there was an entry that went something like this:

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

For more about the legendary foo counters, see TMRC. Almost the entire staff of what later became the MIT AI Lab was involved with TMRC, and probably picked the word up there.

Very probably, hackish `foo' had no single origin and derives through all these channels from Yiddish `feh' and/or English `fooey'.

foobar /n./

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

fool /n./

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

The Algol 68-R compiler used to initialize its storage to the character string "F00LF00LF00LF00L..." because as a pointer or as a floating point number it caused a crash, and as an integer or a character string it was very recognizable in a dump. Sadly, one day a very senior professor at Nottingham University wrote a program that called him a fool. He proceeded to demonstrate the correctness of this assertion by lobbying the university (not quite successfully) to forbid the use of Algol on its computers. See also DEADBEEF.

fool file, the /n./

[Usenet] A notional repository of all the most dramatically and abysmally stupid utterances ever. An entire subgenre of sig blocks consists of the header "From the fool file:" followed by some quote the poster wishes to represent as an immortal gem of dimwittery; for this usage to be really effective, the quote has to be so obviously wrong as to be laughable. More than one Usenetter has achieved an unwanted notoriety by being quoted in this way.

Foonly /n./

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

footprint /n./

1. The floor or desk area taken up by a piece of hardware. 2. [IBM] The audit trail (if any) left by a crashed program (often in plural, `footprints'). See also toeprint. 3. RAM footprint: The minimum amount of RAM which an OS or other program takes; this figure gives one one an idea of how much will be left for other applications. How actively this RAM is used is another matter entirely. Recent tendencies to featuritis and software bloat can expand the RAM footprint of an OS to the point of making it nearly unusable in practice. [This problem is, thankfully, limited to operating systems so stupid that they don't do virtual memory -- ESR]

for free /adj./

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

for the rest of us /adj./

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

for values of

[MIT] A common rhetorical maneuver at MIT is to use any of the canonical random numbers as placeholders for variables. "The max function takes 42 arguments, for arbitrary values of 42." "There are 69 ways to leave your lover, for 69 = 50." This is especially likely when the speaker has uttered a random number and realizes that it was not recognized as such, but even `non-random' numbers are occasionally used in this fashion. A related joke is that @Math{pi} equals 3 -- for small values of @Math{pi} and large values of 3.

Historical note: at MIT this usage has traditionally been traced to the programming language MAD (Michigan Algorithm Decoder), an Algol-58-like language that was the most common choice among mainstream (non-hacker) users at MIT in the mid-60s. It inherited from Algol-58 a control structure FOR VALUES OF X = 3, 7, 99 DO ... that would repeat the indicated instructions for each value in the list (unlike the usual FOR that only works for arithmetic sequences of values). MAD is long extinct, but similar for-constructs still flourish (e.g., in Unix's shell languages).

fora /pl.n./

Plural of forum.

foreground /vt./

[Unix] To bring a task to the top of one's stack for immediate processing, and hackers often use it in this sense for non-computer tasks. "If your presentation is due next week, I guess I'd better foreground writing up the design document."

Technically, on a time-sharing system, a task executing in foreground is one able to accept input from and return output to the user; oppose background. Nowadays this term is primarily associated with Unix, but it appears first to have been used in this sense on OS/360. Normally, there is only one foreground task per terminal (or terminal window); having multiple processes simultaneously reading the keyboard is a good way to lose.

fork bomb /n./

[Unix] A particular species of wabbit that can be written in one line of C (main() {for(;;)fork();}) or shell ($0 & $0 &) on any Unix system, or occasionally created by an egregious coding bug. A fork bomb process `explodes' by recursively spawning copies of itself (using the Unix system call fork(2)). Eventually it eats all the process table entries and effectively wedges the system. Fortunately, fork bombs are relatively easy to spot and kill, so creating one deliberately seldom accomplishes more than to bring the just wrath of the gods down upon the perpetrator. See also logic bomb.

forked /adj./

[Unix; prob. influenced by a mainstream expletive] Terminally slow, or dead. Originated when one system was slowed to a snail's pace by an inadvertent fork bomb.

Fortrash /for'trash/ /n./

Hackerism for the FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslator) language, referring to its primitive design, gross and irregular syntax, limited control constructs, and slippery, exception-filled semantics.

fortune cookie /n./

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

forum /n./

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

fossil /n./

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

four-color glossies /n./

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

fragile /adj./

Syn brittle.

fred /n./

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

frednet /fred'net/ /n./

Used to refer to some random and uncommon protocol encountered on a network. "We're implementing bridging in our router to solve the frednet problem."

freeware /n./

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

freeze /v./

To lock an evolving software distribution or document against changes so it can be released with some hope of stability. Carries the strong implication that the item in question will `unfreeze' at some future date. "OK, fix that bug and we'll freeze for release."

There are more specific constructions on this term. A `feature freeze', for example, locks out modifications intended to introduce new features but still allows bugfixes and completion of existing features; a `code freeze' connotes no more changes at all. At Sun Microsystems and elsewhere, one may also hear references to `code slush' -- that is, an almost-but-not-quite frozen state.

fried /adj./

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

frink /frink/ /v./

The unknown ur-verb, fill in your own meaning. Found esp. on the Usenet newsgroup alt.fan.lemurs, where it is said that the lemurs know what `frink' means, but they aren't telling. Compare gorets.

friode /fri:'ohd/ /n./

[TMRC] A reversible (that is, fused or blown) diode. Compare fried; see also SED, LER.

fritterware /n./

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

frob /frob/ 1. /n./

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

frobnicate /frob'ni-kayt/ /vt./

[Poss. derived from frobnitz, and usually abbreviated to frob, but `frobnicate' is recognized as the official full form.] To manipulate or adjust, to tweak. One frequently frobs bits or other 2-state devices. Thus: "Please frob the light switch" (that is, flip it), but also "Stop frobbing that clasp; you'll break it". One also sees the construction `to frob a frob'. See tweak and twiddle.

Usage: frob, twiddle, and tweak sometimes connote points along a continuum. `Frob' connotes aimless manipulation; `twiddle' connotes gross manipulation, often a coarse search for a proper setting; `tweak' connotes fine-tuning. If someone is turning a knob on an oscilloscope, then if he's carefully adjusting it, he is probably tweaking it; if he is just turning it but looking at the screen, he is probably twiddling it; but if he's just doing it because turning a knob is fun, he's frobbing it. The variant `frobnosticate' has been recently reported.

frobnitz /frob'nits/, /pl./ `frobnitzem' /frob'nit-zm/ or `frobni' /frob'ni:/ /n./

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

Pete Samson, compiler of the original TMRC lexicon, adds, "Under the TMRC [railroad] layout were many storage boxes, managed (in 1958) by David R. Sawyer. Several had fanciful designations written on them, such as `Frobnitz Coil Oil'. Perhaps DRS intended Frobnitz to be a proper name, but the name was quickly taken for the thing". This was almost certainly the origin of the term.

frog alt. `phrog'

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

frogging [University of Waterloo] /v./

1. Partial corruption of a text file or input stream by some bug or consistent glitch, as opposed to random events like line noise or media failures. Might occur, for example, if one bit of each incoming character on a tty were stuck, so that some characters were correct and others were not. See terminak for a historical example and compare dread high-bit disease. 2. By extension, accidental display of text in a mode where the output device emits special symbols or mnemonics rather than conventional ASCII. This often happens, for example, when using a terminal or comm program on a device like an IBM PC with a special `high-half' character set and with the bit-parity assumption wrong. A hacker sufficiently familiar with ASCII bit patterns might be able to read the display anyway.

front end /n./

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

frotz /frots/

1. /n./ See frobnitz. 2. `mumble frotz': An interjection of mildest disgust.

frotzed /frotst/ /adj./

down because of hardware problems. Compare fried. A machine that is merely frotzed may be fixable without replacing parts, but a fried machine is more seriously damaged.

frowney /n./

(alt. `frowney face') See emoticon.

FRS // /n./

Abbreviation for "Freely Redistributable Software" which entered general use on the Internet in 1995 after years of low-level confusion over what exactly to call software written to be passed around and shared (contending terms including freeware, shareware, and `sourceware' were never universally felt to be satisfactory for various subtle reasons). The first formal conference on freely redistributable software was held in Cambridge, Massachussetts, in February 1996 (sponsored by the Free Software Foundation). The conference organizers used the FRS abbreviation heavily in its calls for papers and other literature during 1995; this was probably critical in helping establish the term.


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

FSF /F-S-F/ /abbrev./

Common abbreviation (both spoken and written) for the name of the Free Software Foundation, a nonprofit educational association formed to support the GNU project.

FTP /F-T-P/, not /fit'ip/

1. [techspeak] /n./ The File Transfer Protocol for transmitting files between systems on the Internet. 2. /vt./ To beam a file using the File Transfer Protocol. 3. Sometimes used as a generic even for file transfers not using FTP. "Lemme get a copy of "Wuthering Heights" ftp'd from uunet."

FUBAR /n./

The Failed UniBus Address Register in a VAX. A good example of how jargon can occasionally be snuck past the suits; see foobar, and foo for a fuller etymology.

fuck me harder /excl./

Sometimes uttered in response to egregious misbehavior, esp. in software, and esp. of misbehaviors which seem unfairly persistent (as though designed in by the imp of the perverse). Often theatrically elaborated: "Aiighhh! Fuck me with a piledriver and 16 feet of curare-tipped wrought-iron fence and no lubricants!" The phrase is sometimes heard abbreviated `FMH' in polite company.

[This entry is an extreme example of the hackish habit of coining elaborate and evocative terms for lossage. Here we see a quite self-conscious parody of mainstream expletives that has become a running gag in part of the hacker culture; it illustrates the hackish tendency to turn any situation, even one of extreme frustration, into an intellectual game (the point being, in this case, to creatively produce a long-winded description of the most anatomically absurd mental image possible -- the short forms implicitly allude to all the ridiculous long forms ever spoken). Scatological language is actually relatively uncommon among hackers, and there was some controversy over whether this entry ought to be included at all. As it reflects a live usage recognizably peculiar to the hacker culture, we feel it is in the hackish spirit of truthfulness and opposition to all forms of censorship to record it here. --ESR & GLS]

FUD /fuhd/ /n./

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

FUD wars /fuhd worz/ /n./

[from FUD] Political posturing engaged in by hardware and software vendors ostensibly committed to standardization but actually willing to fragment the market to protect their own shares. The Unix International vs. OSF conflict is but one outstanding example.


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

fudge factor /n./

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

fuel up /vi./

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

Full Monty, the /n./

See monty, sense 2.

fum /n./

[XEROX PARC] At PARC, often the third of the standard metasyntactic variables (after foo and bar). Competes with baz, which is more common outside PARC.

funky /adj./

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

funny money /n./

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

furrfu // /excl./

[Usenet] Written-only equivalent of "Sheesh!"; it is, in fact, "sheesh" modified by rot13. Evolved in mid-1992 as a response to notably silly postings repeating urban myths on the Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.urban, after some posters complained that "Sheesh!" as a response to newbies was being overused. See also FOAF.

fuzzball /n./

[TCP/IP hackers] A DEC LSI-11 running a particular suite of homebrewed software written by Dave Mills and assorted co-conspirators, used in the early 1980s for Internet protocol testbedding and experimentation. These were used as NSFnet backbone sites in its early 56KB-line days; a few were still active on the Internet as late as mid-1993, doing odd jobs such as network time service.

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