Go to the previous, next section.

= G =

G /pref.,suff./

[SI] See quantifiers.

g-file /n./

[Commodore BBS culture] Any file that is written with the intention of being read by a human rather than a machine, such as the Jargon File, documentation, humor files, hacker lore, and technical materials.

This term survives from the nearly forgotten Commodore 64 underground and BBS community. In the early 80s, C-Net had emerged as the most popular C64 BBS software for systems which encouraged messaging (as opposed to file transfer). There were three main options for files: Program files (p-files), which served the same function as `doors' in today's systems, UD files (the user upload/download section), and g-files. Anything that was meant to be read was included in g-files.

gabriel /gay'bree-*l/ /n./

[for Dick Gabriel, SAIL LISP hacker and volleyball fanatic] An unnecessary (in the opinion of the opponent) stalling tactic, e.g., tying one's shoelaces or combing one's hair repeatedly, asking the time, etc. Also used to refer to the perpetrator of such tactics. Also, `pulling a Gabriel', `Gabriel mode'.

gag /vi./

Equivalent to choke, but connotes more disgust. "Hey, this is FORTRAN code. No wonder the C compiler gagged." See also barf.

gang bang /n./

The use of large numbers of loosely coupled programmers in an attempt to wedge a great many features into a product in a short time. Though there have been memorable gang bangs (e.g., that over-the-weekend assembler port mentioned in Steven Levy's "Hackers"), most are perpetrated by large companies trying to meet deadlines; the inevitable result is enormous buggy masses of code entirely lacking in orthogonality. When market-driven managers make a list of all the features the competition has and assign one programmer to implement each, the probability of maintaining a coherent (or even functional) design goes infinitesimal. See also firefighting, Mongolian Hordes technique, Conway's Law.

garbage collect /vi./

(also `garbage collection', n.) See GC.

garply /gar'plee/ /n./

[Stanford] Another metasyntactic variable (see foo); once popular among SAIL hackers.


[as in `gas chamber'] 1. /interj./ A term of disgust and hatred, implying that gas should be dispensed in generous quantities, thereby exterminating the source of irritation. "Some loser just reloaded the system for no reason! Gas!" 2. /interj./ A suggestion that someone or something ought to be flushed out of mercy. "The system's getting wedged every few minutes. Gas!" 3. /vt./ To flush (sense 1). "You should gas that old crufty software." 4. [IBM] /n./ Dead space in nonsequentially organized files that was occupied by data that has since been deleted; the compression operation that removes it is called `degassing' (by analogy, perhaps, with the use of the same term in vacuum technology). 5. [IBM] /n./ Empty space on a disk that has been clandestinely allocated against future need.

gaseous /adj./

Deserving of being gassed. Disseminated by Geoff Goodfellow while at SRI; became particularly popular after the Moscone-Milk killings in San Francisco, when it was learned that the defendant Dan White (a politician who had supported Proposition 7) would get the gas chamber under Proposition 7 if convicted of first-degree murder (he was eventually convicted of manslaughter).

gawble /gaw'bl/ /n./

See chawmp.

GC /G-C/

[from LISP terminology; `Garbage Collect'] 1. /vt./ To clean up and throw away useless things. "I think I'll GC the top of my desk today." When said of files, this is equivalent to GFR. 2. /vt./ To recycle, reclaim, or put to another use. 3. /n./ An instantiation of the garbage collector process.

`Garbage collection' is computer-science techspeak for a particular class of strategies for dynamically but transparently reallocating computer memory (i.e., without requiring explicit allocation and deallocation by higher-level software). One such strategy involves periodically scanning all the data in memory and determining what is no longer accessible; useless data items are then discarded so that the memory they occupy can be recycled and used for another purpose. Implementations of the LISP language usually use garbage collection.

In jargon, the full phrase is sometimes heard but the abbrev GC is more frequently used because it is shorter. Note that there is an ambiguity in usage that has to be resolved by context: "I'm going to garbage-collect my desk" usually means to clean out the drawers, but it could also mean to throw away or recycle the desk itself.

GCOS /jee'kohs/ /n./

A quick-and-dirty clone of System/360 DOS that emerged from GE around 1970; originally called GECOS (the General Electric Comprehensive Operating System). Later kluged to support primitive timesharing and transaction processing. After the buyout of GE's computer division by Honeywell, the name was changed to General Comprehensive Operating System (GCOS). Other OS groups at Honeywell began referring to it as `God's Chosen Operating System', allegedly in reaction to the GCOS crowd's uninformed and snotty attitude about the superiority of their product. All this might be of zero interest, except for two facts: (1) The GCOS people won the political war, and this led in the orphaning and eventual death of Honeywell Multics, and (2) GECOS/GCOS left one permanent mark on Unix. Some early Unix systems at Bell Labs used GCOS machines for print spooling and various other services; the field added to /etc/passwd to carry GCOS ID information was called the `GECOS field' and survives today as the pw_gecos member used for the user's full name and other human-ID information. GCOS later played a major role in keeping Honeywell a dismal also-ran in the mainframe market, and was itself ditched for Unix in the late 1980s when Honeywell retired its aging big iron designs.

GECOS /jee'kohs/ /n./


gedanken /g*-dahn'kn/ /adj./

Ungrounded; impractical; not well-thought-out; untried; untested.

`Gedanken' is a German word for `thought'. A thought experiment is one you carry out in your head. In physics, the term `gedanken experiment' is used to refer to an experiment that is impractical to carry out, but useful to consider because it can be reasoned about theoretically. (A classic gedanken experiment of relativity theory involves thinking about a man in an elevator accelerating through space.) Gedanken experiments are very useful in physics, but must be used with care. It's too easy to idealize away some important aspect of the real world in constructing the `apparatus'.

Among hackers, accordingly, the word has a pejorative connotation. It is typically used of a project, especially one in artificial intelligence research, that is written up in grand detail (typically as a Ph.D. thesis) without ever being implemented to any great extent. Such a project is usually perpetrated by people who aren't very good hackers or find programming distasteful or are just in a hurry. A `gedanken thesis' is usually marked by an obvious lack of intuition about what is programmable and what is not, and about what does and does not constitute a clear specification of an algorithm. See also AI-complete, DWIM.

geef /v./

[ostensibly from `gefingerpoken'] /vt./ Syn. mung. See also blinkenlights.

geek code /n./

(also "Code of the Geeks"). A set of codes commonly used in sig blocks to broadcast the interests, skills, and aspirations of the poster. Features a G at the left margin followed by numerous letter codes, often suffixed with plusses or minuses. Because many net users are involved in computer science, the most common prefix is `GCS'. To see a copy of the current code, browse http://krypton.mankato.msus.edu/~hayden/geek.html. Here is a sample geek code (that or Robert Hayden, the code's inventor) from that page:

Version: 3.1
GED/J d-- s:++>: a- C++(++++)$ ULUO++ P+>+++ L++ !E---- W+(---) N+++
o+ K+++ w+(---) O- M+$>++ V-- PS++(+++)>$ PE++(+)>$ Y++ PGP++ t- 5+++
X++ R+++>$ tv+ b+ DI+++ D+++ G+++++>$ e++$>++++ h r-- y+**

The geek code originated in 1993; it was inspired (according to the inventor) by previous "bear", "smurf" and "twink" style-and-sexual-preference codes from lesbian and gay newsgroups. It has in turn spawned imitators; there is now even a "Saturn geek code" for owners of the Saturn car. See also computer geek.

geek out /vi./

To temporarily enter techno-nerd mode while in a non-hackish context, for example at parties held near computer equipment. Especially used when you need to do or say something highly technical and don't have time to explain: "Pardon me while I geek out for a moment." See computer geek; see also propeller head.

gen /jen/ /n.,v./

Short for generate, used frequently in both spoken and written contexts.

gender mender /n./

A cable connector shell with either two male or two female connectors on it, used to correct the mismatches that result when some loser didn't understand the RS232C specification and the distinction between DTE and DCE. Used esp. for RS-232C parts in either the original D-25 or the IBM PC's bogus D-9 format. Also called `gender bender', `gender blender', `sex changer', and even `homosexual adapter;' however, there appears to be some confusion as to whether a `male homosexual adapter' has pins on both sides (is doubly male) or sockets on both sides (connects two males).

General Public Virus /n./

Pejorative name for some versions of the GNU project copyleft or General Public License (GPL), which requires that any tools or apps incorporating copylefted code must be source-distributed on the same counter-commercial terms as GNU stuff. Thus it is alleged that the copyleft `infects' software generated with GNU tools, which may in turn infect other software that reuses any of its code. The Free Software Foundation's official position as of January 1991 is that copyright law limits the scope of the GPL to "programs textually incorporating significant amounts of GNU code", and that the `infection' is not passed on to third parties unless actual GNU source is transmitted (as in, for example, use of the Bison parser skeleton). Nevertheless, widespread suspicion that the copyleft language is `boobytrapped' has caused many developers to avoid using GNU tools and the GPL. Recent (July 1991) changes in the language of the version 2.00 license may eliminate this problem.

generate /vt./

To produce something according to an algorithm or program or set of rules, or as a (possibly unintended) side effect of the execution of an algorithm or program. The opposite of parse. This term retains its mechanistic connotations (though often humorously) when used of human behavior. "The guy is rational most of the time, but mention nuclear energy around him and he'll generate infinite flamage."

Genius From Mars Technique /n./

[TMRC] A visionary quality which enables one to ignore the standard approach and come up with a totally unexpected new algorithm. An attack on a problem from an offbeat angle that no one has ever thought of before, but that in retrospect makes total sense. Compare grok, zen.

gensym /jen'sim/

[from MacLISP for `generated symbol'] 1. /v./ To invent a new name for something temporary, in such a way that the name is almost certainly not in conflict with one already in use. 2. /n./ The resulting name. The canonical form of a gensym is `Gnnnn' where nnnn represents a number; any LISP hacker would recognize G0093 (for example) as a gensym. 3. A freshly generated data structure with a gensymmed name. Gensymmed names are useful for storing or uniquely identifying crufties (see cruft).

Get a life! /imp./

Hacker-standard way of suggesting that the person to whom it is directed has succumbed to terminal geekdom (see computer geek). Often heard on Usenet, esp. as a way of suggesting that the target is taking some obscure issue of theology too seriously. This exhortation was popularized by William Shatner on a "Saturday Night Live" episode in a speech that ended "Get a life!", but some respondents believe it to have been in use before then. It was certainly in wide use among hackers for at least five years before achieving mainstream currency in early 1992.

Get a real computer! /imp./

Typical hacker response to news that somebody is having trouble getting work done on a system that (a) is single-tasking, (b) has no hard disk, or (c) has an address space smaller than 16 megabytes. This is as of early 1996; note that the threshold for `real computer' rises with time. See bitty box and toy.

GFR /G-F-R/ /vt./

[ITS: from `Grim File Reaper', an ITS and LISP Machine utility] To remove a file or files according to some program-automated or semi-automatic manual procedure, especially one designed to reclaim mass storage space or reduce name-space clutter (the original GFR actually moved files to tape). Often generalized to pieces of data below file level. "I used to have his phone number, but I guess I GFRed it." See also prowler, reaper. Compare GC, which discards only provably worthless stuff.

GIFs at 11

[Fidonet] Fidonet alternative to film at 11, especially in echoes (Fidonet topic areas) where uuencoded GIFs are permitted. Other formats, especially JPEG and MPEG, may be referenced instead.

gig /jig/ or /gig/ /n./

[SI] See quantifiers.

giga- /ji'ga/ or /gi'ga/ /pref./

[SI] See quantifiers.

GIGO /gi:'goh/ [acronym]

1. `Garbage In, Garbage Out' --- usually said in response to lusers who complain that a program didn't "do the right thing" when given imperfect input or otherwise mistreated in some way. Also commonly used to describe failures in human decision making due to faulty, incomplete, or imprecise data. 2. `Garbage In, Gospel Out': this more recent expansion is a sardonic comment on the tendency human beings have to put excessive trust in `computerized' data.

gilley /n./

[Usenet] The unit of analogical bogosity. According to its originator, the standard for one gilley was "the act of bogotoficiously comparing the shutting down of 1000 machines for a day with the killing of one person". The milligilley has been found to suffice for most normal conversational exchanges.

gillion /gil'y*n/ or /jil'y*n/ /n./

[formed from giga- by analogy with mega/million and tera/trillion] @Math{10^9}. Same as an American billion or a British `milliard'. How one pronounces this depends on whether one speaks giga- with a hard or soft `g'.

GIPS /gips/ or /jips/ /n./

[analogy with MIPS] Giga-Instructions per Second (also possibly `Gillions of Instructions per Second'; see gillion). In 1991, this is used of only a handful of highly parallel machines, but this is expected to change. Compare KIPS.

glark /glark/ /vt./

To figure something out from context. "The System III manuals are pretty poor, but you can generally glark the meaning from context." Interestingly, the word was originally `glork'; the context was "This gubblick contains many nonsklarkish English flutzpahs, but the overall pluggandisp can be glorked [sic] from context" (David Moser, quoted by Douglas Hofstadter in his "Metamagical Themas" column in the January 1981 "Scientific American"). It is conjectured that hackish usage mutated the verb to `glark' because glork was already an established jargon term. Compare grok, zen.

glass /n./

[IBM] Synonym for silicon.

glass tty /glas T-T-Y/ or /glas ti'tee/ /n./

A terminal that has a display screen but which, because of hardware or software limitations, behaves like a teletype or some other printing terminal, thereby combining the disadvantages of both: like a printing terminal, it can't do fancy display hacks, and like a display terminal, it doesn't produce hard copy. An example is the early `dumb' version of Lear-Siegler ADM 3 (without cursor control). See tube, tty; compare dumb terminal, smart terminal. See " TV Typewriters A Tale of Hackish Ingenuity" (Appendix A) for an interesting true story about a glass tty.

glassfet /glas'fet/ /n./

[by analogy with MOSFET, the acronym for `Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistor'] Syn. firebottle, a humorous way to refer to a vacuum tube.

glitch /glich/

[from German `glitschig' to slip, via Yiddish `glitshen', to slide or skid] 1. /n./ A sudden interruption in electric service, sanity, continuity, or program function. Sometimes recoverable. An interruption in electric service is specifically called a `power glitch' (also power hit), of grave concern because it usually crashes all the computers. In jargon, though, a hacker who got to the middle of a sentence and then forgot how he or she intended to complete it might say, "Sorry, I just glitched". 2. /vi./ To commit a glitch. See gritch. 3. /vt./ [Stanford] To scroll a display screen, esp. several lines at a time. WAITS terminals used to do this in order to avoid continuous scrolling, which is distracting to the eye. 4. obs. Same as magic cookie, sense 2.

All these uses of `glitch' derive from the specific technical meaning the term has in the electronic hardware world, where it is now techspeak. A glitch can occur when the inputs of a circuit change, and the outputs change to some random value for some very brief time before they settle down to the correct value. If another circuit inspects the output at just the wrong time, reading the random value, the results can be very wrong and very hard to debug (a glitch is one of many causes of electronic heisenbugs).

glob /glob/, not /glohb/ /v.,n./

[Unix] To expand special characters in a wildcarded name, or the act of so doing (the action is also called `globbing'). The Unix conventions for filename wildcarding have become sufficiently pervasive that many hackers use some of them in written English, especially in email or news on technical topics. Those commonly encountered include the following:

wildcard for any string (see also UN*X)
wildcard for any single character (generally read this way only at the beginning or in the middle of a word)

delimits a wildcard matching any of the enclosed characters

alternation of comma-separated alternatives; thus, `foo{baz,qux}' would be read as `foobaz' or `fooqux'

Some examples: "He said his name was [KC]arl" (expresses ambiguity). "I don't read talk.politics.*" (any of the talk.politics subgroups on Usenet). Other examples are given under the entry for X. Note that glob patterns are similar, but not identical, to those used in regexps.

Historical note: The jargon usage derives from glob, the name of a subprogram that expanded wildcards in archaic pre-Bourne versions of the Unix shell.

glork /glork/

1. /interj./ Term of mild surprise, usually tinged with outrage, as when one attempts to save the results of two hours of editing and finds that the system has just crashed. 2. Used as a name for just about anything. See foo. 3. /vt./ Similar to glitch, but usually used reflexively. "My program just glorked itself." See also glark.

glue /n./

Generic term for any interface logic or protocol that connects two component blocks. For example, Blue Glue is IBM's SNA protocol, and hardware designers call anything used to connect large VLSI's or circuit blocks `glue logic'.

gnarly /nar'lee/ /adj./

Both obscure and hairy (sense 1). " Yow! -- the tuned assembler implementation of BitBlt is really gnarly!" From a similar but less specific usage in surfer slang.

GNU /gnoo/, not /noo/

1. [acronym: `GNU's Not Unix!', see recursive acronym] A Unix-workalike development effort of the Free Software Foundation headed by Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.ai.mit.edu>. GNU EMACS and the GNU C compiler, two tools designed for this project, have become very popular in hackerdom and elsewhere. The GNU project was designed partly to proselytize for RMS's position that information is community property and all software source should be shared. One of its slogans is "Help stamp out software hoarding!" Though this remains controversial (because it implicitly denies any right of designers to own, assign, and sell the results of their labors), many hackers who disagree with RMS have nevertheless cooperated to produce large amounts of high-quality software for free redistribution under the Free Software Foundation's imprimatur. See EMACS, copyleft, General Public Virus, Linux. 2. Noted Unix hacker John Gilmore <gnu@toad.com>, founder of Usenet's anarchic alt.* hierarchy.

GNUMACS /gnoo'maks/ /n./

[contraction of `GNU EMACS'] Often-heard abbreviated name for the GNU project's flagship tool, EMACS. Used esp. in contrast with GOSMACS.

go flatline /v./

[from cyberpunk SF, refers to flattening of EEG traces upon brain-death] (also adjectival `flatlined'). 1. To die, terminate, or fail, esp. irreversibly. In hacker parlance, this is used of machines only, human death being considered somewhat too serious a matter to employ jargon-jokes about. 2. To go completely quiescent; said of machines undergoing controlled shutdown. "You can suffer file damage if you shut down Unix but power off before the system has gone flatline." 3. Of a video tube, to fail by losing vertical scan, so all one sees is a bright horizontal line bisecting the screen.

go root /vi./

[Unix] To temporarily enter root mode in order to perform a privileged operation. This use is deprecated in Australia, where /v./ `root' refers to animal sex.

go-faster stripes /n./

[UK] Syn. chrome. Mainstream in some parts of UK.

gobble /vt./

1. To consume, usu. used with `up'. "The output spy gobbles characters out of a tty output buffer." 2. To obtain, usu. used with `down'. "I guess I'll gobble down a copy of the documentation tomorrow." See also snarf.

Godwin's Law /prov./

[Usenet] "As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." There is a tradition in many groups that, once this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress. Godwin's Law thus practically guarantees the existence of an upper bound on thread length in those groups.

Godzillagram /god-zil'*-gram/ /n./

[from Japan's national hero] 1. A network packet that in theory is a broadcast to every machine in the universe. The typical case is an IP datagram whose destination IP address is []. Fortunately, few gateways are foolish enough to attempt to implement this case! 2. A network packet of maximum size. An IP Godzillagram has 65,536 octets. Compare super source quench.

golden /adj./

[prob. from folklore's `golden egg'] When used to describe a magnetic medium (e.g., `golden disk', `golden tape'), describes one containing a tested, up-to-spec, ready-to-ship software version. Compare platinum-iridium.

golf-ball printer /n. obs./

The IBM 2741, a slow but letter-quality printing device and terminal based on the IBM Selectric typewriter. The `golf ball' was a little spherical frob bearing reversed embossed images of 88 different characters arranged on four parallels of latitude; one could change the font by swapping in a different golf ball. The print element spun and jerked alarmingly in action and when in motion was sometimes described as an `infuriated golf ball'. This was the technology that enabled APL to use a non-EBCDIC, non-ASCII, and in fact completely non-standard character set. This put it 10 years ahead of its time -- where it stayed, firmly rooted, for the next 20, until character displays gave way to programmable bit-mapped devices with the flexibility to support other character sets.

gonk /gonk/ /vi.,n./

1. To prevaricate or to embellish the truth beyond any reasonable recognition. In German the term is (mythically) `gonken'; in Spanish the verb becomes `gonkar'. "You're gonking me. That story you just told me is a bunch of gonk." In German, for example, "Du gonkst mir" (You're pulling my leg). See also gonkulator. 2. [British] To grab some sleep at an odd time; compare gronk out.

gonkulator /gon'kyoo-lay-tr/ /n./

[from the old "Hogan's Heroes" TV series] A pretentious piece of equipment that actually serves no useful purpose. Usually used to describe one's least favorite piece of computer hardware. See gonk.

gonzo /gon'zoh/ /adj./

[from Hunter S. Thompson] Overwhelming; outrageous; over the top; very large, esp. used of collections of source code, source files, or individual functions. Has some of the connotations of moby and hairy, but without the implication of obscurity or complexity.

Good Thing /n.,adj./

Often capitalized; always pronounced as if capitalized. 1. Self-evidently wonderful to anyone in a position to notice: "The Trailblazer's 19.2Kbaud PEP mode with on-the-fly Lempel-Ziv compression is a Good Thing for sites relaying netnews." 2. Something that can't possibly have any ill side-effects and may save considerable grief later: "Removing the self-modifying code from that shared library would be a Good Thing." 3. When said of software tools or libraries, as in "YACC is a Good Thing", specifically connotes that the thing has drastically reduced a programmer's work load. Oppose Bad Thing.

gopher /n./

A type of Internet service first floated around 1991 and now (1994) being obsolesced by the World Wide Web. Gopher presents a menuing interface to a tree or graph of links; the links can be to documents, runnable programs, or other gopher menus arbitrarily far across the net.

Some claim that the gopher software, which was originally developed at the University of Minnesota, was named after the Minnesota Gophers (a sports team). Others claim the word derives from American slang `gofer' (from "go for", dialectical "go fer"), one whose job is to run and fetch things. Finally, observe that gophers (aka woodchucks) dig long tunnels, and the idea of tunneling through the net to find information was a defining metaphor for the developers. Probably all three things were true, but with the first two coming first and the gopher-tunnel metaphor serendipitously adding flavor and impetus to the project as it developed out of its concept stage.

gopher hole /n./

1. Any access to a gopher. 2. [Amateur Packet Radio] The terrestrial analog of a wormhole (sense 2), from which this term was coined. A gopher hole links two amateur packet relays through some non-ham radio medium.

gorets /gor'ets/ /n./

The unknown ur-noun, fill in your own meaning. Found esp. on the Usenet newsgroup alt.gorets, which seems to be a running contest to redefine the word by implication in the funniest and most peculiar way, with the understanding that no definition is ever final. [A correspondent from the Former Soviet Union informs me that `gorets' is Russian for `mountain dweller' --ESR] Compare frink.

gorilla arm /n./

The side-effect that destroyed touch-screens as a mainstream input technology despite a promising start in the early 1980s. It seems the designers of all those spiffy touch-menu systems failed to notice that humans aren't designed to hold their arms in front of their faces making small motions. After more than a very few selections, the arm begins to feel sore, cramped, and oversized -- the operator looks like a gorilla while using the touch screen and feels like one afterwards. This is now considered a classic cautionary tale to human-factors designers; "Remember the gorilla arm!" is shorthand for "How is this going to fly in real use?".

gorp /gorp/ /n./

[CMU: perhaps from the canonical hiker's food, Good Old Raisins and Peanuts] Another metasyntactic variable, like foo and bar.

GOSMACS /goz'maks/ /n./

[contraction of `Gosling EMACS'] The first EMACS-in-C implementation, predating but now largely eclipsed by GNUMACS. Originally freeware; a commercial version is now modestly popular as `UniPress EMACS'. The author, James Gosling, went on to invent NeWS and the programming language Java; the latter earned him demigod status.

Gosperism /gos'p*r-izm/ /n./

A hack, invention, or saying due to arch-hacker R. William (Bill) Gosper. This notion merits its own term because there are so many of them. Many of the entries in HAKMEM are Gosperisms; see also life.

gotcha /n./

A misfeature of a system, especially a programming language or environment, that tends to breed bugs or mistakes because it both enticingly easy to invoke and completely unexpected and/or unreasonable in its outcome. For example, a classic gotcha in C is the fact that if (a=b) {code;} is syntactically valid and sometimes even correct. It puts the value of b into a and then executes code if a is non-zero. What the programmer probably meant was if (a==b) {code;}, which executes code if a and b are equal.

GPL /G-P-L/ /n./

Abbreviation for `General Public License' in widespread use; see copyleft, General Public Virus.

GPV /G-P-V/ /n./

Abbrev. for General Public Virus in widespread use.

grault /grawlt/ /n./

Yet another metasyntactic variable, invented by Mike Gallaher and propagated by the GOSMACS documentation. See corge.

gray goo /n./

A hypothetical substance composed of sagans of sub-micron-sized self-replicating robots programmed to make copies of themselves out of whatever is available. The image that goes with the term is one of the entire biosphere of Earth being eventually converted to robot goo. This is the simplest of the nanotechnology disaster scenarios, easily refuted by arguments from energy requirements and elemental abundances. Compare blue goo.

Great Renaming /n./

The flag day in 1985 on which all of the non-local groups on the Usenet had their names changed from the net.- format to the current multiple-hierarchies scheme. Used esp. in discussing the history of newsgroup names. "The oldest sources group is comp.sources.misc; before the Great Renaming, it was net.sources."

Great Runes /n./

Uppercase-only text or display messages. Some archaic operating systems still emit these. See also runes, smash case, fold case.

Decades ago, back in the days when it was the sole supplier of long-distance hardcopy transmittal devices, the Teletype Corporation was faced with a major design choice. To shorten code lengths and cut complexity in the printing mechanism, it had been decided that teletypes would use a monocase font, either ALL UPPER or all lower. The Question Of The Day was therefore, which one to choose. A study was conducted on readability under various conditions of bad ribbon, worn print hammers, etc. Lowercase won; it is less dense and has more distinctive letterforms, and is thus much easier to read both under ideal conditions and when the letters are mangled or partly obscured. The results were filtered up through management. The chairman of Teletype killed the proposal because it failed one incredibly important criterion:

"It would be impossible to spell the name of the Deity correctly."

In this way (or so, at least, hacker folklore has it) superstition triumphed over utility. Teletypes were the major input devices on most early computers, and terminal manufacturers looking for corners to cut naturally followed suit until well into the 1970s. Thus, that one bad call stuck us with Great Runes for thirty years.

Great Worm, the /n./

The 1988 Internet worm perpetrated by RTM. This is a play on Tolkien (compare elvish, elder days). In the fantasy history of his Middle Earth books, there were dragons powerful enough to lay waste to entire regions; two of these (Scatha and Glaurung) were known as "the Great Worms". This usage expresses the connotation that the RTM hack was a sort of devastating watershed event in hackish history; certainly it did more to make non-hackers nervous about the Internet than anything before or since.

great-wall /vi.,n./

[from SF fandom] A mass expedition to an oriental restaurant, esp. one where food is served family-style and shared. There is a common heuristic about the amount of food to order, expressed as "Get @Math{N - 1} entrees"; the value of @Math{N}, which is the number of people in the group, can be inferred from context (see N). See oriental food, ravs, stir-fried random.

Green Book /n./

1. One of the three standard PostScript references: "PostScript Language Program Design", bylined `Adobe Systems' (Addison-Wesley, 1988; QA76.73.P67P66 ISBN 0-201-14396-8); see also Red Book, Blue Book, and the White Book (sense 2). 2. Informal name for one of the three standard references on SmallTalk: "Smalltalk-80: Bits of History, Words of Advice", by Glenn Krasner (Addison-Wesley, 1983; QA76.8.S635S58; ISBN 0-201-11669-3) (this, too, is associated with blue and red books). 3. The "X/Open Compatibility Guide", which defines an international standard Unix environment that is a proper superset of POSIX/SVID; also includes descriptions of a standard utility toolkit, systems administrations features, and the like. This grimoire is taken with particular seriousness in Europe. See Purple Book. 4. The IEEE 1003.1 POSIX Operating Systems Interface standard has been dubbed "The Ugly Green Book". 5. Any of the 1992 standards issued by the CCITT's tenth plenary assembly. These include, among other things, the X.400 email standard and the Group 1 through 4 fax standards. See also book titles.

green bytes /n./

(also `green words') 1. Meta-information embedded in a file, such as the length of the file or its name; as opposed to keeping such information in a separate description file or record. The term comes from an IBM user's group meeting (ca. 1962) at which these two approaches were being debated and the diagram of the file on the blackboard had the `green bytes' drawn in green. 2. By extension, the non-data bits in any self-describing format. "A GIF file contains, among other things, green bytes describing the packing method for the image." Compare out-of-band, zigamorph, fence (sense 1).

green card /n./

[after the "IBM System/360 Reference Data" card] A summary of an assembly language, even if the color is not green. Less frequently used now because of the decrease in the use of assembly language. "I'll go get my green card so I can check the addressing mode for that instruction." Some green cards are actually booklets.

The original green card became a yellow card when the System/370 was introduced, and later a yellow booklet. An anecdote from IBM refers to a scene that took place in a programmers' terminal room at Yorktown in 1978. A luser overheard one of the programmers ask another "Do you have a green card?" The other grunted and passed the first a thick yellow booklet. At this point the luser turned a delicate shade of olive and rapidly left the room, never to return.

green lightning /n./

[IBM] 1. Apparently random flashing streaks on the face of 3278-9 terminals while a new symbol set is being downloaded. This hardware bug was left deliberately unfixed, as some genius within IBM suggested it would let the user know that `something is happening'. That, it certainly does. Later microprocessor-driven IBM color graphics displays were actually programmed to produce green lightning! 2. [proposed] Any bug perverted into an alleged feature by adroit rationalization or marketing. "Motorola calls the CISC cruft in the 88000 architecture `compatibility logic', but I call it green lightning". See also feature (sense 6).

green machine /n./

A computer or peripheral device that has been designed and built to military specifications for field equipment (that is, to withstand mechanical shock, extremes of temperature and humidity, and so forth). Comes from the olive-drab `uniform' paint used for military equipment.

Green's Theorem /prov./

[TMRC] For any story, in any group of people there will be at least one person who has not heard the story. A refinement of the theorem states that there will be exactly one person (if there were more than one, it wouldn't be as bad to re-tell the story). [The name of this theorem is a play on a fundamental theorem in calculus. --ESR]

grep /grep/ /vi./

[from the qed/ed editor idiom g/re/p, where re stands for a regular expression, to Globally search for the Regular Expression and Print the lines containing matches to it, via Unix grep(1)] To rapidly scan a file or set of files looking for a particular string or pattern (when browsing through a large set of files, one may speak of `grepping around'). By extension, to look for something by pattern. "Grep the bulletin board for the system backup schedule, would you?" See also vgrep.

grilf // /n./

Girlfriend. Like newsfroup and filk, a typo reincarnated as a new word. Seems to have originated sometime in 1992 on Usenet. [A friend tells me there was a Lloyd Biggle SF novel "Watchers Of The Dark", in which alien species after species goes insane and begins to chant "Grilf! Grilf!". A human detective eventually determines that the word means "Liar!" I hope this has nothing to do with the popularity of the Usenet term. --ESR]

grind /vt./

1. [MIT and Berkeley] To prettify hardcopy of code, especially LISP code, by reindenting lines, printing keywords and comments in distinct fonts (if available), etc. This usage was associated with the MacLISP community and is now rare; prettyprint was and is the generic term for such operations. 2. [Unix] To generate the formatted version of a document from the nroff, troff, TeX, or Scribe source. 3. To run seemingly interminably, esp. (but not necessarily) if performing some tedious and inherently useless task. Similar to crunch or grovel. Grinding has a connotation of using a lot of CPU time, but it is possible to grind a disk, network, etc. See also hog. 4. To make the whole system slow. "Troff really grinds a PDP-11." 5. `grind grind' /excl./ Roughly, "Isn't the machine slow today!"

grind crank /n./

A mythical accessory to a terminal. A crank on the side of a monitor, which when operated makes a zizzing noise and causes the computer to run faster. Usually one does not refer to a grind crank out loud, but merely makes the appropriate gesture and noise. See grind and wugga wugga.

Historical note: At least one real machine actually had a grind crank -- the R1, a research machine built toward the end of the days of the great vacuum tube computers, in 1959. R1 (also known as `The Rice Institute Computer' (TRIC) and later as `The Rice University Computer' (TRUC)) had a single-step/free-run switch for use when debugging programs. Since single-stepping through a large program was rather tedious, there was also a crank with a cam and gear arrangement that repeatedly pushed the single-step button. This allowed one to `crank' through a lot of code, then slow down to single-step for a bit when you got near the code of interest, poke at some registers using the console typewriter, and then keep on cranking.

gripenet /n./

[IBM] A wry (and thoroughly unofficial) name for IBM's internal VNET system, deriving from its common use by IBMers to voice pointed criticism of IBM management that would be taboo in more formal channels.

gritch /grich/

[MIT] 1. /n./ A complaint (often caused by a glitch). 2. /vi./ To complain. Often verb-doubled: "Gritch gritch". 3. A synonym for glitch (as verb or noun).

Interestingly, this word seems to have a separate history from glitch, with which it is often confused. Back in the early 1960s, when `glitch' was strictly a hardware-tech's term of art, the Burton House dorm at M.I.T. maintained a "Gritch Book", a blank volume, into which the residents hand-wrote complaints, suggestions, and witticisms. Previous years' volumes of this tradition were maintained, dating back to antiquity. The word "gritch" was described as a portmanteau of "gripe" and "bitch". Thus, sense 3 above is at least historically incorrect.

grok /grok/, var. /grohk/ /vt./

[from the novel "Stranger in a Strange Land", by Robert A. Heinlein, where it is a Martian word meaning literally `to drink' and metaphorically `to be one with'] The emphatic form is `grok in fullness'. 1. To understand, usually in a global sense. Connotes intimate and exhaustive knowledge. Contrast zen, which is similar supernal understanding experienced as a single brief flash. See also glark. 2. Used of programs, may connote merely sufficient understanding. "Almost all C compilers grok the void type these days."

gronk /gronk/ /vt./

[popularized by Johnny Hart's comic strip "B.C." but the word apparently predates that] 1. To clear the state of a wedged device and restart it. More severe than `to frob' (sense 2). 2. [TMRC] To cut, sever, smash, or similarly disable. 3. The sound made by many 3.5-inch diskette drives. In particular, the microfloppies on a Commodore Amiga go "grink, gronk".

gronk out /vi./

To cease functioning. Of people, to go home and go to sleep. "I guess I'll gronk out now; see you all tomorrow."

gronked /adj./

1. Broken. "The teletype scanner was gronked, so we took the system down." 2. Of people, the condition of feeling very tired or (less commonly) sick. "I've been chasing that bug for 17 hours now and I am thoroughly gronked!" Compare broken, which means about the same as gronk used of hardware, but connotes depression or mental/emotional problems in people.

grovel /vi./

1. To work interminably and without apparent progress. Often used transitively with `over' or `through'. "The file scavenger has been groveling through the /usr directories for 10 minutes now." Compare grind and crunch. Emphatic form: `grovel obscenely'. 2. To examine minutely or in complete detail. "The compiler grovels over the entire source program before beginning to translate it." "I grovelled through all the documentation, but I still couldn't find the command I wanted."

grunge /gruhnj/ /n./

1. That which is grungy, or that which makes it so. 2. [Cambridge] Code which is inaccessible due to changes in other parts of the program. The preferred term in North America is dead code.

gubbish /guhb'*sh/ /n./

[a portmanteau of `garbage' and `rubbish'; may have originated with SF author Philip K. Dick] Garbage; crap; nonsense. "What is all this gubbish?" The opposite portmanteau `rubbage' is also reported; in fact, it was British slang during the 19th century and appears in Dickens.

guiltware /gilt'weir/ /n./

1. A piece of freeware decorated with a message telling one how long and hard the author worked on it and intimating that one is a no-good freeloader if one does not immediately send the poor suffering martyr gobs of money. 2. A piece of shareware that works.

gumby /guhm'bee/ /n./

[from a class of Monty Python characters, poss. with some influence from the 1960s claymation character] An act of minor but conspicuous stupidity, often in `gumby maneuver' or `pull a gumby'. 2. [NRL] /n./ A bureaucrat, or other technical incompetent who impedes the progress of real work. 3. /adj./ Relating to things typically associated with people in sense 2. (e.g. "Ran would be writing code, but Richard gave him gumby work that's due on Friday", or, "Dammit! Travel screwed up my plane tickets. I have to go out on gumby patrol.")

gun /vt./

[ITS: from the :GUN command] To forcibly terminate a program or job (computer, not career). "Some idiot left a background process running soaking up half the cycles, so I gunned it." Usage: now rare. Compare can, blammo.

gunch /guhnch/ /vt./

[TMRC] To push, prod, or poke at a device that has almost (but not quite) produced the desired result. Implies a threat to mung.

gurfle /ger'fl/ /interj./

An expression of shocked disbelief. "He said we have to recode this thing in FORTRAN by next week. Gurfle!" Compare weeble.

guru /n./

[Unix] An expert. Implies not only wizard skill but also a history of being a knowledge resource for others. Less often, used (with a qualifier) for other experts on other systems, as in `VMS guru'. See source of all good bits.

guru meditation /n./

Amiga equivalent of `panic' in Unix (sometimes just called a `guru' or `guru event'). When the system crashes, a cryptic message of the form "GURU MEDITATION #XXXXXXXX.YYYYYYYY" may appear, indicating what the problem was. An Amiga guru can figure things out from the numbers. Sometimes a guru event must be followed by a Vulcan nerve pinch.

This term is (no surprise) an in-joke from the earliest days of the Amiga. There used to be a device called a `Joyboard' which was basically a plastic board built onto a joystick-like device; it was sold with a skiing game cartridge for the Atari game machine. It is said that whenever the prototype OS crashed, the system programmer responsible would calm down by concentrating on a solution while sitting cross-legged on a Joyboard trying to keep the board in balance. This position resembled that of a meditating guru. Sadly, the joke was removed in AmigaOS 2.04 (actually in 2.00, a buggy post-2.0 release on the A3000 only).

gweep /gweep/

[WPI] 1. /v./ To hack, usually at night. At WPI, from 1975 onwards, one who gweeped could often be found at the College Computing Center punching cards or crashing the PDP-10 or, later, the DEC-20. A correspondent who was there at the time opines that the term was originally onomatopoetic, describing the keyclick sound of the Datapoint terminals long connected to the PDP-10. The term has survived the demise of those technologies, however, and was still alive in late 1991. "I'm going to go gweep for a while. See you in the morning." "I gweep from 8 PM till 3 AM during the week." 2. /n./ One who habitually gweeps in sense 1; a hacker. "He's a hard-core gweep, mumbles code in his sleep."

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