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The New Hacker's Dictionary

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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", dialectal "go fer"), one whose job is to run and fetch things. Finally, observe that gophers 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.


Node:gopher hole, Next:[6102]gorets, Previous:[6103]gopher, Up:[6104]= G =

gopher hole n.

1. Any access to a [6105]gopher. 2. [Amateur Packet Radio] The terrestrial analog of a [6106]wormhole (sense 2), from which this term was coined. A gopher hole links two amateur packet relays through some non-ham radio medium.


Node:gorets, Next:[6107]gorilla arm, Previous:[6108]gopher hole, Up:[6109]= G =

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'. Another from France informs me that `goret' is archaic French for a young pig --ESR] Compare [6110]frink.



Node:gorilla arm, Next:[6111]gorp, Previous:[6112]gorets, Up:[6113]= G


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 [6114]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?".


Node:gorp, Next:[6115]GOSMACS, Previous:[6116]gorilla arm, Up:[6117]= G =

gorp /gorp/ n.

[CMU: perhaps from the canonical hiker's food, Good Old Raisins and Peanuts] Another [6118]metasyntactic variable, like [6119]foo and [6120]bar.


Node:GOSMACS, Next:[6121]Gosperism, Previous:[6122]gorp,

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GOSMACS /goz'maks/ n.


[contraction of `Gosling EMACS'] The first [6124]EMACS-in-C implementation, predating but now largely eclipsed by [6125]GNUMACS. Originally freeware; a commercial version was modestly popular as `UniPress EMACS' during the 1980s. The author, James Gosling, went on to invent [6126]NeWS and the programming language Java; the latter earned him [6127]demigod status.


Node:Gosperism, Next:[6128]gotcha, Previous:[6129]GOSMACS,

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

A hack, invention, or saying due to [6131]elder days arch-hacker R. William (Bill) Gosper. This notion merits its own term because there are so many of them. Many of the entries in [6132]HAKMEM are Gosperisms; see also [6133]life.


Node:gotcha, Next:[6134]GPL, Previous:[6135]Gosperism, Up:[6136]= G


gotcha n.

A [6137]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 [6138]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.



Node:GPL, Next:[6139]GPV, Previous:[6140]gotcha, Up:[6141]= G =

GPL /G-P-L/ n.

Abbreviation for `General Public License' in widespread use; see [6142]copyleft, [6143]General Public Virus. Often mis-expanded as `GNU Public License'.


Node:GPV, Next:[6144]grault, Previous:[6145]GPL, Up:[6146]= G =

GPV /G-P-V/ n.

Abbrev. for [6147]General Public Virus in widespread use.


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grault /grawlt/ n.

Yet another [6151]metasyntactic variable, invented by Mike Gallaher and propagated by the [6152]GOSMACS documentation. See [6153]corge.


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gray goo n.

A hypothetical substance composed of [6157]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 [6158]nanotechnology disaster scenarios, easily refuted by arguments from energy requirements and elemental abundances. Compare [6159]blue goo.


Node:Great Renaming, Next:[6160]Great Runes, Previous:[6161]gray goo, Up:[6162]= G =

Great Renaming n.

The [6163]flag day in 1987 on which all of the non-local groups on the [6164]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." There is a [6165]Great Renaming FAQ on the Web.


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Renaming, Up:[6168]= G =

Great Runes n.

Uppercase-only text or display messages. Some archaic operating systems still emit these. See also [6169]runes, [6170]smash case, [6171]fold case.

There is a widespread legend (repeated by earlier versions of this entry, though tagged as folklore) that the uppercase-only support of various old character codes and I/O equipment was chosen by a religious person in a position of power at the Teletype Company because supporting both upper and lower cases was too expensive and supporting lower case only would have made it impossible to spell `God' correctly. Not true; the upper-case interpretation of teleprinter codes was well established by 1870, long before Teletype was even founded.



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Great Worm n.

The 1988 Internet [6175]worm perpetrated by [6176]RTM. This is a play on Tolkien (compare [6177]elvish, [6178]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 crack was a sort of devastating watershed event in hacker history; certainly it did more to make non-hackers nervous about the Internet than anything before or since.


Node:great-wall, Next:[6179]Green Book, Previous:[6180]Great Worm,

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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 N - 1 entrees"; the value of N, which is the number of people in the group, can be inferred from context (see [6182]N). See [6183]oriental food, [6184]ravs, [6185]stir-fried random.


Node:Green Book, Next:[6186]green bytes, Previous:[6187]great-wall, Up:[6188]= G =

Green Book n.


1. One of the three standard [6189]PostScript references: "PostScript Language Program Design", bylined `Adobe Systems' (Addison-Wesley, 1988; QA76.73.P67P66 ISBN 0-201-14396-8); see also [6190]Red Book, [6191]Blue Book, and the [6192]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 [6193]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 [6194]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 [6195]book titles.


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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 [6199]out-of-band, [6200]zigamorph, [6201]fence (sense 1).



Node:green card, Next:[6202]green lightning, Previous:[6203]green bytes, Up:[6204]= G =

green card n.

[after the "IBM System/360 Reference Data" card] A summary of an assembly language, even if the color is not green and not a card. 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."

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 [6205]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.

In fall 2000 it was reported from Electronic Data Systems that the green card for 370 machines has been a blue-green booklet since 1989.


Node:green lightning, Next:[6206]green machine, Previous:[6207]green card, Up:[6208]= G =

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 [6209]feature (sense 6).


Node:green machine, Next:[6210]Green's Theorem, Previous:[6211]green lightning, Up:[6212]= G =

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.


Node:Green's Theorem, Next:[6213]greenbar, Previous:[6214]green machine, Up:[6215]= G =

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]


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greenbar n.


A style of fanfolded continuous-feed paper with alternating green and white bars on it, especially used in old-style line printers. This slang almost certainly dates way back to mainframe days.


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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 [6222]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 [6223]vgrep.

[It has also been alleged that the source is from the title of a paper "A General Regular Expression Parser" -ESR]


Node:gribble, Next:[6224]grilf, Previous:[6225]grep, Up:[6226]= G =

gribble n.

Random binary data rendered as unreadable text. Noise characters in a data stream are displayed as gribble. Modems with mismatched bitrates usually generate gribble (more specifically, [6227]baud barf). Dumping a binary file to the screen is an excellent source of gribble, and (if the bell/speaker is active) headaches.


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