rabbit job [Cambridge] n. A batch job that does little, if any, real work, but creates one or more copies of itself, breeding like rabbits. Compare wabbit, fork bomb.
rain dance n.
rainbow series n. Any of several series of technical manuals distinguished by cover color. The original rainbow series was the NCSC security manuals (see Orange Book, crayola books); the term has also been commonly applied to the PostScript reference set (see Red Book, Green Book, Blue Book, White Book). Which books are meant by "`the' rainbow series" unqualified is thus dependent on one's local technical culture.
random numbers n. When one wishes to specify a large but random number of things, and the context is inappropriate for N, certain numbers are preferred by hacker tradition (that is, easily recognized as placeholders). These include the following:
17 Long described at MIT as `the least random number'; see 23. 23 Sacred number of Eris, Goddess of Discord (along with 17 and 5). 42 The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. (Note that this answer is completely fortuitous. `:-)') 69 From the sexual act. This one was favored in MIT's ITS culture. 105 69 hex = 105 decimal, and 69 decimal = 105 octal. 666 The Number of the Beast.For further enlightenment, study the "Principia Discordia", "The Hitchhiker'S Guide To The Galaxy", "The Joy of Sex", and the Christian Bible (Revelation 13:18). See also Discordianism or consult your pineal gland. See also for values of.
rare mode [UNIX] adj. CBREAK mode (character-by-character with interrupts enabled). Distinguished from raw mode and cooked mode; the phrase "a sort of half-cooked (rare?) mode" is used in the V7/BSD manuals to describe the mode. Usage: rare.
raster blaster n. [Cambridge] Specialized hardware for bitblt operations (a blitter). Allegedly inspired by `Rasta Blasta', British slang for the sort of portable stereo Americans call a `boom box' or `ghetto blaster'.
raster burn n. Eyestrain brought on by too many hours of looking at low-res, poorly tuned, or glare-ridden monitors, esp. graphics monitors. See terminal illness.
rat belt n. A cable tie, esp. the sawtoothed, self-locking plastic kind that you can remove only by cutting (as opposed to a random twist of wire or a twist tie or one of those humongous metal clip frobs). Small cable ties are `mouse belts'.
rave [WPI] vi.
rave on! imp. Sarcastic invitation to continue a rave, often by someone who wishes the raver would get a clue but realizes this is unlikely.
ravs /ravz/, also `Chinese ravs' n. Jiao-zi (steamed or boiled) or Guo-tie (pan-fried). A Chinese appetizer, known variously in the plural as dumplings, pot stickers (the literal translation of guo-tie), and (around Boston) `Peking Ravioli'. The term `rav' is short for `ravioli', which among hackers always means the Chinese kind rather than the Italian kind. Both consist of a filling in a pasta shell, but the Chinese kind includes no cheese, uses a thinner pasta, has a pork-vegetable filling (good ones include Chinese chives), and is cooked differently, either by steaming or frying. A rav or dumpling can be cooked any way, but a potsticker is always the fried kind (so called because it sticks to the frying pot and has to be scraped off). "Let's get hot-and-sour soup and three orders of ravs." See also oriental food.
raw mode n. A mode that allows a program to transfer bits directly to or from an I/O device (or, under bogus systems that make a distinction, a disk file) without any processing, abstraction, or interpretation by the operating system. Compare rare mode, cooked mode. This is techspeak under UNIX, jargon elsewhere.
rc file /R-C fi:l/ [UNIX: from the startup script `/etc/rc', but this is commonly believed to have been named after older scripts to `run commands'] n. Script file containing startup instructions for an application program (or an entire operating system), usually a text file containing commands of the sort that might have been invoked manually once the system was running but are to be executed automatically each time the system starts up. See also dot file, profile (sense 1).
RE /R-E/ n. Common spoken and written shorthand for regexp.
read-only user n. Describes a luser who uses computers almost exclusively for reading USENET, bulletin boards, and/or email, rather than writing code or purveying useful information. See twink, terminal junkie, lurker.
README file n. Hacker's-eye introduction traditionally included in the top-level directory of a UNIX source distribution, containing a pointer to more detailed documentation, credits, miscellaneous revision history, notes, etc. (The file may be named README, or READ.ME, or rarely ReadMe or readme.txt or some other variant.) In the Mac and PC worlds, software is not usually distributed in source form, and the README is more likely to contain user-oriented material like last-minute documentation changes, error workarounds, and restrictions. When asked, hackers invariably relate the README convention to the famous scene in Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland" in which Alice confronts magic munchies labeled "Eat Me" and "Drink Me".
real adj. Not simulated. Often used as a specific antonym to virtual in any of its jargon senses.
real estate n. May be used for any critical resource measured in units of area. Most frequently used of `chip real estate', the area available for logic on the surface of an integrated circuit (see also nanoacre). May also be used of floor space in a dinosaur pen, or even space on a crowded desktop (whether physical or electronic).
real hack n. A crock. This is sometimes used affectionately; see hack.
real operating system n. The sort the speaker is used to. People from the BSDophilic academic community are likely to issue comments like "System V? Why don't you use a *real* operating system?", people from the commercial/industrial UNIX sector are known to complain "BSD? Why don't you use a *real* operating system?", and people from IBM object "UNIX? Why don't you use a *real* operating system?" See holy wars, religious issues, proprietary, Get A Real Computer!
Real Programmer [indirectly, from the book "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche"] n. A particular sub-variety of hacker: one possessed of a flippant attitude toward complexity that is arrogant even when justified by experience. The archetypal `Real Programmer' likes to program on the bare metal and is very good at same, remembers the binary opcodes for every machine he has ever programmed, thinks that HLLs are sissy, and uses a debugger to edit his code because full-screen editors are for wimps. Real Programmers aren't satisfied with code that hasn't been bummed into a state of tenseness just short of rupture. Real Programmers never use comments or write documentation: "If it was hard to write", says the Real Programmer, "it should be hard to understand." Real Programmers can make machines do things that were never in their spec sheets; in fact, they are seldom really happy unless doing so. A Real Programmer's code can awe with its fiendish brilliance, even as its crockishness appalls. Real Programmers live on junk food and coffee, hang line-printer art on their walls, and terrify the crap out of other programmers --- because someday, somebody else might have to try to understand their code in order to change it. Their successors generally consider it a Good Thing that there aren't many Real Programmers around any more. For a famous (and somewhat more positive) portrait of a Real Programmer, see "The Story Of Mel, A Real Programmer" in Appendix A. The term itself was popularized by a 1983 Datamation article "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal" by Ed Post, still circulating on USENET and Internet in on-line form.
Real Soon Now [orig. from SF's fanzine community, popularized by Jerry Pournelle's column in "BYTE"] adv.
real user n.
Real World n.
reality check n.
reaper n. A prowler that GFRs files. A file removed in this way is said to have been `reaped'.
rectangle slinger n. See polygon pusher.
recursion n. See recursion. See also tail recursion.
recursive acronym pl.n. A hackish (and especially MIT) tradition is to choose acronyms/abbreviations that refer humorously to themselves or to other acronyms/abbreviations. The classic examples were two MIT editors called EINE ("EINE Is Not EMACS") and ZWEI ("ZWEI Was EINE Initially"). More recently, there is a Scheme compiler called LIAR (Liar Imitates Apply Recursively), and GNU (q.v., sense 1) stands for "GNU's Not UNIX!" --- and a company with the name CYGNUS, which expands to "Cygnus, Your GNU Support". See also mung, EMACS.
Red Book n.
red wire [IBM] n. Patch wires installed by programmers who have no business mucking with the hardware. It is said that the only thing more dangerous than a hardware guy with a code patch is a softy with a soldering iron.... Compare blue wire, yellow wire, purple wire.
regexp /reg'eksp/ [UNIX] n. (alt. `regex' or `reg-ex')
register dancing n. Many older processor architectures suffer from a serious shortage of general-purpose registers. This is especially a problem for compiler-writers, because their generated code needs places to store temporaries for things like intermediate values in expression evaluation. Some designs with this problem, like the Intel 80x86, do have a handful of special-purpose registers that can be pressed into service, providing suitable care is taken to avoid unpleasant side effects on the state of the processor: while the special-purpose register is being used to hold an intermediate value, a delicate minuet is required in which the previous value of the register is saved and then restored just before the official function (and value) of the special-purpose register is again needed.
reincarnation, cycle of n. See cycle of reincarnation.
reinvent the wheel v. To design or implement a tool equivalent to an existing one or part of one, with the implication that doing so is silly or a waste of time. This is often a valid criticism. On the other hand, automobiles don't use wooden rollers, and some kinds of wheel have to be reinvented many times before you get them right. On the third hand, people reinventing the wheel do tend to come up with the moral equivalent of a trapezoid with an offset axle.
religion of CHI n. /ki:/ [Case Western Reserve University] n. Yet another hackish parody religion (see also Church Of The SubGenius, Discordianism). In the mid-70s, the canonical "Introduction to Programming" courses at CWRU were taught in Algol, and student exercises were punched on cards and run on a Univac 1108 system using a homebrew operating system named CHI. The religion had no doctrines and but one ritual: whenever the worshipper noted that a digital clock read 11:08, he or she would recite the phrase "It is 11:08; ABS, ALPHABETIC, ARCSIN, ARCCOS, ARCTAN." The last five words were the first five functions in the appropriate chapter of the Algol manual; note the special pronunciations /obz/ and /ark'sin/ rather than the more common /ahbz/ and /ark'si:n/. Using an alarm clock to warn of 11:08's arrival was considered harmful.
religious issues n. Questions which seemingly cannot be raised without touching off holy wars, such as "What is the best operating system (or editor, language, architecture, shell, mail reader, news reader)?", "What about that Heinlein guy, eh?", "What should we add to the new Jargon File?" See holy wars; see also theology, bigot.
This term is a prime example of ha ha only serious. People actually develop the most amazing and religiously intense attachments to their tools, even when the tools are intangible. The most constructive thing one can do when one stumbles into the crossfire is mumble Get A Life! and leave --- unless, of course, one's *own* unassailably rational and obviously correct choices are being slammed.
replicator n. Any construct that acts to produce copies of itself; this could be a living organism, an idea (see meme), a program (see quine, worm, wabbit, fork bomb, and virus), a pattern in a cellular automaton (see life, sense 1), or (speculatively) a robot or nanobot. It is even claimed by some that UNIX and C are the symbiotic halves of an extremely successful replicator; see UNIX Conspiracy.
reply n. See followup.
restriction n. A bug or design error that limits a program's capabilities, and which is sufficiently egregious that nobody can quite work up enough nerve to describe it as a feature. Often used (esp. by marketroid types) to make it sound as though some crippling bogosity had been intended by the designers all along, or was forced upon them by arcane technical constraints of a nature no mere user could possibly comprehend (these claims are almost invariably false).
Old-time hacker Joseph M. Newcomer advises that whenever choosing a quantifiable but arbitrary restriction, you should make it either a power of 2 or a power of 2 minus 1. If you impose a limit of 17 items in a list, everyone will know it is a random number --- on the other hand, a limit of 15 or 16 suggests some deep reason (involving 0- or 1-based indexing in binary) and you will get less flamage for it. Limits which are round numbers in base 10 are always especially suspect.
retcon /ret'kon/ [short for `retroactive continuity', from the USENET newsgroup rec.arts.comics]
[This term is included because it is a good example of hackish linguistic innovation in a field completely unrelated to computers. The word `retcon' will probably spread through comics fandom and lose its association with hackerdom within a couple of years; for the record, it started here. --- ESR]
[1993 update: some comics fans on the net now claim that retcon was independently in use in comics fandom before rec.arts.comics. In lexicography, nothing is ever simple. --- ESR]
RETI v. Syn. RTI
retrocomputing /ret'-roh-k*m-pyoo'ting/ n. Refers to emulations of way-behind-the-state-of-the-art hardware or software, or implementations of never-was-state-of-the-art; esp. if such implementations are elaborate practical jokes and/or parodies, written mostly for hack value, of more `serious' designs. Perhaps the most widely distributed retrocomputing utility was the `pnch(6)' or `bcd(6)' program on V7 and other early UNIX versions, which would accept up to 80 characters of text argument and display the corresponding pattern in punched card code. Other well-known retrocomputing hacks have included the programming language INTERCAL, a JCL-emulating shell for UNIX, the card-punch-emulating editor named 029, and various elaborate PDP-11 hardware emulators and RT-11 OS emulators written just to keep an old, sourceless Zork binary running.
return from the dead v. To regain access to the net after a long absence. Compare person of no account.
RFC /R-F-C/ [Request For Comment] n. One of a long-established series of numbered Internet informational documents and standards widely followed by commercial software and freeware in the Internet and UNIX communities. Perhaps the single most influential one has been RFC-822 (the Internet mail-format standard). The RFCs are unusual in that they are floated by technical experts acting on their own initiative and reviewed by the Internet at large, rather than formally promulgated through an institution such as ANSI. For this reason, they remain known as RFCs even once adopted as standards.
The RFC tradition of pragmatic, experience-driven, after-the-fact standard writing done by individuals or small working groups has important advantages over the more formal, committee-driven process typical of ANSI or ISO. Emblematic of some of these advantages is the existence of a flourishing tradition of `joke' RFCs; usually at least one a year is published, usually on April 1st. Well-known joke RFCs have included 527 ("ARPAWOCKY", R. Merryman, UCSD; 22 June 1973), 748 ("Telnet Randomly-Lose Option", Mark R. Crispin; 1 April 1978), and 1149 ("A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers", D. Waitzman, BBN STC; 1 April 1990). The first was a Lewis Carroll pastiche; the second a parody of the TCP-IP documentation style, and the third a deadpan skewering of standards-document legalese, describing protocols for transmitting Internet data packets by carrier pigeon.
The RFCs are most remarkable for how well they work --- they manage to have neither the ambiguities that are usually rife in informal specifications, nor the committee-perpetrated misfeatures that often haunt formal standards, and they define a network that has grown to truly worldwide proportions.
RFE /R-F-E/ n.
rib site [by analogy with backbone site] n. A machine that has an on-demand high-speed link to a backbone site and serves as a regional distribution point for lots of third-party traffic in email and USENET news. Compare leaf site, backbone site.
rice box [from ham radio slang] n. Any Asian-made commodity computer, esp. an 80x86-based machine built to IBM PC-compatible ISA or EISA-bus standards.
Right Thing n. That which is *compellingly* the correct or appropriate thing to use, do, say, etc. Often capitalized, always emphasized in speech as though capitalized. Use of this term often implies that in fact reasonable people may disagree. "What's the right thing for LISP to do when it sees `(mod a 0)'? Should it return `a', or give a divide-by-0 error?" Oppose Wrong Thing.
RL // [MUD community] n. Real Life. "Firiss laughs in RL" means that Firiss's player is laughing. Oppose VR.
roach [Bell Labs] vt. To destroy, esp. of a data structure. Hardware gets toasted or fried, software gets roached.
robot [IRC, MUD] n. An IRC or MUD user who is actually a program. On IRC, typically the robot provides some useful service. Examples are NickServ, which tries to prevent random users from adopting nicks already claimed by others, and MsgServ, which allows one to send asynchronous messages to be delivered when the recipient signs on. Also common are `annoybots', such as KissServ, which perform no useful function except to send cute messages to other people. Service robots are less common on MUDs; but some others, such as the `Julia' robot active in 1990--91, have been remarkably impressive Turing-test experiments, able to pass as human for as long as ten or fifteen minutes of conversation.
robust adj. Said of a system that has demonstrated an ability to recover gracefully from the whole range of exceptional inputs and situations in a given environment. One step below bulletproof. Carries the additional connotation of elegance in addition to just careful attention to detail. Compare smart, oppose brittle.
rococo adj. Baroque in the extreme. Used to imply that a program has become so encrusted with the software equivalent of gold leaf and curlicues that they have completely swamped the underlying design. Called after the later and more extreme forms of Baroque architecture and decoration prevalent during the mid-1700s in Europe. Alan Perlis said: "Every program eventually becomes rococo, and then rubble." Compare critical mass.
rogue [UNIX] n. A Dungeons-and-Dragons-like game using character graphics, written under BSD UNIX and subsequently ported to other UNIX systems. The original BSD `curses(3)' screen-handling package was hacked together by Ken Arnold to support `rogue(6)' and has since become one of UNIX's most important and heavily used application libraries. Nethack, Omega, Larn, and an entire subgenre of computer dungeon games all took off from the inspiration provided by `rogue(6)'. See also nethack.
room-temperature IQ [IBM] quant. 80 or below. Used in describing the expected intelligence range of the luser. "Well, but how's this interface going to play with the room-temperature IQ crowd?" See drool-proof paper. This is a much more insulting phrase in countries that use Celsius thermometers.
root [UNIX] n.
root mode n. Syn. with wizard mode or `wheel mode'. Like these, it is often generalized to describe privileged states in systems other than OSes.
rot13 /rot ther'teen/ [USENET: from `rotate alphabet 13 places'] n., v. The simple Caesar-cypher encryption that replaces each English letter with the one 13 places forward or back along the alphabet, so that "The butler did it!" becomes "Gur ohgyre qvq vg!" Most USENET news reading and posting programs include a rot13 feature. It is used to enclose the text in a sealed wrapper that the reader must choose to open --- e.g., for posting things that might offend some readers, or spoilers. A major advantage of rot13 over rot(N) for other N is that it is self-inverse, so the same code can be used for encoding and decoding.
rotary debugger [Commodore] n. Essential equipment for those late-night or early-morning debugging sessions. Mainly used as sustenance for the hacker. Comes in many decorator colors, such as Sausage, Pepperoni, and Garbage. See Pizza, ANSI Standard.
round tape n. Industry-standard 1/2-inch magnetic tape (7- or 9-track) on traditional circular reels. See macrotape, oppose square tape.
RSN /R-S-N/ adj. See Real Soon Now.
RTBM /R-T-B-M/ [UNIX] imp. Commonwealth Hackish variant of RTFM; expands to `Read The Bloody Manual'. RTBM is often the entire text of the first reply to a question from a newbie; the *second* would escalate to "RTFM".
RTFAQ /R-T-F-A-Q/ [USENET: primarily written, by analogy with RTFM] imp. Abbrev. for `Read the FAQ!', an exhortation that the person addressed ought to read the newsgroup's FAQ List before posting questions.
RTFB /R-T-F-B/ [UNIX] imp. Acronym for `Read The Fucking Binary'. Used when neither documentation nor source for the problem at hand exists, and the only thing to do is use some debugger or monitor and directly analyze the assembler or even the machine code. "No source for the buggy port driver? Aaargh! I *hate* proprietary operating systems. Time to RTFB."
Of the various RTF? forms, `RTFB' is the least pejorative against anyone asking a question for which RTFB is the answer; the anger here is directed at the absence of both source *and* adequate documentation.
RTFM /R-T-F-M/ [UNIX] imp. Acronym for `Read The Fucking Manual'.
RTFS /R-T-F-S/ [UNIX]
RTI /R-T-I/ interj. The mnemonic for the `return from interrupt' instruction on many computers including the 6502 and 6800. The variant `RETI' is found among former Z80 hackers (almost nobody programs these things in assembler anymore). Equivalent to "Now, where was I?" or used to end a conversational digression. See pop; see also POPJ.
RTM /R-T-M/ [USENET: abbreviation for `Read The Manual']
rude [WPI] adj.
runic adj. Syn. obscure. VMS fans sometimes refer to UNIX as `Runix'; UNIX fans return the compliment by expanding VMS to `Very Messy Syntax' or `Vachement Mauvais Syst`eme' (French; lit. "Cowlike Bad System", idiomatically "Bitchy Bad System").
rusty iron n. Syn. tired iron. It has been claimed that this is the inevitable fate of Water MIPS.
rusty memory n. Mass-storage that uses iron-oxide-based magnetic media (esp. tape and the pre-Winchester removable disk packs used in washing machines). Compare donuts.