Computer Chatter

October 27, 1993

OK, so you read all that stuff about how the Internet was the place to be, and decided to fire up your modem and log on for yourself. But now, after weeks of net surfing, you've noticed that hackers have a lingo of their own -- and I don't mean C language. So here are a few terms you need to be conversant with before making the leap from lurker to net.personality.

_ _: What netters use for emphasis instead of underlined text, as in "The system is _so_ slow today!"

ASCII: American Standard Code for Information Interchange; the character standard used by most computers. Can also be applied on the net and in e-mail to make illustrations, as with :-). See also "smileys."

bandwidth: Originally a technical term referring to the amount of data per unit time (told you it was technical) a computer or transmission line can handle, netters use it as a general description of net traffic, as in "That was a real waste of bandwidth."

BBS: Bulletin Board Service, a computer system that lets users post e-mail,upload or download files, and chat with other hackers (usually for a fee).

bogosity: The quality of being bogus, or something which _is_ bogus. As in "You think Picard makes a better Starfleet commander than Kirk??? Such bogosity!"

C: A programming language developed at Bell Labs for use on UNIX systems; it is to MS DOS as a Ferrari Testarossa is to a Ford Escort.

C programmer: One who programs in C language; a brainiac.

cyberspace: Term coined by novelist William Gibson to describe the area of interaction between a virtual-reality system and a hacker's brain. Not currently accessible on the net.

e-mail: Electronic mail. As opposed to snail-mail, which is delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.

FAQ: A Frequently Asked Questions list, the document most Usenet newsgroups maintain to keep newbies from wasting bandwidth with stuff everyone else already knows.

flame: A hostile response to another user's stupid posting; to make such a response.

flame war: What you get when one flame begets another. At their worst, flame wars have been known to take over entire newsgroups.

flamage: What those newsgroup readers not involved in a flame war end up wading through.

FTP: File Transfer Protocol; that is, the system for transferring files across the net. Hence, an FTP site is a net address that contains files for transfer.

: Grin or giggle. See also "smiley."

.gif: For graphic interchange format. A type of file allowing one user to upload a scanned image -- usually a photo -- so others may download and view it.

guru: An especially skilled and knowledgeable hacker.

hacker: One who hacks -- that is, an avid user of computers. Refers most generally to any traveler on the net. Not to be confused with cracker, or one who breaks into systems in order to play pranks.

Internet: A worldwide network linking computers belonging to various individual entities. Strictly speaking, the Internet is for university and research purposes; its business equivalent is the Alternet. Usenet is the recreational end of the net, and is full of specialty newsgroups like comp.lang.c, rec.arts.comics, and

IMHO: In My Humble Opinion.

IMHO WIVH: In My Humble Opinion, Which Is Very Humble.

IRC: Internet Relay Chat. This is the net's "party room," a forum that allows real-time conversation with a variety of users. This is probably what Mike Doonesbury was logged onto when he was flirting with "Dancer."

.jpg: Pronounced "jay-peg," from joint photographic experts group. A type of file allowing one user to upload a scanned image -- usually a photo -- so others may download and view it.

KIBO: Central deity in the parody religion Kibology, created by net prankster James Parry, who goes by the username KIBO. Believed to stem from acronym of "Knowledge In, Bull Out."

line noise: Electronic transmission interference, resulting in garbage characters.

lurker: A regular newsgroup reader who never posts; one who experiences the net vicariously.

MEGO: My Eyes Glaze Over.

net: A network. Usually refers to Internet or Usenet.

netiquette: Proper behavior on the net.

net.personality: One who posts regularly or extravagantly enough to become famous within a newsgroup or newsgroups.

newbie: One new to the net. As in, "Read the FAQ, newbie!"

newsgroup: Any Usenet topic group, usually designated by discussion type (e.g. "comp." for computer-interest groups, "rec." for recreational groups, etc). Among the better-known newsgroups are,, comp.unix.wizards

and rec.arts.sf-lovers.

phreaking: Phone freaking; that is, using a computer to crack telephone long-distance codes and the like. Needless to say, a highly illegal pursuit.

ROTFLOL: Rolling On The Floor, Laughing Out Loud; that is, "That was very funny."

.sig file: An elaborate signature, usually involving a quote or ASCII illustration, that is automatically appended to a user's posting.

smileys: Any face-like illustration made with ASCII characters used to convey emotion or satirical intent. For example, :) or :-) means "I'm happy" (lean your head to the left, and it looks like a smiley face), while ;) or ;-) means "I'm kidding." Use of noses optional.

STTNG: Star Trek, The Next Generation.

sysop: System operator; the programmer in charge of a bulletin board.

UNIX: A multi-tasking operating system invented at Bell Labs and widely used on mainframes. Believed by some programmers to be the only operating system worth using.

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