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  Online Lingo

An Online Lingo note:

While Electric Minds is happy to offer an onsite resource for decoding telecommunications lingo, we want to urge you to look elsewhere, too, if finding the meaning and etymology of computer-related vocabulary piques your interest.

In particular, two sources have been particularly helpful in creating Online Lingo.I urge you to check them out:

The New Hacker's Dictionary is the extraordinary creation of Eric S. Raymond. The New Hacker's Dictionary is a constantly evolving compendium of the language of computer hackers and those who identify with the hacker mentality. It's as much about hacker culture as the hacker lexicon. Particularly fun is its introduction, describing the hacker mindset, habits, pet preferences, and other details.

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, maintained by Gábor J.Tóth and Paul Mayer, contains nearly any word related to the computer industry and its various subcultures that you can imagine. It's technically oriented, occasionally pointedly opinionated and very, very thorough.

-Jill Davidson

a-c d | e | f | g | h | i | j | l | m | n | p | r | s | t | u | v | w | y
America On Line. You knew that, right? Well, if you didn't, there it is. America On Line is the largest Internet content provider out there, though it's not accessible outside of North America and Europe. See AOL's web site for much more information.

ARPANET stands for Advanced Research Projects Administration Network, a computer network built by the Department of Defense. ARPANET began functioning in 1969 and which spawned the Internet. It was used for early networking research and used packet switching, an information transfer system which is the way wide-area networks still transfer information.

artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) describes the effort to get computers to do complex tasks which simulate human thought. While the theory of artificial intelligence has been with us since before the advent of the computer age, the practice of creating AI is still evolving. An effort such as Deep Blue - the computer chess program which, in February 1996, put up an impressive fight against chess master Garry Kasparov - stands out as a leading example of AI work.

ASCII is the acronym, pronounced askee, for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. It is the standard code for exchanging information denoting individual Latin alphabet letters among different computers. ASCII does not encode accent marks or non-English letterforms. It has come to mean plain text and is the basis for much of the text employed by computer-mediated conversations. Despite its limitations, ASCII includes non-word-based information; a subset of ASCII is ASCII art, which describes pictures created from ASCII characters.

An avatar is an animated icon or some other kind of pictorial representation of a user in a shared, real-time environment. On Electric Minds, the pictures that represent you in the Palace areas are avatars.

Bandwith describes the amount of data able to be sent through a communications circuit per second. It's come to signify the measurement of waste on the net -- people are admonished to keep their posts short and meaningful in order to save bandwidth.

A BBS is a bulletin board system, a place for users to leave text-based messages for each other. BBSes are often run by individuals or small groups for the fun of interaction and information exchange, though the term is coming to mean any text-based system for interaction, no matter its size. They tend to be accessible by dialing in rather than by a method such as telnet.

BinHex is a method that Macintosh computers use to convert files. Using BinHex, a file is converted to lines of letter, numbers and punctuation. This conversion makes it possible to send files via e-mail.

Chat refers to any system that allows a group of users to converse via text in real time. Most people chat via IRC; other chat programs are web-based or accessible through telnet.

In the case of the World Wide Web, a cookie is data stored on your hard drive that the server of some web sites use when you return those sites. Each site uses unique cookies - no site can read or use the cookies that another site has placed on your computer. You can read and learn all about cookies at Andy's Netscape HTTP Cookie Notes, a site with very accessible cookie information. A more technically challenging definition is here.
d-f a | b | c | g | h | i | j | l | m | n | p | r | s | t | u | v | w | y
Digerati is a newly-evolved term, a play on literati, used to refer to people who are inimately familiar with computers and digital culture.
Easter egg
An Easter egg is data buried in a program, document or operating system meant to be discovered only inadvertently or by those minutely examining the code of the program. Easter eggs are developers and authors' digital graffiti.

A representation of a face constructed from punctuation marks used in text to indicate emotion. Sarcasm, for example doesn't go over well on line; emoticons help to clarify the sentiment behind possibly ambiguous words. Frequently used emoticons are :-) (often called smilies) and :-(. If the faces weren't clear, tilt your head to the left and look again. Watch out for overusing emoticons; when possible, let your words stand for themselves.
A FAQ, pronounced fak, is a frequently asked question. FAQs tend to come in list form, and new users are urged to review FAQ lists before plunging in to a new newsgroup, BBS, mailing list or other online service.

Finger is a program that provides basic information about a user logged onto a particular system (not all places are enabled for finger, thought most text-based BBSes and conferencing systems are). At a minimum, finger usually shows the user's name, last login time and idle time. Finger is often use as a verb, as in "I fingered her to find out when she last logged in."

A flame is an aggressive attack on a participant of a computer-mediated discussion. Flame tends to have a pejorative connotation and is therefore different from heated disagreement or controversy. For a response to be described as a flame, it needs to be not only critical, but overly hostile, dramatic and rabid. A flame, especially an exchange of flames, is known as flamage. Most online communities tend to discourage flames, preferring to see nonaggressive, critical discussion.

Foo roughly means "stuff." It tends to be used as a suffix, such as "computer-foo," which would mean computer-related information or objects. An adjunct to foo is fu, which tends to take on a negative connotation. "Computer fu" indicates bad things happening to the computer.

Free-Nets are local community networks, across the United States, that are dedicated to providing community Internet access. Free-Nets are the product of the National Public Telecommuting Network (NPTN).

FTP means File Transfer Protocol and it describes the process of sending a file from one computer to another across the Internet. It tends to be used as a verb, as in "FTP me that file so I can see what you're talking about."
g-i a | b | c | d | e | f | j | l | m | n | p | r | s | t | u | v | w | y
.gif is a filename extension signifying a graphics file. .gif stands for Graphics Interchange Format. .gif is a suffix at then end of a filename, as in lingo.gif.

Gopher describes a piece of software that presents menu material on the Internet, usually grouped by subject. Gopher was used more extensively before the popularity of the World Wide Web.
HTML is hypertext mark up language, the code that is used to create functional World Wide Web pages.

Hypertext is text, such as linked text on the World Wide Web, that is connected in nonlinear ways.
In My Humble Opinion, a common abbreviation in online discourse. IMHO tends to proceed statements that are not necessarily humble at all, but it serves the purpose of indicating to others that what is being said is, indeed, an opinion.

A closed information system often established by corporations or organizations. While they use HTML and other protocols employed by the World Wide Web, intranets are not accessible via the Internet.

IRC is Internet Relay Chat, a party-line sort of text-based chat network that allows users from anywhere on the Internet to connect and join ongoing, real-time discussions. IRC is divided into channels, each containing a different conversation. Everyone on a channel reads everything others post on that channel.

IRL In Real Life, as opposed to computer-mediated communication. IRL is an abbreviation used in online conversation to distinguish from the world of the computer community. An example: "IRL do you ask so many questions?" "No, IRL I am actually quite shy."

ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network. ISDN is a faster form of phone line, available in some parts of the country. For the millions of us using the Internet over phone lines, anything faster has the potential to be better, hence the popularity of and demand for ISDN lines.

An ISP is an Internet Service Provider. While any company that provides Internet access is an ISP, the term tends to be used to refer to small local companies that provide Internet access without any particular content or advertising.
j-m a | b | c | d | e | f | g | h | i | n | p | r | s | t | u | v | w | y
JPEG is a file format used to compress images. When JPEG is use, files get a .jpg or .jpeg filename extension (i.e. lingo.jpg). JPEG is the name of the committee that designed the image compression algorithm known now as JPEG.
If you are on a telnet chat and don't see your characters echo on the screen, you're experiencing the dreaded lag phenomenon. Sometimes the Internet is not as speedy as we'd like it to be. Sometimes it's just plain slow. That slowness has a name, and that name is lag.

line noise
Line noise is interference with a modem connection; it shows up online as random characters. As the quality of modems and Internet connections rise, incidents of line noise decrease.
many to many
Many to many communication describes the process of communication within a virtual community. Many to many describes the way that people communicate in settings such as chat, conferencing and mailing lists.

Moore's Law
Gordon Moore, founder and Chairman of Intel, formulated in the '60s what is known as Moore's Law. Moore's Law postulates that with silicon chip technology, the power of computing doubles every eighteen months while the cost decreases by half in that same period of time. This Forbes article looks closely at Moore and his eponymous law. Moore's Law is an important concept in understanding part of what has made the spread of the personal computer possible.

MUD means either Multi-User Dungeon or Multi-User Dimension and is a text-based multi-user environment that is divided into separate rooms or areas and navigable by simple commands. MUDs evolve distinct senses of place based on the ongoing interaction of their habitués. People tend to role play in many MUDs, intensifying the sense of fantasy and adventure.

A MUSE is a Multi-User Simulation Environment. It is an online space in which multiple people can interact, similar to a MUD.

MUSH is an acronym for Multi-User Shared Hallucination, yet another description of shared text-based online space for role playing. A MUSH is distinct from a MUD in that any user can use commands to create new rooms and create shared games.
n-s a | b | c | d | e | f | g | h | i | j | l | m | t | u | v | w | y
New users in a virtual community are often referred to as newbies. The term indicates that when someone new joins a community, there are norms and conventions that are worth learning.
packet switching
Packet switching is how information is moved around the Internet. A packet is a certain amount of information, a message or a fragment of a message,which is routed from host to host in the most expedient possible manner (the expediency is determined by an algorithm. This means that messages sent between the same two Internet accounts might not follow the same path each time.

A PoP is a point of presence. Internet service providers provide PoPs so that subscribers can dial in via modems and connect to the net; multiple PoPs ensures a greater chance to connect.

PPP signifies Point-to-Point-Protocol, which is the way that network data is communicated over telephone lines. If you are reading this, you are probably using PPP to connect to the Internet, which is, of course, where Electric Minds is.
RTFM abbreviates "read the fucking manual." It's said, generally without a lot of patience, to those who are asking questions that can easily be found in a manual or other documentation.
search engine
Search engines are programs used to look for information on the Internet. Familiarity with a good search engine is crucial to your ability to use the Internet; there is so much out there that search engines, in large part, organize your experience on the 'net and allow you to see a piece of the online universe without being engulfed by it.

Shareware is software available on the Internet (or passed around on floppy disks) which can be downloaded cost-free. With shareware, as opposed to freeware, the software's author requests payment after download, often in exchange for notices of upgrades, additional functionality, access to support and/or documentation.

signal-to-noise ratio
Signal-to-noise ratio describes the proportion of signal (useful information or meaningful conversation in a many-to-many online medium) to noise (irrelevant chit-chat, banter or meaningless, non-productive posts). A high signal-to-noise ratio indicates that a particular site is rich in focused, relevant conversation.

Spam is unwanted, repetitive messages posted to multiple conferencing systems, mailing lists, and/or newsgroups. Recently, junk e-mail sent to multiple users, usually advertising products and services, has come to be called spam. Spam is stuff on the net that you don't want.

A sysop (system operator) is the operator of a BBS. Sysops generally keep things running and assist users.
t-v a | b | c | d | e | f | g | h | i | j | l | m | n | p | r | s | w | y
A T1 connection to the Internet carries 28.5 times as much data as a regular phone line. This mean it's much faster than a regular modem connection to a computer that provides connection to the net. Access to a T1 line means that you can get a lot of Internet very quickly.

A T3 connection is even faster than a T1 connection. Thirty times faster. Eight hundred and twenty seven times as fast as a modem connection. Wow! Fast!

TCP/IP is an abbreviation for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, which is the networking protocol that is the standard of the Internet, allowing computers to communicate over wide distances.

TELNET (often written as telnet) is a way for one computer to talk to another host over the Internet. The widely available program, that allows you to telnet is called TELNET. It's used for ASCII-based communications such as FTP, BBSes, MUDS, etc.

Turing Test
The Turing Test was developed by Alan Turing in 1950 and is still used as a jumping off point to discuss artificial intelligence. The Turing Test suggests that if a human being can carry on a dialogue mediated by a computer and cannot determine whether the answers are generated by the computer or by a human being, that computer can be said to have passed the test. Chapter Three of Howard Rheingold's Tools for Thought looks more closely at Turing and his work.
Undernet is a spin-off IRC network. People connect to Undernet to find real-time chat channels.

In this era of networked computers, it's crucial for more than one user to gain access to one computer at a time - UNIX allows this to happen. Invented in 1969 by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie, UNIX is now the most popular such system in the world. This popularity endures despite the frequently criticized inaccessibility of UNIX, which is the subject of ongoing debate.

Usenet is a bulletin board system that operates mainly on UNIX machines. It's used for newsgroups; people use newsreaders to connect to usenet and its thousands of groups.
virtual reality
Virtual reality signifies a computer-generated environment in which input via hearing, vision and other senses substitutes for organically generated sensory experience. This substitution has the ability to create its own virtual world. Virtual reality (often abbreviated as VR) is frequently used now in games and has the potential to play a larger role as cyberspace and its role in our world evolves.

VRML, or Virtual Reality Modeling Language, is a programming language released in 1995 which allows for the design and navigation of simulated space. An environment created in VRML gives a sense of moving through a three-dimensional space - this opens up exciting possibilities in the creation of virtual reality experiences.
w-y a | b | c | d | e | f | g | h | i | j | l | m | n | p | r | s | t | u | v
WADR is an acronym that stands for "with all due respect." WADR is frequently appended to posts in conferencing systems or Usenet discussions and while it can be used sincerely to connote respect to someone's thoughts even in the face of disagreement, it often takes on a more sarcastic tone. WADR can be used to dismiss someone's words with a seemingly polite but actually dismissive tone. Because of this, WADR turns out to be a somewhat loaded acronym and should be tossed into a dissenting post with caution.
Your mileage may vary (invariably written online as YMMV) is, of course, borrowed from disclaimers from automobile commercials' assertions about gas mileage. In an online conversation context, YMMV is meant to acknowledge that one person's experience may seem very different than another person's ostensibly similar experience.


justinpaine said:

The English language has been starving to find a way to express itself outside the parameters of the user (i.e. "I do this, I do that") and to find a way to be recognized as a self purely by the fact that the action is done. This virtual world has made that a reality, and I whole-heartedly agree with (hakker). The way we use language is forced to be a process, never an unchangeable set of rules. Language is a living thing, and it's taken the leap into cyberspace with those of us that have come here. I think the language of computers will play a larger and larger role as the medium moves onward and upward. Not just the syntax (which is what I was getting at earlier) but the actual words as well.

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