Jargon File

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The Jargon File (published in bookshops under the title The New Hacker's Dictionary ) is a popular compendium of hacking terminology. It is currently maintained by Eric S. Raymond and contains an encyclopedia of various hacking terms. There are also insights into different areas of the original network and hacker culture .

History of the jargon file

Originally, the jargon file was a collection of the slang of technical cultures, such as the MIT AI Lab , the Stanford AI Laboratory SAIL , and others of the old communities around the Arpanet / Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Lisp / PDP-10 such as Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN), Carnegie Mellon University, and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).

1975 to 1983

The original Jargon File (hereinafter referred to as 'Jargon-1' or 'the File') was created in 1975 by Raphael Finkel in Stanford . From then until the shutdown of the SAIL computer in 1991 it was called AIWORD.RFUP or AIWORD.RFDOC. Of some terms, such frob or certain meanings of the word moby , it is believed that the origins of which until the early 1950s to the Tech Model Railroad Club of MIT extend. Changes made at that time were not yet recorded in a version system, which is why the file was generally referred to as 'Version 1' at the time.

In 1976, after reading an announcement of the file on the SAIL's computer, Mark Crispin sent a FTP copy of the file to MIT. He noticed that it was very limited to terms of artificial intelligence, which is why he named the file in his directory AI: MRC; SAIL JARGON. gave. Jargon is not entirely appropriate, however, as the authors mainly wanted to create a summary of the hacker slang as opposed to a collection of technical terms used in electronic data processing.

Soon the plant was renamed JARGON>. (The '>' under the ITS meant that the file was automatically versioned) after Mark Crispin and Guy Steele added a large number of extensions. Beginning in the late 1970s, members of the Dynamic Modeling of MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science added entries. Among them were Marc Blank, Dave Lebling, and Tim Anderson , the original writer of the Zork text adventure .

After Raphael Finkel had stopped working on the project, Don Woods became the contact person for the work at SAIL (which was now stored at both SAIL and MIT and was periodically compared). It grew through changes and new entries until 1983. One of the better-known authors was Richard Stallman , who added many terms coined by MIT and ITS.

In the spring of 1981, the hacker Charles Spurgeon managed to convince Stewart Brand to publish a large excerpt from the collection along with illustrations by Phil Wadler and Guy Steele (including some of the Crunchly comics) in his magazine CoEvolution Quarterly (issue 29, pages 26–35 ) to publish. This is likely the first time the file has been released in print.

In 1983 a current version of Jargon-1 was published, expanded by Guy Steele to include comments for the general public, as The Hacker's Dictionary (Harper & Row CN 1082, ISBN 0-06-091082-8 ). In addition to the editors of Jargon-1 (Raphael Finkel, Don Woods and Mark Crispin), Stallman and Geoff Goodfellow also contributed to this version . This book is hereinafter referred to as 'Steele-1983'.

1983 to 1990

Shortly after 'Steele-1983' was released, the work stopped growing and changing. This was originally done with the intention of temporarily freezing it to facilitate the release of 'Steele-1983'.

In the late 1970s, the MIT AI laboratory fell victim to austerity measures and the resulting administrative decisions, to use hardware supported by the manufacturer and with it the accompanying proprietary software instead of the previous in-house developments wherever possible. Most of the work in the field of artificial intelligence at MIT had shifted to the so-called Lisp machines . At the same time, commercialization lured some of the best away from MIT to start-up startups on Route128 in Massachusetts and west into Silicon Valley . These startups built the LISP machines used by MIT. The main computer of the MIT AI laboratory became a system that did not run under the ITS, which the AI ​​hackers loved, but under TWENEX .

By 1980, the Stanford AI Lab was almost history, although the SAIL's computer continued to be used by the Computer Science Department until 1991. Stanford became one of the largest TWENEX systems, running a dozen TOPS-20 systems for a while. Most of the interesting software developments happened in the mid-1980s under BSD Unix , the standard system emerging in Berkeley.

The PDP-10 centered culture that nurtured the file came to an end in May 1983 when DEC ended the Jupiter Project . The authors of the work, already scattered locally, went on to other matters. 'Steele-1983' was in part, in the eyes of its authors, a memorial to what they viewed as a culture in the process of extinction; none of the participants was then aware of the actual, far-reaching, later influences of the file.

The jargon file was out of date by the mid-1980s. The legend that was formed has never really been forgotten. The book and copies from the Arpanet were also passed on in cultures far removed from MIT and Stanford. Its content has had a strong and ongoing influence on the language and humor of hackers. The speed of change had increased tremendously in the hacking community and the jargon file had gone from being a living document to a symbol. It was to remain intact for the next seven years.

1990 until today

A new version of the Jargon File was started in 1990 and contained almost the entire text of the late 'Jargon-1' (a few PDP-10 terms considered obsolete were removed from 'Steele-1983' after consultation with the authors). It also contained around 80% of the text of 'Steele-1983', with some general information and terms that were only historically relevant being removed.

The new version covers a larger area than the old Jargon File. His aim is not only to cover the hacker culture around AI and PDP-10, but also the entire technical computer culture in which the nature of hackers manifests itself. More than half of all entries have their origins in the Usenet environment , the C programmers and the Unix community, even if there was an explicit attempt to also take other cultures into account, such as those of the programmers of IBM PCs , Amiga fans and the Mac pendant and even the world of IBM - mainframe Computers.

Criticism of the new editor Eric S. Raymond

The administrator of the new version, Eric S. Raymond , who created this version together with Guy Steele and is also officially the publisher of the printed version called The New Hacker's Dictionary , is not without controversy. Among other things, critics accuse him of adding his own word creations and thereby developing the file against the ideals of " open source ". Some further criticize that he ruined the Jargon File by turning it from a recording of a single historically interesting culture into a general collection of technical terms. In addition, some people are dissatisfied with Raymond's central control over submissions, certain allegedly questionable additions and changes he made, and terms he removed on the grounds that they were out of date (which is unusual for historical dictionaries).

Apart from that, he is also often accused of spreading his personal political and social views through the jargon file. He is particularly accused of adding entries in favor of the Iraq war and gun ownership . Raymond stated that there were no such entries and that the person accusing him had apologized for the allegations.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ESR Recasts Jargon File in Own Image , Slashdot, June 8, 2003
  2. Response by ESR to allegations of partiality , Wikipedia Talk, 6th December 2005


Web links