Zen and the Art of the Internet

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This glossary is only a tiny subset of all of the various terms and
other things that people regularly use on The Net.  For a more
complete (and very entertaining) reference, it's suggested you get a
copy of The New Hacker's Dictionary, which is based on a VERY large
text file called the Jargon File.  Edited by Eric Raymond
(, it is available from the MIT Press,
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02142; its ISBN number is 0-262-68069-6.
Also see RFC-1208, A Glossary of Networking Terms.
This odd symbol is one of the ways a person can portray ``mood'' in
the very flat medium of computers---by using ``smilies.''  This is
`metacommunication', and there are literally hundreds of them, from
the obvious to the obscure.  This particular example expresses
``happiness.''  Don't see it?  Tilt your head to the left 90 degrees.
Smilies are also used to denote sarcasm.
Network addresses are usually of two types:
the physical or hardware address of a network interface card; for
ethernet this 48-bit address might be 0260.8C00.7666.  The hardware
address is used to forward packets within a physical network.
Fortunately, network users do not have to be concerned about hardware
addresses since they are automatically handled by the networking
The logical or Internet address is used to facilitate moving data
between physical networks.  The 32-bit Internet address is made up of a
network number, a subnetwork number, and a host number.  Each host
computer on the Internet, has a unique address.  For example, all
Internet addresses at Colorado State have a network number of 129.82, a
subnet number in the range of 1-254, and a host number in the range of
1-254.  All Internet hosts have a numeric address and an English-style
name.  For example, the Internet address for UCC's CYBER 840 is; its Internet name is csugreen.UCC.ColoState.EDU.
 address resolution
Conversion of an Internet address to the corresponding physical address.
On an ethernet, resolution requires broadcasting on the local area network.
Administrative tasks, most often related to the maintenance of mailing
lists, digests, news gateways, etc.
 anonymous FTP
Also known as ``anon FTP''; a service provided to make files available
to the general Internet community---Anonymous FTP.
The American National Standards Institute disseminates basic standards
like ASCII, and acts as the United States' delegate to the ISO.
Standards can be ordered from ANSI by writing to the ANSI Sales Department,
1430 Broadway, New York, NY 10018, or by telephoning (212) 354-3300.
A service which provides lookups for packages in a database of the
offerings of countless of anonymous FTP sites.  archie for a
full description.
 archive server
An email-based file transfer facility offered by some systems.
 ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency)
Former name of DARPA, the government agency that funded ARPAnet and
later the DARPA Internet.
A pioneering long haul network funded by ARPA.  It
served as the basis for early networking research as well as a
central backbone during the development of the Internet.  The
ARPAnet consisted of individual packet switching computers
interconnected by leased lines.  The ARPAnet no longer exists as a
singular entity.
Transmission by individual bytes, not related to specific timing on the
transmitting end.
Something which happens pseudo-automatically, and is usually too
complex to go into any further than to say it happens ``auto-magically.''
A high-speed connection within a network that connects shorter,
usually slower circuits.  Also used in reference to a system that acts
as a ``hub'' for activity (although those are becoming much less
prevalent now than they were ten years ago).
The capacity of a medium to transmit a signal.  More informally, the
mythical ``size'' of The Net, and its ability to carry the files and
messages of those that use it.  Some view certain kinds of traffic
(FTPing hundreds of graphics images, for example) as a ``waste of
bandwidth'' and look down upon them.
 BITNET (Because It's Time Network)
An NJE-based international educational network.
The return of a piece of mail because of an error in its delivery.
An abbreviation for ``by the way.''
 CFV (Call For Votes)
Initiates the voting period for a Usenet newsgroup.  At least one
(occasionally two or more) email address is customarily included as a
repository for the votes.  See Newsgroup Creation
for a full description of the Usenet voting process.
The fee-based Usenet newsfeed available from ClariNet Communications.
The user of a network service; also used to describe a computer that
relies upon another for some or all of its resources.
A term coined by William Gibson in his fantasy novel
Neuromancer to describe the ``world'' of computers, and the
society that gathers around them.
The basic unit of information passed across the Internet.  It contains
a source and destination address along with data.  Large messages are
broken down into a sequence of IP datagrams.
Converting a binary program into human-readable machine language code.
 DNS (Domain Name System)
The method used to convert Internet names to their corresponding
Internet numbers.
A part of the naming hierarchy.  Syntactically, a domain name consists
of a sequence of names or other words separated by dots.
 dotted quad
A set of four numbers connected with periods that make up an Internet
address; for example,
The vernacular abbreviation for electronic mail.
 email address
The UUCP or domain-based address that a user is referred to with.  For
example, the author's address is
A 10-million bit per second networking scheme originally developed by
Xerox Corporation. Ethernet is widely used for LANs because it can
network a wide variety of computers, it is not proprietary, and
components are widely available from many commercial sources.
 FDDI (Fiber Distributed Data Interface)
An emerging standard for network technology based on fiber optics that
has been established by ANSI.  FDDI specifies a 100-million bit per
second data rate. The access control mechanism uses token ring
A piece of mail or a Usenet posting which is violently argumentative.
 FQDN (Fully Qualified Domain Name)
The FQDN is the full site name of a system, rather than just its
hostname.  For example, the system lisa at Widener University
has a FQDN of
 FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
The Internet standard high-level protocol for transferring files from
one computer to another.
An abbreviation for the phrase ``for your information.''  There is
also a series of RFCs put out by the Network Information Center called
FYIs; they address common questions of new users and many other useful
things.  RFCs for instructions on retrieving FYIs.
A special-purpose dedicated computer that attaches to two or more
networks and routes packets from one network to the other.  In
particular, an Internet gateway routes IP datagrams among the networks
it connects.  Gateways route packets to other gateways until they can be
delivered to the final destination directly across one physical network.
The portion of a packet, preceding the actual data, containing source
and destination addresses and error-checking fields.  Also part of a
message or news article.
The name given to a machine. (See also FQDN.)
 IMHO (In My Humble Opinion)
This usually accompanies a statement that may bring about personal
offense or strong disagreement.
A concatenation of many individual TCP/IP campus, state, regional, and
national networks (such as NSFnet, ARPAnet, and Milnet) into one
single logical network all sharing a common addressing scheme.
 Internet number
The dotted-quad address used to specify a certain system.  The
Internet number for the site is  A
resolver is used to translate between hostnames and Internet
The ability of multi-vendor computers to work together using a common
set of protocols.  With interoperability, PCs, Macs, Suns, Dec VAXen,
CDC Cybers, etc, all work together allowing one host computer to
communicate with and take advantage of the resources of another.
 ISO (International Organization for Standardization)
Coordinator of the main networking standards that are put into use today.
The level of an operating system or networking system that contains the
system-level commands or all of the functions hidden from the user.  In
a Unix system, the kernel is a program that contains the device drivers,
the memory management routines, the scheduler, and system calls.  This
program is always running while the system is operating.
 LAN (Local Area Network)
Any physical network technology that operates at high speed over short
distances (up to a few thousand meters).
 mail gateway
A machine that connects to two or more electronic mail systems
(especially dissimilar mail systems on two different networks) and
transfers mail messages among them.
 mailing list
A possibly moderated discussion group, distributed via email from a
central computer maintaining the list of people involved in the
 mail path
A series of machine names used to direct electronic mail from one user
to another.
The material used to support the transmission of data.  This can be
copper wire, coaxial cable, optical fiber, or electromagnetic wave (as in
The division of a single transmission medium into multiple logical
channels supporting many simultaneous sessions.  For example, one
network may have simultaneous FTP, telnet, rlogin, and SMTP
connections, all going at the same time.
An inhabitant of Cyberspace.  One usually tries to be a good
net.citizen, lest one be flamed.
A pun on ``etiquette''; proper behavior on The Net.  Usenet Netiquette.
A group of machines connected together so they can transmit information
to one another.  There are two kinds of networks: local networks and
remote networks.
 NFS (Network File System)
A method developed by Sun Microsystems to allow computers to share
files across a network in a way that makes them appear as if they're
``local'' to the system.
The Network Information Center.
A computer that is attached to a network; also called a host.
The national backbone network, funded by the National Science Foundation
and operated by the Merit Corporation, used to interconnect regional
(mid-level) networks such as WestNet to one another.
The unit of data sent across a packet switching network.  The term is
used loosely. While some Internet literature uses it to refer
specifically to data sent across a physical network, other literature
views the Internet as a packet switching network and describes IP
datagrams as packets.
Connecting to another system to check for things like mail or news.
The person responsible for taking care of mail problems, answering
queries about users, and other related work at a site.
A formal description of message formats and the rules two computers must
follow to exchange those messages.  Protocols can describe low-level
details of machine-to-machine interfaces (e.g., the order in which bits
and bytes are sent across a wire) or high-level exchanges between
allocation programs (e.g., the way in which two programs transfer a file
across the Internet).
The facility of a programming language to be able to call functions
from within themselves.
Translate an Internet name into its equivalent IP address or other DNS
 RFD (Request For Discussion)
Usually a two- to three-week period in which the particulars of
newsgroup creation are battled out.
The path that network traffic takes from its source to its destination.
A dedicated computer (or other device) that sends packets from one
place to another, paying attention to the current state of the network.
 RTFM (Read The Fantastic Manual).
This anacronym is often used when someone asks a simple or common
question.  The word `Fantastic' is usually replaced with one much more
 SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol)
The Internet standard protocol for transferring electronic mail messages
from one computer to another.  SMTP specifies how two mail systems
interact and the format of control messages they exchange to transfer
A computer that shares its resources, such as printers and files, with
other computers on the network.  An example of this is a Network File
System (NFS) server which shares its disk space with other computers.
 signal-to-noise ratio
When used in reference to Usenet activity, signal-to-noise
ratio describes the relation between amount of actual information in
a discussion, compared to their quantity.  More often than not,
there's substantial activity in a newsgroup, but a very small number
of those articles actually contain anything useful.
The small, usually four-line message at the bottom of a piece of email
or a Usenet article.  In Unix, it's added by creating a file
..signature in the user's home directory.  Large signatures are
a no-no.
To encapsulate a number of responses into one coherent, usable
message.  Often done on controlled mailing lists or active newsgroups,
to help reduce bandwidth.
Data communications in which transmissions are sent at a fixed rate,
with the sending and receiving devices synchronized.
 TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)
A set of protocols, resulting from ARPA efforts, used by the Internet to
support services such as remote login (telnet), file transfer
(FTP) and mail (SMTP).
The Internet standard protocol for remote terminal connection service.
Telnet allows a user at one site to interact with a remote timesharing
system at another site as if the user's terminal were connected directly
to the remote computer.
 terminal server
A small, specialized, networked computer that connects many terminals to
a LAN through one network connection.  Any user on the network can then
connect to various network hosts.
A free typesetting system by Donald Knuth.
 twisted pair
Cable made up of a pair of insulated copper wires wrapped around each
other to cancel the effects of electrical noise.
 UUCP (Unix to Unix Copy Program)
A store-and-forward system, primarily for Unix systems but currently
supported on other platforms (e.g. VMS and personal computers).
 WAN (Wide-Area Network)
A network spanning hundreds or thousands of miles.
A networked personal computing device with more power than a standard
IBM PC or Macintosh.  Typically, a workstation has an operating system
such as unix that is capable of running several tasks at the same time.
It has several megabytes of memory and a large, high-resolution display.
Examples are Sun workstations and Digital DECstations.
A computer program which replicates itself.  The Internet worm
(The Internet Worm) was perhaps the most famous; it
successfully (and accidentally) duplicated itself on systems across
the Internet.
With respect to.
``I hate definitions.''
Benjamin Disraeli
Vivian Grey, bk i chap ii