Wetware lives in meatspace

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I missed Heather McHugh's poem "Hackers can sidejack cookies" — a collage of fragments from the Jargon File — when the New Yorker published the text in 2009. Here's the author reading it at B.U. on 4/17/2010:

A collage-homage to Guy L. Steele and Eric S. Raymond.

A beige toaster is a maggotbox.
A bit bucket is a data sink.
Farkled is a synonym for hosed.
Flamage is a weenie problem.

A berserker wizard gets no score for treasure.
In muds one acknowledges
a bonk with an oif.
(There’s a cosmic bonk/oif balance.)

Ooblick is play sludge.
A buttonhook is a hunchback.
Logic bombs can get inside
back doors. There were published bang paths
ten hops long. Designs succumbing
to creeping featuritis
are banana problems.
(“I know how to spell banana,
but I don’t know when to stop.”)
Before you reconfigure,

mount a scratch monkey.
A dogcow makes
a moof. An aliasing bug
can smash the stack.

Who wrote these tunes,
these runes you need
black art to parse?
Don’t think it’s only

genius (flaming), humor (dry),
a briefcase of cerebral dust.
A hat’s a shark fin, and the tilde’s dash
is swung: the daughter of the programmer
has got her period. It’s all about wetware at last,

and wetware lives in meatspace.


  1. Laura Morland said,

    May 8, 2017 @ 5:50 am

    Delightful! (Although I belong mostly to the innocent, or as she elucidates, "the ignorant".)

    Question: who is responsible for the differences between the spoken and written text?

  2. Keith said,

    May 8, 2017 @ 12:09 pm


  3. Y said,

    May 8, 2017 @ 11:10 pm

    It made me think of Doonesbury's "consumer-compatible liveware" (i.e. a computer salesman who doesn't speak in jargon.)

  4. Jason said,

    May 11, 2017 @ 1:45 am

    Cut-up poetry can be legitimate but this is just lazy and dated.

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