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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary
bit bucket
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jargon 1. (Or "write-only memory", "WOM") The universal
data sink (originally, the mythical receptacle used to catch
bits when they fall off the end of a register during a
shift instruction). Discarded, lost, or destroyed data is
said to have "gone to the bit bucket". On Unix, often used
for /dev/null. Sometimes amplified as "the Great Bit Bucket
in the Sky".
2. The place where all lost mail and news messages eventually
go. The selection is performed according to Finagle's Law;
important mail is much more likely to end up in the bit bucket
than junk mail, which has an almost 100% probability of
getting delivered. Routing to the bit bucket is automatically
performed by mail-transfer agents, news systems, and the lower
layers of the network.
3. The ideal location for all unwanted mail responses: "Flames
about this article to the bit bucket." Such a request is
guaranteed to overflow one's mailbox with flames.
4. Excuse for all mail that has not been sent. "I mailed you
those figures last week; they must have landed in the bit
bucket." Compare black hole.
This term is used purely in jest. It is based on the fanciful
notion that bits are objects that are not destroyed but only
misplaced. This appears to have been a mutation of an earlier
term "bit box", about which the same legend was current;
old-time hackers also report that trainees used to be told
that when the CPU stored bits into memory it was actually
pulling them "out of the bit box".
Another variant of this legend has it that, as a consequence
of the "parity preservation law", the number of 1 bits that go
to the bit bucket must equal the number of 0 bits. Any
imbalance results in bits filling up the bit bucket. A
qualified computer technician can empty a full bit bucket as
part of scheduled maintenance.