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jargon /klooj/, /kluhj/ (From German "klug" /kloog/ - clever
and Scottish "kludge") 1. A Rube Goldberg (or Heath
Robinson) device, whether in hardware or software.
The spelling "kluge" (as opposed to "kludge") was used in
connection with computers as far back as the mid-1950s and, at
that time, was used exclusively of *hardware* kluges.
2. programming A clever programming trick intended to solve
a particular nasty case in an expedient, if not clear, manner.
Often used to repair bugs. Often involves ad-hockery and
verges on being a crock. In fact, the TMRC Dictionary
defined "kludge" as "a crock that works".
3. Something that works for the wrong reason.
4. (WPI) A feature that is implemented in a rude manner.
In 1947, the "New York Folklore Quarterly" reported a classic
shaggy-dog story "Murgatroyd the Kluge Maker" then current in
the Armed Forces, in which a "kluge" was a complex and
puzzling artifact with a trivial function. Other sources
report that "kluge" was common Navy slang in the WWII era for
any piece of electronics that worked well on shore but
consistently failed at sea.
However, there is reason to believe this slang use may be a
decade older. Several respondents have connected it to the
brand name of a device called a "Kluge paper feeder" dating
back at least to 1935, an adjunct to mechanical printing
presses. The Kluge feeder was designed before small, cheap
electric motors and control electronics; it relied on a
fiendishly complex assortment of cams, belts, and linkages to
both power and synchronise all its operations from one motive
driveshaft. It was accordingly tempermental, subject to
frequent breakdowns, and devilishly difficult to repair - but
oh, so clever! One traditional folk etymology of "klugen"
makes it the name of a design engineer; in fact, "Kluge" is a
surname in German, and the designer of the Kluge feeder may
well have been the man behind this myth.
TMRC and the MIT hacker culture of the early 1960s seems to
have developed in a milieu that remembered and still used some
WWII military slang (see also foobar). It seems likely that
"kluge" came to MIT via alumni of the many military
electronics projects run in Cambridge during the war (many in
MIT's venerable Building 20, which housed TMRC until the
building was demolished in 1999).