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IBM: /I·B·M/

Once upon a time, the computer company most hackers loved to hate; today, the one they are most puzzled to find themselves liking.

From hackerdom's beginnings in the mid-1960s to the early 1990s, IBM was regarded with active loathing. Common expansions of the corporate name included: Inferior But Marketable; It's Better Manually; Insidious Black Magic; It's Been Malfunctioning; Incontinent Bowel Movement; and a near-infinite number of even less complimentary expansions (see also fear and loathing). What galled hackers about most IBM machines above the PC level wasn't so much that they were underpowered and overpriced (though that counted against them), but that the designs were incredibly archaic, crufty, and elephantine ... and you couldn't fix them — source code was locked up tight, and programming tools were expensive, hard to find, and bletcherous to use once you had found them.

We didn't know how good we had it back then. In the 1980s IBM had its own troubles with Microsoft and lost its strategic way, receding from the hacker community's view. Then, in the 1990s, Microsoft became more noxious and omnipresent than IBM had ever been.

In the late 1990s IBM re-invented itself as a services company, began to release open-source software through its AlphaWorks group, and began shipping Linux systems and building ties to the Linux community. To the astonishment of all parties, IBM emerged as a staunch friend of the hacker community and open source development, with ironic consequences noted in the FUD entry.

This lexicon includes a number of entries attributed to ‘IBM’; these derive from some rampantly unofficial jargon lists circulated within IBM's formerly beleaguered hacker underground.


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