Cyberpunk Information Database

Cyberpunk Dictionary



ADSL [Asynchrounous Digital Subscriber Loop]
The transmission method likely to be used to send movies, tv shows and sports - at the viewers request - over existing telephone lines right to your television. Look for this to be available and affordable in the next two years. This is the main contender to ISDN, the winner will provide the link between 50 channels and 500 channels, 50,000 channels or (hopefully) more.

Agrippa (A Book of the Dead)
A collaboration between author William Gibson, publisher Kevin Begos Jr., and artist Dennis Ashbaugh. This art-work contains engravings by Ashbaugh which appear or disappear in light and an on-disk semi-autobiographical poem by William Gibson which is unreadable after having been read once. Agrippa is notable because in many respects it blurs the lines concerning what art is, and adds fuel to the fire on issues of property rights and intellectual property. A highlight of 1992 was the release of Gibson's poem on to the net.

Agr1ppa (A Book of the Mentally Disturbed)
A parody of Agrippa.

Absence of government (means without a leader). 

anti authoritarian
Favouring individual freedom as opposed to subjection to authority.

AOL (America On Line)
An Internet service provider.

Artificial Intelligence, AI
Thinking, reasoning computers/programs.

artificial life
Man-made systems that exhibit characteristics associated with the concept of "life".

artificial reality
Similar to virtual reality but more interactive, with the participant being part of, not just experiencing, the artificial environment.

The body in cyberspace. In most cases the handle/nicknames you use on the Internet, and the personality that goes with it.


Barlow, John Perry
A drummer for the Grateful Dead and co-founder of the EFF. Now a net.denizen who speaks often on virtual culture and cyberspace sociology and technology.

BBS [Bulletin Board System] n.
Begun in the late 70's, a form of virtual community existing in cyberspace where participants (usually using aliases) may send and receive public and private messages to each other on any topic imaginable, transfer software (copyrighted and/or public domain), play on-line games, etc. There is the "over-ground" BBS world where aliases are less common and illegal activities are avoided in discussion, and the computer underground where illegal activities and discussions are very common, members use aliases, and illegal information and/or software is exchanged.

binocular parallax n.
An optic illusion, which is made by splitting a 3D picture into what the right eye sees and what the left eye sees.

biochip n.
Chip which connect directly to living matter (also called wetware).

Basic Input/Output System.

bot (abbreviation of robot) n.
Either a collection of ON commands, that are loaded from a script (text) file into the IRC client or a C program.

A variety of electronic devices used to aid in phreaking. The original was the blue box, used from the mid 60's to the mid 80's, which allowed long distance phone calls to be made for free. A variety of other similar instruments accomplishing different tasks have been developed, some purely comical, some quite practical.


A programming language.

cc-fraud [credit/calling card fraud] n.
A fraud with credit cards or calling cards.

CCC [Chaos Computer Club] n.
A hacker-organisation in Hamburg. They have meetings, lectures and annual congresses which attracts hackers from all Europe. They also publish books and magazines about the information society. There are a lot of myths of which kind of criminal activities they have been involved in, so it's hard to say which of them is true and which are not.

chaos n.
(unorder) A state that garns a lot of respect in cyberculture, to the point ot being a techno-pagan religion. Many people are self-described chaoticians.

Chaos Theory
field of science revolving around simplistic equations involving a large number of variables. Gave rise to fractals, a form of cyberdelic art. For further info on the subject, James Gleick's "Chaos: Making a New Science" is suggested.

Codez D00dz n.
Essentially a phreaker's version of pirates. People who seek out telco codes to be used to gain long distance (ld) telephone calls without paying for them. Scourge of the computer underground.

communitek n.
An information technology, which provides the potential for a community to develop in cyberspace. IRC and mailing lists are two communiteks.

computer underground n.
A group organized in secrecy, hidden behind aliases, to promote the exchange of information regarding anything and everything incuding, but not limited to: computers, telephones, radios, chemicals and ideas.

crack n.
To remove software copy protection.

cracker n.
Hard-core explorers bent on breaking the security of computer systems whether maliciously or not.

cryonics n.
An edge science which deals with freezing people down after their dead, to hopefully be able to resurrect them later, and also cure them of any incurable disease of today.

cyber n.
A prefix taken from cybernetics. Generally used in popular culture to mean anything that is technology oriented.

cybercafé n.
A café that also provides Internet services.

cyberculture n.
Often used in the media to denote aspects of "life as a cyberpunk". Yet if we are to follow strict meaning, cyberculture is more accurately defined as an information-based culture.

cyberdeck n.
Term originated by William Gibson, to refer to a computer that can connect to the matrix.

cyberdelic n.
"Cyber-art". Examples include fractals, computer-generated pictures and/or music, virtual worlds, etc.

cybernaut n.
Someone who moves in cyberspace.

cybernetics n.
The study of communication systems in living organisms and machines, the mathematical analysis of the flow of information.

Begun as a literary movement in the 80's, an off-shoot of normal science fiction. Unique in that it generally occurs in the present or not so distant future, the characters are often considered "punks" (social deviants) and technology, (the cyber aspect), is prominent. "Neuromancer" by William Gibson, published in 1984, is considered by most to be the "bible" of cyberpunk. Another prominent author is Bruce Sterling, editor of another worthy cyberpunk collection, "Mirrorshades". Other examples of cyberpunk include Max Headroom (TV show) and BladeRunner (movie). Cyberpunk is special in that it has evolved from a purely literary movement to a realistic subculture. Many "techno-punks" (i.e., hackers) are considered cyberpunks. Other contributing factors to the cyberpunk subculture include: virtual reality, hallucinogenic and nootropic drugs, and industrial and punk music. For an in-depth, detailed look at cyberpunk fiction and cyberpunk culture, "Storming the Reality Studio," ed. by Larry McCaffery is suggested.

cyberskate n.
To move in cyberspace.

cyberspace n.
"The electronic frontier." A completely virtual environment: the sum of all BBSes, computer networks, and other virtual communities. Unique in that it is constantly being changed, exists only virtually, can be practically infinite in "size", communication occurs instantaneously world-wide - physical location is completely irrelevant most of the time. Some include video and telephone transmissions as part of cyberspace.

cyborg n.
A cybernetic organism, part man, part machine.

cypherpunk n.
Net.person who has evolved from hacking to encryption and concern with creating multiple identities.

clipper chip n.
A chip installed so that the US government may eavesdrop.


deck cowboy n.
Futuristic, some say fantasy, version of a computer hacker or a modern-day cyberpunk.

designer drugs n.
Drugs taken to enhance the experience of virtual realism or to cause euphoria.


EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation)n.
An organization, founded by Mitch kapor and John Perry Barlow, to establish the laws of cyberspace, and apply the constitution to virtual communities. Is today a strong lobbying force in Washington D.C.

elists (Email Lists)
An electronic discussion group that anyone with an email address can subscribe to. Email addresses for the elist members are stored on a single computer. When you send email to that machine, it will automatically bounce your letter to every other subscriber. Thousands of these elists, covering almost every topic, exist on the Internet for your reading pleasure and more are materializing weekly.

ezine (Electronic Magazine?) n.
A net version of the small press magazine (known as zine) culture. Usually ezines exists only on the Net, but more and more paper zines are distributing an electronic version as well.


Face to face meeting.

flame n./v. 
Disagreement (hell, full fledged war sometimes) occuring in cyberspace. Common on Usenet.

fleshmeet n.
A F2F meeting. Often a party where people have met previously on the Net.

fractals n.
Images created using chaos theory. A mish-mash of colors presented in pattern that repeats itself many times over. Fractals are considered cyberdelic art.

FTP n.
(File Transfer Protocol)


Generation X n.
People ages 18-25, a group of whose only defining is that they ahve nothing in common (also a former punk-rock group of which billy Idol was a memeber).

genetic engineering n.
The technology of desining living organisms.

Gibson, William
Considered by most to be the "father" of cyberpunk, along with Bruce Sterling. His works include the infamous "Neuromancer", "Count Zero", "Mona Lisa Overdrive" (these 3 works are known as the sprawl series), "The Difference Engine" with which he was co-author with Bruce Sterling, and "Burning Chrome", a collection of short stories. A recent work of his is a poem in "Agrippa: A Book of the Dead". Gibson says he will no longer be writing the "classic" cyberpunk novels he is famous for.

global village n.
Famous term, coined by Marshall McLuhan, exemplified by the net.

gopher n.
A menu driven service useful for grep'ing info of the Net. Can be used for looking up email addresses, searching for files or software to download, amongst other.

grep n.
Search, or scan.

grid n.
The term for cyberspace used in Shadowrun.

grok n.
Word with roots in shamanism that akin to gnow, and implies thorough and complete holistic understanding. Popularized by Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.


60's (1st) generation (orig. MIT): one who tinkers with software, electronics, computer hardware, etc. 80's (2nd) WarGames generation: one who enters computer systems without permission with either malicious or non-malicious intent, to gain, alter, or destroy information (labeled as crackers by the 60's generation). 90's (3rd) generation: often called cyberpunks, mostly non-malicious crackers interested in information for the sake of information, and not hacking for the sake of the hack - sometimes calling themselves "information liberators", they have re-adopted more of the original hacker ethic of the 60's that mainly states "all information should be free", "access to computers should be unlimited and total" and "promote decentralization". This new, 3rd generation is commonly associated with the computer underground, despite its mostly non-malicious intent.

hardwired n.
Anything that is not removable, especially with reference to permanent implants.

HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language)
A programming language for web-design.


ICE (Intrusion Countermeasure Electronics)
Term reffering to the security programs in Gibson's cyberspace (also called IC, Intrusion Countermeasure).

identity hacking n.
The use of pseudo-anonymity or false accounts to put oneself off as another person on the Internet.

infonomics n.
The idea of an economy based on information.

intel (intelligence) n.
Information which is usually traded. Popularized in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash.

interactive n.
When people communicate, especially within virtual space.

interface n.
The visual part of a program/system the user experiences, eg what you are looking at now is the interface of your IRC program.

Internet n.
A large and very popular world-wide computer network begun by the Department of Defense in the 60's that connects educational institutions, corporations, organizations, and military and government installations around the globe. Some organizations exist that offer Internet access to the general public for an hourly,monthly or yearly fee. Suggested are places like the WELL, MindVox, Nyx (which is free of cost), Netcom, etc. Many Internet users partake in reading and contributing to Usenet, playing MUDs, FTPing text files and programs free of charge at the various FTP sites, and 'telnet'ing to other Internet sites. Because of its accessibility at a relatively low cost, size (the largest computer network in the world), connectivity, and infinite amounts of information, many network users prefer the Internet to such services as CompuServe (often called Compu$erve on the Internet) or Prodigy (which is more restricting in its content). The Internet has something to offer for everyone. There are many helpful books published about how to use the Internet, some are available right on-line. Once you gain access to the Internet, it is suggested that you read the 'news.announce.newusers' and 'news.newusers.questions' and 'news.answers' newsgroups on Usenet.

IRC (Internet Relay Chat) n.
Realtime communication forums between users all over the world. Consists of several diffirent networks.

ISDN (Integrated Service Digital Network) n.
A communitek which basically will greatly expand the poetential for information comming into ones house. Such as having 700 TV channels, interactive realtime video-phones, and far off in the future possibly realtime networked interactive 3D virtual reality.


jacking in n.
connecting to cyberspace, typically via plug in.


Kapor, Mitch
One of EFF's founders (along with John Perry Barlow). He started the Lotus software company and built it into one of the top 5 software companies in the world, then left to start the EFF. In addition to working at the top of EFF ladder, he frequently writes stories for magazines and newspapers, interviews on the TV and is often called to testify before congressional hearings.

knowbot n.
Provides a uniform user interface to heterogenous remote information services. A predecesor to the Intelligent Agent.

KPPR - (Key Press Password Recorder) n.
A tiny hacking program that is laoded into a computer and then records every key that is pressed. Used to find out login usernames, and passwords (also called Trojan hoarse, Stealth Password Recorder, Key/Keypress Capturer, Password Recorder, Password Sniffer, Password Snooper and Login Spoof).


Legba n.
The loa of the loas. He is the lord of interceptions, and since the matrix consists of thousands of "crossroads" he is, in Gibson's triology, the lord of the matrix.

Legion of Doom (LoD)
A legendary group of hackers from the computer underground. When they disbanded, some members went on to form a computer security firm (ComSec), Loyd Blankenship wrote GURPS Cyberpunk for Steve Jackson Games and some ended up in jail from Operation Sundevil.

loa n.
Divinity in the Haitian voodoo-religion Voudoun. In Gibson's trilogy the entity of the united matrix (after Wintermute united it) split and took the forms of the several loas.

LoD (Legion of Doom) n.
Legendary hacker group.


Term coined by William Gibson that refers to the consensual hallucination of cyberspace.

An "agent of communicative resonance," or more simply, "an information virus." Memetics is the study and theories behind the root structures of information itself.

A virtual community in cyberspace, also a BBS connected to the Internet. A nexus of the computer underground and cyberpunk and virtual reality began by Phantom Access Technologies, former members of the Legion of Doom. See also the WELL.

A very important collection of cyberpunk fiction by various authors, most of whom are labeled as the mirrorshades group. This book is edited by Bruce Sterling and should be available in most bookstores.

Mirrorshades Group
Original collection of cyberpunk authors which includes William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Tom Maddox, Lewis Shiner, John Shirley, SF Eye magazine editor Steve Brown, Rudy Rucker, Pat Cadigan, and others.

Mondo 2000
Very popular cyberpunk and new edge magazine. Later challenged by WIRED.

Multi-User Domain, Multi-User Dungeon, or Multi-User Dimension. MUDs are multi-user role-playing-games of sorts that exist on the Internet for entertainment purposes. MUDs are essentially text-based virtual worlds which players (participants) may explore, change, or add on to. In most cases, the MUD is actually a "game" with scores, player attributes, levels, etc., but some MUDs are with more social goals in mind. MUDs tend to be based around different science fiction genres such as fantasy, space, or even cyberpunk. More recently MUDs have developed new uses. Research, conferencing, and more academic MUDs are popping up like wildflowers these days and indicate a possible trend in the Internet, that being integration of services.


The science of "micro-machines". Small gears or other machines seen only by a microscope, that can be used in areas such as medicine and health, art, and other technologies.

A computer network. Often used to mean the Internet when referred to as "the net".

Many similarities exist in some people's minds between psychedelic drugs and the net, and a netrip is the state of literally getting "high" off the net, accompanied by distortions in space and time, a gnowledge of the net itself, an intense desire to communicate your subconscious to the rest of the net, etc.

New Edge
Fringe culture and fringe science, mostly techno-oriented, and very popular in Southern California. Mondo 2000 is a magazine devoted to the new edge.

The dictionary defines a "nexus" as a "a connection, tie, or link between individuals of a group, members of a series, etc." When applied to virtual cultures and the networked humans which comprise them, a NEXUS is basically a domicile/workspace/cultural-center formed in real-life by people who have met and established relationships over the Net. They purchase and secure group Internet access, and thus control their own node, living in close proximity, since creativity blossoms in people when surrounded with creativity; since similar approaches to work and life can re-inforce each other. We have seen this happen on the Net; the NEXUS community intends to manifest it in reality, to integrate it into our lifestyle.

A new science revolving around drugs used to increase intelligence, aid in memory, enhance brain activity, etc. Touted as a fad by some, others claim that use of nootropics actually work. See also SmartDrinks.


Operation Sundevil
Secret Service operation begun in 1990 intended to destroy the computer underground by confiscating BBSes and detaining hackers.


Paste Bomb
Sometimes a litteral core dump. Via the Mac's Cut and Paste capability, take random bits of data from one's hard drive and paste it into an online conversation, email, mud, whatever. Eris Lives. Sci-fi author Bruce Sterling is a notorious paste bomber.

An important magazine existing only in cyberspace, of interest to the computer underground. It's founder, Craig Neidorf, now works for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Hacking the phone system. Usually meaning to get phone calls for free, whether by boxing or calling card fraud. Individual phreakers are called phreaks.

One who copies software illegally. Commonly associated with the computer underground. Although commonplace, pirates are looked down upon as with codez d00dz.

The state of the world, including megacorp zaibatsus, an evolving infonomics, etc.

Literary, artistic, cultural, and philosophical movement revolving around the post-industrial world in which we live, and the unique aspects of the trends of modern society.


A subculture revolving around all-night dance parties. Typically, the parties are generally illegal and thus a complex process is involved to find out where they are located. Rave music is generally techno or house, the parties usually include 1 or more DJs. Also present in many cases are "chill out rooms" which feature more ambient music. Lasers, blaring music, cyberdelic images, SmartDrinks and drugs most often MDMA {X, XTC, Ecstasy, E}, LSD {acid}, ketamine, or nootropics) are all general contributors to the rave experience. Raves are usually held in warehouses, and last until the next morning. Another large part of rave culture is the flyers - used to find out where your next party will be. Raves are meant to be very happy events, everyone ideally should be open and free, laying aggressions and inhibitions aside for the night. Some have likened the rave experience to "a weekly roving techno-woodstock for the 90's." Rave fashion includes over-sized baggy t-shirts and pants, hooded sweat-shirts, ski caps, and usually bright colors, as well as accessories such as whistles, Cat In The Hat hats, "doctor" masks, VapoRub, etc. Many factors have led to an often heard questions these days, "where have all the ravers gone?" (one answer is... they've gone Retro)

Read The Fucking Manual. An abbreviation used when clueless questions are asked about subjects that are answered in the manual or FAQ.


An overused word that in ancient and modern cultures implies one who is a wise medicine man or healer, with a keen understanding of the ways of things. Used increasingly in modern culture, especially in conjunction with techno-paganism.

Term used to denote cyberpunk fiction, particularly pre-1984 fictional works that have been influential to the mirrorshades group or that closely resemble cyberpunk, but are sometimes outside of the sf genre. An example would be William S. Burroughs.


Similar to SmartDrugs, or nootropics, the intent of these substances, loaded with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other healthy substances, is to aid in brain functioning. Smart Drinks are most often consumed at raves, thus, the purpose of some smart drinks is to "energize" the drinker, not to make them smarter.

Word used by William Gibson to mean large mega-cities, and places where different cities collide. Southern California and New York City might be early examples of the sprawl. This word is used often in modern times as "urban sprawl".

Sprawl Trilogy
Gibson's firts three cyberpunk books, Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive, set partly in the same environment in Sprawl.

Steve Jackson Games
RPG manufacturers that have played a key role in the evolution of cyberpunk and the computer underground. Operators of the Illuminati BBS and makers of GURPS Cyberpunk, an RPG guide written by Loyd Blankenship, a member of the Legion of Doom.

Sterling, Bruce
Considered by most to be the "co-founder" of cyberpunk along with William Gibson. He is the editor of "Mirrorshades: A cyberpunk anthology," which is considered the quintessential collection of cyberpunk works by the mirrorshades group. Some of his other works include "Islands in the Net", "Schismatrix", "Involution Ocean", "The Artificial Kid", "The Difference Engine" which he co-authored with Gibson and "The Hacker Crackdown" a non-fiction account of the computer underground and Operation Sundevil, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Phrack, the Legion of Doom, Steve Jackson Games, etc. Sterling has also been a vocal member of the net. Keep your eyes open, you never know where he will surface next.

Social Engineering
Technique by which hackers or crackers acquire information, such as names and passwords. Essentially a modern-day con, often conducted via phone conversations, such as portraying oneself as a telco employee.


Talking by Typing.

Prefix similar to cyber-, referring to anything which has its roots in current or futuristic technology.

Type of music made almost entirely with the help of computers, revolving around a fast-paced drum beat (as high as 160 BPM), sampling, and synthesizers

The idea of a culture with a strong foundation rooted in technology. Often used loosely in association with cyberculture and new edge.

Literally the worshipping of technology. Many people *believe* that, for example, the net has some magic or is a sentient entity in itself, or that technology can be an agent of evolution. (sidebar Aleph spew)

Virtual sex in a virtual environment. Term often used by the new edge community.

Putting together a LAN, WAN or Internet hook up with the cheapest of technology. Read up on Toasternets on the Wells Gopher.


A collection of "newsgroups" on the Internet, in which Internet users may post or read messages on almost any subject imaginable. The topics of discussion are divided up into the individual newsgroups, which total about 2000 on average. Usenet is divided into various large sections, including the 'alt'ernative newsgroups, the 'comp'uter newsgroups, the 'sci'ence newsgroups and the 'talk' newsgroups, among others. Some groups are moderated, while most remain completely uncensored. Usenet is often referred to as Abusenet for its all-too familiar flames and appearance of perpetual chaos.


Virtual Community
Any group or gathering that exists in cyberspace. This could be a BBS, a hacking group, a net, or even a zaibatsu.

Virtual Culture
The collection of virtual communities, and the cultural aspects unique to those communities.

Virtual reality, VR
An oncoming technology using head-mounted displays and touch-sensitive gloves to create an artificial world. Seen as the ultimate cyberspace voyage.

Virtual sex
VR in the bedroom. Doesn't exist yet, but cyberparents shudder.

Virtual World
A world existing in cyberspace created and used with virtual reality technologies.


The Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link. An important gridpoint in the matrix, a virtual community in cyberspace, also a BBS connected to the Internet. A group concerned mostly with cyberpunk, virtual reality, nootropics, and other aspects of the new edge. Many celebreties have an account on the Well.

A new magazine devoted to exploring virtualspace and new technologies. Wired is not as new edge as Mondo 2000 and seemingly gives off a more corporate news oriented format. However, it is a refreshing view and perhaps infonomics first steps into the public realm.

A hardware hacker.


Japanese term used a lot by William Gibson that means a large mega-corporation, such as Sony for example.


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