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line eater

line eater in Technology

1. A bug in some now-obsolete versions of the Usenet software that used to eat up to BUFSIZ bytes of the article text. The bug was triggered by having the text of the article start with a space or tab. This bug was quickly personified as a mythical creature called the "line eater", and postings often included a dummy line of "line eater food". Ironically, line eater "food" not beginning with a space or tab wasn't actually eaten, since the bug was avoided; but if there *was* a space or tab before it, then the line eater would eat the food *and* the beginning of the text it was supposed to be protecting. The practice of "sacrificing to the line eater" continued for some time after the bug had been nailed to the wall, and is still humorously referred to. The bug itself is still (in mid-1991) occasionally reported to be lurking in some mail-to-netnews gateways.
2. NSA line eater.

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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