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Bit Bucket*
  • n. 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'.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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'. See also chad 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.