For example, I used a toss-away line in an earlier post: You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike. This is from the ADVENT computer game, sometimes called Adventure or Colossal Cave. The game is so old - from the early 1970s - that it ran on Mainframes in FORTRAN.
The Jargon file not only describes the game (as does the Wikipedia page), but puts it into a "hacker lore" context (as the Wikipedia page does not):
This game defined the terse, dryly humorous style since expected in text adventure games, and popularized several tag lines that have become fixtures of hacker-speak: “A huge green fierce snake bars the way!” “I see no X here” (for some noun X). “You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.” “You are in a little maze of twisty passages, all different.” The ‘magic words’ xyzzy and plugh also derive from this game.(A word to the wise: xyzzy and plugh are exceptionally bad choices for a password ...)
Adapting this to the Gun Control debate, an appropriately hackish reply to suggested new "common sense" laws would be I see no 'common sense' here. Old graybeard gunnie geeks will smile when they hear this.
Many entries show the love of punning. For example, everybody's heard of optimal. Optimal solutions are the ideal towards which we all strive. Strangely, The Jargon file does not include this, but does offer its antonym:
pessimal: /pes im l/, adj.There is a great richness of techno-geekery preserved here. This entry is perhaps richer than some but gives you the exact flavor:
[Latin-based antonym for optimal] Maximally bad. “This is a pessimal situation.” Also pessimize vt. To make as bad as possible. These words are the obvious Latin-based antonyms for optimal and optimize, but for some reason they do not appear in most English dictionaries, although ‘pessimize’ is listed in the OED.
But to me, the historical value is the best part. The "don't do this, m'kay?" captured in Scratch Monkey should be required reading for all beginning engineers.
scram switch: n.
[from the nuclear power industry] An emergency-power-off switch (see Big Red Switch), esp. one positioned to be easily hit by evacuating personnel. In general, this is not something you frob lightly; these often initiate expensive events (such as Halon dumps) and are installed in a dinosaur pen for use in case of electrical fire or in case some luckless field servoid should put 120 volts across himself while Easter egging. (See also molly-guard, TMRC.)
“Scram” was in origin a backronym for “Safety Cut Rope Axe Man” coined by Enrico Fermi himself. The story goes that in the earliest nuclear power experiments the engineers recognized the possibility that the reactor wouldn't behave exactly as predicted by their mathematical models. Accordingly, they made sure that they had mechanisms in place that would rapidly drop the control rods back into the reactor. One mechanism took the form of ‘scram technicians’. These individuals stood next to the ropes or cables that raised and lowered the control rods. Equipped with axes or cable-cutters, these technicians stood ready for the (literal) ‘scram’ command. If necessary, they would cut the cables, and gravity would expeditiously return the control rods to the reactor, thereby averting yet another kind of core dump.
Eric S. Raymond maintained the file for quite a long time; he doesn't appear to be much involved these days, although his Unix Koans of Master Foo are worth your while.
But full warning: if you're an IT geek, this is a time sink of epic proportions. You're welcome.
* Hacker is used in the original meaning of a clever programmer, not in the popular usage of an Internet Bad Guy. Note: people thinking of trying out "hacking" in the modern sense need to read Master Foo and the Script Kiddie. Just sayin'.