<jargon> 1. (Or "write-only memory", "WOM") 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".
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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
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
In contrast, a "chad box" is a real container used to catch chad. This may be
related to the origin of the term "bit bucket" [Comments ?].
bit bang « bit bashing « bitblt « bit bucket
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