for values of
<jargon> A common rhetorical maneuver at MIT is to use any of the
canonical random numbers as placeholders for variables. "The max function takes
42 arguments, for arbitrary values of 42". "There are 69 ways to leave your
lover, for 69 = 50". This is especially likely when the speaker has uttered a
random number and realises that it was not recognised as such, but even
"nonrandom" numbers are occasionally used in this fashion. A related joke is
that pi equals 3  for small values of pi and large values of 3.
This usage probably derives from the programming language MAD (Michigan
Algorithm Decoder), an ALGOLlike language that was the most common choice among
mainstream (nonhacker) users at MIT in the mid1960s. It had a control
structure FOR VALUES OF X = 3, 7, 99 DO ... that would repeat the indicated
instructions for each value in the list (unlike the usual FOR that generates an
arithmetic sequence of values). MAD is long extinct, but similar forconstructs
still flourish (e.g. in Unix's shell languages).
[Jargon File]
(19941216)
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