alt

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alt /awlt/ 1. /n./ The alt shift key on an IBM PC or clone keyboard; see bucky bits, sense 2 (though typical PC usage does not simply set the 0200 bit). 2. /n./ The `clover' or `Command' key on a Macintosh; use of this term usually reveals that the speaker hacked PCs before coming to the Mac (see also feature key). Some Mac hackers, confusingly, reserve `alt' for the Option key (and it is so labeled on some Mac II keyboards). 3. /n.,obs/. [PDP-10; often capitalized to ALT] Alternate name for the ASCII ESC character (ASCII 0011011), after the keycap labeling on some older terminals; also `altmode' (/awlt'mohd/). This character was almost never pronounced `escape' on an ITS system, in TECO, or under TOPS-10 -- always alt, as in "Type alt alt to end a TECO command" or "alt-U onto the system" (for "log onto the [ITS] system"). This usage probably arose because alt is more convenient to say than `escape', especially when followed by another alt or a character (or another alt *and* a character, for that matter). 4. The alt hierarchy on Usenet, the tree of newsgroups created by users without a formal vote and approval procedure. There is a myth, not entirely implausible, that alt is acronymic for "anarchists, lunatics, and terrorists"; but in fact it is simply short for "alternative".


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