n. A feature supported by UNIX, ITS, and some other OSes that allows two or more logged-in users to set up a real-time online conversation. It combines the immediacy of talking with all the precision (and verbosity) that written language entails. It is difficult to communicate inflection, though conventions have arisen for some of these (see the section on writing style in the Prependices for details).
Talk mode has a special set of jargon words, used to save typing, which are not used orally. Some of these are identical to (and probably derived from) Morse-code jargon used by ham-radio amateurs since the 1920s.
Most of the above sub-jargon is used at both Stanford and MIT. Several of these expressions are also common in email, esp. FYI, FYA, BTW, BCNU, WTF, and CUL. A few other abbreviations have been reported from commercial networks, such as GEnie and CompuServe, where online 'live' chat including more than two people is common and usually involves a more 'social' context, notably the following:
Most of these are not used at universities or in the UNIX world, though ROTF and TTFN have gained some currency there and IMHO is common; conversely, most of the people who know these are unfamiliar with FOO?, BCNU, HELLOP, NIL, and T.
The MUD community uses a mixture of USENET/Internet emoticons, a few of the more natural of the old-style talk-mode abbrevs, and some of the 'social' list above; specifically, MUD respondents report use of BBL, BRB, LOL, b4, BTW, WTF, TTFN, and WTH. The use of 'rehi' is also common; in fact, mudders are fond of re- compounds and will frequently 'rehug' or 'rebonk' (see bonk/oif) people. The word 're' by itself is taken as 'regreet'. In general, though, MUDders express a preference for typing things out in full rather than using abbreviations; this may be due to the relative youth of the MUD cultures, which tend to include many touch typists and to assume high-speed links. The following uses specific to MUDs are reported:
Some BIFFisms (notably the variant spelling 'd00d') appear to be passing into wider use among some subgroups of MUDders.
One final note on talk mode style: neophytes, when in talk mode, often seem to think they must produce letter-perfect prose because they are typing rather than speaking. This is not the best approach. It can be very frustrating to wait while your partner pauses to think of a word, or repeatedly makes the same spelling error and backs up to fix it. It is usually best just to leave typographical errors behind and plunge forward, unless severe confusion may result; in that case it is often fastest just to type "xxx" and start over from before the mistake.