1. In software, a misfeature that becomes understandable only in historical context, as a remnant of times past retained so as not to break compatibility. Example: the retention of octal as default base for string escapes in C, in spite of the better match of hexadecimal to ASCII and modern byte-addressable architectures. See dusty deck.

2. More restrictively, a feature with past but no present utility. Example: the force-all-caps (LCASE) bits in the V7 and BSD Unix tty driver, designed for use with monocase terminals. (In a perversion of the usual backward-compatibility goal, this functionality has actually been expanded and renamed in some later USG Unix releases as the IUCLC and OLCUC bits.)

3. The FOSSIL (Fido/Opus/Seadog Standard Interface Level) driver specification for serial-port access to replace the brain-dead routines in the IBM PC ROMs. Fossils are used by most MS-DOS BBS software in preference to the "supported" ROM routines, which do not support interrupt-driven operation or setting speeds above 9600; the use of a semistandard FOSSIL library is preferable to the bare metal serial port programming otherwise required. Since the FOSSIL specification allows additional functionality to be hooked in, drivers that use the hook but do not provide serial-port access themselves are named with a modifier, as in "video fossil".

(01 Jul 2002)

fossa vestibuli vaginae, fosse, fossette, fosseway < Prev | Next > fossil, fossil fuel, fossil fuels

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1. Dug out of the eart; as, fossil coal; fossil salt.

2. <paleontology> Like or pertaining to fossils; contained in rocks. Whether petrified or not; as, fossil plants, shells. Fossil copal, a resinous substance, first found in the blue clay at Highgate, near London, and apparently a vegetable resin, partly changed by remaining in the earth. Fossil cork, flax, paper, or wood, varieties of amianthus. Fossil farina, a soft carbonate of lime. Fossil ore, fossiliferous red haematite.

Formerly all minerals were called fossils, but the word is now restricted to express the remains of animals and plants found buried in the earth.

3. <paleontology> The remains of an animal or plant found in stratified rocks. most fossils belong to extinct species, but many of the later ones belong to species still living.

4. A person whose views and opinions are extremely antiquated; one whose sympathies are with a former time rather than with the present.

(01 Mar 1998)

fossa vestibuli vaginae, fosse, fossette, fosseway, fossil < Prev | Next > fossil fuel, fossil fuels, fossiliferous

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