The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (FOLDOC) is a searchable dictionary of acronyms, jargon, programming languages, tools, architectures, operating systems, networking, theory, mathematics, telecoms, institutions, companies, projects, products, history, in fact anything to do with computing.
It aims to provide a one-stop source of information about all computing terms and includes many useful cross-references and pointers to related resources elsewhere on the Internet, as well as bibliographical references to paper publications. It lacks many entries which one can find in paper computing dictionaries but contains more encyclopedia-like entries and entries on subjects such as current hardware and software products, companies, and institutions. It also contains many definitions in related areas such as communications and networking.
The dictionary started in 1985 and has grown, with the help of 2000 contributors (as of 2007-07-25), to contain over 14000 definitions in over five megabytes of text. It is freely available on the Internet. It currently handles around 10000 WWW queries per day.
All searches are logged and a list of frequently requested missing terms is also available on-line. Users are encouraged to contribute definitions of missing terms. These contributions are usually edited extensively before inclusion. New terms are added almost every day.
The dictionary is stored as a single source file in a simple, easy-to-edit, human-readable form of mark-up which is converted to HTML on the fly by a Perl CGI program. The program uses a custom matching algorithm to provide fast, flexible, indexed searches of headings as well as full-text searches. Other Perl programs build the index, the lists of missing terms, and the contents pages.
FOLDOC is maintained by me, Denis Howe, in my "copious spare time" as a free service to the Internet community. It is served from a Linux machine kindly provided by the Department of Computing at imperial college, London, UK.
I started the dictionary in 1985 by copying half a dozen definitions from a magazine article, for my own use. It grew slowly until I came to Imperial in 1990 and discovered the Internet and the wonderful world of anonymous FTP. I found several major sources of definitions out on the net, most notably the On-line Hacker Jargon File, but nothing you could call a dictionary of computing. I knocked up a few sed, awk, and shell scripts and munged all the sources into one big file, along with my own collection of definitions. I installed an FTP server on my desktop machine and made the dictionary available from there, publicising it on Usenet news.
Around this time, Gopher was just taking off and I soon had a Gopher server running so people could search the dictionary rather than have to download the whole thing. Soon after that, around March 1994, the World-Wide Web happened and I just went bonkers! At last I could do proper cross-referencing and use forms to get feedback as well as adding links to other FTP, Gopher and WWW resources on the net.
I continued to develop the dictionary, with help from the net, while failing to complete my PhD thesis, and later while doing a full-time job, and helping to bring up my sons Mark and Alex.
Why do I do it? - more from Denis