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Ashtrays, Bread bins and Toastracks: A guide to retro computing slang (updated 28 Jan)

Like most hobbies, Retro Computing comes with its own set of slang, and fan-created nicknames for products. Sometimes they are affectionate, sometimes derogatory – but one things for sure, if you’re new to the hobby you will have no idea what people are talking about!

This document is a permanent work-in-progress and will be added to over time.

If you’d like to suggest something, or if you know the earliest use, or origin of some of these terms – let us know in the comments, on twitter or message us on our contact page.

Acti-plaque

I’m afraid it’s an incurable case of Activision-Plaque

If you have any Atari 2600 games somewhere, go and have a look at any made by Activision. See that weird mottling on the label? That’s known by Atari collectors as Acti-plaque and is likely caused by the type of glue used for the label.

(The) Ashtray

To the left of the keyboard on the BBC Micro was an expansion slot designed to hold the Acorn Speech System, but was also used for other upgrades. When not in use, it left a cut-out hole, lovingly referred to by Beeb users as The Ashtray.

Bread Bin / Bread Box

There were several different cases for the Commodore 64, so ways to differentiate them were needed. The earlier beige model (the same shape as the VIC 20) is referred to as a Bread Bin, or Bread Box (depending on where you’re from).

(The) Brick

Nickname for a large PSU. (h/t @RichardMSmith76)

COCO

Informal name for the Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer. (h/t @Huxley_D)

Darth Vader

See ‘Vader’


Dit-dits

LOAD DIT DIT

Quotation marks.

When loading a game, you would have to type LOAD dit-dit.

Door Wedge / Door Stop

Nickname for the Sinclair ZX81 based on its sloping shape. (h/t @CommodoreBlog, @piko4566)


Dreamcast Stand

Derogatory term by Dreamcast owners for the Playstation 2.

Duke

(see Fatty)

Elkies

This is something an Elkie would use

Users of the Acorn Electron

Fatty

Oi, Fatty!

Nickname for the first X Box controller, as it was so massive. Also nicknamed “The Duke”.


Flippies

Mastertronic’s cassette games which featured an Amstrad CPC game on one side, and a ZX Spectrum game on the other.

Heavy Sixer and Light Sixer

A Light Sixer

The initial run of the Atari 2600 was manufactured in Sunnyvale, California. The second run was manufactured in Hong Kong, and used lighter materials, hence the names Heavy Sixer and Light Sixer being used to differentiate. The Sixer was so-called to differentiate from later models which only had four switches on the front – the Heavy and Light Sixers had six.


Hockey Puck (Mouse)

A slang name for possibly the most rubbish mouse in the world: the one that came with the first round of Apple iMacs in 1998.

Kill-Screen

A term mainly from the arcade. Most early arcade games didn’t have a specific ending, they just tended to loop, getting faster and faster.

However, skilled players would reach levels that the designers could never have dreamed of, causing the games to glitch out in some way and ending.

Pac-Man is famous for its kill screen on level 256.


Light sixer

See Heavy Sixer

Miggy

Nickname for Amiga users. (h/t @CommodoreBlog)

Pizza Box

A Macintosh LC “Pizza Box”

Pizza Box is a nickname given to the Macintosh LC or Macintosh Quadra/Centris 600 series / PowerPC 6100 series (h/t @Mac84tv)


Pling

What you and I would know as an exclamation mark! (h/t @DarkBlueMonkey)

RAM Pack Wobble

Sinclair ZX81 owners would fear the RAM Pack wobble. The 16K RAM expansion was a bit top heavy and prone to coming loose, meaning hours of work could be lost. Could be fixed with a well-placed match, Blu-tak, selotape or elastic bands. (h/t @pievspie)

Tank (Mouse)

Nickname for the mouse which came with the Amiga 500, and other pre-Amiga 600/1200 models.

Three Fingered Salute

See Vulcan Nerve Pinch

Toast Rack

Term used to describe the ZX Spectrum 128K (pre-Amstrad version). So named due to the slotted part on the right-hand size.

Toilet SeAt

Nickname for Atari’s ill-fated CD-ROM add-on for the Atari Jaguar (h/t @that_other_Carl)

Trash 80

Derogatory nickname for the Tandy TRS-80. (h/t @Huxley_D, @BrundIefIy)

(Darth) Vader

In 1982, the Atari VCS was renamed to the Atari 2600, and the colour changed to all-black (left). These models are called The Vader, or Darth Vader.

The name has also been used to describe the Bell & Howell version of the Apple II Plus (right) (h/t @Mac84tv)

Vulcan Nerve Pinch / Vulcan Death Grip

In the Star Trek universe, the Vulcan nerve pinch is a technique used by Vulcans to render unconsciousness by pinching a pressure point at the base of the victim’s neck.

The term was used by Amiga fans to describe the soft reset, which could be achieved by pressing CTRLand the two Amiga keys together.

The action was also described as the ‘Three Fingered Salute’ (h/t @BunnyKrusher)

Woody

Pre-1982, all Atari VCS’s had a woodgrain effect on the front. These models are nicknamed Woodies. The come in three versions: Heavy Sixer, Light Sixer, and Four-Switch.


Please let us know of anything you think we need to add!

Main image composite from ian dooleyBernard Tuck on Unsplash; and Ellie’s Kitchen Company

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