cold turkey

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Thu Jan 31 20:47:15 UTC 2002

In a message dated Thu, 31 Jan 2002 10:25:43 AM Eastern Standard Time, "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET> writes:

>the modern computer-related "cold
> boot" (apparently a version of the older automobile-
>etc.-related "cold start")

I have no idea whether it is related to automobiles, but "cold-boot" has a complicated history.

When you first turn the power on for a computer, what happens?  Nothing.  The computer's memory (RAM) is blank and no program is running.  So how do you get the computer started?

There used to be several means.  By far the most user-friendly was the "bootstrap loader".  The computer was rigged so that when power was turned on (or the LOAD button pushed), one read operation was performed on a specified input device.  That read brought in a very small program called the "bootstrap loader" which then proceeded to read in bigger programs etc., that is, the computer was "loaded by its bootstraps", a variation of the older phrase "to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps."  cf Puerto Rico's "Operation Bootstrap".

Eventually, of course, "bootstrap loader" was shortened to "boot loader" and spawned the verb "to boot" or "to boot up".

In the 1970's circuitry became cheap enough that computers could have as much as needed, so that a loader program could be permanently installed in the computer, bypassing the old bootstrap process with its need for sleight-of-hand tricks.  However, by habit this permanently-resident program was still called the
"boot loader" although it no longer performed the gyrations required of the older boot programs.

A "cold" boot was one that occurred when the computer was first turned on and had no software in RAM memory.  A "warm" boot occurred when the computer had already been cold-booted and some software was running, but the user decided to restart.  I have no idea whether "cold" and "warm" were inspired by sutomobiles (starting cold, crank, crank, crank; starting warm, touch the starter button and off you go), but it is possible.

An analogy---the thread was about "cold turkey" and you cold-booted (or cold-started) a new thread about other frigid compounds.

>"Cold-cock" (verb) is
> often equated to "knock unconscious", but in my own
> experience it often has more the sense of
> "sucker-punch" or "strike without warning" ....

In your own experience?  I don't think I want to meet you in a dark alley.

I have never heard "cold-cock" used to mean "to knock cold (unconscious)".  Instead to cold-cock is to punch someone without any preliminaries.  Frequently it means "to punch without warning" but sometimes not, e.g. in "the bouncer cold-cocked the unruly patron" one might assume the bouncer merely performed his office in a most direct manner and the patron cannot legitimately complain of being taken by surprise.

     - Jim Landau

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