cargo cult programming

<programming, humour> A style of (incompetent) programming dominated by ritual inclusion of code or program structures that serve no real purpose. A cargo cult programmer will usually explain the extra code as a way of working around some bug encountered in the past, but usually neither the bug nor the reason the code apparently avoided the bug was ever fully understood (compare shotgun debugging, voodoo programming).

The term "cargo cult" is a reference to aboriginal religions that grew up in the South Pacific after World War II. The practices of these cults centre on building elaborate mockups of aeroplanes and military style landing strips in the hope of bringing the return of the god-like aeroplanes that brought such marvelous cargo during the war. Hackish usage probably derives from Richard Feynman's characterisation of certain practices as "cargo cult science" in his book "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" (W. W. Norton & Co, New York 1985, ISBN 0-393-01921-7).

[Jargon File]

Last updated: 2002-05-28

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Copyright Denis Howe 1985

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