Subject: Re: wheel? (was: wheel vs root (newby question?))
To: None <>
From: Jarle Fredrik Greipsland <>
List: current-users
Date: 01/09/1996 13:29:19
In article <>, David Leonard <> writes:
> Hmm this makes me wonder: what is the history of the name given to gid 0?  
> Why `wheel' and not `privileged', `su' or something like that.
According to the jargon file (

:wheel: [from slang `big wheel' for a powerful person] n. A
   person who has an active {wheel bit}.  "We need to find a
   wheel to unwedge the hung tape drives."  (See {wedged}, sense

:wheel bit: n. A privilege bit that allows the possessor to perform
   some restricted operation on a timesharing system, such as read or
   write any file on the system regardless of protections, change or
   look at any address in the running monitor, crash or reload the
   system, and kill or create jobs and user accounts.  The term was
   invented on the TENEX operating system, and carried over to
   TOPS-20, XEROX-IFS, and others.  The state of being in a privileged
   logon is sometimes called `wheel mode'.  This term entered the
   UNIX culture from TWENEX in the mid-1980s and has been gaining
   popularity there (esp. at university sites).  See also {root}.

"You can't grep dead trees."
				-- Eyvind Bernhardsen