Clipping of frobnicate, from frobnitz, coined circa 1958 by David R. Sawyer of the MIT Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC). Year of origin uncertain, and could be 1958–1981: frob is not listed in the TMRC dictionaries of 1959 or 1960, and is first listed in the Jargon File (1981 edition), so it may date from the 1960s or 1970s. Possibly variant of or influenced by frotsus (“a protruding arm or trunnion”), which is listed in TMRC 1959 and 1960.
frob (plural frobs)
- (MIT) Any small device or object (usually hand-sized) which can be manipulated.
- Hand me that frob there, will you?
- (MIT) To manipulate objects considered to be frobs.
- Hey, frob the switch.
- (MIT) To manipulate equipment without any knowledge.
- Hey! Stop frobbing that oscilloscope! You'll break it.
- (Silicon Valley) To perform a task that is clear to the speaker but too complex or tedious to be explained, so that outside help is not helpful.
- Why don't you go get lunch? I need to frob with this thing for about 30 minutes and then we'll be good to go.
- frob, in The New Hacker's Dictionary, 1996, by Eric S. Raymond.
- “frob” in Eric S[teven] Raymond, editor, The Jargon File, version 4.4.7, 29 December 2003.
- “frobnicate” in Eric S[teven] Raymond, editor, The Jargon File, version 4.4.7, 29 December 2003.