For Values Of: [MIT] A Common Rhetorical Maneuver At MIT Is To Use Any Of The Canonical {random Numbers} As Placeholders For Variables.

HomeFortune CookiesMiscellaneous Collections

:for values of: [MIT] A common rhetorical maneuver at MIT is to use
any of the canonical {random numbers} as placeholders for
variables. "The max function takes 42 arguments, for arbitrary
values of 42." "There are 69 ways to leave your lover, for
69 = 50." This is especially likely when the speaker has uttered
a random number and realizes that it was not recognized as such,
but even `non-random' numbers are occasionally used in this
fashion. A related joke is that pi equals 3 --- for
small values of pi and large values of 3.

Historical note: this usage probably derives from the programming
language MAD (Michigan Algorithm Decoder), an Algol-like language
that was the most common choice among mainstream (non-hacker) users
at MIT in the mid-60s. It had a control structure FOR VALUES OF X
= 3, 7, 99 DO ... that would repeat the indicated instructions for
each value in the list (unlike the usual FOR that only works for
arithmetic sequences of values). MAD is long extinct, but similar
for-constructs still flourish (e.g., in UNIX's shell languages).
-- The AI Hackers Dictionary