SI prefix meaning 10 to the negative 6th power (10-6 or 10^-6). Abbreviation is μ or lower case mu.
1. Very small; this is the root of its use as
a quantifier prefix. 2. A quantifier prefix, calling for
multiplication by 10^(-6) (see quantifiers).
Neither of these uses is peculiar to hackers, but hackers tend to
fling them both around rather more freely than is countenanced in
standard English. It is recorded, for example, that one CS
professor used to characterize the standard length of his lectures
as a microcentury -- that is, about 52.6 minutes (see also
attoparsec, nanoacre, and especially
microfortnight). 3. Personal or human-scale -- that is,
capable of being maintained or comprehended or manipulated by one
human being. This sense is generalized from `microcomputer',
and is esp. used in contrast with `macro-' (the corresponding
Greek prefix meaning `large'). 4. Local as opposed to global (or
macro-). Thus a hacker might say that buying a smaller car to
reduce pollution only solves a microproblem; the macroproblem of
getting to work might be better solved by using mass transit,
moving to within walking distance, or (best of all) telecommuting.
--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.
Mi"cro- (?), Mi"cr-. [Gr. small.]
A combining form
Small, little, trivial, slight; as, microcosm, microscope
A millionth part of; as, microfarad, microohm, micrometer.
© Webster 1913.
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