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/blink'*n-li:tz/ Front-panel diagnostic lights on a computer, especially a dinosaur. Derives from the last word of the famous blackletter-Gothic sign in mangled pseudo-German that once graced about half the computer rooms in the English-speaking world. One version ran in its entirety as follows:


Das computermachine ist nicht fuer gefingerpoken und mittengrabben. Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und poppencorken mit spitzensparken. Ist nicht fuer gewerken bei das dumpkopfen. Das rubbernecken sichtseeren keepen das cotten-pickenen hans in das pockets muss; relaxen und watchen das blinkenlichten.

This silliness dates back at least as far as 1959 at Stanford University and had already gone international by the early 1960s, when it was reported at London University's ATLAS computing site. There are several variants of it in circulation, some of which actually do end with the word "blinkenlights".

In an amusing example of turnabout-is-fair-play, German hackers have developed their own versions of the blinkenlights poster in fractured English, one of which is reproduced here:


This room is fullfilled mit special electronische equippment. Fingergrabbing and pressing the cnoeppkes from the computers is allowed for die experts only! So all the "lefthanders" stay away and do not disturben the brainstorming von here working intelligencies. Otherwise you will be out thrown and kicked anderswhere! Also: please keep still and only watchen astaunished the blinkenlights.

See also geef.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (
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al.'s Dialtones: A Telesymphony, (9) the Chaos Computer Club's Blinkenlights, (10) and Blast Theory's Can You See Me Now?.
They're a tad more sophisticated than those even bigger experiments by Blinkenlights using the windows of entire office buildings on which you play Pong using your mobile phone.
Created by the Chaos Computer Club, the Blinkenlights, which feature in Kylie's video for Can't Get You Out Of My Head, are the top eight floors of the Haus des Lehrers building in Berlin.
For example, there is the Blinkenlights lot (at who were active for a couple of years after we mentioned them in late 2002 and from whose site you can still download a slightly out of date suite of programs which enable you to turn buildings into monster monochrome computer screens.
For cultural historians the really interesting thing about the site is that it reveals that the wonderful idea of the Blinkenlights projects in Paris and Berlin last year promoted by the Chaos Computer Club (and noticed in the November 2002 Browser) had really been invented by MIT pranksters who in 1993 converted windows (as Blinkenlights was to) at the top of the Green building on the MIT campus into a giant digital sound meter which continuously reported sound levels from a Boston Pops gig being played just across the river.
Blinkenlights is a German site whose principals turn buildings into simple computer screens.