Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
This comic is about a play on the dual meaning of the word “pointer”. Cueball is playing a computer game in the comic, but he seems to be stuck. So he askes Black Hat for a few tips (“pointers”) to get unstuck again. Black Hat wants to be annoying, so he spits out a couple of (seemingly random) 32-bit hexadecimal addresses, which are “pointers” in a programming language. These pointers are used to access a certain location in the computer's memory in order to fulfill a task. Cueball then hates Black Hat for not answering his question.
The "segmentation fault" the image text is referencing also arises from this kind of memory access. If you define a pointer to an invalid address, then try to access the memory location associated with it, you could end up with this exception. The hexadecimal address 0x-1 is one of those invalid access pointers, because memory locations generally start at numeric location 0.
The "pointers" given are interesting in that all the bytes are printable ASCII characters.
In this case (and assuming network byte order), ":(!:", "c99,", and "sch.".
It is also interesting that the values that are followed by punctuation each end in that punctuation.
- [Cueball is playing a video game, with Black Hat standing behind him.]
- Cueball: Man, I suck at this game. Can you give me a few pointers?
- Black Hat: 0x3A28213A 0x6339392C, 0x7363682E.
- Cueball: I hate you.
add a comment! ⋅ add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ refresh comments!
Rikthoff (talk) The issue date is definitely off. Can anyone fix this?
- --done (yes, anyone can fix this.) Divad27182 (talk) 18:49, 23 February 2013 (UTC)
Wait until he finds out they're codes for that old saving system. 21:42, 3 June 2013 (UTC)
Or perhaps the Black Hat _is_ answering the question but in an obscure way. The addresses might be pointing to the locations where the game keeps its important information (such as the score count or the level), so it can be cheated by changing the data at these locations.
The problem with 0x-1 is not that it's missing digits, it's that the memory in the computer is represented as a closed loop. So if you try to go back to the cell "before the first cell", you will really access the last cell, 0x-1 really equals to 0xFFFFFFFF in the 32-bit address space. Evidently, Cueball had found a way around this only it didn't quite work out. (People deeply interested in the workings of the pointers should also read about the memory protection modes and alignment requirements, both of which might interfere with reading from the address 0xFFFFFFFF.) 22.214.171.124 00:33, 28 January 2014 (UTC)
Cueball could be playing a card game (e.g. Solitaire), and Black Hat could be telling him to play the Ace. In a rather obscure way, though. --126.96.36.199 17:46, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
- Hidden message?
The three pointers spell, in ASCII:
Does this make any sense? The last line looks like German. --188.8.131.52 07:01, 8 October 2014 (UTC)
The last one is German. It means "I". 184.108.40.206 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
No, you got the ASCII wrong. 73 is "s", not "I":
Jorgbrown (talk) 19:49, 4 February 2015 (UTC)
I think that the title text is a Matrix reference. All humans are- being kept in a dream world so that their (erm, our) comatose cadavers can be used to generate electricity? RedHatGuy68 (talk) 02:55, 18 October 2015 (UTC)
Regarding the last letters, in the TASBot stuff I lead we often refer to the act of taking complete control of a game as an Arbitrary Code Execution, or an ACE. However, the term was somewhat obscure at the time this comic was released (TASBot content didn't become well known until 2015) so I don't think it's likely enough to put in the main explanation. 220.127.116.11 20:34, 2 November 2017 (UTC)dwangoAC
I moved the title text explanation to the main one. Seems to make more sense that way. Dontknow (talk) 23:35, 17 April 2017 (UTC)