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Bootstrapping or booting refers to a group of metaphors which refer to a self-sustaining process that proceeds without external help.

The term is often attributed to Rudolf Erich Raspe's story The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen, where the main character pulls himself out of a swamp by his hair (specifically, his pigtail), but the Baron does not, in fact, pull himself out by his bootstraps. Instead, the phrase appears to have originated in the early 19th century United States (particularly in the sense "pull oneself over a fence by one's bootstraps"), to mean an absurdly impossible action, an adynaton.

Dr. Douglas Engelbart used the term centrally in his work from 1970 to 2010, referring to the process used by lumberjacks to hoist themselves up trees (to cut higher branches) using a strap wrapped around the tree. He founded an institute "The Bootstrap Alliance", focused on "getting better at getting better" embodying the notion of the Bootstrap Circuit, taking in feedback from the output and feeding it back in to improve.


Tall boots may have a tab, loop or handle at the top known as a bootstrap, allowing one to use fingers or a boot hook tool to provide greater force in pulling the boots on. The saying "to pull oneself up by one's bootstraps" This metaphor spawned additional metaphors for a series of self-sustaining processes that proceed without external help.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Bootstrapping" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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