One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A mode of operation of a weapon, device, etc., in which it is considered safe or unlikely to fail.
2Computing a way of running an operating system or program in which only device drivers, programs, plug-ins, etc., that provide basic functionality are loaded, typically so as to minimize chances of a system crash and to help in the diagnosis of errors or failures.
1970s; earliest use found in U.S. Patents.
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