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Altered Carbon Dictionary: Sleeves, DHF, and More Words Explained

Don't get lost in the futuristic jargon!

Lindsay MacDonald

Altered Carbon is back for Season 2, but no matter how much you love this totally bonkers sci-fi show,you may find yourself struggling with the terminology of the series. That's just what happens when a story is set so far in the future that every piece of new technology and slang seems foreign. To be real though, that's kind of why we love the show in the first place!

Unfortunately, all that jargon also makes Altered Carbon 10 times harder to follow than most shows. TV Guide is here to help with this extremely detailed glossary of terms! As you dive into Season 2, you can now toggle over to this handy guide of the show's lingo so you don't find yourself in the middle of a binge asking, "Wait, what the heck is a dipper again?"

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653 - A proposed law that would allow the stacks of murder victims to be booted up to testify against their killers, even if they have the Neo-C coding that otherwise wouldn't allow the victims to be brought back because of religious beliefs. It's a very controversial law and the debates surrounding it form the ethical backbone of Altered Carbon Season 1.

Aerium - A city constructed high above the ground where only the wealthy Meths live in lavish mansions in the clouds. It's where Bancroft (James Purefoy) lives.

A.I. Hotel - A hotel run entirely by artificial intelligence, these places aren't exactly hotspots for tourists because the A.I.'s that run them are known to become obsessed with and violently protective of their guests. Because of that, A.I. hotels have fallen out of favor with humans and are often empty. The A.I. character Poe (Chris Conner) runs an Edgar Allen Poe-themed hotel in Altered Carbon. In the book, the hotel is Jimmi Hendrix-themed.

Angelfire - A lethal energy beam fired by the orbitals surrounding Harlan's World.

Archeologue - Scientists who study Elder artifacts that were recovered from Harlan's World.

Coils - Synthetic enhancements that allow the user to interact with surrounding technology.

Will Yun Lee, Altered Carbon

Will Yun Lee, Altered Carbon

Courtesy of Netflix

Construct - A virtual environment that is sometimes used for either torture or therapy.

Cortical Stacks - Commonly referred to simply as stacks, these are disks inserted in the back of the neck that house the human consciousness. They can be moved from sleeve to sleeve, as you see with Takeshi Kovacs' (Will Yun Lee) stack being put into Ryker's (Joel Kinnaman) sleeve in Season 1. However, if a stack is destroyed, the consciousness is killed. Unless that person has their stack backed up, this would result in real death.

CTAC - Stands for Colonial Tactical Assault Corp, which is a Protectorate fighting force that quells rebellions. Think the grunts, cops, or other law enforcement that work for the government. Kovacs was initially a member of CTAC before defecting to the Envoys.

DHF - Stands for Digital Human Freight, aka the coding that makes up a human consciousness. These go into stacks.

Dipper - Hackers, essentially. A dipper specializes in getting information from stacks, which can mean extracting memories or inserting new information into the stack.

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Double-Sleeving - The extremely illegal practice of transferring a copy of your consciousness into a second sleeve, thereby making two versions of yourself. It sounds fun, but clearly results in some pretty tough decisions -- and intense games of rock, paper, scissors.

Elders - The ancient race of technologically advanced aliens whose civilization gave humans the raw material for making stacks. They are believed to be extinct.

Envoys - Rebels led by Quellcrist Falconer (Renee Elise Goldsberry) who developed heightened senses and reflexes. They sought to obliterate stack technology because of the inequality it was causing in society, but they were all eventually slaughtered by CTAC soldiers with the exception of Kovacs.

Grounders - The less wealthy members of society who live on the ground beneath the aerium.

Meth - Derived from the word Methuselah, the Biblical figure who lived for hundreds of years, a meth is a wealthy person who has essentially become immortal by constantly creating clones of their sleeves (meaning they never have to age) and backing up their consciousnesses to servers in case of stack damage. They have their own society high up in the clouds.

Needlecast - Transferring DHF code remotely from one sleeve to another (or to another receiver). Think of it as using the Cloud, except for uploading your mind, man! Bancroft uses the tech to transmit his DHF to a satellite as a means of backup, in case he's, uhh, murdered or something. The actual technology involves concentrating a signal into a specific beam, rather than a wider-reaching signal.

​Rene Elise Goldsberry, Altered Carbon

Rene Elise Goldsberry, Altered Carbon

Diyah Pera/Netflix

Neo-C - Short for Neo-Catholicism, this is a religion that believes a human should have one life and one body and that it's a sin to insert their stack into a new sleeve.

Neo-C coding - Coding on a person's stack indicating their beliefs and making it illegal to spin them up.

ONI - Stands for Online Network Interface. A mini-computer installed in a person's eye which allows them to make and receive calls, record and transmit video, and look up information.

Orbitals - A network of weaponized satellites surrounding Harlan's World that were created by the Elders.

Personality Frag - Short for Personality Fragmentation. This occurs when a stack has been dropped into too many different sleeves, causing insanity.

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Protectorate - The military force of the UN, which keeps the peace between settled worlds.

Psychosurgery - Think of this as a form of therapy in a virtual environment. In Altered Carbon, it's frequently used to help someone who's been traumatized due to a violent event.

Quellists - Rebels who follow the teachings of Quellcrist Falconer.

Real Death - Critical damage to a stack, which ultimately destroys the consciousness it was housing. Unless your stack is backed up, if it is destroyed it will cause real death, and there's no coming back from that.

Reaper - A drug that simulates death. Rich people who have plenty of backup sleeves actually use it to experience the sensation of death. In small doses, it has other benefits, including lowering your body temperature and providing a sense of eerie calmness, which is why some soldiers use it.

Anthony Mackie, Altered Carbon

Anthony Mackie, Altered Carbon

Diyah Pera/Netflix

Renouncers - A cult whose members have renounced their physical bodies, choosing instead to live inside a virtual construct.

Re-sleeve - The process of inserting a person's stack into a new body, or sleeve.

Simulspace - Virtual reality, basically, only this simulated reality gives the feeling of being so incredibly real that it's nearly impossible to distinguish the virtual from reality.

Sleeve - Another word for a human body and what you insert a stack into. The body you're born in is called a birth sleeve. Sleeves can also be cloned so that you have several copies of the same one. Rich people would often upgrade their sleeves at great costs in an effort to live forever. Others are given cheaper sleeves or have their stacks put into storage if they can't afford a new sleeve.

Sleeve Sick - Disorientation that comes when your stack is inserted into a new sleeve. Pretty much everyone experiences this when they're put into a new sleeve. People who experienced sleeve death in a particularly violent fashion are especially prone to becoming sleeve sick when they get a new body.

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Sleeve Death - When your body dies, but your stack remains intact, allowing you to live on in another sleeve. Sleeve death changes the rules for mortality as some people no longer fear "death" or injury, as they figure they can just be re-sleeved afterwards.

Songspire - A rare tree that emits pleasant fragrances and sounds and is assumed to be connected to the Elders.

Spin Up - Putting the stack of someone who experienced sleeve death into a new sleeve, allowing them to live again, even if only temporarily.

Stronghold - The former base of Quellcrist Falconer's resistance group.

Synthetic Sleeve - A human body that has been made in a lab, a synthetic sleeve, or synth, can be modified to have different abilities, most commonly shapeshifting.

Altered Carbon is now streaming on Netflix.

Renée Elise Goldsberry, Altered Carbon

Renée Elise Goldsberry, Altered Carbon

Diyah Pera/Netflix