What's with the name?
It resembles the Russian word for chess: WAXMATbI (reverse faux-Cyrillic).
Was that intentional?
No. The original name was VAXMAN - a lame attempt to camouflage the program as a DEC VAX management utility, in case someone wondered what's slowing the system down at 3am...
DEC VAX, eh? How old is VAXMAN, anyway?
I started to dabble in computer chess around 1980, a year or two after I learned to program in BASIC. My first program took 20 seconds just to generate the moves from the starting position. So I ditched BASIC and started learning machine language (6502, Z80, MACRO-11...) In 1986, I finally settled on the IBM PC as my platform of choice, C as the programming language, and released the first public version of WAXMAN in 1990.
What cutting-edge techniques does WAXMAN use?
Mailbox board representation, incremental attack updates, alpha-beta search with iterative deepening, aspiration window, killer and refutation moves, history heuristic... Later on, I added null-move pruning, then futility pruning. The newer WinBoard versions also use internal iterative deepening and late-move reductions.
Not exactly bitboards as such, but there are bitmaps summarizing various aspects of the position in a similar way - white pieces, black pieces, attacked pieces, defended pieces, pieces en prise, etc. So when we need, say, a list of pinned enemy pieces, it doesn't take much work.
How strong is WAXMAN?
WAXMAN's rating on the CCRL rating list is about 2,400. That's against other chess programs - no idea how CCRL's list correlates to human ratings.